Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Reisan Savari


Age: 32
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam
Civil Status: Single


Date of Killing: February 14, 2007
Location of Killing: Karun Prison, Ahvaz, Khuzestan Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: War on God; Bombing; Actively opposing the Islamic Republic

About this Case

Mr. Reisan Savari was a middle school teacher, an Ahvazi Arab activist, and a member of the Vefaq Party.

News of Mr. Reisan Savari’s execution was published by numerous sources, including the Amnesty International (February 15, 2007), Human Rights Watch (February 15, 2007) and Radio Farda (February 15, 2007). Quoting the Office of Public Relations of Khuzestan Province’s Judiciary, Fars News Agency published the news of the execution of three unidentified individuals in Ahvaz (February 14, 2007). The head of the Organization for the Defense of Prisoners’ Rights stated that the number of those executed was four (Radio Farda, February 14, 2007). Additional information was obtained from an interview conducted by the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation with two individuals accused in the Ahvaz bombings case [Boroumand Foundation interview], including one of his prison mates, and one from other sources.*

Mr. Reisan Savari was 32 years old, single, and a resident of Ahvaz. He was a middle school teacher, an Ahvazi Arab activist, and a member of the Vefaq Party.** (Ahwaz Human Rights Organization). According to one of his prison mates, he had extensive social relations, was a fairly religious person (prayed regularly), had a sense of humor, and was well liked by other prisoners. He was among the first prisoners to severely object to breaches of his and other prisoners’ rights. According to Amnesty International, Mr. Savari had been arrested in the Ahvazi Arabs’ protest of March-April 2005, and released shortly thereafter.

Mr.Savari, along with Qasem Salamt and Majed Albughbish  , made up the fourth group of Khuzestani Arabs who were executed in connection with 2005-2006 unrests and bombings. The issuance of a death sentence for this group of defendants caused strong reactions from the attorneys in the case, from the Organization for the Defense of Prisoners’ Rights, and from international organizations such as Amnesty International (November 13 and December 24, 2006); Human Rights Watch (November 11, 2006);. By issuing a resolution on December 19, 2006, the U.N. General Assembly had expressed its grave concern regarding the widespread breach of human rights as well as the use of torture and execution, especially discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, in Iran. The publication of seven of the defense attorneys’ objections resulted in the latter being summoned by Branch 7 of the Ahvaz Prosecutor’s Office, for endangering national security. The defense attorneys’ trial was followed by the U.N. Special Rapporteurs’ objections. (U.N. website, November 11, 2006).

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

According to one of his prison mates, security forces arrested Mr. Savari on August 9, 2005. Local sources stated the date of his arrest as August 10, 2005, and Amnesty International has stated it to be September.

There is no direct information about Mr. Savari’s place and his conditions of detention. Two of the defendants in the 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 the accused in the bombing cases were kept in solitary confinement cells at Ahvaz Information Administration’s secret detention center, and routinely and continuously underwent physical and psychological torture. There was no possibility of contact and visitation with their families. According to one of Mr. Savari’s prison mates, he and a number of the accused in the case were transferred to Ward 6 of Ahvaz’s Karun Prison in the middle of summer 2006.


No information is available regarding the defendant’s case. According to Human Rights Watch, on June 7, 2006, the Ahvaz Islamic Revolutionary Court, Branch Three, tried Mr. Savari and a number of other individuals, in secret. According to the head of the Organization for the Defense of Prisoners’ Rights, the defendants’ attorneys had not seen their clients until the day of the trial. At trial, they asked the court to identify their respective clients to ensure that they were indeed present. (Radio Farda, June 21, 2006). Mr. Baqi has reported that a number of the defense attorneys were court appointed. (BBC, June 21, 2006). At the Court of Appeals, the Organization for the Defense of Prisoners’ Rights provided attorneys for some of the defendants in this case. (ILNA, June 25, 2006).


