Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

Promoting tolerance and justice through knowledge and understanding
Victims and Witnesses

Glossary And Political Parties and Religious Denominations Referred to in Some of the Witness Testimonies

Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation
The Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation
August 12, 2013
Web article


Adelabad Prison Located in the city of Shiraz in central Iran's Fars Province, Adelabad Prison is the city's general prison, built under the previous regime. It is said to have carried out the largest number of executions after the Revolution.

Allaho Akbar Literally, "God is [the] Greatest," an expression used by Muslims in a multitude of situations, ranging from slaughtering an animal in the "halal" manner to chants on the battlefield. In the context of the Iranian Revolution, the phrase was first used as an anti-Shah, pro-Khomeini revolutionary slogan, and was taken up subsequently by executioners in prisons and elsewhere, prior to carrying out the act of execution. Since 2009, it has also been a chant used by dissidents against the Islamic Republic, cried out from rooftops during various uprisings against the regime.

Amuzeshgah A pair of interconnected administrative buildings at the Evin Prison complex in Tehran, which, after some minor changes were made, was used as a prison.*

Apostate, fetri or innate According to Iran's Islamic Penal Code, based on Shi'a Islam, an innate apostate is one who is born to Muslim parents (or a Muslim parent) who then leaves Islam. The punishment for a male innate apostate is death. The punishment for a female apostate, whether voluntary or innate, is life imprisonment, unless she repents, in which case she will be set free. (See also Shari'a)

Apostate, melli or voluntary According to Iran's Islamic Penal Code, based on Shi'a Islam, a voluntary apostate is one who has converted to Islam after reaching the age of maturity, but who then leaves Islam. The punishment for a voluntary apostate is death, unless he repents within three days after final sentencing for apostasy. (See also Shari'a)

Asayeshgah A building in the northern part of the Evin Prison complex, built in the early 1980s. Literally, "sanitarium" or a place of rest," it houses the Evin Prosecutor's Office as well as solitary confinement cells.**

Ashura A day of mourning on which Shi'a Muslims commemorate the martyrdom of Hossein ibn Ali, the grandson of Mohammad at the Battle of Karbala on 10 Muharram in the year 61 AH (in AHc: October 9, and in AHt: October 10, 680 CE). On this day Shi'a wear mourning attire and refrain from music. It is a time to express sorrow and respect for the person's passing, and it is also a time for self-reflection, when one commits oneself completely to mourning Hossein. It is a public holiday in Iran.

Ashura protests in 2009 Protestors used the opportunity of the Ahsura commemoration to organize a major anti-regime demonstration; many young activists were arrested on that day.

Boxes See Coffin

Boycott ("Food Boycott") One level below a full-fledged hunger strike, the prisoners would refuse to receive food for a specified period and would make do with what they had in the ward. Boycotting the prison store, visitations, and walks outside in the prison courtyard were other types of prisoner protest.*

Chador Traditional head-to-toe veil worn by Muslim women.

Closed ward A ward where cell doors were closed at all times and were opened only when prisoners went to wash up or to the bathroom. The ward was under special watch. Also called a solitary ward.*

Coffin A space with two wooden dividers on the left and right sides, a wall on the front side, and open on the back side-a box with one open side. These boxes, also called "coffins" and "graves," were in a section in Qezel Hesar Prison called "judgment day." Steadfast prisoners were sent there for punishment and were told, "This is a grave, and we want you to feel the pressure of the grave." Blindfolded prisoners were forced to sit on their knees in these spaces; they could not stand up and they were not allowed to move. They were forced to listen to the loudspeaker, which constantly played readings from the Qur'an and mourning songs.*

Committee 3000 See Moshtarak Committee

Death Committee A three-man delegation formed pursuant to Ayatollah Khomeini's secret fatwa (religious decree), probably issued in late in July 1988. The delegation consisted of a Shari'a (religious) judge, a public prosecutor, and an intelligence chief; it was charged with ascertaining whether prisoners affiliated with certain groups remained faithful to the group, or had repented and expressed sorrow for such allegiance. The prisoners' answers determined whether they would live or whether they would be executed. Prisoners would later call this delegation the "Death Committee." Other delegations were formed throughout the country in various provinces, on the same basis. (See Eshraqi, Nayyeri, Ra'isi, and Forugh Javidan)

Development Corps "Sepah Tarvij." Along with the Health Corps and the Knowledge Corps, the Development Corps was established during the Shah's 1963 reforms to allow young people to perform their military service in villages, by helping with development projects. The Health Corps and the Knowledge Corps promoted health and literacy, respectively.

Eid Qorban Sacrifice Festival, also called Feast of the Sacrifice. This is an important religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide to honor the willingness of the prophet Ebra¯hı¯m (Abraham) to sacrifice his young first-born son, Esma¯'ı¯l (Ishmael), as an act of submission to God's command, and of his son's acceptance of being sacrificed, before God intervened to provide Abraham with a lamb to sacrifice instead.

Enzejarnameh Literally, "enzejar," meaning abhorrence and "nameh," meaning letter. An abhorrence letter, in which prisoners would declare that they abhorred the ideas, commitments, and positions of political groups to which they had belonged, was one of the requirements for freedom.**

Eshraqi, Morteza Tehran Public Prosecutor and a member of the "Death Committee" that handed down death sentences in the 1988 mass killings of prisoners. He was identified by many survivors as having been involved in their initial prosecutions. He currently has a law practice in Tehran. (See also Death Committee)

Eshratabad Revolutionary Committee Formerly a police station, it was located in central Tehran, adjacent to and part of the Eshratabad barracks. See also Islamic Revolutionary Committee.

