April 19, 1975
by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles
20 Apr 2010 04:22
Bijan Jazani, who had studied philosophy and was murdered at the age of 38, was a leading leftist intellectual. Through his books The Thirty Year History of Iran and How Armed Struggle Becomes Popular, as well as his other writings, he contributed greatly to the theoretical and practical discussions about how to confront the Shah's regime. In the former book, written in the 1960s, Jazani predicted with remarkable accuracy that if a revolution did topple the Shah, it would be led by Ayatollah Khomeini. To read more about Jazani's life and death, and the lives and deaths of his comrades, see On the Life and the Work of Bijan Jazani, a Collection of Essays (Khavaran, Paris, 1999).
Zia-Zarfi was a lawyer. Kalantary was a radio and TV technician. Sourki was a university student of political science and an employee of the Central Bank. Choupanzadeh and Sarmadi were both day laborers. Jalil-Afshar joined the OPDG when he was still in high school. I am almost sure that he was my classmate in ninth grade, though the passage of time means I am not 100 percent certain. I say this because I remember that, about a year after the killings, a high school friend told me about a classmate of ours who had been killed by SAVAK. Both Khoshdel and Zolanvar were major figures in the MKO leadership.
Here is some background to what happened on that day. On March 3, 1975, the Shah announced a ban on all the legal political parties. There were three at that time: Iran-e Novin (New Iran), Mardom (People), and Pan-Iranist. Iran-e Novin, which held most of the positions in Prime Minister Amir Abbas Hoveyda's cabinet, was dominant. All were loyal to the Shah. A joke went that Iran-e Novin was the party of "Yes, sir," while Mardom was the party of "Absolutely, sir."
But the Shah wanted to set aside any pretense to a multiparty political system, just as Ayatollah Ali Khamenei set aside any pretense to real elections in Iran last June. So, in addition to banning all the existing parties, the Shah ordered the establishment of a single new one, Rastakhiz (Resurrection). He declared, "Anyone who does not like this system can get his passport and leave the country." A few years ago, Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, the ultrareactionary cleric and Ahmadinejad's spiritual leader, declared, "Anyone who does not like the Islamic government can get his passport and leave the country." All dictators think alike.
The Shah's announcement was broadcast live throughout the country, including in Evin Prison. (I watched it myself.) It has been reported widely that when the Shah announced his decision, Sourki told his comrades, "They will kill us all." After only seven weeks, he was proved correct.
The executioners were led by Reza Attarpour -- a notorious SAVAK agent under the alias Dr. Hossein Zadeh, he escaped to Israel after the Revolution -- and Colonel Vaziri, Evin's warden. Another SAVAK agent, Bahman Naderipour -- known as Hossein Tehrani -- was also closely involved. Throughout the 1970s, he was responsible for savagely beating and torturing many political prisoners, including many of my college friends, classmates, and contemporaries in the University of Tehran's Faculty of Engineering. He was executed after the Revolution. Here is an excerpt from his first-hand account of what happened on that day (Kayhan, No. 10714, May 24, 1979):
We took the prisoners to the high hills above Evin. They were blindfolded and their hands were tied. We got them off the minibus and had them sit on the ground. Then, Attarpour told them that, just as your friends have killed our comrades, we have decided to execute you --"the brain behind those executions..."
Jazani and the others began protesting. I do not know whether it was Attarpour or Colonel Vaziri who first pulled out a machine gun and started shooting them. I do not remember whether I was the fourth or fifth person to whom they gave the machine gun. I had never done that before...
He went on to describe how Sa'di Jalil Esfahani -- another SAVAK agent, known as Babak -- then shot the prisoners in their heads to make sure that they were dead.
It was then announced that those brave men had been killed in the act of trying to escape while being transferred from Evin (Kayhan, April 19, 1975). I vividly recall reading the official story in Kayhan. The doctor who examined the nine corpses saw, of course, that the bullets had entered through the victims' chests, not their backs, as would have been the case had they been attempting to escape. SAVAK, of course, did not allow the doctor to question the cause of death in his report.
The murders were apparently committed in retaliation for the assassinations of Abbas Shahriari, a notorious SAVAK agent whose infiltration of opposition groups had led to the arrest and execution of many brave political activists, and Brigadier General Zandipour, head of SAVAK's infamous "anti-terrorism committee." In fact, the nine men who were murdered had nothing to do with the assassinations.
When Amir Asadollah Alam, the Shah's long-time confidant and Imperial Court minister, asked why the men had been murdered, the Shah answered, "We had no choice. They were all terrorists, and would have escaped, which would have been worse" (see The Alam Diary, edited by A. Aalikhani, Maziar Press, Tehran, 2003, volume V, p. 69). The response clearly indicates that the Shah himself was directly involved in the crime.
While it is true that the number of the political prisoners who were murdered in the events of 1975 and 1988 are vastly different, the heinous nature of the crimes was the same: executing political prisoners on whom even the respective regimes' own show trials had not passed death sentences.
The execution of the political prisoners in 1975 was a crime against humanity and must not be forgotten. In both cases, the murderers could not recognize that the executions would change nothing, because the prisoners' actions were the product of the prevailing social conditions. So long as those conditions did not change, more brave people would come forward to resist the status quo. Both regimes apparently believed in the philosophy of Joseph Stalin: "Death solves all problems. No man, no problem."
The graves of the nine men and many others who were executed in the 1970s are situated in Section 33 of Behesht-e Zahra Cemetery, Tehran's main burial ground.
A few years ago the hardliners tried to inter those who had recently died in that section, in an attempt to gradually remove the memorials for those courageous opponents of the Shah long buried there. Due to protests by the families of the honored dead, they did not go ahead with the plan. Apparently, the hardliners are terrified by the graves of the brave men and women who lost their lives in the 1970s, paving the way for the hardliners' ascent to power.
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