Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Mostafa Ghanian


Age: 25
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam (Shi'a)
Civil Status: Single


Date of Killing: June 16, 2009
Location of Killing: Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Arbitrary shooting
Charges: Unknown charge

About this Case

An agriculture student in Tehran, he loved to host friends from out of town, skipping class to enjoy time with them.  He was a referee for auto and motorcycle races and got along with people of all kinds.

Information about Mr. Mostafa Ghanian has been collected from the following sources: an electronic form sent to the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation by a person close to Mr. Ghanian; the list “Names and Biographical Information of 72 Martyrs of the Green Movement,” compiled by Dr. Ali Reza Beheshti and published on the Norooz News website (September 4, 2009); the Human Rights Activists in Iran website (June 19 and July 5, 2009); the Islamic Republic News Agency (July 1, 2009); the Amir Kabir Newsletter, also known as AUTNEWS (August 11, 2009); the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (July 6, 2009) and the Advar News (August 26, 2009).

Mr. Mostafa Ghanian, son of Mohammad Taqi, was born on June 24, 1983, in Mashhad. He received his associate degree in agriculture from the Azad University in the eastern city of Birjand (in the South Khorasan province). Working towards his bachelor’s degree, he continued to study agriculture at the Azad University in Rudehen (near Tehran). He lived in the Sa’adat-Abad neighborhood in Tehran.

Mr. Ghanian’s friends were very important to him. When his friends from other cities visited him in Tehran, he would not go to his classes and workplace, in order to spend time with them. The person who sent the electronic form remembers, “Mostafa’s friends’ social class did not matter to him. He got along with everyone… If he knew that someone was upset with him, he would try and make them feel better… He was very shy. He did not want to trouble anyone… He was humble and down-to-earth… He loved music, everything from [old Iranian pop] to current rap music… Every month, he read the Mashin [automobile] magazine from cover to cover… He was a race referee for the Motorcycle and Automobile Federation of Iran… I will never have another friend as good as he.”

On June 16, 2009, Mr. Ghanian was on top of the roof of the building where he lived, shouting “God is great,” as he joined other protesters demonstrating against the result of the 2009 presidential election. Mr. Ghanian was shot and killed at 2:00 a.m. (electronic form; AUTNEWS; Advar News; IRNA).

AUTNEWS announced, “This martyr’s family members brought his body to the coroner and filed a complaint against those who killed him. The family was able to retrieve his body from the coroner a few days later, after promising that they would not hold memorial or burial ceremonies for him. This agreement was mediated through the office of Va’ez Tabasi [an influential cleric], who is an old friend of Ghanian’s father.” According to the person who sent the electronic form, Mr. Ghanian was shot by someone who was under the command of a person from the Ministry of Intelligence. This person stated that Mr. Ghanian’s body was returned to his family with the help of a letter from the Supreme Leader and under the condition that the family would not speak publicly about him. Mr. Ghanian’s burial took place in Mashhad under stringent security measures.

At the burial ceremony, Mr. Ghanian’s father remembered him as a “pious, modest, humble, warm, and friendly son. His friends referred to him as sincere.”

Some newspapers claimed that Mr. Ghanian’s father allegedly blamed presidential candidate Mirhossein Musavi for his son’s death, but Mr. Haj Mohammad Taqi Ghanian denied these speculations (AUTNEWS; IRNA). The person who sent the electronic form says that the family did not have access to information about the type of bullet which killed Mr. Ghanian, and hence family members could not investigate the type of firearm.


Election returns from Iran’s June 12th, 2009, presidential election declared Mahmoud Ahmadinejad re-elected with 62.63 percent of the vote. Following the announcement, citizens disputing these official results demonstrated in the streets. Text messaging services were disrupted starting at 11:00 p.m. on the night before the election and remained unavailable for nearly three weeks, until July 1st. On Election Day, the deputy chief of Iranian police announced a ban on any gathering of presidential candidates’ supporters throughout the country. The same evening, security forces made a “show of strength,” increasing their presence in Tehran’s public squares to “reinforce security at polling stations.” Officials at election headquarters began reporting results soon after midnight, despite a statement from the Minister of the Interior that the first returns would not be announced until after the morning prayer (around 4:00 a.m.).