Evin Prison A prison complex in Iran, located in Evin, northwestern Tehran. It is noted for its political prisoners' wing, where prisoners were held both before and after the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Constructed in 1972 under the reign of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, Evin Prison is located at the foot of the Alborz mountains. Initially designed to house 320 inmates (20 in solitary cells and 300 in two large communal blocks), by 1977 Evin expanded to hold more than 1,500 prisoners (including 100 solitary cells). Under the Islamic Republic, the prison population expanded significantly.

Fatwa A religious decree pronounced by a high religious authority, usually a grand scholar of Islamic jurisprudence or "Mojtahed." In Shi'a Islam, fatwas can be binding, depending on the level of authority of the issuer, on all Muslims, or solely on the followers of the particular Mojtahed.

Forugh Javidan MKO's military operation, literally meaning "Eternal Light." Having been expelled from France, Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) leaders and many of its members went to Iraq and founded the National Liberation Army of Iran in 1987. With the help of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who provided the MKO with bases in Iraqi territory and logistics support, the MKO subsequently made several incursions into Iranian territory during the Iran-Iraq War, including Operation Aftab on 7 April 1988, Operation Chelcheragh on 18 June 1988, and Operation Forugh Javidan on 25 July 1988, the last and bloodiest of these incursions, when they were overwhelmingly defeated. In the wake of this operation, thousands of imprisoned Mojahedin supporters were killed during the mass executions of political prisoners in 1988, pursuant to Ayatollah Khomeini's decree.

Ghosl Literally, "washing" in Arabic, a prescribed method of religious (i.e., there must be a specific intent) washing, or purification, of the body. It encompasses acts ranging from washing after sexual acts to the ritual washing of the dead.

Gohardasht Prison A prison in Gohardasht (Rajai Shahr), a town in the northern outskirts of Karaj, approximately 40 km west of Tehran. Also known as Rajai Shahr Prison, it is considered one of Iran's harshest jails because of its many reported cases of torture.

Haji One who has performed Hajj (See Hajj)

Hajj or haj Annual pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca (in Saudi Arabia) and one of the five pillars of Islam. It is a religious duty that must be carried out by every able-bodied Muslim who has the financial means to make the pilgrimage at least once in his or her lifetime.

Hashti Prison hallway. (See also Zir hasht)

Hezbollahi Literally, Member of the Party of God, the name given to paramilitary pro-Khomeini pressure groups in the early years of the Islamic Revolution.

Hosseinyeh A place of worship for the mourning period of Ashura (see Ashura). A large, covered hall at Evin Prison that had once been the prison gymnasium, but was turned into a space used to conduct mourning rituals, as well as to give speeches and interview prisoners. At Gohardasht Prison there is a large space called Hosseinyeh at the end of each ward that had been used as a commissary under the Pahlavi regime. Some mass executions in 1988 took place in the Hosseinyeh of Gohardasht Prison.

Islamic Revolutionary Committee Paramilitary militia initially organized in every neighborhood mosque and school in the immediate aftermath of the Iranian Revolution. The committees were organized to function as a quasi-police force parallel with the Shahrbani (the official police force). Given the fact that by mid-1979 there were over 1,500 committees in Tehran alone, they were organized under a single command by order of Ayatollah Khomeini. Their duties included a wide spectrum of activities ranging from collecting thousands of weapons distributed to the general public during the Revolution, to confiscating property, fighting anti-revolutionaries, and preventing usury and bribery, among many other things. The committees served as "the eyes and ears" of the new regime, and were instrumental in establishing and maintaining an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. They carried out such illegal activities as arbitrary arrests and executions, unlawful searches of residences and persons, unlawful confiscations of property, and numerous other human rights violations and abuses. In 1991, the Islamic Revolutionary Committees were merged with the Gendarmerie and the Shahrbani to form a single entity called the Islamic Republic Police Force.

Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal (or Court) In the immediate aftermath of the Revolution, on February 13, 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini ordered the formation of an ad hoc tribunal, commonly referred to as the Extraordinary Revolutionary Tribunal, headed by Ayatollah Sadeq Khalkhali, to conduct what amounted to a court-martial of the high-ranking officials of the previous regime. No specific jurisdiction was defined, the Shari'a judge having broad authority and freedom to determine which cases to try and what charges to bring. Less than two weeks later, on 24 February 1979, a written decree was handed down by Ayatollah Khomeini appointing Ayatollah Khalkhali as Shari'a (see Shari'a) Judge and instructing him "to issue Shari'a-based rulings," thereby establishing the foundation of a system of special courts known as the Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal. Initially, no substantive or procedural rules were devised for these courts; their jurisdiction was as broad as that allowed by Shari'a rules interpreted by Ayatollah Khalkhali and other Shari'a judges in various provinces and towns, operating under his supervision. The Revolutionary Courts system was established in various towns and provinces, with a single Shari'a judge making the ultimate decisions. The rulings were final and not subject to review or appeal. The jurisdiction of Revolutionary Courts underwent several modifications over the years, each one expanding yet again the areas over which they had jurisdiction: "Acts contrary to Islamic Shari'a (‘Monkerat' or forbidden acts/activities), and Western vile acts and acts of that nature, with a view to [disobeying and belittling] the [Islamic Republic] system and disrupting political and moral security" were examples of such additions. In 1994, the jurisdiction of revolutionary courts underwent its last change, as of this writing.

Jamshidabad Prison A military prison located in the northern part of Tehran in the Jamshidabad barracks. In the immediate aftermath of the Revolution, it was still run by the Army.

Jihad An Arabic term meaning "struggle," commonly misunderstood as "Holy War." Within the context of Islam it refers to either the spiritual struggle to fulfill one's religious duties ("greater jihad") or the struggle against the enemies of Islam, which can take a violent or a non-violent form.

