Monday, January 21, 2008

Uncovering Iran

The BBC has devoted considerable attention to Iran but somehow hasn't managed to find space for the story of Ebrahim Lotfollahi:

On January 15, nine days after Ebrahim Lotfollahi was detained in front of Payame Nur University in the provincial capital, Sanandaj, officials told his family that he had committed suicide while in prison and died of "suffocation."

It is unclear why Lotfollahi was detained in the first place.

Witnesses say he had just finished taking an exam when security officials took him away. Officials were reported as saying they wanted to give him some "explanations," but no more details were offered.

His family says the aspiring lawyer had no reason to take his own life. Ebrahim, they say, was full of "hope in life" -- an avid reader who served part-time as a social worker.

His brother, Ismail, told Radio Farda that Ebrahim was "well" when he last saw him, two days after his arrest. "He said he would be released," Ismail said. "He said he needed a few razors and some other things."

Officials said Lotfollahi has already been buried at the city's Beheshte Mohammadi Cemetery.

But Ismail Lotfollahi says family members, who were not allowed to see the body, are calling for an autopsy. "Nobody has seen the body, [but] they said he's there," Ismail said. "A few days after they buried him there, they covered the grave with concrete."

"We don't know what to do. We haven't seen his body; we don't know whether he was suffocated," he said. "They had taken him there and done everything -- we were informed about nothing."

Saman Rasulpour, a Sanandaj-based journalist and member of the Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan, said Lotfollahi's death and the conditions surrounding it are unprecedented in the region.

But he added that this case appears similar to that of another student: Zahra Bani Yaghoub, a 27-year-old who died in prison in the western city of Hamedan in October shortly after she was detained by the morality police while out for a stroll with her boyfriend.

In Yaghoub's case, officials also said that she committed suicide, but her family accused the police of murdering her. They said her body was bruised and that there was blood in her ears.
The BBC couldn't find room for any report about the death of Zahra Bani Yaghoub either.

Via Winston.

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