Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Sa'id Zeinali


Age: 22
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam
Civil Status: Single


Location of Killing: Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Unspecified execution method
Charges: Unknown charge

About this Case

The information about Mr. Sa’id Zeinali has been gathered from an interview with a person close to him as well as his mother’s open letter, published on various Iranian websites in December 2009. Mr. Zeinali, son of Akram and Hashem, was born on September 22, 1976. He was a graduate of computer science school.

On July 14, 1999, a friend of Mr. Zeinali named Shahram Cheraghi Zanjani, came to the Zeinalis’ house in the Punak neighborhood in northwestern part of Tehran. He asked to see Mr. Zeinali. When Mr. Zeinali was leaving the house, his mother tried to stop him, worried about the confrontations between students and plain-clothes agents at Tehran University.* Mr. Zeinali told his mother that he would be back soon. Still worried, she went out of the house after a few minutes. A neighbor told her that unidentified individuals forced Mr. Zeinali and Mr. Cheraghi Zanjani into a vehicle and drove away. The neighbor also gave her the tag number of the vehicle. At the time this arrest, Mr. Zeinali was 22 years old.

Another student, arrested in July 1999, Mr. Ahmad Batebi, who was detained in a solitary cell in Tohid prison, heard the voices of prison officials calling a young man by the name of Zeinali, whowas taken for interrogations and returned to solitary confinement. Mr. Batebi did not know the young man’s first name at the time.

Family’s Reaction

After, Mr. Zeinali’s arrest, his parents went to numerous hospitals and police stations but did not find any information about him. They also contacted the Cheraghi Zanjani family, who were also did not know of their son’s whereabouts. Mr. Zeinali’s parents complained to Branch 11 of the Detective Police Station (Agahi). After some time, four unidentified agents came to the Zeinalis’ house, searched the house, and confiscated some of Mr. Zeinali’s belongings. Following this event, the Zeinalis went back to the Detective Police Station and asked whether the agents were from this branch (or could use office or agency). The officials did not give an answer.

When a special rapporteur of the United Nations visited Tehran, Ms. Zeinali and family members of other political prisoners gathered in front of Laleh Hotel where the special rapporteur stayed but the police dispersed the crowd.

Ms. Zeinali went to the office of a member of Parliament from Tehran, Mr. Ali Akbar Mosavi Kho’ini. He asked her to give him the right to act as her attorney on this matter, which she did. The next time she went to his office, she found out that Mr. Musavi Kho’ini was arrested sometime betweenJune 12 andOctober 21, 2006. Or is it that he was detained during this time?

Ms. Zeinali filed a complaint with Branch 6 of the Islamic Revolutionary Court. The officials asked her for Mr. Zeinali’s birth certificate information in order to ask Interpol whether or not Mr. Zeinali had left Iran. They later informed Ms. Zeinali that her son did not leave the country and asked her to be patient.

Ms. Zeinali went to Evin prison numerous times. She went to Khavaran Cemetery to ask whether her son was buried there or not. The officials did not give her an answer. (Many political dissidents who were executed in the 1980s, were secretly buried in Khavaran Cemetery, where their family members are not allowed to visit them.) The Zeinalis gave their vehicle to a person who claimed to be affiliated with the Ministry of Intelligence in order to obtain information about their son. However, they did not heard back from this person directly. Rather, the person told a family member that the Zeinalis should not await their son’s return. This person claimed that Mr. Zeinali had lost his memory as a result of the torture he was subjected to. The Zeinalis gave money and gold coins to others who claimed they would be able to give them information about their son, but these efforts were unsuccessful.

Mr. Emadoddin Baqi, the head of the Committee for the Defense of Prisoners’ Rights, was also unable to find out any information about Mr. Zeinali. His mother contacted the Office of the Supreme Leader, the Ministry of Intelligence, the Revolutionary Guards Corps, the Islamic Revolutionary Court, the Ministry of Interior, the Parliament, the Judiciary, and the Prosecution Office of Tehran, but she was unable to get any information about her son. After the contested presidential election of 2009, she contacted presidential candidate Mehdi Karrubi, Mir Hossein Musavi, Mohsen Reza’i and Abdolhassan Ruholamini, whose son also died in custody. She was still unable to find out any information about her son.

