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Haunted Memories: The Islamic Republic’s Executions of Kurds in 1979

hospital that was tragically damaged by the invaders,” and after 14 hours of “counseling and processing” sentenced nine alleged members of the KDPI to death for “corruption on earth and being at war with God and his prophet.”94 Khalkhali admitted that local clerics suggested that due to the highly tribal and clan-like nature of the region, it would be prudent to issue a blanket order of amnesty. But, he explained, he refused because only the leader of the revolution and the Commander-in-Chief (Ayatollah Khomeini) had the power to bestow amnesty.95

Kurdish men lined up for execution outside of Paveh hospital (Ettelaat Aug. 22, 1979)

The nine men were executed by firing squad before noon on August 21 against the outside wall of the hospital which the newspapers described as “the location where the mujahed (fighting) brothers and pasdaran were massacred in a violent manner.” A major battle had taken place at the hospital. The executed men were Bahman Ezzati, Abulghasem Rashvand Sardari, Hamed Amini, Abbas Karimi, Abdollah Zare’i, Mohammad Heydari, Ali Shahbaz Behdin Shirin, Habib Cheraghi, and Fayzeddin Ziya’i.96 The widow of Habib Cheraghi recalls that “[w]e discovered they were executed when government forces went through town and ordered over a loudspeaker that we retrieve the bodies.”97

Ettelaat newspaper reported Khalkhali’s claim that his investigations showed that two of the victims, Bahman Ezzati (a high school teacher and alleged separatist), and Dr. Rashvand Sardari, were involved in the attack on Paveh hospital, and that the two worked with sixteen people from “Talabani’s gang.” He explained that they had been “court marshaled and sentenced to death.”98 Jalal Talabani is the founder and leader of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan or Ittihadiyih Mihaniyih Kurdistan, and current President of Iraq.99 Bahman Ezzati was a teacher from the city of Kermanshah who voluntarily brought medicine to Paveh.100 Fayzeddin Ziya’i worked as a lab technician in Paveh. Dr. Qasem Rashvand Sardari was a surgeon at Loqmanoddowleh Hospital in Tehran who had voluntarily travelled to Paveh to treat the wounded. 101

Paveh – circa 2010

Coverage in the national newspapers bolstered the government’s claim that the Kurds were anti-revolutionary and therefore deserved to be executed. On August 21, Kayhan newspaper ran large low quality black and white photos on its front page below the headline “The pasdaran were beheaded,” and with the caption “The pasdaran were beheaded in Paveh.” A small photo of Khalkhali is below a smaller headline that proclaims “Khalkhali began the trials today.” The pasdaran featured in these photographs still have their heads intact.102 The news spread rapidly throughout Iran that anti-revolutionary Kurds were allegedly beheading pasdaran in Iran’s Kurdish region.103


[94] Id.; 9 Nafar-i Digar Imruz Tirbaran Shudand [Nine More People Were Executed Today], ETTELAAT, [Aug. 21, 1979], available athttp://www.iranhrdc.org/english/human-rights-documents/3507-1979-newspapers.html.
[95] Guzarish-i Khalkhali az Vaqayi’i Paveh [Report of Khalkhali from the Incidents of Paveh], ETTELAAT, [Aug. 23, 1979], available athttp://www.iranhrdc.org/english/human-rights-documents/3507-1979-newspapers.html.
[96] Nuh Nafar-i digar Imruz Tirbaran Shudand [Nine More People Were Executed by Firing Squad Today], KAYHAN, [Aug. 21, 1979], available at http://www.iranhrdc.org/english/human-rights-documents/3507-1979-newspapers.html; Heidari Interview, supra note 93.
[97] Heidari Interview, supra note 93.
[98] Guzarish-i Khalkhali az Vaqayi’i Paveh [Report of Khalkhali From the Incidents of Paveh], ETTELAAT, [Aug. 23, 1979]. See Khalkhali Ilam Kard: Shuravi va Jalal Talabani hich Naghshi dar Havadis-i Kurdistan Nadashtihand [Khalkhali Announced: the Soviets and Jalal Talabani Had No Role in the Events of Kurdistan], ETTELAAT, [Sept. 20, 1979] (reporting that Khalkhali later retracted this accusation and said that Talabani was not involved), available athttp://www.iranhrdc.org/english/human-rights-documents/3507-1979-newspapers.html.
[99] Ba Ittihadiyih Mihaniyih Kurdistan Ashena Shavid [Get Familiar with Patriotic Union of Kurdistan[, Khabaronline, [Dec. 10, 2008], available athttp://www.khabaronline.ir/news-809.aspx.
[100] Heidari Interview, supra note 93.
[101] Id.; SAYAR, supra note 39, at 101.
[102] Pasdarani ra kih Sar Buridand [The Revolutionary Guards Who Were Beheaded], KAYHAN, [Aug. 21, 1979], available athttp://www.iranhrdc.org/english/human-rights-documents/3507-1979-newspapers.html.
[103] See, e.g., IHRDC Interview with Bijan [pseudonym] (Feb. 18, 2011) (on file with IHRDC) [hereinafter Bijan Interview] (stating that while being interrogated in prison, he was asked multiple times about the number of pasdaran he had beheaded).

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