Jihad ward A prison unit where the prisoners, mainly repenters (see Tavvab) volunteered to work in the prison's construction, gardening, and landscaping projects, for which they were not paid. These prisoners were called "Jihadi." (See also Labor ward)*

Khabith Evil

Komeil A specific Shi'a prayer conducted on Thursday evenings and in the mid-month of Sha'ban (the Arabic month during which it is said the Shia's twelfth Imam was born). According to Shi'a belief, the prayer disposes of enemies, increases wealth, and forgives sins.

Labor ward A ward where prisoners, mainly repenters, could do work such as gardening, carpentry, and tailoring, for which they would be paid a small wage. (See also Jihad ward)*

Majless Shoraye Eslami The Islamic Consultative Assembly or the Iranian parliament, the national legislative body of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Majlis See Majless Shoraye Eslami

Maqna'eh A type of Islamic head wear that covers the hair, the ears, the neck, and the shoulders, and drops below the chest, leaving only the face exposed.

Mellikesh Convicts who had served their full sentences but were not released.

Mersad Operation The Islamic Republic's counterattack against the MKO's Eternal Light Operation. (See Foruq Javidan; see also Mojahedin Khalq Organization in Political Parties and Religious Denominations, below)

Mohareb [ba Khoda] Literally, "warrior against God," the person perpetrating the crime of "Moharebeh" (waging war against God), which is an Islamic concept that found its way into the laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran subsequent to the 1979 Revolution. It usually carries the death penalty. Article 196 of the Law of Hodud and Qesas (Islamic punishments) of 1982 defined Mohareb as one who "takes up arms in order to create fear and alarm and to deprive the population of its freedom and security." Article 198 further stated that "all individuals and supporters" of a group or organization that takes up arms against the Islamic regime "who have knowledge of the location of the group or contribute in any way to the advancement of its objectives shall be considered Mohareb, even though they have not participated in any of their regular branches." In the 1980s this concept was broadly interpreted by the Islamic Republic judiciary to encompass anyone associated with the MKO and leftist organizations. (See Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal)

Mojarad (Band) See Closed Ward

Monafeq Literally, "hypocrite," defamatory epithet the regime used to identify MKO members. Monafeq refers to a person who pretends to be Muslim but is in reality an infidel.

Monafeqin Plural of Monafeq, hypocrites

Moshtarak Committee An institution in Tehran, also known as the Tohid Committee, Comité Moshtarak, Ward 3000, or Committee 3000, that was created in response to the armed struggle launched by MKO and FKO in the early 1970s. Its full name was Comite-ye Moshtarak-e Zed-e Kharabkari (Joint Anti-Sabotage Committee). It was formed when the political police (SAVAK), the Police (Shahrbani), and the Gendarmerie collaborated in an effort to stop sabotage and dismantle the guerrilla organizations. Renamed Tohid Committee after the 1979 Revolution, it was used as a detention center by the revolutionary security forces. In 2002, Tohid Committee was turned into a museum (Ebrat Museum) dedicated to the history of repression and torture under the Shah, with no mention of what the building was used for during the first two decades of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Motahhari, Morteza (1920-1979) Iranian cleric, Islamic scholar, politician, and one of the high-profile ideologues of the Islamic Revolution of Iran. A disciple of Ayatollah Khomeini, he wrote several books on the tenets of Shi'a Islam concerning a multitude of topics. Khomeini entrusted him with the task of creating the Council of the Islamic Revolution, a secret body that was set up on 12 January 1979. From that date until his assassination on 1 May 1979, Motahhari headed this council, which led the Islamic revolutionary movement to victory and then acted as a "parallel government" that competed with the official post-revolutionary government. Part of Motahhari's intellectual output was dedicated to a critique of Marxist theories. He was assassinated in May 1979 by a member of Forqan organization. His works were widely taught in prisons.

Namaz jom'eh Friday Prayer ceremony

Nayyeri, Hossein'ali Shari'a judge and member of the Death Committee, named specifically by Ayatollah Khomeini in his 1988 fatwa. The Committee handed down death sentences in the 1988 mass killings of prisoners. He was identified as presiding over Death Committees in Tehran prisons by many survivors who had been permitted to take their blindfolds off when attending the committee, because he had presided over their earlier cases or was well known from television appearances. He admitted to Montazeri on 13 August 1988 that he had already executed 750 prisoners in Tehran. He is currently Deputy Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Iran. (See also Death Committee)

Open Ward A ward where cell doors are open and prisoners are free to walk about in the hallways and use the bathrooms.

Prosecutor's Office After the establishment of the revolutionary courts, the Revolutionary Prosecutor's Office was also established in order to prepare cases for trial by the revolutionary courts. Designed to serve as a venue for questioning a person accused of a crime, among other functions (within Iran's inquisitorial, as opposed to adversarial, judicial system), the Prosecutor's Office was used instead by interrogators/torturers inside prisons to extract information from the victims. The Prosecutor's Office of the General Courts, which was, and continues to be, a completely separate court system with jurisdiction over matters not within the jurisdiction of revolutionary courts, functioned in an entirely different setting, applying its own rules of procedure. (See Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal)

Public ward See Open ward

Qapani A type of torture consisting of being hung from the arms bent behind one's back.

Qesas The principle of an eye for an eye, the Islamic law of retribution.

Qezel Hesar Prison One of the largest prisons in Iran, it was built in 1964, in the Central District of Karaj County, Alborz Province.

Ra'isi, Ebrahim A prosecutor and the deputy of [Tehran Public Prosecutor] Morteza Eshraqi. He took Eshraqi's place on the Death Committee on occasion. He went on to become the Head of the General Inspection Organization and is now the Deputy Head of the Judiciary. (See Death Committee; see also Eshraqi, Morteza)

Rajai Shahr Prison See Gohardasht Prison

Ramadan The ninth month of the Islamic calendar, during which Muslims throughout the world fast.

