In the latter part of September 2010, families of the three anti- government protesters who died in Iran’s Kahrizak prison by beating, have demanded from the Judiciary an “unbending and uncompromising” investigation and punishment of the “Political, Judicial and Security” involved in the deaths, instead of the two convicted of doing the actual beatings. The letter received wide publicity in Iran’s media.
The intended parties are Saeed Mortazavi, former Tehran Prosecutor (put on the US blacklist recently), heads of current and former Intelligence Ministry, and head of IRGC. Mortazavi, who is known for prosecution of journalists and dissidents, was held responsible in January by a Parliamentary Committee for the transfer of these three to Kahrizak, knowing of the vile conditions there for political prisoners. He was also involved in the cover up attempt, using Meningitis as the culprit killer. For that, he had to have a doctor’s diagnosis.
The publicized demand for prosecution of high ranking officials responsible for the deaths of the three triggered the shootings of two prominent physicians after leaving work, by motorcycle riders, on consecutive days. Dr. Abdolreza Sudbakhsh was a professor at Tehran University and a physician specialized in infectious disease, working in Imam Khomeini hospital. Doctor Golam-Reza Sarabi, a heart specialist, was shot twenty four hours later. Both had been put under pressure to render a false diagnosis, as reported by an opposition web site Jaras.
Dr. Ramin Pourandarjani, who was connected to Kahrizak, was found dead last November under mysterious circumstances. It is believed he was poisoned but it was ruled a suicide.Tehran Police issued a statement that the killings were “personally motivated” with no connection to anyone. Reports from student groups suggest this is a cover up attempt similar to 1990’s infamous “Chain Murders”, when numerous intellectuals and government critics were killed or disappeared over a long span of a purging process.
Masoud Ali Mohammadi, a Physics Professor at Tehran University, was killed by a bomb blast on January 12, 2010. He was described by the State as “the revolutionary and committed professor” of nuclear physics. He had taught a couple of courses on nuclear physics, but was not actively engaged in nuclear activity. It is known that he was neither a nuclear physicist nor a revolutionary.
The above two designations were to implicate Israel for the killing. A picture taken at Gheytarieh neighborhood near the scene of the crime identifies infamous “Abu Nasser” Hossein. He and Manif Ashmar are known members of the Lebanese Hezbollah brought to Iran to do the dirty work of suppressing the demonstrators after the June 2009 election. This explosion is similar to the ones performed in southern Lebanon. The next question is why?
While the opposition to the regime believes the government is the culprit, there are some reasonable hypotheses to consider. One, it was reported he had expressed support for opposition student groups and Mir Houssein Moussavi during and after the election. It was known that he was a member of the SESAME for a number of years. SESAME is a Jordanian-based regional scientific program in which even Israeli scientists participate. When Iran does not even allow its athletes to compete against Israelis, then the question of Mohammadi's cultivation one way or the other with Israel or anyone else, becomes immaterial. His mere membership in SESAME may be one reasonable explanation for the purpose of setting an example for other scientists. It is well known that Mohammadi had never been associated with Iran’s nuclear program, and therefore a foreign plot is a farce.
Upon observation, it seems there is an emerging pattern. Three doctors assassinated for the purpose of cover up and one scientist for support of opposition and/or membership in a scientific regional organization which includes Israel. Other contributing factors may be overall state of the political environment. Competition and fracture within political hierarchy, to a notable degree. While streets appear relatively calm, other issues are troublesome. Sanctions are driving more contractors away, and a glut of oil is stored in tankers off shore, with no buyers breaking the door. Rial currency dropping to its lowest value and Iran’s Foreign Currency Reserve has declined noticeably. At the least, this is a signal to economic down turn, with already a high unemployment rate. If someone is not worried about it, they should be.
So attention has been diverted by Ahmadinejad’s rancorous speech on 9/11 on one hand and assassinations on the other hand. The concept of ruling through diversion, chaos and fear once again prevails.
