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Iranian schoolgirl dies after reportedly being beaten for refusing song praising Ayatollah

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. (Ali Khamenei/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

A 16-year-old girl beaten by security forces in the northwestern Iranian city of Ardabil for refusing to sing a pro-regime anthem when her school was raided by agents has died of her injuries.

The Coordinating Council of Teachers Syndicates in Iran confirmed in a post on its Telegram channel that Asra Panahi died following a raid by security forces on a girls’ high school in Ardabil on October 13.

According to the council, Ardabil city officials took students from the Shahed high school to a pro-government demonstration and asked them to sing an anthem that praises Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

After the pupils resisted, the security forces attacked the students and beat many of them. Ten were taken to an unknown location while seven others were injured. Panahi reportedly died in a hospital on October 14.

Iranian officials have denied security forces beat the students.

Iran has been roiled in unrest — one of the deepest challenges to the Islamic regime since the revolution in 1979 — since the September 16 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody for allegedly wearing a hijab, or headscarf, improperly.

The government has held several counter-rallies to try and quell the dissent but to little effect, as people continue to take to the streets across the country. They also launched a series of raids on schools across the country, violently arresting students, especially female students.

Protesters in Ardabil have continued to take to the streets despite the threat of a further crackdown by security forces, with videos posted on social media showing people in the streets chanting “Freedom, freedom” and also “Death to the dictator,” a reference to Khamenei.

Former Iranian soccer star Ali Daei has challenged Iranian lawmakers to tell the truth about what is happening in the country and to be accountable after Kazem Musavi, the representative of Ardabil in parliament, denied Panahi’s death was due to being beaten, saying in an interview with the DidbanIran news site that she committed suicide.

“History has proven who the liars are,” said Daei, a former forward with German soccer giants Bayern Munich and the former Iran team captain.

Iran’s Children’s Rights Protection Society says that at least 28 children have been killed in the crackdown, including many from the underprivileged provinces of Sistan-Baluchistan and Kurdistan.

The Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights says that at least 215 people have been killed in the crackdown, which the European Union condemned on October 17 while imposing new sanctions on Iran’s information minister, the country’s “morality police,” and other senior officials.