Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Ali Reza Tavassoli


Age: 12
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Presumed Muslim
Civil Status: Single


Date of Killing: July 30, 2009
Location of Killing: Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Other arbitrary killing method
Charges: Unknown charge

About this Case

The information about Ali Reza Tavassoli was collected from the following websites: the Amir Kabir University Newsletter (AUTNEWS; August 5, 2009), Parliament News (August 5, 2009), Green Freedom Wave (August 17, 2009); and Saham News* (August 5 and 8, 2009). According to the information available, Ali Reza, who was 12 years old at the time, was hit in the head with a baton and died at a memorial ceremony for Ms. Neda Aqasoltan on July 30, 2009 at the Behesht-e Zahra cemetery. His family members retrieved his body from coroner’s office on August 3, 2009.

The Iranian Parliament ordered a truth commission to investigate this case. One of the members of this commission stated, “Unfortunately, my colleagues and I were not aware of this incident until now, since nobody has informed me or my colleagues about this” (Saham News, August 5, 2009).

Pro-government sources have reported conflicting information regarding the cause and date of Ali Reza’s death. On August 8, 2009, Saham News reported that one of the members of the Parliamentary truth commission stated that he was injured in a car accident in Saveh (in the Central Province) “in late June”, “two days prior to the memorial ceremony” for Ms. Aqasoltan (which took place on July 30). This source stated that Ali Reza died due to injuries sustained in the car accident. Similarly, on August 8, Channel 2 of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) company aired a report in which sources who claimed to be Mr. Tavassoli’s family members stated that he died on June 29, after a car accident. The Young Journalist Club, affiliated with IRIB, also published a report similar to that of the IRIB on its website (August 10, 2009).

It has been reported that Iranian officials have threatened victims’ family members, demanding their silence and that they not agree to be interviewed. Reports also allege that returning a victim’s body to a family has been made conditional upon their agreement to change the cause of death listed on the coroner’s certificate to that of a heart attack or some other natural cause — thus foregoing the right to file a complaint — as well as an agreement not to hold memorial services for the loved one.

Dr. Ali Reza Beheshti,** an advisor in the Mirhossein Musavi campaign told Radio Farda, “one of the problems we face is that family members of those dead or arrested during the recent events, either have certain concerns, or are threatened and pressured not to publicize information” (August 11, 2009). Dr. Beheshti is also the spokesman of the committee which was ordered to investigate the status of prisoners and those injured in the aftermath of the presidential election. This committee’s operations were shut down by security agents after it published a list entitled, “72 Martyrs of the Green Movement”).

On August 17, the Green Freedom Wave website stated that a “reliable source” has confirmed that Ali Reza died after being hit in the head with a baton at the Behesht-e Zahra cemetery and stated that, “two prominent reformist politicians have established an investigative committee, which has approved the authenticity of this report.”


Election returns from Iran’s June 12th, 2009, presidential elections declared Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to have been re-elected with 62.63 percent of the vote. Following the announcement, citizens disputing these official results demonstrated in the streets. Text messaging services had been disrupted since 11:00 p.m. on the night before the election and remained unavailable until July 1st. On Election Day, the deputy chief of Iranian police announced a ban on any gathering of presidential candidates’ supporters throughout the country. On the same evening, security forces made a “show of strength,” increasing their presence in Tehran’s public squares to “reinforce security at polling stations.” At election headquarters, the head official began reporting results soon after midnight, despite a statement from the Interior Minister that the first returns would not be announced until after the morning prayer (around 4:00 a.m.).

Many supporters of other presidential candidates came out into the streets on June 13th, once the results had been made public, to protest what they believed to be a fraudulent election. Candidates Musavi, Karubi, and Reza’i, Ahmadinejad’s competitors in the race, contested the election, alleging many instances of fraud. They filed complaints with the Council of Guardians [the constitutional body charged with vetting candidates before elections take place and approving the results afterwards], requesting an annulment and calling for a new election. Before the Council of Guardians could review their claims, however, the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, congratulated Ahmadinejad on his re-election. In the meantime, many people who had been active in Karubi’s and Musavi’s campaigns were arrested.

On June 15th, unprecedented demonstrations were held on the streets of central Tehran, in which an estimated three million protestors participated, according to statements attributed to the mayor of Tehran. As the demonstrations were ending, paramilitary forces attacked the marchers, injuring and killing several people. To prevent such news from being broadcast, the Iranian government expelled foreign journalists from the country and banned news agencies from reporting on the events. Over the next three days, protesters took part in peaceful demonstrations in Tehran. After Ayatollah Khamenei’s Friday sermon on June 19th, which Amnesty International said gave “legitimacy to police brutality,” the repression entered a new phase. The next day and thereafter, police and plainclothes paramilitary groups confronted the protesters, resulting in casualties. Public gatherings of any kind were declared illegal, and police and plainclothes agents brutally enforced this restriction.

Paramilitary plainclothes groups are used in Iran to disrupt political and trade union activities, student events and gatherings, electoral initiatives, and protests. There is little information on the command structure and organization of such groups, whose members wear ordinary clothing rather than official uniforms. Armed with sticks and clubs, and sometimes with chains, knives, batons, or firearms, they emerge when the state decides to suppress dissent. Police forces either passively observe their conduct and do not react, or they may actively cooperate with the plainclothes forces, who move freely about, violently beating protesters, including when the police are present.

Following the post-election demonstrations of June 2009, pictures of some plainclothes agents were posted on internet websites. Internet users helped to identify some of them and provided evidence that these individuals were affiliated with the Basij paramilitary groups, the Revolutionary Guard Corps, and state intelligence forces. On September 16th, 2009, a deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards Corps of Tehran Province confirmed the active and decisive role of Basij forces in the repression of the demonstrations, saying, “Basijis, through their presence in recent events, have blinded the eyes of the conspirators, and they should be appreciated. … The enemies of Islam wanted to make the air dusty and to exploit the recent events, but Thank God, through the enlightenment of the Honorable Leader we were victorious against this conspiracy.” He also emphasized, “The zealous youth of Basij, believers in the Guardianship of the Jurisprudent, are the second and third generations of the Revolution. They have been successful on this stage and victorious on this battlefield.”

When personal property was damaged during the protests, government authorities and state-run radio and television programs accused the demonstrators of vandalism and justified the repression. At the same time, however, footage posted on-line showed security forces destroying and damaging property on side streets and in uncongested areas away from the protests. Moreover, in a public gathering of Tehran police commanders on October 20th, the chief of Iranian police conceded that police had destroyed and damaged property and accepted responsibility for it.

The precise number of citizens injured, killed, or disappeared in the post-election violence is not known. According to various reports, there were hundreds of victims in demonstrations throughout the country. More than seventy names have been reported.

According to government statements, more than 4,000 people have been arrested throughout Iran since June 12th, many of whom have been held at the Kahrizak Detention Center, where prisoners’ rights and minimum hygiene standards are typically not observed. Numerous reports of violence, including the torture and rape of detainees, have been published. According to state reports, some of the detainees at Kahrizak died in custody.

* Saham News is the news agency of the E’temad Melli Party. Mehdi Karrubi is the secretary-general of this party, and was a candidate in the 2009 presidential election.

** Dr. Ali Reza Beheshti, is the son of Seyed Mohammad Hosseini Beheshti; the latter was one of the founders of the Islamic Republic Party. Dr. Beheshti is secretary-general of a reformist political organization called the Tohid va Ta’avon Society. He also teaches at the Tarbiat Modares University.

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