Fresh protests ignited around Iran by 16-year-old Asra Panahi’s death after schoolgirls assaulted in raid on high school in Ardabil
After being thrashed in her classroom for refusing to sing a pro-regime song when her school was invaded last week, another student is said to have been slain by Iranian security forces, igniting more demonstrations this weekend across the nation.
In a statement published on October 14 by the Coordinating Council of Iranian Teachers’ Trade Associations, Asra Panahi, 16, was killed on October 13 after security forces raided the Shahed Girls’ High School in Ardabil and demanded that a group of female students sing a song in support of the regime.
Security personnel beat the students when they objected, which led to the hospitalization of many girls and the arrest of other students. Panahi reportedly suffered injuries at the school and passed away at a hospital.
After her murder aroused outcry across the nation, Iranian officials denied that their security personnel were to blame. A guy posing as her uncle then emerged on state TV networks and claimed that she had died of a congenital heart problem.
After videos of students in classrooms waving their hijabs in the air, demolishing images of Iran’s supreme leaders, and chanting anti-regime slogans in support of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old who passed away after being detained by Iran’s morality police for not wearing her hijab properly in August, went viral, schoolgirls have proven to be a potent force.
Last week, the Iranian government retaliated by conducting a number of raids on schools across the nation. According to reports, police broke into classrooms, violently detained schoolgirls before putting them into waiting cars, and fired tear gas into educational facilities.
Iran’s teachers union issued a statement on Sunday denouncing the “brutal and barbaric” raids and calling for the resignation of Yousef Nouri, the education minister.
An Iranian student after daubing a map of Iran on a wall with handprints, allegedly at a sit-in protest at the Art University of Isfahan over the weekend. Photograph: UGC/AFP/Getty Images
The news of Panahi’s passing further inspired schoolgirls everywhere to organize and participate in protests throughout the weekend.
Naznin*, a 16-year-old who had been kept at home by her parents out of concern that she might be detained for participating in a protest at her school, was one of them.
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“I haven’t been allowed to go to the school because my parents fear for my life. But what has it changed? The regime continues to kill and arrest schoolgirls,” says Naznin.
“What good am I if I simply sit outraged at home? Myself and fellow students across Iran have decided to stand in protest on the streets this week. I’ll do it even if I have to now hide it from my parents.”
Nergis*, a 19-year-old who participated in the protests, was shot with rubber bullets in the back and legs. She claims that despite the risk, the passing of Panahi has inspired her and her friends to carry on with their protest.
She claims that what happened to Panahi, together with the killings of two other schoolgirls, Nika Shahkarami, 17, and Sarina Esmailzadeh, 16, both at the hands of the Iranian security forces, has brought young people in Iran together around a single issue.
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“They have been telling us to tolerate the situation for 43 years. Our life passed by, waiting. We are frustrated and disillusioned because we have no freedom and no economy. The tyranny of the rulers has become unbearable, even breathing has become difficult in this country.”
“I don’t have a single relative in Ardabil, but with this brutal crackdown on our sisters, who were just 16 years old, they’ve awakened the whole nation,” she says.
“We never knew we were so united – across the Baloch regions as well as the Kurdish regions. The world has heard about Nika, Sarina and Asra, but there are so many other nameless children who we know nothing about.
“It’s not just Asra’s death,” she says. “The Islamic Republic has been killing our people for 40 years, but our voices weren’t heard. Let the world know this is no longer a protest – we are calling for a revolution. Now that you’re all listening to our voices, we will not stop.”
According to the latest report by the Iran Human Rights group, 215 people, including 27 children, have been killed in the nationwide protests, as of 17 October.
*Names have been changed
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by: Miss Cherry May Timbol – Independent Reporter
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