Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Ma'sumeh (Shurangiz) Karimian


Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam (Shi'a)
Civil Status: Unknown


Date of Killing: 1988
Location: Evin Prison, Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Shooting
Charges: Counter revolutionary opinion and/or speech; Participating in an anti-regime demonstration; War on God, God's Prophet and the deputy of the Twelfth Imam

About this Case

Ms. Ma’sumeh (Shurangiz) Karimian is among the 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 following sources:

1) An Omid Memorial electronic form filled in by one of Ms. Karimian’s former fellow inmates

2) The Bidaran website and the writings of Ms. Karimian’s former fellow inmate, Mina Entezari

3) An Omid Memorial electronic form filled in by one of Ms. Karimian’s acquaintances regarding her detention

Ms. Karimian was an orthopedics specialist physician educated in England and a sympathizer of the MKO. One of her fellow inmates writes about her: “She was respected by all in the ward. The younger inmates relied on her and she was a medical consultant to those suffering from joint and bone pains. She taught massage techniques to those who wished to learn them and physiotherapy techniques to those who needed them.”

Arrest and detention

According to one of Ms. Karimian’s acquaintances, she and her sister, Zahra, took refuge in a sandwich shop during the conflicts of June 20, 1981. However, the guards found them there and sent both to the Evin prison.

The demonstration of June 20, 1981, took place in protest against the parliament’s impeachment of President Banisadr and the Islamic Republic systematic policy of excluding the MKO from the country’s political scene, the refusal of Ayatollah Khomeini to meet with MKO leaders and his insistence for them to disarm. The MKO had until then supported the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini and agreed to function within the framework of the new political system.

On June 20, the Organization officially changed its policy and tried to overthrow the regime by organizing mass demonstrations, in which some of the demonstrators were armed, all over the country. These demonstrations, which were severely suppressed and resulted in the killing of dozens of demonstrators, were followed by a wave of mass arrests and executions by the Revolutionary Guards and para-military forces that targeted not only the MKO, but all other opposition groups. The massive repression, unprecedented in the history of the Islamic Republic, legitimized as official government policy the months-old state harassment and suppression of dissidents and resulted in the banning of all forms of independent political dissent.

Ms. Karimian was tortured during interrogations. According to her former fellow inmates, she suffered from chronic pain in her shoulder blade and had lost function in one hand as a result of torture with Qapan (steelyard):

“Qapan (Steelyard) was a common torture method during interrogations. In this method, the prisoner was handcuffed using the steelyard behind the back with one arm reaching the other from above the head. The pressure usually resulted in fractions in the shoulder blade. To make it more effective, the prisoner was usually suspended in the air using the steelyard.”

Ms. Karimian spent seven years at Evin and Qezelhesar prisons. Her former fellow inmates recall that she was specially the target of aggression by the prison head because of her elegant figure and higher education. She was mainly held in the “punishment ward,” where the doors were kept locked at all times. Upon the instigation of a new torture method called the “Grave,” she spent seven months in the “grave.”

The “grave” was a method of torture where the prisoner was blindfolded and forced to sit on the floor between divider boards. The space between the dividers was so little that the boards touched the legs and feet as the prisoner sits inside, preventing any movement. The back of the “grave” was open so the prisoners could be watched at all times. The front of the “box” might also have been open if the prisoner is positioned to face a wall. A prisoner may be forced to sit in this position for months.


According to Mina Entezari, Ms. Karimian was tried following her arrest and sentenced to 15 years in prison. It is not known whether a second trial was held in which her sentence was changed to death. According to the available information, the Iranian authorities did not try the victims of the 1988 mass execution in a court with in the presence of a defense lawyer. The prisoners who were executed in 1988 had been questioned by a three-member special committee, composed of a religious judge, a representative of the Intelligence Ministry, and the Tehran Prosecutor. The committee questioned the leftist prisoners about their beliefs and their faith in God and religion.

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 the 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, at the time they were retried and sentenced to death.


No charge has been publicly leveled against the defendant. In their letters to the Minister of Justice (1988), and to the UN Special Rapporteur visiting Iran (February 2003), 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, 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 the MKO members 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 contains no evidence provided against the defendant.


In their open letter, the families of the prisoners note that defendants were not given the opportunity to defend themselves in court. Against the assertion that prisoners were associated with guerrillas’ operating near the borders, the families submit the isolation of their relatives from the outside during their detention: “Our children lived in most difficult conditions. Visits were limited to 10 minutes behind a glass divider through a telephone every two weeks. We witnessed, during the past seven years, that they were denied access to anything that would have allowed them to establish contacts outside their prisons walls.” Under such conditions the families reject the authorities’ claim that these prisoners were able to engage with the political groups outside Iran.


Ms. Ma’sumeh (Shurangiz) Karimian was executed along with her sister, Zahra (Mehri), in the summer of 1988.

A former inmate who saw Ms. Karimian in the summer of 1988 before her execution writes: “She belonged to the last group of MKOinmates who were taken from the women’s ward (Room 3, second floor). They were brought back in the afternoon. They had been taken to 209, where the life or death of Evin prisoners was decided that summer. They said the corridors were full of male inmates waiting. In a few days, they came again and took Ms. Shurangiz Karimian and the remaining Mojahedin inmates from our ward. They never returned.”

The book Crime Against Humanity gives November 29 as the date of Ms. Karimian’s execution. However, the date is inaccurate according to her former fellow inmates. Most probably, November 29 is the date on which Ms. Karimian’s family received the news of her execution.

Based on the available information, prison officials delivered the news of these prisoners’ execution along with their belongings to their families months later, but their bodies were never released. Prisoners were buried in mass graves. The officials warned the families against holding any commemorative ceremonies for their loved ones.

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