What really happened to Nika Shahkarami? Witnesses to her final hours cast doubt on Iran’s story


An Iranian girl dressed in black stands on top of an overturned garbage can, waving her head amid chants of “Death to the dictator” as it burns in flames.

A moment later, she stoops down to collect another scarf from her friend, which she burns in front of the protesters.

The girl was 16-year-old Nika Shakarami from Tehran. A few hours after these scenes were recorded on September 20, Nika disappeared in videos obtained and verified exclusively by CNN. And more than a week later, her family learned she had died.

Iranian authorities found Nika’s body in the backyard on the morning of September 21. Her mother was not allowed to know her identity after 8 days. CCTV footage released by authorities on September 20, when it became September 21, shows a masked man who they say Nika is entering a derelict building still under construction in Tehran.

A Tehran prosecutor initially said she died after being thrown from the building’s roof, and that her death had “nothing to do with the protests that day,” but ruled it a homicide but did not specify whether there were any suspects. On examination. Government media reported that she “fell”, but did not provide evidence to support the claim that it was an accident.

On Wednesday, after CNN asked the government to comment on the evidence presented in the investigation, an Iranian media report quoted a Tehran prosecutor as saying Nika’s death was a suicide. Iranian officials have yet to respond to CNN’s repeated questions about Nika’s death.

Authorities never explained why Nika would enter that building on her own, and Nika’s mother said she didn’t believe the masked man was Nika. Her mother said she believed Nika was killed by authorities, but authorities never said they had Nika in their custody.

But according to dozens of videos and eyewitness accounts obtained exclusively by CNN, it appears that Nika was tracked down by Iranian security forces that night. A key eyewitness, Ladan, told CNN that she saw Nika being taken into custody by “several plainclothes security officers” at the protest, who bundled her into a car.

Moments earlier, this witness recorded a video of Shakarami cowering behind a white car and yelling “tekon nakon, tekon nakon” – literally “don’t move, don’t move” – ​​while stuck in Tehran traffic. Before fleeing from the brief shelter a driver gave her.

Seven people who knew Nika and spoke to CNN confirmed it was her. The same footage, recorded at 8:37 p.m. on September 20, shows riot police on motorcycles cordoning off the area.

“I wanted to save it, but I couldn’t,” Ladan said. “There were about 20 or 30 Basigis on motorcycles on the sidewalk,” she said, the local name for the defense organization that has been at the forefront of the state’s crackdown on protesters.

“Shahkarami was throwing stones at them. I got scared and went past her and said, ‘Be careful, dear!’ I said, because there were plainclothes police all over the street in cars looking for her.

“Fifty meters ahead of her,” Ladan added.

The teenager who filmed and spoke to Ladan came forward to CNN after learning that she had passed away days later. CNN interviewed several witnesses at the September 20 protests in Tehran with the help of the 1500 Tasvir activist group.

Other videos, including one of the scarf being burned, show Nika at the forefront of the protest, before the attack – fearlessly shouting and throwing stones – with multiple testimonies.

Witnesses said security forces, including members of Iran’s feared Basij militia, began to descend on areas where most of the protesters had gathered near Tehran University and Keshavarz Boulevard.

“I remember how brave she was because she would climb into the litter box and not come down. Najmeh, a protester who accompanied Nika to the rally, also burned her own scarf.

CNN is using pseudonyms for all witnesses mentioned in this investigation out of concern for their safety.

Students gathered near Laleh Park to protest the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman who was in government custody after she was arrested by the country’s morality police last month. It was about how she was dressed.

The scene has been common in Tehran in recent weeks: young people, mostly women, chanting “death to the dictator”, burning hats and throwing rocks at security forces.

At one point, a garbage can came close and overturned, blocking the road. Nika goes upstairs with other couples, video footage shows.

“She burned her own scarf and waved it. I told her not to wave because you can burn yourself, just hold on until it burns,” said Nima, who was at the protest and witnessed the incident. Then she took the veils of her two friends who were with her and burned them.

Geographical and other videos from that night, verified by CNN, show Nika throwing rocks at riot police. She carries a distinctive CAT bag and wears a black mask and hood on her head. Sounds like gunshots are heard.

