Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

https://www.iranrights.org
Omid, a memorial in defense of human rights in Iran
One Person’s Story

Sheida Behzadi Tehrani

About

Age: 27
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Non-Believer
Civil Status: Married

Case

Date of Killing: September 10, 1986
Location: Comite Moshtarak-e Tupkhaneh, Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Death in custody
Charges: Unknown charge
Age at time of offense: 27

About this Case

Information about Ms. Sheida Behzadi Tehrani’s arrest and death was obtained from an interview with one of her relatives who was also her friend in the Organization (August 29, 2008), an article by Ms. Banoo Saberi, another of her friends in the Organization, published on the Akhbar-e Rooz website (August 28, 2009), an interview with one of the individuals in charge of the Fadaiyan Khalq Organization (Majority) (November 23, 2017), as well as writings by other friends of hers in the Organization.

Ms. Behzadi Tehrani was born into a well-to-do and educated family in the city of Esfahan. She was 27 years old, married, and had a daughter. She was a geology student at Esfahan University prior to the closure of universities due to the Cultural Revolution. She joined the Fadaiyan Khalq Organization in 1979. Initially, she was active in the student organizations, and, subsequent to a split in the Organization, she became active in the Fadaiyan Khalq Organization (Majority). She was in charge of the Organization’s women’s section while she was still living in Esfahan, and was also a member of the Organization’s provincial committee. She and her spouse went underground after a while, and she was then transferred to Tehran in 1982-83, to continue her organizational activities. Her husband, Mr. Sa’eed Tabatabai, was executed in the 1988 mass killings of political prisoners.

She was a shy, talented, and motivated woman. A friend of hers reports: “I lived with her and Sa’eed in a house in Esfahan. She was a steadfast friend. She was not into deception and playing games. She was a beautiful woman. At the time when the government was most oppressive, Sheida, with the utmost courage, humanity, and selflessness, had given shelter to members of an opposing political group who were in danger of being arrested, an act that risked putting her and her family in danger. All of Sheida’s political friends and comrades praised and lauded her honesty and sincerity” (quoted from one of the Organization’s officials).

The Cultural Revolution was started upon a decree by Ayatollah Khomeini in April 1980 in order to purge universities of opposition groups and transform them into environments for teaching Islamic courses and curricula. The first wave of violence occurred on April 15 at Tabriz University where Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was speaking. The student supporters of the regime occupied the University’s central building and demanded that “the university be purged” of individuals they called “elements connected to the Shah’s regime and other sell-outs”.

On April 18, the Council of the Revolution issued a statement in which it accused political groups of turning higher education institutions into “headquarters for divisive political operations” and of being a barrier to fundamental change in universities. The statement gave these groups three days (from Saturday, April 19, 1980, to Monday, April 21, 1980) to close their university offices. The Council of the Revolution stressed that the decision included libraries as well as artistic and athletic offices. Political opposition groups refused to close their offices, and skirmishes continued between leftist students and Islamic Associations, who were able to gain control of the universities with the support of governmental forces and pro-government militias.

The wave of violence reached its highest level when the Council of Revolution’s deadline came, and hundreds were injured and several were killed in universities across the country. On April 21, the victory of the Cultural Revolution was declared, and universities were shut down for two years. As a result of the Cultural Revolution, a large number of university professors were purged and numerous students were prevented from continuing their education because of their political beliefs.

The Fadaiyan Khalq Organization, a Marxist Leninist group inspired by the Cuban Revolution and the urban guerilla movements of Latin America, was founded in 1971 by two communist groups opposed to the Pahlavi regime. Following the 1979 Revolution, the Organization, which had renounced armed struggle, split over their support of the Islamic Republic and of the Soviet Union. The Fadaiyan Khalq Majority considered the Islamic Republic to be a revolutionary and anti-imperialist regime and supported it. After the spring of 1983, however, the Islamic Republic targeted its members solely because of their political beliefs.

