Taraneh was a 28-year-old beautician who was arrested by Basij forces, raped and tortured for 22 days, and then set on fire and left in the desert. At least, that's what dissident Web users say. According to the authorities, the woman in question has been living in Canada for the past two years; and they have evidence to prove it — they've interviewed her family. So who's telling the truth?

The story of Taraneh Mousavi emerged online on 14 July, when protest blog Iranian Leftists wrote about the suspected torture, rape and murder of a young woman after allegedly talking to a friend of the aforementioned. It reported that the beautician was arrested on 28 June along with around 40 protesters. Although she herself was not participating in the protest, it was said that she was detained for wearing high heels and fashionable clothes. While the other detainees were turned over to the police at Nobonyad police station, Taraneh was taken to a house in Hosseinieh Ershad district by the Basij militia.

The post reported that a few days later the family of the young woman received a telephone call from an anonymous caller who said that Taraneh had been hospitalised following an "accident" in which her womb and anus and were damaged. When her family went to the Imam Khamenei Hospital in Karaj to look for her, a nurse told them that a girl matching Taraneh's description had been brought into the hospital by plain clothes officers and then removed a few hours later.

Two days later, the website reported that Taraneh was dead. They published what they say is the account of one her friends. The alleged friend says that Taraneh's family received another phone call in which they were informed that her burnt body had been found in the desert between Karaj and Qazvin (north-west of Tehran).

The story caused such a hullabaloo online that it managed to reach Thaddeus McCottor, a Republican congressman from Michigan, who delivered a speech to Congress on July 20, asking Supreme Leader Khomeini to look at the photo of Taraneh, saying: "Here is the truth denied by Khomeini and his misogynistic murderous regime."

“This report brought even more doubts about Taraneh Mousavi than we had before”

Asal is a 23-year-old Iranian student living in Melbourne, Australia. She writes for the Iranian Leftists blog.

The IRINN report brought even more doubts about Taraneh Mousavi than we had before. It's obvious that the picture which the reporter showed to the family is not the picture we know to be of the Taraneh Mousavi we're talking about. In this "comedy family show" the mother and sister say they never heard of the Taraneh affair — when it's been all over the news! Then there's the farce when she answers the phone and then it mysteriously cuts out. The report is a joke.

In any case, it's not that unbelievable that a young woman was sexually assaulted by the forces. It something which many women say has happened to them in Islamic Republic jails. This case needs to be investigated by independent human rights observers or a very brave journalist who's not scared of getting locked up.

Taraneh “alive and well and living in Canada”

It was not until this Tuesday however, that the Iranian authorities spoke up about the affair, on state TV channel Shabakeh Khabar (known in English as IRINN or Islam Republic of Iran News Networks). Journalists on the show said that fake reports had been posted online and claimed to have found Taraneh Mousavi's family, who they then interviewed:

Translation by Omid Habininia. Subtitles by FRANCE 24.

“Now the family is being threatened by the authorities, so we can’t get any new information”

Shahrzad, 26, is a photographer who was protesting near to where Taraneh was allegedly detained. 

It was Sunday, June 28. I was in front of Quba Mosque. Some reformists were celebrating the anniversary of Hafte Tir [a deadly attack on Islamic Republic leaders in 1981], which caused the police to attack us. After hours of street clashes, I finally reached home and tried to call one of my friends whom I'd lost in the crowd, but she didn't answer her mobile.

A day later I heard that she had almost been arrested in a scuffle when, at the same time, they also captured many other people. It was later that blog posts about a girl called Taraneh began to emerge and we realised that she was part of it. But now the family is being threatened by the authorities so we can't get any new information.