Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Mojtaba Mottale' Sarab


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


Date of Killing: April 10, 1989
Location of Killing: Tabriz, Azarbaijan-e Sharqi Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: Unknown charge

About this Case

The information about Mr. Mojtaba Mottale’ Sarab, member of the Fadaiyan Khalq Organization (Majority branch), has been drawn from an interview with his sister-in-law. A former cellmate has sent additional information to Omid via an electronic form.

Mr. Mottole’ Sarab began his political activism in the Fadaiyan Khalq Organization during the previous regime. He was arrested and condemned to five years imprisonment, but freed in 1979, when political prisoners were released from prison. After the 1979 Revolution, he continued his activism in the Fadaiyan Khalq Organization, and when the Organization split, he joined the Majority branch. At the time of his arrest, he was an advisor to the central committee of the Organization in the Tashkent (Uzbekistan) plenum.

Mr. Mottale’ Sarab studied medicine in Esfahan University and, having completed the course-work, he was an resident intern until dismissed after the Cultural Revolution before he could receive his degree. He was married and had a child who was born soon after he and his wife were arrested. The family looked after the child while Ms. Mottale’ Sarab was in prison. In a letter to his family that he had smuggled out of prison, Mr. Mottale’ Sarab stated that he had three wishes in life, only one of which came true: finding the love of his life.

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 Majority considered the Islamic Republic as a revolutionary and anti-imperialist regime and supported it. After the spring of 1983, however, the Islamic Republic targeted its members solely because of their political beliefs.

The Cultural Revolution began after Ayatollah Khomeini gave a speech in March 1980 and ordered that universities be purged of all those who opposed his regime and be transformed into “learning environments” [as opposed to political forums] where “an all-Islamic curriculum” would be taught. The first wave of violence began on April 15, 1980 during a speech by Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani [a member of the Council of the Islamic Revolution and Minister of Interior] at the University of Tabriz. Following the speech, students supporting the regime took control of the University’s central building and demanded that the “university be purged” from “pro-Shah elements and other sellouts.”

On April 18, the Council of the Islamic Revolution issued a communiqué accusing political groups of converting higher education institutions into “headquarters of discordant political activities” and naming them as obstacles to the radical transformation of the universities. The communiqué gave these groups three days (Saturday April 19 to Monday April 21) to shut down their activities in the universities. The Council stressed that the decision included libraries along with activities related to arts and sports. Political groups, which recruited members and had strong support in the universities, refused to evacuate.

Before the end of the Council’s deadline, serious clashes took place between leftist groups and Islamist Associations, in opposition to the Associations, sometimes supported by security forces and paramilitary groups. These clashes, which peaked at the end of the three-day deadline, resulted in the deaths of several people and the wounding of hundreds of others on university campuses around the country.

On April 21, the Islamic Republic authorities announced the victory of the Cultural Revolution and the closure of all universities in order to Islamicize the curricula. The universities remained closed for two years. One of the outcomes of the Cultural Revolution was the purging of many university professors and students based on their political beliefs.

Arrest and detention

Mr. Mottale’ Sarab was arrested in his house in Tabriz on September 24, 1986. His pregnant wife was also arrested.

In a letter to his family, which Mr. Mottale’ Sarab smuggled out of prison, he stated that he was transferred to the Joint Committee in Tehran (also known as Tohid prison, which is today the Ebrat Museum) where he was tortured. Three days after the arrest, he had a visit with his sister-in-law; she remembers that “his upper body and clothes had blood stains on them. He looked pale and his face muscles twitched.” She concluded that, based on what she saw, he had been tortured. Moreover, his former cellmate confirmed this conclusion, saying that when he met Mr. Mottale’ Sarab, his feet were very swollen. After his execution, his family found out that the body appeared very frail, although Mr. Mottale’ Sarab had a strong body before his arrest.

During his imprisonment, which lasted for about two years, Mr. Mottale’ Sarab had two other visits. These visits took place in the presence of two individuals who monitored them. His wife would wait at the door to the prison, and leave clothes and food when she was denied visits. Mr. Mottale’ Sarab was denied the right to have an attorney.


There is no information regarding this trial other than that it took place in Tabriz.


The exact charge brought against the defendant is not known. Mr. Mottale’ Sarab’s family was unaware of charges against him. His former cellmate stated that he was charged with “being at war with God.”

Evidence of guilt

No information is available concerning the evidence presented against the accused.


No information is available concerning Mr. Mottale’ Sarab’s defense in court. But in the letter to his family, he wrote that his interrogation form stated that Mr. Mottale’ Sarab believed in “peace, freedom, and social justice” and that he disagreed with the new policy of the Fadaiyan Khalq Organization to actively oppose the regime of the Islamic Republic. He also noted that he expected to be executed.


Mr. Mojtaba Mottale’ Sarab was executed on April 10, 1989. His wife, who visited him in prison in late March 1989, concluded, based on his statements, that he would soon be executed. His family believes that he was hanged. He was interred in Vadi cemetery, Tabriz. The death certificate mentioned “being hanged” as the “disease,” which caused his death.

After the execution, a close relative printed an obituary in a newspaper, without mentioning the cause of death. Some of Mr. Mottale’ Sarab’s friend saw the note and attended his memorial service. The prison guards did not return his will nor any of his belongings to his family.

Correct/ Complete This Entry