Iran's Sunni leader Mowlavi Abdolhamid Esmaeil-Zehi

Top Sunni Dissident Cleric Calls Death Of Baluchi Student Suspicious

Monday, 02/05/2024
Maryam Sinaiee

A British Iranian journalist and political analyst and a regular contributor to Iran International

The top sunni cleric in Iran has said that the death of a young Baluch man claimed to have been killed by security forces is suspicious and authorities must reveal the truth about the incident.

“Sepehr Shirani was killed in a suspicious manner. Anyone who has been involved in his killing should be punished,” Mowlavi Abdolhamid Esmaeil-Zehi said in his Friday sermon on February 2.

Shirani, a 19-year-old student from the small town of Fanuj in the southwest of Sistan and Baluchestan Province of Iran, went missing Tuesday, January 30. He lived and studied in the provincial capital Zahedan.

According to Haalvsh, a website dedicated to human rights issues and events in Sistan-Baluchestan, Shirani’s family found out that he was in the custody of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Intelligence Organization (SAS) after checking with local police and security authorities. They were told he had been detained for his social media activities but would be released “after a few questions”.

An informed source told Haalvsh that Shirani’s body, shot in the head, was discovered early Thursday morning on the rooftop of the apartment building where he lived. His family say they had not been informed of his release and he had returned to his home.

The public and revolutionary prosecutor of Sistan and Baluchestan, Mehdi Shamsabadi, on Thursday denied reports of Shirani’s death under torture at IRGC’s detention facility in Zahedan.

Shamsabadi also denied Shirani’s arrest by security agencies and said preliminary information indicate that he committed suicide.

Rasad Baluchestan, a Telegram channel dedicated to news on the Baluchi ethnic population of Iran, quoted Shirani’s relatives as saying that the claim of suicide is false and he was beaten to death by a stick in the custody of the intelligence ministry.

According to Haalvsh, authorities only consented to hand over Shirani’s body to his family for burial after forcing them pledge to keep quiet about the circumstances of his death.

Shirani was buried in his hometown of Fanuj Friday. The Telegram channel of Baluch Activists Campaign has released a video of the burial.

Burial of Shirani’s body in his hometown of Fanuj.

Haalvsh which also claims the family have been forced into silence reported on Friday that Shirani’s body showed bruises resulting from being whipped and his right arm was broken.

The situation in Iran's southeastern Baluch region including the city of Zahedan has been very tense since September 30, 2022. Security forces opened fire on protesters on that day, day which is now often referred to as the Bloody Friday and killed nearly 90 including women and children.

Since Bloody Friday, local Sunnis have protested every week after Friday prayers. Many who worked at Makki Mosque, where the Friday prayers are held, or were associated with the mosque and its charismatic leader Abdolhamid have been arrested in the past year.

An informed source told Haalvsh that security forces had warned Shirani about his support for the weekly protests in Zahedan on social media as well as helping the security of Makki Mosque as a volunteer. The source claimed that Shirani had refused to obey the security forces’ demand not to post anything about the protests.

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