Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Seyed Khalil Alinejad


Age: 44
Nationality: Iran
Civil Status: Single


Date of Killing: November 18, 2001
Location of Killing: Gothenburg, Sweden
Mode of Killing: Stabbing

About this Case

Seyed Khalil Aalinejad wielded great influence in the Yarsan community, and had many followers, especially among the youth.

Information regarding Mr. Seyed Kahalil Alinejad was obtained from interviews conducted with an eyewitness to Mr. Alinejad’s funeral (May 4, 2021); a person close to Mr. Alinejad who played a role in organizing his funeral in his birthplace (May 24, 2021); a researcher of the Yari faith and the history of Yarsan people (May 15, 2021); and a human rights activist who has done researches on the human rights violations facing Yarsan people in Iran (November 19, 2021). News of Mr. Alinejad’s murder was also published in Iran newspaper (November 24, 2001), and the Swedish newspaper Goteborgs Posten (November 18, 2001). 

Additional information was obtained from an Amnesty International Report (July 31, 1999); Hayate No newspaper (November 28, 2007); Goteborgs Posten (November 18, 2005 ); Bahador Bahadori on YouTube: Speech and musical performance by Seyed Khalil Alinejad in 1995 (November 16, 2016); Yarsan website (November 5, 1986); Kurdistan Human Rights Network website (November 20, 2018); Info Sufi website (November 18, 2018); Azadiye Bayan (Azadi-b.com) website (December 30, 2006; March 11, 2017 ); Adyan Committee, Hamidreza Taghipur Dehghan Tabrizi (November 14, 2016 ); BBC Persian (July 27, 2013; October 20, 2013); Radio Farda (November 25, 2001); Tasnim News Agency (February 2, 2019); Persiska, Radio Sweden Farsi/Dari (November 13, 2007 ); HRANA, Human Rights Activists in Iran (May 19, 2011); Mehr News Agency (February 16, 2015); Tabnak website (October 18, 2019 ); Navaye Tanbur YouTube channel (November 8, 2020). 

Mr. Alinejad, son of Seyed Shahmorad, was born in the town of Sahneh in Kermanshah Province, in a Kurdish family that belonged to the Yarsan religious minority group in1957. He was a prominent musician and master of Tanbur, [an ancient Iranian string instrument]. At the age of 17, he studied the various modes of the Yarsan creed’s music, and started learning to play Tar and Setar [both Iranian string instruments]. In 1975, he performed for the first time with the Kermanshahan Modal Music Group at Tehran’s Rudaki Hall. Mr. Alinejad studied music and graduated from Tehran University Arts Department. While in college, he was in Tanburnavazan (“Tanbur Players”) Group, led by Kaykhosro Purnazeri. (Info Sufi website, Hayate No newspaper). Mr. Alinejad wrote poetry, knew ancient texts, and had a great knowledge of Persian and Kurdish ancient texts. Yarsan people remember him as a free-spirited wayfarer of morality and mysticism, a prominent master of modal and national music, and an enlightened and pragmatic [mystic] elder. (Iran newspaper, November 24, 2001; Info Sufi, November 18, 2018). 

The Tanbur is a holy instrument in the Yari creed and Mr. Alinejad was one of its greatest players. With the exception of private concerts, he never appeared on stage without the Tanbur. Mr. Alinejad’s special skills were not limited to music and the collection of [ancient] songs, tales, dreams, and the creed’s musical modes: He was also learned in science and astronomy. The culmination of his research was the revival of the Kurdish – Soltani Calendar, in the introduction to which he wrote “[this] was a step in the revival of Iran’s ancient calendar”. (Iran and Hayate No newspapers). Mr. Alinejad published another book in 2005 called “Resaleh Yari” which provides a general information regarding the Yarsan.

Mr. Alinejad spent many years collecting and researching different methods of playing the Tanbur in the Kurdistan region, and his work resulted in a book entitled “Tanbur az Dirbaz ta Konun” (“Tanbur from Ancient Times to the Present”) and in his special way of playing [the instrument] solo. The book, at the time of publication, was the only source of and reference for Tanbur-based music. Nevertheless, during his lifetime, aside from a solo performance named Shokraneh, none of his solo performances had the chance to be published, even though he played as a solo Tanbur player accompanying the rest of the group on the album Seda-ye Sokhan-e Eshgh (“The Sound of Love Speak”), Shams Music Group’s first album. (Iran newspaper, Tasnim News Agency – ABC interview, November 19, 2021). 

