Religion Islam (Shi'a)
Civil status Single
Education high school diploma
Occupation university student
Affiliation armed group, Islamic revolutionary
Affiliation educational establishment
Date of execution August 1988
Location Evin Prison, Tehran, Iran
Mode of execution hanging
Charges Counter revolutionary opinion and/or speech; War on God, God's Prophet and the deputy of the Twelfth Imam
About this Case
Ms. Foruzan Abdi Pirbazari is one of the victims of the 1988-89 mass execution of political prisoners in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Many of the executed prisoners were members or sympathizers of the Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO). However, members or supporters of Marxist Leninist organizations such as, the People’s Fedayian of Iran (Minority) or Peykar, which opposed the Islamic Republic, as well as the Tudeh Party and Fadayian Khalq (Majority), which did not oppose the regime, were among the victims. Complementary information about the mass execution has been gathered from the memoirs of Ayatollah Montazeri, reports of human rights organizations, interviews with family members, and memoirs of witnesses by the Boroumand Foundation.
Ms. Foruzan Abdi Pirbazari is listed among 3,208 members and sympathizers of the People's Mojahedin of Iran Organization whose execution was reported by the Organization in the book Crime Against Humanity. Her name has also been mentioned in the list of the victims of the 1988-89 mass execution of political prisoners published in a November 2, 1989 United Nations Report of the Economic and Social Council on the “Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” by Mr. Reynaldo Galindo Pohl (El Salvador), Special Representative of the Commission on Human Rights, as well as the book 67 Massacre by Mr. Mas’ud Ansari. Additional information was drawn from the Bidaran and the Mojahedin websites, a report from Monireh Baradaran, who was her cellmate at various periods during her imprisonment and another cellmate, Mina Entezari’s memoirs.
Ms. Abdi was born in Tehran in 1957. She was the captain of the National Volleyball team and a sympathizer of the Mojahedin Khalq Organization. According to her cellmate, Ms. Abdi was very popular among other inmates. Her cellmates remember her for her open-mindedness and tolerant attitude towards other political prisoners. In one instance, her cellmate recalls, when a repenting prisoner who was in charge of the cell ordered a leftist prisoner to separate her dishes from the others (because prison authorities treated prisoners who did not believe in God as “unclean”), Ms. Abdi had intervened and stressed that “no one considers the leftist prisoner as ‘unclean’ and whoever does, should separate her own dishes from others”. Ms. Abdi had also kept her athletic spirits during her years of imprisonment and organized volleyball games during the short period when female prisoners had access to a volleyball court at Qezelhesar prison.
Arrest and detention
Ms. Foruzan Abdi Pirbazari was arrested in 1981. The MKO website quotes one of her cellmates saying: "I saw her in section 8 of Qezelhesar in 1982. It was a section for special punishment and sometimes there were 25 to 30 people in a cell [that was meant to fit 3]… They placed Foruzan and some others in a restroom in early 1983. The place was so dirty that all of them contracted skin diseases. Then, they were transferred to solitary confinement at both Gohardasht and Qezelhesar prisons where they stayed until early 1986."
Ms. Baradaran, who saw Abdi at Gohardasht prison, reports that Ms. Abdi was protesting against the inhuman rules and behaviour of prison guards. As a result, for almost a year and half (fall 1983 - winter 1984), she was held in solitary confinement and was deprived from recreation time outside, from having contacts with others, reading newspapers, and having regular visits from her family.
Sometime in 1986, Ms. Abdi was transferred from Gohardasht to Evin prison where she was detained until her execution. During this period, she also spent most of her imprisonment in the closed section of the ward that prison authorities used for punishing prisoners. Those held in this section were held in closed cells and were allowed to leave their cells 3 times a day (for 30 minutes), during which time they could use the bathroom, wash their dishes and their clothes.
The details of Ms. Abdi’s first trial, in which she was condemned to five years imprisonment, are not known. However, she was not released after serving her term because she refused the authorities’ terms for her release.
(Authorities required prisoners to make a statement in front of other prisoners rejecting their ideas and their political groups as a condition for their release. Later, authorities would only require a signed statement. After the prison massacre of 1988, prisoners were required to sign a statement giving up political activities.)
There is no specific information about the 1988 trials that condemned Ms. Abdi and thousands of other political prisoners to death in just a few months period. According to the available information, the Iranian authorities did not try the victims of the 1988 mass execution in a court with in the presence of a defense lawyer. The prisoners who were executed in 1988 had been questioned by a three-member special committee, composed of a religious judge, a representative of the Intelligence Ministry, and the Tehran Prosecutor. The committee questioned the leftist prisoners about their beliefs and their faith in God and religion.
