The Iranian government's fear of its own people is obvious from its continuing repression of Iranian journalists, human rights defenders, labor leaders, and women's rights activists. The sight in May of prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, brought in handcuffs to a court room in Tehran from Evin prison, powerfully reflects that fear.
Recent events have also shown that the regime fears the dead as well as the living. That was evident when it sent security forces to the funeral of former parliamentarian Ezatollah Sahabi. When security forces reportedly tried to interfere with the funeral procession, Mr. Sahabi's daughter, Haleh, herself a human rights defender, Islamic scholar, and recently a political prisoner, tried to prevent them.
She was reportedly attacked, beaten, and fell to the ground. She died minutes later. The precise cause of death -- whether from cardiac arrest or injuries suffered during the beating – is not known.
In another act motivated by fear, Iranian authorities quickly took away her body and buried it at night, an increasingly common practice of the regime which Iranian Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi has labeled "corpse stealing."
In a written statement, U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner condemned "the killing of Iranian activist Haleh Sahabi in the strongest possible terms." He said that eyewitness and reliable accounts of her death at the funeral make it clear that Ms. Sahabi died "as a result of reprehensible actions taken by Iranian security forces.
"It is unfathomable that a government would be so terrified of its citizens that it would order the use of force against a daughter mourning at her father's funeral," said Mr. Toner. "Indeed," he added, "this is a government that regularly brutalizes its citizens, imprisoning them under questionable charges, torturing them, cutting them off from the rest of the world, and denying their fundamental human rights.
It is for this reason that the international community voted overwhelmingly to establish a Special Rapporteur for Iran at the [United Nations] Human Rights Council." The U.S., he said, "will recommend that the Rapporteur fully investigate [Ms. Sabahi's death] at the earliest possible opportunity."
Mr. Toner also offered the U.S. government's condolences "to the Sahabi family, friends, and supporters all over the world."