Mr. Alinejad and Seyed Yareh Shah Ebrahimi, also a Yarsan influential personality and musician, were arrested in 19709 or 1980 and were released a short time later. It is said that these arrests were all related to the unsuccessful Nojeh Coup and although most of the arrestees were released after a while, Seyed Yareh was sentenced to death and immediately executed. (Boroumand Center interview, May 23, 2021 and November 19, 2021). 

In 1994, Mr. Alinejad went to the Capital and lived in Tehran’s for years including in Sa’adatabad neighborhood. The main reason for his migration to Tehran is not known; however, according to people close to him he left Sahne for Tehran due to “pressures from intelligence and financial hardship that was set as a trap for him”. According to them, during those years Mr. Alinejad “would move from one home to another several times in a year in order to hide his residence from the intelligence forces”. (ABC interview – November 19, 2021) He migrated to Sweden in 1990, in order to teach Tar, Setar, and Tanbur. Swedish media have confirmed that he was a refugee in Sweden. (Goteborgs Posten, November 18, 2001). According to some sources, Mr. Alinejad “was forced to leave his homeland due to the lack of freedom of speech and opinion in Iran”. Mr. Alinejad had made a prior trip to Gutenberg and had found it suitable to live for a certain period. (Hayate No newspaper; Adyan Committee). 

In the mid-1980’s, the Revolutionary Guards Corps attempted to arrive at a single and unified definition of the Yarsan creed by sending questionnaires to some of its religious leaders and personalities from different leanings in that faith. In 1986, Najaf Second [Revolutionary Guards] Army sent the Alinejad family 54 questions and a questionnaire on the stage. Answering on behalf of the family, in response to a question posed by Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Headquarters’ Second Army (Najaf) regarding the requirements of Islam among the Yarsan, Seyed Khalil Alinejad wrote: “The Ahl-e Haq (Yarsan) must absolutely not do the prayers the way it is customary among various Moslem faiths; [the Creed] has its own special prayers and recitations.” (Yarsan website, November 5, 1986). 

A Yarsan researcher told the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center: “Seyed Khalil Alinejad had great influence in the Yarsan community, and had many followers, especially among the youth. Two factors played an integral role in his gaining fame among Yarsan as well as non-Yarsan people: a great voice, and mastery of playing the Tanbur. In addition, he was a knowledgeable and highly respected religious personality, and he had many supporters in the Yarsan community. (Boroumand Center interview, May 15, 2021). A human rights activist in an interview with Abdorrahman Boroumand Center and with reference to “Islamic Republic of Iran’s policy in assimilating the people of Yaran and transforming this religion into Shiite” said: “The result of these policies are the diminution of Yarsan's identity, the change of religious traditions towards conformity with the Shiite religion, and even the abandonment of Yari religion among some Yarsan people in these areas.” According to him, “Seyed Khalil Alinejad was an influential character with a good knowledge of his religion who, to the best of his abilities, managed to play a positive role in informing that part of Yarsan people about their religious identity and preventing them from distorting or even abandoning their religion.” (ABC interview – November 19, 2021)

