Iranian Security forces are reportedly pressuring families of those killed during protests to cancel their plans for public and even private anniversary ceremonies.
The family of Yalda Agha-Afzali, a young girl who died in suspicious circumstances at her home on November 11 last year in Tehran, five days after being released from prison, are among the families who have cancelled their plans for both private and public ceremonies without any explanation.
Mehrdad Agha-Afzali, Yalda’s father, in an Instagram post Thursday announced that all plans to commemorate her daughter on Friday as previously announced were canceled.
According to social media reports, security forces on Friday denied access, including to her family, to the section of the cemetery where the young girl is buried. A few members of the family and some supporters only managed to visit the grave after nightfall and light candles for her when security forces left.
The 19-year-old, who was arrested during protests in Tehran on October 26, went on a hunger strike at the notorious Qarchak Prison and was freed on November 6. She said she was proud she had not surrendered to pressures to accept any wrongdoing or regret for participating in protests despite having been beaten up.
After her death, authorities claimed the cause of death had been “meta-amphetamine overdose”. She was buried at Tehran’s Behesht-e Zahra Cemetery under very heavy security measures the next day.
An audio file of her conversation with a friend after her release from prison emerged on social media later -- in which she happily said she was proud she had not broken under pressure in prison – gave rise to suspicions over authorities’ explanation of her death or suicide.
The family have been under great pressure since her death by intelligence agencies. Unknown individuals vandalized her grave several times and broke her engraved stone image above it.
At least four other imprisoned young protesters – Maryam Arvin in Sirjan, Arshia Emamgholizadeh in Jolfa, Mina Yaghoubi in Arak, and Abbas Mansouri in Shoush – reportedly committed suicide within a few days after being released from prison last year.
The Pirfalak family has also been under similar pressure about holding anniversary ceremonies for their nine-year-old son, Kian, whose killing on November 15, 2022, in Izeh in southern Iran sparked nationwide outrage, earning the regime the title “child-killer”.
They were forced to hold the ceremony, under tight security measures last week, a week before the actual anniversary. Security forces prevented many who tried to attend by blocking the road.
Kian’s father, has posted a video of the low-key ceremony which shows him on a wheelchair and Kian’s mother, an a number of others, wailing at his grave.
Kian was shot multiple times in the family car during a night of protests. His father, Meysam, was also seriously injured and has been confined to a wheelchair since the incident.
Kian’s mother, Zeynab (Mah-Monir) Molaei-Rad, became a national icon of resistance after making a fiery speech at her son’s burial in which she conveyed a strong message of protest against Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who she says was directly responsible for her son’s killing.
The defiant family’s woes became even worse when security forces shot Kian’s 18-year-old cousin Pouya Molaei-Rad on June 11 while he was trying to break their cordon in the family’s home village of Parchestan to reach Kian’s grave to commemorate his 10th birthday.
After his death, security forces had refuse to release his body for burial for days as they demanded the silence of Kian’s mother and other family members on social media.
In the past few months Kian’s mother, once very active on social media, has been silent and rarely appears in public.
Since September 2022, when widespread anti-regime protests broke out, security forces have killed well over 500 civilians and severely wounded hundreds. Many young protesters were targeted by shotgun pellets in the face and lost one or both eyes.