Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Zamel (Zamen) Bavi


Age: 29
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam (Shi'a)
Civil Status: Married


Date of Killing: January 29, 2008
Location of Killing: Karun Prison, Ahvaz, Khuzestan Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: War on God; Acting against state's security

About this Case

Mr. Bavi always helped out friends, people in need, and families of political prisoners. Although all his brothers were older than him, but they were all known as Zamel's brothers in the prison.

News of Mr. Zamel (Zamen) Bavi’s execution was published in numerous sources, including Amnesty International (February 6, 2008), Ahvaz Human Rights Organization (January 30, 2008) and the European Parliament (January 30, 2008). Additional information was obtained from an interview conducted by the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation (ABF interview) with two individuals accused in the case, which has been referred to as “the Ahvaz bombings case” by Iranian authorities, including one of his prison mates, an ethnic Arab human rights activist, and from other sources.*

Mr. Zamel Bavi was a 29-year-old high school graduate, married, with a two-year-old child. He resided in [the city of] Ahvaz and had a grocery distribution store. According to people close to him, Mr. Bavi had extensive social relations. He always helped out friends, people in need, and families of political prisoners. He was an athlete, active in Tae Kwon Do and track and field, and was always happy and in good spirits, even in difficult circumstances. He did not belong to any political groups or organizations. He was the son of Mr. Salem Bavi, one of the leaders of the tribe and an influential philanthropist among Khuzestan Province’s ethnic Arabs. The Bavi family has had numerous social and cultural activities, with the aim of keeping the Ahvazi Arabs’ ethnic identity alive. For instance, Mr. Zamel Bavi’s wedding was performed according to ancient Arab traditions and, in the presence of a great crowd, attracting the attention of the region’s Arab population and local media, as well as alerting the security apparatus. (ABF interview).

According to Mr. Bavi's cellmates, he was popular and respected among the prisoners and would financially assist those in need. Although all his brothers were older than him, but they were all known as Zamel's brothers in the prison. Mr. Bavi used to study Arabic and attend Qoran classes in prison (ABF interview).

The arrest of eight members of the Bavi family (five brothers, the son-in-law, and the head of the family, i.e. the father) and issuing tough sentences for the Bavi brothers, including a death sentence for Mr. Zamel Bavi, caused numerous reactions.

The sentence and execution issued for him prompted numerous reactions from the attorneys in the case, the Association for the Protection of Prisoners’ Rights, as well as international organizations such as Amnesty International (May 17 and June 23, 2006) and Human Rights Watch (June 26 and November 11, 2006). In a resolution issued on December 19, 2006, the UN General Assembly expressed grave concern about widespread human rights abuses, the use of torture and execution in Iran, and, more particularly, regarding discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities. The open publication of seven of the Ahvaz bombing defendants’ attorneys resulted in their prosecution on the charge of endangering national security in Ahvaz. (ILNA, October 7, 2006). The attorneys’ trial was supported by the UN Special Rapporteurs’ objections. (UN website, January 10, 2007). On January 31, 2008, the European Parliament strongly condemned the execution of four “Arab political activists,” including Mr. Bavi.

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 20 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

Mr. Zamel Bavi was arrested by the Ahvaz Information Administration agents on August 10, 2005, while returning from work. About an hour later, his four brothers were also arrested at their place of employment. A short time later, security agents arrested his father and their son-in-law as well. The latter were released three weeks later, but the Bavi brothers remained in the Information Administration’s custody. (ABF interview).

About an hour later, his four brothers were also arrested at their place of employment. A short time later, security agents arrested his father and their son-in-law as well. The latter were released three weeks later, but the Bavi brothers remained in the Information Administration’s custody.

Mr. Bavi was kept in solitary confinement at the Ahvaz Information Administration’s secret detention center. During the 10 months he spent in solitary confinement cells, he was only allowed to walk the yard a few times. In the first two months, he had no visitations, and afterwards he was only able to meet with his family three or four times - and once with his attorney - in the presence of security agents. (ABF interview).

According to two of the defendants in the bombing case, who were detained by the Information Administration at the same time, and to a person close to him, while at Ahvaz Information Administration detention center, Mr. Bavi routinely and continuously underwent physical and psychological torture, including being kicked and punched, flogged with green pipes or electric cable, and deprived of sleep for long periods. The interrogators had threatened that they would arrest his wife and child if he did not confess and torture them right in front of him. Another form of psychological torture inflicted on him was to threaten him and his family with rape. In May-June 2006, Mr. Bavi and the other defendants in the case were transferred to Ward 6 of Ahvaz’s Karun Prison. (ABF interview).


No detailed information is available regarding Mr. Bavi’s trial. According to a person close to him, on May 30, 2006, Branch Three of the Ahvaz Revolutionary Court tried Mr. Bavi and several other defendants in the case. The trial was a closed session that lasted only a few minutes, without any witnesses present. Mr. Nikbakht and a number of other local attorneys represented the Bavi brothers in the case. In objecting to the Court not having authorized them to read the case file, the defense attorneys did not attend Mr. Zamel Bavi’s trial session.

