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

Azar Mehralian

About

Age: 17
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Non-Believer
Civil Status: Single

Case

Date of Killing: April 20, 1981
Location of Killing: In front of Tehran University, Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Extrajudicial shooting

About this Case

Information regarding the life and extrajudicial execution of Ms. Azar Mehralian, daughter of Kaklik and Ali, was submitted by one of her friends and classmates to the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center through an electronic form. (June 22, 2017). News of this murder was also published in Kayhan newspaper (April 21, and 22, 1981). Additional information regarding this case was obtained from the Peykar Publication, Peykar Organization for the Liberation of the Working Class’ print publication (April 27, May 4, and June 1, 1981); Jomhuri Eslami newspaper (April 21, and 22, 1981); Enqelab Eslami newspaper (April 22, 1981); Nameh Mardom, Tudeh Party of Iran’s central print publication (May 2, 1981); the Book “Goriz-e Nagozir” (2008-09); Radio Farda website (April 20, 2021); a speech given by a person close to her on the program “Sachmehaye Tab’id” (“Exile’s Shrapnel”) (April 24, 2021); and Gooya website (June 3, 2021).

According to available information, Ms. Mehralian was born in Tehran, single, and a third year student at Tehran’s Assemi High School, studying economics. She was the fifth child of her family.

Ms. Mehralian was a supporter of the Peykar Organization for the Liberation of the Working Class and starting in 1980, was active at the Organization’s the D. D. Section (D and D standing for “Danshju” and “Daneshamuz”, meaning college student and high school student, respectively).

Ms. Mehralian’s activities in the Organization consisted of distributing pamphlets, selling Peykar Publication, writing slogans, and participating in demonstrations. According to one of her friends, “Our job consisted mainly of distributing pamphlets, setting up shop on the side of the street, and selling books and publications. We would write slogans very early in the mornings. We would write slogans on walls or on seats in buses. We would throw pamphlets inside houses. We would have programs at school for different occasions. We also had wall newspapers. In spite of being very courageous and fearless, Azar was rather an introvert and extremely sensitive; she wrote poetry too”. (Andisheh and Peykar website).

According to a person close to Ms. Mehralian, “she was very pretty and had a nice figure; she was tall and strong. She was a very good student. She read a lot. Her father was the one who had instilled the habit of reading in their household. She was only 17 years old at the time of the events. She was a young girl, like most young supporters of leftist organizations of the time, with all their goodness and their weaknesses, their honesty and their beliefs, their sense of devotion and their courage, their leftist tendencies and their impatience. Azar was very bold; she was always ready for the most difficult activities. One time when she was selling newspapers in the street, the Hezbollahis attacked to tear them up. She told them: “Go ahead, tear them up! But at least read them before you do! And tell me what it is in these writings that you’re opposed to!” (The book “Goriz-e Nagozir”).

The Peykar Organization

The Peykar Organization for the Liberation of the Working Class was founded by a number of dissident members of the Mojahedin Khalq Organization who had converted to Marxism-Leninism. Peykar was also joined by a number of political organizations, known as Khat-e Se (Third line). The founding tenets of Peykar included the rejection of guerrilla struggle and a strong stand against the pro-Soviet policies of the Iranian Tudeh Party. Peykar viewed the Soviet Union as a “Social imperialist” state, believed that China had deviated from the Marxist-Leninist principles, and radically opposed all factions of the Islamic regime of Iran. The brutal repression of dissidents by the Iranian government and splits within Peykar in 1981 and 1982 effectively dismantled the Organization and scattered its supporters. By the mid-1980s, Peykar was no longer in existence.  

Cultural Revolution

The Cultural Revolution began upon Ayatollah Khomeini’s order in March 1980, to purge universities of all forces opposed [to the regime] and to transform them into “learning environments” [as opposed to political forums] where “an all-Islamic curriculum” would be taught. The first wave of violence began on April 15, 1980, during a speech by Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani [a member of the Council of the Islamic Revolution and Minister of the Interior] at the University of Tabriz. Following the speech, students supporting the regime took control of the University’s central building and demanded that the “university be purged” from “pro-Shah elements and other sellouts.”