The Yari Faith and the Yarsan People

The Yari faith is the Yarsan people’s religion and is among creeds that are common among a certain section of the people of the Middle East, the majority of whom live in Iran. In the Islamic Republic parlance, this faith has been called in demeaning terms such as “Aliallahi”, “the Ahl-e Haq Cult”, and in certain instances “Devil worshippers”. The Yari creed is not officially recognized in the Iranian Constitution, and the Yarsan people have been subjected to severe oppression during the four decades of the Islamic Republic’s rule. Although the majority of the adherents of the Yari faith in Iran are also members of the Kurdish ethnic community and primarily live in regions in Kermanshah Province, they live in some of Iran’s Azeri regions as well. Purity, truth, inexistence (degenerating desires), and Reda (self-sacrificing and providing services to help human beings) are the four pillars of Ahl-e Haq, [another term to refer to the Yarsan]. “Kalam-e Saranjam” is their central holy book. “Jamkhaneh” is their place of worship and collective prayer, which, in most regions, is accompanied by the musical instrument Tanbur. In addition to having different religious rites, among other Yarsan fundamental beliefs that distinguishes them from the religious communities around them, is belief in “God’s spirit coming into man’s body in various periods and under particular circumstances, and also belief in resurrection and the circulation of man’s spirit in different bodies.” (Boroumand Center interview, May 6, 2021). Adherents of the Yari faith live in regions of Kurdistan, Kermanshah, Azarbaijan, Zanjan, Hamedan, and Lorestan Provinces. They have always suffered from some form or another of oppression, limitation, disrespect, and insult, in the Islamic Republic. According to documents published by Amnesty International, adherents of the Yari faith have been banned from building new Jamkhaneh’s under the pretext of being in contradiction to “Islam’s Shari’a and the law”. (Amnesty International). During the rule of the Islamic Republic, no new Jamkhaneh has been built in a town like Sahneh, a major hub of the Yarsan people. (Boroumand Center interview, May 5, 2021). In the summer of 2013, several members of the Yarsan community set themselves on fire in protest of these conditions. Yarsan people have engaged in peaceful assemblies on several occasions, including in front of the Iranian Majless (Parliament), protesting these policies. (BBC Persian, July 27, 2013; October 20, 2013). 

During the past forty years, Iranian officials in Kermanshah, which is among the main hubs where Yarsan people reside, have stated that their standard for determining their policies toward the Yarsan is the ideologies of Ayatollah Khomeini and Ayatollah Khamenei. (Mehr News Agency, February 16, 2015). The founder of the Islamic Republic’ opinions regarding the Yarsan, or the “Ahl-e Haq” as it is stated in Shiite authorities’ Fatwas (Decrees), is not fundamentally different than their opinions regarding non-Abrahamic religions. In response to a question concerning “eating” with adherents of the Yari faith and a “Kofr Decree” against them, [essentially making them infidels and subject to execution], Ayatollah Khamenei stated that these would be conditioned upon the Yarsan not denying “Tohid and Nabovvat” (Belief in unity and a single God, and in Moahmmad being the messenger of Allah) and other “requirements of the religion of Islam”. (Tabnak website, October 18, 2019 ). Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi stated this regarding marrying an adherent of Ahl-e Haq: “They deny Islam’s requirements; they do not believe in Namaz (5-time daily Islamic prayer) and fasting (during the month of Ramadan) and in anythin else. Marrying them is absolutely not permitted.” (Tabnak website, October 18, 2019). 

In a meeting with Ayatollah Khomeini, and later in a letter dated March 25, 1979, Seyed Nasreddin Heydari, one of the leaders of Yarsan asked the Ayatollah that “the religion of Ahl-e Haq” be recognized in the Constitution as a religious minority. He stressed the right to elect a representative to the National Consultative Assembly and local councils and “to have an effective vote in electing local officials”. 

Threats against Mr. Alinejad and His Murder

In the morning of November 18, 2001, a few months after his arrival in Sweden and petitioning for asylum, Mr. Alinejad was heinously murdered by an individual(s) at the academy where he worked in Gutenberg, Sweden. (Goteborgs Posten, November 18, 2001). According to reports by Iranian newspapers, at 9 o’clock in the morning, the police arrived at Mr. Alinejad’s academy after the academy’s alarm had gone off, and saw his body. Mr. Alinejad had lost consciousness, his skull had been broken, and five stab wounds were visible on his body. (Hayat-e No – November 28, 2007)

The murderers set fire to Mr. Alinejad’s house after stabbing him on the head and body. According to an informed person, “Mr. Alinejad was burned while he was still alive”. (ABC interview – November 19, 2021)

Mr. Alinejad died after he was taken to the hospital and there were severe burn marks on his body. (Hayat-e No – November 28, 2007 - ABC interview – November 19, 2021)

A person close to Mr. Alinejad’s family told the Boroumand Center: “Sweden’s security system is not such that [it would allow] incidents like this to happen in high-security buildings. Master Alinejad’s place of work was in a very secure building where opening the front entrance required a security code and the residents’ finger prints. But the killers were [already] at the Master’s place of work before he had arrived there.” (Boroumand Center interview, May 24, 2021). 

A few years later, the committee charged with investigating Mr. Alinejad’s murder in Sweden divulged that Mr. Alinejad had left a will behind, in which he had sensed danger and a threat to his life. (Goteborgs Posten, November 18, 2005).

