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

Rostam Qavami

About

Age: 26
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Non-Believer
Civil Status: Unknown

Case

Date of Killing: September 6, 1988
Location: Iran
Mode of Killing: Fatal
Charges: Counter revolutionary opinion and/or speech; Apostasy

About this Case

Mr. Rostam Qavami’s name, an affiliate of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kordestan, is taken from the book Those Who Said No, published in 1999 in Paris by the Association for the Defense of Political Prisoners and Prisoners of Conscience in Iran. He was a victim of the mass killings of political prisoners in 1988. The majority of the executed prisoners were members of the Mojahedin Khalq Organization. Other victims included members or sympathizers of Marxist-Leninist organizations, such as the Fadaiyan Khalq (Minority) and the Peykar Organization, which opposed the Islamic Republic, as well as the Tudeh Party and the Fadaiyan Khalq (Majority), which did not. Information about the mass executions has been gathered by the Boroumand Foundation from the memoir of Ayatollah Montazeri, reports by human rights organizations, interviews with victims’ families, and witnesses’ memoirs.

The Democratic Party of Iranian Kordestan (PDKI) was founded in 1945 with the objective to gain autonomy for Kurdistan, in north-west of Iran. After the Revolution, conflicts between the new central Shiite government and the mainly Sunni Kurdistan, regarding the role of minorities in the drafting of the constitution, specification of Shiite as the official state religion, and particularly the autonomy of the region, ended in armed clashes between the Revolutionary Guards and the peshmerga (the militia of the PDKI). The PDKI boycotted the referendum of April 1, when people went to polls to vote for or against the Islamic regime. On August 19, 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini called the PDKI the “party of Satan” and declared it “unofficial and illegal.” Mass executions and fighting broke out and continued for several months in the region. By 1983, PDKI had lost much of its influence in the region. Various leaders of the PDKI have been assassinated.

Arrest and detention

There is no specific information on the defendant’s arrest and detention.

Trial

Specific details about the circumstances of the trials that led to the execution of Mr. Qavami and thousands of other individuals in 1988 are not known. According to existing information, there was no official trial with attorneys or prosecutors. Those who were executed in 1988 were sent to a three-man committee consisting of a religious judge, a representative from the Intelligence Ministry, and a Public Prosecutor of Tehran. This committee asked the leftist prisoners some questions about their beliefs and whether or not they believed in God.

The relatives of political prisoners executed in 1988 refute the legality of the judicial process that resulted in thousands of executions throughout Iran. In their 1988 open letter to Minister of Justice at the time, Dr. Habibi, they argue that the official secrecy surrounding these executions is proof of their illegality. They note that an overwhelming majority of these prisoners had been tried and sentenced to prison terms, which they were either serving or had already completed when they were retried and sentenced to death.

Charges

No charge has been publicly stated against the victims of the 1988 mass executions. In their letters to the Minister of Justice in 1988, and to the UN Special Rapporteur visiting Iran in February 2003, the families of the victims refer to the authorities’ accusations against the prisoners – accusations that may have led to their execution. These accusations include being “counter-revolutionary, anti-religion, and anti-Islam,” as well as being “associated with military action or with various [opposition] groups based near the borders.”

An edict of the Leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini, reproduced in the memoirs of Ayatollah Montazeri, his designated successor, corroborates the reported claims regarding the charges against the executed prisoners. In this edict, Ayatollah Khomeini refers to members of the Mojahedin Khalq Organization as “hypocrites” who do not believe in Islam and “wage war against God” and decrees that prisoners who still approve of the positions taken by this organization are also “waging war against God” and should be sentenced to death.

Defendants, who did not belong to the Mojahedin Khalq Organization, may have been accused of being “anti-religion” for not having renounced his or her beliefs.

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. Qavami’s defense. In their open letter, the families of the prisoners noted that defendants were not given the opportunity to defend themselves in court. The same letter, rebutting the accusation that these prisoners (from inside the prison) had collaborated with armed members of the Mojahedin Khalq Organization in clashes with armed forces of the Islamic Republic, states that such claims “are false considering the circumstances in prisons; for our children faced the most difficult conditions [in prison, with] visitation rights of once every 15 days, each visitation lasting ten minutes through a telephone from behind the glass window, and were deprived of any connection with the outside world. We faced such conditions for seven years, which proves the truth of our claim.”

Judgment

The details regarding the execution sentence are not available. According to available information, leftist prisoners executed in 1988 were found to be “apostates.” Months after the executions, prison authorities informed the families about the executions and handed over the victims’ belongings to their families. The bodies, however, were not returned to them. The bodies were buried in mass graves. Authorities warned the families of prisoners not to hold memorial ceremonies for their loves ones.

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