1988 Mass Execution of Political Prisoners in Hamedan, A Testimony
Through an interview with Hadi Aminian we are offered a look at the mass execution of political prisoners in Hamedan. He was arrested in March 1982 in connection with the Rah e Kargar (The Worker’s Path) Organization and served term at Hamedan Prison until the end of March 1989. Hadi Aminian was originally sentenced to death, but his sentence was commuted to 20 years in prison.
Mr. Aminian, which prison were you held at during the summer of ’88?
I was at Hamedan Prison at that time and, as the person elected by the inmates and approved by the prison officials to be in charge of the ward’s affairs, I learnt about the mass executions from the onset.
Did you notice any changes in the behavior of the prison officials and guards during this time? What kinds of changes and when did they begin?
The prison officials changed their attitude sometime in mid June, 1988. After careful inspections, they transferred everyone in our ward, close to 50 individuals, to the basement (the prison’s bomb shelter). The officials and some of the guards started beating, threatening, intimidating, and insulting us. Of course not all of us; some, like myself, were only blindfolded and made to stand on their feet for hours. The main change took place on July 30th, the night of Imam Reza’s birthday. In the evening, the Religious Judge Salimi, the Prosecutor Ra’isi, the head of the Prison Maleki, and the Minister of Intelligence Musavi came to our ward along with a few guards and asked each and every inmate to comment on the party they belonged to and their business needs. This went on for hours, long into the night. The next day they called a number of people, including me. We were taken to a “court,” or some kind of interrogation, at the office of the official in charge of our ward. Afterwards, they kept us all in a room outside the ward. At the end of the night, they sent us (about 15 individuals) back to the ward.
Do you remember when the first group of inmates were taken out of the ward and never returned?
On that very first day, three of the Mojahed inmates were taken out and never returned. Their names were Arjang Ramaqi (around 23 years of age and sentenced to 20 years in prison, six years of which he had already served), and Mehdi and Mostafa Izadi, who were cousins and both around 22 years of age. They, too, had been originally sentenced to 20 years in prison, but their term had later been reduced to seven or ten years. We heard from common crime prisoners that they had been violently forced into a car and taken away. The next day, they took 12 others with some of their belongings, and they never returned either.
Had they cut the prisoners’ contact with the outside world by this time? For instance, visitors, letters, newspapers, or television?
If I’m not mistaken, July 30th was a visitors’ day. Visits took place in two sessions, morning and afternoon. The morning group was allowed visitors, but not the afternoon group. They took out the TV, and the daily two-hour recess was cut as well. For two months, newspapers, visitors, and any contact with the other wards were cut altogether. They even welded the windows shut. After a while, they allowed half an hour of recess a day. After they took out all the inmates that were to be never returned, they gave the rest of us a questionnaire that asked our opinion about recent events outside the prison, including military operations by the Mojahedin at the Western borders. After consulting amongst ourselves and arriving at a consensus, we filled in the questionnaire and signed it collectively. The executions were still going on. The next day, they took out Ahmad Rayhani, and he never returned. Rayhani had been sentenced to 20 years, though later the number of years had been reduced to seven. He had already served his seven years and had only 19 days left to the end of his term. He was barely 16 when he was arrested and was no more than 22 at the time of his execution.
Where did you guess they were taken?
I don’t know for sure. At the time we thought that they were transferred to other prisons because of the war [Iran-Iraq War, 1980-88]. This had been done before during the city bombings. But we had also seen all their bags and belongings piled up in a room, and this surprised us and made us suspicious. Haj Babayi, Assistant Head of the prison, had asked for their bags after the prisoners were taken to “nowhere land.”
Who did the commission that determined the fate of the prisoners consist of? Were they local officials or did they come from the capital?
Our commission consisted of the same familiar faces we knew from before. Only the Head of Intelligence was new. But, in fact, the main decision makers were Religious Judge Salimi, the Prosecutor and Head of the prison, and Assistant Prosecutor Salavati.
Do you know what questions they asked the prisoners who were not returned?
The questions were of this sort: “Do you approve of the group or organization you belonged to? How do you evaluate their activities?” They asked me, “Do you pray? Have you accepted Islam? What do you think of the Revolution? And do you agree with the Mojahedin movement or not?” The entire question and answer session took perhaps around 10 minutes.
What was the method of execution in your city in the summer of ’88?
