Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Fereshteh Esfandiari


Age: 35
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam
Civil Status: Single


Date of Killing: May 17, 1995
Location of Killing: Sha'ab, Baghdad, Iraq
Mode of Killing: Extrajudicial shooting

About this Case

Information regarding the extrajudicial killing of Ms. Fereshteh Esfandiari, along with one other person, was published in Jomhuri Eslami newspaper and IRNA website- Islamic Republic News Agency (May 21, 1995). Information on the life and murder of Ms. Esfandiari was also published on the Mojahedin Khalq Organization website (April 18, 2013), Iran’s Path to Freedom website, and Khorasan Province Martyrs website (June 29, 2018).

According to available information, Ms. Esfandiari was a follower of Mojahedin Khalq Organization* since she was 18 years old. She collaborated with Muslim student organizations for a while and was subsequently attached to a neighborhood branch of the Mojahedin Khalq Organization in Eastern Tehran.  In early fall of 1981, she left the Mojahedin Khalq Organization and continued her activities in resistance cells for four years. After that she went to Iraq and managed to get to the Mojahedin base in that country.  She started her activity at Radio “Sedaye Mojahed” in 1985. Ms. Esfandiari’s colleague at the radio said, “As soon as she started working at Sedaye Mojahed, she inspired all of us with her zeal, her revolutionary drive, her perseverance, and her efficiency. (Iran Efshagar Website)

Ms. Fereshteh Esfandiari’s Death

According to available information, on Wednesday May 17, 1995, while Ms. Esfandiari and four others were driving along AbiTaleb Street in Sha’ab, Baghdad, they were attacked by armed people. These attackers were in another vehicle. They approached Ms. Esfandiari’s vehicle and opened fire with a machine gun. As a result, Ms. Esfandiari and one of her comrades, Ms. Effat Haddad, were killed. One other female companion was injured.

Officials’ Reaction

The Islamic Republic News Agency IRNA attributed the attack on members of the Mojahedin to a group known as “Mobarezin e Iraq”. They quoted the spokesperson of this group:

“On Sunday, Mobarezan e Aragh accepted responsibility for the May 17 attack on some hypocrites (Monafeqin) in the Al Sha’ab region of Baghdad.  Iraqi fighters want all hypocrites to leave Baghdad, and to that end, they will continue these attacks.” According to this spokesperson, Mobarezin were responsible for the death of Mojahedin. “The recent attack of Mobarezin e Iraq on the forces of the hypocrites, leaving 12 dead and injured, is in line with their aim of the complete expulsion of Hypocrites from Baghdad.” It is mentioned in the article on the terror attack on Ms. Esfandiari and her comrades in Islamic Republic Newspaper, “Two members of the Hypocrite Central Organization have been killed in the north of Baghdad during an armed assault by unknown persons.”  Other news agencies reported, “This incident has been called the biggest blow in recent years on the high-ranking members of this organization.”  In response to the Mojahedin Khalq Organization, who held the Islamic Republic of Iran responsible for this attack, some news agencies characterized this attack as “intra-group differences and opposition to feminist movements (feminism in the leadership of the organization).”

The reaction of Mojahedin Khalq Organization

In letters to international organizations, Mojahedin Khalq Organization attributed the attack on its members to the Islamic Republic of Iran.  They said, “The mercenary gang who carried out this heinous murder are connected to one of the most active terrorist networks of the Information Ministry of the Clerics’ Government in Baghdad.  They were trained as terrorists in Iran and being sent to Iraq, they carried out several terrorist attacks on the Mojahedin.”  They named the Deputy Secretary of the Islamic Republic Embassy in Baghdad at the time, as responsible for this terrorist group.

According to the Mojahedin Khalq Organization, “This was the thirty third act of terrorism on Mojahedin Khalq, committed in Iraqi territory, by murderous mercenaries of the Clerical Governments’ information ministry.”

Families’ Reaction

There is no information on the family’s reaction.


The Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) was founded in 1965. This organization adapted 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 to 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. 
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. On June 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 regime 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. On June 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 from France, they went to Iraq and 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 of Iran. 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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