The “Chain Murders” of 1990’s, did not receive the international attention it deserved. The murders done in mysterious ways, over a long span, and subsequent cover up and scapegoat arrests at the end, made the issue opaque and inextricable. I have briefly gone over a few selected cases with the purpose of presenting a case history to verify that assassination in Islamic Republic has been used as a vital tool to cover up, purge and intimidate in order to govern.
Dr. Sami Kermani became the first victim of the Chain Murders. He was the founder of Jonbesh-e Enghelab Mardom Iran (Revolutionary Movement of Iranian People) or JAMA. He was active against the Shah’s regime. He became Minister of Health during Mehdi Bazargan’s provisional government after the revolution. With the occurrence of the Hostage Crisis on November 4, 1979, and Khomeini’s endorsement of the action, it resulted in Bazargan and Kermani resigning. Later he was elected to the first Majles, where he criticized the Islamic Republic.
The Iran-Iraq war was expected to be winding down with the liberation of Khorramshahr, an important Iranian port. When Khomeini decided to continue, he brought criticism from nationalist and religious groups. Bazargan’s Freedom Movement and Dr. Kermani’s JAMA were among them. On November 23, 1988, Dr. Kermani was attacked by someone posing as a patient, using an ax, and injuring his head, chest and arms. Investigation identified the murderer, but he had committed suicide in Ahvaz, and the case was closed.
Sayyed Khosro Besharati, a religious intellectual who had criticized some aspect of Shiism, was interrogated in the fall of 1990 in Ministry of Intelligence, and was not seen again. His body was found on a rural road with a bullet wound in his head. Father Mehdi Dibadj had converted from Islam to Christianity before the 1979 Revolution.
In 1993, he was arrested, condemned to death for apostasy, and imprisoned. After intense International criticism he was released. His body was found in northern Iran on July 5, 1994. In the early part of 1994, Father T. Mikaeilian disappeared. In July 1994 a bomb exploded in the Shrine of Imam Reza in Mashhad. Later 3 female members of MKO were arrested and confessed to the killing of Mikaeilian. This is typical confession under duress and no motive by MKO to kill a priest. Another priest, Father Husepian Mehr was stabbed in Karaj, August 1994.
An open letter was published in Tehran by 134 writers in October 1994 entitled “We are the Writers”, expressing plan to establish an autonomous association and demanded abolishment of censorship. This brought the ire of the government through their mouthpiece the Kayhan daily. Hassan Khorasani of Kayhan wrote an article entitled “We are the Dead” in which he referred to the writers as “the excrement of the Monarchial period who have always been the source of moral and intellectual corruption, and whose circles are not different from a fly’s nest”.
Needless to say, some of the signees to the letter paid for it with their lives. One such signee was Ali Akbar Saidi Sirjani, a distinguished writer, poet and journalist. He had supported the 1979 Revolution, but became critical of the government later. He expressed it in form of satire. In 1989 he published a book “you of shortened sleeves”, containing essays, stories, and parables. The book sold out in a matter of days. The Ministry of Culture banned the book and all his other books. He wrote a letter to ayatollah Ali Khamenei asking permission for second release of his book. He was told not to write or protest. He was arrested in March 1994 and imprisoned. He died eight months later from a heart attack. A distinguished investigative journalist and Human Rights activist, Emad Baghi, revealed that Sirjani was administered Potassium suppositories which induced the heart attack.Ahmad Khomeini, younger son of Ayatollah Khomeini, had given a speech in April 1995, criticizing the regimes hardliners. A month later March 17, 1995 he died from a heart attack. It is believed Saeed Emami; an agent of the Ministry of Intelligence had killed him. This was confirmed by Mohammad Niazi, the military prosecutor who had handled the case in 1999.
