Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Parvaneh Zahiri


Age: 17
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam
Civil Status: Single


Date of Killing: June 21, 1981
Location of Killing: Evin Prison, Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Shooting
Charges: Unspecified counter-revolutionary offense
Age at time of alleged offense: 17

About this Case

She was only a junior at highschool who could have had a bright future ahead of her.

News of the execution of Ms. Parvaneh Zahiri, daughter of Mohammad Hossein, was submitted to the Boroumand Center by a person close to her through electronic form. News of this and 21 other executions was published in Jomhuri-e Eslami and Kayhan newspapers, quoting the Public Relations Office of the Central (Tehran) Islamic Republic Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office. (May 22, and 23, 1981). The news was also published in Annex Number 261 of the Mojahed magazine (published by the Mojahedin Khalq Organization) on September 6, 1985. This Annex includes a list comprising the names of 12028 individuals, most of whom were affiliated with political groups opposed to the [Islamic Republic] Regime. These individuals had either been executed after June 20, 1981, until the time of the publication of the Mojahed magazine, or had been killed in fights with the Islamic Republic law enforcement forces. Additional information about this case was gathered from what people close to her had written on the internet.

International laws have strictly prohibited capital punishment for those who were under the age of 18 at the time of committing a crime. As a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Iran has the obligation not to impose capital punishment for an offence committed before the age of eighteen.

Ms. Zahiri was born in the city of Kermanshah and was 17 years old. She was a junior in high school majoring in science, and was a sympathizer of the Mojahedin Khalq Organization.

The Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) was founded in 1965. This organization adapted the principles of Islam as its ideological guideline. However, its members’ interpretation of Islam was revolutionary and they believed in armed struggle against the Shah’s regime. They valued Marxism as a progressive method for economic and social analysis but considered Islam as their source of inspiration, culture, and ideology. In the 1970s, the MKO was weakened when many of its members were imprisoned and executed. In 1975, following a deep ideological crisis, the organization refuted Islam as its ideology and, after a few of its members were killed and other Muslim members purged, the organization proclaimed Marxism as its ideology. This move led to split of the Marxist-Leninist Section of the MKO in 1977. In January of 1979, the imprisoned Muslim leaders of the MKO were released along with other political prisoners. They began to re-organize the MKO and recruit new members based on Islamic ideology. After the 1979 Revolution and the establishment of the Islamic Republic, the MKO accepted the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini and supported the Revolution. Active participation in the political scene and infiltration of governmental institutions were foremost on the organization’s agenda. During the first two years after the Revolution, the MKO succeeded in recruiting numerous sympathizers, especially in high schools and universities; but its efforts to gain political power, either by appointment or election, were strongly opposed by the Islamic Republic leaders. *

Arrest and detention

Ms. Zahiri was arrested by [security] agents in the afternoon of June 20, 1981, under the Seyyed Khandan Bridge, while participating in an assembly and demonstrations organized by the MKO. She and several other young girls and boys were taken to Evin Prison on a bus. They were beaten at the Prison. She would not reveal her name during interrogations. Ms. Zahiri spent less than a day in detention.

The June 20, 1981, demonstrations took place to protest the preparations by Majless (“Parliament”) to remove Bani Sadr (then President) from office; the denial of competence of MKO candidates and preventing them from participation in the country’s political affairs; Ayatollah Khomeini’s opposition to any type of negotiations with the MKO; and his insistence on disarming said Organization. The MKO, which, until then, had supported Ayatollah Khomeini’s leadership and had tried to conduct its activities within the framework of the new political regime, changed its position and tried to topple the regime and make a power grab by initiating widespread demonstrations in which some of its supporters were armed. The fierce and brutal quashing of the June 20 demonstrations that resulted in the killing of dozens of individuals, and the wave of arrests that followed, legitimized, in effect, the attacks of the previous months on independent groups and political parties by paramilitary militias and the Revolutionary Guards, and by intensifying such crushing suppressions in a manner unprecedented in the history of the Islamic Republic, turned it into the government’s official policy.


The Central (Tehran) Islamic Revolutionary Court tried Ms. Zahiri. According to the Central Islamic Revolutionary Court, “the Islamic Court was convened to hear the charges against anti-Revolutionary and anti-human American petty groups such as Paykar, Nabard, Monafeqin (derogatory term meaning “hypocrites” used to refer to the MKO) and Fadaiyan Khalq”. Ms. Zahiri was denied her right to an attorney. The Court held its session without even ascertaining her identity.


The charge brought against Ms. Zahiri is not known. The Central Islamic Revolutionary Court announcement states, however, that “the individuals who were tried were among the principal actors and instigators of the riots that occurred on June 20 of the current year (1981)”.

Evidence of guilt

The report of this execution does not contain information regarding the evidence provided against the defendant.


