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Fearing Fresh Protests Iran Arrests Outspoken Family Of Slain Protester

Pouya Bakhtiari (Bakhtyari) and his father Manouchehr. Pouya was shot in the head on 16 November in Karaj. Photo from Mr. Bakhtiari's Instagram page.

Fearing fresh protests, Iran Monday night arrested the outspoken family of a young protester shot by security forces during November protests, who wanted to hold a public memorial service December 26.

Quoting an unnamed "informed source" Mehr News Agency said the family of Pouya Bakhtiari were arrested "to protect order and the security of the people who have incurred damage and loss" and what it called putting an end to "the martyrdom project" and "repetition of armed action against the people". The report did not specify how many members of the family are held.

The informed source quoted by Mehr, most likely an intelligence official, accused the "enemies of the Iranian nation who have failed in their economic terrorism and tightening of sanctions" of resorting to using "the families of a few victims" to regenerate the protests.

In a phone interview on Tuesday a relative of the family told London-based Iran International TV that security forces who arrested Pouya's parents also detained some of his relatives including his grandmother, grandfather and an 11-year-old cousin with them.

Unlike most families of protesters killed in November, the Bakhtiari (Bakhtyari) family have risked engaging with the Persian-language media outside Iran to tell the world how Pouya was shot in the head while peacefully protesting alongside his mother and sister in their hometown Karaj near the capital.

Pouta's father gave an exclusive interview to Radio Farda and released videos on social media speaking of the family's pain.

Mehr News Agency also quoted the unnamed informed source as saying Pouya's parents had been "invited and spoken to", presumably by intelligence and security authorities, but they had continued to cooperate with the "bankrupt anti-revolutionary" individuals that have fled the country and "actively maintained their destructive activities".

On December 21, Pouya's father said the intelligence ministry had summoned him and warned that the family was not allowed to hold Pouya's 40th-day memorial at their son's grave as the family wish.

The intelligence ministry officials demanded that Pouya's memorial be held indoors at a mosque or religious gathering hall. Mr. Bakhtiari said he had refused to comply and insisted on holding the memorial at the cemetery in Karaj, their hometown, where Pouya is buried or in a stadium "because there will be too many guests".

Thanks to his parents' risky defiance of the regime pressure to stop them from talking to foreign-based media, the 27-year old Pouya Bakhtiari has turned into one of the icons of the November protests.

The family's refusal to keep silent has garnered huge attention both in Iran and abroad. Pouya's outspoken father also took a big risk by posting a picture of the exiled Prince Reza Pahlavi on his Instagram page and thanked him and his mother, Queen Farah Pahlavi, for sympathizing with the family and offering condolences. Iran's Leader Ali Khamenei blames the Pahlavi family, among other "enemies" for inciting the unrest in November.

The 40th day after the burial is a very important day in Iranian mourning rites and many who have not been able to go to the main funeral will make sure they attend it.

Pouya's 40th-day memorial falls on December 26, a day dissidents in Iran and abroad have designated as a memorial day for all the victims of the November protests. The regime is understandably very wary of any congregation on December 26 which can spur a fresh round of protests.

The protests against the Shah of Iran which resulted in the victory of the 1979 Islamic revolution followed a pattern of protests every 40 days when the 40th day memorial of the victims of the previous protests turned into fresh protests.