Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Gheiban Abidavi


Age: 38
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam (Sunni)
Civil Status: Married


Date of Killing: December 1, 2007
Location of Killing: Ahvaz, Khuzestan Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Death in custody
Charges: Unknown charge

About this Case

Mr. Gheiban Abidavi worked at a dairy plant in [the city of] Ahvaz. After an Eid al-Fitr arrest, his family heard nothing for close to three months.

Information about Mr. Gheiban Abidavi was obtained from various sources, including an interview conducted by the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation (ABF) with one of Mr. Abidavi’s acquaintances; the Ahvaz Human Rights Organization (December 30, 2007); the Ahvaz News Agency (January 2, 2008); and a report on Iranian human rights activist groups in the EU and in North America (January 21, 2008).

Additional information on Arab citizens’ protests in Khuzestan Province has been obtained through an interview, conducted by ABF, with a number of eyewitnesses to the protests; a report from Milan Kothari, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing (March 21, 2006); bulletins and reports by Amnesty International (April 20, 2005 and May 17, 2006); and Human Rights Watch (May 20, 2005 and February 15, 2007); and from numerous reports by the Ahvaz Human Rights Organization; the Ahvaz News Agency; the ISNA and IRNA news agencies; as well as from news websites, including the BBC and Gooya News.

Mr. Gheiban Abidavi was 38 years old, was married, and had four children. He was a laborer at a dairy manufacturing company in [the city of] Ahvaz, and resided in [the town of] Hamidieh.   

A Summary of the Khuzestan Protests 

Subsequent to the publication of a letter dated July 24, 1998, ascribed to then-President Khatami’s Chief of Staff, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, demonstrations protesting the letter broke out on Friday, April 15, 2005, first in [the city of] Ahvaz and then in other cities, such as Mahshahr and Hamidideh, and continued for several days. The letter emphasized the modification of Khuzestan Province’s ethnic Arab population through promotion and encouragement of the migration of non-native populations to the province, [thus] reducing Khuzestan’s Arab population to one third of the total population of the province. Although the government’s spokesperson officially denied [the existence of] this letter on Saturday, April 16, the demonstrations that had been called for by the “Coordination Committee for Popular Protests in Ahvaz” continued extensively in the days to come. In calling for demonstrations, [the organizers] highlighted various factors, including “the central government’s policies in expropriating Arab farmers’ lands for various projects, such as sugar cane development,” and “marginalization of, as well as profound discontent among, Khuzestan’s Arab [population], as a result of the regime’s efforts to obliterate Arab identity.” 

The demonstrations that had started in Shelangabad (Da’ereh), one of [the city of] Ahvaz’s poor neighborhoods, quickly spread to the center of Ahvaz and to the cities of Mahshahr and Hamidieh. Citing Ahvaz News (a regional news organization) and eyewitnesses at the scene, the Ahvaz Human Rights Organization’s bulletin, dated April 15, 2005, stated, “Around three thousand Arab people of Ahvaz have gathered together and started extensive but peaceful demonstrations in Kordovani Street and Square, along with thousands of others in neighborhoods such as Shelangabad, Malashieh, Ameri, and Kut Abdollah, among others. Security forces are attacking the demonstrators, first with tear gas, and are subsequently firing on them in Da’ereh and Malashieh neighborhoods.” The degree of violence resorted to by security and police forces in quashing the demonstrations was such that it led to the death of a number of protestors. Dozens more were injured. Subsequent to these deaths, the intensity and magnitude of the protests increased. In a number of towns, demonstrators proceeded to cut off roads and to occupy government buildings and police posts. These protests continued for ten days in many Arab regions of Khuzestan. Protestors demanded a government apology to the region’s Arabs. Official government sources, quoting the Islamic Republic’s Defense Minister, announced the death toll as standing at three or four. (ISNA, April 19, 2005)  Civil society activists, however, declared the number of people killed during these events to be between 50 and 60. Amnesty International stated the number as 29; Human Rights Watch, 50; and the Ahvaz Human Rights Organization, 160. Dozens of others were injured. The Ahvaz General and Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office announced the arrest and arraignment of 447 individuals. (IRNA, April 25, 2005) Local sources, however, announced the number as being greater than 1200. A number of intellectuals and ethnic leaders were among those arrested. Although the demonstrations subsided after ten days, widespread arrests, multiple bombings, successive executions, and popular protests continued on various occasions, including the anniversary of the events.  

Related Protests in the Following Years 

In the years since the violent incidents of April 15, 2005, the regime’s forces have continued to violently suppress the peaceful protests of the Arab citizens of Khuzestan Province, whenever they occur, including on the anniversary of the protests. Every year, as April 15th nears, a wave of arrests takes over the entire region. Internet access is cut off, and other means of communication, such as telephones, are tapped and strictly controlled by the security apparatus. Certain cases of death in suspicious circumstances have even been reported by local sources. 

On November 4, 2005, after the Eid al-Fitr prayers, Arab citizens of [the city of] Ahvaz started a peaceful march. On the route to Lashgarabad, every time they would reach the homes of those who had perished in the April 15th protests, they would chant local and Arabic slogans as part of the new Eid ceremonies. On their way back, while on the Fifth Bridge of the Karun River, a large number of the protestors were surrounded on both sides of the bridge by Revolutionary Guards, Bassij, and police forces. The attempt by these forces to arrest and severely punish the demonstrators who had been trapped on the bridge led to the escalation of the protests. A large number of the demonstrators were arrested, and some jumped into the Karun River for fear of arrest. 

Further, on October 13, 2007, after the Eid al-Fitr prayers, thousands of Arab citizens started peaceful protests in [the town of] Hamidieh, chanting Arabic and epic slogans and songs. (Ahwaz Human Rights Organization)  Dozens were beaten and arrested when security and police forces violently intervened in the protests. There are no reports of protestors having been killed on the day of Eid al-Fitr. Somewhat later, after the demonstrations, however, the bodies of four citizens were found in the Karun River. According to activists, their hands were tied with plastic handcuffs, and signs of torture were visible on their bodies. (Ahwaz News Agency) 


Arrest and Detention

According to one of his acquaintances, as recounted to the Foundation, Mr. Abidavi was first arrested during the April 2005 protests in [the town of] Hamidieh, and released after one week. Security forces arrested him a second time during the post-Eid al-Fitr Friday Prayers protests of October 13, 2007, in [the town of] Hamidieh. No information was provided to his family regarding why he had been arrested or where he was being detained.               



No information is available on Mr. Abidavi’s trial. Based on the available information, no trial was held to examine the charges against Mr. Abidavi. 



No information is available on the charges brought against him. He was arrested during the Eid al-Fitr  protests of 2007. 


Evidence of Guilt 

The report of this execution did not provide any specific information on the evidence presented against the defendant. 



Mr. Abidavi was not given a chance to present a defense.  



Based on available information, no official sentence has been issued in Mr. Gheiban Abidavi’s execution. News of his killing was announced by the Ahvazi Democratic Popular Front on December 6, 2007. According to one of his acquaintances, his family had no news of him for close to three months. In spite of repeated attempts, his family was not able to obtain any information on why he was arrested or where he was being detained. Finally, after three months, the Ahvaz Information Office informed Mr. Abidavi’s family, by phone, of his killing. Security agents took Mr. Abidavi’s son and brother to a morgue in Ahvaz to see Mr. Abidavi’s body. 

According to Mr. Abidavi’s son and brother, there were clear signs of torture on his body.Based on available information, security agents did not turn Mr. Abidavi’s body over to his family. Further, they did not allow them to conduct burial and mourning rituals for him. They did not even inform the family of where he had been buried.

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