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Protesters Say Two 'Green Martyrs' Hijacked In Iran

Government supporters demonstrate at the February 16 funeral of Sanee Zhaleh, a student who was shot dead during opposition protests in Tehran on February 14.
Government supporters demonstrate at the February 16 funeral of Sanee Zhaleh, a student who was shot dead during opposition protests in Tehran on February 14.
Sanee Zhaleh and Mohammad Mokhtari, the two young Iranians who were shot dead in the February 14 protests, are now being referred to as "Green martyrs," along with about 70 other citizens who lost their lives in the 2009 protests over the disputed reelection of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

Members of the Green Movement have accused the Iranian establishment of stealing the bodies of the two men in an attempt to depict them as government supporters who were killed by the opposition.

"The killers took away the bodies of those they killed," one opposition supporter told "Persian Letters."

This cartoon shows how the burial of the two is viewed by some Iranians.

Here's another cartoon, titled "Stealing Martyrs" by well-known cartoonist Mana Neyestani. The security guard is saying, "Our dear martyr.... What?"

Opposition leader Mehdi Karrubi is pictured as Uncle Sam at Zhaleh's funeral.
The move has sparked outrage among opposition members, who believe the government was shocked and terrified when the February 14 demonstration drew tens of thousands of Iranians to challenge the regime.

The protests took place despite more than a year of increased repression and an ongoing crackdown, and despite the fact that the authorities had banned it and warned opposition members not to protest.

Not Basij, Musavi!

Iran's hard-line Fars news agency (often now referred as "Farce" for spreading false news and government propaganda) has claimed that one of the two dead, art student Sanee Zhaleh, was a member of the Basij force.

But relatives and friends of the 26-year-old said Zhaleh was not a member of the Basij, which has been active in the brutal crackdown against the opposition Green Movement.

Activists have posted a picture of him with Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who is considered the spiritual father of the Green Movement.

One of his friends and fellow students told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that Zhaleh was a member of the opposition Green Movement and a supporter of opposition leader Mir Hossein Musavi. In fact, he said Zhaleh worked at Musavi's headquarters during the 2009 presidential campaign.

Some have noted that Sanee Jaleh, a Sunni Kurd, would not fit in with the Basij militia.
Sanee's brother, Ghane Zhaleh, said in an interview that the Basij identity card of Sanee that Fars had posted was fake. He said he gave his cousin a picture of Sanee the day after the February 14 protest during which his brother was killed. He said he wasn't aware that his brother had lost his life. The picture was apparently used for the fake identity card.

Zhaleh said the family had come under pressure by the government not to speak to the media. "They didn't even give us his body," he said in an interview with Voice of America's (VOA) Persian service.

This video appears to be an amateur movie in which Sanee Zhaleh can be seen.

Sanee Zhaleh was buried on February 16 by government supporters who reportedly beat up his friends and fellow students and didn't allow them to attend the funeral.

According to some unconfirmed reports, Zhaleh's brother has been arrested following his interview with VOA's Persian service.

'Let Me Die Standing'

Mohammad Mokhtari's father cries at his funeral, which was held amid tight security in Tehran.
Later on February 16, the website Kalame, which is close to Musavi, reported that "the second martyr of the February 14 protests was also stolen."

According to the report, 22-year-old Mohammad Mokhtari was buried by government supporters who chanted "Death to Musavi, death to Karrubi," the leaders of the opposition. His family members were reportedly also present.

Mokhtari's friends and family have so far remained silent about his death during the February 14 protests in Tehran. Opposition activists have posted on Facebook and blogs his pictures and some of his last posts on Facebook in an effort to counter the government propaganda.

Mokhtari's profile picture on Facebook is green, the color of the Iranian opposition, with the date 25 Bahman (February 14) on it that reads: "All Together."

The last link he posted on his wall is a statement by a close aide to opposition leader Mehdi Karrubi, who had said that there was no need for permission for the February 14 rally that the authorities had banned.

Mohammad Mokhtari
Most of his other posts are also related to the opposition movement, including declarations of support for prominent film director Jafar Panahi, who has been sentenced to six years in prison and banned from making movies or traveling abroad for 20 years.

On February 13, the day before he was killed, Mokhtari wished his friends a "Happy Valentine's Day!"

And this is one of his last status updates: "God, make my destiny to die while standing, since I am tired of living while sitting in abjectness."

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.


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