Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

Omid, a memorial in defense of human rights in Iran
One Person’s Story

Ali Agah


Age: 22
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam (Shi'a)
Civil Status: Single


Date of Killing: August, 1988
Location of Killing: Mashhad, Khorasan\Khorasan-e Razavi Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: Unspecified counter-revolutionary offense
Age at time of alleged offense: 14

About this Case

He stood out for his academic abilities and attended a top school.  As a young teen, he was arrested for selling copies of a political newspaper.

Information about Mr. Ali Agah was gathered from an interview conducted by the Boroumand Foundation with a relative. Mr. Agah is also listed among 3,208 members and sympathizers of the Mojahedin Khalq Organization, whose executions were reported by the organization in a book entitled Crime Against Humanity. He is also one of 1000 people identified in a UN Human Rights Commission’s Special Representative’s Report, published on January 26, 1989.  The Boroumand Foundation has collected additional information regarding the 1988 massacre from the memoirs of Ayatollah Montazeri, reports from Human Rights organizations, and interviews with witnesses and victims’ families, as well as information from the Bidaran website. * 

Mr. Agah, son of Hazratqoli, was born in Mashhad on December 22, 1967. He was the only son, and a bright student, who attended a special school for gifted students in Mashhad. During the revolution, when society became politicized, Ali got involved in political activities. His activities included selling and distributing publications of the Mojahedin Khalq Organization.  

The Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) was founded in 1965. This organization adapted the principles of Islam as its ideological guideline. 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 for 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 split of the Marxist-Leninist Section of the MKO in 1977. In January of 1979, the imprisoned Muslim leaders of the MKO were released along with other political prisoners. They began to re-organize 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 governmental 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. **

Arrest and Detention

Mr. Ali Agah was first arrested for selling newspapers in June of 1981. He was detained for two weeks. He was arrested again on a city bus on November 17, 1981, when he was only 14 years old. He had no visitation for four months until he went to court. He continued his education in prison and graduated from high school while in prison. In 1986, authorities allowed some prisoners to participate in the national college admission exam. Ali was accepted as an electrical engineering major at Polytechnic University. Later, however, his family received a letter stating his ineligibility to attend the university. During a visitation, Ali told his family that he only wanted to demonstrate that he could be accepted at the university in spite of his situation.     

International laws have strictly prohibited capital punishment against those who were under the age of 18 at the time of committing the crime. As a party to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Iran has the obligation to avoid capital punishment for an offense committed before the age of eighteen. 


Specific details of the circumstances of Mr. Agah’s first trial are not known. A second trial took place in his absence in 1986 and resulted in a ten-year imprisonment. According to an interviewee, the court ruling would be suspended if he agreed to appear in a televised interview. He was taken, along with his two friends, Ali Sa’idi and Ali Ahmadi, whose cases were similar and who were executed together in 1988, to the Revolutionary Guards’ base and were asked whether they would do a [confession] interview. Since they rejected this demand, they were condemned to ten years imprisonment. They could be released whenever they accepted the condition, but they never accepted such a demand. An assistant judge in Vakilabad Prison once told Mr. Agah’s family that these kids became political in prison and wouldn’t be released. 

According to the testimonies of some of the political prisoners who were tried in some of the prisons during the executions of the summer of 1988, the trials took place in a room in the prison after a few weeks of isolation, during which prisoners were deprived of visitation, television and radio broadcasts, and outdoor time. In August and September, a three-member delegation, composed of the public prosecutor, a religious judge, and a representative of the Ministry of Information, asked prisoners questions about their views on the Mojahedin, whether they would renounce their beliefs, and if they were ready to cooperate against the Mojahedin. 

Based on what the answers were, the prisoners would have been charged as “counter-revolutionary, anti-religion, and anti-Islam” or “associated with military action or with various [opposition] groups based near the borders” and would be sentenced to death.   The authorities never informed prisoners about the delegation’s purpose and the serious implications of their responses. According to survivors, during the summer of 1988, a large number of prisoners sympathizing with the Mojahedin or Leftist groups were executed for not recanting their beliefs.  

