Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Mehdi Navaseri


Age: 20
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam
Civil Status: Single


Date of Killing: March 1, 2006
Location of Killing: Ahvaz, Khuzestan Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: War on God; Murder

About this Case

Mr. Navaseri came from a poor family and had only finished middle school.

Information about Mr. Mehdi Navaseri’s execution was published in numerous media, including IRNA (March 2, 2006) and Sharq newspaper (March 2, 2006.) Mr. Navaseri was the first of the accused to be executed in connection with the 2005 Ahvaz bombings, along with Mr. Ali Afravi. In the following months, these executions continued, and dozens of other citizens were put to death. Additional information was obtained from an interview conducted by the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation, with a person close to Mr. Navaseri and with another individual accused in the Ahvaz bombing cases, as well as from other news websites including, ISNA (March 1, 2006), Radio Farda (March 2, 2006), Ahwazi Democratic Popular Front (June 28, 2011), Amnesty International (March 1 and 2, 2006), Human Rights Watch (June 26, 2006), and the Fars News Agency (March 1, 2006).

Mr. Mehdi Navaseri was 20 years old, single, and a resident of [the city of] Ahvaz (said the Ahwaz Human Rights Organization).  According to a person close to him, in an interview conducted by the Boroumand Foundation, indicated that he came from a poor family and had only finished middle school. Amnesty International has stated his age as being 22.

Mr. Navaseri’s execution prompted the reaction of human rights institutions. Amnesty International protested by issuing bulletins, in which it considered the revolutionary court proceedings as unjust and based on confessions obtained under duress. The Ahwaz Human Rights Organization and the British Ahwazi Friendship Society also protested the execution of Arab citizens.

Hours after the executions of Mr. Navaseri and Mr. Afravi, a bomb exploded on 9thStreet in Ahvaz’s Kianpars neighborhood, shattering windows and causing damage to surrounding buildings, although, according to local sources, there were no casualties.

Historical Background of the Ahvaz Bombing

Subsequent to the publication of a letter ascribed to a government official concerning systematic modification of the fabric of Khuzestan Province’s ethnic Arab population, demonstrations broke out on Friday, April 15, 2005, in [the city of] Ahvaz, and then in [the town of] Hamidideh. In quashing the demonstrations, security and police forces resorted to violence, which led to the death and injury of dozens of protestors and resulted in the protests and the unrest spreading to a number of other Khuzestan cities, continuing for at least 10 days.* These protests were the beginning of a series of incidents, including widespread arrests, multiple bombings, and successive executions in Ahvaz. For instance, a series of bombings followed on June 12 and October 15, 2005, and on January 24 and February 27, 2006, in various regions of Ahvaz, Abadan, and Dezful. These bombings were carried out in front of government buildings and in public places and left in their wake more than 20 dead and dozens injured.** According to government sources, other bombings (targeting oil pipelines and non-residential regions around Ahvaz) occurred at the end of summer and in the fall of 2005, which did not leave any casualties.

In response to the Ahvaz bombings, security forces arrested dozens of the region’s ethnic Arab individuals, charging them with participation in the bombings. They were then kept in solitary confinement cells, for months, at the Information Ministry’s Detention Center.  People being held were subjected to torture, in order to confess having taken part in the bombings. According to the Ahvaz Prosecutor, ultimately a total of four cases were opened at the Revolutionary Court, Special Branch, and at least 45 individuals were charged. Dozens of these individuals were tried in closed sessions and were sentenced to death by the Revolutionary Court. At least 19 of these sentences were carried out. Dozens of other Arab citizens were given long-term sentences.

Government officials never accepted that these bombings had internal reasons which had arisen following the Khuzestan incidents. In multiple, and sometimes contradictory, statements, political and judicial authorities imputed responsibility to groups opposing [the Islamic Republic], including, “Those loyal to the previous regime and residing in England;” “Fugitive SAVAK (the Shah’s security and intelligence apparatus) members, and family members of the destroyed Monafeqin (MKO);” “Wahabis;” “secessionists;” and/or to groups affiliated with the UK and other foreign countries. The Iranian government officially accused the UK of involvement in the bombings and declared that the bombers had been trained in Iraq, in regions under British army control, where they had acquired their arms and explosives. In one such statement, then-President Mahmud Ahmadinejad spoke of the clear and obvious footprint of Iraq’s occupiers in the Khuzestan incidents. (ISNA, January 25, 2006). The British government officially denied these accusations and expressed its concern regarding such statements made by Iranian officials. (BBC, November 1, 2005).