The bodies of Dariush Forouhar, Secretary General of Hezb-e-mellate-Iran (Nation of Iran Party) and his wife, Parvaneh Eskandari, were found at their home on November 21, 1998. He was stabbed eleven times and his wife twenty four times. Forouhar had served as Minister of Labor in the Provisional government of Mehdi Bazargan in 1979. He was known for his opposition to the Islamic Republic. The killing was perhaps provoked by his criticism of Islamic Republic on Human Rights abuses on a Western Radio Station that beamed to Iran. His home supposedly was under 24 hour surveillance by the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security authorities.
The body of Majid Sharif was found on the side of the road on November 18, 1998. A few days earlier he had left home for a jog and had not returned. He had attended UCLA department of physics as one of its top students. Later he returned to Iran, and scored the highest entrance examination and graduated with honor in physics. He was a translator and Journalist. He wrote articles critical of Islamic government in Iran-e-Farda, which was closed on December 5, 1998. He was also a follower of Ali Shariati (an Islamist modernist leftist theoretician). His cause of death was ruled heart failure. His mother said he had been harassed by someone named “Amini” from the Intelligence Ministry. (It is known Potassium administered by various routes, induces heart attack. It is the key ingredient for execution by injection).
Mohammad Mokhtari, a writer, left home at 5 pm on December 2, 1998 to buy light bulbs at Jordan Blvd. in north Tehran, and did not return. His body was found on December 8, cause of death suffocation. He had been interrogated a few times by the Ministry of Intelligence and asked to stop working on Kanun-e-Nevisandegan, a writer’s association. Before the revolution, he worked for Bonyad-e-Shahname. He became a political prisoner after the revolution and had signed a manifesto demanding freedom of speech in 1994.
Mohammad Jafar Pouyandeh, an author and distinguished translator, left home at 4 pm on December 8, 1998 and did not return. Three days later his wife wrote and delivered a letter to President Khatami. His body was found the next day in Shahriar strangled, same vicinity where Mokhtari was found. Pouyandeh worked at the Cultural Research Institute. He was writing a book; Questions and Answers about Human Rights.Ebrahim Zalzaleh’s body was found on the outskirts of Tehran. He had disappeared on February 22, 1997. His body was identified in a Tehran Morgue on March 29. He was buried half way with multiple stabs wounds in the chest. He was a dissident author and editor. He published a monthly literally magazine Mayar or (Me’yer), often criticizing the government for its censorship practices. It was closed in 1995. He was also the director of the publishing house Ektebar.
In the summer of 1995, a bus load of poets and writers was traveling to Armenia for a conference. About 2 am when everyone was napping, the driver of the bus steered the bus toward a cliff near Hayran Pass and was getting ready to jump off the bus. An alert passenger grabbed the wheel and steered it back. The driver once again took the wheel and tried to guide it off the cliff. In the struggle, the bus crashed into a boulder and stalled. The driver ran away. The twenty one passengers were taken to a town near Caspian Sea, interrogated and warned not to discuss the incident with anyone.The foreign dissidents were not spared from the wrath of the Islamic Republic. In fact they became the subject of relentless elimination shortly after the revolution.
December 1979, Shahryar Shafig, son of the Shah’s twin sister, Ashraf Pahlavi, was shot in Paris.July 1980, Ali Tabatabaei, press attaché of Iran’s embassy in the US, was shot at his home in Bethesda, Maryland, by Dawud Salahuddin, an American, who lives in Iran now.
February 1984, Gholam Ali Oveissi, Army commander in charge of Tehran Military under Shah, was assassinated in Paris, along with his brother, Gholam Hossein.
January 1987, Hashemi Rafsanjani’s former pilot, Ali Akbar Mohammadi, was assassinated in Germany, by two unknown assailants.
May 1987, Hamidreza Chitgar, first secretary of Hezb-e Kaar, had correspondence with Ali Amiztab from Iran for two years. He was lured from Paris to Vienna, Austria and assassinated.
