Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

https://www.iranrights.org
Omid, a memorial in defense of human rights in Iran
One Person’s Story

Jahangir Behtaji

About

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

Case

Date of Killing: August 13, 1985
Location: Evin Prison, Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Unspecified execution method
Charges: Possession of arms; Corruption on earth

About this Case

The information about Mr. Jahangir Behtaji has been collected through an interview with one of his relatives. Mr. Behtaj studied agriculture at Shiraz University, where he was an anti-monarchy student activist. He was arrested in the early 1970s and, after some detention time at Kazerun prison in the Fars province, he was dismissed from the University and sent to Yazd to serve in the army as a private. After completing his military service and a short detention period, he enrolled at Tehran University as a biology major student. He was purged from the University during the Cultural Revolution in the spring of 1980.

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” is 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 18th, 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.

Before the end of the Council’s deadline, serious clashes started between the Islamist associations, sometimes supported by security forces and paramilitary groups, and leftist student groups. The latter, which recruited members and had strong support in the universities, refused to evacuate. These clashes, which peaked at the end of the three-day deadline, resulted in the death 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.

When he was a student, Mr. Behtaji became a supporter of guerilla groups and during the Revolution he expanded his activism. His main area of activism was publication and distribution of Marxist flyers and books. After the Revolution, he became a member of Fadayian Khalq Organization Majority. Mr. Behtaji was known for his compassionate nature and modesty. He always helped others in any way he could. After the news of his execution spread, for 40 days his acquaintances went to visit his wife and mother to express their condolences.

The Fadaiyan Khalq Organization, a Marxist Leninist group, inspired by the Cuban Revolution and the urban guerilla movements of Latin America, was founded in 1971 by two communist groups opposed to the Pahlavi regime. Following the 1979 Revolution, the Organization, which had renounced armed struggle, split over their support of the Islamic Republic and of the Soviet Union. The Fadaiyan Khalq Majority considered the Islamic Republic as a revolutionary and anti-imperialist regime and supported it. After the spring of 1983, however, the Islamic Republic targeted its members solely because of their political beliefs.

Arrest and detention

Mr. Behtaji was arrested, late in the evening, on the 21st of June 1983 and taken to Evin prison. The location of his detention was not disclosed to his family. They made numerous inquiries at various government agencies and prisons until they found out that he was at Evin hospital through the receipt of money they had sent him. (When the family of a detainee was allowed, they could send money to the prisoner and they would obtain a receipt one or two weeks later. The receipt was signed by the prisoner and stamped with the stamp of the prison. By this means, the family would find out the location of detention and whether or not the prisoner was still alive.)

During his first months at Evin, when most likely he was often interrogated, he did not have visitation rights. Later he was transferred to Gohar Dasht prison in Tehran province, where he was in solitary confinement for one year. Then he was returned to Evin. His family would not be informed of the transfers and had to go through lots of hardships to find out about his detention location in order to visit him in prison.

When they did visit, they were behind a glass window. On various occasions, the visitation was cancelled as a punishment. Once, the reason for the cancellation was his attempt to hide a carved bone [a form of art craft] in his son’s clothes in order to smuggle it out of prison.

During visitations, he used gestures and body language to inform his family that he has been tortured. In their first visitation, the family saw that he had become very slim and weak. Later an Arab communist cellmate told other inmates that Mr. Behtaji had been suspended in the air for long periods of time. Except for the last few months before his execution, Mr. Behtaji was held in solitary confinement.

Mr. Behtaji was detained for 2 years and 23 days.

Trial

Mr. Behtaji’s trial may have been held in mid 1985 at Evin prison. According to what he tried to communicate to his family in later visits, he had been blindfolded during his trial.

No information is available on the court session(s).

Charges

No exact information is available on the charges brought against Mr. Janangir Behtaji. However, when his family met Asadollah Lajevardi, then the prosecutor of Tehran, he had the Mr. Behtaji’s file in front of him. Among other charges, he mentioned “corruption on earth, possession of arms, and being responsible for the arms of the [Fadayian Khalq] Majority Organization.”

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

The report of this execution does not contain information regarding the evidence provided against the defendant.

Defense

No information is available on Mr. Behtaji’s defense.

Judgment

No information is available on the exact details of the verdict. He was executed on the 13th of August 1985 at Evin. According to what other inmates had heard, the execution might have taken place at 9 in the evening.

After the execution, the prison authorities called Mr. Behtaji’s family to Evin to inform them of the verdict. When his father in law arrived at the prison, he was blindfolded and taken inside. There he was informed of the execution of Mr. Jahangir Behtaji, and his belongings were given to him.

After referring to the internment office of the Behesht-e Zahra cemetery, his family found out that he had been buried in Khavaran (in Tehran province). The death certificate mentioned suffocation, and not execution, to be the cause of death. Families of other executed individuals, who had gone to Khavaran to mourn their loved ones, told Mr. Behtaji’s family that they had seen the authorities bury a body that was covered in blood. If that body belonged to Mr. Behtaji, it can be concluded that he had been executed by a firing squad. His will that was returned to his family had parts of it crossed out. At the end of his will, he says:

“Combine the pain of my loss with the love of tomorrow and glowing progressive future; and reduce its immense … [crossed out] to make me happy. [To his wife] I kiss you from the dept of my heart. I think about all the goodness and sacred human ideals, and hail all the truly righteous human beings. With faith in peace and…”

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