According to Amnesty International, the charges brought against Mr. Reisan Savari were “Moharebeh (“waging war with God”) through creating instability in the country, trying to overthrow the regime, possession of homemade bombs, sabotaging oil installations, and participation in the Ahvaz bombings of 2005-2006”. (February 15, 2007). In March 2006, the Khuzestan Province Deputy Governor had stated in a news conference that “these individuals had Wahabi and Salafi tendencies, and their objective was to intensify ethnic differences and to jeopardize 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 March 1, 2006, Khuzestan Province’s state television network broadcast the confessions of 7 of the individuals accused of the Ahvaz bombings. In the video-recording, which had many jumps and edits, and in which the defendants’ statements appeared to be severely tampered with and edited, Mr. Savari makes certain statements regarding ordering the manufacture of bombs.

In an interview with the Boroumand Foundation, one of Mr. Savari’s friends and prison mates stated that Mr. Savari was accused of having planted a bomb in front of the deputy chief of Ahvaz state radio and television’s house on June 13, 2005. The bomb exploded while it was being disarmed but caused no damage.

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. The state television broadcast 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 those prisoners who are freed.


No information is available regarding the individual’s defense. Based on available information, however, Mr. Savari was not given the opportunity to present an effective defense. In an open letter to the Ahvaz Revolutionary Court, seven defense attorneys of the Ahvaz bombing cases, including some of the attorneys in this case, objected to the legal proceedings. They pointed out that they had been informed only two days prior to trial, whereas the law requires at least 5 days’ notice. Further, in spite of their request, they were not given permission to conduct a thorough study of the case file, nor were they allowed to meet with their clients. Trial sessions were conducted without the presence of the other defendants and their attorneys. (Amnesty International, January 24, 2007).

In a letter to the chief of the Judiciary, the head of the Organization for the Defense of Prisoners’ Rights objected to the sentences issued for ten of the defendants, including Mr. Savari: “These defendants were tried (mostly in other cities) after they had spent 10-11 months in solitary confinement, without even meeting with their lawyers. The attorneys did not even know their clients in the courtroom. Further, the attorneys took part in the trial without having had a reasonable time to read the case file and know the contents thereof, since they were given the opportunity to read the 800-page file only 24 hours prior to trial. The defendants have declared that their confessions had been given under duress… .  Based on [our] information, some of them had no connection to any explosion. Apparently they were enticed by an individual who had delivered audio bombs to them and had tempted, encouraged, and instigated them to carry out the explosion; some of the defendants were not even aware of what was going on at all. Those defendants who had received delivery of the explosives had changed their minds [in implementing the bombings] and had either left or hidden the explosives in other locations. What is amazing is that the individual about whom nine people have confessed and was the principle person in instigating [the defendants] and delivering the bombs [to them], is now living in the city of Ahvaz in the open, but those he misled and deceived have been condemned to death.” (Emadeddin Baqi, June 15, 2006). In an interview with the BBC, the head of the Organization for the Defense of Prisoners’ Rights pointed to letters in the prisoners’ own handwritings, stamped by the prison, in which they have declared that they were forced to confess under duress. (Morning Show, June 26, 2006). In another interview, with ILNA, Mr. Baqi objected to the fact that a 28- or 30–year-old judge, without sufficient [and proper] education [and experience] was given the power to decide whether the defendants lived or died. He emphasized that, even applying accepted legal and religious norms of the Islamic Republic itself, such death sentences should not have been issued. (ILNA, June 25, 2006).

Three U.N. Special Rapporteurs sent two letters to the Islamic Republic officials in August and November 2006, demanding clarifications regarding the Ahvaz bombing defendants’ claims of torture and unfair trial. The government did not, however, reply to these letters. (U.N. Human Rights website, January 10, 2007).

Two of the individuals accused in the Ahvaz bombing case testified, in an interview with the Boroumand Foundation, that the prison guards in bombing cases applied severe physical and psychological torture in order to elicit incriminating confessions about themselves and the other accused individuals. According to them, a team had come from Tehran for the purpose of making videotaped confessions and that the defendants had been subjected to pressure and beatings for several nights in order to show their “confessions” on film. (Interview with the Boroumand Foundation). According to the Ahwaz Human Rights Organization, all of these individuals had been forced to make false confessions under torture. (January 24, 2007).


