Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Samad Taheri


Age: 20
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Non-Believer
Civil Status: Single


Date of Killing: December 19, 1981
Location of Killing: Zanjan, Zanjan Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Shooting
Charges: Actively opposing the Islamic Republic; Anti-revolutionary offense; Participating in an anti-regime demonstration; Apostasy; War on God
Age at time of alleged offense: 20

About this Case

Mr. Samad Taheri would make artwork from construction material scraps and tiles. He was very lively and his friends have fond memories of him. He liked group hiking. He had a good voice and sang Turkish and Lor songs very well.

Mr. Samad Taheri is one of the 430 individuals whose names appear on the list of the Martyrs of Sazman-e Peykar dar Rah-e Azadi-e Tabaqe-ye Kargar (“Organization of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class”, or simply “Peykar”, meaning battle) on Peykar Thought’s internet website. This is a list of the Organization’s members who have died since the 1979 Revolution. More than 400 of the people whose names appear on the list have been executed. Additional information about this case was obtained from the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center’s interview with one of Mr. Taheri’s friends and cellmates, and from an electronic form filled out by a person with knowledge of the case and sent to the Boroumand Center. 

Mr. Samad Taheri, child of Gholamhossein, was born in 1961-62 in the city of Zanjan, and was single. He had one brother and two sisters, and was the third child of the family. He was very attached to his family, especially to his parents, and always considered himself indebted to them. His family was considered lower middle class. Mr. Taheri was a senior (12thgrade) at Sadr-e Jahan High School in Zanjan. He worked as a painter and tile layer in the summertime in order to earn pocket money for the school year. He was an average student but was an avid reader. According to one of his friends, like many people his age, he had developed leftist tendencies through reading books. There was a newspaper kiosk in Zanjan’s old Sabzeh Meydan which rented books for two Rials, and Mr. Taheri and his friends were among its regular customers. They had started by reading various novels and had gradually moved toward history, philosophy, and politics. 

Mr. Taheri was an artist and would make artwork from construction material scraps and tiles. He could also write beautifully in calligraphy. Mr. Taheri was a very fun and jovial person, loved life and was very lively. His friends have fond memories of him. He liked group hiking. He had a good voice and sang Turkish and Lor operas and songs very well. When he would go hiking with his friends, they would ask him to sing the Lor song “Tofang” (“shotgun”) which had a very pleasant melody. He was interested in ideological and political discussions and was a supporter of the Peykar Organization. Because of the oppressive atmosphere of the years 1981-82, he had dropped out of school to avoid being arrested and was working temporary jobs incognito because the Bassijis (militia) and the Revolutionary Guards were present on every street in order to identify and arrest political activists. 

The Peykar Organization for the Liberation of the Working Class was founded by a number of dissident members of the Mojahedin Khalq Organization who had converted to Marxism-Leninism. Peykar was also joined by a number of political organizations, known as Khat-e Se (Third line). The founding tenets of Peykar included the rejection of guerrilla struggle and a strong stand against the pro-Soviet policies of the Iranian Tudeh Party. Peykar viewed the Soviet Union as a “Social imperialist” state, believed that China had deviated from the Marxist-Leninist principles, and radically opposed all factions of the Islamic regime of Iran. The brutal repression of dissidents by the Iranian government and splits within Peykar in 1981 and 1982 effectively dismantled the Organization and scattered its supporters. By the mid-1980s, Peykar was no longer in existence.

Arrest and detention

In mid to late October 1981, as he was on his way with one of his friends to repair a tape recorder, Mr. Taheri was identified by a Revolutionary Guards patrol, arrested on a street in Zanjan, and taken to the Revolutionary Guards detention center. Some of the prison guards there were his former schoolmates. 

The Revolutionary Guards detention center was a building located at the entry to the road going toward Tehran, which was also called Darvazeh Tehran (“Tehran Gate”). The building was actually the Revolutionary Guards headquarters but Mr. Taheri and a number of other political prisoners were kept there temporarily because there were not enough prisons to hold all the arrestees. In mid to late November of that same year, due to the shortage of space, he and a number of other prisoners were transferred to a building located on the Zanjan beltway which had belonged to the youth scouting organization under the Shah and was used for students’ music practice and other cultural activities. After the Revolution, the Revolutionary Guards occupied the building and turned it into a prison. 

According to one of Mr. Taheri’s ward mates, the prison’s conditions were substandard. This was an administrative building, the basement of which (likely the previous archives and lacking sufficient light) was turned into a ward where the Guards held several prisoners in each room based on its capacity. It did not have sufficient facilities. Each prisoner had a foam mattress and two military blankets. There was only one toilet for all the prisoners, and in order to prevent prisoners in different rooms from seeing each other, each person could use the bathroom only three times a day in turns. Prisoners were not allowed in the yard for very long.