On April 18, the Council of the Islamic Revolution issued a communiqué accusing political groups of converting higher education institutions into “headquarters of discordant political activities” and naming them as obstacles to the radical transformation of the universities. The communiqué gave these groups three days (Saturday, April 19 to Monday, April 21) to shut down their offices and activities in the universities. The Council stressed that the closure included libraries as well as offices related to arts and sports activities. Political opposition groups refused to shut down their offices and during those three days, clashes continued between leftist groups and Islamist Associations, which took control of the universities with the support of governmental forces and paramilitary groups.

These clashes peaked at the end of the three-day deadline issued by the Council of the Revolution, resulting in the death of several people and the wounding of hundreds of others on university campuses across the country. On April 21, the Islamic Republic authorities announced the victory of the Cultural Revolution and the closure of all universities for two years. As a result of the Cultural Revolution, a large number of university professors were purged and a great many students were deprived of continuing their education because of their political beliefs.

The Explosion

After the closure of universities in May 1980, protests by political groups and organizations continued against the shutdown. On April 20, 1981, the anniversary of the closure of universities, a call for protest demonstrations was issued by the Peykar Organization for the Liberation of the Working Class’ Student Section (D. D. Section) in front of Tehran University [demanding] the reopening of universities.

Mehrdad Darvishpur, one of the organizers of the demonstrations stated in this regard: “The objective of the demonstrations was to protest the Cultural Revolution. [Peykar’s] Student Organization was not so naïve as to think that universities would reopen just because a thousand people protested in front of Tehran University; the goal was simply to object to the closure of universities.” (Gooya website, Mehrdad Darvishpur, one of the organizers of the demonstrations).

More than 700 people participated in these peaceful demonstrations. “Initially, the crowd chanted slogans against the shutdown of universities.” The demonstrations were thwarted at the very beginning when two hand grenades were thrown in the first rows of the protesters by Hezbollahis who had taken up positions in the street. (Gooya website, Mehrdad Darvishpur, one of the organizers of the demonstrations).

As a result of the explosion of the hand grenades, two individuals named Ms. Azar Mehralian and Mr. Iraj Torabi were killed that same day and more than 50 people were wounded. Two people lost an eye when they were hit with shrapnel, and to this day, many are dealing with the consequences of the explosion and the effects of carrying shrapnel lodged in their bodies. (Electronic form; Pekar Publication; the book Goriz-e Nagozir).

The wounded were taken to the Pahlavi (now Khomeini) One Thousand Beds Hospital, and to Shariati and Sina Hospitals. The Revolutionary Guards proceeded to arrest the wounded at the hospitals.* Even the relatives of the wounded were subjected to the agents’ physical attacks. (The book Goriz-e Nagozir; Jomhuri Eslami newspaper).

Testimony of Individuals Present at the Demonstrations

Mercedeh Qa’edi who participated in the demonstrations stated: “As far as I can remember, there was a large crowd [gathered there]. We thought the Hezbollahis would attack us as usual, and that we would go ahead with our demonstrations as usual. I heard a noise a short time after the start of the protests. A clamor took over the crowd. Some fell to the ground. I first thought that a bomb had exploded. I even think I saw smoke from the explosion.” (The book Goriz-e Nagozir).

Shahla was one among the people injured in the demonstrations, who still has 20 pieces of shrapnel lodged in her body. She stated: “The demonstrators started moving toward Enqelab Square. We started chanting slogans. A very short time had passed, maybe five minutes, when I heard a noise, and I could not decipher whether it was an explosion or something else. It was as if a heavy object had hit the asphalt. The crowd dispersed in the blink of an eye. Suddenly I felt like I was on fire from the waist down. (The book Goriz-e Nagozir).

Shala’s sister, Sulmaz, also stated: “We had not gone far when I suddenly thought I noticed that someone outside the ranks of the demonstrators was throwing a rock at us. I think it was at that moment that I fell to the ground and lost consciousness.” (The book Goriz-e Nagozir).