In 1989, Abdulrahman Ghassemlou, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) was to meet with Iran representatives in Vienna, Austria for negotiations. Ghassemlou and three aids met Iran’s representatives, Mohammad Jafari Sahraroudi, Amir Bozorgnia, and Kurdistan provincial governor, Mostafa Ajoudi. Shots were fired and Ghassemlou and his aides were all killed. The incident was reported, statements taken, and released. By the time, police completed their investigation; the Iran representatives were long gone.
In August 1989, Gholam Reza Keshavarz was assassinated in Cyprus, by unknown assailants. He was a communist and Islamic Republic opponent.
In April 1990, Dr. Kazem Rajvi was assassinated in a village near Geneva, Switzerland. He was the older brother of Massoud Rajvi, the leader of Mojahedin-e Khalgh (MKO). He served as Iran’s ambassador to the UN after the 1979 revolution. He had resigned and joined the National Council of resistance, affiliated with MKO.
July 1990, Ali Kashefpour, a member of KDPI Central Committee was killed in Turkey. September 1990, Effat Qazi, daughter of Gazi Mohammad, president of Mahabad Republic (Kurdish), killed by a bomb blast in Sweden. The bomb was intended for her husband, Amir Gazi, a political activist.
October 1990, Cyrus Elahi, a member of the Monarchist organization “Derafsh-e Kaviani (Flag of Freedom), was killed in his home in Paris.
April 1991, Abdolrahman Boroumand, was stabbed in Paris. He was a member of executive committee of the “National Resistance Movement of Iran”, founded by Shapour Bakhtiar (Last prime Minister under Shah).
August 1991, Shapour Bakhtiar and his secretary, Soroush Katibeh were stabbed to death. Involved were three men: Nasser Ghasemi Nejad and Gholam Hossein Shirazi fled to Iran. The third was Ali Vakili Rad, apprehended in Switzerland and extradited to France. His trial resulted in his conviction of life in prison. After serving nineteen years, a French court ordered his release on May 18, 2010. It is suspected, this was part of a deal for the release of Clotilde Reiss, a French teacher whom Iran had held in charges of spying.
This was just a sampling of what took place during the “Chain Murders”.
For more detailed information, the readers should refer to listed sources, and Frontline: Tehran Bureau article. The next question is who was responsible for these murders. In 1989, President Khatami appointed a committee of 3 to investigate the crimes. The three were Ali Yunesi, head of armed forces Judiciary, Ali Raliei, a presidential aide and editor of Kaar va Kargar (Job and Workers), and Ali Sarmadi, deputy Minister of Intelligence. They presented their findings on January 4, 1999 with this statement:
“The despicable and abhorring recent murders in Tehran are a sign of a chronic conspiracy and a threat to the national security. Based on its legal obligations and following clear directives issued by the Supreme Leader and the president, the Intelligence Ministry set as a priority discovering and uprooting this sinister and threatening event. With the cooperation of the specially-appointed Investigatory committee of the President, the Ministry has succeeded in identifying the group responsible for the Killings, has made arrests and referred their cases to the judiciary. Unfortunately, a small number of irresponsible, misguided, headstrong and obstinate staff within the Ministry of the Intelligence, who are no doubt under the influence of rogue undercover agents and acting towards the objectives of foreign and estranged sources when committing these criminal acts”.
At lasts a confession by the Ministry of Intelligence that some misguided members influenced by rogue agents have committed these crimes. So, who were they and what happened to them. The fall guy is the notorious Saeed Emami, a deputy in the Intelligence Ministry. Iranian press reported that he was responsible for the murders of Sharif, Sirjani, the Mykonos restaurant assassinations, Ahmad Khomeini, and he was the driver of the bus. His photos, alive or dead was never shown to the public (for the reason of national security) and announced that he killed himself in prison drinking a container of hair remover. It is known that he had “around the clock” watch, and Iran’s hair remover doesn’t kill anyone. Also there is no grave in “Beheshte Zahra” bearing his name, as expressed.
