‘Iran’s armed forces murdered my mum, it’s time the UK called them terrorists’

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Members of the Iranian community rally in solidarity with Mahsa (Jina) Amini (Picture: AP)

A woman whose mother was killed by 167 shotgun pellets has urged Britain to recognise Iran’s most powerful armed forces as a terrorist organisation. It all started with the death in police custody of Mahsa (Jina) Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian-Kurdish woman accused of wearing her headscarf improperly in September 2022. Three days later, Minoo Majidi joined protests in Kermanshah, in the west of the Middle Eastern country, when security forces on motorbikes gunned her down at close range. Her eldest daughter, also named Mahsa, says the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) – which controls Iran’s elite armed and intelligence forces – was behind her mother’s death.

Woman whose mum was killed with 167 shotgun pellets appeals to UK to proscribe Iran's armed forces (Picture: Mahsa Pirai)

Mahsa (left) and Roya (right) Pirai with a picture of their mother (Picture: Mahsa Pirai)

‘I cannot help but feel that because my name is Mahsa and this has happened to Mahsa Amini, my mother joined the protests,’ she told Metro.co.uk. ‘Her last words to my father were “If I don’t go and you don’t go, then the youth will, and they will be killed.’” Often compared to ISIS, Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah, the IRGC has been held responsible for global terrorist attacks and hostage-taking on foreign soil, including the UK, as well as human rights violations in Iran. Most recently, the US Department for Justice disclosed a plot to kidnap Iranian-American journalist and activist Masih Alinejad.


Woman whose mum was killed with 167 shotgun pellets appeals to UK to proscribe Iran's armed forces (Picture: Mahsa Pirai)

Mahsa (left) and Roya (right) Pirai with their mother Minoo (middle) (Picture: Mahsa Pirai)

Since 2015, there has been a surge in activity across the West, while MI5 detailed 15 attempted assassinations and abductions on British soil in 2022. Following advice from the Metropolitan Police, Iran International TV was forced to close its London studios after state-backed threats. In January, MPs unanimously voted for a motion that urges the government to proscribe the IRGC as a terrorist organisation – but nothing has been announced since then. The Foreign Office did not respond to Metro’s enquiries about the move, which campaigners believe will send a clear message to the clerical regime in Iran that its terrorism and militancy will not be tolerated. Activists have for years feared the the IRGC’s reign of terror and its attempts to silence them, but many in the UK continue to campaign for formal proscription.

Minoo died on the way to the hospital after being shot at close range (Picture: Mahsa Pirai)

Its reach extends far beyond Iran’s borders, and Mahsa, who is herself a mother of two girls, knows what the repercussions of speaking out could be for her and her family. Her younger sister, Roya, cut off all her hair in response to their mother’s killing. She later shared a picture of herself standing next to her grave, holding her locks, and without a head covering, on Instagram. Fearing the IRGC would then target her sister, Mahsa helped her move to England where they now live together. ‘Any time we leave the house we worry,’ Mahsa said. ‘We are not afraid but we do always look behind our shoulder.’


Woman whose mum was killed with 167 shotgun pellets appeals to UK to proscribe Iran's armed forces (Picture: Mahsa Pirai)

Roya standing over her mother’s grave with her hair in her hand (Picture: Mahsa Pirai)

Speaking to the press has taken even more bravery, but she is determined to be her ‘mother’s voice’. ‘It is the only way I can continue living,’ Mahsa added. Almost a year after her mother’s death, there are still no official figures about the number of protesters gunned down by Iranian security agents. Some international organisations suggest it is in the hundreds, while others fear it’s in the thousands. Metro caught up with Alireza Akhondi – an MP in Sweden who successfully campaigned to have his government proscribe the IRGC – during the 15th Summit for Human Rights and Democracy in Geneva.

Woman whose mum was killed with 167 shotgun pellets appeals to UK to proscribe Iran's armed forces (Picture: Mahsa Pirai)

Minoo with her husband, who she lived with in Kermanshah (Picture: Mahsa Pirai)

Born in Iran, he emigrated to the Scandinavian country in 1992, and was elected for the Center Party in 2018. For years, the politician has worked with governments to proscribe the IRGC, and has become a target for the regime, receiving death threats as a result. ‘There are rumours the US has been pressuring the UK,’ Alireza said about Rishi Sunak’s government dragging its feet when it comes to the sanction.

Swedish MP Alireza Akhondi speaks during a rally at the US Capitol in support of freedom in Iran (Picture: NurPhoto/Shutterstock)

‘I have not seen any proof of that, but democracy is slow and one needs to have respect for the process.’ He remains in contact with a number of MPs to continue pushing for proscription, and has been meeting with campaigners in the UK regularly. After leaving Iran aged 11, Alireza still has family there, but their contact is limited because his Farsi was ‘really terrible’ until a few months ago. ‘Every struggle, every fight has casualties,’ he said about the regime targeting those closest to him. ‘If I am going to become a victim, fine. I really believe in freedom and I want to do the best with the cards I have been dealt, so that when I am lying on my deathbed I do not have any regrets.’ Just before his interview, he had flown in from Washington where he had been preparing a lawsuit to put the US designation into action, so that it is not ‘just for show’ and puts policies against the IRGC in place. ‘The US designated the IRGC in 2019, but the follow-ups have not been there, and that is why I visited,’ the politician told us. Like Russia and North Korea, the organisation relies heavily on cryptocurrencies, so Alireza stressed this is one weak spot any policies must target. Another is sanctioning European banks that allow the movement of money from the IRGC, as it was done with Russian oligarchs following the Ukraine invasion.