Witnesses said that from 7 pm to 8 pm, the action of the security forces continued to intensify. “They were firing teargas and pellet fire and arresting the protesters. “Almost all of us were facing each other and running away,” said Reza, another witness.

As anti-riot police and Bazij forces filled the streets, protesters began moving in all directions to escape the violence.

Another witness, Dina, who was walking with Nika, who was part of the march, told CNN that she saw Nika in front of a gas station not far from Tehran University, running away from tear gas fired by security forces, where the protesters had gathered. Others videotaped their arrests by what appeared to be plainclothes officers.

“I saw with my own eyes the security forces beating women with sticks, and they took many of them to police cars,” Reza added.

It was in the thick of the protests that Nika was last seen, according to witnesses who spoke to CNN — and it was nine days before her family made a public statement about her whereabouts. CNN-verified and geo-located videos confirm the girl was alive and triangulated by security forces in the final witness footage provided to CNN.

“I think Nika got stuck that night while we were running away. Because she was so young.” said Dinah.

Nika Shakarami, seen in a picture posted on Twitter by Atash Shakarami.

While Iranian authorities say Nika died in an unoccupied building, her mother Nasreen said in an interview published on October 10 that she believed her daughter “was at the protest and was killed there” in an interview with Etemad newspaper.

Iranian security forces arrested eight workers at the building where Nika was said to have entered just hours after eyewitnesses saw her at the September 20 protest, state-linked news agency Tasnim reported on October 4. Tehran prosecutor Ali Salihi said the court’s criminal case. He started and expressed his condolences to Nika’s family, state administration IRN reported.

Mohammad Shahriri, the head of Tehran’s provincial criminal prosecutor’s office, said that Nika’s injuries were “thrown down”, noting that the autopsy showed multiple fractures around his pelvis, head, lower legs and arms. Legs and hips, Tasnim reported.

“Investigation shows that this incident has nothing to do with the protest,” he added. No bullet holes were found on his body.

CNN has repeatedly asked Iranian authorities for comment on Nika’s arrest and other women being assaulted and placed in police cars at a protest that night. CNN asked the Tehran Prosecutor’s Office about the status of the criminal investigation into Nika’s death. No response was received before this story was published.

Mezan, an online news outlet linked to Iran’s judiciary, published a report on Wednesday calling Nika’s death a suicide, citing T.

But the death certificate, first seen by BBC Persian and verified by CNN, states that Shakarami died of blunt force trauma.

In the Etemad interview, Nasreen said that she had spoken to Shahkarami several times on the phone on the day of her disappearance. The noise during the calls indicated that she and other protesters were running away from security forces, Nasreen added. .

She also mentioned a few places where Nika is located – Enghelab Square, Keshavarz Boulevard and Valiasr street – according to Nasrin, which correspond to geographical locations on CNN.

Nasreen last spoke to her daughter at midnight and every attempt to call Nika since then shows that Nika’s phone has been disconnected. Nika’s aunt and several opponents told CNN that Nika’s Instagram and Telegram accounts had been deleted.

For days, her family said they went to police stations, jails and hospitals to search for her. Finally, on September 30, Nika’s mother and brother were asked to identify Nika’s body, she told BBC Persian. .

In an October 6 interview with Radio Farda, Nasreen said that in the days after Nika’s disappearance, she and other family members had been given Nika’s national identity card by someone and that “the IRGC found her.” They wanted to ask her slowly.”

What is Shakarami’s aunt Atash related to? He told BBC Persian. Immediately after she disappeared. An unofficial source from the IRGC themselves told me, this girl was in our custody a week ago, and after we built the investigation and the record, 1 or 2 days ago (she) was transferred to Evin prison,” Atash said.

Atash and Nika’s uncle, Mohsen, was arrested by Iranian security forces and forced to make a false statement, BBC Persia reported, citing a source close to the family. When contacted by CNN following the BBC report, Atash asked not to be contacted again, citing security concerns.

As the family seeks answers, those who were with Nika that day are also reeling from her death.

“The situation was terrible, and everyone wanted to escape,” Dina said. “I cannot forgive myself for Nika’s death. She was a child.”


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