The relatives of political prisoners executed in 1988 refute the legality of the judicial process that resulted in thousands of executions throughout Iran. In their 1988 open letter to then- Minister of Justice Dr. Habibi, they argue that the official secrecy surrounding these executions is proof of their illegality. They note that an overwhelming majority of these prisoners had been tried and sentenced to prison terms, which they were either serving or had already completed serving at the time they were retried and sentenced to death.
No charge has ever been publicly levelled against the victims of the 1988 mass execution. In their letters to the Minister of Justice (1988), and to the UN Special Rapporteur visiting Iran (February 2003), the families of the victims refer to the accusations against the prisoners that may have led to their execution, as being "counter-revolutionary, anti-religion, and anti-Islam," as well as being "associated with military action or with various [opposition] groups based near the borders."
An edict from the Leader of the Islamic Republic, Ruhollah Khomeini, reproduced in the memoirs of his designated successor Ayatollah Montazeri, corroborates the reported claims regarding the charges against the executed prisoners. In this edict, Ayatollah Khomeini refers to the MKO members as "hypocrites" who do not believe in Islam and "who wage war against God" and decrees that prisoners who still approve of the positions taken by this organization are also "waging war against God" and should be sentenced to death.
Evidence of guilt
The report of this execution contains no evidence provided against the defendant.
No information is available about her defense. In their open letter, the families of the prisoners note that defendants were not given the opportunity to defend themselves in court. Against the assertion that prisoners were associated with guerrilla forces operating near the borders, the families submit the isolation of their relatives from the outside during their detention: "Our children lived in most difficult conditions. Our visits were limited to 10 minutes behind a glass divider through a telephone every two weeks. We witnessed over seven years that they were denied access to anything that would have allowed them to establish contacts outside their prison walls." Under such conditions the families reject the claim of the authorities that these prisoners were able to engage with the political groups outside Iran.
The details of the death sentence are not known. According to her cellmates, Ms. Foruzan Abdi Pirbazari was transferred to the “sanatorium” section of Evin sometime in the late July 1988 and never returned. She is believed to have been among the first group of women who were hanged during the mass killings of the political prisoners in August 1988. Prisoners had read a poem on a cell wall in that section of Evin. The poem is believed to be written by her before her execution.
According to available information, months after the executions, prison authorities informed the families about the executions and handed in the victims’ belongings to their families. The bodies, however, were not returned to them. The bodies were buried in mass graves. Authorities warned the families of prisoners against holding memorial ceremonies.
Human rights violations in this case
The legal context
Read about the courts, the judges, and the procedure.
Special courts, known as the Islamic Revolutionary Tribunals, were set up after the February 1979 revolution. Their jurisdiction encompasses a wide array of offences ranging from association with or support of the former regime, promotion of foreign influence, and enmity with the revolution to possession, use or sales of narcotic drugs, murder, and profiteering. In the 1980s, a penal court, presided over by one judge, was created to handle some of the offenses punishable by death, such as theft or adultery. These tribunals’ decisions must be confirmed by a chamber of the Supreme Judicial Council.
Prosecutors and judges are not necessarily jurists. By 1981, the judiciary was purged of judges trained in law schools. They were replaced by seminary graduates and students, as well as by political appointees (an estimated 2000 by 1989). Since by law judges are only required to have a high school diploma and must be faithful to the Islamic Republic’s tenets, new recruits often have little formal training in the law and are chosen because of their political affiliation.
The procedures of these ecclesiastical tribunals fail to meet the minimum guarantees for fair trial as established by international human rights instruments and by sha’ria (the Islamic system of law). In addition to executions ordered by revolutionary tribunals, extra-judicial executions are carried out, targeting dissidents and opposition leaders. In some cases, both inside and outside of Iran, these executions have been traced back to Iranian officials. It is, however, not known if in these particular cases trials are held in absentia.
