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

Mohammad Shari'ati

About

Age: 54
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Presumed Muslim
Civil Status: Married

Case

Date of Execution: August 3, 2005
Location: Saqqez, Kordestan Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Shooting (extrajudicial)
Charges: Unknown charge

Human rights violations in this case

Extrajudicial killings


Since the inception of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, national and international human rights organizations have blamed the Islamic Republic authorities for the extrajudicial killing of their opponents, both within and outside of Iran's borders. Although over two hundred cases have been reported, the exact number of victims remains unknown.

Extrajudicial executions carried out in Iran are rarely investigated; the few cases that have been investigated have indicated that the Iranian state security apparatus has been involved. Agents of the Islamic Republic have also targeted dissidents outside the country, assassinating opposition members in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and in the United States,.

In many assassination cases outside Iran, local authorities have made no arrests. However, investigations, when they have taken place and been made public, have led to the single hypothesis of State ordered crimes. The organization and execution of these crimes constitute a pattern that Swiss prosecutor Roland Chatelain describes as “common parameters” following a “meticulous preparation.” Similarities between different cases in different countries have created a coherent set of presumptions designating the Islamic Republic as the instigator of these assassinations.

 

In cases involving prominent Iranians assassinated in France, Germany, and Switzerland, local prosecutors have provided evidence linking Iranian authorities to the crimes in question.

 

In France, for example, the Iranian Deputy Minister of Telecommunications has been sentenced to life imprisonment for his involvement in the 1991 murder of two dissidents. In Germany, agents of Iran's secret services and Lebanese Hezbollah have been convicted for the 1992 murder of four dissidents in Berlin. Currently, the Islamic Republic's Minister of Information and Security at the time of this murder is under an International arrest Warrant launched by German judicial authorities for his involvement.

 

The German court in Berlin found that Iran's political leadership ordered the murder through a "Committee for Special Operations," whose members reportedly include the Leader of the Islamic Republic, the President, the Minister of Information and Security, and other security officials.



The Islamic Republic’s officials have claimed responsibility for some of these assassinations while denying involvement in others. In the 1980s, Iranian authorities justified extrajudicial executions of dissidents and members of the former regime and actively worked for the release of Iranians and non-Iranian agents who were detained or convicted in the West for their involvement in those killings. During the 1990s, they systematically denied any involvement in extrajudicial killings and often credited the killings to infighting amongst the opposition.

 

Still, the rationale supporting these killings was articulated as early as in the spring of 1979 when the First Revolutionary religious judge publicly announced the regime's intention to carry out extrajudicial executions. He said:

 

“no state has the right to try as a terrorist the person who kills [exiles] in foreign lands, for this person is implementing the verdict issued by the Islamic Revolutionary tribunal.”

 

More than a decade later, in August, 1992, the Minister of Intelligence and Security publicly boasted about the success of Iran's security forces, alluding to the elimination of dissidents:

 

"We have been able to deal blows to many of the mini-groups outside the country and on the borders...."

Human rights violations

Based on the available information, some or all of the following human rights may have been violated in this case:

  • The right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, including the right to change and manifest one’s religion or belief.

    UDHR, Article 18; ICCPR, Article 18.1, ICCPR, Article 18.2; Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, Article 1 and Article 6.

    In its general comment 22 (48) of 20 July 1993, the United Nation’s Human Rights Committee observed that the freedom to "have or to adopt" a religion or belief necessarily entailed the freedom to choose a religion or belief, including the right to replace one's current religion or belief with another or to adopt atheistic views, as well as the right to retain one's religion or belief. Article 18, paragraph 2, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights bars coercion that would impair the right to have or adopt a religion or belief, including the use of threat of physical force or penal sanctions to compel believers or non-believers to adhere to religious beliefs and congregations, to recant their religion or belief or to convert.

  • The right to freedom of opinion and expression, including the right to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas.

    UDHR, Article 19; ICCPR, Article 19.1 and ICCPR, Article 19.2.

  • The right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

    UDHR, Article 20; ICCPR, Article 21.

  • The right, as a member of a religious or ethnic minority, to enjoy one’s own culture or to profess and practice one’s own religion.

    UDHR, Article 18; ICCPR, Article 27.

  • The right to equality before the law and the right to equal protection of the law.

    UDHR, Article 7; ICCPR, Article 26.

Capital punishment
  • The inherent right to life, of which no one shall be arbitrarily deprived.

    Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 3; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 6.1; Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, Article 1.1, Article 1.2.

