Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

Promoting tolerance and justice through knowledge and understanding
Victims and Witnesses

1988 : Mass Killing of Political Prisoners in Ahvaz

Ali interviewed by Monireh Baradaran
October 1, 2008

In a series of reports on the 1988 massacres in various Iranian cities, there is an interview with a former prisoner in Ahvaz. Convicted for association with a branch of the Fadayan-e Khalq, he had been incarcerated in Ahvaz prison from 1983 until September 1988. He was released upon the end of his prison term which had been reduced from 10 to 5 years. In this interview, he has preferred to be called Ali.

-         Where were you imprisoned in the summer of 1988?

-         Ali: In Ahvaz' Fajr prison.

-         At the time, did you notice any changes in the behavior of prison guards or authorities? If so, what changes and at what period?

-         Ali: We noticed that the number of Mujahedin in prison wards had decreased, since some of them who had been taken away for interrogation were not returned.  We did not know what was going on.  Initially, we thought that they were being interrogated because of their prior organizational activities. We soon realized, however, that the problem is more serious than normal prison interrogations and that some prisoners with leftist tendencies were not returned either.

-         Were your contacts with the outside world disrupted too? For example, did you lose the right to receive visitors or letters or have access to newspapers and television?

-         Ali: Yes, all these amenities were withdrawn.

-         Do you remember the date when the first group of prisoners were taken away and never returned?  

-         Ali: No, not the exact date. In our cell, in which nearly 30 unrepentant prisoners were kept, there were 10 to 15 Mujahids all of whom were taken away. Some of the Mujahids were also taken away from other wards.  Even the repentant prisoners, some of whom were given ordinary prison chores, such as food distribution or guarding the doors, were also taken away.

-         How many groups were taken away?

-         Ali: I don't know.

-         Where do you think they were taken to?

-         Ali: They were taken to solitary cells. The fact that some of these prisoners were subsequently executed became known to me after my release from prison.

-         Who were the individuals who decided the fate of the prisoners in your town? Had they come from Tehran or were they local authorities?

-         Ali: They were local authorities. For example, I was interrogated by three individuals. By Shafi'I who was one of the prison's wardens. There was an Arab whose name, I think, was Abbas.  And then there was a guy from the revolutionary court. In the group of interrogators there were two other individuals affiliated with the revolutionary court, Serami from Dezful, and Mehdizadeh who was known for his cruelty and violent nature. Mehdizadeh often frequented the wards for adolescent prisoners and was also known to be a sexual predator.

-         Do you have any information about the nature of the questions asked from the prisoners?

-         Ali: No, I don't because we had only limited personal acquaintances with Mujahedin prisoners. 

-         How were the prisoners of your town executed in the summer of 1988?

-         Ali: I do not know.

-         Were any women prisoners executed? Do you remember any of their names?

-         Ali: I have no information. Most probably, in 1988 some women were also executed.

-         Had all the executed prisoners already been convicted to prison terms. Were there any convicts who had completed their prison terms?

-         Ali: Yes. Those whom I knew from among the executed prisoners had been convicted to prison terms in early 1980's. Some of them had completed their prison terms, including Deylami, Abbasian and Payam Sadiq.

-         Were any leftist prisoners executed?

-         Ali: Not in the summer of 1988. Some had been executed prior to this date.

-         How were you treated? Were you summoned? Were you coerced to perform your daily prayers?

-         Ali: Yes, I too was summoned. The questions were brief. They ask me whether I was loyal to the Islamic Republic and whether I was a practicing Muslim. They wanted me to renounce my political beliefs in a public interview, which I refused to do. It was our collective decision not to submit to such interviews. Once more, they interrogated me and asked me the same questions. This time, however, instead of asking me to submit to an interview they wanted me to promise in writing not to resume my activities in the [Fadayan] organization following my release from prison. I agreed to this demand and was released since my prison term had run its course.

-         When did the situation returned to "normal" and the executions were ceased?

-         Ali: I do not know since I was no more in prison.

-         How were the families of the executed informed?  Are their burial grounds known in your town?

-         Ali: The family members who had for months asked in vain to visit their imprisoned relatives began to press to know the justification for the denial of their right. Finally, they were informed of the execution of their relatives at the prison gate. The mother of one of the Mujahedin had befriended my wife at the prison gate. After my release, my wife and I encountered her in the Ahvaz bazaar. Fully clad in black, she told us that she was told of her son's execution when his belongings were being handed to her. She also told us that the site of his son's grave was not known to her.  It was later rumored, however, that the bodies of those executed in Ahvaz in 1988 were buried in a cemetery called the "lot of the damned." However, the date of their execution was never announced.  

-         Are you aware of any measures taken by the victims' families in order to get some information about the circumstances surrounding the execution of their relatives?

-         Ali: No. I have no information about this.

-         Can you tell us the names of those executed in your town in the summer of 1988?

-         Ali: Behruz Abbasian, Daylami, Qahraman, whose brother had also been executed prior to 1988.