Witness’s name and surname: Tahereh Bajrovani
Relation to deceased: Wife
Name of deceased: Seyed Ali Fotouhi Kouhsareh
Deceased’s date of birth: 1982
Deceased’s place of death: Shahr Ghods
Deceased’s date of death: 16/11/2019
Type of testimony before the Tribunal: Withheld
Ali was a diploma-holder. He had a boutique in Ardabil but he worked for a company in Shahr Ghods. We were married for about two and half years.
My husband was shot in the afternoon of Saturday, 16 November 2019. His company was closed on that day. He was in the crowd with some of his friends. When I spoke to him on the phone, he said that everyone was out and they were protesting against the hike in the price of benzene. All were out on the street. It was a quarter to five when he phoned me and said, ‘Twenty, thirty people have covered their faces with keffieh and are breaking glasses (of doors and windows).’ I asked him if he was doing the same. He said: ‘No, people have nothing to do with it at all; it’s them (the security force). The people are standing on a side and only shouting slogans; they are doing nothing else.’
Ali’s friends told me that a number of security men were standing on the rooftop of the Traffic Department Building in police or Army uniforms (I don’t know what their uniforms were). It was said that they were on the rooftop, inside the building and its courtyard and shots were fired from there.
The shot was fired at Ali at about 05:00 p.m. in Kalhor Street., close to Ghods Square in front of the Traffic Department, from the direction of this selfsame Traffic Department.
His friends told me that they were standing on the side of the road and it was very chaotic. They heard the sound of several shots and all of them ran away. A few minutes later, they said, one person was shot. When his friends come back (to see who it was), they see that it was Ali who had fallen on the ground. Then some of them who were there stop a passing private car and take him to 12th Bahman Hospital in Shahr Ghods. When I arrived at the hospital, my husband was in ER. They had removed his shirt from his body and only the oxygen was connected to his body. There was no one there. His face and hands were intact; there was only a small wound on his chest, something I never thought could be the point of contact of the bullet because I had not seen anything like that. It was very small, perhaps three-four millimetres in his chest, below the ribcage of his chest. I put my head in front of his mouth and noticed that he was breathing. No matter how hard I tried to find a doctor, nobody came to see him. They just kept on saying that the doctor would be coming in a moment. After I shouted and yelled and asked where was the doctor and why the machine was not attached to him and why only the oxygen was connected, a number of persons who I believe were from the security of the hospital said that the doctors were waiting for the roads to open. After about one and half hour the hospital security threw me out of the room. In the last few moments, perhaps ten minutes before they took away Ali, a lady came and said that she was the cardiologist of the hospital, that regretfully she couldn’t do anything as the bullet had passed through his heart.
At the time when Ali died and they removed him from there, I saw blood on the bed. While they were lifting Ali, blood had spilled on the floor. Only then I realized that there was a wound on Ali’s back. According to what they said, one bullet had entered his heart, had split his waist and exited from his back. An autopsy was performed but no document was given to us. The only thing the Forensic Medicine Department issued was his burial permit. Even to this date when I pursued his insurance, they have given me no document at all. They only issued a confidential letter and sent it to the insurance. The Forensic Medicine has described (the cause of death) in his death certificate ‘hitting by a hard and sharp object.’
Ali was the first among the wounded who was brought to the hospital. After one hour, forty minutes, they brought the wounded one by one. Some of them were not taken even to the ER, they were sent directly to the morgue. When I was there for about two hours, they brought about ten wounded persons from 14- 15-year-old to 18- 20-year-old who were hit by a number of bullets. Ali was the only one who was hit by just one bullet. Then they took Ali to the place where they had sent all the killed persons. Ali’s brothers and we went there for three days before we could take possession of his corpse. During those three days they constantly gave us the run-around and gave us evasive answers. They constantly sent his brother to Kahrizak, Shahr Ghods, and the Governorate and the Public Prosecutor’s Office. Ali’s brother said that they had placed the corpses of those killed in the November protests on the floor of buses that had no seats.
After three days they said that if we wanted to take his corpse to Ardabil (his hometown) they would hand it over to us. After three days they brought Ali’s corpse on the Sepah ambulance. We said, well, give it to us for burial. They said no, they had to be with it. Only his wife, his mother, brother and sister could come with it, but no one else.
We declined and said that we had to have ceremonies for his burial. The Sepah told us, ‘It should be enough for you that we have allowed you to be there; we won’t do it ourselves.’ When they wanted to hand over Ali’s corpse to us, they did it after obtaining an undertaking from us. They said that under no circumstances we were allowed to give interviews to anyone; we were not permitted even to say how and by what weapon Ali was killed. They said, ‘If you ever tried to talk about his killing, or how and where he was killed, we would come and open his grave and remove his corpse. You would not know where he is; you would never know his whereabouts.’ They came and saw the place where we wanted to bury him and confirmed it. When Ali’s corpse was being washed, they did not allow us to be there. They had put his corpse in a white piece of cloth but did not allow us to see him. However, his brother and his uncle had seen that they had opened Ali’s chest; his entire chest, back of the head and neck were opened up. But they did not allow us to open the oil cloth wrapped around his body. We buried him under their surveillance. They did not allow us to take a film or a photograph. But they themselves made a film and took photos. We held his memorial ceremonies but the security men were there. They had threatened the family sufficiently enough so no one spoke one word. Whenever we wanted to hold mourning ceremonies, they would ask on what day, at what time, how many guests would be there and where it would be held, and so on. They themselves attended those ceremonies.
