Authorities have pressured a 16-year-old girl’s family and friends to deny the role of hijab patrols in an incident Sunday that led to her falling into a coma.
A source close to the family of Armita Geravand informed Iran international that the art student’s parents were summoned to an intelligence agency after their daughter was taken to a nearby hospital, where she is currently in the intensive care unit (ICU).
According to the source which requested anonymity, Armita’s parents faced pressure and threats to publicly declare that their daughter had sustained a head injury when she fainted, while denying reports that hijab patrols pushed her after an argument over covering her hair causing her to hit her head against a metal bar.
On Tuesday, state media aired brief interviews with the young girl’s parents at the hospital, alongside short footage depicting her and her two friends entering the car and then her unconscious body being carried out by the friends who lay her on the platform.
During the interview, Armita's distraught mother, struggling to speak, stated that she was informed her daughter had fainted in the metro car and hit her head on something.
State media's official narrative is that the young girl fainted due to not having eaten breakfast.
Reports on social media suggest that security forces are taking strong measures to keep people and reporters away from the hospital, including canceling visiting hours for other patients in the ICU ward.
According to Hengaw Organization for Human Rights, a Kurdish rights group that published a photo of the comatose Armita in the intensive care unit at Fajr military hospital, security forces have also confiscated the mobile phones of Armita’s family members to prevent photos and videos from reaching the media.
Sources who initially brought attention to the young girl's head injury and hospitalization on Monday claim that hijab patrols shoved her, apparently following an argument, because she had not covered her hair.
The source who spoke to Iran International also mentioned that the young girl's two friends, who were seen entering the metro car with her and later dragging their unconscious friend onto the platform, were detained for five hours and have also faced pressure to support and repeat the security forces' account of the incident.
Several hours after the incident, the reporter Maryam Lotfi from the reformist Shargh daily was detained by security forces while interviewing Armita’s mother at the hospital. Lotfi was released after a few hours. Neither Lotfi nor her newspaper have made any further comments about her detention.
The incident has caused serious concerns among Iranians and internationally. The German Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, expressed her outrage over the incident in a tweet Wednesday. She stated that the young girl’s parents should have had the right to be at their daughter’s bedside, rather than in front of state media cameras.
Armita’s parents have reportedly been allowed to see her only a few times from behind windows.
Some pundits and social media users have raised suspicions about the reported incident and warned that the regime may have carefully orchestrated it to discredit the opposition and independent media. They suggest that the regime could reveal footage or documents at a later stage as proof of their account of the incident against the opposition and independent media's version.
Expatriate journalist Sheragim Zand said in a tweet that the possibility of a psychological warfare attempt by the regime should not lead to the silence of the opposition in Armita’s case despite certain ambiguities. Zand argued that the regime's perceived plan would be limited to this specific incident, even if such a plan exists. In that case, it would only provide further evidence that the regime resorts to every form of deceit against the opposition.