Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

https://www.iranrights.org
Omid, a memorial in defense of human rights in Iran
One Person’s Story

Reza Arbabi

About

Age: 40
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam (Shi'a)
Civil Status: Married

Case

Date of Killing: 1988
Location: Gohardasht Prison, Karaj, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: War on God, God's Prophet and the deputy of the Twelfth Imam

About this Case

Information about Mr. Reza Arbabi was gathered from an electronic form sent to the Boroumand Foundation by a relative. According to this e-form, Mr. Arbabi was born in Mashhad, was married, and had two little children. Mr. Reza Arbabi is also listed among 3,208 members and sympathizers of the Mojahedin Khalq Organization, whose executions were reported by the organization in a book titled Crime Against Humanity. This book documents the 1988-89 mass execution of political prisoners. The Boroumand Foundation has collected additional information regarding the 1988 massacre from the memoirs of Ayatollah Montazeri; reports from the human rights organizations; interviews with the witnesses and victims’ families, as well as the Bidaran website.   

The Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) was founded in 1965. This organization adopted 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 a 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

The circumstances of Mr. Arbabi's arrest and detention are not known.

Trial

No information is available on Mr. Reza Arbabi’s trial. According to the testimonies of some of the political prisoners who were tried during the executions of the summer of 1988 in Gohardasht and Evin prisons, 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. In August and September, 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 their views on the Mojahedin, whether they would renounce their beliefs, and if they were ready to cooperate against the Mojahedin.

Based on what the answers were, the prisoners would have been charged with “counter revolutionary, anti-religion, and anti-Islam” or “associated with military action or with various [opposition] groups based near the borders” and would be sentenced to death.   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. 

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 then-Minister of Justice, 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.

Charges

No charge has been publicly leveled against the defendant. In their letters to the Minister of Justice (1988), and to the UN Special Rapporteur visiting Iran (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, 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 the PMIO's members as "hypocrites" who do not believe in Islam and "wage war against God" and decrees 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

No information is available regarding the evidence presented against Mr. Reza Arbabi.

Defense

No information is available on Mr. Reza Arbabi’s defense. In their open letter, the families of the prisoners noted that defendants were not given the opportunity to defend themselves in court. The same letter, rebutting the accusation that these prisoners (from inside the prison) had collaborated with armed members of the Mojahedin Khalq Organization in clashes with armed forces of the Islamic Republic, states that such claims “are false, considering the circumstances in prisons; for our children faced most difficult conditions [in prison, with] visitation rights of once every 15 days, each visitation lasting ten minutes through a telephone, from behind the glass window, and were deprived of any connection with the outside world. We faced such conditions for seven years, which proves the truth of our claim.”

Judgment

Mr. Reza Arbabi was executed during the mass killings of political prisoners in the Gohardasht Prison in Karaj. The details regarding the execution sentence are not available.  Months after the executions, prison authorities informed the families about the executions and handed the victims’ belongings to their families.  The bodies, however, were not returned to them.  The bodies were buried in mass graves, and the locations are not known to the families.  Authorities warned the families of prisoners against holding memorial ceremonies.

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*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. OnJune 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 authorities 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. OnJune 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 fromFrance, they went toIraqand 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 ofIran. No information is available regarding members and activities of the MKO inside the country.

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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