The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) has recognised all four cases of activists executed in 2010 as enforced disappearances and is now asking the Islamic Republic of Iran’s authorities to submit evidence to determine the details of their fates and whereabouts.
On 9 June 2010, authorities contacted the families of Shirin Alam Holi, Ali Heydarian, Farzad Kamangar and Farhad Vakili, and informed them that their children had been executed. Their bodies were never returned, and after nine years, the locations of their burial sites remain undisclosed.
On October 10th (the international day against death penalty) Justice for Iran made a request to the UN WGEID and asked them to hold the IRI accountable in relation to the unlawful prosecution and execution of these four political prisoners.
The WGEID’s recognition necessitates that authorities grant victims’ families the right to know the truth about the victims’ fates and their whereabouts and the right to justice, according to international law. As long as the details of the fates and whereabouts of those killed extra-judicially remain concealed, the crimes of enforced disappearances committed at any time will continue to remain as human rights violations, not subject to any statute of limitations.
Farzad Kamangar, a teacher and a civil rights activist, was arrested in Tehran in April 2006. Prior to his arrest, he had been a teacher in Kamyaran for 12 years. In letters which Farzad wrote from prison, he spoke of the extensive pressures that the security forces had exposed him in order to extract televised confessions from him.
Mehrdad Kamangar, Farzad Kamangar’s brother, told Justice for Iran about the unclear process and the unjust ruling of his brother’s case, emphasising its unlawfulness. He says : “According to Farzad’s attorney, Khaliil Bahramian, there was no reason for his arrest based on Islamic Republic laws. He had to be released… this is the reason why he was not given a public trial.”
Mehrdad Kamangar blames the influence of the intelligence forces on his brother’s case as the reason why their efforts For his release had been unsuccessful. He says that after his family’s repeated visits to Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi’s office, Tehran’s prosecutor at the time, they were told that the case has gone ‘missing’.
Farzad Kamangar’s brother talks further about his sudden execution: “It was agreed that a number of parliament representatives and members of the teachers union would visit Farzad in Evin Prison to see how he is. Correspondence were held between the judiciary and parliament representatives as well as the involved commissions, and where fruitful. The permit and dates of this visitation were issued by the Judiciary. Mr. Karami, the then representative from Sanandaj, communicated with our family the confirmation of the date of this visit between four parliament representatives, three members of the teachers union and Farzard, which was May 12th. Unfortunately, they did not allow this effort to hear the voice of the imprisoned teacher. Meaning on May 9th they already carried the execution in a very fast way and without informing any judicial authority.”
Mehrdad Kamangar then talked about his family’s encounter with Esmail Najar, the then governor of Kurdistan, and five other Kurdistan representatives after the execution: “Najar had been the head of provincial security council at the time of the execution. He met with my family in a room. He made justifications and misleading arguments about the legitimacy of the execution. He took the body hostage and said he would return it when Kurdistan’s protests against the sentence settled.”
Farzad Kamangar’s brother emphasised on his family’s lack of information about the fate of his brother’s body as well as the location of his burial till this day. He commented on the formal recognition of his brother’s case as enforced disappearance: “Now after almost ten years, this nightmare has taken over my family. No government organisation or body is willing to talk to Farzad’s family about his body or the place of his burial. Therefore, my family is putting in the effort to work with international organisations to pressurise and hold Iran’s regime accountable. By hiding the body for ten years, they have increased the depth of the atrocity. Therefore, Farzad Kamangar’s family is thankful and appreciative towards international organisations who are putting pressure on the Iranian regime Which is committing these crimes.”
Shirin Alam Holi was arrested on June 2008 by the IRGC forces in Tehran, based on allegations of being a member of the PJAK group. She was transferred to Evin Prison after enduring 21 days of torture. According to a letter she wrote prior to her execution, Shirin continuously suffered from nightmares based on the physical and psychological pressures.
Malaekeh Alam Holi, Shirin’s aunt, told Justice for Iran about the handling of Shirin’s case and her hidden execution: “As Shirin’s family member, I want to announce that not only were her rights taken from her, but she was given a cruel sentence. She was not given the right to defend herself and therefore she was given a cruel sentence without her family or her lawyer being informed, and she was executed along with her comrades in secret.”
Malaekeh Alam Holi added that her body was ‘stolen’ and was kept hidden from her family. She pointed to her family’s repeated visits to different governmental bodies, such as the revolutionary court, parliament, the provincial government etc. and said: “Her father passed away from heartbreak due to her body not being delivered. Despite this, our family is still waiting for her body to be delivered.”
Malaekeh Alam Holi believes that Shirin’s body should be buried at home in Kurdistan. She has reached out to human rights organisations, international bodies and the world community to pressurise the IRI and have Shirin’s body returned to them.
Farhad Vakili, a political activist, was arrested in Sanandaj in April 2006 and was held in isolation for several months. According to other prisoners on his ward, he was repeatedly tortured, and as a result, his shoulder was broken. Farhad was sentenced to death during his short trial in February 2007.
Sadiyeh Vakili, the sister of Farhad Vakili, told Justice for Iran about the unsuccessful effort of her family to retrieve her body, or even gain information the location of his burial. She also spoke of the unjust cruelty that her family has been receiving from the Islamic Republic. She spoke of the cruelty and unjust her family suffered at the hands of the Islamic Republic: “This issue has caused us immense mental and psychological damage., It may be odd for others to hear this but we have to say that even after all these years, martyr Farhad’s wife and children still have hope that he may be alive. The never ending continuation of this pain, which has been deliberately inflicted upon us by the Islamic Republic regime, has become an endless nightmare for us.”
She added: “We hope by reaching out to human rights organisations, such as Justice for Iran, we can find a new light in this endless nightmare.”
Ali Heydarian was arrested alongside Farzad Kamangar in August 2006 in Tehran by security forces. After being heavily tortured during interrogations, he was sentenced to death in a short trial on charges of “enmity against God” and ““storing and smuggling of weapons and other ammunitions”. Ali Heydarian’s family were amongst the families of other Kurdish political prisoners executed simultaneously with Ali, who met the governor of Kurdistan on May 22nd 2010. They were inquiring as to how they could retrieve the bodies. Kurdistan’s governor responded: “They are buried in a place which we cannot currently announce due to security reasons. The officials will inform you about the location at an appropriate time in the future.”
Until now, there has been no information given to Ali Heydarian’s family about the place of burial and no death certificate has been In confirmation of his execution.