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

Khalkhali threatened my father— he said his sons are infidels and did not know the Koran. My father said that his children have gone to the university and have become engineers, doctors and teachers, but after 50 years of monarchical rule the kids at school did not learn the Koran and prayers and that the new regime must give them time to learn. My father could argue with Khalkhali because he was a learned man who knew the Koran. Khalkhali was stuck—he finally told my father to bring the deed to his house the next day at 5 P.M. in exchange for his sons’ release.

Although Hossein and Amin Mostafa Soltani’s father did as instructed, Khalkhali failed to keep his side of the bargain. When their father returned the next day with the documents, he was told that his sons had been executed. He found Khalkhali and told him that his sons had fought the Shah’s regime for democracy and freedom, and demanded an explanation. According to Abdullah Mostafa Soltani:

He found Khalkhali and fought with him, he said: “I brought the deed but you handed me corpses?” Khalkhali said, “Well this is Islam, the verdict of the Koran. If your kids were guilty then they will go to hell and if they were innocent they will go to heaven.” Incidentally, [at the time of the execution] it was the month of Ramadan.128

Malekeh Mostafa Soltani—a sister of Hossein and Amin Mostafa Soltani—recalls that she and her mother tried to visit her brothers on August 25, the day before their executions. However, when they arrived at the base, there was a crowd of central government supporters. Her mother sent her home and tried to visit her brothers but was denied. Malakeh joined a demonstration. A prison guard asked who among the demonstrators was related to the prisoners and told them that a group of people would soon be executed. She went home with her cousin and soon heard “very loud and prolonged gunshots.” After hearing the gunshots, she recalls:

One of Heshmat’s close friends came and said that nine people had been executed and their bodies were taken to the hospital. I kept telling him to stop saying such things and scaring my parents. 129

Kurdish men and women carrying mint and stones in order to bury the dead (Ettelaat Aug. 20, 1979)

Ahmed Pirkhezri was initially released from detention, but then re-arrested for the ostensible purpose of completing some paperwork.130 When the father of the Pirkhezri brothers arrived at the base, asking to visit his sons, he was told to bring fruit for his sons as they had requested. He did as he was told and went shopping. On his way back to the base, he saw blood stains on the road but thought nothing of it. At the base, he was told that his sons had been executed and that their bodies were at the hospital.131

Khalkhali deceived other executed men and their families as well. 132 For example, Jalal Nasimi—a Kurdish teacher from Mariwan— had played an active role in the residents’ exodus into the mountains. Central government forces arrested him on the evening of August 25, but released him three to four hours later around nine p.m. Nasimi reported that during his short time in detention, his captors had burned him with lit cigarettes that left marks all over his body—he showed the wounds to his brothers. Around ten p.m., a car with six or seven pasdaran and local mercenaries came to the house and demanded that he come with them to sign a form. Instead, without notice to his family, Khalkhali ordered his execution.133


[128] Abdullah Mostafa Soltani Interview, supra note 50.
[129] Malakeh Mostafa Soltani Interview, supra note 110.
[130] Abdullah Mostafa Soltani Interview, supra note 50.
[131] Malakeh Mostafa Soltani Interview, supra note 110.
[132] Abdullah Mostafa Soltani Interview, supra note 50.
[133] IHRDC Interview with Hajir [pseudonym] (Feb. 16, 2011) (on file with IHRDC) [hereinafter Hajir Interview].

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