Five Iranian security officers pounced on a young protester after he fell to the ground, beating him severely. As a crowd approached to intervene, one officer held a gun to the man’s head, threatening to shoot him if anyone came closer.
The several dozen demonstrators backed away, but the officers, reinforced with additional manpower, fired three warning shots into the air and charged toward the crowd.
Two more shots rang out. When the smoke cleared on Zerhi Street, 20-year-old Omid Moayidi was dead.
Eyewitnesses to what happened on the evening of November 13 during protests in the southwestern city of Shiraz said the university student was first shot in the back as he and other protesters fled. After he fell from the first bullet, he was then shot at close range in the head.
“They shot him. They shot him in the forehead,” one of two witnesses to the shooting told RFE/RL’s Radio Farda on condition of anonymity out of concerns for their safety.
Both of the eyewitnesses said Moayidi was shot after joining others to help the protester who was being beaten. A third said Moayidi’s body was taken away shortly after he was shot.
Sources with knowledge of the situation, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said the family got the runaround from the authorities as they tried to determine Moayidi’s fate, and were only able to confirm that he had died three days after he was shot by security forces.
The authorities, meanwhile, have attempted to use Moayidi’s death to their advantage by portraying him as an innocent victim, claiming that he wasn’t participating in the street demonstrations and was hit by a bullet fired by demonstrators as he drove on another city street.
The authorities’ claims, combined with pressure on the family to follow the official line that Moayidi was a “martyr” of the country’s clerical regime, have only convinced his relatives that they are attempting to cover up his killing by security forces.
Sources with knowledge of the situation told RFE/RL’s Radio Farda that there was no doubt Moayidi had joined protests taking place in Shiraz on November 13. The demonstrations in the city that day honored the anniversary of “Bloody November,” a deadly crackdown on anti-government protests in 2019 that rights groups said left as many as 1,500 protesters dead.
The protests in Shiraz were also a local continuation of ongoing antiestablishment demonstrations that erupted across the country following the September 16 death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman who died shortly after she was arrested by the morality police for allegedly violating the country’s head-scarf law.
Rights groups say at least 458 protesters have been killed by government forces during the state’s crackdown on the demonstrations, which have posed one of the most serious challenges to Iran’s clerical establishment that has ruled since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
‘You Killed My Child’
Sources with knowledge of the situation said that Moayidi’s brother was with him, but they were separated when the security officers attacked. His brother returned home safely and the family immediately set out to determine Moayidi’s whereabouts.
After repeated calls from Moayidi’s mother on the night of November 13, a man answered Moayidi’s mobile phone and told her that her son had been arrested and she should contact the information office of the local branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, according to the sources.
Repeated follow-ups led to further referrals to the local police, Intelligence Ministry branch, and other government offices, the sources with knowledge of the situation said. Finally, after three days, the family received a call directing them to visit the morgue to identify Moayidi’s body.
When his father arrived, he was shown only his son’s face, which he said had a bullet hole in the forehead. But Intelligence Ministry officials later told Moayidi’s father that the official forensic report only mentioned a bullet wound to the back, according to the sources with knowledge of the situation.
The sources told Radio Farda that representatives of various agencies went to the family home and told Moayidi’s parents that he was shot by protesters while driving his car, an account that the family did not accept.
According to the sources, at the insistence of Moayidi’s mother, she was allowed to see her son’s body prior to his burial on November 23. But when she was presented with Moayidi’s body, it was completely covered except for the face, with his forehead wrapped in a flag.
Security officers later told the family that Moayidi was shot while driving by someone who fired at close range, leading to an accident, in an apparent attempt to explain the head wound.
That claim prompted the family to file an official complaint with the local branch of the Intelligence Ministry in which they demanded to know who killed Moayidi.
As Moayidi’s funeral approached, according to the sources, the family was pressured to allow him to be buried as a martyr in a funeral to be paid for by the state. “They went to Omid’s house…and said that they were burying Omid and would have a ceremony for him,” the sources said.
The intention, the sources believe, was to use Moayidi’s name to highlight the death of a member of the Basij paramilitary force who shared Moayidi’s last name and died in Shiraz the same night. “They declared Mohammad Moayidi [the Basij member] a martyr and wanted to hold up Omid as well and say that we have lost two martyrs,” one of the sources told Radio Farda.
But despite threats that his brother and father could face arrest if the family did not comply with the authorities’ wishes and abide by the official line that Moayidi had been killed by protesters, the family refused to go along. “His mother said, ‘You killed my child…do whatever you want [to us for refusing],'” one of the sources close to the family said.
Moayidi was eventually buried in a private ceremony, in accordance with the family’s wishes. But the anonymous sources said that the ceremony was limited to close relatives. The family was not allowed to announce Moayidi’s funeral, the sources said, and the 50 people who attended were watched over by hundreds of security personnel.
Since then, the sources with knowledge of the situation told Radio Farda, the family has been pressured to speak publicly on radio and television to repeat the official narrative that Moayidi was a victim of protester violence. But the family has not given in.
Prosecutors in Fars Province, of which Shiraz is the capital, have continued to claim that Moayidi was killed by “rioters.” They have said that his death had led to multiple arrests at the scene and that a criminal investigation continues. State media has reported that Moayidi’s death occurred on November 14, the day after the protests.
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