Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Hassan Nurbakhsh


Age: 31
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Non-Believer
Civil Status: Married


Date of Killing: August 30, 1988
Location of Killing: Evin Prison, Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Unspecified execution method
Charges: Apostasy; Counter revolutionary opinion and/or speech

About this Case

Information about Mr. Hassan Nurbakhsh was gathered from an electronic form sent to the Boroumand Foundation by a person familiar with this case. Mr. Hassan Nurbakhsh is also cited in the list, “Yadnameh,” published by the Fadaiyan Khalq Organization, Majority Branch (April 2002: Koln). He was a victim of the mass killings of political prisoners in 1988. The Boroumand Foundation has collected additional information regarding the 1988 massacre from the memoirs of Ayatollah Montazeri, reports from the human rights organizations, interviews with the witnesses and victims’ families, as well as from the Bidaran website.

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. 

Mr. Nurbakhsh was born in Azarbaijan in 1957 and was a computer science student at the National University.  He was married and had a son.

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. After the 1979 Revolution, the organization, which renounced armed struggle, split over their support of the Islamic Republic and of the Soviet Union. The Fadaiyan Khalq Majority supported and considered the Islamic Republic as a revolutionary and anti-imperialist regime. After the spring of 1983, however, the Islamic Republic targeted its members solely because of their political beliefs.

Arrest and detention

Mr. Nurbakhsh was arrested on a street in Tehran in August or September 1986.  After his arrest, the state authorities visited his house and arrested his wife and their son. They were all taken to Tohid Prison (where torture and harsh interrogation were used then and which is a museum today).


Mr. Nurbakhsh was tried and condemned to imprisonment. Specific details on the circumstances of the trials that led to the execution of Mr. Nurbakhsh and thousands of other individuals in 1988 are not known. According to the testimonies of leftist political prisoners who were tried in Evin and Gohardasht prisons during the executions of the summer of 1988, the trials took place in a room on the ground floor of the prison after a few weeks of isolation, during which prisoners were deprived of visitation, television and radio broadcasts, and outdoor time. Toward the end of August, a three-member delegation composed of Hojatoleslam Eshraqi, the prosecutor; Hojatoleslam Nayyeri, the religious judge; and Hojatoleslam Purmohammadi, the representative of the Ministry of Information, asked prisoners questions about whether they were Muslim or Marxist, whether they prayed, and if their parents were practicing Muslims. Based on the prisoners’ responses, the latter were sentenced to be hanged or flogged until they agreed to pray. The authorities never informed prisoners about the delegation’s purpose, and the serious implications of their responses. According to survivors, during the summer of 1988, a large number of prisoners sympathizing with the Mojahedin or Leftist groups were executed for not recanting their beliefs. 

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 the  Minister of Justice at the time, 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 when they were retried and sentenced to death.


No charge has been publicly stated against the victims of the 1988 mass executions.  Based on the testimonies of those who were in prisons in the summer of 1988, the questions of the three-member committee from the leftist prisoners were about their beliefs and they were accused of being “anti-religion,” insisting on their beliefs and not repenting. In their letters to the Minister of Justice in 1988, and to the UN Special Rapporteur visiting Iran in 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, 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 who “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 does not contain information regarding the evidence provided against Mr. Nurbakhsh.


No information is available on Mr. Nurbakhsh’s defense before the three-member committee.


Mr. Hassan Nurbakhsh was executed during the mass killings of political prisoners in Evin Prison on August 30, 1988. The death certificate that was returned to the Nurbakhsh family stated that he had died of natural causes on October 12, 1988. But Mr. Nurbakhsh’s cellmates later told his family that he was executed in Evin Prison on August 30, 1988. Based on the Boroumand Foundation’s research, leftist prisoners executed in 1988 were found to be “apostates.”  Months after the executions, prison authorities informed the families about the executions and handed over 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 not to hold memorial ceremonies for their loved ones. 

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