Shahrbani (“Police Department”) Public relations wrote this (without ascribing it to the demonstrators) regarding this explosion: “At 4 PM yesterday, clashes broke out between 300 to 500 members of political groups in front of Tehran University, resulting in the intervention of the Police and the brothers of the Revolutionary Guards. There was an explosion during the clashes, as a result of which several people were injured.” (Kayhan newspaper, April 22, 1981).

Islamic Republic of Iran Shahrbani (“Police Department”) Public Relations further announced that it had arrested two individuals in connection with that explosion: “Yesterday, Tehran’s 2ndPrecinct patrolmen became suspicious of two individuals on a motorcycle on Pasdaran Avenue in front of Kuhestan 6 Street, by the names of Yaqub Khanmohammadi and Ebrahim Tavana, both of whom are vocational school students, and proceeded to stop them. Searching their hand bag, they recovered a combustible fuse approximately 60 centimeters (2 feet) long, one hand grenade, some gasoline and combustible material, some permanganate, and some acid material. According to this report, a case was opened and the arrestees were turned over to the Police Criminal Investigations Department. Investigations are ongoing.” (Kayhan newspaper, Paril 22, 1981).

Throwing hand grenades in the middle of opposition groups gathered at meetings and holding protest demonstrations had precedents and the method was later used to repress the opposition and to disrupt the gatherings. For instance, a group attacked a gathering of the members and supporters of the Fadaiyan (Majority) Organization on May 1, 1981, throwing three hand grenades and tear gas in their midst, thereby wounding the participants. (Nameh Mardom).

Ms. Azar Mehralian’s Murder

On April 20, 1981, Ms. Mehraalian was killed when shrapnel from two hand grenades that had been thrown in the middle of demonstrations held by supporters of the Peykar Organization protesting the Cultural Revolution and the closure of universities in Iran, hit her in the heart.

Ms. Mehralian’s friend who was with her at the demonstrations stated: “I was with Azar at the demonstrations. They exploded two hand grenades. When the first one went off, Azar told me ‘hold the flag higher’. In other words, they continued the demonstrations after the first hand grenade exploded. Then they threw the second hand grenade which exploded right in front of Azar. Azar’s friend accompanied her to the hospital. Her head fell to the side as she was still chanting slogans. It seems that she had passed away right then and there.”

Ms. Mehralian died before reaching the hospital. According to a person close to her, “I went to the One Thousand Beds Hospital that same day. They were controlling all entrances to the hospital. I went in from one of the back doors. I found a nurse to try and obtain some information about Azar’s last moments. I wanted to know if she was still alive when they brought her to the One Thousand Beds Hospital. The nurse told me Azar had already died when she arrived at the hospital. She had seen Azar. She said one of Azar’s friends had brought her there.” One of Ms. Mehralian’s relatives who was at Behesht Zahra Cemetery when she was being washed [according to Islamic rites] stated: “I saw Azar when she was being washed at Behesht Zahra. Her body was full of shrapnel. The shrapnel sites looked like burn marks. It’s true that there were many pieces of shrapnel, but her body had not been damaged a lot, at least the way it looked on the surface.” (The book “Goriz-e Nagozir”).

Ms. Mehralian’s family, who knew their daughter had gone to the demonstrations, became worried when she did not return home that night. Her mother went to the hospital the next day when she was given the news of her daughter’s death, and she subsequently went to the Medical examiner’s Office.

At 11 o’clock in the morning of April 22, officials turned Ms. Mehralian’s body over to her family. Her family and her comrades took her from the Medical Examiner’s Office to Behesht Zahra.

The authorities at Behesht Zahra Cemetery refused to issue a burial permit for Ms. Mehralian, saying “if you say she was killed with a grenade, we’re not going to give you a permit”. Finally, someone said “just write down that she was killed with a bullet so we can give you a burial permit”. The evolutionary Guards had surrounded her family there. (A speech given by a person close to Ms. Mehralian).

Officials’ Reaction

Aside from the arrest of two individuals that same day who were carrying explosive materials, the officials did not publish any other information.

Familys’ Reaction

There is no information regarding the family’s reaction.