They said that the cause of death should not be mentioned in the memorial notice; that we should not say how and why; that we should just say that he died. They did not allow putting up a tombstone for seven months. Every time we phoned them, they told us to wait. For six, seven months he was without an identity; he had no tombstone. They said not to do it until they notified us. Then they said that nothing should be written on it, just the dates of his birth and death, or a verse or a text, if we so wished.
When we returned to Shahr Ghods after the ceremonies, two men came from the Sepah of Shahr Ghods and asked a number of questions such as why did he go out on the street, with whom did he go, what time he left home, did he call, and what did he say; did he have enemies, had he picked up a fight with someone? A number of persons came from the Sepah of Tehran, from the Intelligence and Sepah of Tehran, from Shahr Ghods, Imam Jomeh (Friday-prayer leader), reporters, etc. Since I was against them and didn’t want them to come, they would call home and speak to Ali’s brother and would say: ‘We must come to your place otherwise it would cost you a great deal. Ali’s name would be put in the list of those who created disturbances. This would be very bad for your family. So, tell Ali’s wife to allow us to come and to talk to her.’ I allowed them just for the sake of Ali and to prevent his name from being put in the list of those who created disturbances. They came to our house three times and each time they said the same thing, that they did not know who had killed him, that Ali may have an enemy or something, and things like that which they say to everyone.
Initially they said that they had carried out investigations and found that Ali had done nothing wrong. They made inquiries even from his High School friends where he lived then and where he lives now. They found nothing against Ali or his family. They even said that they had checked all cameras; Ali was in none of the demonstrations, had broken nothing and had shouted no slogans against the System. In spite of all those things that they said, and in spite of any evidence against him, they put Ali beside those they call rioters. After two years when a reply came from the Public Prosecutor’s Office, and after we went to the Governorate, Ali was called as a part of the protesters.
They themselves suggested that we file a complaint. We filed our complaint with the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Shahr Ghods. They said that we complain for the rectification of the wrong done to him so if he is proven innocent, the diyyeh or blood-money could be paid to us. However, what I wrote at the Public Prosecutor’s Office was that I did not want the blood-money; I only wanted to know who had killed my husband and why they had done so. After two years the reply came to the Governorate of Shahr Ghods. But the letter was confidential; we could not open it. They opened it and said that Ali was a part of the rioters. I asked what evidence supported this claim. The Governor said that he would follow up the matter and would let us know. After several months they phoned from the Ministry of Intelligence and the Governorate of Shahr Ghods and said that they wanted to come to our house and talk about Ali. When I spoke to them and understood what they were getting at, I declined their proposal and said that I didn’t want them to come to my house; they could come only when they were ready to disclose who had killed Ali. Failing this, I didn’t want to open my doors to them.
This time when I visited them, they said that they follow my Instagram page. They told me to be patient, not to post anything that could be used by the enemies of Iran. They made indirect threats. Even when they came to my house, I had declined their visit. One of the Sepah officers said: ‘This should be the last time when we ask you to come to such and such place and you refuse to do so. Next time we would not treat you like this. Since you are in mourning right now, we don’t say anything to you. Next time when we ask you to come, you better be there.’ Such behaviour has continued up to 25th Aban (16 November) of this year. They often phoned with private numbers and asked to come to Tehran, to such and such address, to come to the Governorate. Before the anniversary of Aban (November) this year they had told me not to give an interview to anyone or, for instance, such and such person was a spy and if I gave an interview to him, I would be considered his accomplice.
Since I would not answer their phone calls, they phoned my brother and told him time and again to bring Ali’s wife. I went to the Governorate with my brother. There were three representatives of the Sepah at the Governorate, the Governor herself and her assistant, and one person from the Intelligence of Tehran. There they said that Ali’s name was removed from the list of rioters. I asked why it was removed. They said, ‘We don’t know. It’s not important whether or not his name is in the list of rioters. They have already issued this order.’ I asked on what basis they had issued the order; basically, why they had called him a rioter in the first place. They replied, ‘Since there was a heavy case load at that time, his name appeared among the rioters. But now when they have thoroughly investigated, they realized that he was not a rioter. Also, there is no evidence to show that Ali has done something wrong.’ They told me that this would be the story only if I do nothing. For instance, I post no story on Instagram or say nothing about it. They asked me not to post any story and be patient. Perhaps I would be rectified one day. I asked what my right was. They said what my demand was at the moment. I said: ‘I wish to know who killed Ali and why.’ They said, ‘You will never know it; it will never be made clear and cannot be made clear. This is an unreasonable expectation.’ They meant to say that no one knows anything about it; it could have been the Mujahedin; it could have been the result of Ali’s enmity with someone.
Initially when they came to us, they would say that since Ali is innocent, it was possible that he would be declared a martyr. But this was just a bluff. I myself said at that time that I didn’t want him to be declared as a martyr.