Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

Omid, a memorial in defense of human rights in Iran
One Person’s Story

Seyed Gholam Heydar Hosseini


Age: 54
Nationality: Afghanistan
Religion: Presumed Muslim
Civil Status: Married


Date of Killing: August, 2015
Location of Killing: Khorasan\Khorasan-e Razavi Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Death in custody
Age at time of offense: 54

About this Case

News of the death in detention of Mr. Seyed Gholam Heydar Hosseini, son of Seyed Gholam Hossein, was announced by the websites of Islamic Republic News Agency-IRNA (August 24, 2015), Tasnim News Agency (August 22, 2015), Human Rights Activists News Agency- HRANA (August 23, 2015), and the Afghanpaper website (August 20, 2015). Additional information in this regard was obtained through Abdorrahman Boroumand Center research and interviews with his son, Mr. Seyed Ahmad Hosseini on August 26, 2015, who was detained with him.

Mr. Seyed Gholam Heydar Hosseini was born on 1961 in Afghanistan. After immigrating to Iran, he worked as a construction worker for about 30 years.  


Iran has long been host to one of the largest displaced populations in the world due to its 937 kilometer border and common language with a large part of the Afghan population. Millions who fled conflict and repression during the late 1970s and early 1980s when the Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan, or during the civil war and especially after the Taliban took power in 1996, left their homeland and mostly fled to Pakistan and Iran.

Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, emphasized hosting Afghans in 1979. Therefore, Iran gave asylum and some assistance to Afghan refugees from 1979 to 1992. However, after the Afghan Mojahedin came to power in 1992, the Iranian government began encouraging and pressuring Afghans to return to Afghanistan through various measures, including the implementation of onerous procedures for renewing refugee papers, refusal to register newly arriving Afghans as refugees, and denial of public services to refugees. As a result, about a million Afghans returned to their homeland in a short period. This policy has continued up to now in spite of increasing Afghan migration caused by dire security condition in Afghanistan since 2008. Authorities arrest undocumented Afghans and detain them in camps assigned for aliens before returning them to their country. Meanwhile, the United Nations offered financial assistance to the Iranian government in order to support minimum living conditions for refugees and their voluntarily return.*

According to the Iranian Labor Law, Article 120, foreign nationals cannot work in Iran unless they first have a valid entry visa with a specific work authorization and, secondly, receive work permits in accordance with the relevant laws and regulations.

In order to regulate the residence and employment of the Afghans in Iran, the Ministry of the Interior, in cooperation with the Police Force, adopted a scheme for registering foreign nationals after 2000. The officials started to conduct a census of Afghan refugees, collect their information, and issue a residence card and a work permit for each Afghan refugees. Afghan refugees who for any reason did not participate in this project, were treated as criminals and collected, arrested, detained, and eventually deported from Iran. Many violations of the basic rights and dignity of the detainees during the execution of this project have been reported.

Arrest and detention

The project of collecting and registering illegal foreign nationals resumed in 2015, and police forces began to arrest large numbers of undocumented foreign nationals in Mashhad and several other cities. Mr. Heydar Hosseini was thus arrested by law enforcement in the city of Panjtan on Wednesday, August 12, 2015 while he was going to work, and transferred to the city of Hassan Abad in Shandiz along with other detainees.

According to Mr. Heydar Hosseini’s son, he himself was arrested along with his younger brother as an illegal alien in the city of Panjtan and was transferred to Hassan Abad. In Hassan Abad, the brothers found out about their father’s arrest and eventually they were all transferred to the Sefid Sang camp in Fariman, Khorasan e Razavi. About 2,500 detainees were kept in a prefabricated metal building which was about 1,500 square meters. Facility officials gave two very dirty blankets to each detainee, and there was not even enough space for the detainees to sleep and rest. The sanitary conditions there were extremely bad. The building was about six meters in height and there was a small vent on its window. The ventilation was not suitable in any way, and the smell of sweat and toilets inside the building was unbearable, especially in the hot summer weather (ABC interview).

Death of Mr. Seyed Gholam Heydar Hosseini

The published information regarding Mr. Heydar Hosseini’s death was contradictory.

According to the testimony of his son who was with Mr. Heydar Hosseini at the Sefid Sang detention facility, Mr. Heydar Hosseini's deterioration was due to the highly unsuitable situation inside the building and officials’ neglect: “After about two days of detention in that unsuitable situation, around 2:30 PM on Friday, August 14, 2015, my dad felt sick. We took my father with difficulty next to the door through the crowd. We knocked on the door and asked for help, but the officers did not open the door. We thought we could throw a piece of gravel against the security room’s window on top of our building to inform the officers. After about half an hour, the officers came in and took my father and my brother. They threw my father on the ground and began to beat my brother. After a while, they brought my brother back to the building and took my father, while he was on the ground in shock and coughing, with them. We were unaware of his health condition until Sunday, when they released us and informed me about my father’s death” (ABC interview).

