What really happened to Nika Shahkarami? Witnesses to her final hours cast doubt on Iran’s story | CNN


A black-clad Iranian lady stands on prime of an overturned rubbish bin, waving her headband as it’s engulfed by flames, amid chants of “demise to the dictator.”

A second later, video exhibits, she crouches to gather one other scarf, from a good friend, which she will even set on fireplace in entrance of the protesters.

The lady was 16-year-old Nika Shahkarami, from Tehran. A couple of hours after these scenes have been recorded on September 20, in movies solely obtained and verified by CNN, Nika went lacking. ​And multiple week later, her household realized that she was lifeless.

​Iranian authorities claimed Nika’s physique was discovered behind a courtyard on the morning of September 21. ​Her mom wasn’t given entry to determine her till 8 days later. CCTV footage launched by the authorities timestamped simply after midnight ​as September 20 ​grew to become September 21 ​confirmed the determine of a masked particular person they stated was Nika coming into a constructing ​that was uninhabited, and nonetheless below building in Tehran.

Nika Shahkarami seen burning a headband on the protests on September twentieth. Eyewitnesses stated she didn’t appear fearful of the riot police standing close by. Credit score: Obtained by CNN

​A Tehran prosecutor initially stated she died after being thrown from the constructing’s roof, and that her demise “had no connection to the protests” of that day​, however regardless of apparently declaring her demise a murder, he didn’t say whether or not there have been suspects below investigation. State broadcasters reported that she “fell,” however didn’t present proof to help the declare it was an accident.

On Wednesday, after CNN requested the federal government to touch upon the proof on this investigation, an Iranian media report quoted a Tehran prosecutor as saying that Nika’s demise was a suicide. Iranian authorities nonetheless haven’t responded to CNN’s repeated inquiries about Nika’s demise.​​

​Authorities by no means defined why Nika would enter that constructing on her personal, and Nika’s mom has stated she doesn’t consider the masked particular person is Nika. Her mom has stated she believes Nika was killed by the authorities, however the authorities have by no means stated whether or not Nika was of their custody at any level.

However dozens of movies and eyewitness accounts obtained solely by CNN point out that Nika seems to have been chased and detained by Iranian safety forces that evening. One key eyewitness, Ladan, advised CNN she noticed Nika being taken into custody ​on the protest by “a number of large-bodied plainclothes safety officers” who bundled her right into a automobile.

Moments earlier, this witness, whereas caught in Tehran visitors, filmed a video that purportedly exhibits Shahkarami ducking behind a white automobile and yelling “tekoon nakon, tekoon nakon” – which implies “don’t transfer, don’t transfer” – to its driver earlier than working away from the transient shelter it gave her.

Seven individuals who knew Nika and spoke to CNN confirmed it was her. The identical footage, filmed at 8.37 p.m. on September 20, additionally exhibits anti-riot police on bikes, patrolling the realm.

“I wished to save lots of her, however I couldn’t,” stated Ladan. “There have been about 20 or 30 Basijis on bikes on the sidewalk​,” she stated, utilizing the native title for the paramilitary group that has been on the forefront of the state’s crackdown on protesters.

​”Shahkarami was throwing rocks at them. I used to be scared and I even went previous her and stated, ‘Watch out expensive!’ as a result of there have been numerous plainclothes police within the streets going by the automobiles searching for her.

“Fifty meters forward they obtained her,” Ladan added.

Ladan got here ahead to CNN after realising that {the teenager} she had filmed and spoken to was the one whose demise had been reported days later. CNN solely spoke to a number of witnesses who have been on the Tehran protest on September 20 with the assistance of activist group 1500Tasvir.

Different movies, together with the scarf-burning ones, are proof that Nika was on the forefront of the protests earlier within the evening, earlier than the crackdown began – fearlessly main chants and throwing rocks, in accordance with a number of testimonies.

That will have made her a goal for safety forces, together with members of Iran’s feared Basij militia, as they began to descend into the realm across the College of Tehran and Keshavarz Boulevard the place a lot of the protesters gathered that night, witnesses stated.

“I bear in mind how courageous she was as a result of she would go up on the rubbish bin and wouldn’t come down. She additionally burned her head scarf,” stated Najmeh, a protester who was with Nika on the demonstration.

CNN is utilizing pseudonyms for the entire witnesses quoted on this investigation, as a result of danger to their security.

College students had gathered close to Laleh Park round 5 to six p.m. on September 20 to protest the demise of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian lady who died final month ​in state custody after being detained by the nation’s morality police​, allegedly for the way she was dressed.​

The scene was one which has turn out to be acquainted in Tehran in current weeks: younger individuals, principally ladies, chanting “demise to the dictator,” burning headscarves and throwing rocks towards safety forces.

Nika Shahkarami is seen on the frontline of the protests, throwing rocks at riot police additional down the road. Credit score: Obtained by CNN

At one level, a trash bin was introduced over and overturned to dam the street. Nika hopped on prime together with a few others, video footage confirmed.

“She burned her head scarf and waved it. I advised her to not wave it since you may burn your self, simply maintain it till it burns,” stated Nima, who was additionally on the protest and noticed the occasions unfold. “Then she took the headscarves of the 2 buddies who have been together with her and burned these as effectively.”

