Mahsa Amini: Family of Iranian woman who died in custody call for international court trial

This video contains distressing images

Six months on from the death of Mahsa Amini in Iran, her family have told ITV News Correspondent Lucy Watson that they want the government in Tehran to be prosecuted by an international criminal court. Producer Roohi Hasan

No family is ever prepared for the death of their child - for the grief and the anguish that death causes - and the family of Mahsa Amini are no different.

Mahsa is what the world knows her as, but to her family she was Zhina - a daughter, a sister and a cousin, before she was ever a catalyst for change. I met her cousin Erfan Mortezai, who now lives in Germany.

“Mahsa always had a smile. She was joyful. She was my family. She was part of me. I felt useless and totally helpless when she died,“ he said.

Erfan is also a man in hiding. He's had to escape to Iraq, France and now Germany - with the help of different European governments - since he dared to speak out about Mahsa’s death. He showed me the threats he’s received on his phone and told me what one of them said.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran plans to harass my family, kidnap me and take me back to Iran. This was sent to me three days ago, “ he explained.

Mahsa’s parents are still living in Iran, but can’t talk to journalists. “Her parents can’t talk to the media, if they do the regime says it will arrest Mahsa's brother. They don’t want to lose him too.”

Erfan has talked about the death of Mahsa because the family disputes the government’s account of it.

Mahsa was a 22-year-old law student, and in September, she went on holiday with her family to the north of Iran.

On their way back to Saqqez, her home town in the Kurdish-majority north-western province, they went to see their aunt in Tehran.

They were unfamiliar with the capital, but Mahsa and her 18-year-old brother Kiarash went shopping with their cousins anyway.

When they came out of the metro station in the city centre, they were approached by the morality police, then Mahsa was put in a police van and detained.

They deemed she wasn’t wearing her hijab correctly. Her mother has always maintained that at the time, Mahsa was wearing a long, black coat and a long headscarf.

Mahsa was taken off the street by the morality police and taken into custody in September.

Security cameras show Mahsa being escorted into a police station. Minutes later, she collapses and slumps to the floor, lifeless.

A considerable time after that, medical help arrives and they try to resuscitate her. The government says Mahsa had a pre-existing health condition. The family says she did not, but it was her treatment by the authorities that killed her.

“Three witnesses from inside the police van confirmed that Mahsa was hit over the head. Other women inside the police station also confirmed she was hit again by officers there," Erfan said.

"They also said Mahsa was complaining that she felt dizzy and she couldn’t see, and are willing to give their statements to an international court.

"The leadership must be held accountable for Mahsa’s death. For crimes against humanity.”

Her body hovered between life and death for three days. On a video taken from inside the hospital at the time Mahsa was dying, you can hear her mother scream, “I want my daughter alive.” But Mahsa died.

Mahsa's grandparents’ hugging in the wake of her death.

A photograph taken on a ward corridor shows her grandparents hugging one another, signalling the family’s loss.

We have also seen footage of Mahsa’s graveside. Her mother wailing in sorrow on top of her coffin, her aunt and uncle consumed by grief. We have also seen Mahsa’s body moments before she is buried. A young woman, a vibrant life, just lying in the dirt.

Her death sparked the beginning of an uprising inside Iran. A revolt against government suppression.

Exile Iranians of the National Council of Resistance of Iran gather in front of the embassy of Iran in Berlin. Credit: AP

Today, it is six months since she died. Since then, more than 500 people, it is estimated, have been killed in protests around the country, at least 70 of them are believed to be children, according to Human Right Activists In Iran.

Amnesty International said today that more than 22,000 people have been arrested for dissent and four people executed in these six months.

A new report by the human rights organisation found that Iran's intelligence and security forces have used torture methods, including rape, electric shocks and flogging, as part of the crackdown on recent protests. The youngest victim was thought to be as young as 12.

The research highlights the tactics allegedly used by security and intelligence forces - such as the Revolutionary Guards and the Public Security Police - on children in custody to punish them and to extract forced confessions.

According to the testimonies of dozens of detainees, Amnesty International estimates that thousands of children may have been among the people swept up in the arrests.

“Iranian state agents have torn children away from their families and subjected them to unfathomable cruelties," said Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

"It is abhorrent that officials have wielded such power in a criminal manner over vulnerable and frightened children, inflicting severe pain and anguish upon them and their families and leaving them with severe physical and mental scars.

"This violence against children exposes a deliberate strategy to crush the vibrant spirit of the country’s youth and stop them from demanding freedom and human rights."

Support has stretched far beyond Iran to America, Australia and Europe. All campaigners are joined in collective outrage and distress.

Many rallies have taken place in Germany. We went to one which began in front of the Brandenberg Gate.

It was there I spoke to Duezen Tekkal. She is a Kurdish human rights activist who advises the German government on Iran. Last week, she went with the foreign minister to the region.

'The people are ready to die,' Duezen Tekkal, a human rights activist, said

"We are all Jina Mahsa Amini. Women Life Freedom. The last 43 years have been quiet because people had a lot of fear. The regime is in fear, not the society anymore. The people are ready to die," she said.

This cause has powerful, influential supporters. It also has its own music, its own slogan. Woman. Life. Freedom. Everyone is on the street and they’re united.

Daniela Sepheri is one of Germany’s most prolific Iranian activists and feminists. She has been lobbying the parliament in Berlin about its policies over Iran.

Her uncle protested in the Iranian Revolution of 1979, when today’s clerical regime took over. Daniela thinks this movement is different.

'This unity will cause the downfall of the Islamic Republic,' Daniela Sepheri said

“What’s new? What’s significant with this revolution is who is leading this revolution. The women. The youth. The Gen Z. The students and the ethnic minorities. This unity will cause the downfall of the Islamic Republic,” she said.

This is a bold generation calling for freedom, no matter what language they speak or who they are.

There is a will and a sentiment with this uprising that refuse to be stifled by Iran’s regime.

They care and they come out onto the streets, even 3,000 miles away.

The Iranian government is unlikely to fall tomorrow, but this kind of social uprising is not going away anytime soon.

It was a movement ignited by the death of one woman, continued by thousands of others.

Little has changed within the government since, but you can’t arrest an idea when so many people believe in it.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know