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IRAN: Mother of slain protester Sohrab Arabi 'won't remain silent'

July 13, 2009 | 10:08 am

Aarabi Hundreds of mourners attended the funeral in Tehran on Monday of 19-year-old Sohrab Arabi, whose body was returned to his family after a month of frantic searching by family and friends who feared the worst after the teenager disappeared during a protest on June 15.

“I won’t remain silent," said Arabi's mother, Parvin Fahimi, according to the reformist news website, the online reincarnation of a newspaper by the same name that was closed by authorities in 2002.

"The authorities were playing with me all this time," she added. "My son had been killed, but they refused to tell me.”

Public outrage over the teenager's death is being fueled by video (below) depicting Fahimi outside Evin Prison, clutching a picture of her son and pleading for information about his whereabouts.

According to a coroner's report dated June 19, Arabi died of a gunshot wound to the chest, but family members expressed skepticism to reporters. They believe that he might have been shot, taken to a hospital and abused before he died. And several human rights groups have demanded an independent investigation.

Norooz went on to report that Iranian intelligence officers arrived shortly before the ceremony and demanded the funeral be held in silence, warning that any acts of protest would lead to arrests and more trouble for the slain man's family.

But video reportedly taken during the funeral clearly shows mourners chanting "God is great," and CNN reported that several held placards reading "My martyred brother, I will take back your vote" and held up their right hands in victory signs, a symbol of the opposition. 

"What was done to you, no animal would do to another animal," one of the mourners reportedly said after reciting a poem in Arabi's honor.

Arabi's family has indicated they are prepared to weather the consequences of turning his death into a rallying cry for the opposition, similar to how the killing of Neda Agha-Soltan last month sparked protests across the world. 

Fahimi is no stranger to controversy either; even before her son's death, she was an active member of Mothers for Peace, which famously wrote an open letter to authorities condemning the Iranian nuclear program.

The furor over Agha-Soltan's and Arabi's deaths puts the regime in a difficult position. As the Los Angeles Times has reported, authorities have felt pressured to crack down harshly on dissent but want to avoid creating opposition heroes in a culture where celebrated martyrs can and have been catalysts for revolt.

-- Meris Lutz in Beirut

Photo: Sohrab Arabi, 19, was allegedly killed on June 15 but his family received the body 26 days later. Credit: International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran: Video, from top: A montage of footage from today's funeral; amateur video of Parvin Fahimi, Sohrab Arabi's mother, searching for him in front of Evin Prison.