In objecting to the Court not having authorized them to read the case file, the defense attorneys did not attend Mr. Zamel Bavi’s trial session.


According to Mr. Saleh Nikbakhti, one of the Bavi brothers’ defense attorneys, the charge brought against Mr. Zamel Bavi was “Moharebeh (“waging war against God”) and membership in illegal groups opposed to the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Court also accused Mr.Bavi of acting against national security through membership in the Ahvazi Arab People’s Democratic Party. (ABF interview).

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 persons close to Mr. Bavi, the defendants’ confessions, while in solitary confinement, constituted the basis for the court’s judgment. According to Mr. Nikbakht, the Court presented evidence that Mr. Zamel Bavi had kept inactive handmade bombs in his home. (Human Rights Watch, June 26, 2006). The Court accused him of hiding seven handmade bombs. (Amnesty International, October 19, 2007).

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.


No information is available regarding the defendant’s case. According to persons close to him, however, Mr. Bavi was not given the opportunity to present an effective defense. Mr. Bawi's lawyers did not attend the trial session protesting the fact that the court had not given them complete access to their clients' 1800 pages file and had in fact denied them the right to defend them.(ABF interview).

In May 2006, seven defense attorneys in the case objected to the course of the proceedings in an open letter to the head of the Ahvaz Revolutionary Court, Branch Three. They had been apprised of the trial date only one or two days prior to such date, at most, whereas the law requires that they be so informed at least five days in advance. Further, that in spite of repeated written and oral requests, the court had not authorized them to meet privately with their clients and that trial sessions had been conducted individually, without the other defendants and their attorneys present, which was against the law. (Attorneys, letter).

According to Mr. Saleh Nikbakht, one of Mr. Bavi’s defense attorneys: “Since the Prosecutor had not presented any evidence that the defendants had actually committed a violent act, they cannot be considered Mohareb under the laws of Iran.”

According to Mr. Saleh Nikbakht, one of Mr. Bavi’s defense attorneys, “Since the Prosecutor had not presented any evidence that the defendants had actually committed a violent act, they cannot be considered Mohareb under the laws of Iran.” In an interview with ISNA, Mr. Nikbakht stated that, in order to issue a death sentence and to bring a successful charge of Moharebeh, the defendant must have taken up arms or to have been a member of groups who intended to carry out an armed struggle. He further stated in Mr. Bavi’s defense:  “Since, in spite of possessing explosives, he has not used them; and since he has not had any contact with any of the groups opposed to the Islamic Republic engaged in armed activities, issuing a death sentence in a court of first instance is illegal.” (Isna, Jun 23, and September 29, 2006)

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. Bavi: “These defendants were tried (mostly in other cities) after they had spent 10-11 months in solitary confinement, without even meeting with their lawyers… 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.


On June 8, 2006, The Ahvaz Islamic Revolutionary Court, Branch Three, sentenced Mr. Zamel Bavi to death. This decision was upheld by Supreme Court Branch 32 in September or October. (Mr. Nikbakht’s interview with ISNA, September 29, 2007).

On January 30, 2008, Mr. Bavi was hanged at Ahvaz’s Karun Prison, without due process of law. According to a person close to him, the implementation of Mr. Bavi’s sentence had been halted twice before, upon the order of the Prosecutor General’s office. The sentence was carried out, however, in spite of the order, without the Ahvaz Prosecutor’s knowledge and without fulfilling official administrative formalities. According to Amnesty International, neither he nor his family and attorney had knowledge of the implementation of the sentence, even though, legally, the attorney must be notified 48 hours prior to the time of such implementation. The night before the execution, Mr. Bavi was transferred to the Information Administration’s News Headquarters and had visitation with his parents, none of whom had knowledge of what was about to take place.

Mr. Bavi’s body was not surrendered to his family. Security agents did not allow his body to be buried in the tribal and family cemetery. He was buried in the Ahvaz’ Borumi Cemetery in the presence of only his mother, father, and wife. Security agents did not allow Mr. Bavi’s family to conduct an official funeral wake.


IRNA (March 1, 2006 and September 13, 2007), ISNA (January 25, June 23, and September 29, 2006, and September 13, 2007), ILNA (June 25, July 25, October 7, and November 18, 2006), Radio France (February 15, 2007), Radio Farda (January 25, June 15, and June 21, 2006), BBC Parsian (June 21 and 26, 2006 and September 13, 2007), Padmaz (April 12, 2014), Amnesty International (May 17, June 29, June 23, November 13, October 19, and December 24, 2006), Amnesty International (January 10, January 15, and September 13, 2007 and February 6, 2008), U.N. Human Rights website (January 10, 2007), Human Rights Watch (June 26 and November 11, 2006, and February 15, 2007), Rooz Online (November 20, 2006), Ahwaz News Agency (September 14, 2007 and January 30, 2008), Emadoddin Baqi Website (June 15, 18, 21, 23 and 26, 2006), Iran Newspaper (March 2, 2007), and the Kayhan Newspaper(July 30, 2006), Ahwazstudies (January 30, 2008).
** 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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