November 1, 2023

Tragic Death of Armita Geravand Sparks Outrage and Calls for Change in Iran

Seventeen year-old Armita Geravand enjoyed cats, painting, the Korean pop group BTS, and martial arts – particularly Taekwondo. As a member of the “Anahid Razm” Taekwondo team in Tehran, she held a 3rd-degree black belt and had a deep interest in Korean culture, language, and music, as evidenced by her writings in Korean. Geravand died on Sunday, October 28, twenty-eight days after sustaining a head injury that many believe came at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s “morality police.”

Saturday, October 1, appears to have begun just like any other day for Geravand. But when she boarded a train on her way to school at Tehran’s Shahid Square Metro station with two of her friends, CCTV footage depicts her entering, then being dragged out by her friends unconscious. In the car, she had injured her head before entering the coma that would mark the final four weeks of her life. 

The government claims she fainted due to “drop in blood pressure,” an explanation that convinced few in the public. Fragmented surveillance footage released by government media only depicts the scene outside of the train car, and officials claim there were no CCTV cameras inside the train that could reveal what caused Geravand’s fall. Adding further suspicion to these claims, officials imposed restrictions on Geravand’s family to prevent them from communicating during her coma, blocked independent journalists from investigating the matter, and imposed egregious security measures over Geravand’s eventual burial.

According to reports that reject the official explanation, Geravand was shoved in a confrontation with “morality police” who accosted her in the metro car for not covering her hair – echoing the tragedy that befell Mahsa Amini just over a year ago that sparked mass uprisings across Iran. A number of prominent political and cultural figures inside and outside Iran referred to Armita Geravand’s death as a “government murder” and compared it to that of Amini.

Immediately following the announcement of Armita Geravand’s death, her name became the top trend on social media, with users expressing their grief. Images were shared from various parts of Tehran, including Saadat Abad, where groups of people were chanting, “Armita Geravand, your path continues.” In Ekbatan, west of Tehran, a slogan was heard stating, “Death to the dictator.”

Human rights activist Narges Mohammadi, imprisoned in Iran, wrote, “They sent our lively Armita Geravand to her death because of her beautiful hair, which she had no intention of hiding with a ‘compulsory hijab.'” One of the leaders of the 2009 protests in Iran, Zahra Rahnavard, who is currently under house arrest, reiterated calls to eliminate compulsory hijab, likening Geravand’s death to that of other young people who were killed during the nationwide protests last year. “The rulers of Iran, delusionally, see the consolidation of their power in the guise of a few pieces of cloth and a law called compulsory hijab,” she wrote. “…Each time, they attribute the deaths of these girls to physiological disorders, syncope, underlying illnesses, or suicide.”

A day after Armita Geravand’s death was announced, her body was buried in Behesht Zahra, in the south of Tehran. Security officials reportedly interfered with the ceremony with violence and detained several attendees, including Nasrin Sotoudeh, the prominent human rights attorney and advocate, and Manzar Zarrabi, who lost her daughter, son, daughter-in-law, and grandson when the Revolutionary Guards shot down a civilian plane in 2020 amidst a military confrontation with the United States.

While expressing condolences to the Geravand family and her friends, NIAC condemns the continued violence against women in Iran in the strongest terms and reiterates that authorities of the Islamic Republic are bound to adhere to international human rights obligations. These obligations are violated via the brutal enforcement of policies like mandatory hijab, press censorship, and politically motivated detentions. We condemn the reported assaults and detentions of participants in Armita’s funeral and call for the release of all prisoners of conscience, including detainees who sought to mourn Geravand.

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