Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Mahmud Ra'isi Najafi


Nationality: Iran
Religion: Presumed Muslim
Civil Status: Married


Date of Killing: June 28, 2009
Location of Killing: Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Other arbitrary execution method
Charges: Unknown charge

About this Case

He made it home to his wife, which was remarkable, given the touch-and-go situation. His bona fides as a construction worker probably helped.

Information about Mr. Mahmud Ra’isi Najafi was taken from the Saham News website on September 2, 2009. This website is affiliated with the Etemad Melli Party, which is led by Mehdi Karrubi, a candidate in the 2009 presidential election. The report posted on this site refers to a meeting between Mr. Ra’isi Najafi’s father, wife, and Mehdi Karrubi.

Mr. Ra’isi Najafi worked in construction. He told his wife on June 15, 2009, that when he was returning home from work that day, he passed by Azadi Square in Tehran, where he saw a group of people running away from another “group carrying arms and batons.” He said, “These armed forces caught me, hit me with batons, kicked me, and injured me badly.” Mr. Ra’isi Najafi lost consciousness. When he regained consciousness he found himself in a vehicle with a few other injured individuals.

He believes that the other persons inside the vehicle were either unconscious or dead. With difficulty, he caught the attention of the drivers. He convinced them that he was simply coming back from work and was completely unaware of what was happening at the Azadi Sqaure. “I think one of them felt sorry for me and he threw me out of the vehicle,” Mr. Ra’isi Najafi told his wife. A few people gathered around him, and took him home in a taxi. Mr. Ra’isi Najafi got home at 10:30 p.m., drenched in blood and could hardly stand up.

According to his family members, Mr. Ra’isi Najafi remained alive for another 13 days after the assault by pro-government armed forces. His family did not take him to a hospital, for fear of being punished by government officials. His legs and stomach were very swollen. On June 27, 2009, Mr. Ra’isi Najafi’s condition deteriorated and his family brought him to a hospital only to be told that – due to a lack of beds – he would have to go back home. He died the following morning at home.

Mr. Mahmud Ra’isi Najafi’s exact cause of death is not known. Emergency paramedics took his body to the Forensics Office at the Kahrizak detention center. Police officers said that there was a bullet in his body, but did not provide any further clarification. According to Mr. Ra’isi Najafi’s father, police told him that he did not have the right to investigate the matter or file a lawsuit. The family persisted in trying to retrieve his body and bury him. A few days after his death – and after the type of gun that shot him was identified – the family recovered Mr. Ra’isi Najafi’s body from the Forensics Office and buried him. Fearful of state officials, the family did not mention the circumstances of his death in the obituary.


Election returns from Iran’s June 12th, 2009, presidential election declared Mahmoud Ahmadinejad re-elected with 62.63 percent of the vote. Following the announcement, citizens disputing these official results demonstrated in the streets. Text messaging services were disrupted starting at 11:00 p.m. on the night before the election and remained unavailable for nearly three weeks, 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. The same evening, security forces made a “show of strength,” increasing their presence in Tehran’s public squares to “reinforce security at polling stations.” Officials at election headquarters began reporting results soon after midnight, despite a statement from the Minister of the Interior 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 were made public, to protest what they believed to be a fraudulent election. Candidates Mir Hossein Musavi, Mehdi Karubi, and Mohsen 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 active in Karubi’s and Musavi’s campaigns were arrested.

On June 15th, unprecedented demonstrations filled 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. The repression entered a new phase on June 19th after Ayatollah Khamenei’s Friday sermon, in which he announced his support for Ahmadinejad and warned protestors that they were responsible for any disorder and its consequences. Amnesty International stated that the speech gave “legitimacy to police brutality.” The next day and thereafter, police and plainclothes paramilitary groups attacked the protesters. Public gatherings of any kind were declared illegal, and police, motorcycle-riding special units wearing black uniforms and helmets, and plainclothes agents brutally enforced this restriction.

Individuals in civilian clothing, commonly referred to as plainclothes forces, are used in the Islamic Republic to disrupt political and trade union activities, student events and gatherings, electoral initiatives, and protests. Armed with sticks and clubs, and sometimes with chains, knives, batons, or firearms, they emerge when the state decides to suppress dissent. These plainclothes forces move about freely, violently beating protesters and arresting them, while the police passively look on or actively cooperate with them.

There is little information on the command structure and organization of such groups, whose members wear ordinary clothing rather than official uniforms and may be affiliated with the ministry of information, influential political groups, or the armed forces. Following the post-election demonstrations in 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 16, 2009, a deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards Corps of the Province of Tehran 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 [the] Basij, believers in the Guardianship of the Jurisprudent, are the second and third generations of the Revolution. They have been successful in 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 online showed security forces destroying and damaging property on side streets and in uncongested areas away from the protests. Moreover, in a public gathering in Tehran 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. It is said that officials have threatened victims’ family members, demanding their silence and that they refrain from giving interviews. 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 the family's agreement not to hold memorial services for the loved one.

According to government statements, more than 4,000 people were arrested throughout Iran in the weeks following June 12th. Many have been held at the Kahrizak Detention Center, where prisoners’ rights and minimum hygiene standards were typically ignored. Numerous reports of violence, including the torture and rape of detainees, have been published. State reports and testimonies confirm that a number of detainees at Kahrizak died in custody due to beatings, difficult and unbearable prison conditions, and torture. 

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