This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Kian Pirfalak, a 9-year-old boy from southwestern Iran, hoped to become a robotics engineer.
But those dreams were dashed when he was killed on November 16 amid antiestablishment protests in Izeh, a city in Khuzestan Province.
State media said Pirfalak was killed in a “terrorist attack” when gunmen on motorbikes shot dead seven people, including six government security personnel.
But Pirfalak’s mother blamed security forces who she said “shot repeatedly at” their car, killing her son and wounding her husband.
“Hear my words about what happened,” said Zeynab Molaeirad, according to videos uploaded on social media. “Don’t say they were terrorists, they are lying.”
In the videos, Molaeirad is addressing the hundreds of mourners who attended her son’s funeral on November 18.
A day earlier, Molaeirad took to Instagram to condemn the authorities. “Damn you! How could you? He was only 9. [You] filthy Islamic republic,” she wrote.
Pirfalak is one of at least 43 children killed in the government’s brutal crackdown on nationwide anti-establishment protests that erupted in September, according to the Oslo-based Iran Human Rights. Overall, at least 342 people are believed to have been killed and around 14,000 arrested across the country.
Two other boys — 14-year-old Sepehr Maghsoodi and 14-year-old, Artin Rahmani — were also reported to have been killed in Khuzestan in recent days.
The protests erupted after Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman, died on September 16 just days after she was arrested by Iran’s morality police for allegedly violating the country’s law on wearing the Islamic head scarf. What began as protests against the brutal enforcement of the mandatory hijab has snowballed into one of the biggest threats to Iran’s clerical establishment, which has ruled the country since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
Pirfalak’s death has led to an outpouring of grief and anger among Iranians.
During his funeral, mourners chanted “Death to Khamenei,” referring to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Another video appeared to show a banner of Pirfalak with the words “child-killing government” waving along a highway in Tehran.
“The blood of these pure children will [afflict] you,” Oscar-winning Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi wrote on Instagram.
Actress Hengameh Ghaziani accused the authorities of hypocrisy. “You have talked about the cruelty committed against Palestinian children. But your name will be recorded in history as a child-killing regime,” Ghaziani wrote on Instagram.
Amnesty International last month said security forces have killed children “with absolute impunity” in a bid to “crush the spirit of resistance among the country’s youth and retain their iron grip on power at any cost.”
Iranian youth and women have been at the forefront of the demonstrations, which have attracted support from all corners of Iranian society, including students, celebrities, athletes, artists, and activists.
Iranian officials have called the protests a “conspiracy” stoked by its rivals, including the United States and Israel. They have also blamed armed groups and separatists inside and outside the country for some of the worst bloodshed during the demonstrations.