Revolutionary Committee See Islamic Revolutionary Committee

Revolutionary Court See Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal

Revolutionary Guards A branch of Iran's military founded after the 1979 Revolution to safeguard the achievements of the Islamic Revolution. Its official name is "Sepah e Psadaran e Enqelab e Eslami" (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp). One of the main roles it has played since its formation has been to quash uprisings throughout Iran. It has also been instrumental in preventing and silencing dissent. Its feared Intelligence Section has been responsible for detaining and torturing political opponents. It has its own detention centers around the country, and its own section within Evin Prison. (See Sepah Detention Centers; see also Evin Prison)

Sar-e moze'i Prisoners who remained steadfast in their political opinions.

Sepah Detention Centers Detention centers and prisons used by the Revolutionary Guards Intelligence Section to detain and interrogate dissidents. They are spread across Iran in various towns and cities, including Tehran, Tabriz, and Shiraz.

Shari'a The religious law of Islam, which is based primarily on the Qur'an and the tradition of the Prophet Mohammad ("Sunna") and which regulates most aspects of a Muslim's life. In Shi'a Islam, Shari'a includes the traditions and teachings of the Twelve Imams, successors to the Prophet.

Shari'ati, Ali (1933-1977) Iranian sociologist whose main focus was on the sociology of religion. He is considered to be one of the ideologues of Iran's Islamic Revolution. In his numerous writings he provides a modern revolutionary interpretation of Islam. His powerful and emotional prose, though theoretically weak, had an incalculable influence over the youth and the middle class in pre-revolutionary Iran and facilitated the loyalty of Iran's middle class to Ayatollah Khomeini. Ironically, Shari'ati opposed the political rule of the clergy.

Shari'atmadari, Hossein Known to many former prisoners as "Brother Hossein," he is the managing editor of the Daily Kayhan, a conservative newspaper close to Ayatollah Khamene'i, Iran's Supreme Leader, which regularly engages in publishing accusatory and slanderous stories. Shari'atmadari, who is said to have close links to the intelligence apparatus, was purportedly an interrogator at Evin Prison, something he has denied. He has, however, admitted to having actively interviewed and "conducted dialogues with [political] prisoners. . . and [to] having succeeded in bringing them back to the path of the people and the Revolution."

Shiraz Sepah Detention Center The Revolutionary Guards Intelligence Section's detention center, located in the city of Shiraz in Fars Province in central Iran. It is also known as Number 100, because of its location on Sepah Street. It is physically part of an Islamic Republic Army base.

Solitary ward See Closed ward

Supreme Judicial Council "Shoraye A¯li Qaza'i" Established pursuant to Principle 158 of the Constitution and entrusted with managing and supervising all judicial, executive, and administrative affairs falling within the framework of the judicial system, it was the IRI judiciary's highest authority from 1982 to 1989. Composed of five members, including the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the Prosecutor General, it was replaced by the Head of the Judiciary, a single person appointed by the Supreme Leader of the Revolution, in 1989.

Ta'zir Discretionary religious punishment

Tamshit Room The torture chamber of Unesco Prison, which was located in the basement. The word "tamshit" literally means to manage, while, figuratively, it connotes "taking care of business."

Tavvab Literally, "one who has repented" or "repenter," it was a term used to refer to those prisoners who, for whatever reason, had expressed regret for and cut off their past and did not stop at anything to escape execution or be freed from detention ahead of schedule.

Tohid Committee See Moshtarak Committee

209 Basement The torture chamber of the Revolutionary Guards Intelligence Section in Evin's ward 209. This was where some of the trials were conducted during the 1988 mass killings and where prisoners were hanged right then and there.

Ulema Religious scholars. "Ulema" is plural.

Unesco Prison A building located in the city of Dezful in southern Iran, which was established, in cooperation with Unesco, for cultural and educational purposes during the Shah's regime. After the Revolution it was transformed into a prison, with new construction in the early 1980s expanding its small capacity.

Ward A prison section composed of a number of cells. The six wards of the Amuzeshgah at Evin Prison and the 24 wards at Gohardasht Prison were called "salon" instead of "ward." (See also Amuzeshgah and Gohardasht Prison)

Ward 209 A building adjacent to the Evin infirmary ("Behdari") made up of 10 wards and approximately 100 cells. Prior to the formation of the Ministry of Intelligence, it was used exclusively by the Revolutionary Guards' Intelligence and Security Section, which played the main role in crushing political organizations in the 1980s. It was later taken over by the Ministry of Intelligence.*

Ward 3000 See Moshtarak Committee

Wards 5 and 6 A two-story villa with a nice view, located in the southern part of the Evin Prison complex, composed of the two wards. Older prisoners and prisoners not belonging to "mini-groups" (a derogatory term used to describe MKO and certain leftist organizations) were kept there, where there were more and better amenities.*

Wards 240, 216, 246 The names of Evin's four wards that were also known as wards 1, 2, 3, and 4. The numbers were actually the phone extensions for these wards.*

Wards 325, 311 Solitary confinement cells at the old Evin Prison complex that were used by both male and female prisoners. They were also known as the "green cells."

Yazid Yazı¯d ibn Mu'a¯wiya ibn Ab¯ı Sufya¯n (23 July 647-14 November 683) was the third Caliph and the first through inheritance. He had been appointed by his father Muawiyah I and ruled for three years from 680 CE until his death in 683 CE. Yazid's army fought and killed Imam Hossein, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammad and the third Shi'a Imam, in the battle of Karbala (in present day Iraq) on 10 October 680. Imam Hossein's martyrdom, called Ashura and commemorated annually by Shi'a Muslims, is one of the most important events in Shi'a Islam. Yazid is regarded by Shi'a Muslims as the epitome of cruelty and ruthlessness. (See also Ashura)

Zir hasht Offices where prison guards and prison administrators were stationed.The administrative work of the detention centers and wards was also carried out in these offices. This expression is a remnant of the Shah's regime and Qasr Prison. The Qasr Prison office was located at the junction of eight wards and was therefore called Hasht ("Eight") or Hashti. This was also where prisoners were punished.*

* Drawn from Iraj Mesdaghi's "Prison Dictionary"

** Partially drawn from Iraj Mesdaghi's "Prison Dictionary"



Political Parties and Religious Denominations Referred to in the Witness Statements

The following list of political groups and religious denominations is not exhaustive and includes only those referred to in the witness statements. The summary descriptions are limited in scope and chronology.

