Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Iraj Torabi


Age: 21
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Non-Believer
Civil Status: Single


Date of Killing: May 9, 1981
Location of Killing: In front of Tehran University, Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Arbitrary shooting

About this Case

Information regarding the life and extrajudicial killing of Mr. Iraj Torabi, son of Golestan and Abbasali, was obtained from the writings of his two sisters (April 24, and June 23, 2021) as well as from the sisters’ lectures given on the Sachmehaye Tab’eed Program (April 24, 2021). 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); Enghelab-e 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); Khavaran and Radio Farda websites (April 20, 2021); and Gooya website (June 3, 2021).

According to available information, Mr. Torabi was single, 21 years old, and born in the city of Shiraz. He had studied in a technical school in [the city of] Abadan and had a high school diploma. He started his political activities before the Revolution and actively participated in the demonstrations [that led to the Revolution], including the demonstrations related to the victims of the Cinema Rex fire. Mr. Torabi was a supporter of the Peykar Organization. He established contact with the Peykar Organization’s Student Organization in November –December 1979, and was in charge of distribution of the Organization’s publications in Abadan for a time. He had to move to Shiraz during the Iran-Iraq war, and was active in revealing hidden facts about the war and helping those displaced by the war.

Mr. Torabi went to Tehran after a while, where he remained for four months. He worked at a publishing house for a time, and put the company’s facilities, including the copy machine, at the Peykar Organization’s disposal.

According to his sister “Iraj was an honest and genuine person. He gave of himself and everything he had. He wanted to devote all of his time, energy, and everything he had to the Organization.

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).

Mr. Iraj Torabi’s Death

Mr. Torabi was killed on April 20, 1981, from being hit by a large amount of shrapnel from two hand grenades that had been thrown in the middle of demonstrations by Peykar organization supporters protesting the Cultural Revolution and the closure of universities. Mr. Torabi’s brother-in-law (his sister’s husband) stated: “I saw Iraj at the Shiraz Cemetery. His body was full of holes from the neck down due to shrapnel, especially his chest, stomach, and bladder area.” (The Book “Goriz-e Nagozir”).

Qanbar, one of Mr. Torabi’s friends who was accompanying him that day, stated: “Iraj and I were moving in the same row. I believe we were in the middle of the demonstrations. He was to my right. It was not very long after the start of the demonstrations and we were around the Tehran University’s main entrance. I saw the hand grenade with my own eyes; it fell almost right in front of Iraj. I heard the explosion. I saw Iraj falling to the ground, wounded. He was in bad shape. We immediately put him in a pickup truck and went to Sina Hospital. He could still talk the first few minutes. I did not stay when we got to the hospital; I left to inform the guys [of what had happened]. (The Book “Goriz-e Nagozir”).

Regarding her brother’s death, Ms. Leyla Danesh, Mr. Torabi’s sister, who was also his sister-in-arm, stated: “I was in complete shock. I didn’t know what to do. I was the only one in that group for whom it was appropriate to present herself and start asking questions. In utter disbelief, I went forward and introduced myself. One of the administrative people in charge came and turned Iraj’s belongings – watch, keys, and a couple of other small things – over to me. The Hospital administrator said: ‘They will be taking the body to the Medical Examiner’s Office. You can inquire with them tomorrow morning.’.” She continued: “We were in front of Sina Hospital at 5 o’clock in the morning. They gave some nonsensical answers to our questions and ultimately said to go to the Medical Examiner’s Office. We got to the Medical Examiner’s Office at around 6 or 7 in the morning. It was very clear that they were trying not to turn the bodies over so that they could find an opportunity to bury them very quietly and to avoid further demonstrations and crowds. We were able to get the body with the help of an attorney that we knew; we would not have succeeded without him. Anyway, because of his efforts, it was around 12 noon when I was told we could go to the morgue and see the body. It was the first time I went to a morgue, the first time I saw a dead body. It was an awful experience. Iraj’s [facial] expression was quite normal. He was wearing the same clothes that I had seen the day before: green shirt and a suit. He was lying on something that looked like a cot. His body was cold as ice.” (The Book “Goriz-e Nagozir”).

