Civil status —
Affiliation sympathizer of Islamic revolutionary armed group at the time of arrest
Date of execution November 29, 1981
Location Evin Prison, Tehran, Iran
Mode of execution shooting
Charges Counter revolutionary opinion and/or speech; Participating in armed demonstrations
Bijan read precociously as a boy, auditing elementary school classes before they’d let him officially enroll. His manners were gentle as he grew into active, passionate, Iranian politics.
About this Case
Information about Mr. Bijan Hoda’i, son of Hassan, has been drawn from an interview with his brother. He is also one of the 12,028 individuals listed in an addendum to the Mojahed magazine (No. 261), published by Mojahedin Khalq Organization in 1985. The list includes individuals affiliated with various opposition groups, who were executed or killed during clashes with the Islamic Republic security forces from June 1981 to the publication date of the magazine. Additionally, his name is mentioned in the list of “Martyrs of the Peykar Organization for the Liberation of the Working Class,” published on the website of Peykar Andeesheh. The execution of Mr. Hoda’i and 29 other persons was announced in the communiqué of the Public Relations Department of the Prosecution’s Office of Tehran Province and published in the Kayhan newspaper on December 1, 1981.
Mr. Hoda’i was born into a political family. Until the coup of August 19, 1953, his parents were affiliated with the Tudeh Party. However, his mother continued her political activism secretly, even after the coup. Bijan spent his childhood and adolescence in Abadan. From childhood, his parents knew that he was very intelligent. He could read from the age of 5 and went to school. However, according to the regulations of the Ministry of Education, 7 was the age that children could go to school. Therefore, Bijan audited classes until he came of age, and he was among the best students. When he was a high school student, his family moved to Tehran, where he went to the Kharazmi High School.
As a high school student, Bijan started to show interest in politics. He joined book clubs and tutored students at another high school in west Tehran. He also formed reading groups with his students. In 1977, he passed the university entrance exam with very good scores and was admitted to study electronics. After enrollment in the university, he started his political activism, which resulted in his discharge from school. The following year, he passed the university entrance exam and was again admitted to study electronics at Tehran University.
After the revolution of 1979, he was one of the organizers of student political activists, working for an organization that sympathized with Khat-e Se (the Third Line). Later, Mr. Hoda’i was a sympathizer of the Peykar Organization and in charge of the activities of high school and university students.
Despite his gentle manners, Bijan was very active and passionate in his political activism.
His sister, Ms. Manijeh Hoda’i, and her husband, Mr. Mas’ud Jigare’i were also executed
The Peykar Organization for the Liberation of the Working Class was founded by a number of dissident members of the Mojahedin Khalq Organization who had converted to Marxism-Leninism. Peykar also joined with a number of political organizations, known as Khat-e Se (the Third Line). The founding tenets of Peykar included the rejection of guerrilla struggle and a strong stand against the pro-Soviet policies of the Iranian Tudeh Party. Peykar viewed the Soviet Union as a “social imperialist” state, believed that China had deviated from Marxist-Leninist principles, and radically opposed all factions of the Islamic regime of Iran. The brutal repression of dissidents by the Iranian government and splits within Peykar in 1981 and 1982 effectively dismantled the organization and scattered its supporters. By the mid-1980s, Peykar was no longer in existence.
Arrest and detention
Mr. Hoda’i’s date of arrest is not known. He was forced to go underground in the summer of 1981, when the oppression of political activists intensified, for he was a well-known leftist student. Though he lived underground, he made regular phone calls to his mother to let her know he was fine. From early fall 1981, he no longer called. His family members were not informed about his arrest but believe that he was arrested in early fall. Individuals who knew Bijan informed them that he had been arrested in Tehran during an organizational meeting.
Mr. Hoda’i was tried at one of the Islamic Revolutionary Tribunals of Tehran Province. There is no other information regarding his trial.
According to the communiqué of the Public Relations Department of the Prosecution’s Office of Tehran Province, Mr. Hoda’i was charged with “sympathizing with the American organization Peykar and participation in armed demonstrations opposing the regime of the Islamic Republic.”
The validity of the criminal charges brought against this defendant cannot be ascertained in the absence of the basic guarantees of a fair trial.
Evidence of guilt
No information is available concerning the evidence presented against the accused.
No information is available concerning Mr. Hoda’i’s defense.
The Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal of Tehran Province condemned Mr. Bijan Hoda’i to death, “in accordance with religious rules.” A few days before his execution, he called his mother on the phone and told her that he had been tried and that his sentence would be issued soon. According to his brother, in this phone conversation “he sounded calm and together. Despite the fact that he definitely knew his sentence, his voice did not quiver. He said goodbye to mother and told her she had always been a good mom.” According to Kayhan he was shot by firing squad in Evin Prison on November 29, 1981. That day arked his 23rd birthday.
Bijan’s brother describes how his family was informed of his execution: “Two or three days after he called our house, I heard my mother’s loud cry at night. I ran to the room only to find her sobbing and bawling. A female relative, who had come over, was trying to console her. They had heard the news of Bijan’s execution on television. The following day, the newspapers announced his execution as well. My mother, I, and an elderly male relative went to Behesht-e Zahra Cemetery. The registrar of the cemetery told us that we should go to the Indians’ cemetery. We said that we did not know where that was. He told us to go to the road to Khorasan and ask around. We found out that Bijan was buried in a cemetery known as Khavaran … .”
Bijan was executed on his 23rd birthday.
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.
Detentions, interrogations, and trials: 1981-1988
Read about the conditions in which individuals were detained, tried and sentenced.
The accused were held, sometimes without being charged, for months or years in overcrowded prisons. During their detention, prisoners of conscience, and in particular supporters of political opposition groups or members of religious or ethnic minorities, were routinely subject to physical and psychological torture. Interrogators used torture, authorized by the post-revolutionary law of Ta’zir (Discretionary Punishment Law), to obtain confessions of guilt or to induce repentance. The line between trial and interrogation was often blurred by the fact that the same individual would function as prosecutor, interrogator and judge.
Executed detainees may or may not have been tried formally. Prisoners of conscience were often tried through a summary process that might have lasted only a few minutes. When disclosed, charges facing the defendants were often vague or based on coerced confessions. Defendants had no access to attorneys, and they might not have been allowed to defend themselves.
Convicts could not appeal their sentence and were often executed shortly after their conviction. Their execution was not necessarily announced.
Based on the available information, some or all of the following human rights may 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 peaceful assembly.
UDHR, Article 20; ICCPR, Article 21.
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
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 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.