Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Mohammad Reza Tebabati Tabari


Age: 28
Nationality: Iran
Civil Status: Single


Date of Killing: August 31, 1988
Location of Killing: Gohardasht Prison, Karaj, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: Counter revolutionary opinion and/or speech; Apostasy

About this Case

Information about Mr. Mohammad Reza Tababati Tabari has been drawn from an interview with a relative. Additional information has been taken from the website of the Union of People’s Fadaiyan of Iran, as well as the article “Time of Visitation” by Mr. Mehdi Aslani, published in the Arash magazine number 100. Mr. Tababati Tabari 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 Fedaiyan Khalq (Minority) and the Peykar Organization, which opposed the Islamic Republic, as well as the Tudeh Party and the Fedaiyan 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. Tababati Tabari was born in Babol (Mazandaran province) and was the youngest child in a loving family. He was a brilliant student; he passed grade 5 and 6 during the same year, and was ahead of his peers. He went to school in Babol and later in Tehran. Having graduated from Kharazmi High School in Tehran, he enrolled in Mashhad University and studied medicine. He loved movies; he would mimic actors after watching a movie and make others laugh.

In university, Mr. Tababati Tabari started his political activities as a sympathizer of the Fadaiyan Khalq Organization and in opposition to the monarchy. Consequently he was arrested and imprisoned for 6 months until a few months before the Revolution when all political prisoners were freed. He then continued his work with the Fadaiyan Khlaq Organization. After the universities closed in relations to the Cultural Revolution, he left Mashhad and went back to Babol where he started working a small shop. Later he moved to Tehran.

After the Fadaiyan Khalq Organization split, Mr. Tababati Tabari supported the Majority Branch. In 1981, when the Majority Branch split into other factions, Mr. Tababati Tabari became a follower of the Keshtgar Faction. He spent some time in Golan province, where, according to the Union of Fadaiyan website, he was a member of the state committee. There he was arrested again and imprisoned for a few months.

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” 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” 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 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 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 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. Tababati Tabari was arrested in October/November 1984 in an organizational meeting. The newsly established Intelligence Ministry had been monitoring this group and in the autumn of 1984 it organized mass arrests of its members and sympathizers. Mr. Tababati Tabari and some other members of the Organization were taken to Committee 3000 (renamed Tohidi, which today is a museum) for interrogation. He was tortured during the interrogation and taken to Gilan province where he was a political activist for some time.

Mr. Tababati Tabari was detained in Evin and Gohardasht prisons. He was denied an attorney. During certain periods, he was allowed to write letters to his family. He wrote beautiful letters.

In his six months of arrest, Mr. Tababati Tabari was not allowed any visits with his family. In the spring of 1985, when he was detained in Tohidi prison, he and a number of other prisoners were taken to Evin prison for short time to visit their families. According to an article by Mr. Aslani, one of the prisoners at that time, the prisoners were handcuffed and blindfolded as they got on a minibus with tainted windows. They were not allowed to speak to one another. After weeks of not being allowed to leave the cells, some of them were sick because of the ride. Arriving in Evin, they were told they would have visits with their families. They were warned not to talk about their files or their detention location to their families. “Conversations are monitored and forbidden talk means no more visits in addition to other punishments” thy prisoners were told. They were taken to a hall where they could see their family members from behind a glass divider and talk to them through telephones. Ten minutes later the phones stopped working as the time for the visit was over (Mr. Aslani’s article).


Mr. Tababati Tabari was tried and condemned to 12 or 15 years imprisonment. Specific details on the circumstances of the trials that led to the execution of Mr. Tababati Tabari 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 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 “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 his or her 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. Tababati Tabari’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.”


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 in 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 against holding memorial ceremonies.

Mr. Mohammad Reza Tababati Tabari was called from Section 6 of Gohardasht prison for execution. He was hanged on August 30 or 31, 1988 in the “amphitheatre” of Gohardasht prison. His belongings were returned to his family on December 7, when his family learned of his execution. His watched had stopped on August 30. (Some prisoners would stop their watches before execution so that when their belongings were returned to the family, the date of execution would be disclosed.)

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