Ahl-e Haq ("People of Truth" or "Yarsan")

Ahl-e Haq is a religious minority not recognized by the Iranian Constitution. It is a mystic religious school founded in the late 14th century in western Iran, the majority of whose members live primarily in western Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan. (There are Ahl-e Haq adherents in Turkey, Albania, Syria, and Afghanistan.) In Iran they are estimated to number around one million and are subjected to religious discrimination and prevented from practicing their faith communally. Though some adepts of this school still consider themselves Shi'a Muslims, the Ahl-e Haq tenets are distinct from the Shi'a doctrine. They believe that God has manifested Himself in human form several times, and that man is given more than one thousand lives to purify himself and find proximity to God. For them, the Shari'a is only the esoteric aspect of religion and the first stage of religious education. This first stage is to be followed by the second stage (the path), and the third stage (gnosis, knowledge of spiritual realities), and, finally, the fourth and last stage (the ultimate truth). The title of the Order, Ahl-e Haq, meaning "people of truth," implies that they consider themselves to have already gone through the previous stages and are now at the final stage. As such, they believe that they are no longer required to observe some of the rules of Shari'a.

Arman-e Mostaz'afin

Arman-e Mostaz'afin was a small political group opposed to the political role of the clergy, strongly influenced by the teachings of Ali Shari'ati, one of the major theoreticians of political Islam in Iran. Actually called Sazman-e Razmandegan-e Pishgam-e Mostaz'afin, the group came to be known by the name of its publication, Arman-e Mostaz'afin. It was founded in the summer of 1976 by Baqer Borzui, and premised upon its own particular interpretation of the Qur'an, with strong leftist leanings. The group became active after the Revolution, mainly in the realm of theory and ideology, and in the course of two years published numerous books as well as articles in its publication Arman-e Mostaz'afin. To achieve its goals, the group's strategy was to influence the people away from the clergy. In the winter of 1982 the leaders of the group were arrested, and, although none were executed, Arman-e Mostaz'afin ceased to exist inside Iran in 1982.

Bahá'í (the religion)

The Bahá'í Faith was founded in Iran in 1844 and is now its largest non-Muslim religious minority. While reaffirming the core ethical principles common to all religions, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, Bahá'u'lláh, was also said to have revealed new laws and teachings to lay the foundations of a global civilization. The central theme of the Bahá'í Faith is that humanity is one family and the time has come for its unification into a peaceful global society. The authorities of the Islamic Republic have subjected the members of the Bahá'í religious community of Iran (approximately 300,000 members in 1979) to systematic harassment and persecution, depriving them of their most fundamental human rights. The Bahá'í religion is not recognized under the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, and Iranian authorities refer to it as a heresy. As a result, the Bahá'ís have been denied the rights associated with the status of a religious minority; they cannot profess and practice their faith and are banned from public functions. Discrimination under the law and in practice has subjected them to abuse and violence. The Islamic Republic Penal Code grants no rights to Bahá'í s, and the courts have denied them the right to redress or to protection against assault, murder, and other forms of persecution and abuse. In so doing, the courts have treated Bahá'ís as unprotected citizens or "apostates," citing eminent religious authorities whose edicts are considered to be a source of law equal to acts of Parliament. The Founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini, made execution a punishment for the crime of apostasy and decreed that a Muslim would not be punished for killing an apostate. Banishment from public functions has seriously damaged the Bahá'ís' professional, economic, and social lives. Soon after the Revolution, a Ministry of Labor directive called for the dismissal from public office and all governmental organizations and associations those "who belong to any of the misguided sects recognized by all Muslims as heretical deviations from Islam, or to organizations whose doctrine and constitution are based on rejection of the divinely-revealed religions." Finally, the mandatory requirement of specifying religion in application forms and official documents (lifted recently in some areas as a result of international pressure) has seriously limited Bahá'ís' freedoms and opportunities in all areas of their lives including divorce, inheritance, access to universities, and travel. In practice, since 1980, thousands of Bahá'ís have lost their jobs, pensions, businesses, properties, and educational opportunities. By banning the Bahá'í organization, an elected spiritual body that administers the affairs of the faith at both local and national levels, the Islamic Republic has denied Bahá'ís the right to meet, elect, and operate their religious institutions. Furthermore, the Iranian government has executed at least 200 Bahá'ís and has imprisoned, tortured, and pressured to convert to Islam scores more. Because of the unanimous international condemnation of the persecution of this quietist (apolitical) religious community, Iranian authorities do not always admit that the Bahá'ís are being punished for their religious beliefs. Therefore, judicial authorities have often charged Bahá'ís with offenses such as being involved in "counter-revolutionary activities," supporting the "former regime," being "agents of Zionism," or being involved with "prostitution, adultery, and immorality."

Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI)

The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) was founded in 1945 with the objective of gaining autonomy for Kurdistan, in northwestern Iran. After the Revolution, conflicts between the new central Shi'a government and the mainly Sunni Kurdistan regarding the role of minorities in the drafting of the constitution, designation of Shi'a Islam as the official state religion, and the autonomy of the region, resulted in armed clashes between the Revolutionary Guards and the Peshmerga (the militia of the PDKI). The PDKI boycotted the 30-31 March 1979 referendum on the establishment of the Islamic Republic regime. On 19 August 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini called the PDKI the "party of Satan" and declared it "banned and illegal." Mass executions and fighting broke out and continued for several months in the region. By 1983 PDKI had lost much of its influence in the region. Over the years, members and leaders of the PDKI have been victims of deadly terrorist attacks, both inside and outside Iran. The charismatic leader of PDKI, Dr. Abdorrahman Qasemlu, was assassinated in July 1989 in Vienna, Austria. His successor, Dr. Sadeq Sharafkandi, was killed in September 1992 in the Greek restaurant Mikonos in Berlin, Germany. Although the Islamic Republic has never accepted responsibility for these assassinations, evidence in the Sharafkandi case directly implicating Iran's leaders led the Berlin court investigating the matter to issue subpoenas to a number of high-ranking Iranian officials.

