Wednesday, October 14, 2009

In Iran, A Grieving Mother Who Refuses To Be Silent

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Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Parvin Fahimi, a tiny woman with a strong personality, has emerged as one of the heroes of Iran's Green movement, which opposes the legitimacy of Mahmud Ahmadinejad's presidency. The grieving mother has refused to remain silent over the fate of her son, Sohrab Arabi, who was shot dead under unclear circumstances during Iran’s postelection crackdown. In publicly expressing her outrage, she has become the voice of other mothers mourning loved ones lost during the unrest that followed the disputed June 12 presidential vote. Recently, after the deaths of three protesters at Tehran's Kahrizak detention center led to public uproar and calls by opposition politicians for an investigation, former parliament speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel downplayed the deaths, noting that the detention center has since been closed. An outraged Fahimi responded by sending a letter to Haddad Adel in which she said that, as a member of the parliament, he had an obligation to defend the rights of the people and to refrain from making comments that can cause them pain. “Would you have made the same judgment if your child had been tortured and killed in the streets, like ours?” she wrote.

Fahimi told RFE/RL that the comments by Haddad Adel and similar ones made by other officials pour salt on the wounds of victims' families. “As a mother, I felt that the blood of our children was being trampled," she says. "I can’t tolerate anyone talking like this about these issues.” Fahimi’s outspokenness and courage has earned her the respect of many Iranians, who refer to her simply as “the mother of Sohrab.” She demands that those responsible for the killing of her son -- and others who died for opposing Ahmadinejad -- be brought to justice. “How could they kill my child or the children of others? Just because of a [peaceful] protest?" she asks. "Just because these children protested and wanted their vote back, they deserved to be killed?” Fahimi’s son disappeared on June 15 -- three days after the contentious vote that resulted in Ahmadinejad being decisively reelected to a second term. She was told that Arabi had been detained but heard no word of his whereabouts until she was informed of his death nearly a month later, on July 11. To this day, the 53-year-old Fahimi knows little about the circumstances surrounding her son's death. “The only thing [the authorities] told my lawyer is that [my son] was shot from a distance of 3 to 15 meters," she says. "It’s not clear whether he received treatment or whether he was taken to a hospital.” (Read more...)