A man was reportedly killed by security forces in northern Iran during public celebrations by anti-government protesters after the national soccer team lost to the United States on Tuesday.
Norwegian rights group Iran Human Rights (IHR) said Mehran Samak was shot in the head by security guards while celebrating in Bandar Anzali on Tuesday night. IHR said it confirmed the information by “several independent sources”.
“His name was #MehranSamak. He was shot in the head by state forces when he came out to celebrate the defeat of the Islamic Republic in the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Bandar Anzali last night, like many others in across the country. He was only 27,” Iran Human Rights said on Wednesday.
IHR and other activist groups initially reported that authorities were holding Samak’s body and refusing to return it to his family. IHR shared a video showing people gathered outside the state forensic organization demanding that the body be returned to his family.
Later on Wednesday, pro-reform outlet IranWire shared a video showing crowds at Samak’s funeral in Bandar Anzali chanting “death to the dictator”.
Iranian police denied that Samak was killed by authorities and announced the arrest of several suspects, Iranian news agency Tasmin reported on Thursday.
“After the football match between our national team and the United States, a number of rioters had gathered in the Cheraq Bargh neighborhood of Anzali and the dead body of a man, in his thirties, was discovered. Based on the existing evidence, he was shot by a shotgun,” Bandar Anzali Police Chief Col. Jafar Javandi said on Tuesday, according to Tasnim.
Javanmardi denied opposition media reports that Samak had been shot in the head by authorities, saying that “initially, counter-revolutionary and opposition media reported that this young man had been shot in the head by authorities and later died in hospital. “, according to Tasnim.
Tasnim also posted Samak’s photo with the article.
The Anzali County Police Chief also said a number of suspects have been identified and arrested and the attempt to identify the assailant continues, Tasnim reported.
Samak was a close friend of Saeid Ezatolahi, a member of the Iranian national football team, who had just returned to Iran after the World Cup squad exited Qatar. The footballer posted a tribute to his childhood friend on Instagram on Wednesday.
“I wish we could still stay the same age…. without worries, without hatred, without jealousy, without fighting to belittle yourself…. There’s a lot to say my childhood mate but unfortunately people drown in ego and jealousy and become a mess that you can barely find people who listen to these words or they don’t exist at all…
“Certainly after another bitter night last night and with the news of your death, my heart is on fire even more.”
Iranian prosecutor Mehdi Fallah Miri said a case regarding Samak’s “suspicious” murder had been opened after his death “from a pellet bullet”, the Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA) reported on Thursday. ).
“As soon as this suspicious incident occurred, a case was opened to deal with the matter and the Bandar Anzali prosecutor is handling the case,” Miri added, according to ISNA.
Several videos were posted on social media on Tuesday evening showing residents of cities across Iran, including the capital Tehran, celebrating inside their homes and apartment buildings after the US victory over Iran 1-0 in the World Cup.
“I’m happy, it’s the government that loses to the people,” a witness to the celebrations in a town in the Kurdish region told CNN on Wednesday. CNN is not naming the witness for security reasons.
Activist media outlet 1500tasvir also published videos showing security forces allegedly opening fire on people in Behbahan on Tuesday night and beating a woman in Qazvin, two towns south of Bandar Anzali where Samak was allegedly shot dead.
CNN cannot independently confirm this information, as the Iranian government does not allow foreign media into the country and has not been transparent in its reporting on the protests and protest casualties.
Protests have rocked Iran for several months, triggering a deadly crackdown by the authorities.
The nationwide uprising was first sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman who died in mid-September after being detained by the country’s vice police. Since then, protesters across Iran have coalesced around a series of grievances with the regime.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, said the country was going through a “full-fledged human rights crisis” as authorities cracked down on protests.