Ali Rowshani admitted murdering Mokhtari, and Pouyandeh. Both Emami and Rowshani worked under Mehrdad Alikhani, Mostafa Kazemi and Khosro Basati. Rowshani revealed that he did the killings under the order of Alikhani and Kazemi. These two bosses both admitted in the court they issued the orders in collaboration with one another. Iranterror.com summed it up this way “it was widely assumed that he was murdered (Emami) in order to prevent the leak of sensitive information about MOIS operation, which would have compromised the entire leadership of the Islamic Republic”.
What type of sentences they received? Trials took place in December 2000. Kazemi and Alikhani were sentenced to death. On January 2003, Iran’s Supreme Court reduced the two sentences to Life in Prison. Two agents who did the actual killings were given ten years each in prison. Seven received prison terms from 2.5 to 10 years. Five were acquitted.
The Investigative reporters Akbar Ganji and Emadeddin Baghi wrote articles published in Sobhe Emrouz daily by Saeed Hajjarian. Hajjarian was a former intelligence minister who turned a reformer. He was shot in the head by his assistant and is paralyzed for life. Ganji had attended a conference in Berlin “Iran after Election”. He was arrested upon return, and sentenced to ten years in prison which he served six. He suffered hunger strike, beatings and tortures. Baghi was sentenced to three years and served two.In conclusion, Political murders of Kings, and by the kings, have been part of Iran’s history. But selective extermination of the ordinary citizens, with deliberate execution has not.
Adding the initial executions after 1979 revolution, the “1988 Iran Massacre”, six extra years of war with Iraq by Khomeini, the “Chain Murders”, plus all killed during various demonstrations, gives the Islamic Republic the distinction of the bloodiest government in the history of Iran. With emergence of a new pattern developing as described in Part I, it is necessary that we be reminded of the history as a means to prevent repetition. They have learned that these human rights violations have international consequences. Doors are being slammed at their faces every day. We continue to burn candles to illuminate the names of those who have lost their lives for freedom of the Iranian people.
PS – Just received info saying IRI has convicted and sentenced to death, Yosef Rashidi for holding a sign at Iran’s Polytechnique Institute when Ahmadinejad visited there. It shows a picture of him holding a hand written sign, “President of fascist republic, Polytechnique is not a place for you”. The note is asking us for help to save his life. I am sure his family will appreciate whatever we can do. At this time general awareness goes a long way. How could they execute an innocent person who hurt no one, for holding a political sign? Did the human conscience died with the rise of Islamic Republic?
Kin of Detainees Seek Prosecution of Iran Officials. William Yong, the New York Times. September 2010
Two physicians shot dead in street, Iran-Times, Oct. 1, 2010
Who Killed Massoud Ali Mohammadi? Laura Rosen, Politico, January 13, 2010
The Chain Murders, Mohammad Sahimi, Frontline: Tehran Bureau, 12/14/2009
Chain Murders of Iran, Wikipedia.
|Recently by NASSER SHIRAKBARI||Comments||Date|
|Desperate measure for desperate times|
|Apr 17, 2011|
|Wealth, Poverty and Dictatorships|
|Mar 28, 2011|
|Mar 02, 2011|
|نسرین ستوده: زندانی روز||Dec 04|
|Saeed Malekpour: Prisoner of the day||Lawyer says death sentence suspended||Dec 03|
|Majid Tavakoli: Prisoner of the day||Iterview with mother||Dec 02|
|احسان نراقی: جامعه شناس و نویسنده ۱۳۰۵-۱۳۹۱||Dec 02|
|Nasrin Sotoudeh: Prisoner of the day||46 days on hunger strike||Dec 01|
|Nasrin Sotoudeh: Graffiti||In Barcelona||Nov 30|
|گوهر عشقی: مادر ستار بهشتی||Nov 30|
|Abdollah Momeni: Prisoner of the day||Activist denied leave and family visits for 1.5 years||Nov 30|
|محمد کلالی: یکی از حمله کنندگان به سفارت ایران در برلین||Nov 29|
|Habibollah Golparipour: Prisoner of the day||Kurdish Activist on Death Row||Nov 28|