Ettehadieh Komonist-ha (EK)

Ettehadieh Komonist-ha (Communists Union) was the product of the August-September 1976 merger of two Marxist-Leninist groups, Sazeman-e Enqelabiun-e Komonist ("Communist Revolutionaries' Organization") and Puya, composed of exiled opponents of the Pahlavi regime who were mostly active in the Iran Student Confederation (an opposition student union based outside Iran, 1967-1983). They followed the teachings of Mao Tse-tung and did not believe in guerrilla warfare. They viewed the Soviet Union as a "socialist-imperialist" state and the Shah as a puppet of the United States and Great Britain. The group was marked by ideological divides during the periods preceding and following the 1979 Revolution, which caused it to split into several factions. One of the most important rifts was triggered by the decision by a number of members to take up arms and take over a city in Iran. The uprising plan, devised in the midst of an active and violent anti-Communist campaign by the revolutionary Islamic government, split the Ettehadieh into two factions, one believing in armed movement and the other opposing it. In the winter of 1982, armed members of the Ettehadieh hid in a forest ("jangal" in Farsi) in the north of Iran outside the city of Amol. This group, known as the Jangal Group, was involved in several clashes with the Revolutionary Guards and ultimately, on 26 January 1982, attacked the city of Amol, hoping to spark a general uprising. There were casualties on both sides as well as among civilians; the surviving members of the Jangal Group were arrested. Most EK members and supporters, including those who opposed the Amol uprising, were subsequently arrested and tried for belonging to the organization and for having participated in the Amol clash, and many were executed.

Fadaiyan Khalq Organization

The Fadaiyan Khalq Organization, a Marxist-Leninist group inspired by the Cuban Revolution and other Latin American urban guerrilla movements, was founded in 1971 by two Communist groups opposed to the Pahlavi regime. In 1981 the organization, which after the Revolution had opted for open political and electoral activity, split over the issues of armed struggle and support for the Islamic Republic and the Soviet Union. Three separate branches came into existence: the FKO Majority, FKO Minority, and FKO Guerrilla Organization.

FKO Majority supported the Islamic Republic as a revolutionary and anti-imperialist regime. The group renounced armed struggle. After the spring of 1983, however, the Islamic Republic targeted its members solely on the basis of their political beliefs.

FKO Minority opposed the Islamic Republic. In the summer of 1981, the FKO Minority announced the organization of combatant cells. However, based on available information, these cells never became operational. Though the group did not completely abandon the theory of armed struggle, its activities were mainly limited to the political arena and the labor movement. Many of its members and supporters were arrested and executed in the early 1980s.

FKO Guerrillas (Ashraf Dehqani Branch) did not renounce armed struggle and strongly opposed the Islamic regime of Iran. The group was founded and led by Ashraf Dehqani, a high-ranking female member.


Forqan was formed in 1977 by a group of Ali Shari'ati's followers who adhered to a modern interpretation of the Qur'an and Islamic ideology. It is not clear whether the group was armed or not, but it went underground soon after its formation. From the onset of the Revolution, this group opposed the involvement of the clergy in the government, as well as the particular interpretation of Islam later implemented by the Islamic Republic authorities. In the short period of its post-revolutionary activity, the group was accused of involvement in armed robberies and the assassination of several high-ranking regime officials, including two clerics, former students and close collaborators of Ayatollah Khomeini. Most of the known members of the group were executed or killed in clashes with Islamic Revolutionary Committee forces, resulting in the total elimination of the group by 1980.

Hezb-e Kar-e Iran ("Iran Labor Party" or Tufan)

Khrushchev's de-Stalinization policies in the Soviet Union led to a political crisis in the Iranian Communist party Tudeh, as in many Communist parties around the world. Hezb-e Kar-e Iran or Tufan (initially called the "Revolutionary Organization of the Tudeh Party," and subsequently the "Marxist-Leninist Organization of Tufan") was founded on 10 December 1963 as a result of a split from the Tudeh Party of Iran. The Party believes that after the death of Stalin, who had established the dictatorship of the proletariat in its true sense, the Soviet Union became a socialist-imperialist country. The organization changed its name after the 1979 Revolution, first to the Party of Workers and Farmers of Iran, and later to Iran Labor Party, Tufan. The Party supports the overthrow of the Islamic Republic and the establishment of a proletarian dictatorship. Its activities are concentrated mainly outside Iran. The Iran Labor Party is a member of the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations and publishes the magazine Tufan.

Islamic Republic Party (Jomhuri Eslami Party)

The Islamic Republic Party (Jomhuri Eslami Party) was formed in 1979. It was the first political party to gather the most influential clergymen and laymen who shared Ayatollah Khomeini's ideology. The party was formed on the premise of strengthening, protecting, and exporting the ideals of the Islamic Revolution under the leadership of the Spiritual Leader and of fighting all "anti-Islamic" forces and political opposition. The Jomhuri Eslami newspaper was the Party's main publication. On 28 June 1981 an explosion at the Islamic Republic Party headquarters caused the death of about 72 party members, including its secretary general Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, then-head of the Supreme Court. The Iranian authorities blamed the bombing on the Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO). The MKO, however, without denying involvement, never accepted responsibility for the bombing. In the next few years, several individuals who were affiliated with the MKO or accused of being Iraqi agents were charged in connection with the bombing and were executed. No other opposition group claimed responsibility. The Islamic Republic Party dissolved itself in June 1987 due to factionalism and divergences of opinion, and disagreements over policy-making among its high-ranking officials.


