“They killed my brother, and now they’re coming for us too.”
These are phrases from inside Iran that its rulers don’t want the world to listen to.
WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS A GRAPHIC IMAGE OF INJURY
“They’re taking us hostage,” Reza mentioned. Sky Information just isn’t utilizing Reza’s actual identify to guard his security.
Reza’s brother was brutally killed in the course of the protests final yr. Armed police compelled the grieving household to bury his physique the identical night time he died – in an effort to cowl up their crimes, he mentioned.
Reza, who’s in his late 20s, and his household have been the goal of a marketing campaign of harassment and threats by the authorities ever since.
He dangers imprisonment, torture and loss of life to talk to Sky Information. However regardless of the federal government’s efforts, Reza is adamant he will not be silenced.
And he isn’t alone.
Reza is talking from a small room in Turkey the place exiled Iranian activist Shilan Mirzai works in hiding.
She helps victims of the nation’s brutal crackdown on protests, which seems to be set to accentuate because the anniversary of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini‘s loss of life in police custody approaches.
“The tougher they’re pushing, the tougher individuals battle again,” mentioned Ms Mirzai.
Ms Amini’s loss of life final September within the custody of Iran‘s infamous morality police sparked an unprecedented rebellion towards the regime, which threatened the very existence of the Islamic Republic.
The response of the cleric-led authorities was brutal and bloody with greater than 500 individuals killed, together with 70 youngsters.
Virtually a yr later, the protests seem to have subsided however the authorities crackdown continues.
Up to now month, Ms Mirzai has seen a pointy rise within the variety of the households of those that have been imprisoned or killed in the course of the protests reporting threats, harassment and arrests.
Forward of Saturday’s anniversary, human rights campaigners, activists and lecturers have reportedly been arrested – together with Ms Amini’s uncle and lawyer, and the younger journalist who broke the story of her loss of life.
“Iran’s authorities is clearly anxious,” Ms Mirzai mentioned. “They know that persons are getting ready to reignite the protests.”
However the widespread crackdown on protesters by authorities is not simply restricted to Iran.
Activist Shilan Mirrzaee, who lives in Turkey, is recurrently threatened and harassed.
“They’re attempting to silence me,” she mentioned. She not often leaves her home and even stopped her son going to highschool for 3 months out of worry one thing would possibly occur to him.
Her household in Iran aren’t secure both. Shilan mentioned they’re being taken “hostage”.
Up to now yr, her father has been arrested six instances for her activism. Her brother and sister have additionally been arrested. Her sister was threatened with rape.
However her household has inspired her to not cease being an activist.
“We will not converse out ourselves,” her father mentioned, “however you will be our voice”.
“I am not petrified of the Islamic Republic authorities. Even when they kill my father, I’ll carry on combating,” she mentioned.
“We do not need the Islamic Republic. Dictatorship should finish.”
Whereas many protesters put together to take to the streets as soon as once more, others are left grappling with life-changing accidents from final yr. Others look on from afar after escaping Iran searching for security and medical remedy.
Behzad Hamrahi, 44, and his household have been compelled to hunt asylum in Turkey a number of months in the past.
“The guards held my arms behind me,” the father-of-two mentioned. “One other stood lower than a metre away, pointing a gun instantly at my face. Then all the things went black.”
Mr Hamrahi thought he had died. A guard had shot him in his left eye with a paintball gun that contained a dense ball of pressurised plastic.
He misplaced his eye – one in all 600 individuals to be injured on this approach based on medical doctors in simply two provinces. The precise numbers throughout Iran are prone to be a lot greater.
Mr Hamrahi was overwhelmed by the guards however earlier than they might take him away, a number of different protesters carried him to a close-by condominium block and helped him conceal.
One of many protesters, a nurse, helped clear the wound. However Mr Hamrahi desperately wanted pressing medical care.
“I knew [getting medical treatment] would result in my arrest,” he mentioned. However he determined to go to a hospital the subsequent day “whatever the penalties”.
Most clinics and hospitals refused him because it was clear he sustained his harm within the protests.
Mr Hamrahi ended up having his left eye eliminated in a hospital that was identified to collaborate with authorities.
Shortly after he was discharged, he was held in jail for per week the place he was tortured.
“That is after I determined that I need to go away the nation instantly,” he mentioned.
He arrived in Turkey a number of days later along with his spouse and younger youngsters.
Mr Hamrahi, now dwelling in a modest condominium within the nation, mentioned he does not remorse his involvement within the protests “as a result of I fought for a free and affluent Iran”.
However not everybody feels the identical. Reza tells me that the stress and struggling his household has been by means of since his brother was killed is insufferable.
“The harassment in the direction of our household has been continuous from day one and it is solely getting worse,” he mentioned.
He promised his household he wouldn’t participate in any future protests. “They cannot bear to lose one other son,” he mentioned.