Sohrab Erabi: a new martyr for Iran's protesters?
The teenager disappeared June 15, when hundreds of thousands rallied in Tehran. Officials notified his mother of his death only on Saturday, despite her repeated inquiries at courts and prisons.
In Iran, the burial Monday of 19-year-old student Sohrab Erabi has caused a fresh flood of sympathy similar to that occasioned by the killing of Neda Agha-Soltan, the young woman whose death at a protest last month was caught on video and watched by millions around the world.Skip to next paragraph
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In a country steeped in the martyrdom culture of Shiite Islam, some are trying to link Mr. Erabi's death to a greater legacy. But many Iranians shy away from characterizations reminiscent of the rhetoric imposed over the past 30 years by the Islamic Republic.
"He isn't a martyr," writes Maryam Namazie, a human rights activist based in Britain, in an e-mail. "Many of the people killed during the recent protests are opposed to an Islamic regime and religion's brutal role in every aspect of their lives. Neda and Sohrab represent another face of Iran, one that refuses to kneel even after 30 years of medievalism and brutality." [Editor's note: The original version misidentified Ms. Namazie's home base.]
Erabi was reportedly killed on June 15, when a member of Iran's ideological basiji militia opened fire on a crowd of protesters close to central Tehran's Azadi Square, according to his aunt Farah Mohamadi, who was informed of his death by security forces.
"There's a lot of conflicting information about his death," she told BBC Persian. "I sense that they're scared to say whether he died in prison or if he was hurt by gunfire at the march and bled to death later in [the] hospital."
Without an identity card on his body, he went unrecognized for nearly a month, according to the Farsi-language blog Khasokhashak.wordpress.com.
Typically, individuals who sacrifice their lives for the sake of Islam or one of its precepts are called martyrs.
"It has to do with the idea of death for a noble cause, one which is not in vain but has rewards both in this world and after death," says Asef Bayat, a professor of sociology and Middle East studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands. "It is at the same time an attempt to connect Sohrab Erabi's death to a familiar legacy, that of the martyrdom of Imam Hossein, the grandson of the prophet Muhammad who died in his struggle against injustice."