At the time of her arrest, Ms. Zahiri was 17 years old and had not yet reached the legal age. During interrogations, she stated that she was a Mojahed and a child of the people, and refused to state her name.

A Summary of the Legal Defects in Ms. Parvaneh Zahiri’s Case

According to available information, Ms. Parvaneh Zahiri was executed only one day after her arrest. The various steps in investigating and hearing the case, issuing a sentence, and implementing said sentence, were all taken in that one day. To perform all the necessary tasks related to a judicial case in a single day is simply impossible. This shows, in and of itself, that due process was not observed in the adjudication of Ms. Zahiri’s case, that she was not given the opportunity to defend herself and her right to a defense was denied, and that the revolutionary Court had generally adjudicated the case outside the framework of the law and legal tenets. According to available information, Ms. Parvaneh Zahiri was accused of participating in the MKO demonstrations, was tried for the commission of the crime of Moharebeh and Efsad fel-Arz on that basis, and was sentenced to death. There is no information available regarding the type of activities Ms. Zahiri had engaged in in the June 20, 1981 demonstrations; the crime of Moharebeh takes place, however, when a person takes up arms and deprives people of their security, whereas in the early days of the Iranian Revolution and in the 1980’s, revolutionary courts found all of their opponents to be Mohareb (“one who wages war against God”) and Mofsed fel-Arz (“one who spreads corruption on Earth”) mostly pursuant to the tenets of Shari’a law (Islamic jurisprudence). According to available reports, Ms. Zahiri was beaten at the time of her arrest and did not have access to an attorney. In general, the case was so hastily decided that it can be asserted that none of MS. Zahiri’s rights were observed whatsoever.


The Central (Tehran) Islamic Revolutionary Court found Ms. Parvaneh Zahiri “Mofsed and Mohareb” and sentenced her to death.

Ms. Parvaneh Zahiri was executed by firing squad in the Evin Prison yard on June 21, 1981.

News of her execution was reported to her family by her friends. Since their daughter’s identity had not been ascertained, and newspapers and other news broadcasts had reported her executed as a Jane Doe, the family first went to the Medical Examiner’s (Coroner’s) Office. They were shown a collection of photos of many children and young adults who had either been killed in demonstrations or executed. The family recognized their daughter. The authorities told them that she was buried in Behesht-e Zahra [Cemetery], Section 24. The family went to Behesht-e Zahra. The gravedigger told them what their daughter had been wearing when they brought her there, and that was how they learned that Ms. Zahiri had been brought to Beheht-e Zahra. The authorities had simply thrown her in a ditch.

According to a person close to Ms. Zahiri, “Behesht-e Zahra’s Section 24 is a desolate place, and no one can distinguish the various graves from each other. After 38 years, this Section is still under the supervision and control of Bassijis (plainclothes militias) and they still harass people who go there”.


*The exclusion of MKO members from government offices and the closure of their centers and publishing houses, in conjunction with to the Islamic Republic authorities’ different interpretation of Islam, widened the gap between the two. Authorities of the new regime referred to the Mojahedin as “Hypocrites” and the Hezbollahi supporters of the regime attacked the Mojahedin sympathizers regularly during demonstrations and while distributing publications, leading to the death of several MKO supporters. On June 20, 1981, the MKO called for a demonstration protesting their treatment by governmental officials and the government officials’ efforts to impeach their ally, President Abolhassan Banisadr. Despite the fact that the regime called this demonstration illegal, thousands came to the streets, some of whom confronted the Revolutionary Guardsmen and Hezbollahis. The number of casualties that resulted from this demonstration is unknown but a large number of demonstrators were arrested and executed in the following days and weeks. The day after the demonstration, the Islamic Republic regime started a repressive campaign – unprecedented in modern Iranian history. Thousands of MKO members and sympathizers were arrested or executed. On June 21, 1981, the MKO announced an armed struggle against the Islamic Republic and assassinated a number of high-ranking officials and supporters of the Islamic regime. *
In the summer of 1981, the leader of the MKO and the impeached President (Banisadr) fled Iran to reside in France, where they founded the National Council of Resistance. After the MKO leaders and many of its members were expelled from France, they went to Iraq and founded the National Liberation Army of Iran in 1987, which entered Iranian territory a few times during the Iran-Iraq war. They were defeated in July 1988 during their last operation, the Forugh Javidan Operation. A few days after this operation, thousands of imprisoned Mojahedin supporters were killed during the mass executions of political prisoners in 1988. Ever since the summer of 1981, the MKO has continued its activities outside of Iran. No information is available regarding members and activities of the MKO inside the country.
In defense: In spite of the “armed struggle” announcement by the MKO on June 20, 1981, many sympathizers of the organization had no military training, were not armed, and did not participate in armed conflict.

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