The televised confessions of a number of those arrested were broadcast several times on local TV and on Iran’s English language, Press TV. In one of these programs, broadcast on local TV on November 13, 2006, 10 of these individuals declared themselves to be members of “Katibeh Shohadaye Mohiuddin Al Nasser,” (“Mohiuddin Al Nasser Martyrs Brigade,”) or (the military wing of the Al-Nazal movement). No group officially accepted responsibility for the Ahvaz bombings. However, a video recording was distributed in the name of Katibeh Shohadaye Mohiuddin Al Nasser and “Harakat Al-Nazal Al-Arabi Le-Tahrir Al-Ahvaz (“Ahvaz Arabic Liberation Movement”), showing some of the bombings, including the explosion in front of the Natural Resources Organization building and oil pipeline explosions. At a later time, Harakat Al-Nazal officially accepted responsibility for some of the oil pipeline explosions.

Arrest and Detention

No information is available about the details of Mr. Navaseri’s arrest. The Ministry of Information issued a communiqué announcing the arrest of five individuals between October 18, 2005, and October 28, 2005, [in connection with and] accused of Ahvaz’s Naderi Street bombing. (Kayhan [newspaper], November 1, 2005)  Amnesty International has declared Mr. Navaseri’s arrest date as being October 29, 2005.

There is no information about Mr. Navaseri’s place and conditions of detention. Two of those accused in bombing cases -- as well as other Arab activists who were detained by the Information Administration at the same time -- testified in an interview with the Boroumand Foundation that those accused in bombing cases were kept in solitary confinement cells at the Ahvaz Information Administration’s secret detention center and routinely and continuously underwent physical and psychological torture.


No information is available regarding the trial session(s), except that, according to Khuzestan Province Deputy Governor and the Judiciary’s spokesman, Mr. Navaseri’s trial, as well as that of the other accused in the case, took place at Ahvaz Islamic Revolutionary Court Special Branch, after January 29, 2006. (Iran Newspaper, October 24, 2005, January 29, 2006)  According to official sources, the judicial proceedings, from trial to the court decision and to the implementation thereof, were conducted in extreme haste, in less than a month, and without observing judicial formalities and due process.

According to Amnesty International, the entire process of investigation and trial was conducted in secret, and the court did not allow Mr. Navaseri to retain counsel. (Amnesty International, June 29, 2006)


According to [Iran’s] Prosecutor General and the Judiciary’s spokesman, the charges against Mr. Mehdi Navaseri were “Moharebeh (“waging war against God”) and murder,” in connection with Ahvaz’s Salman Farsi (Naderi) Street bombing on October 15, 2005. (ISNA, March 1, 2006) Furthermore, the Khuzestan Province Deputy Governor stated, in a news conference, that those [executed] individuals had Wahabi and Salafi tendencies and that their objective was to aggravate ethnic conflicts and to disrupt national unity. (IRNA, March 1, 2006) 

The validity of the criminal charges brought against this defendant cannot be ascertained in the absence of the basic guarantees of a fair trial.

Evidence of Guilt

There is no precise information regarding evidence presented at trial. However, according to official judicial and security authorities, the defendants’ confessions constituted the basis for the court’s judgment. On the night prior to the executions, Khuzestan Province’s state television network broadcast the confessions of seven of the individuals accused of the Ahvaz bombings. In the video-recording [of the confessions], which appeared to have been severely tampered with and edited, a number of the accused, including Mr. Navaseri, confessed to certain acts incriminating themselves and other accused individuals of contacting certain Arab activists outside the country, and participating in the Naderi Street bombing.

The Ministry of Information’s communiqué of November 1, 2005, alluded to the discovery of an operational bomb, [various] arms and hand grenades secretly placed in different locations, as evidence of [the existence of] a grouplet. (Kayhan, November 1, 2005). Khuzestan Province’s Deputy Governor further announced, in his news conference, that a large number of books and tapes promoting Wahabism had been seized in the course of searches that had been conducted. (ISNA, March 1, 2006)


No information is available regarding the accused’s defense. From the time of arrest until the implementation of the court’s judgment, security and judicial officials did not allow the accused to contact his family and/or meet with and retain an attorney. According to testimony given by other individuals accused in the Ahvaz bombing case, the proceedings had been conducted in secret and without observing legal standards. The accused did not have the right to speak and were not given an opportunity to defend themselves.

Two of the individuals accused in the Ahvaz bombing case testified in an interview with the Boroumand Foundation that those accused in bombing cases underwent severe physical and psychological torture, which made more incriminating the confessions about themselves and the other accused individuals. According to these persons, a team had come from Tehran to make the videotaped confessions and that they had been subjected to pressure and beatings for several nights before their confessions on film.

International human rights organizations have repeatedly condemned the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for its systematic use of severe torture and solitary confinement to obtain confessions from detainees and have questioned the authenticity of confessions obtained under duress. In the case of political detainees, these confessions are, at times, televised. State Television broadcasts confessions, during which prisoners plead guilty to vague and false charges, repent and renounce their political beliefs, and/or implicate others. Human rights organizations have also pointed to the pattern of retracted confessions by prisoners who were later freed.


The Ahvaz Islamic Revolutionary Court sentenced Mr. Mehdi Navaseri to death.  This decision was upheld by Supreme Court Branch 32.

