Iranian police beat Bologna student to death amid protests

Mehdi Zare Ashkzari

 ROME – Mehdi Zare Ashkzari, a 30-year-old Iranian man had left his studies in Bologna to return to Iran to care for his ill mother, where he was then beaten to death by police, media reported. Ashkzari’s former roommate in Bologna, Alireza Hashemi, said about his late friend, “He dreamed of a free Iran, he liked being in Italy, but he was sad that he had not seen his family in a long time. He then lost his scholarship and returned to Iran.” 

 Hashemi and Ashkzari lived together in a small flat in Bologna for two months in late 2020. The two had come to Italy to build a life outside of their country, but when Ashkzari lost his scholarship and his mother fell ill, he had to return to Iran where he unfortunately became a casualty of the protests pursuing in Iran.

 In Bologna, the roommates were two ordinary students. Hashemi was studying chemical engineering and Ashkzari was studying pharmacy. “He told me he had opened a pizzeria in Tehran and was happy with it,” Hashemi recounted. I asked him if he was planning to return to Italy, he told me he might come back to renew his residence permit, but he wasn't sure. One of the last memories I have with him is of the two of us sitting on the terrace playing backgammon.”

 Reportedly, by Hashemi, Ashkzari could speak Italian very well, and wished that Iran could have better relations with Europe and the US like Italy did, hoping in that case, his mother would have had better access to medical care. Hashemi says that Ashkzari’s decision to return home came at the end of 2020, when his mother's health deteriorated: “She had cancer,” he explained, “and he wanted to see her before she died. He told me he would have to take care of his brother. He was angry because his mother had had a lot of difficulty in curing herself, she had had to look for some medicines on the black market.”

 The protests that have been rocking Iran since the death of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old woman killed because she did not wear her veil properly, were in full swing when Ashkzari returned home. Ashkzari had reportedly participated in protests. He was arrested and tortured by police in Tehran, resulting in his death. In response to the news, Hashemi said, “I know he was arrested and then fell into a coma. I have no difficulty in believing that he took part in the demonstrations. We were talking about politics. Mehdi wanted a free, democratic Iran, the dream of us all. I hope this will be the year of Iran’s liberation.”