Arrest and detention

On August 3, 1986, Ms. Behzadi Tehrani and her spouse were arrested by Information Ministry agents at their home in Tehran, and taken to Comiteh Moshtarak (Towhid) Prison (Interview). She was in prison with her two-year-old daughter for a while; she then entrusted her daughter to her husband’s family. She spent 39 days in that prison. Ms. Saberi had heard Behzadi Tehrani’s voice at the Comiteh Moshtarak Prison when she had been talking to her daughter. Ms. Behzadi Tehrani had no visitations in prison and it is not clear how she sent her child out of prison.

Trial

There is no information regarding Ms. Behzadi Tehrani’s trial.

Charges

The charges brought against Ms. Behzadi Tehrani are not known.

Evidence of guilt

No information is available concerning the evidence presented against Ms. Behzadi Tehrani.

Defense

No information is available concerning Ms. Behzadi Tehrani’s defense.

Judgment

On September 10, 1986, Ms. Sheida Behzadi Tehrani died while undergoing interrogations at Comiteh Moshtarak Prison. Based on available information, the prison officials’ claim that she committed suicide is not reliable.

“Prison officials informed her family that she had committed suicide in prison on September 10. They had shown a picture of her with a head scarf tied around her neck to her family, indicating that she had suffocated herself with her head scarf. In the picture, there was a Medical Examiner number around her neck as well. Sheida’s sister, who is a doctor, had asked the officials why they had not taken a picture of her before dispatching her to the hospital. In Sheida’s sister’s opinion, the Medical Examiner number around her neck in the picture is a fake and has nothing to do with numbers issued by the Medical Examiner’s office. She believed that her sister had not committed suicide” (Banoo Saberi).

Two ward mates of Sa’eed Tabatabai’s (Behzadi Tehrani’s spouse) quote him as saying that Behzadi Tehrani was killed under torture, since Mr. Tabatabai had heard at least three different versions of her death from Comiteh Moshtarak prison interrogators: “Once, they had said Sheida had suffocated herself with her sock. Another interrogator had said she had done it with her chador (black veil) while another one still had claimed she had committed suicide with a belt. Knowing full well that prisoners, especially prisoners under interrogation in solitary confinement wards, have no access to the means to commit suicide, and are even deprived of access to necessary medication, Mr. Tabatabai protested the interrogators’ responses and told them they had killed her. Prison officials finally agreed to allow him to see his wife’s body only one time and from a distance. According to Sa’eed, ‘they had covered her with a blanket. I got close to her and suddenly I took her in my arms and kissed her head. I caressed her head. Her head and temples were severely wounded and bloodied. Sheida had been severely tortured and had resisted.’ The officials attacked Sa’eed for the move he had made in touching the body without their permission and beat him. Sa’eed came to the conclusion that his spouse had been beaten with an electric cable and had been killed under torture” (quoting Mr. Sa’eed Tabatabai’s ward mate). According to another of Mr. Tabatabai’s ward mates, “So long as I was at Evin Prison with Comrade Sa’eed, he never believed that Comrade Sheida had committed suicide. Sheida was not one to kill herself. She knew they wouldn’t give her a very harsh sentence. She surely must have resisted. They killed her” (quoting from an Organization official).

The Fadaiyan Khalq Organization (Majority) announced Sheida Behzadi Tehrani’s cause of death as “death under torture” (Fadiyan Khalq Organization (Majority) list of members who have died). Ms. Saberi has written in this regard: “Sa’eed Tabatabai, Sheida’s husband, who was in prison himself, had protested his wife’s death time and time again through letters, but what he ultimately heard from the officials was: ‘Do you really think we care if there is one fewer of you guys?’”

Ms. Behzadi Tehrani did not have a history of any illnesses whatsoever. Prison officials not only did not turn her body over to her family, but also hid her grave from them (Banoo Saberi).

Correct/ Complete This Entry