On March 1, 2006, ISNA, quoting the Prosecutor General, wrote that the case had certain flaws and defects and that it was under consideration by the Supreme Court. The substance of these defects was not clear, and it appears that not much consideration was done, as the execution of Mr. Navaseri, as well as another one of the accused in the case, was carried out in public that same day (March 1, 2006) in the city of Ahvaz.

According to Amnesty International, the execution was carried out in public on Naderi Bridge, near the location of the bombing and 45 minutes prior to the announced time. The rope was first placed around the necks of the accused, and then the crane raised them slowly from the ground (this mode of execution is, in effect, suffocation, more painful, and, obviously, more prolonged), contrary to what is customary in these cases. Security officials returned neither Mr. Navaseri’s body nor his belongings to his family. Furthermore, they did not even tell them where they had buried him. The family was warned by the Information Administration against having a wake or any other type of memorial for him. After a while, and subsequent to inquiries made at the city’s mortuaries, it was determined that the security agents had buried Mr. Navaseri in a remote cemetery at a place called Borumi, outside of Ahvaz.



*A Summary of the Khuzestan Protests on April 2005

Subsequent to the publication of a letter dated July 24, 1998, ascribed to then-President Khatami’s Chief of Staff, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, demonstrations protesting the letter broke out on Friday, April 15, 2005, first in [the city of] Ahvaz, and then in other cities, such as Mahshahr and Hamidideh, and continued for several days. The letter emphasized the modification of Khuzestan Province’s ethnic Arab population through promotion and encouragement of the migration of non-native populations to the province, [thus] reducing Khuzestan’s Arab population to one third of the total population of the province. Although the government’s spokesperson officially denied [the existence of] this letter on Saturday, April 16, the demonstrations that had been called for by the “Coordination Committee for Popular Protests in Ahvaz” continued extensively in the coming days. In calling for demonstrations, [the organizers] highlighted various factors, including “the central government’s policies in expropriating Arab farmers’ lands for various projects such as sugar cane development,” and “marginalization of, as well as profound discontent among, Khuzestan’s Arab [population], as a result of the regime’s efforts to obliterate Arab identity.”The demonstrations that had started in Kui-e Alavi (Shelangabad /Da’ereh), one of [the city of] Ahvaz’s poor neighborhoods, quickly spread to the center of Ahvaz and to the cities of Mahshahr and Hamidieh. Citing Ahvaz News (a regional news organization) and eyewitnesses at the scene, the Ahvaz Human Rights Organization’s bulletin, dated April 15, 2005, stated, “Around three thousand Arab people of Ahvaz have gathered together and started extensive but peaceful demonstrations in Kordovani Street and Square, along with thousands of others in neighborhoods such as Shelangabad, Malashieh, Ameri, and Kut Abdollah, among others. Security forces are attacking the demonstrators, first with tear gas, and are subsequently firing on them in Da’ereh and Malashieh neighborhoods.” The degree of violence resorted to by security and police forces in quashing the demonstrations was such that it led to the death of a number of protestors. Dozens more were injured. Subsequent to these deaths, the intensity and magnitude of the protests increased. In a number of towns, demonstrators proceeded to cut off roads and to occupy government buildings and police posts. These protests continued for ten days in many Arab regions of Khuzestan. Protestors demanded a government apology to the region’s Arabs. Official government sources, quoting the Islamic Republic’s Defense Minister, announced the death toll as standing at three or four. (ISNA, April 19, 2005) Civil society activists, however, declared the number of people killed during these events to be between 50 and 60. Amnesty International stated the number as 29; Human Rights Watch, 50; and the Ahvaz Human Rights Organization, 160. Dozens of others were injured. The Ahvaz General and Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office announced the arrest and arraignment of 447 individuals. (IRNA, April 25, 2005) Local sources, however, announced the number as being greater than 1200. A number of intellectuals and ethnic leaders were among those arrested. Although the demonstrations subsided after ten days, widespread arrests, multiple bombings, successive executions, and popular protests continued on various occasions, including the anniversary of the events.

 **Ahvaz Bombings in 2005 and 2006:

June 12, 2005:  Four explosions occurred in front of the Governor’s building, the Planning and Budget Organization building, the Housing and Urban Development Organization building, and in a residential neighborhood, leaving at least 8 dead and 98 injured.

September 1, 2005:  The bombing of oil installations and two pipelines in the Zargan region of Ahvaz.

October 15, 2005:  Two explosions occurred prior to Iftar, in the month of Ramadan, at two locations on Salman Farsi (Naderi) Street, leaving at least 6 dead and 100 injured.

January 24, 2006:  Bombings at Saman Bank --  in the Kianpars neighborhood of Ahvaz and at the Khuzestan Province Natural Resources General Administration building --  left at least 6 dead and 45 injured (certain reports indicating 8 or 9 dead).

February 27, 2006:  Bombings at the Governor’s buildings in the cities of Dezful and Abadan left 4 injured.

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