Religion Islam (Shi'a)
Civil status Single
Education college education
Occupation university student
Affiliation sympathizer of Islamic revolutionary armed group at the time of arrest
Date of execution September 27, 1981
Location Esfahan, Iran
Mode of execution shooting
Charges Armed rebellion against the Islamic Republic; Murder
About this Case
The information about Mr. Farhad Safapur has been drawn from an interview with his brother. The public relations unit of the central Islamic revolutionary prosecution office announced his execution along with his younger brother Majid and 51 other individuals. The Jomhuri Eslami newspaper published this announcement on September 30, 1981. Mr. Safapur is also one of the 12,028 individuals listed in an addendum to the Mojahed magazine (No 261), published by Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) 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.
Mr. Safapur was born in 1959 in Esfahan. He was a third year student of dentistry in Esfahan University. His brother remembers, “Farhad played with me… When I was a child, he sat me on his lap when he drove and he let me take control of the steering wheel… Wherever I went, I proudly stated that he was my brother… He was good-looking, warm, and friendly… My friends and I loved him… He was an athlete. He swam a lot. He also played soccer.” Mr. Safapur prayed but he believed in an Islam totally different from the Islam that the Iranian authorities preached.
Mr. Safapur was a sympathizer of the MKO and was active in the propagation department. His parents were worried about his political activism. A few months prior to his brother Majid’s arrest on June 20, 1981, his parents had banned them from bringing political publications to the house. Consequently, Farhad and Majid rented a room and moved out. Their parents continued their efforts to convince them to stop their activism. After Majid’s arrest, they tried to persuade Farhad to go underground. According to the interviewee, “At that time, his friends who were politically active were being arrested one by one. There were vast group arrests. State agents raided a house and arrested everybody there.”
The demonstration of June 20, 1981, took place in protest against the Parliament’s impeachment of President Banisadr and the Islamic Republic’s systematic policy of excluding the MKO from the country’s political scene, the refusal of Ayatollah Khomeini to meet with MKO leaders and his insistence for them to disarm. The MKO had, until then, supported the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini and agreed to function within the framework of the new political system.
On June 20, the organization officially changed its policy and tried to overthrow the regime by organizing mass demonstrations, in which some of the demonstrators were armed, all over the country. These demonstrations, which were severely suppressed and resulted in the killing of dozens of demonstrators, were followed by a wave of mass arrests and executions by the Revolutionary Guards and para-military forces that targeted not only the MKO, but all other opposition groups. The massive repression, unprecedented in the history of the Islamic Republic, legitimized as official government policy the months-old state harassment and suppression of dissidents and resulted in the banning of all forms of independent political dissent.
Arrest and detention
The Revolutionary Guards arrested Mr. Safapur in July or August of 1981. One day, his family members went to visit him in his rented room. Armed Revolutionary Guards opened the door. The Safapur family realized that Farhad had been arrested but the Guards did not inform them of the reasons for his arrest. Despite family’s visits to numerous state agencies, including police stations and Revolutionary Guards’ bases, they were unable to find Mr. Safapur’s whereabouts.
A friend of his, who was arrested and saw him in custody, told the Safapurs after his own release that Farhad tried to comfort him in detention. According to information available, he was beaten in custody. During his detention of about two months, he was held incommunicado.
According to the communiqué of the central prosecution office, Mr. Safapur was tried at the Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal of Esfahan. The date of the trial is not known. His family was not informed of the trial.
The central prosecution office announced that Mr. Safapur and 52 others, including his brother Majid, were collectively charged with “armed action against the Islamic Republic of Iran; terror; murder and attacking the Revolutionary Guards and Basij brothers; attacking the Basij dormitories; throwing Molotov cocktails and grenades in public places, [aiming at] cars and shops of the Revolutionary Guards, Basij, and the Hezbollahi [Party of God] people.” There is no information regarding the specific charges brought against Mr. Safapur.
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
The report of this execution does not contain information regarding the evidence provided against the defendant.
No information is available about Mr. Safarpur’s defense in trial. He was denied having an attorney. According to his brother, “he was never armed… His activities were completely peaceful. This was a principle that our parents taught us.” Farhad and his brother insisted that their peaceful political activities were their duties to the nation.
The Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal of Esfahan condemned Mr. Safapur to death. He, his brother, and 51 other persons were shot by firing squad in Esfahan on September 27, 1981. The following day at midnight, a doctor who worked at the coroner’s office and was a friend of their father, contacted a relative informing them of the executions of the Safapur brothers. He issued death certificates for them. Their family members buried them in the Esfahan cemetery. They were not allowed to have memorial services.
His family received a will, in which Mr. Safarpur stated, “To my father, mother, sister, and brothers. I cannot say in words what I’m feeling; the feeling of joining God. I love you all…” He ended the will by a quote of Emam Hossein saying “Life is but faith and jihad.”
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, 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 unions for the protection of one’s interests.
UDHR, Article 20; ICCPR, Article 22.1.
The right to due process
The right to be presumed innocent until found guilty by a competent and impartial tribunal in accordance with law.
ICCPR, Article 14.1 and Article 14.2.
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 the right to legal aid. The right to communicate with one’s attorney in confidence
ICCPR, Article 14.3.b and 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.
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.
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 14.1, Article 14.3.c.
The right to defense through an attorney or legal aid. The right to examine, or have examined, the witnesses against one, and the right to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on one’s behalf under the same conditions as prosecution witnesses.
ICCPR, Article 14.3.d and 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.