This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Erfan Rezaei was taking part in street protests in the northern Iranian city of Amol when he was shot and killed.
Eight months later, the 21-year-old’s family is still seeking justice, despite threats and intimidation from the authorities.
Rezaei is among the at least 500 protesters that rights groups say were killed in the state’s brutal crackdown on the antiestablishment protests that erupted in September 2022. The demonstrations are the biggest threat to Iran’s clerical regime in decades.
The authorities told Rezaei’s family that the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization, an exiled opposition group, might have been involved in his killing, without providing evidence. But eyewitnesses told the family that government security forces shot and killed the young man on the street.
“I want justice for Erfan,” Farzaneh Barzekar told RFE/RL by telephone. “I raised my child in very tough conditions. I suffered so that my child could be successful. They took everything from me.”
The mother of two described her son as a lively and strong young man who “could have lived for another 50 years.”
“But they took him from me,” added the 42-year-old, who spent years looking after her ex-husband, a veteran of the Iran-Iraq War who was exposed to chemical weapons and suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder.
Barzekar recalls the day Rezaei was killed. The streets were ringing with gunfire and choking with smoke. When she called her son, he said he was taking a walk.
But hours later, the family identified his body inside an ambulance parked outside a hospital in Amol. When Barzekar found out, she fainted.
Hours before his death, Rezaei was filmed tearing down a poster of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei outside the governor’s office, where hundreds of protesters had gathered.
‘Someone Has Killed My Child’
Barzekar filed a lawsuit with Iran’s judiciary demanding that the authorities find and punish those behind her son’s death. But she has little hope that real justice will be served. “It’s like filing a complaint with the killer against the killer,” she said.
Barzekar says the police told her that protesters destroyed the security cameras installed in the area where Rezaiei was killed, making it difficult for them to identify the perpetrator. The authorities have also refused to let the family see the coroner’s report, she says.
“I told them that I have a right to know how my child was killed,” she said.
Barzekar has waged a social-media campaign in an attempt to bring the perpetrators to account. She has publicly condemned the state’s use of violence and the lack of official accountability.
“No tyrannical government will last forever,” she wrote in an Instagram post in February. “One day you will join the dustbin of history.”
Her posts on Instagram, where she has nearly 50,000 followers, appear to have angered the authorities. In March, she was summoned for questioning. She was told that she was “spreading propaganda against the establishment,” a crime in the Islamic republic.
“Someone has killed my child, they have taken his life away, and you think I should be silent?” she recalled telling the two intelligence officers who had summoned her.
More recently, one of Barzekar’s close relatives was summoned for questioning.
“They said that I’m insulting [officials],” she added. “They said they have a judicial order and that they can arrest me but are giving me a chance.”
Despite the pressure on her and her family, Barzekar says she will seek justice for her son “until the end.”