In his will, Mr. Alinejad had stated expressly but without getting into details: “I forgive my killer if I’m killed.” (Boroumand Center documents). This will had been drafted prior to his trip to Sweden and while he was living in Iran. (Goteborgs Posten, November 18, 2005).

Sixteen days after the murder, Mr. Alinejad’s body was taken from Sweden to Tehran, and from there by airplane to Kermanshah, and to Sahneh, his birthplace. On day earlier, ceremonies were held at Tehran’s Vahdat Hall with Iranian musicians and a number of the Yarsan community in attendance. (Boroumand Center interview, May 5, and 24, 2021; Hayate No). 

Funeral ceremonies were attended by thousands of Sahneh residents and by other friends of Mr. Seyed Khalil Alinejad in the region and from other Iranian towns. The funeral took place openly in the town’s public spaces and Mr. Alinejad’s body was buried reciting “the Kalaam-e Faany”, a rite that is reserved for death and burials in the Yarsan creed. (Boroumand Center interview with an eyewitness to Mr. Alinejad’s funeral ceremonies, May 4, 2021). 

An eyewitness to these ceremonies told the Boroumand Center: “At the time, our friends and Mr. Alinejad’s family faced a multitude of pressures from the Information Ministry, but they resisted. The Information people insisted that his body should not be buried in Sahneh but in Bababyadegar; they even promised assistance and cooperation. But Mr. Alinejad’s friends and students did not give in to these pressures and resisted with all their might and said ‘we will lay the Master’s body to rest in the Alinejad’s family mausoleum in Sahneh in accordance with his will; we will all even wear a Kafan (white burial cloth) on that day if we have to, and will be ready to die’. The people ultimately laid the Master to rest in a glorious ceremony.” (Boroumand Center interview, May 24, 2021). 

The details of this incident are still not clear after the passage of more than two decades. 

Officials’ Reaction

Iranian authorities did not react officially to Mr. Alinejad’s murder. 

According to available information and to research conduct by the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center, the process of transporting Mr. Alinejad’s body to Iran, and his funeral, had faced certain constraints. “When the body arrived in Kermanshah, first of all, the flight was several hours late and it had gotten completely dark by then. Then the Information forces secretly took the body out of the airport through an emergency gate, and simultaneously dispatched several empty ambulances from the airport’s main gate. We had just learned that the body was not in any of the ambulances when we received a call from Sahneh saying that the officers had brought the body there. Even though a large crowd had gathered at the airport, no one found out when and where they, in effect, stole the body.” (Boroumand Center interview with an eyewitness to Mr. Alinejad’s funeral ceremonies, May 4, 2021). It is not clear why transportation of Mr. Alinejad’s body and his burial was conducted in security conditions. 

In the past two decades, every year near the anniversary of Mr. Seyed Khalil Alinejad’s murder, Yarsan activists have repeatedly been “summoned to the Information Administration, threatened, interrogated, and detained”. (HRANA, May 19, 2011). A person with knowledge of these constraints stated: “Every year, the Information [Administration people] have tried to make our friends and the Alinejad family give up, and have tried to neutralize them by putting pressure on them; they have forced them to stand up to friends who were charged with [organizing] the annual commemoration ceremonies and insist that they did not want to hold ceremonies, and [get them] to stop the commemorations once and for all. Our friends did not give in, however, and continued their resistance and efforts to protest and to keep the Master’s name alive, and continued to demand Yarsan’s rights not be subjected to pressure, threats and lack of security. Annual commemoration ceremonies are held with a particular group of people picking up the tab personally.” (Boroumand Center interview, May 24, 2021). 

Swedish Officials’ Reaction 

Swedish police initially declared Mr. Alinejad’s murder an “accident”. (Radio Farda, November 25, 2001). It is not clear what further action the police took in the weeks and months after the murder. The committee charged with following up with Mr. Alinejad’s murder have expressed dissatisfaction with the process and with the way his murder investigation has proceeded. (Azadye Bayan, December 30, 2006). In 2005, Gotesborgs Posten newspaper reported on the protest assembly of a group of Iranians on the anniversary of Mr. Seyed Khalil Alinejad’s murder and stated that no suspect had yet been charged in Sweden of the murder, four years after the killing. According to the newspaper’s report, the committee investigating Seyed Khalil Alinejad’s murder believed that prior to his death, Mr. Alinejad had felt that he was in danger. (Goteborgs Posten,November 18, 2001). 