Impacts on Family

Ms. Mehralian’s family endured many hardships after her death. According to a person close to her, “Azar’s mother was especially hard hit. On the outside, she looked like she was in good spirits and always used to say that Azar had been killed for her beliefs. But she was deteriorating on the inside. The doctors say that she has lost a portion of her brain cells as a result of the trauma from Azar’s death. Her memory is extremely weak. Azar’s sisters were expelled from the university after this event. They also lost their teaching jobs. Azar’s heart wrenching death was a big blow to her friends and relatives.” And she stated in a speech: “Those were painful times, very tough times. We didn’t have a moment’s peace. But we found relative serenity alongside the families of other victims, [and stayed with them] so we could somehow withstand the pain of Azar’s tragic death.” (A speech given by a person close to Ms. Mehralian).

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*The role the Revolutionary Guards at the hospital and in arresting the injured
Hospitals were in control of the Revolutionary Guards, and the Guards of Tehran’s 2nd District Comite, arrested 9 girls and 15 boys at the One Thousand Beds Hospital. (Kayhan newspaper, April 21, 1981). Mehri was in very bad shape and she does not remember much about her arrival at the hospital: “ … The next day, one of the guys found me. He was a medical student. He said: ‘You have to escape from the hospital any way you can! The hospital is surrounded. They’re saying they want to arrest all the wounded. Can you walk?’ … My leg was completely black because of the shrapnel and the bruises. Some of the shrapnel would come under the skin and I could easily take them out. I had collected 40 pieces of shrapnel that they had taken out of my body. I think I have the same number still lodged in my body.” (The book “Goriz-e Nagozir”).
Saba: “A few hours later, one of the guys from the [Peykar] Medical Committee came and gave me the news of the explosion of hand grenades and injury to the guys. I quickly went to the One Thousand Beds Hospital. I went to the Hospital’s Polyclinic and the Emergency Room since the guys were mostly there. The Revolutionary Guards were everywhere … The One Thousand Beds Hospital had a great many operating rooms. I remember that most of the operating rooms were busy and functioning non-stop that night until morning. The Emergency Room was extremely crowded. The guys were making a lot of noise even though they were wounded; they would scream, chant slogans, etc. … Their x-rays were very interesting to see as well. You could clearly see the pieces of shrapnel. But the problem was that the doctors did not have a lot of experience in these types of grenades and could not clearly understand what it was they were seeing in the x-rays. I think it was only when they started operating and got the pieces of shrapnel out that they realized what the problem was … From that day on, the Revolutionary Guards would stand guard in front of the wards where the wounded were hospitalized, and would control the comings and goings. And from then on, they would arrest all of the wounded who were discharged.”
Mahnaz Matin who was an intern at the time and by chance, on the night of April 20, 1981, was a doctor on call at the One Thousand Beds Hospital, recounts what she witnessed: “ … The Emergency Room had been occupied and surrounded by the Revolutionary Guards. There was nothing we could do with the gravely wounded except to hospitalize them. And there were quite a few of them. One of the people in charge of the Hospital arrived. The Revolutionary Guards told him [to do a head count of] the doctors that were present and figure out who was on call and who was not … Around midnight, the hospital was not as crowded. People and visitors had left and the injured had been taken to various wards. The Revolutionary Guards put a number of the guys who had brought the injured into the hospital on the buses they had brought along. I don’t know where they took them. Among the last people the Revolutionary Guards took away were several young girls, maybe high school students, who were making a lot of noise.” (The book “Goriz-e Nagozir”).
 Mahmud, a medical student, said this regarding the Revolutionary Guards’ control and arrest of the wounded: “I did not participate in the demonstrations. It was early evening when the guys told me what had happened; I was the person in charge of the Organization’s Medical Committee… I went to the One Thousand Beds Hospital ... There was a large crowd gathered in front of the entrance to the Hospital. And you could see several Revolutionary Guards among them … I realized the breadth of the tragedy once I was inside the Hospital. And I only saw a small fraction of those who had been wounded. The guys were saying that many of them had been confined to their homes or the homes of their relatives for fear of being arrested … We were able to get several of the patients whose condition had taken a turn for the worse admitted at private hospitals through the doctors we knew. It was not possible to admit them into public hospitals because of the Revolutionary Guards’ severe control.” (The book “Goriz-e Nagozir”).

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