She was not an activist or spoke openly online about women’s liberation, but she was still shot in her hometown campaigning for her right to live and dress as she wanted.
Hadis Najafi, 23, took to the streets of Karaj last week to denouncing the strict mandate of wearing the hijab in Iran and was shot.
His death has fueled new anger in a country that already relies on the strict rule of the so-called morality police.
Part of Iran’s Generation Z, Hadis was a young woman who grew up in the age of the internet and social media.
Like Zoomers everywhere, these digital natives are connected to the rest of the world in ways their parents could never have imagined.
Hope for a better future
An avid TikTok and Instagram user, Hadis enjoyed sharing her life with her social media followers.
She hasn’t openly spoken openly about women’s liberation, but she has posted videos on her TikTok account dancing to the latest viral trend, including Iranian pop music and singers.
His social media wouldn’t have seemed out of place anywhere in the world. Smiling and pouting at the camera, she danced around her bedroom in bright clothes.
She worked as a cashier at a restaurant and loved sharing fashion on her Instagram, doing her hair with and without her hijab – but only from the safety of her home or other private places.
The hijab is compulsory in public for all women in Iran, regardless of their religion or nationality.
A close friend described her as “always happy and energetic”.
But then the violence erupted after another young woman, Mahsa Amini, 22, died in police custody on September 16. She was allegedly detained for wear your hijab too loose.
Who was Mahsa Amini, why do women cut their hair?
The outcry over her death turned into some of the biggest protests in the country in years and the anger of a generation of women who had grown accustomed to online freedom spilled onto the streets.
The women took off their head coverings and burned them while others recorded the scenes on cellphones, uploading them to social media where they were shared around the world.
To make it harder for protesters, authorities have restricted internet access in several provinces, according to internet blocking watchdog NetBlocks.
Sky News spoke to one of Hadis’ close friends on Instagram and asked if she had been scared when she left on September 21.
“Not at all,” replied the woman, whose name we are not releasing for her own safety.
In a video Hadis sent to friends on her way to the protest, she spoke about her hopes for a better future.
“At the end of the day, I’ll be happy…when everything changes,” she said.
An hour later, she had been shot.
Family ‘not allowed to see his body’ for days
Her friend said she “was shot several times by Iranian police because of her hijab and defending the hijab and women’s right to freedom to wear the veil.”
Her family went to the hospital, but they weren’t allowed to see her.
“Several nurses … told her family to flee, because Hadis had participated in the protests, so they could also be targeted if the police came,” her friend said.
“The husband of one of Hadis’ sisters works for the Basij [an Iranian paramilitary volunteer militia], so they let him into the morgue to do formal identification. Only him.
“They didn’t let her family see her.”
After two days, the family agreed with the authorities not to hold a public funeral: “What I’m telling you now comes from his family,” said Hadis’ friend.
“On Friday morning, they let his crying mother and sisters see his face, to make sure they were burying the right person. There was no proper funeral because of the deal.
“After her burial, her sisters Afsoon and Shirin decided to post her photos and tell people that she had been shot. The authorities didn’t want people to say that she had been shot, they were told to tell that she died in a car accident, or a brain injury, that she died a natural death.”
Masked forces fire directly at protesters
Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s president, pledged to investigate Ms Amini’s death, but said authorities would not tolerate any threats to public safety.
He said protesters must be ‘dealt with decisively’ and the subsequent crackdown by the authorities was swift, brutal and violent.
On September 21, footage was shared online for the first time of masked men shooting directly and at point-blank range at protesters on Eram Boulevard, where her friend said Hadis was last seen alive.
The location of this clip was verified by Sky News by crossing the car dealership in the background with street footage shared on Google Maps.
Although Hadis is not in this clip, it indicates that this is not the only time Iranian police have been accused of using excessive force against protesters.
And Hadis isn’t the only woman to have been killed. The names of at least four other women believed to have died in the protests went viral last week.
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“She went bravely and became a martyr”
Shortly after his death, his family posted tributes to Hadis and his image went viral around the world.
Shiirin, Hadis’ sister, then shared images of her family gathered at her grave, holding pictures of her.
Alongside the clip, she wrote, “Ajim, my heart aches for you. My pure angel, you have been martyred.”
Her friend told Sky News: ‘I, her family and her friends would like everyone to hear the name Hadis and know that my friend went bravely and became a martyr.
Her mother posted a video on her sister’s Instagram account on Wednesday – she said she could only speak publicly “with the help of medication”.
She takes a breath to arm herself before starting to speak.
“My daughter was killed because of the hijab, because of Mahsa Amini,” she said, looking directly at the camera.
“She went to demonstrate and was killed, shot, in the heart, in the stomach, in the neck. When we looked at her body, her face and her body were bruised.”
She confirmed the family were not allowed into the hospital and said “they shouted insults at us”.
“They refused to give us his body. They refused to tell us where to find his body,” she said.
“My dear Hadis was the apple of my eye.
“Please leave her sisters alone. We feel awful, please don’t make us feel any worse.
“Mahsa is also my daughter. And all those who were killed are my children. She died for Mahsa, I love her too, she sacrificed herself for Mahsa, she died for her.”