Relatives of political prisoners executed in 1988 refute the legality of the judicial process that resulted in thousands of executions throughout Iran. In their 1988 open letter to then-Minister of Justice Dr. Habibi, they argue that the official secrecy surrounding these executions is evidence of their illegality. They note that an overwhelming majority of these prisoners had been tried and sentenced to prison terms, which they were either serving or had already completed when they were retried and sentenced to death. 


No information is available on Mr. Ali Agah’s charges. According to an interviewee, since he could be released whenever he was willing to do the interview, his charge was probably sympathizing with the Mojahedin Khalq Organization. He had told his family that he wouldn’t call the organization “Monafeqin” (a term used by the regime meaning hypocrites). This was enough for him to be hanged in the summer of 1988. 

No charge has been publicly leveled against the victims of the 1988 mass executions. In their letters to the Minister of Justice (1988) and to the UN Special Rapporteur visiting Iran (February 2003), the families of the victims refer to the authorities’ accusations against the prisoners – accusations that may have led to their executions.

An edict of the Leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini, reproduced in the memoirs of his designated successor, Ayatollah Montazeri, corroborates the reported claims regarding the charges against the executed prisoners. In this edict, Ayatollah Khomeini refers to members of the Mojahedin Khalq Organization as “hypocrites” who do not believe in Islam and who “wage war against God” and decrees that prisoners who still approve of the positions taken by this organization are also “waging war against God” and should be sentenced to death.  

Evidence of Guilt

The report of this execution does not contain information regarding the evidence provided against Mr. Agah.


No information is available on Mr. Agah’s defense. In their open letter, the families of the prisoners noted that defendants were not given the opportunity to defend themselves in court. The same letter  — rebutting the accusation that these prisoners had collaborated (from inside the prison) with armed members of the Mojahedin Khalq Organization in clashes with armed forces of the Islamic Republic —  states that such claims “are false, considering the circumstances in prisons; for our children faced most difficult conditions [in prison, with] visitation rights of once every 15 days, each visitation lasting ten minutes through a telephone, from behind the glass window, and were deprived of any connection with the outside world. We faced such conditions for seven years, which proves the truth of our claim.”


Mr. Ali Agah was hanged in Vakilabad Prison in Mashhad in August of 1988. His family was not informed. Only after prisoners’ families gathered in front of the prison did Mr. Agah’s family receive a phone call, in November of 1988, with news of the execution. Authorities did not give them Ali’s belonging nor disclose his grave location. 

The details regarding the execution sentence are not available.  Months after the executions, prison authorities informed the families about the executions and handed the victims’ belongings to their families.  The bodies, however, were not returned to them.  The bodies were buried in mass graves and the locations are not known to the families.  Authorities warned the families of prisoners against holding memorial ceremonies.


*“Crime Against Humanity” documents the 1988-1989 mass execution of political prisoners in Iran. The book was published by the Mojahedin Khalq Organization in 2001. The UN Human Rights Commission’s Special Representative’s Report published in January 26, 1989, contains a list of 1000 people who were executed in Iran in 1988. The report of “Names and particulars of persons allegedly executed by the Islamic Republic of Iran during the period July-December 1988,” specifies that although 1000 names are mentioned, “in all probability” there were several thousand victims. “Most of the alleged victims were members of the Mojahedin. However, members of the Tudeh Party, the People’s Fadaiyan Organization, Rah-e Kargar, the Komala Organization, and 11 mollahs were also said to be among the alleged victims.” 

**The exclusion of MKO members from government offices and the closure of their centers and publishing houses, in conjunction with to 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 demonstrations and while distributing publications, leading to the death of several MKO supporters. On June 20, 1981, the MKO called for a demonstration protesting their treatment by governmental 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 June 21, 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 and founded the National Liberation Army of Iran in 1987, which entered Iranian territory a few times during the Iran-Iraq war. They were defeated in July 1988 during their last operation, the  Forugh Javidan 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 June 20, 1981, many sympathizers of the organization had no military training, were not armed, and did not participate in armed conflict.

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