Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Raf'at Mohammadzadeh


Age: 63
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Non-Believer
Civil Status: Unknown


Date of Killing: September, 1988
Location of Killing: Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: Counter revolutionary opinion and/or speech; Apostasy

About this Case

Mr. Raf'at Mohammadzadeh was a victim in the mass killings of political prisoners in 1988. The majority of the executed prisoners were members of the Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO). In addition to members of those Marxist-Leninist organizations oppose to the Islamic Republic such as the Fedaiyan Khalq (Minority) and the Peykar Organization, activists of organizations such as the Tudeh Party and the Fedaiyan Khalq (Majority) that were not against the Islamic Republic, were also among the victims of these mass killings.

Mr. Rafat Mohammad-Zadeh is one of 1000 people identified in a UN Human Rights Commission's Special Representative's Report, "Names and particulars of persons allegedly executed by the Islamic Republic of Iran during the period July-December 1988," published January 26, 1989. The report 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, People's Fedaiyan Organization, Rahe Kargar, and Komala Organization and 11 mollahs were also said to be among the alleged victims."

The detailed information about Mr. Raf'at Mohammadzadeh is taken from the book The Martyrs of the Tudeh Party by The Tudeh Party of Iran Publications. He graduated from the Military College. He was a police officer and a member of the Tudeh Party. In 1950, he helped ten leaders of the Tudeh Party escape from Qasr prison. In 1954, he left the country and several years alter, became a member of the Tudeh Party Central Committee. He was in charge of the Donya publication. After the revolution, he returned to Iran.

The Tudeh Party of Iran was created in 1941. The Tudeh ideology was Marxist-Leninist and it supported policies of the former Soviet Union. The Party played a major role in Iran's political scene until it was banned for the second time following the August 19, 1953 coup. After the 1979 Revolution, the Party declared Ayatollah Khomeini and the Islamic Republic regime revolutionaries and anti-imperialists and actively supported the new government. Although the Party never opposed the Islamic Republic, it became the target of government attacks in 1982 when most of the Party's leaders and members were imprisoned.

Arrest and detention

Mr. Raf'at Mohammadzadeh was arrested in February 1983. He was held at the prison of the Joint Committee and at Evin. The above book quotes one of his cellmates, who saw Mr. Mohammadzadeh at Evin prison in the summer of 1984, saying: "his hand was paralyzed due to contortion and being hung from the ceiling." Contortion was a commonly used interrogation method in which one hand from over the head is cuffed or tied to the other hand from behind the body at the back of the prisoner. The pressure may be so much as to break the shoulder blades. To increase the pain inflicted, the body is may be suspended in the air.


Mr. Raf'at Mohammadzadeh was initially tried and condemned to imprisonment. Whether or not a second trial condemned him to death is unknown. 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 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 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 was ever publicly levelled 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 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, Ruhollah 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 the PMOI'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.

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 guerrilla forces 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, over 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 claim of the authorities that these prisoners were able to engage with the political groups outside Iran.

It is possible that the prisoners who were members of organizations other than the MKO were charge for being "anti religious" and were condemned for insisting on their beliefs.


The details of the verdict leading to this execution are unknown. Mr. Raf'at Mohammadzadeh was hanged during the mass killings of political prisoners in September 1988.

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