New Details Contradict Official Iranian Claims Over Teen's Death During School Protest

By RFE/RL's Radio Farda

New details about the death of Iranian teenager Asra Panahi have emerged that contradict the Iranian government's statement that the official cause of death was heart disease. Panahi reportedly died of her injuries after being beaten for refusing to sing a pro-regime anthem when her school was raided by agents.

According to the Coordinating Council of Teachers Syndicates (CCTS), authorities for the city of Ardabil took students from Shahed high school to a pro-government demonstration and asked them to sing an anthem that praises Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

After the pupils resisted, the security forces attacked the students and beat many. Ten were taken to an unknown place by security forces, while seven others were injured.

Iranian officials have denied that security forces beat the students and have said Panahi died in a hospital on October 14. They have since given conflicting causes of death, at first saying it was from congenital heart disease and then later suicide.

But the CCTS says it has confirmed that Panahi died on the same day government forces attacked the school.

Furthermore, eyewitnesses and relatives have confirmed to RFE/RL's Radio Farda that Panahi was taken to a hospital after being beaten, died there, and then was buried in a cemetery in Ardabil.

Officials have also had Panahi's uncle, Ali Panahi, give several interviews backing up their claims on the cause of death, but several relatives said the statements were made under duress.

Another family member was also shown on state TV parroting the official line that her death had nothing to do with the attack on high schoolers.

The unrest, sparked by the death of another young woman, Mahsa Amini, has swept across the country over the past month.

Amini died while in police custody in September after being detained for allegedly wearing a hijab improperly. Eyewitness reports said the 22-year-old was beaten while being arrested by police, while the authorities said she died of "underlying diseases."

Former Iranian soccer star Ali Daei, who is also from Ardabil, has challenged Iranian lawmakers to tell the truth about what is happening in the country and to be accountable after Kazem Musavi, the representative of Ardabil in parliament, denied Panahi's death was due to being beaten.

"History has proven who the liars are," said Daei, a former forward with German soccer giants Bayern Munich and the former Iranian national team captain.

Security forces have waged a violent crackdown on protesters around the country, killing scores, injuring hundreds, and detaining several thousand people.

As the scattered anti-government protests rage across Iran for a fifth week, universities and schools have turned into a major battleground between the protesters and the authorities

The Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights says the authorities have killed at least 215 people, including 27 children.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda