As time goes on, the official Iranian figures of up to 21 people killed during the demonstrations against the disputed election result look increasingly meagre.
Information remains extremely hard to come by, with swingeing restrictions in place on the transfer of news and videos out of Iran. Over the last week, the number of photo-journalists in detention has risen to seven.
Many Iranians are now simply too frightened to pass on verifiable details of human rights violations. Yet the stories which are trickling out of Iran show a different picture.
Take the case of 19 year-old Sohrab Arabi. He went to express his feelings about the election three days afterwards at a demonstration on 15 June. After that time, his family heard nothing about him for over three weeks, despite his mother’s constant searching at prisons and courts for news about his fate.
Then, on 11 July, she was summoned to court – she was told in order to sort out his release on bail. But instead when the family got there, they were shown a book of photographs of dead people – according to news reports with 50-60 images in it – and asked if Sohrab was among them.
Imagine their distress when they saw what they had been dreading. And then found his body at the Coroner’s Office, which had held it since 19 June. She has been given no account of what happened to Sohrab in the intervening four days – or how he came by the bullet in his heart which apparently killed him. He is now one of over 30 people said by Iranians to have been killed in or after the demonstrations. The true figure is almost certainly even higher.
Parvin Fahimi – Sohrab Arabi’s mother – is a member of the Mothers for Peace group, which campaigns against possible military intervention in Iran over its nuclear programme, seeks “viable solutions” to the region’s instability and campaigns against the arrest, detention and harassment of ordinary Iranians. She is part of the vibrant Iranian civil society which believes ordinary Iranians can – like citizens of any country – bring about changes for good in the world.
That same civil society is now refusing to let the memory of its dead children be forgotten – a new group has been set up, called Mourning Mothers (Madaran-e Azardar). For the past four weeks, they have been meeting silently on Saturdays in public parks between 7 and 8pm – the day and time at which Neda Agha-Soltan’s death occurred – a young woman shot dead on 20 June. A video of her death was uploaded onto the internet and her face has come to symbolise the repression meted out in recent weeks. This week, on 18 July, they remembered Sohrab Arabi.
Their peaceful protest has not gone unnoticed by the authorities – their gatherings have been broken up by security forces and several have been arrested. They include Zeynab Peyghambarzadeh, a women’s rights and student activist who is also a member of the One Million Signatures Campaign, which is demanding an end to discrimination against women in law. She was arrested at the second gathering on 4 July, held overnight and then released.
The call made by the Mourning Mothers states:
“Until the release of all detainees who were arrested for protesting election fraud, and until the end of violence and until the murderers of our children are prosecuted, we will gather to mourn in silence every Saturday at 7 pm near where our dear Neda was killed, in Amirabad Street, Laleh Park, by the pond.”
Perhaps you too might take a few moments at 7pm next Saturday to remember the dead in Iran and stand in solidarity with their relatives who demand justice.