Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Esma'il Ma'arefi


Age: 27
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Non-Believer
Civil Status: Single


Date of Killing: June, 1988
Location: Evin Prison, Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Unspecified execution method
Charges: Possession of arms

About this Case

Information about Mr. Esma’il Ma’arefi was gathered from an electronic form sent to the Boroumand Foundation by a person familiar with this case. Mr. Esma’il Ma’arefi is also cited in the list by the Fadaiyan Khalq Organization, Minority Branch, as an affiliate of the organization who was executed in Iran after the 1979 revolution (published on 26 September 2009). He was a victim of the mass killings of political prisoners in 1988. The Boroumand Foundation has collected additional information regarding the 1988 massacre from the memoirs of Ayatollah Montazeri, reports from human rights organizations, interviews with the witnesses and victims’ families,  as well as from the Bidaran website.  

 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 Fadaiyan Khalq (Minority) and the Peykar Organization, which opposed the Islamic Republic, as well as the Tudeh Party and the Fadaiyan Khalq (Majority), which did not.

Mr. Esma’il Ma’arefi, son of Abolfazl, was born in Tehran in 1961. He was the youngest in his family and continued his education until 9th grade. He was mostly unemployed until he began working at a print shop. According to the website of the Fadaiyan Khalq Minority, he had joined the Rah-e Kargar Organization just before his arrest. However, according to the website of the Rah-e Kargar Organization, he was a sympathizer of the Fadaiyan Khalq Organization before its split. That’s why he was forced to leave his military service and work in a print shop. His activities were distribution of the organization’s publications and participation in meetings.

The Fadaiyan Khalq Organization, a Marxist-Leninist group inspired by the Cuban Revolution and the urban guerilla movements of Latin America, was founded in 1971 by two communist groups opposed to the Pahlavi regime. In 1981, the organization, which had opted for open political and electoral activity after the revolution, split over the critique of the concept of urban guerilla warfare and the support of the Islamic Republic and of the Soviet Union. The Fadaiyan Khalq Minority opposed the Islamic Republic and, though it did not abandon the theory of armed struggle, its activities were mainly limited to the political arena and the labor movement. Following the Mojahedin Khalq Organization’s June 21st declaration of armed struggle, the Fadaiyan announced the organization of combatant cells. However, based on available information, these cells did not become operational. Many of the groups’ members and supporters were arrested and executed in the early 1980’s.

Arrest and detention

Mr. Esma’il Ma’arefi was arrested by agents of the Intelligence Ministry at his workplace in a print shop on a day in 1984 at 1:00 p.m. For the first two years, he was detained for escaping military service at the Central Military Police prison. After one of his comrades was detained and confessed that Esma’il and several others had organized a cell of sympathizers of the Fadaiyan Khalq Organization in their garrison, Mr. Esma’il Ma’arefi was transferred to Evin Prison. According to the website of the Rah-e Kargar Organization, his prison condition was not bad, and he had regular visitations while in custody at the Central Military Police prison. However, after he was transferred to the Evin prison, there was no news of him for two years. He was detained in solitary confinement without any visitation. Then he was allowed to visit his mother and had only one public visitation.       


Mr. Esma’il Ma’arefi was tried and condemned to death in a court. Specific details about the circumstances of the trials that led to his execution are unknown. According to the testimonies of leftist political prisoners who were tried in Gohardasht Prison during the executions of the summer of 1988, the trials took place in a room on the ground floor of the prison after a few weeks of isolation, during which prisoners were deprived of visitation, television and radio broadcasts, and outdoor time. Toward the end of August, a three-member delegation composed of Hojatoleslam Eshraqi, the prosecutor; Hojatoleslam Nayyeri, the religious judge; and Hojatoleslam Purmohammadi, the representative of the Ministry of Information; asked prisoners questions about whether they were Muslim or Marxist, whether they prayed, and if their parents were practicing Muslims. Based on the prisoners’ responses, the latter were sentenced to be hanged or flogged until they agreed to pray. The authorities never informed prisoners about the delegation’s purpose and the serious implications of their responses. According to survivors, during the summer of 1988, a large number of prisoners sympathizing with the Mojahedin or Leftist groups were executed for not recanting their beliefs.   

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 the Minister of Justice at the time, 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 when they were retried and sentenced to death.


According to the electronic form, the charges against Mr. Esma’il Ma’arefi were announced as, “organizing a terrorist group and hiding weapons.”

No charge has been publicly stated against the victims of the 1988 mass executions.  Based on the testimonies of the prisoners who were imprisoned in the summer of 1988, the questions of the three-member committee from the leftist prisoners were about their beliefs and they were accused of being “anti-religion,” insisting on their beliefs and not repenting. In their letters to the Minister of Justice in 1988, and to the UN Special Rapporteur visiting Iran in 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 who “wage war against God” and decreed that prisoners who still approve of the positions taken by this organization are also “waging war against God” and should be sentenced to death.  

Evidence of guilt

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


No information is available on Mr. Esma’il Ma’arefi’s defense before the three-member committee.


Mr. Esma’il Ma’arefi was executed during the mass killings of political prisoners in Evin Prison in 1988. Based on the Boroumand Foundation’s research, leftist prisoners executed in 1988 were found to be “apostates.”  Months after the executions, prison authorities informed the families about the executions and handed over 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 not to hold memorial ceremonies for their loved ones. 

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