Erfan Mortezaei, Mahsa Amini's cousin, has told IranWire that Mahsa's family are still under pressure to publicly back the regime’s version of events: namely that she did not due to head injuries sustained in custody, but from complications from a historic brain surgery. So far, the family are refusing to go along with it.
In addition, he said, the Islamic Republic has tried to diminish Mahsa by claiming she was trained by Kurdish separatists outside the country. The family are also emphatic that this is a lie; Mahsa had no political affiliation and had never been abroad.
Yesterday, Wednesday, would have been Mahsa’s 23rd birthday. Six days after her death in Tehran’s Kasra Hospital, protests demanding an end to dictatorship in Iran continue in her name.
Mahsa Amini’s parents are deeply unwell and both have been to hospital several times this week. After having to bury their own daughter, who was killed by the state, they are being pressurized to lie about the reasons why.
As IranWire reported last week, Mahsa’s family have already been asked to call off the protests via their Friday Imam, and to give an interview with the IRIB claiming she had a pre-existing condition. Now, Erfan Mortezaei told IranWire, she is being slandered.
Erfan Mortezaei tells Iranwire: "Since the news of Mahsa being in coma first broke [last Tuesday], the Ministry of Intelligence and the intelligence department of the IRGC have been pushing this scenario.
“Intelligence and cyberspace bodies claimed I had taken Mahsa outside of Iran, gave her security and political training, and then returned her to Iran. They have also claimed her last photo and video on the Tehran subway [taken hours before her death, which showed Mahsa was dressed modestly at the time of her arrest] was taken by me.
“My straightforward answer is that Mahsa had never set foot outside Iran in her 22 years of life. She was a sweet girl who only thought about life, music, travel, art. Mahsa had no political interests or activities at all."
He added: “The Islamic Republic claims the whole of Iran is under the control of Imam Zaman's forces [the IRGC] and the Ministry of Intelligence. So did I manage to leave the country and come back in without them noticing?"
At the weekend Mahsa’s 17-year-old nephew Arkan was taken into custody. He was released yesterday morning on a 500 million-toman (US$16,000) bail. The judiciary told the family it was because he had gone to the offices of a news agency based in the city, presumably intending to speak to them about Mahsa.
“The goal of this pressure,” Erfan said, “is to obtain a forced statement from Mahsa's family in view of stopping the nationwide protests."
On Wednesday, the Iranian judiciary announced the “results” of the Forensic Medicine Organization’s probe into what happened. The director-general claimed Mahsa Amini had undergone brain surgery in Tehran in 2007, and also that there were no signs of injury or bruises on her head and face.
The first photo of Mahsa in hospital clearly showed bleeding and discoloration around the ear which multiple doctors told IranWire and other outlets indicated a head injury. Iran International has also published images purporting to be CT scans from Kasra Hospital which show fractures to the skull. In addition, doctors told Iran International, if she had undergone brain surgery it would have been evident in the scans.
So far, Erfan said, Mahsa’s own family has yet to receive any of her medical notes. “The Forensic Medicine Organization has not provided any evidence or documents to family members and parents on how Mahsa died. They weren’t even allowed to see her for the last time.
“The Islamic Republic has followed the same pattern for years. They’ll bring political prisoners in front of the TV cameras under different guises, in different scenarios, and take forced statements and confessions, and issue heavy [judicial] sentences. They want to do the same with Mahsa's parents, but thankfully haven’t yet been successful.”
Few pictures of Mahsa Amini are available. Those shared so far depict her sometimes dancing, sometimes blowing a dandelion clock. Her family have said they would prefer that only a small number of images of her be published.
Mahsa was the second child in the family. Armin, the first, died before he reached his teens. Mahsa brought them new hope, now snuffed out. Her brother Kiarash, who was with at the time of her arrest, told IranWire last week: “I have nothing more to lose now. I will tell everyone in Iran what happened.”
Erfan told Iranwire: "Mahsa, or our dear Zhina, was always smiling, full of enthusiasm and energy. She loved music, travel, Kurdish outfits and art. Our Mahsa was very pure and innocent, and I don't think any of our relatives, friends, and acquaintances have any sad memories of her."
She ran a manteau shop and her dream, he said, was to live independently, away from the hustle and bustle and according to her own decisions. Mahsa, he added, was progressive and a big reader, and like others was not happy with compulsory hijab.
Now on September 21, Mahsa Amini's birthday, few in the world have not heard her name. Her image and story have echoed across international media, phone screens, people’s lips. Any fallacy the Islamic Republic puts forward is unlikely to be believed. She is the latest known victim of misogynist violence, which in Iran has now been met with fury.