Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Reza Esmati


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


Date of Killing: August 29, 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

Information about Mr. Reza Esmati is taken from an interview with a person close to him. Additional information has been taken from the Bidaran website. Mr. Esmati 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. Reza Esmati was a graduate of the National University, with a degree in sociology. He was married and had a son. He was a political activist during the previous regime and was condemned to 3 years imprisonment in 1974. After his release, he worked in a company in Bushehr as an accountant until 1979. After the revolution, he started his political activity in Tehran with a small group of sympathizers of Komeleh (a leftist organization in Kordestan that engaged in an armed struggle against the Islamic Republic).

Arrest and detention

Mr. Esmati was arrested, along with two other members of his organization, in his residence in Tehran on September 8, 1981. The Revolutionary Guards surrounded his house and two plain clothed agents entered the house. They did not have an arrest warrant but stated the reason for his arrest as "answering some questions at the station (revolutionary guards’ headquarters)." Mr. Esmati was taken to the Evin prison, section 209, where he was interrogated. He was denied the right to have an attorney. His first visitation with his wife and parents took place five months after his arrest following which he had bi-weekly or monthly visitations. According to his relatives, he was tortured severely in order to disclose the identity of other members of the group.


Mr. Esmati’s first trial was held at Evin three months after his arrest. He had no access to his file and was denied the right to have an attorney. He was condemned to death in this trial. Then, a second trial issued the final ruling and condemned him to 20 years imprisonment. The location and date of this trial is not known. Moreover, it is not known if this trial was an appeal court or not.

Specific details on the circumstances of the trials that led to the execution of Mr. Esmati 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.


In his first and second trials, Mr. Esmati was charged with connection to "the anti-revolutionary group of Komeleh."

No charge has been publicly levelled against the victims of the 1988 mass execution. 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 Mojahedin Khalq Organization, 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 about his defense.


Mr. Reza Esmati was executed at Evin prison on either August 29 or 30, 1988. 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.

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