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

The bullet had shattered a bone in Navareh’s hand into five pieces. He recognized one of the nurses and asked her to tell his family that he was in the hospital. The next day, August 21, two of his aunts managed visit him. Navareh asked his aunts to let his family know about what had happened to him and to let Ahsan Nahid’s family know that he was in the hospital.

Sazman-e Cherikhayeh Fedaian-e Khalq (The Organization of the Iranian People’s Fedai Guerillas) was created in 1971 through the merger of two armed Marxist-Leninist groups. In the 1970s, the organization violently opposed the Shah’s rule and following his ouster in February 1979 was instrumental in opening prisons, taking over police stations and raiding armories. The Fedaian later split into the Majority faction which opposed violence and the Minority faction which continued to advocate for armed struggle.

Around 10 or 11 a.m. the following morning, August 22, Navareh and Nahid were taken to an ambulance. Navareh could walk but Nahid was carried out on a stretcher. Soldiers accompanied them. They were driven to the old Gendarmerie Club that had been taken over by the “black clad” pasdaran. The pasdaran blindfolded them with handkerchiefs and cotton, and drove them to the Sanandaj airport. They instructed the young men to head upstairs to a 2.5 x 3 meter room. Nahid was still on a stretcher. Shahriar Nahid and Yakhchali were brought in a few hours later.

A couple of days passed before the men were taken to a room on the first floor of the building for interrogation. There was a gun hanging from the wall and a guard was posted at the door. The Nahid brothers were taken to a separate room for interrogation and then returned. They were questioned by a man named Dr. Hashtroudi. When it was Navareh’s turn, the corridor all of a sudden became very crowded and the guards hastily took the prisoners upstairs. The guards told them that there was a protest in Sanandaj and the demonstrators wanted to attack the airport. As a result of the chaos, Navareh was never questioned by Hashtroudi.

Sanandaj – circa 2010

In the evening, it was not completely dark when Navareh, the Nahids and Yakhchali were taken to another room. There were already some prisoners there - including Naser Salimi, a government employee from Mariwan whose hand was injured, and Ata Zandi, a man who was knowledgeable about Kurdish history. Navareh remembers that neither man was affiliated with any Kurdish political party or involved in politics at all. Also in the room were Sasan Partowee, (a young Kurdish man from Sanandaj), Amjad Mobseri, and a father and his twelve year old son. The twelve-year-old had been arrested for having political flyers in his possession and his father had come with him so he would not face jail alone.

The prisoners were scared, and tried to lighten the tense atmosphere by reciting poetry and singing songs. Then, around 9 or 9:30 p.m., interrogations resumed. The prisoners were taken one-by-one to interrogation. Navareh recalls:

I asked Ata what was happening. He said a [religious cleric or mullah] had arrived. He said that the akhoond (religious clergyman) was reputed to be strict—and a brute. Whoever went for interrogation would return upset—gloomy and sad—and sit down pensively in a corner.

Navareh was taken to the interrogation room at about one a.m. the following morning. A man dressed head to toe in white—whom Navareh later learned was Ali Karimi, the shooter captured in the photographs taken by Jahangir Razmi—told Navareh to identify himself. Navareh recalls:

The white clad man asked me who I was. He was Fars and very tall.157 He wore sunglasses and I later heard he wore them because he was cross-eyed. He told me I did not have a case file. Hashtroudi created a case file for everyone else but since I did not see him, I did not have one.
I told the man I was a teacher from a village. He told me: when you were on the tarmac at the airport you defended the Kurdish people, why did you do that? I said: the person who told you this insulted and degraded us [Kurds] and I responded. I told him: we [Kurds] are a nation with rights and we should have the right to speak our own tongue.

[157] Fars is a term used to describe individuals of Persian ethnic majority by the other minorities in Iran.

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