I believe they were executed by firing squad. Someone said that he had heard the voice of Majid Bakhshi, who always suffered from pains in his feet, asking the guards to shoot him and put him out of his misery. But they also hanged some of the prisoners, as well as those who had just been arrested, using different methods in some parts of the city. For example, Hosein Rajabi, who had been originally sentenced to 15 years in prison and later to seven, was hanged in a gas station along with a few others who had just been arrested, possibly in connection with the Forugh e Javidan operation.
Were there any women among the executed? Do you remember any of their names?
I only know for sure that two Mojahed women were executed in the summer of ’88. One of them was Zahra Sharifi, and the other Ma’sumeh Mirzayi.
Had all the people who were executed already been sentenced to prison? Were there individuals among them who had already finished their term? Do you remember their names?
All of the people who were executed had already been sentenced to prison. Most of them had had their sentences reduced or had already been pardoned. There were three individuals who had been released but were brought back to prison in ’88 and executed. One of them was Javad Torabi who was released in ’87 and was going about his life. He was a clerical student and a sympathizer of the Mojahedin whose wife had already been executed. We heard that three people showed up to his store and asked about his political views. Then they arrested and executed him. The others were Ali Jalali and Hamid (whose last name, I believe, was Sadeqi), also re-arrested in ’88 and executed.
Did they execute anyone from the Left in your prison?
I’m not sure, but I think Sa’id Dadkhah, a sympathizer of Khat e 3 (Line Three), who was transferred to Hamedan from Tehran and kept in solitary confinement, was among those executed in the summer of ’88. But there was also another Sa’id Dadkhah executed in the summer of ’88. He was a Mojahedin sympathizer and had been transferred to Hamedan from Sistan and Baluchestan. From among the leftists, only three were taken to court: Abbas Sharifi and Hosein Ja’farian who were Majority Branch sympathizers, and another guy who came from Tuyserkan.
How did they treat you? Did they summon you? Did they pressure you to perform prayers at the time?
They did not mention anything about participation in religious ceremonies, so apart from one or two individuals, nobody took part in these activities. A couple of times Karim, the representative of the Intelligence Ministry, came to check on the wards. He asked some people some questions. He asked me, “Don’t you want to be released?” I said I hadn’t chosen to be in prison; I had only been brought there. The second time around, on October 13th, they took me and four others to solitary confinement and left us there for a month without ever checking on us. In November, they took me to the Intelligence Office and said, “We have brought you here to execute you for your participation in prison networks, just as we executed the others.” It was then that I realized the dimensions of the tragedy that had taken place. Three days later, Interrogator Hamed came to the cell and said, “It’s too late now; you won’t be executed.” I was there for a month, during which time I was granted one family visit. Then they transferred me to another cell where I was kept for 15 days with two common crime inmates, one sentenced to execution and the other to stoning. On January 5, 1989, I was taken to a ward where the doors were locked at all times. It was similar to what I had experienced in the past six years before the mass executions.
When did things go back to “normal” and the executions stop?
Already by October 13th, things had gone back to normal for the rest of the prisoners. For me personally it took a little longer. But our internal state never went back to normal. A fog of sorrow befell the prison, and joy never showed its face again. We collapsed inside.
How did they notify the families? Is it clear where the executed were buried?
The families received a phone call to go and collect their loved ones’ belongings. The executed were buried in the Hamedan cemetery, unless they were from Hamedan, in which case they were taken to other cities to be executed. For example, Hushang Ahmadi was taken to Qom and was executed there, or Hadi Hadian was taken to Nahavand and was executed there. They were not buried in Hamedan.
Do you know if any of the families of those executed in your city made any attempts to obtain information about the fate of their children?
Not that I’ve heard of. But back in those days, they would gather in front of the Hamedan Tribunal all day until one day they would receive the call to go and collect their children’s belongings. They drowned in eternal sorrow, and some of them died from it, like the fathers of Hadi Hadian and Mostafa and Mehdi Izadi.
Can you name the individuals who were executed in your city in the summer of ’88?
Here are the names that I do and will remember:
Sa’id Dadkhah Hosein Hamedani
Hamid Sadeqi ?
About 32 people in Hamedan were executed. Cherished be their names and memories.
From Bidaran: Thank you, Hadi Aminian.
 “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.
 The Forugh e Javidan, or “Eternal Light,” operation was a military attack launched from Iraqi territory against the Islamic Republic’s army by the Mojahedin People of Iran, an armed Islamic revolutionary opposition group based in Iraq.