Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Jahanbakhsh Sarkhosh


Age: 36
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Non-Believer
Civil Status: Unknown


Date of Killing: 1988
Location of Killing: Gohardasht Prison, Karaj, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: Counter revolutionary opinion and/or speech; Apostasy

About this Case

Mr. Jahanbakhsh Sarkhosh’s execution was reported to Omid via two electronic forms by individuals familiar with his case. Mr. Sarkhosh was also mentioned in the BBC Persian website in a narrative by one of his cellmates at the Gohardasht Prison, Mr. Mehdi Aslani, on August 27, 2004.

Mr. Sarkhosh is one of the victims of the 1988-89 mass execution of political prisoners in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The majority of the executed prisoners were members of the Mojahedin Khalq Organization. Other victims included members or sympathizers of Marxist-Leninist organizations, such as the Fedaiyan Khalq (Minority) and the Peykar Organization, which opposed the Islamic Republic, as well as the Tudeh Party and the Fedaiyan Khalq (Majority), which did not. 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.

Based on the available information, Mr. Sarkhosh was a member of the People’s Fedayian of Iran Organization (minority). His father, a police officer, was killed in an armed struggle with drug smugglers when he was young. His mother raised her four children as a single parent with pension of her husband and worked in people’s houses as a cleaner.

At age sixteen (1968), Mr. Sarkhosh passed the entrance exam to the military industrial vocational school and enrolled in the boarding school, which provided an allowance to students. He wanted to help his mother with the expenses of raising his siblings. He married a school teacher a few years before the 1979 Revolution and had a son. He worked as a technician at the Military ammunition factory in Tehran until a few months before his arrest.

The sender of an electronic form remembers Mr. Sarkhosh as “very athletic and a good soccer player. He played for the school’s soccer team. He was also vey quiet. He spoke very little, but at the same time he was very nice, popular and funny.” He did not smoke or drink but was tolerant of those who did.

Mr. Sarkhosh had two brothers (Mohsen and Hassan), both of whom were executed in 1981. The sender of an electronic form quoted a witness saying: “When Jahan’s two brothers were executed, Jahan himself washed their bodies in [the Behesht-e Zahra cemetery in Tehran]. Jahan told me that their faces, jaws, and teeth had been shattered by the bullets. Jahan’s mother was screaming [as if wounded], unlike anything I had ever seen, and was saying: ‘How could you do this to me? I raised these kids by doing people’s laundry. How could you do this to me? I hope you all burn in hell. I hope your Imam burns in hell.’”

The Fadaiyan Khalq Organization, a Marxist Leninist group inspired by the Cuban Revolution and the urban guerilla movements of Latin America, was founded in 1971 by two communist groups opposed to the Pahlavi regime. Following the 1979 revolution, the Organization, which had renounced armed struggle, split over their support of the Islamic Republic and of the Soviet Union. The Fadaiyan Khalq Minority opposed the Islamic Republic and was mainly active in the political arena and the labor movement.

Arrest and detention

According to the form, Mr. Sarkhosh was arrested in 1980 in Tehran and detained at Evin and Qezelhesar Prisons and later at Gohardasht Prison. According to Mr. Aslani’s narrative, Mr. Sarkhosh was held at the Section 8 of the Prison.


Mr. Sarkhosh was first tried and condemned to 8 years imprisonment. At the time of executed had had completed 7 years and 4 months of this term. He was retried in 1988. 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. This committee asked the leftist prisoners some questions about their beliefs and whether or not they believed in God. The circumstances of this trial is mentioned in Mr. Aslani’s narrative:

“One day several guards whom we did not recognize entered our section. They had their heads shaved and were carrying cables. They were special guards that could enter the prison at any time and were privy to enter privileged areas such as the amphitheater and the Hosseinieh [a large room at the prison for taping confessions and performing prayers] at Gohardasht. Executions were held at these rooms and to keep these executions quiet the gallows were already set up.”

“They blindfolded the prisoners in section 8 and with the excuse of searching them took them out to the hallway. One by one we were taken to a room. Inside the room were the head of the prison, the head of the internal affairs of the prison and a guard. We were asked several questions including, “Do you believe in your organization? Are you willing to give a taped confession in front of the other prisoners?” Most answered no to the latter. The prisoners that had accepted this proposal were sent back to their cells while the ones who declined were taken to a separate room to be sent to the Council. The Council was situated near the amphitheater and the Hosseinieh. This was the first time that we had heard of it.”

“After 2 to 3 hours, the guard called ten names; I was one of the ten. We were transferred to the hallway near the amphitheater and while still blindfolded were taken to the Council one by one. Jahanbakhsh Sakhosh, who had only 8 months of his prison term remaining, was the first person facing the Council. After about a minute, he came out of the room and we heard the head of the prison tell the guard, “take him to the left.” “The left” was where the amphitheater and the Hosseinieh were situated, and the prisoners that were taken there were hanged immediately.”

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 at the time they were retried and sentenced to death.


No charge has been publicly leveled against the victims of the 1988 mass execution. 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, 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 Mojahedin Khalq Organization’s 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.

The defendant, who did not belong to the organization named by the leader of the Islamic Republic, may have been accused of being “anti-religion” for not having renounced his or her beliefs.

Evidence of guilt

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


No information is available on Mr. Sarkhosh’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.”


No sentence was issued publicly. According to available information, leftist prisoners executed in 1988 were found to be “apostates.” 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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