On May 4, 26-year old Farinaz Khosravani died when she jumped from the fourth story of the hotel building where she worked. At the time of Khosravani’s death, the room, in a hotel in the northwest Kurdish town of Mahabad, was occupied by an Intelligence Ministry employee. The media reported that Khosravani had been alone with the man prior to the incident.
When the news of the death broke, people responded quickly, and with violence. They broke windows. They threw anything they could their hands on, hurling them out of the hotel’s windows. Several people threw furniture from hotel balconies, and eventually set the Hotel Tara aflame. Crowds gathered outside the hotel, demanding that those responsible for Farinaz Khosravani’s death be held accountable and put on trial.
The Kurdish news agency Kurdpa reported that Khosravani committed suicide in order to defend her honor after the Intelligence Ministry employee tried to rape her. News quickly spread online, with the people of Mahabad inviting each other to rally in front of the hotel to protest against her death.
“We’re Kurds and this is Mahabad. This isn’t Isfahan where they can throw acid on our women’s faces and we stay silent. We must protest,” said Suran, a man who joined his friends outside the hotel on May 7, remaining there until midnight.
“It was a peaceful rally but the anti-riot police tried to disperse people,” he said. “They used teargas and this made people even angrier. Things escalated and the hotel was damaged.”
Khosravani’s family have refused to talk to the media. “Security forces have pressured Khosravani’s family to stay away from the media. They know that their daughter committed suicide to defend her honor but the manager of the hotel has misrepresented the incident,” an informed source told IranWire.
Nader Molavi, the manager and owner of Hotel Tara, rejected the suicide claim during a conversation with IranWire. “The hotel’s CCTV tells a different story,” he said. “She wanted to get from the fourth-floor balcony to the third floor but she didn’t succeed and fell.”
Refusing to provide further details, he said. “Security and judicial authorities are the ones who need to sort this. But I want to give you journalists some brotherly advice. The Khosravani family is grieving. Don’t add salt to their injuries or play around with the reputation of their daughter.”
“The reason for her death is still unclear,” said Osman Mohammadi, MP for Mahabad, “and the investigation is ongoing.”
Visiting Mahabad for an official meeting regarding provincial affairs, he said, “Everybody is trying hard to get to the bottom of this as soon as possible. I have attended meetings and I will try to inform the media the moment we know the findings.”
On May 7, the city governor for Mahabad, Jafar Katani, announced that Farinaz Khosravani’s case was being referred to a reliable but strict judge. “The justice department and security forces are investigating,” he said.
But protesters told a different story. “Everybody knows that the manager of Tara Hotel accepted this shame so that his hotel would get a five-star rating,” said Osman who took part in the protests. “But Farinaz defended her honor and didn’t accept the shame. All of Mahabad knows this and that is why we are here protesting.”
Many protesters backed up Osman’s claim, offering similar remarks. Osman also witnessed clashes between anti-riot police and some of the demonstrators.
“I saw with my own eyes that a number of people were injured,” he said. “The anti-riot police fired at protesters, using grapeshot weapons. People were angry and defended themselves with whatever they could find.”
He paused a few seconds before commenting on the case of a 27-year-old woman called Farkhondeh, who was beaten to death after she was falsely accused of burning a Koran in Afghanistan.
“Have you heard about Farkhondeh’s death? Do you follow news from Afghanistan? Protests led to her murderers being sentenced to death. In the same way, we will not allow Farinaz’s blood to be spilled without justice.”
Osman described conditions in the city as “ abnormal”. “You can see anti-riot police all across town and it is rumored they’re sending further reinforcements from nearby cities.”
Leaflets were distributed in Mahabad and other nearby cities, including Marivan, Bukan and Piranshahr, calling for people to join in a protest following Friday prayers. One flyer read: “If one of us is harmed, we’ll bring down the sky on your heads.”