Man's Torture By Police And His Death In Iran Evoke Memories Of George Floyd
The death of a young man in Iran’s second largest city, Mashhad, under police torture has shocked many Iranians and has led to comparisons with the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota in May, which led to nationwide protests in the United States.
Mehrdad Sepehri was arrested and assaulted by the police reportedly on October 20 and he was buried on Friday, October 23. A video first published by the BBC’s Persian Service on October 24 shocked Iranians in the country and abroad. The video shows Sepehri handcuffed to a pole and repeatedly assaulted by the police with an electrical shocker and pepper spray, while bystanders in the street watch and do not intervene.
Iran International Television was able to speak with the victim’s brother despite Iran’s strict rules not allowing citizens to share any information with foreign based broadcasters and news websites. His brother, Masood Sepehri said Mehrdad was handcuffed to a poll in the street for 45 minutes and the police continued to assault him. Finally, he was put in a police car but shoved to the floor and apparently assaults continued.
Mehrdad Sepehri who was arrested and tortured died on his way to hospital
Masood Sepehri asked during the audio interview, “Why did the police behave this way toward a defenseless man?” He said his brother owned a grocery store in Mashhad and lived nearby. After a dispute and argument with his wife, his father-in-law called the police and they arrived and arrested Sepehri. Because the policemen did not have a car, they handcuffed him to a metal pole and for 45 minutes tortured him.
Masood Sepehri also told Iran International that according to eyewitnesses, Mehrdad was alive when he was eventually put in a police car, but they continued assaulting him. At some point the policemen called an ambulance, which took him to a hospital, but once his brother went there, he was told Mehrdad had arrived dead and doctors could not revive him.
Given the widespread reaction on social media to the video of Sepehri’s torture in the street, officials were quick to react. The provincial military prosecutor in Razavi Khorasan province announced the same day when the video was published that an investigation has been launched for the young man’s death.
One Twitter user said, “They kill us one by one and the world is silent!!!”, retweeting the video of the incident. Another person tweeted, “Security forces in Iran no longer need a demonstration to show their brutality, they only need to find us alive on the streets.” Another person on Twitter called Sepehri the "George Floyd of Iran."
News about Sepehri’s torture by the police was published two days after another video surfaced of a security guard assaulting a wounded young woman on the ground, after she was beaten for going to the house of a man she accused of raping her. Bahar Cheshmberah went to confront a former Abadan refinery executive that reportedly raped her and made her pregnant. But she was beaten by unknown assailants. While she lay down wounded a refinery guard is seen in the video putting his foot on her chest and fondling her. Later, she was forced to recant most of her story on state television.
Killing of detainees by the police in Iran has increased in the past few weeks. At least three cases have been documented in October of deaths under torture or by shooting of detained individuals.
There have been many cases of police firing at citizens and killing them, which have not been transparently investigated. The country’s conservative Judiciary which closely collaborates with the police and intelligence agencies rarely issues a report after such killings.