Alireza Miandehi Sabouri, along with millions of other Iranians also outraged by what they saw as widespread rigging in the elections, had taken to the streets of the capital on 15 June 2009 to ask peacefully, “Where is my vote?” However, like many others on that unforgettable day, Alireza’s peaceful show of protest was answered with the barrel of a gun.
In the afternoon of 15 June, when he was just nineteen years of age, Alireza was trying to help rescue fellow protesters wounded in front of the Basij militia’s Ashura base, Battalion 117, when he was struck by a bullet and fell unconscious. He was then taken to Ibn Sina hospital in west Tehran for treatment.
Although he gained consciousness at the hospital, doctors were unable to fully remove the bullet from inside his skull. “The bullet exploded inside his head, a fragment left through an eyebrow, [but] the projectile stayed inside his skull while four shrapnel fragments were stuck. The projectile was extracted during a complicated and intense operation, but the fragments remained inside,” a family member told the Green Voice of Freedom on condition of anonymity.
Months after his operations, Alireza continued to suffer from numerous physical and psychological complications. He would experience recurring seizures either at home or on the street.
“We still have all of the evidence and Ali’s documents which show how they shot him in the forehead. The side-effects were due to the fragments in his brain. The two complicated brain operations led to his premature death,” the close relative explained.
Eleven months after he was first wounded, Alireza, accompanied by the family member, left Iran for Turkey to seek medical treatment through the UN office there. However, despite family pleas to relocate him to Germany where some of his relatives reside, the UN officials in Turkey rejected the family’s calls and instead decided to send Alireza to the United States. “We told them [the UN] time after time that he should be in Germany, close his relatives who could take care of him. But as usual, the UN completely ignored our calls and sent him to the US,” the family argued.
Nearly 900 days after being shot, Alireza Miandehi Sabouri died at the tender age of 22, 6,000 miles away from home in Boston, Massachusetts, where he was buried. “He passed away in a foreign land in silence and loneliness,” the family member continued. “He was treated unjustly both in Iran and abroad. We couldn’t take our complaint to any organisation.”
“You don’t know the fire that burns me from within, maybe you’re able to understand me. But at the very least you can write the truth [about Alireza] so that the world can know what they’ve done to us and how they’ve treated us. Everyone knows that Alireza was innocent, just like the many thousands of youth who were on the streets on 15 June. He was very innocent and did not deserve this.”
Alireza had five older sisters while his only brother had died during Iran’s eight-year war with Iraq. It is also said that his father was reportedly close to the Iranian regime and did little to improve his son’s poor health.
“The death of Ali is not the death of a single person. For me it has a universal meaning. I hope that I can one day say what I have not yet said … I am filled with pain,” the relative told us.
While the exact casualty figures from the 2009 anti-government protests are still unknown, the tragic death of Alireza Miandehi Sabouri 2 ½ years later is yet another reminder of the brutality and heartlessness exercised by the Iranian regime in quelling dissent.