Dissident director and screenwriter Bahare Lelahi

Dissident Director Allegedly Killed by Iran’s Security Forces in Custody

Wednesday, 06/12/2024

Dissident director and screenwriter Bahare Lelahi was allegedly killed by Iran’s security forces and buried in secret.

A source close to her family informed Iran International that security forces demanded money to disclose her burial location and ordered them to keep her death private.

While the exact circumstances surrounding her death remain unclear, human rights activists believe it is a state-backed killing based on the actions of state agents, such as the cover-up and secret burial.

Lelahi, 40, who was briefly detained during the 2022 nationwide protest, went missing in March 2023. In September 2022, the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, which the UN’s fact-finding mission pinned on state authorities, ignited nationwide demonstrations, during which more than 550 protesters were killed.

Dissident journalist Masih Alinejad wrote on Instagram: “After extensive inquiries, her family was informed through the police that Lelahi had died and was interred at Bibi Sakineh Cemetery in Karaj, near Tehran.

“Despite having killed Bahareh and inscribing her name on the burial site, authorities withheld this information from her family for three months.”

The online Institute for Iranian Civil Society (Tavaana) also cited sources close to her family claiming they are trying to bring her body back to their hometown of Amol, in northern Iran, to bury her.

Tavaana also reported that security forces are summoning citizens via phone. When individuals comply without informing anyone, they can be held with no legal representation and nobody has knowledge of their whereabouts.

Amnesty International has highlighted the Iranian authorities have failed to provide accountability for tens of deaths in custody, despite credible reports that they resulted from torture or other ill-treatment or the lethal use of firearms and tear gas by officials when rounding up protestors.

Judiciary officials, who have consistently denied international investigations into Iranian prisons and detention centers, assert that conditions in these facilities are adequate. However, the experiences of numerous prisoners shared by rights groups reveal that prisons and detention centers operated by security forces have effectively become "killing grounds," particularly for dissidents.

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