About this Case

The information regarding Mr. Mohammad Shari’ati’s extrajudicial killing has been drawn from: interviews with individuals close to Mr. Shari’ati by the Boroumand Foundation (ABF, August 4, 2006); a Radio Farda interview with his daughter (August 11 and August 6, 2005); a Report of Human Rights Watch (August 12, 2005); a Report of Amnesty International (February 16, 2006); the Official Website of Kurdistan's Governor (August 6 and 7, 2005); and the Official Website of Fakhroddin Heidari, a member of Parliament from the Kurdish towns of Saqqez and Baneh (August 11, 2005). Fars News (August 4, 2005); Mehr News (August 6, 2005); Mr. Shari’ati’s name was also mentioned in the letter of the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings, Summary and Arbitrary Executions to the Iranian State (September 13, 2005) and his final report on March 27, 2006 (E/CN.4/2006/53). His case was also reported by foreign-based media organizations such as the New York Times (August 14, 2005) and Aljazeera (August 3, 2005).

Mr. Shari’ati was born in the city of Saqqez in Kurdistan Province, located in the west of Iran. He was shot dead during the protests triggered by the death in custody of a Kurdish activist and construction worker, Kamal Esferem, known as Shwaneh Qaderi.

Following Mr. Qaderi’s killing in early July 2005 by security forces in Mahabad, some pictures of his tortured body were distributed on the internet. These pictures triggered an uprising in Mahabad. The protests soon spread to other Kurdish cities of Iran such as Sardasht, Baneh, Piranshahr, Sanandaj and Saqqez. According to the existing information, the protests began at 9 a.m. on August 3, 2005 following the distribution of a night letter in Mahabad. But the peak of the clashes occurred between 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Afterwards, the city regained stability after intervention from security and police forces. Many people were killed and a large number were wounded. In addition, many civil activists were arrested. The protests went on for weeks despite the harsh repression by the government’s security forces, during at which protesters destroyed various State-owned properties (Amnesty International, February 16, 2006).

Mr. Shari’ati had a degree in Persian Literature and was a retired school teacher. At the beginning of the Islamic Revolution and after the war in Kurdistan, he was fired from his job due to political issues. After 5 years of exile in Bostan Abad and Bukan, he returned to his job as school teacher. He had four children. His family remembers him as a popular teacher and a kind father who despite his numerous personal problems, always helped his students. He was a literature lover and wrote poetry. According to the persons close to him, Mr. Shari’ati was not a political activist at the time of his death, and he was not attending the protests (ABF interview, August 4, 2006).

Death

On August 3, 2005, Mr. Shari’ati went to buy fruits with his wife, and on his way home, he stopped in the street to watch the protest with a couple of his colleagues. Several members of the Shari’ati family were at the place of the protests. Shortly after they arrived to find the protest taking place, the shooting broke out. The rest of the family escaped the scene but lost Mohammad on their way home. Mr. Shari’ati was shot in the head and died instantly (ABF Interview, August 4, 2006).

Family’s Reaction

According to Mr. Shari’ati’s daughter, the family was informed about his murder shortly after the incident by the people who were present at the scene. They found the cadaver but they failed to retrieve the body. According to the persons close to him, Mr. Shari’ati was shot under the right eye. They do not know who exactly shot him because the area was full of police, plain-clothed forces, and low flying helicopters which were filming the protesters and shooting at them. After this incident, the Shari’ati’s filed a complaint in the General Court of Saqqez (ABF interview, August 5, 2006, Radio Farda, August 11, 2005).

Official Reactions

The official website of the Governor of Kurdistan, on August 5, 2005 declared that Mr. Mohammad Shari’ati was shot from behind in the head in an alley on his way back home. His death was instantaneous (The official website of Kurdistan Governor, August 5, 2005).

According to Human Rights Watch, the security forces had assaulted Mr. Shari’ati’s daughter and son (Hajir) while they were trying to retrieve their father’s body (Human Rights Watch, August 11, 2005). One of the officers even pointed his gun at Mr. Shari’ati’s son’s chest and threatened him to death. One of officers told them that if they so much as approached the body, he would kill them as well (ABF interview, August 4, 2006). Mr. Shari’ati’s body was then taken by the police who did not allow the family to accompany the body. The family collected the body two days after his death. The family reported that the authorities had asked them to pay for the bullet which killed Mr. Shari’ati but with the mediation of the Governor of Saqqez who was once a student of Mr. Shari’ati, the police officials withdrew the financial requirement. The body was ritually washed before returning to the family as is custom (Muslims wash the cadaver before its burial). The body was wrapped up completely. Before returning the cadaver, the security forces allowed the family to see a part of Mr. Shari’ati’s nose and mustache (ABF Interview, August 4, 2006 and Radio Farda, August 11, 2005).

The local officials did not allow the family to hold a funeral or distribute leaflets to inform people about the funeral as is tradition in Iran. Local officials forced the family to bury the body at night and in the presence of numerous police forces. Accordingly, the body was buried at 10 p.m., Friday, August 4, 2005 (ABF Interview, August 4, 2006 and Radio Farda, August 11, 2005).

State officials did not formally accept any responsibility for Mr. Shari’ti’s death but due to the widespread protests, they were compelled to react.

