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Published in the 16-31 Mar 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Kazemi murder remains mystery

The death of Zahra Kazemi, a 54-year-old Canadian photojournalist who died of a beating inside Iran’s notorious Evin prison, remains wrapped in mystery due to unwillingness of Iranian authorities to thoroughly probe the incident, share secret documents with others including the Canadian government or media organisations. The killers enjoy protection in the Iranian government which has slowly reverted to the brutal repression the erstwhile Pehlavi regime was known for. 
Tehran’s Evin prison and 

Tehran’s Evin prison and 
Kazemi (inset)

Kazemi probably would have lived had doctors been allowed to treat her, according to the BBC. She died in a Tehran hospital on July 11, 2003. She had been arrested for taking pictures outside Evin prison on June 23 2003. She was badly beaten by male interrogators during her imprisonment in the same prison she had dared to photograph. She was pronounced dead from brain hammorrhage 11 July 2003. Her body was not delivered to the Canadian embassy to be flown to Canada where her son lives, instead it was hurriedly buried two days later in her birthplace, Shiraz, so that no independent autopsy could be done. Her Iranian mother said on a BBC TV documentary that she was threatened that if she did not sign on the burial request document she too will be “harmed”. 

Initially Iranian authorities said she had died of a stroke while under interrogation. 

Kazemi was held by three different organizations while in detention that respectively included the Tehran Prosecutor's Office, the Police and the Ministry of Information. 

A committee of four ministers appointed by President Mohammad Khatami investigated the issue and said in its report that Kazemi had died from a blow to her head that had fractured her skull. 

"A hospital witness told us that after Zahra's admission, guards who had come with her prevented medical staff from treating her properly or carrying out the brain scans ordered several times by doctors until it was too late," BBC correspondent in Tehran said.

Several days after her arrest, Kazemi started bleeding from her mouth and nose, and was sent to hospital. Her mother, who visited her there, said she had been badly beaten and there were signs of injuries on her skull. The issue has become a football between the so-called “reformists” and “conservatives” of Iran who, in effect, are sons of one single revolution which has strayed over the years belying great hopes to see a healthy, clean and free Muslim society emerge in Iran. 

— Zafarul-Islam Khan  

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