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Girl, 17, whose picture became symbol of Iran protests, says she was ‘abducted and tortured’ by regime again

A teenage girl who cheered for victory after being released from Iranian detention says she has been abducted and beaten by the regime for a second time.

The image of protester Sonia Sharifi standing on top of a car with her hands in the air became a symbol of defiance in the face of an increasingly violent crackdown against demonstrations sweeping Iran in December last year.

When Sonia’s family, friends and neighbours gathered in the streets of Abdanan to celebrate her homecoming, the protests had been happening daily for four months.

Now, eight months on, Sonia has shared an image of a head wound she says she suffered at the hands of Iranian security forces when they detained her again.


She says she was dragged from her car and blindfolded, before being abducted and beaten.

Hengaw, a group that monitors human rights violations in Iran, says the 17-year-old suffered multiple injuries and was “left alone in one of the streets of Abdanan after being threatened, interrogated, and tortured for more than two hours”.

Sonia’s experience has once again been widely shared among Iranians online this week.

Sonia shared this image of a wound on her head after she says she was abducted by Iranian security forces. Pic: @sonim_7
Sonia shared this image of a wound on her head after she says she was abducted by Iranian security forces. Pic: @sonim_7

Photos of Sonia have been widely shared online. Pic: @masih.alinejad
Photos of Sonia have been widely shared online. Pic: @masih.alinejad

Protesting against the regime as publicly as Sonia has done can be dangerous.

More than 500 demonstrators have died and thousands have been arrested, according to the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA).

Several protesters have been executed by the state.

The country’s notorious Revolutionary Guards previously accused “hostile media” of “lying” about Sonia’s arrest in December, but so far have not commented on what the teenager says happened to her on Wednesday.

The attack on Sonia comes about a month before the one-year anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini, the Kurdish-Iranian woman who died in police custody – triggering a huge protest movement.

The #MahsaAmini protests have quietened but not gone away, with tensions rising as restrictions have tightened on women in recent weeks.

In July, patrols monitoring women’s clothing resumed publicly. Women not wearing a hijab can potentially be detained.

Despite this, many Iranian women are still refusing to wear a head covering in public.

The protest is also continuing online. Iranians have consistently used hashtags and social media to highlight the demonstrations in their country to the international community.

One hashtag which means “the anniversary of Mahsa” has been posted to X (formerly Twitter), YouTube, TikTok and Twitch almost 450,000 times in the last eight weeks.

As the anniversary nears, US-based Iranian news channel Iran International reports that Iran’s security agencies have begun to intimidate and threaten protesters and those linked to them in a bid to discourage people from taking to the streets.

This is despite an independent international fact-finding mission on the Islamic Republic of Iran urging the Iranian government to “end its continuing crackdown on peaceful protesters” in a report submitted in July.

The Data and Forensics team is a multi-skilled unit dedicated to providing transparent journalism from Sky News. We gather, analyse and visualise data to tell data-driven stories. We combine traditional reporting skills with advanced analysis of satellite images, social media and other open source information. Through multimedia storytelling we aim to better explain the world while also showing how our journalism is done.

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