Home | English | Publications | Reports | Covert Terror: Iran’s Parallel Intelligence Apparatus

Covert Terror: Iran’s Parallel Intelligence Apparatus


On the afternoon of September 7, 2004, plainclothes agents kidnapped Shahram Rafizadeh from his office in Tehran. First he was hustled into a waiting car, then to another with curtains covering the windows. Then he was beaten, blindfolded and thrown into a dark metal cell.

Rafizadeh, a journalist, blogger and poet, spent the next 73 days in solitary confinement. The first time Rafizadeh was interrogated, he was blindfolded and handcuffed, then punched and kicked until he fell unconscious. During subsequent interrogations, he had his head repeatedly bashed against the wall and his entire body whipped by cable wires. Within weeks, his body weight had dropped from more than 200 pounds to less than 100.

Rafizadeh was a broken man by the time he was dragged into the office of Tehran’s public prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi. Mortazavi demanded that Rafizadeh confess to trumped-up charges, warning that if he did not, Rafizadeh’s three children might find themselves in mortal danger. Rafizadeh confessed, then escaped into exile as soon as he was released from illegal detention.

The plainclothes agents who kidnapped Shahram Rafizadeh were hardly rogue operatives. They, like Tehran’s public prosecutor, were part of a vast parallel intelligence apparatus that operated in Iran during the presidency of reformist Mohammed Khatami. This summary documents that parallel intelligence apparatus. A more detailed and more comprehensive version of this report, Covert Terror: Iran’s Parallel Intelligence Apparatus, is available from the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center.

From 1997 to 2004, the parallel intelligence apparatus’ clandestine activities aided conservatives in Iran in their efforts to retain control over the levers of state. Known in Farsi as nahadhayih ittila’tiyih muvazi, the parallel intelligence apparatus (PIA) operated under the effective authority of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei. Members of the PIA were responsible for the brutal intimidation and silencing of reformists, political dissidents and critics. Their primary targets were journalists, bloggers and student activists, many of whom came to prominence as a result of Khatami’s relatively tolerant approach toward public criticism of the conservative establishment’s policies. PIA agents relentlessly and systematically engaged in measures to silence pro-reform voices and stifle freedom of expression, in violation of both Iranian and international law.

Although little, if any, official documentation exists regarding the PIA’s establishment, decisionmaking process or inner workings, available evidence indicates that PIA units were not only aided in their efforts by official organs of the state, but were organizationally and operationally part of executive and judicial agencies. These agencies included police and law enforcement and their affiliated intelligence offices, including the Niruyih Intizamiyih Jumhuriyih Islamiyih Iran (NAJA), or Law Enforcement Forces; military forces including the Sipah-i Pasdaran, or Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and the Iranian Army; executive agencies including the Ministry of Intelligence, the Ministry of Defense and, perhaps most troublingly, the Judiciary. The PIA’s activities were also supported by paramilitary and vigilante groups including the Basij and Ansari Hizbullah, both of which operate under the auspices of the Office of the Supreme Leader.

« 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 »