On June 8, 2006, The Ahvaz Revolutionary Court, Branch Three, sentenced Mr. Reisan Savari to death. (Human Rights Watch, November 11, 2006). According to Amnesty International, it is not clear whether the sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court or not. (April 2, 2007). Previously, in March 2006, the Khuzestan Province Deputy Governor had announced that Mr. Reisan Savari had been sentenced to two years imprisonment. (IRNA, March 1, 2006).

On February 14, 2007, Mr. Savari and two other defendants by the names of Majed Albughbish and Qasem Salamat, were hanged at the Karun Prison in Ahvaz.  According to the head of the Organization for the Defense of Prisoners’ Rights, who had actively been pursuing the nullification of the sentence, the executions were carried out in a Haram month (a month in which certain acts, including execution and war, are forbidden) and were therefore contrary to religious tenets. (Radio France, February 15, 2007). According to Human Rights Watch, prison officials informed Mr. Savari’s family, who had gone there for visitation, that he would be executed the next day.

According to his prison mate, Mr. Savari’s body was not turned over to his family and was buried by security agents in a remote cemetery in Ahvaz called La’natabad. Security agents did not allow Mr. Savari’s family to conduct a funeral wake.


ISNA (November 18, 2005), ILNA (July 25, October 7, and November 18, 2006), Fars News Agency (February 14, 2007), Radio France (February 15, 2007), Radio Farda (February 14, 2007), Padmaz (April 12, 2014), Amnesty International (November 13 and December 24, 2006, January 10 and 15, 2007), Amnesty International (November 11, 2006, February 15, 2007, April 2, 2007), U.N. Human Rights website (January 10, 2007), Human Rights Watch (November 11, 2006 and February 15, 2007), Rooz Online (November 20, 2006), Ahwaz News Agency (January 24, 2007), Emadoddin Baqi Website, Iran Newspaper (March 2, 2007), and the Jomhuri Eslami Newspaper(January 9, 2007).

** “Vefaq Eslami Party (Lajanah Al Wefaq)”
“Lajanah Al Wefaq” was formed in the late 1990’s with emphasis on the Arab identity and the rights of Khuzestan’s ethnic Arab population. In its first congress on January 9, 2002, it officially declared its existence in Ahvaz under the name “Hezb-e Vefaq-e Eslami” (“Islamic Unity Party”) (Al Wefaq), and an Arab member of the Majles (Iranian Parliament), Representative Qasem Shadidzadeh, became the party’s secretary general. Vefaq declared itself a reformist party, “whose main objective is to institutionalize democracy in a civil and multicultural society that respects the dignity of all human beings, regardless of their race or religion.” Vefaq’s platform alludes to the revival of ethnic identity; ending ethnic, economic, and cultural discrimination; cooperation with progressive parties and convergence with other ethnic groups in Iran, in order to solve the national issue; implementation of heretofore not implemented constitutional principles, especially Principle 15; active participation of political experts in political, economic, and cultural posts and capacities; fighting backward social customs that are remnants of tribal medieval thinking in Khuzestan’s Arab population; and emphasizing the important place and the participation of women in political and social affairs.
The Vefaq Party conducted cultural activities in Khuzestan’s Arab regions. It succeeded in winning one of Ahvaz’s three parliamentary seats in the Sixth Majles elections, and in winning 8 of 9 seats on the Ahvaz City Council in the second city council elections in 2002-2003. In 2003-2004, a section of the Party branched off to form “Hezb-e Afaq-e Eslami” (”Islamic Horizons Party”). All of the Party’s candidates were ruled ineligible to stand for the seventh Majles elections or for the third city council elections. On November 4, 2006, subsequent to the 2005 protests and unrest in Khuzestan, the Ahvaz Prosecutor’s Office considered the Vefaq Party’s activities to be “in opposition to the holy regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and to be geared toward creating conflict and tension among people, especially between the Arab and non-Arab populations,” and declared the Party illegal, further stating that membership in the Party, or of any connection to it, would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

***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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