Mr. Taheri awaited trial while in detention. 

One of Mr. Taheri’s ward mates recounted a story from prison: “There was a mullah (cleric) in the prison who would go to all the wards, and they said he was in charge of getting the prisoners to repent. The repenters’ ward had not been set up yet and so they did not have separate wards. Samad was a very good guy. He had a beautiful voice. I remember one day, visitation day, we didn’t know what was going on outside. We were sitting there as usual, and they would call all the guys in turn to go for visitation. We were sitting there after breakfast, and suddenly Samad started humming a tune. It was an Azeri song from the Koroghlu opera, the part that was about Chenali Bael, which was Koroghlu’s camp. When he started singing, we all followed. There were no more than seven or eight of us. All of the sudden, five minutes later, two prison guards and that mullah came and beat on the door, saying ‘Shut up, shut up’. We said, ‘We haven’t done anything! We always sing; what’s going on today?’ Unbeknownst to us, the Mujahedeen had carried out a bombing that day and they thought we knew about it and were glad.” 

Mr. Taheri was interrogated by the Revolutionary Guards interrogators and by the Information Ministry on two separate occasions, but he did not accept the charges.

According to one of his friends and ward mates, during the questioning the prosecutor had told Mr. Taheri: “You’re a Kafer (“infidel”)”. He said he wasn’t. The prosecutor had told him: “Get up, do your prayer, go ahead and recite it!” And since he thought the question was just ridiculous, he started laughing while reciting his prayer in the interrogation session. Based on that very fact, the prosecutor immediately said: “See! You are a Kafer! I’ll ask for the death penalty for you.” 

According to Mr. Taheri’s friend and ward mate, when he came back from the session on the afternoon of December 20, eating the lunch his friends had kept for him, he stated that the session had been positive, and that in spite of the prosecutor having yelled at him, the Shari’a judge had not shown any harsh reaction or said anything. Based on his account of the trial, Mr. Taheri’s friends and ward mates expected that he would be released. Around 8:00 PM, prison guards came for Mr. Taheri and took him away. Then they came back and asked for his personal effects. His friends had thought that they wanted to release him.


Mr. Taheri’s trial was presided over by the Shari’a judge. At 10 o’clock in the morning of December 20, 1981, prison guards took him and two other prisoners from other wards to the building that housed the Zanjan Revolutionary Court at the time, in a Revolutionary Guards car. The trial took place at around 2:00 PM. Aside from the Shari’a judge, three other people were in the courtroom: the prosecutor’s representative, a prison guard who was his school mate, and a Revolutionary Guardsman who knew Mr. Taheri and was aware of his activities and was there to testify. 


The Shari’a judge stated that the charges against Mr. Taheri were “apostasy, Moharebeh (“waging war against God”), activities against the Islamic Republic, [intention to] overthrow [the Regime], participating in demonstrations, and beating up Muslims”. 

The validity of the criminal charges brought against this defendant cannot be ascertained in the absence of the basic guarantees of a fair trial. International human rights organizations allude to reports according to which, in certain cases, the Islamic republic of Iran’s officials bring false charges against their opponents such as drug trafficking or commission of public or sexual crimes, and execute them along with other regular criminals. Hundreds of people are sentenced to death in Iran every year; however, the number of those who are sentenced to death based on these false charges is not known. 

Evidence of guilt

A Revolutionary Guardsman who claimed he previously knew Mr. Taheri and was familiar with his activities while he was in school, and the prison guard who was his former school mate, testified against him in court (Boroumand Center interview). 


Based on available information, Mr. Taheri did not accept the charges in court and declared that he was not an apostate and had not denied Islam. He also denied participating in demonstrations against the Islamic Republic. In denying that he was an apostate, he stated that he was a Muslim and that he even participated in mass prayers at his neighborhood mosque.

Prior to the trial session, the then-prison warden had told Mr. Taheri to repent, to which he answered: “I haven’t committed any crimes to repent for” (Boroumand Center interview). 


The Court found Mr. Samad Taheri to be an apostate and sentenced him to death. Mr. Samad Taheri was executed by firing squad in Zanjan on the night of December 20 or 21, 1981, the day of his trial. 

His ward mates thought that Mr. Taheri had been released and only found out through the family of another prisoner that he had been executed. They held a memorial service for him in prison. 

According to Mr. Taheri’s friend and school mate, when officials were turning his body over to his father, they told him, “Your son is a Kafer and an apostate and cannot be buried in a Muslim cemetery.” His father responded: “You say what you have to say; he’s my son and I will bury him wherever I want.” According to people close to him, even though Mr. Taheri’s family held the funeral privately in their home, a large number of people participated since everyone in Zanjan knows everyone else. Mr. Taheri’s family continued to hold annual memorials for him in their home for several years.

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