A screengrab from Tehran’s subway CCTV camera showing Armita Geravand being removed from a subway car

Iran's State Media Accuses Opposition Of Lying About Comatose Girl

Thursday, 10/05/2023
Maryam Sinaiee

British Iranian journalist and political analyst

Iran's state television has again accused opposition media of spreading false information about a girl falling into a coma after an alleged assault by hijab enforcers.

In its Thursday evening news bulletin, IRIB’s News Channel aired footage released on Wednesday showing Armita Geravand entering a Tehran subway station without covering her hair, waiting with friends, and then being carried out of a metro car unconscious by her friends after collapsing seconds after entering.

State media claims the sixteen-year-old art student fainted, fell, and hit her head on the metro car's entrance. Armita's mother, Shahin Ahmadi, stated in an interview with IRIB that she was "told" her daughter hit her head "on the edge of the metro [car or platform]." Earlier reports suggested she was pushed by a hijab enforcer inside the metro car, causing her fall and head injury.

Hengaw Organization for Human Rights, a Kurdish rights group that published the comatose Armita’s photo at Fajr hospital’s intensive care unit Wednesday, claimed on Thursday that security forces have detained Armita’s mother. Mizan Online, the news agency of Iran’s Judiciary, denied the report shortly after its release. 

Security is tense around the hospital, and authorities are not forthcoming about the circumstances surrounding Armita's coma. Meanwhile, the media is filled with concerns from Iranians, foreign activists, and officials, all fearing a scenario similar to Mahsa Amini's death could reoccur.

Iranians have been extensively posting to raise awareness about Armita, making the hashtag of her name in Persian trendy on X (formerly Twitter) with well over 300,000 retweets.

Despite the IRIB's account and interviews with Armita's parents and friends, many in the public remain unconvinced. Social media users believe that state media is concealing the true cause of her head injury to prevent public anger, similar to the 2022 protests following the death of Mahsa Amini in morality police custody.

The state media have not shown any footage from inside the metro car and claim there were no CCTVs to record the incident inside the train. 

Two eyewitnesses have, however, confirmed to the Guardian that hijab enforcers were involved in Armita’s injury Sunday morning. 

One of the two eyewitnesses has told the Guardian that soon after Armita entered the carriage, a female hijab enforcer started arguing with her because she wasn’t wearing a headscarf. “The chador-clad woman screamed at her asking her why she was not covered,” the witness told the Guardian. 

“Armita then told her ‘Do I ask you to remove your hijab? Why are you asking me to wear one?’ Their argument then turned violent. The hijab enforcer started physically attacking Armita and … violently pushed her.”

Another witness told the Guardian that the young girl was still conscious when she fell on the ground. In the video footage shown on state television Armita’s leg appears to be moving. 

Witnesses who spoke to the Guardian also claimed they spotted the same hijab enforcer waiting behind the ambulance that took her to the hospital.

Iranian activists and social media users argue that security forces' efforts to restrict access to the hospital, detain a reporter who attempted to interview Armita's mother, and suppress independent media suggest they are trying to conceal the truth about the alleged assault on the young girl.

The interviews with Armita's family were aired during the 8:30 news program on Wednesday. The program's producer, Ameneh Sadat Zabihpour, has faced allegations of collaborating with intelligence organizations to obtain forced "confessions" from activists and others, discrediting them, opposition figures, and groups. Zabihpour and her colleague Ali Rezvani were sanctioned by the United States Treasury in November last year for their involvement in obtaining forced confessions.

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