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Witness Statement: Ensafali Hedayat

Ensafali Hedayat is an independent journalist who has reported extensively on human rights violations, particularly in the Iranian provinces of Ardebil, Western and Eastern Azarbaijan. In this witness statement, Hedayat briefly explains the history of secret prisons in Iran and describes his own experiences in Iran’s prisons.


Full Name: Ensafali Hedayat

Date of Birth: June 20, 1965

Place of Birth: Village of Kalan; Kalibar Township (East Azerbaijan Province), Iran

Occupation: Freelance Journalist

Interviewing Organization: Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC)

Date of Interview: October 24, 2008

Interviewer: Habib Rahiab

Witnesses: None


This statement was prepared pursuant to a telephonic interview with Mr. Ensafali Hedayat. The statement consists of 67 paragraphs and 20 pages. The interview was conducted on October 24, 2008. The statement was approved by Mr. Hedayat on November 24, 2008.


Witness Statement


The History of Secret Prisons in Iran


1. I don’t have exact information about secret prisons in Iran. If [we view] secret prisons as prisons and detention facilities situated in undisclosed locations wherein government agents illegally detain citizens, [it becomes clear that] the issue is not a new phenomenon in Iran’s political history and dates back to the Qajar era. Specifically, in the period after Qajar rule elements linked to the [new government] arrested influential politicians linked to the Qajar dynasty, journalists, members of the Majlis and others and detained them in undisclosed locations. During the rule of Reza Khan these types of illegal government activities increased pursuant to the establishment of a permanent military and security apparatus. These unlawful activities continued and, in fact, worsened after the Iranian Revolution.

2. During the early years of the revolution, every political group or faction (especially those allied with Ayatollah Khomeini) had their own revolutionary committees. These groups and parties arrested individuals (even those linked to the government), detained them in prisons outside the government’s control and failed to inform the detainee’s families of their whereabouts. Many of these individual – perhaps more than 10,000 of them – were executed in these undisclosed locations following the period of unrest during the revolution. Their families were never able to gather information regarding [the status of] their loved ones. Months passed before government officials notified these individuals’ families that their loved ones had been buried in one of the cities’ cemeteries. They were not, however, allowed to exhume the bodies for the purpose of identifying the disappeared.

3. I do not know the extent to which high ranking officials were aware of the illegal activities of these groups during the early years of the revolution. But the construction of the prisons and the method of interrogations suggest that these activities were systematic in nature, though I don’t know the extent to which Khamenei was aware of these activities.

4. Slowly and surely the regime began to control all the nation’s affairs, and power became concentrated in the hands of high ranking government officials. To the extent that when Ayatollah Montazeri became aware of the directive to execute tens of thousands of individuals both inside and outside [Iran’s] prisons in 1988, he complained about Ayatollah Khomeini’s order. As a result of his criticism Montazeri was removed as a successor to the Supreme Leadership and placed under house arrest. This position was later eliminated under Iran’s [new] Constitution. This indicates that, at a minimum, Ayatollah Khomeini was aware (and approved) of a series of illegal prisons [and the] tortures and executions [that accompanied their administration]. During the reform movement Khamenei was aware of these illegal activities. In fact, many journalists, writers and intellectuals who were victims of these activities wrote detailed letters to Khamenei and other agency officials and kept them informed of what was going on. Despite this, government officials denied any responsibility for or knowledge of these actions. At other times they identified non-government elements and civilians as the culprits.

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Tagged as:

Cyber Journalism, Secret Prisons, Imprisonment, Travel Restrictions