Many supporters of other presidential candidates came out into the streets on June 13th, once the results were made public, to protest what they believed to be a fraudulent election. Candidates Mir Hossein Musavi, Mehdi Karubi, and Mohsen Reza’i, Ahmadinejad’s competitors in the race, contested the election, alleging many instances of fraud. They filed complaints with the Council of Guardians, the constitutional body charged with vetting candidates before elections take place and approving the results afterwards, requesting an annulment and calling for a new election. Before the Council of Guardians could review their claims, however, the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, congratulated Ahmadinejad on his re-election. In the meantime, many people active in Karubi’s and Musavi’s campaigns were arrested.

On June 15th, unprecedented demonstrations filled the streets of central Tehran, in which an estimated three million protestors participated, according to statements attributed to the mayor of Tehran. As the demonstrations were ending, paramilitary forces attacked the marchers, injuring and killing several people. To prevent such news from being broadcast, the Iranian government expelled foreign journalists from the country and banned news agencies from reporting on the events. Over the next three days, protesters took part in peaceful demonstrations in Tehran. The repression entered a new phase on June 19thafter Ayatollah Khamenei’s Friday sermon, in which he announced his support for Ahmadinejad and warned protestors that they were responsible for any disorder and its consequences. Amnesty International stated that the speech gave “legitimacy to police brutality.” The next day and thereafter, police and plainclothes paramilitary groups attacked the protesters. Public gatherings of any kind were declared illegal, and police, motorcycle-riding special units wearing black uniforms and helmets, and plainclothes agents brutally enforced this restriction.

Individuals in civilian clothing, commonly referred to as plainclothes forces, are used in the Islamic Republic to disrupt political and trade union activities, student events and gatherings, electoral initiatives, and protests. Armed with sticks and clubs, and sometimes with chains, knives, batons, or firearms, they emerge when the state decides to suppress dissent. These plainclothes forces move about freely, violently beating protesters and arresting them, while the police passively look on or actively cooperate with them.

There is little information on the command structure and organization of such groups, whose members wear ordinary clothing rather than official uniforms and may be affiliated with the ministry of information, influential political groups, or the armed forces. Following the post-election demonstrations in June 2009, pictures of some plainclothes agents were posted on internet websites. Internet users helped to identify some of them and provided evidence that these individuals were affiliated with the Basij paramilitary groups, the Revolutionary Guard Corps, and state intelligence forces. On September 16, 2009, a deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards Corps of the Province of Tehran confirmed the active and decisive role of Basij forces in the repression of the demonstrations, saying, “Basijis, through their presence in recent events, have blinded the eyes of the conspirators, and they should be appreciated… The enemies of Islam wanted to make the air dusty and to exploit the recent events, but thank God, through the enlightenment of the Honorable Leader we were victorious against this conspiracy.” He also emphasized, “The zealous youth of [the] Basij, believers in the Guardianship of the Jurisprudent, are the second and third generations of the Revolution. They have been successful in this stage and victorious on this battlefield.”

When personal property was damaged during the protests, government authorities and state-run radio and television programs accused the demonstrators of vandalism and justified the repression. At the same time, however, footage posted online showed security forces destroying and damaging property on side streets and in uncongested areas away from the protests. Moreover, in a public gathering in Tehran on October 20th, the chief of Iranian police conceded that police had destroyed and damaged property and accepted responsibility for it.

The precise number of citizens injured, killed, or disappeared in the post-election violence is not known. According to various reports, there were hundreds of victims in demonstrations throughout the country. More than seventy names have been reported. It is said that officials have threatened victims’ family members, demanding their silence and that they refrain from giving interviews. Reports also allege that returning a victim’s body to a family has been made conditional upon their agreement to change the cause of death listed on the coroner’s certificate to that of a heart attack or some other natural cause — thus foregoing the right to file a complaint — as well as the family's agreement not to hold memorial services for the loved one.

According to government statements, more than 4,000 people were arrested throughout Iran in the weeks following June 12th. Many have been held at the Kahrizak Detention Center, where prisoners’ rights and minimum hygiene standards were typically ignored. Numerous reports of violence, including the torture and rape of detainees, have been published. State reports and testimonies confirm that a number of detainees at Kahrizak died in custody due to beatings, difficult and unbearable prison conditions, and torture. 

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