Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Ali Asghar Qabakhlu


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


Date of Killing: August, 1988
Location of Killing: Gohardasht Prison, Karaj, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: Counter revolutionary opinion and/or speech; Apostasy

About this Case

Information about Mr. Ali Asghar Qabakhlu is taken from the book, The Tudeh Martyrs, copyright 2001 by The Tudeh Party of Iran publications. 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 the human rights organizations, interviews with witnesses and victims’ families, as well as from the Bidaran website.  

The majority of 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.   

According to the existing information, Mr. Ali Asghar Qabakhlu was born in the Dolatabad village near Garmsar. After his high school graduation, he studied physics at Tehran University. He was an activist at the university when he was arrested and condemned to two years imprisonment for his political activities. He was released before the Revolution and joined the Tudeh Party. During the "Cultural Revolution," he was expelled from the university and continued his political activities in Garmsar. *

The Tudeh Party of Iran (Hezbe Tudeh or the Party of the Masses) was founded in 1941 by a group of mostly communist intellectuals. Its non-radical reformist platform and its name reflected the founders’ hopes to attract the larger religious population. However, the Party's Marxist-Leninist orientation and its anti-Imperialist and anti-Fascist positions made it most influential among intellectuals and educated Iranians. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, The Tudeh, with its country-wide organization, including active women, youth, and labor groups, as well as a secret military network (Sazman-e Nezami-ye Hezb-e Tudeh Iran), played a major role in Iran’s political scene.

The Tudeh was banned following an attempted assassination against the Shah in 1949. Nonetheless, the Party continued its activities, as well as its publications, of which there would be many. Following the 19 August 1953 coup, the Tudeh’s military network was annihilated, and many of its leaders were arrested or forced into exile, mostly in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Over the years, the Party’s political influence diminished, due to the various splits resulting from its pro-Soviet stand and policies in periods of political tension in Iran and from the radicalization of the left in the 1960s and 1970s.

After the 1979 Revolution, the Tudeh declared Ayatollah Khomeini and the Islamic Republic regime revolutionaries and anti-imperialists and actively supported and collaborated with the government. Though the Party never opposed the Islamic Republic, it became the target of its attacks in 1982, and the Party's leaders and many members, including those of the new secret military network, were arrested.

The Tudeh lost scores of its members during the mass prison killing of 1988. Following several splits, the Party resumed its activities in the early 1990s in exile.

Arrest and detention

There is no specific information on Mr. Ali Asghar Qabakhlu’s arrest and detention. He was arrested in 1983.


Mr. Ali Asghar Qabakhlu had been tried and condemned to life imprisonment. Specific details about the circumstances of the trials that led to the execution of Mr. Ali Asghar Qabakhlu are unknown. No information is available about the trial sessions. According to the testimonies of leftist political prisoners who were tried in Evin and Gohardasht Prisons 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. During the summer of 1988, according to survivors, 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.


No charge has been publicly stated against the victims of the 1988 mass executions.  Based on the testimonies of the prisoners who were in prisons 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 executions.  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 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 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

The report of this execution does not contain information regarding the evidence provided against Mr. Ali Asghar Qabakhlu.


No information is available on Mr. Aliasghar Qabakhlu’s defense before the three-member committee.


Mr. Ali Asghar Qabakhlu was executed during the mass killings of political prisoners in Gohardasht Prison. 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.


* The Cultural Revolution began after Ayatollah Khomeini gave a speech in March 1980 and ordered that universities be purged of all those who opposed his regime and be transformed into “learning environments”(as opposed to political forums) where “an all-Islamic curriculum” would be taught. The first wave of violence began on April 15,1980 during a speech by Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a member of the Council of the Islamic Revolution and Minister of Interior, at the University of Tabriz.  Following the speech, students supporting the regime took control of the University’s central building and demanded that the “university be purged” from “pro-Shah elements and other sellouts.”

On April 18, the Council of the Islamic Revolution issued a communiqué accusing political groups of converting higher education institutions into “headquarters of discordant political activities” and naming them as obstacles to the radical transformation of the universities. The communiqué gave these groups three days, Saturday April 19 to Monday April 21, to shut down their activities in the universities. The Council stressed that the decision included libraries along with activities related to arts and sports. Political groups, which had recruited members and had strong support in the universities, refused to evacuate. 

Before the Council’s deadline, serious clashes took place between leftist groups and Islamist Associations, the latter at times supported by security forces and paramilitary groups.  These clashes, which peaked at the end of the three-day deadline, resulted in the deaths of several people and the wounding of hundreds of others on university campuses around the country.

On April 21, the Islamic Republic authorities announced the victory of the Cultural Revolution and the closure of all universities in order to Islamicize the curricula. The universities remained closed for two years. One of the outcomes of the Cultural Revolution was the purging of many university professors and students based on their political beliefs.

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