In different movies ​from that night geolocated and verified by CNN, Nika is proven hurling rocks at anti-riot police forces. She’s carrying a particular CAT rucksack and carrying a black masks and hat on her head. ​Sounds that seem like gunshots could be heard.

From 7 to eight p.m., the safety forces’ crackdown intensified, witnesses stated. “They have been firing tear fuel and pellet photographs and grabbing protesters. Nearly all of us have been confronting them and working away,” stated Reza, one other witness.

As anti-riot police and Basij forces stuffed the streets, protesters began to maneuver in all instructions to flee the crackdown.

One other witness, Dina, who spent a few of the protest strolling alongside Nika, advised CNN she noticed Nika in entrance of a fuel station not removed from the College of Tehran, the place the group of protesters had gathered after fleeing tear fuel launched by the safety forces. Others managed to seize on video these being detained by what gave the impression to be plainclothes officers.

Reza added: “I noticed with my very own eyes safety forces hitting ladies with batons, and so they grabbed a lot of them and took them to police vans.”

It’s on this context of utmost repression of the protest that Nika ​was final seen by the witnesses who spoke to CNN – and 9 extra days would cross earlier than her household was given official phrase of her whereabouts. Movies verified and geolocated by CNN show that the lady, within the final witness footage offered to CNN displaying her alive, was hemmed in by safety forces on three sides.

“I believe Nika obtained caught that evening once we have been working away. As a result of she was very younger,” Dina stated.

Nika Shahkarami, seen in a picture posted on the Twitter feed of Atash Shahkarami.

Whereas Iranian authorities insist Nika died ​on the grounds of that uninhabited constructing, her mom Nasrin advised Etemad, an unbiased Iranian newspaper, in an interview printed on October 10 that she believes her daughter “was on the protests and killed there.”

Iranian safety forces arrested eight individuals who have been staff within the constructing which Nika allegedly entered ​just a few hours after eyewitnesses noticed her on the September 20 protests, state-aligned information company Tasnim reported on October 4. Tehran’s prosecutor Ali Salehi stated a judicial prison case had been launched and expressed his condolences to Nika’s household, state run IRNA stated.

The final recognized video of Nika, filmed at 8:37 p.m. She is seen hiding between automobiles to keep away from the riot police. Credit score: Obtained by CNN

Mohammad Shahriari, the top of prison prosecution of Tehran province, initially stated Nika’s accidents corresponded with ​having been “thrown down,” citing an post-mortem that exposed a number of fractures within the space of the pelvis, head, higher and decrease limbs, arms​, ft ​and hip, Tasnim reported.

He added that “an investigation confirmed this incident had no connection to the protests. No bullet holes have been discovered on the physique.”

CNN has repeatedly sought remark from the Iranian authorities on whether or not Nika was detained on the protests that evening and whether or not different ladies have been assaulted and put in police automobiles. CNN additionally requested the Tehran prosecutor’s workplace in regards to the standing of the prison investigation into Nika’s demise. No responses have been obtained previous to the publication of this story.

​On Wednesday, the web information outlet Mizan, which is affiliated with Iran’s judiciary, printed a report saying that Nika’s demise had been a suicide, citing a prosecutor from t

Nonetheless, a demise certificates first seen by BBC Persian and verified by CNN states that Shahkarami died from a number of accidents attributable to blows with a tough object.

Within the Etemad interview, Nasrin stated she had spoken by cellphone with Shahkarami many instances on the day she disappeared. The background noise through the calls indicated she and the opposite protesters have been fleeing from safety forces, Nasrin added. ​

Nika additionally talked about just a few places she was in – Enghelab Sq., Keshavarz Boulevard and Valiasr avenue – in accordance with Nasrin, which match the movies geolocated by CNN.

Nasrin final spoke together with her daughter simply earlier than midnight, she stated, and after that, all her makes an attempt to name Nika indicated that Nika’s cellphone had been disconnected. Nika’s Instagram and Telegram accounts have been deleted, in accordance with Nika’s aunt and several other protesters who spoke to CNN.

For days, her household says they went to police stations, jails, and hospitals searching for traces of her, all to no avail. Lastly, on September 30, Nika’s mom and brother have been requested to determine Nika’s corpse, she advised BBC Persian. ​

​On October 6, in an interview with Radio Farda, Nasrin claimed that whereas she and different family members have been searching for Nika within the days after her disappearance, one particular person gave her Nika’s nationwide ID quantity and advised her “the IRGC obtained her, they wished to slowly interrogate her.”

That matches what Shahkarami’s aunt, Atash, told BBC Persian quickly after she disappeared. “An unofficial supply from the IRGC themselves obtained in contact with me and stated, this child was in our custody per week in the past, and after we have been performed interrogating and constructing the case file, 1 or 2 days in the past ​(she) was transferred to Evin jail,” Atash stated.

Atash and Nika’s uncle, Mohsen, have been subsequently arrested by Iranian safety forces and compelled to make a false assertion, in accordance with BBC Persian​, citing a supply near the household. Following the BBC’s reporting, when reached by CNN, Atash requested to not be contacted once more, citing security issues.

Whereas the household searches for solutions, the individuals who have been with Nika on that day are additionally nonetheless reeling from her demise.

“The scenario was very scary, and everybody considered escaping,” Dina stated. “I can’t forgive myself for Nika’s demise. She was a baby.”