Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Maryam Golzadeh Ghafuri


Age: 29
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam
Civil Status: Unknown


Date of Killing: July 26, 1988
Location of Killing: Evin Prison, Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: Counter revolutionary opinion and/or speech; War on God, God's Prophet and the deputy of the Twelfth Imam

About this Case

Ms. Maryam Golzadeh Ghafuri is among 3208 members and sympathizers of the Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) whose execution was reported by the organization in a book entitled Crime Against Humanity. This book documents the 1988-89 mass execution of political prisoners. Additional information was drawn from the weblog of Mina Entezari, the book Prison Memoirs by Fariba Sabet; (both authors were Ms. Golzadeh Ghafuri’s former cellmates), as well as Mr. Iraj Mesdaghi’s website. Information about the mass executions has been gathered by the Boroumand Foundation from the memoir of Ayatollah Montazeri, reports of human rights organizations, interviews with victims’ families, and witnesses’ memoirs.

Ms. Golzadeh Ghafuri was born on October 30, 1960. Ms. Mina Entezari remembers Ms. Golzadeh Ghafuri as a quiet, dignified young woman with a lovely smile. Ms. Golzadeh Ghafuri was a mathematics student at Tehran University. Her father was a cleric, with a doctorate degree in law from Sorbonne University in Paris. He was elected a representative to the Majles (Parliament) but due to his disapproval of government’s policies, he gave up his political career (Ms. Entezari’s weblog). Two of her brothers were executed in 1981: Mohammad Sadeq, and Mohammad Kazem. Her husband, Mr. Ali Reza Haj Samadi was also executed during the massacre of political prisoners in 1988.

Arrest and detention

According to Ms. Entezari, Ms. Golzadeh Ghafuri was arrested along with her husband in 1982 due to connections with the MKO. In 1873, probably after she was condemned to imprisonment, she was transferred to Section 8 of Qezelhesar prison. There, in order to differentiate her from other cellmates with the same name, she was called Maryam Gol (“tuberose flower”). The conditions of prisoners in this section were very difficult and the section was used as a place to “chastise” prisoners. However, when in the fall of 1984, the conditions somewhat improved and prisoners were allowed to read and had access to some books such as school textbooks, Mr. Golzadeh Ghafuri taught mathematics, geometry, algebra, and trigonometry (Ms. Entezari’s weblog).

Ms. Golzadeh Ghafuri suffered from arthritis, which, according to her cellmate, was the result of difficult conditions of interrogation and imprisonment. She used a cervical collar and a piece of lumber that she tied to her back. Ms. Entezari writes: “When I walked in the yard of Section 4 [of the prison], I could see her sitting with difficulty and teaching her students with much patience and seriousness, I’d say: ‘How many geometry and algebra formulas do you have to prove with your broken neck?’ and she’d reply: ‘go, don’t interrupt the lesson!’” (ibid).

Since Ms. Golzadeh Ghafuri’s father, as a sign of protest to present conditions, would not go to visit his son and daughter in prison, Ms. Golzadeh Ghafuri and her older brother were given a temporary leave for 2 hours in order to visit their father at home (Ms. Entezari’s weblog). In the winter of 1986, the circumstances in prison worsened and Ms. Golzadeh Ghafuri was transferred to Evin. There she, along with some other cellmates, refrained from any visitations to protest their poor living conditions. In the summer, prisoners were allowed to do aerobic exercises and play volleyball, but Ms. Golzadeh Ghafuri couldn’t participate in sport due to her backache and neck pain, she only would do some sitting exercises just to be part of it (ibid). In the fall, she was sent to Hall 3 of Evin where, she and some other cellmate started a hunger strike, as a means to object to their difficult conditions in prison; the hunger strike lasted for almost 2 weeks (ibid).


Ms. Golzadeh Ghafuri was first tried, probably in 1982 or 83, and condemned to 12 years imprisonment. Specific details on the circumstances of the trials that led to the execution of Ms. Golzadeh Ghafuri and thousands of other individuals in 1988 are not known. According to existing information, there was no official trial with the presence of an attorney and prosecutor. Those who were executed in 1988 were sent to a three-man committee consisting of a religious judge, a representative from the Intelligence Ministry, and a Public Prosecutor of Tehran.

The 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 proof 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 serving when they were retried and sentenced to death.


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 execution. These accusations include being “counter-revolutionary, anti-religion, and anti-Islam,” as well as being “associated with military action or with various [opposition] groups based near the borders.”

An edict of the Leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini, reproduced in the memoirs of Ayatollah Montazeri, his designated successor, 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 “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 the defendant.


No information is available on Ms. Golzadeh Ghafuri’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 (from inside the prison) had collaborated with armed members of the Mojahedin 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.”


The details regarding the execution sentence are not available. On July 26, 1988, Ms. Maryam Golzadeh Ghafuri was the first prisoner whose name was called (

Prison Memoirs). She left the cell and never returned; she was hanged the same night in Evin prison. Months after the executions, prison authorities informed the families about the executions and handed in the victims’ belongings to their families. The bodies, however, were not returned to them. The bodies were buried in mass graves. Authorities warned the families of prisoners against holding memorial ceremonies.

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