According to Mr. Heydar Hosseini’s son, forensic medicine declared that Mr. Heydar Hosseini’s death was caused by respiratory failure and severe bleeding (ABC interview).

Officials’ Reaction

In the first place, the reaction of officials in regards to Mr. Heydar Hosseini’s death was silence and pressure on the family to obtain declaration of their consent not to follow up on the case. After the news was published by the media, Social Deputy of the Law Enforcement Force of the Islamic Republic of Iran (NAJA), claimed that Mr. Heydar Hosseini was an illegal and undocumented alien and that his death was caused by his long-term disease (chronic tuberculosis) which had never been treated. He also denied any responsibility for the law enforcement officers in the case of Mr. Heydar Hosseini's death and placed the responsibility of any incident inside the camp on the Directorate General for Immigrants and Foreigners of the Ministry of the Interior, claiming that the law enforcement force (NAJA) are solely responsible for the external protection of these camps (IRNA).Family’s ReactionMr. Heydar Hosseini’s son, denied all the claims made by government news agencies in Iran about the cause of his father's death, and stated that his father had a history of illness about eight years ago, following his mother's illness, but that after the treatments began, he completely recovered. Mr. Heydar Hosseini emphasized the fact that his father had no illness prior his arrest and also did not take any medicine and was engaged in his normal activities.

 Mr. Heydar Hosseini’s son explained: “The head of Sefid Sang camp put a condition on our release to sign a consent declaration and commitment not to pursue a complaint regarding my father's death, which I had no choice but to accept due to the circumstances and my mother and grandmother’s illness. After signing the consent declaration, I was sent to the hospital along with one of the camp's officers to take custody of my father’s body after paying all the bills off.”

 His subsequent attempts to meet and discuss with the hospital staff in order to obtain additional information on his father’s death were ineffective, and no official authorities were responsive (ABC interview).


No court trail was conducted for Mr. Heydar Hosseini.


Social Deputy of the Law Enforcement Force of the Islamic Republic of Iran (NAJA) stated that Mr. Heydar Hosseini was arrested and transferred to the Sefid Sang camp due to lack of residency documents (IRNA).

The arrest occurred while Mr. Heydar Hosseini had a valid employment authorization card and a residence card (Phase 9), and had paid in full for renewal of the card and for a new residence card (Phase 10). However, due to a problem in the central computer system, the process of issuing the new card was not complete. According to Mr. Heydar Hosseini's son, he even provided all related documents and payouts to the police officers, but the officers disregarded them and eventually arrested and transferred him to Sefid Sang camp (ABC interview).

Evidence of guilt

The evidence presented against Mr. Heydar Hosseini is not known.


Due to Mr. Seyed Gholam Heydar Hosseini’s death in detention, no official ruling has been issued against him.

He was 54 years old at the time of his death.


* The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that a total of 2.5 million Afghans, including 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees and 1 million undocumented, were living in Iran as of November 2015. The latest governmental statistics, published in May of 2015, indicate that about one million Afghans legally and somewhere between 1 to 1.5 million Afghans illegally live in Iran. Most of them have lived in Iran for a long time, they have married, and worked in difficult jobs such as construction work. Most Afghan refugees live in urban areas and in certain provinces such as Khorasan-e Razavi, Tehran, and Esfahan.
Since 2004, Iran has imposed severe restrictions on freedom of movement for Afghans. Their movement totally in some provinces, and partially in some other provinces, is forbidden. Even though Iran signed the 1951 Refugee Convention, it has imposed some discrimination against Afghan refugees. For example, the Iranian government has made it difficult for many mixed Iranian - Afghan couples to marry, denied citizenship to Afghan husbands of Iranian women, and created barriers to citizenship for the children of such couples. Since 2006, mixed marriages are not recognized officially. Iranian women cannot officially marry Afghan men unless they go through a difficult process.
According to various reports by human rights defenders, some of the discrimination against Afghan migrants includes charging a fee to obtain education for their children, and various excuses by school principals to deny their registration. Afghans are restricted to working in specific professions, all of which are menial and many of which are dangerous, as listed by the Interior Ministry. They cannot obtain driver licenses nor purchase property in their name. Finally, both documented and undocumented Afghans experience a range of abuses, and many who are deported also face police abuse, including violence, theft, unreasonable deportation fees, forced labor during detention prior to deportation, and poor conditions in detention facilities.
Difficult living conditions in Iran forced some Afghans to aim for migrating to Europe through the Turkish border. But they face Iranian control of the border and many obstacles to reaching their goals. For instance, according to the Border Commander of the West Azarbaijan province, about 22 thousand foreign citizens who intended to exit through the West Azarbaijan border, were arrested during the spring and fall of 2015. At least two individuals were shot to death by border patrols.   

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