Burial at Midnight
by CORRESPONDENT in Tehran
09 Oct 2010 01:11
Twenty-one surreptitiously interred in decrepit area of Behesht-e Zahra.
[ dispatch ] One night in the middle of June, around midnight, a military truck brought 21 dead bodies to Behesht-e Zahra, Tehran's main cemetery. While the truck belonged to the military, the people who guarded it were plainclothes agents. The dead bodies were all shrouded, in accordance with Islamic tradition. They were buried in sections 92 and 93 of the cemetery. The traditional Muslim rite of talghin -- the recitation of Qu'ranic verses to the dead in their graves before they are covered with soil -- was not observed.
Sections 92 and 93 of Behesht-e Zahra are where executed members of the Mojahedin-e Khalgh Organization were buried in the 1980s. Unlike most other sections of the cemetery, 92 and 93 are distinguished by graves with broken tombstones or none at all. The area as a whole appears on the verge of ruin. The dirt is rough and the trees and plants that grow in almost all the other sections are absent here. The fact that this is where the 21 dead were buried means that they are meant to remain unnoticed.
Over the past few months, there have been credible reports of large-scale executions in a jail in Mashhad in northeast Iran. In fact, Ahmad Ghabel, a religious dissident and critic of the hardliners, was summoned to the court for publicly speaking about the executions, and was later jailed. Those who were put to death in Mashhad appear, however, to have been narcotic traffickers and other common offenders -- the sort of executions not customarily handled by the military.
Thus, the 21 dead people buried in Behesht-e Zahra appear to be linked to the political unrest in the country. If that is the case, it is not clear whether they were some of the common people arrested over the last year, or dissidents within the military, or dissidents belonging to ethnic minorities. While the possibility that they were common offenders cannot be ruled out, the manner of their burial, the location, the time, and the fact that the dead bodies were brought to the cemetery by a military vehicle are all, at the very least, highly suspicious.
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