On August 3, a special commission presided by the Political and Security Deputy of the Governor of Kurdistan was sent to Saqqez. This commission went to Saqqez at the request of the Governor of Saqqez and the Governor General of Saqqez’s order. The mandates of this commission were declared as: investigating the killings in Saqqez; preparing the cadavers to bury; trying to release the detainees; interviewing the wounded; and investigating the causes of the incidents (The official website of Kurdistan Governor, August 5, 2005). According to Radio Farda, this commission declared that the bullet, which killed Mr. Shari’ati, was shot from a close distance and by a Klashikov (Radio Farda, August 11, 2005). There is no other information available about other findings of this commission or any follow up for its probable findings.

Following Mr. Shari’ati’s death and other incidents which led to lots of human casualties, Fakhroddin Heidari, a Member of Parliament from Saqqez and Bukan, wrote a letter to President Ahmadinejad in August 2005 criticizing the frequent uses of violence against the people of the region. His letter was sent to other high ranking national and local officials and was also read in the Parliament. He wrote in a part of this letter, “The first measure, taken against the people of Saqqez in this recent unrest (shooting) is in fact a last resort measure in other regions”. He also mentioned Mr. Shari’ati and requested some measures with this regard such as the propitiation of the victims’ families, deploying an expert commission to the region to investigate about the causes of the incidents, and using police restraint in confrontations with protesters (Fakhroddin Heidari Personal Website, August 11, 2005).

On August 5, 2005, the Official Website of Kurdistan's Governor General published the statements of local officials who had denied the police’s responsibility in these killings. The Governor of Saqqez and the Governor General of Kurdistan, Hassan Firuzi confirmed Mr. Shari’ati’s case as murder but declared that the culprit was not identified (the Official Website of Kurdistan Governor General, August 5, 2005).

The Governor also declared that the shooting was obviously not enacted by the police forces. He also added that the Council of Ta’mine Ostan (Governor General’s intelligence unit) did not authorize any shooting. Later, all the members of the Council agreed on that no authorization was made. He stated at another occasion that nobody ordered the shootings and it should be determined who was responsible for these shootings. He requested collaboration from the people of the region and the local the officials in order to find the people who were responsible (the Official Website of Kurdistan Governor General, August 6, 2005).

The Political and Security Deputy of the Governor General of Kurdistan stated that the officers present at the scene all claimed that none of them used a firearm. He also stated that an expert commission was investigating the bullet and the crime scene. The government would hold the culprits responsible if the matter was cleared (the Official Website of Kurdistan Governor General, August 5, 2005).

One year after Mr. Shari’ati’s death, the state officials have not declared any news about the details of the killings and investigations about them. There is no information available about the findings of the deployed commission. In response to the complaint of the Shari’atis, the court stated that Mr. Shari’ati was killed by anti-revolutionists (ABF interview, August 4, 2006).

Simultaneously, Mr. Shari’ati’s family was under immense pressure to drop the charges and were threatened that if they did not do so, they would get hurt. Up to 2006, the court had not accept the responsibility of the state officials for the shooting and asked the family to introduce the murderer. But because the family does not know the culprit the case had been suspended. None of the eye witnesses wanted to testify out of fear (ABF interview, August 4, 2006)

International Reactions

Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reported Mr. Shari’ari’s case and asked the Iranian authorities to conduct a thorough investigation as to why he was killed. On August 11, 2005, Human Rights Watch reported the facts of the repression dealt upon the protests within the aforementioned Kurdish cities and included the murder of Mr. Shari’ati by stating, “the government's response must be lawful and governed by the standards set out in the U.N. Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the U.N. Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials. These principles state that the intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.” (Human Rights Watch, August 11, 2005).

The Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings, Summary and Arbitrary Executions, Mr. Philip Alston, on March 27, 2006, in his final report to the UN General Assembly referred to an allegation letter about the Kurdistan killings including the extrajudicial killing of Mr. Shari’ati and 16 other people which he received and subsequently sent to the government of Iran on August 14, 2005. In this letter, he was reported that 17 people were killed in Mahabad, Saqqez, Baneh and Sardasht. He particularly noted that the Revolutionary Guards Special Forces reportedly surrounded and shot the protesters directly, and in Saqqez, they murdered some people including Mr. Shari’ati. He then referred to the position of the Islamic Republic which called the protesters “hooligans and criminal elements” and that “public and state-owned buildings, including banks, were damaged.” The Special Rapporteur reminded Iran of its obligations regarding the use of lethal force and that its use should only be implemented as a last resort when there are no alternatives available. Mr. Alston asked the government of Iran some questions: Are these allegations correct? The Iranian government should provide some details and documents about these deaths such as forensic reports, etc. It should also provide some information about the investigations about these killings. Could the Iranian police force have used non-lethal means to disperse the crowd? And if yes, why did they still decide to use the lethal forces? The Special Rapporteur reiterated that: “The Special Rapporteur regrets that the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran failed to cooperate with the mandate he has been given by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.” Five years after the Special Rapporteur report to the General Assembly, the Iranian State still had not cooperated with him about these killings (E/CN.4/2006/53).

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