While in exile in Iraq in the mid 1960s, several remaining members of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran established the Revolutionary Organization of the Kurdistan Democratic Party. Among its leaders were Esma'il Sharifzadeh, Abdollah Mo'ini, and Mola'avareh, who began an armed guerrilla struggle in Kurdistan inspired by the Cuban Revolution. The group was defeated in 1969 and several of its members killed or arrested. With the release of a number of the leaders in 1978, the Revolutionary Organization of Working People in Kurdistan (Komala) was established. After the Revolution, in accordance with Marxist theory, Komala opposed capitalists and landlords, and encouraged workers and peasants in Kurdistan, in particular in the city of Sanandaj and vicinity where they had strong support, to initiate an armed uprising against capitalists, landlords, and the central government. In 1982, Komala joined another Marxist group, Union of Communist Militants (formerly Sahand), an organization concentrating mainly on theory and ideology, and established the Communist Party of Iran. Komala subsequently adopted the name "The Kurdistan Organization of the Communist Party of Iran, Komala." By the mid-1980s the central government had succeeded in pushing Komala fighters out of Kurdistan and into northern Iraq. Years later, Komala split from the Communist Party of Iran and faced several schisms, each continuing to use the name Komala.

Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO)

The Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) was founded in 1965. This organization adopted the principles of Islam as its ideological framework. However, its members' interpretation of Islam was revolutionary, and they believed in armed struggle against the Shah's regime. They valued Marxism as a progressive method of economic and social analysis but considered Islam as their source of inspiration, culture, and ideology. In the 1970s the MKO was weakened when many of its members were imprisoned and executed. In 1975, following a deep ideological crisis, the organization refuted Islam as its ideology and, after a few of its members were killed and other Muslim members purged, the organization proclaimed Marxism as its ideology. This move led to the split of the Marxist-Leninist Section of the MKO in 1977. In January 1979 the imprisoned Muslim leaders of the MKO were released along with other political prisoners. They began to reorganize the MKO and recruit new members based on Islamic ideology. After the 1979 Revolution and the establishment of the Islamic Republic, the MKO accepted the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini and supported the Revolution. Active participation in the political scene and infiltration of government institutions were foremost on the organization's agenda. During the first two years after the Revolution, the MKO succeeded in recruiting numerous sympathizers, especially in high schools and universities; but its efforts to gain political power, either by appointment or election, were strongly opposed by the Islamic Republic leaders. The exclusion of MKO members from government offices and the closure of their centers and publishing houses, in conjunction with the Islamic Republic authorities' different interpretation of Islam, widened the gap between the two. Authorities of the new regime referred to the Mojahedin as "hypocrites," and the Hezbollahi supporters of the regime attacked the Mojahedin sympathizers regularly during their demonstrations and when they distributed their publications, leading to the death of several MKO supporters. On 20 June 1981 the MKO called for a demonstration protesting their treatment by government officials and the government officials' efforts to impeach their ally, President Abolhassan Banisadr. Despite the fact that the regime called this demonstration illegal, thousands came to the streets, some of whom confronted the Revolutionary Guardsmen and Hezbollahis. The number of casualties that resulted from this demonstration is unknown, but a large number of demonstrators were arrested and executed in the following days and weeks. The day after the demonstration, the Islamic Republic regime started a repressive campaign-unprecedented in modern Iranian history. Thousands of MKO members and sympathizers were arrested or executed. On 21 June 1981 the MKO announced an armed struggle against the Islamic Republic and assassinated a number of high-ranking officials and supporters of the Islamic regime. In the summer of 1981, the leader of the MKO and the impeached President (Banisadr) fled Iran to reside in France, where they founded the National Council of Resistance. After the MKO leaders and many of its members were expelled from France, they went to Iraq, where in 1987 they founded the National Liberation Army of Iran.The National Liberation Army entered Iranian territory a few times during the Iran-Iraq War, but was defeated in July 1988 during its last operation, the Forugh Javidan (Eternal Light) Operation. A few days after this operation, thousands of imprisoned Mojahedin supporters were killed during the mass executions of political prisoners in 1988. Ever since the summer of 1981, the MKO has continued its activities outside of Iran. No information is available regarding members and activities of the MKO inside the country. In spite of the "armed struggle" announcement by the MKO on 20 June 1981, many sympathizers of the organization had no military training, were not armed, and did not participate in armed conflict.


Navid was the Tudeh Party's underground group that became active in the fall of 1975, before the Revolution. In late 1975 and early 1976 it began publishing a clandestine newspaper under the same name, which soon became a monthly publication, distributed in a clandestine fashion by the group's members, who were never made aware of the group's hierarchy. Navid ceased publication soon after the Islamic Revolution.


Peykar Organization for the Liberation of the Working Class

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 was also joined by a number of political organizations, known as Khat-e Se (Third Line). The founding tenets of Peykar included the rejection of guerrilla struggle and the adoption of a strong stance against the pro-Soviet policies of the Iranian Tudeh Party. Peykar viewed the Soviet Union as a "socialist-imperialist" state, believed that China had deviated from the 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.

Rah-e Kargar

Rah-e Kargar or the Revolutionary Workers Organization of Iran was established in the summer of 1979. The Organization was founded by individuals from various leftist groups who rejected the idea of armed struggle and believed in political action. They identified themselves as Marxist-Leninists, promoting a socialist revolution and the leadership of the proletariat. They differed with the pro-Soviet Communist party, Tudeh, in that they opposed the Islamic Republic and Ayatollah Khomeini's leadership.

