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Nika Shakarami’s death: Another distortion and misinformation campaign

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
BBC Persian, BBC, VOA, Radio Farda provide misinformation on Nika Shakarami's death. (Mizan)

By Hiba Morad

Western media outlets, MKO-led news outlets and influencers have shown flubs and blunders in the coverage of the news related to the death of the 17-year-old Iranian girl Nika Shakarami who went missing on September 20.

Reports said Nika was found dead in the courtyard of a building. Media outlets did not wait until investigations take place, but rather jumped into anti-Iranian conclusions and disseminated misleading narratives on the death of the young lady, providing incorrect and even exaggerated information.

These outlets rushed to conclude that the Iranian government stands behind the death of the young lady not only without providing any concrete evidence, but also propagating different rumors.

In terms of social media, twitter users went too far in providing their versions of the story, publishing their tweets along with Western media articles including BBC News, VOA and others.

Nika and CCTV footage

A CCTV video that went viral shows that Nika, who was walking alone calmly and did not seem to be being chased or have been running, entered an building at 12:02 at night while talking on her mobile phone. This was the last video of Nika whose lifeless body was discovered in the backyard of a house on Labafi Street, Tehran's Amirakaram intersection, which was released 7 hours before her body was discovered.

The next morning her body was reportedly found in the yard of the house overlooking the balcony of the building she had entered. Upon being informed, a specialized team was sent to the place and found out that the lady fell from the building into the courtyard of the adjacent house. Iranian security forces arrested all eight people who were in that building and investigations are underway.

Sources pointed out that that the young lady’s backpack was discovered on the roof of the very nearby building, and that the body was immediately taken to the forensics as an unidentified person. In the autopsy tests and examination of the corpse, traces of multiple fractures were observed in the pelvis, head, upper and lower limbs, hands and feet, and in the pelvic cavity, which indicate that the person fell from a height.

"The forensic pathologist carried out an autopsy and took toxicology and pathology samples at the order of the judicial authorities. In the forensic medical examinations, no traces of bullets were observed in the corpse.

According to Tasnim news agency, the neighbors in the building where the body was discovered stated that they heard a sound at 3 a.m. but did not notice the fall of this woman. The source said that so far, the motive behind Nika entering that half-finished building has not yet been determined.

Mohammad Shahriari, caretaker chairman of Tehran Province criminal court  said that Shakrami's mother identified her corpse on September 29, and her corpse was delivered to her family on the 1st of October. Tehran's prosecutor Ali Salehi said a judicial criminal case has been launched and expressed his condolences to Shahkarami's family

Media misinformation and claims of rape, body organ theft

Western and anti-Iran media outlets claimed that “Nika Shakarami was killed by Iranian state security forces and forcibly disappeared.” The news spread by Western mainstream media was put in this context, continuing their call for ‘regime’ change in Iran; a blatant intervention in the affairs of other independent states.

London-based BBC Persian and Prague-based Radio Farda provided contradictory statements from Nika’s family members. Nika’s aunt told BBC Persian that the teenager left the house on September 20 supposedly to visit her sister, and that the family later realized she was going take part in the protests. However, in an interview with Radio Farda, Nika’s mother said they knew she was going to join the protests and that she tried calling her a few times.

Atash Shahkarami, the aunt, also told BBC news, “When we went to identify her, they didn't allow us to see her body, only her face for a few seconds.”

Meanwhile, Nika’s mother said in the interview on Radio Farda news that they were allowed to see her daughter’s body, and that she checked her body and it showed no signs of fracture or bruises or wounds and noted that her daughter’s head seemed like it was smashed by a hard object.

Saudi-owned Iran International provides a different version describing her corpse, saying that Nika had her nose fully smashed and her skull broken with multiple blows.

For its part, VOA news claimed that Nika Shahkarami had been held in Kahrizak prison outside Tehran. This while caretaker chairman of Tehran Province criminal court assured that her dead body was taken to the Kahrizak morgue where she was identified by forensic medics.

Also, while BBC said that Nika’s family were threatened and her body was stolen and buried in a faraway village, Behesht Zahra Organization in southern Tehran, which was handed the body for burial at the beginning, said it has transferred her body to the relevant city on the burial permit issued by the relevant authorities and upon a request by her own family.

Moreover, on its website, Women's Committee NCRI of the MKO claimed that Iran “resorted to producing fake videos to cover up its role in the torture, rape, and murder of Nika Shakarami, the 17-year-old protester detained on Sept 20 in Tehran.”

As for twitter, which has been a major source for misinformation, twitter users rode the tide of misinformation on Nika’s story. They shared different stories, with some saying she was raped and tortured for eight or ten days. Others said her body organs were sold, while some users went even farther and said her body was dismantled.

Bianca Zahrai, who claims to be a MidEast expert and rights activist, wrote a tweet about Nika. “She was only 16 years old. She was kidnapped by security forces on Elizabeth Boulevard in Tehran. She was taken to an undisclosed location, beaten, raped. Her organs were harvested, then she was killed.”

Antone Struve, A Lawyer and President of the association #NousSommesLeursVoix tweeted in French “According to the forensic examiner, #NikaShakarami, 17, was repeatedly raped and tortured.”

“Nika Shakarami was killed in the most brutal way by the Islamic Republic of iran! 17-year-old girl that was arrested during the protests and then they tortured her physically and mentally, raped her many times, sold her body parts,” wrote Jimtober.

Another user, Sunsetrider, tweeted “Nika was a 17-year-old girl who disappeared on 20 September 2022 in Tehran during the protests. She was found dead ten days later. According to the forensic doctor, she was repeatedly raped and tortured for eight days.”

This is at the time foresnic reports did not show any signs of torture or rape.

The online war against Iran through misinformation and rumors seems endless. The Internet remains to be a fruitful environment for the massive diffusion of unverified rumors. Massive digital misinformation is becoming pervasive in online social media to the extent that it has been listed by the World Economic Forum (WEF) as one of the main threats to societies.

In  a research carried out by Pew Center in 2017, Starr Roxanne Hiltz, distinguished professor of information systems and co-author of the visionary 1970s book “The Network Nation,” said, “People on systems like Facebook are increasingly forming into ‘echo chambers’ of those who think alike. They will keep un-friending those who don’t, and passing on rumors and fake news that agrees with their point of view.

Julian Sefton-Green, professor of new media education at Deakin University in Australia, said, “The information environment is an extension of social and political tensions. It is impossible to make the information environment a rational, disinterested space; it will always be susceptible to pressure.”

Hiba Morad is a Tehran-based academic and political analyst, currently pursuing a PhD in linguistics at the University of Tehran.

(The views expressed in this article are author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV.)

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