Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Sattar Kiani


Age: 38
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Non-Believer
Civil Status: Single


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

About this Case

A pioneer of the Mojahedin Khalq Organization and co-founder of Rah-e Kargar, he read Marx broadly and taught political philosophy in Tehran.

Information about Mr. Sattar Kiani has been provided by two individuals familiar with this case, through electronic forms. Mr. Kiani, member of the Fadaiyan Khalq Organization (Keshtgar faction), was a victim of the mass killings of political prisoners in 1988. 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 Fadaiyan Khalq (Minority) and the Peykar Organization, which opposed the Islamic Republic, as well as the Tudeh Party and the Fadaiyan 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.

Mr. Kiani studied petrochemistry in Shiraz University and was one of the first members of the Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) in the 1950’s. He was arrested for his political activities with the MKO in 1961; he was tortured and condemned to 15 years imprisonment. He was not released until 1978, when political prisoners were freed from prison. In prison, he inclined toward Marxism and after his release became one of the founding members of the Rah-e Kargar Organization. In 1983, he left this organization to join the Fadaiyan Khalq Organization (Keshtgar faction).

Mr. Kiani had read extensively about Marxism. In 1979, he taught political philosophy in Sharif University of Technology in Tehran. Such classes were not part of the official school curriculum, but some students arranged them and taught other interested students. This lasted only for a short time, from after the 1979 Revolution until the beginning of the Cultural Revolution.

The Cultural Revolution began after Ayatollah Khomeini gave a speech in March 1980, ordering 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” is 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” of “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 opposed leftist and Muslim groups, in opposition to the Islamic Associations, supported by security forces and paramilitary groups. These clashes, which peaked at the end of the three-day deadline, resulted in the death 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.

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 the Soviet Union. The Fadaiyan Khalq Majority considered the Islamic Republic 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 Keshtgar faction (also known as 16 Azar faction) split from the Majority branch on December 7, 1981, due to its opposition to uniting with the Tudeh Party.

Arrest and detention

Mr. Kiani and two other leaders of the Fadaiyan Khalq Organization (Keshtgar faction) were arrested on October 21, 1984, by the Revolutionary Guardsmen from the Tohid Prison (called the Joint Anti-Sabotage Committee before the Revolution, where the Ebrat Museum is today). During the interrogation, Mr. Kiani was severely tortured, as a result of which his feet were bandaged for a long time. After that, he was transferred to Evin prison. He was denied the right to have an attorney. During periods of interrogation, he was kept incommunicado.


Before the start of mass executions in 1988, Mr. Kiani had been tried and was waiting for the court verdict. Specific details on the circumstances of the trials that led to the execution of Mr. Kiani 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. This committee asked the leftist prisoners some questions about their beliefs, and whether or not they believed in God.

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 executions. 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.

Defendants, 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 their 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. Kiani’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.”


After a four and half year wait for his court verdict, Mr. Sattar Kiani was executed in Evin prison in 1988. The details regarding the execution sentence are not available. 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 the victims’ belongings over 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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