Ranjbaran Party

The Ranjbaran Party of Iran was established in Tehran by a number of Marxist groups and parties in late December 1979. The founders of Ranjbaran were Marxist-Leninist and followers of Mao Tse-tung's school of thought. They opposed the USA and the USSR and supported Ruhollah Khomeini as an anti-imperialist leader. During the massive repression of 1981, the party was banned and its leaders were executed. Its publication, Ranjbar, has occasionally been published outside Iran since 1981.

Rastakhiz Party

The Rastakhiz Party was established in 1975 as Iran's sole political party upon the abolition of the multi-party system and the establishment of the single-party system in the country. The Shah's regime announced membership in Rastakhiz to be the civic duty of all citizens. The main principles of Rastakhiz were: loyalty to the Constitution, the Monarchy, and the goals of the White Revolution. The latter was a series of reforms, launched in 1963 by Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi (1919-1980) with the goal of improving economic and social conditions in the country. Land reform and women's suffrage were at the center of the White Revolution. Among other reforms of the White Revolution were the establishment of the Knowledge Corps (to combat illiteracy), the Health Corps and the Development Corps, which added a component of civil service in remote areas to the compulsory military service (see Development Corps in the glossary). The activities of Rastakhiz Party ceased after the February 1979 Revolution.

Razmandegan Organization

The Razmandegan Organization for the Liberation of the Working Class was founded in the winter of 1979. Its activities were focused on the working class and factories. The founding tenets of Razmandegan included the rejection of armed struggle and the adoption of a strong stance against the pro-Soviet policies of the Iranian Tudeh Party. It viewed the Soviet Union as a "socialist-imperialist" state and believed that China had deviated from Marxist-Leninist principles. Razmandegan was among the groups that became known as Khat-e Se (Third Line). By early 1981disagreements concerning the Party's position on the Iran-Iraq War caused internal splits within Razmandegan. These splits, which coincided with the massive and brutal repression of dissidents by the Iranian government, caused the Organization to disband.

Sahand Organization

The Sahand Organization (later Union of Communist Militants) was founded after the Islamic Revolution of February 1979, with the specific goal of focusing on theory and ideology. In 1982 the Union of Communist Militants and Komala, along with the remaining members of other Communist organizations such as Peykar, Razmandegan, and certain affiliates of the Fadaiyan Khalq, joined together to found the Communist Party of Iran. Later, the Union of Communist Militants itself was divided into a number of factions. Once the principal pillar of the Communist Party of Iran, Komala then separated from the Party. The Communist Party of Iran is now composed mostly of the Union of Communist Militants members. There is a Kurdistan organization affiliated with it, which also calls itself Komala.

Setareh Sorkh ("The Red Star")

Setareh Sorkh was a Communist guerrilla group established in 1970 by Ali Reza Shokuhi to fight the Pahlavi regime. Shokuhi was imprisoned from 1971 to 1979, along with some of his comrades. Upon Shokuhi's release, he and former Setareh Sorkh members, along with members of a number of other leftist parties, participated in the establishment of the Revolutionary Workers Organization of Iran, Rah-e Kargar.

Shi'a Esna Ashari, state religion of Iran

Shi'a Esna Ashari ("Followers of the Twelve Imams") refers to the adherents of the branch of Islam who believe that Imam Ali, the Prophet Mohammad's cousin, son-in-law, and the first Muslim, is his rightful successor and the first Imam, as are his descendants, ending with the twelfth, Imam Mahdi, who is in occultation (i.e., that he disappeared and will one day return to fill the world with justice). Infallibility of the twelve Imams and the eventual return of the Twelfth Imam Mahdi are the cornerstones of the Shi'a religion.

Tudeh Party

The Tudeh Party of Iran was created in 1941. The Tudeh's ideology was Marxist-Leninist and supported the former Soviet Union's policies. The Party played a major role on Iran's political scene until it was banned for a second time following the 19 August 1953 coup d'état. After the 1979 Revolution, the Tudeh declared Ayatollah Khomeini and the Islamic Republic regime revolutionaries and anti-imperialists, and actively supported the new government. Tudeh's main publication was Rahe-Tudeh. The Party played an important role in political debates and the development of Marxist-leaning parties in Iran. It had members and sympathizers in the country's intelligentsia, among teachers, and in academia, as well as in the armed forces and among workers. Although the Party never opposed the Islamic Republic, it became the target of its attacks from 1982, when most of the Party's leaders and members were imprisoned. Though Party leaders were not executed, many of its members were, including during the 1988 mass prison killings. Tudeh leaders were released from prison in the late 1980s and the Party's activities continued outside the country, as did its publication of Rahe-Tudeh.

Tufan See Hezb-e Kar-e Iran

Vahdat-e Komonisti (Communist Unity) Organization

The Vahdat-e Komonisti (Communist Unity) Organization was founded in November 1978 by Communist political activists, particularly students who were educated outside the country and returned to Iran, as well as like-minded activists inside the country. The history of its founding dates back to the Ettehadieh Komonist-ha (Communists Union), which was formed outside Iran in the late 1960s. The members of Vahdat-e Komonisti identified themselves as supporters of the "political-military struggle for the preparation and accomplishment of a Socialist revolution," and as leftists, opposed to Stalinism and Maoism. Among the activities of this organization were critiques of the political and ideological viewpoints of political organizations in Iran via the publication of Raha'i, the main Vahdat-e Komonisti publication. During the massive crackdown on opposition groups in June 1981, the organization faced significant crises and split into various factions. Members of the organization outside Iran continued their activism until 1986 through the publication of Andisheh Raha'i and Bultan-e Akhbar-e Iran (the Bulletin of Iranian News).

ABF editor's note: In the early 1980s a number of militants from various leftist groups joined the ranks of the armed rebellion in Iranian Kurdistan, notwithstanding the official position of their respective organizations on armed struggle.