Official Response

About six months after Mr. Zeinali’s arrest, around 2p.m. an unidentified person phoned the Zeinalis’ house and asked for his friend named Shahram Cheraghi Zanjani and asked whether Mr. Zeinali “listened to foreign radio stations.” He also asked whether Mr. Zeinali was politically active. He said that he was calling from Evin prison. When Ms. Zeinali repeatedly asked who he was and where she could find her son, the person only said, “God willing, you will hear from him. I just wanted to get some information from you.” He then hung up.

Several months after the arrest, in the month of Ramadam (December 8, 1999 to January 6, 2000), an unidentified person rang the bell of the Zeinalis’ house and said that he had mail for them. When they opened the door, four largely-built armed men came inside. These men, who were equipped with wireless handheld devices, did not introduce themselves and did not show the Zeinalis a search warrant. Nevertheless, according to Ms. Zeinali’s open letter, “they searched the house thoroughly and confiscated Sa’id’s books, writings, and computer.”. They asked family members whom Mr. Zeinali socialized with. When his fathered asked the agents who they were and which agency they came from, they only said, “it’s a mistake” and told them not to leave their house for the next hour.

One day, an unidentified person called the Zeinalis’ house and said that he was calling from “the agency.” He told Ms. Zeinali that her son was alive and healthy. He did not reply when she asked him about her son’s charges and his detention location. After some time, a chief of the police department called Ms. Zeinali and said that Mr. Sa’id Zeinali participated in a gathering in Tehran University, where Mr. Manouchehr Mohammadi delivered a speech. He called Mr. Zeinali an “agitator” and told Ms. Zeinali that her son was detained by the “operations officers.”

In 2007, the deputy prosecutor told Ms. Zeinali that her son was a “traitor” and a “Hypocrite” (the term that Iranian officials use to refer to members and sympathizers of the Mojahedin Khalq Organization). He said that Mr. Zeinali had sent confidential information to the Mojahedin Khalq Organization and is detained at the detention center of the Organization for the Protection of Information of the Revolutionary Guards Corps. He also told her to contact the Organization for the Protection of Information and the Office of the Supreme Leader to look for her son. He said that Mr. Zeinali “has not cooperated thus far.”

* The events of July 9, 1999

In the early morning hours of July 9, the day after students’ demonstrations to denounce the closing of the daily newspaper Salam, members of the Riot Police, along with members of government supported militia in civilian clothes, known as Ansar-e Hezbollah, raided the dormitories of the University of Tehran and began battering and seriously injuring many students, some of whom had been barely awake. The invaders then proceeded to savagely ransack the rooms and destroy or pilfer the students’ belongings.

The raid was apparently a reaction to the gathering of students to protest the closing of the reformist daily journal, Salam. The protests had flared up following the publication of a letter by Sa’id Emami (one of the undersecretaries of the Ministry of Intelligence who had been accused of complicity in the “serial murders” of the opponents and critics of the regime). The letter disclosed a government plan to tighten control over newspapers. An announcement posted on campus bulletin boards, called on students to congregate in protest to the restrictions imposed on, and the closing of, dissident journals. Answering the call, several hundred students gathered in front of the campus gate and began to shout slogans in praise of freedom and condemnation of tyranny. The students continued their march from the campus area to an adjacent street and then returned to their dormitories. Some of the students, however, noticing the presence of security forces and plain-clothes militia, remained in the street and following a brief skirmish with the militia returned to their dormitories at the request of the president of the university.

Later on, following the raid of the dormitories by the riot police and plain-clothes militia, a number of students, along with the University president were arrested and taken away. Denouncing the violent and destructive police raid on their dormitories, a few thousand of shocked and angry students continued their demonstrations for another day. According to a BBC report, nearly 20,000 students had participated in one of the street demonstrations. Protestors in Tabriz University were also brutally attacked.

Furthermore, according to the report of the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations for the year 2000, nearly 1500 individuals were arrested over the course of these demonstrations in Tehran, and, on the basis of the available evidence, at least 8 persons were killed in the demonstrations and the campus raid. The authorities, however, confirmed the death of only one demonstrator by gunfire: Ezzatollah Ebrahimnejad.

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