Sources (Among others): Amnesty International, Law and Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, February 1980; Lawyers' Committee for Human Rights, The Justice System of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 1992; E/CN.4/1989/26 p.14; UNCHR, Resolution 1984/54 , Abolition of Torture - Iran - 1; 28 November 1984; Report on the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran by the Special Representative of the Commission, Mr. Reynaldo Galindo Pohl, 28 January 1987. Amnesty International, A SHOCKED WORLD WATCHES IN DISBELIEF, VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS, 1987-1990. Memoirs of Ayatollah Khalkhali, religious judge and former head of revolutionary tribunals (2001), and Ayatollah Montazeri, dismissed successor to Ayatollah Khomeini (2001). UNCH, E/CN.4/1994/50, Final report on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran prepared by the Special Representative of the Commission on Human Rights, Mr. Reynaldo Galindo Pohl, pursuant to Commission resolution 1993/62 of 10 March 1993 and Economic and Social Council decision 1993/273. E/CN.4/1994/50, 2 February 1994.
July 1988-January 1989: mass execution of political prisoners
Read about the conditions in which individuals were detained, tried and sentenced.
Between July 1988 and January 1989, thousands of political prisoners throughout Iran were summarily executed in the Islamic Republic's prisons.
Following a July 1988 order by Ayatollah Khomeini, several three-man commissions comprised of representatives of the Islamic Revolutionary Courts, the Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office and the Ministry of Intelligence were formed in Tehran and the Provinces. Over a six-month period, these three-man commissions subjected thousands of political prisoners (from various leftist religious and secular groups), most of whom had already been tried and convicted, to formalized interrogation sessions.
The interrogations or inquisition-style trials were designed to discover the prisoners' political and religious views. They sometimes lasted a few brief minutes and bore little resemblance to any judicial proceedings aimed at establishing the guilt or innocence of a defendant charged with a criminal offence under the law.
The commissions did not inform prisoners that these interrogations were retrials that could lead to their executions. Defendants had no access to legal counsel and were not given the opportunity to defend themselves or to appeal the commission’s decision. Those who where deemed “unrepentant” were sentenced to death. The sentence was generally carried out immediately after the proceedings.
The executions were not announced publicly and families were informed of the executions weeks after they took place.
Based on the available information, the following human rights have been violated in this case:
The right to liberty and security of the person. The right not to be subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 3; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 9.1.
The right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, including the right to change and manifest one’s religion or belief.
UDHR, Article 18; ICCPR, Article 18.1, ICCPR, Article 18.2;
Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, Article 1 and Article 6.
In its general comment 22 (48) of 20 July 1993, the United Nation’s Human Rights Committee observed that the freedom to "have or to adopt" a religion or belief necessarily entailed the freedom to choose a religion or belief, including the right to replace one's current religion or belief with another or to adopt atheistic views, as well as the right to retain one's religion or belief. Article 18, paragraph 2, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights bars coercion that would impair the right to have or adopt a religion or belief, including the use of threat of physical force or penal sanctions to compel believers or non-believers to adhere to religious beliefs and congregations, to recant their religion or belief or to convert.
The right to freedom of opinion and expression, including the right to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas.
UDHR, Article 19; ICCPR, Article 19.1 and ICCPR, Article 19.2.
The right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade union for the protection of one’s interests.
UDHR, Article 20; ICCPR, Article 22.1.
The right to due process
Pre-trial detention rights
The right to know promptly and in detail the nature and cause of the charges against one.
UDHR, Article 9(2); ICCPR, Article 9.2 and Article 14.3.a
The right to counsel of one’s own choosing or legal aid and the right to meet with one’s attorney in confidence
ICCPR, Article 14.3.d;
Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, Article 1 , Article 2, Article 5, Article 6, and Article 8.
The right to adequate time and facilities for the preparation of the defense case.
ICCPR, Article 14.3.b; Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, Article 8%viol_bprl_8%..
The right not to be compelled to testify against oneself or to confess to guilt.
ICCPR, Article 14.3.g.
The right not to be subjected to torture and to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
UDHR, Article 5; ICCPR, Article 7; Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment, Article 1, and Article 2.
The right to a fair and public trial without undue delay.
ICCPR, Article 9.3, Article 14.1, Article 14.3.c.
The right to examine, or have examined the witnesses against one and to obtain the attendance and examination of defense witnesses under the same conditions as witnesses for the prosecution.
ICCPR, Article 14.3.e.
The right to have the decision rendered in public.
ICCPR, Article 14.1.
The right to appeal to a court of higher jurisdiction.
ICCPR, Article 14.5.
The right to seek pardon or commutation of sentence.
ICCPR, Article 6.4.
The right not to be tried or punished again for an offence for which one has already been convicted or acquitted.
ICCPR, Article 14.7.
The inherent right to life, of which no one shall be arbitrarily deprived.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 3; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 6.1; Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, Article 1.1, Article 1.2.
The right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.
ICCPR, Article 7; Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment, Article 1 and Article 2.