May 30, 2020
An elderly woman has died after municipal authorities used tear gas and pepper spray to force her out of the shack she was living in.
Officials claim that Asieh Panahi died after suffering a stroke. But Reza Salehi, the head of the Kermanshah Razi University Basij, a local student arm of the Revolutionary Guards, said that she had a heart attack after pepper spray and tear gas was used by police forces and agents working for the city. After evicting the woman, authorities destroyed the kapar, a shed or shack with a basic roof.
A video of the incident has been shared on social media, prompting outrage and criticism of local authorities, with many people highlighting the corrupt practices of several officials. They also had harsh criticism for the government and Iran’s ruling elite, who repeatedly claim that they have built a just and equal society, and are improving it all the time.
Behnam Gholipour, who has written for IranWire, tweeted: “#Asieh_Panahi has died following the order of #Saeed_ Toloui, the mayor of Kermanshah and a relative of #Mohammad Bagher_Ghalibaf, due to the excessive inhalation of tear gas and pepper spray used by the officers of the special unit and the municipality.”
On May 29, journalist Yoshar Soltani also tweeted that Toloui was to blame for the destruction of the woman’s “12-meter shed” and that the mayor had links to former Tehran mayor Mohammad Ghalibaf, who endorsed violence against protesters in 1999 and 2003 and has just been appointed as the Speaker of the Parliament. Toloui, Soltani said, was “the offending mayor of districts 5 and 7” and one of several “#astronomical_property holders” involved in shady construction deals. “With the excuse of him being a veteran, the billion-tomans case was not investigated. A veteran must give his life for the homeland, not take the home and life of the deprived people!”
Kermanshah municipality public relations manager Amir Homayoun Dolatshahi said the forced transfer of the woman to Cheshmeh-Sefid Camp from her temporary accommodation had caused her to have a stroke, leading to her death.
“A working group has been set up to look into the matter and follow up. We are very sorry,” Dolatshahi stated.
Some Officials Call for Punishment
Gholamreza Amiri, the head of Kermanshah City Council, said the temporary accommodation the woman was living in should not have been destroyed.
“We can’t hold back our criticisms under the pretext that counter-revolutionary opponents can take advantage of the situation,” Amiri added, saying that what happened to this woman was not an isolated case. There were several examples of vulnerable elderly women being forced from their temporary shelter, he said, and those who enjoyed a life of luxury “should be held accountable.”
Mehdi Ghanadi, public relations manager for the Kermanshah Public and Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office, announced that his office was looking into the incident.
Basij leader Reza Salehi said officials had been brutal in their treatment of Panahi, and of other people living in similar situations in the area. Like Amiri, he said women had been particularly badly treated. He wrote to municipal officials about the matter, adding that their behavior was destroying the morale of the local community. He also added that the municipality had a demolition order for the temporary accommodation, but that officials’ approach had “hindered the execution of the demolition order.”
During the demolition operation, Salehi said, officers had used pepper spray against the shantytown residents as they emerged from their shacks, without giving them any notice that they should vacate the area.
Others on Twitter noted that the attack on the temporary accommodation was one of many shocking incidents of the last week. “Under the banner of the government that killed two cobblers today, four days ago they destroyed the shed of #Asia_Panahi, last week they shot at the thirsty people of Gheyzanieh, and killed 1500 innocent people a few months ago,” tweeted @ajibzade. “Talking about #Minneapolis is not justice, it is filth.”
The Minneapolis comment, an obvious reference to the murder of an unarmed black man killed by a white police officer while in custody, was likely a response to Iranian criticisms of the US on Twitter. “The brave American people have the right to protest against the ongoing terror inflicted on minorities, the poor, and the disenfranchised,” Hesameddin Ashena wrote. “You must bring an end to the racist and classist structures of governance in the US. We are watching closely!”
Mojtaba Rezakhah, like Soltani, reminded the public of the long-lasting damage caused by the Islamic Republic’s string of corrupt deals in the housing sector and air industry: “Article 31 of the Constitution considers it the government’s duty to provide housing for the people, especially the needy. #Asieh_Panahi was actually the victim of those people who considered Mehr Housing Project to be nonsense and instead of providing housing for the needy, they were intoxicated by the scent of the undelivered aircrafts! I will follow up with the Minister of the Interior on how to deal with the marginalized population.”
“Zeta,” using the handle @IRCA_JA, appealed for “just one day to pass” without an act of brutality. “You killed an old widowed woman for nothing! Or the man you killed in Ahvaz for asking for water! Your regime systematically kills innocent Iranian people every day. How about you giving Iranian people a chance to protest #Asieh_Panahi #Gheyzanieh”
Another Iranian with the handle @Bazandeee said simply: “Make me cry … We will overthrow the Islamic Republic, #Asia_Panahi