A 33-year-old male and a 34-year-old female suspect were apprehended but the court found that the there was insufficient evidence of their involvement in Mr. Alinejad’s murder, and they were subsequently released. (Adyan Committee, November 14, 2016). 

Farokh Ghahremani, member of the committee following up on Mr. Alinejad’s murder expressed dissatisfaction with the Swedish police and the Swedish officials’ lack of cooperation with the committee. (Persiska, Radio Sweden Farsi/Dari (November 13, 2007 ). 

The adjudication of Mr. Alinejad’s murder was not done in a transparent fashion in Sweden and that country’s prosecutor’s office and other officials have refrained from providing transparent reporting on the case and its progress. 

In a report submitted on the occasion of the commemorative ceremonies held on the first anniversary of Mr. Alinejad’s murder in the town of Sahneh, Mr. Hessameddin Tabrizi, a Kerend-e-Gharb Dervish, stated that the hearing in Sweden was conducted in a closed door session and even Mr. Alinejad’s attorney had not been able to participate in that hearing and that “all the efforts that had been made in Sweden thus far, had not resulted in any progress [in the case].” (Navaye Tanbur YouTube channel, November 8, 2020). 

Family and Friends’ Reaction 

There is no comprehensive information available regarding the family’s reaction either in Iran or in Sweden. 

On the occasion of the commemorative ceremonies of the first anniversary of Mr. Alinejad’s murder held in the town of Sahneh, Mr. Hessameddin Tabrizi, a Kerend-e-Gharb Dervish, stated: “With the help of [the Master’s] followers, friends, and honorable family, in-person meetings were held at the President’s Office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Swedish Embassy, and there have been continuous follow-ups from Sweden itself, none of which has yielded any results whatsoever to this day [in November, 2002]. We did discover some valuable information in these investigations, however, that are worth noting. Initially, there were elements in play that were trying to put the blame on a particular group of dervishes as the ones responsible for this event, and were trying to sow the seeds of division, chaos, and unrest, pitting brother against brother. The vigilance and astuteness of the late Master’s friends and followers nipped these rumors spread by those with pretenses of empathy in the bud.” (Navaye Tanbur YouTube channel, November 8, 2020). A Yarsan researcher told the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center: “There has always been differences of opinion and belief among the Yarsan people, but physical elimination of an in individual is unprecedented.” (Boroumand Center interview, September 6, 2021). 

After Mr. Alinejad's murder, a follow-up committee was formed to assist with the Police investigations. Representing Mr. Alinejad’s family, the committee tried for two years to find a trace and a motive for the killing. The head of the committee and fifty other dissatisfied individuals submitted a letter to the regional chief of police in which they requested that more resources be devoted to the investigations. Mr. Farrokh Ghahremani, the head of the follow-up committee stated: “We have provided the police with the relevant information but the police will not give us any answers. The police know a lot, they just won’t divulge anything.” (Adyan Committee, November 14, 2016). 

A few years later, on the occasion of the sixth anniversary of Mr. Aalimejad’s death, one of his friends, Farhad Zonnuri, stated: “An international lawyer was hired, and the government gave power of attorney on behalf the late Master’s family so that the murder case could be pursued in Sweden.” Hayate No, November 28, 2007). 

On November 18, 2018, the anniversary of Mr. Alinejad’s death, Yarsan Civil Activists’ Advisory Council issued a communique in which it wrote: “Is it not true that the citizens of a country are that country’s most important asset and are basically the elements that make up that country, and that popular and legitimate governments have the duty to defend their asset and their status with all their might? Is the Iranian government’s lack of concern for Seyed Khalil’s murder a sign of its satisfaction with the commission of this crime, or is it a sign of its lack interest in the rights and lives of its citizens? Perhaps the honorable government has indeed pursued the case in a responsible manner and we are the ones who are not aware of its efforts? If this is the case, we are impatiently waiting for the government to apprise Mr. Alinejad’s family, friends, and followers, as well as the Yarsan community, of the results of its follow-ups.” (Info Sufi, November 18, 2018).

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