Mr. Torabi’s body was taken to Shiraz. Ms. Danesh stated in this regard: “I was in such bad shape that I have no specific recollection of what was going on in those moments. I don’t know how the preparations for our trip were made, how they bought the plane tickets, how the body was transferred to the airport. I don’t remember the details of any of these things. But I do remember that the entire family was waiting for us at the Shiraz Airport when we arrived. I think around 150 to 200 people had come to the airport. We went straight to Shiraz Cemetery.” Mr. Torabi’s other sister stated this regarding her brother’s death: “We went from the airport to Shiraz’ Dar-ol-Rahmeh. After Iraj’s body was washed according to ancient rites, close family members said goodbye to him for the last time. That was a moment that I will never forget. Iraj’s body was full of holes.”

Before burying him, Mr. Torabi’s brothers in arm took pictures of his body, which were published in the Peykar Publication. The photo shows Iraj’s torso and stomach, hit with a considerable amount of shrapnel.

On April 22, 1981, a wake was held by the Peykar Organization in Shiraz at Mr. Torabi’s grave.

According to a Peykar Organization report, “subsequent to leaving Mr. Torabi’s interment and the crowd exiting the cemetery, according to a person that was present at the scene, two Sarmayeh Revolutionary Guards station wagons that intended to arrest the comrades arrived at the cemetery, but returned empty-handed. One of the [fascist] Revolutionary Guards operatives had gone over the comrade’s grave and had torn up the [Peykar] Organization’s signs, and intended to throw the flower bouquets away when he was faced with the mourners’ opposition and was then discovered. They did threaten before leaving, however, that ‘since this man was a Peykar member and a communist, we will return tonight and will mess up his grave and will not allow him to be buried in a Moslem cemetery!’.” (Peykar Publication).

Ms. Danesh stated: “The Hezbollahis carried out their threat. They went to the cemetery that night and destroyed the grave! They did the same thing several more times later on. This was, of course, one of the methods they used to harass and intimidate the martyrs’ families in Shiraz and pretty much everywhere: Every once in a while, they would destroy the gravestone and would renew the families’ pain.”

Reaction of the Peykar Organization for the Liberation of the Working Class

The Peykar Organization stated that the individual who had thrown the hand grenade into the crowd of demonstrators was an operative of the Islamic Republic: “The crowd arrived in front of the University after a few minutes. The cronies and mercenaries of the Islamic Republic, and several Revolutionary Guards who were in plainclothes, then proceeded to attack the ranks of the demonstrators, and were faced with their resistance. At this time, the Islamic Republic regime, at the hands of one of its mercenaries, threw a powerful hand grenade into the crowd, thereby causing a dreadful tragedy. At least two persons were martyred as a result of this explosion and more than 50 were injured and wounded.” (Peykar Publication, Volume 103).

The Peykar Organization announced that Ms. Rezvanian was a supporter of the Organization: “Comrade Mojgan was active in Peykar’s Student Organization.” [The Publication] continued: “He (Ms. Rezavanian’s uncle) had exposed Comrade Mojgan’s [true identity] and as a result, Comrade Mojgan, who had hidden her identity at the hospital and had introduced herself as Mojgan Lajevardi, was exposed and they had put several Revolutionary Guards to watch her.” Regarding the throwing of hand grenades, the Publication stated: “Comrade Mojgan was 16 years old and was a close friend of Martyr Azar Mehralian. At the same moment when Comrade Azar was holding up a sign at the demonstrations, Comrade Mojgan and several other comrades were situated very close to her.” (Peykar Publication, Volume 106).

Officials' Reaction

In an interview regarding clashes in certain cities, Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani, then-Minister of the Interior, stated: “The lack of security in the country has two causes: One is related to political groups, which is actually lack of political security, where [these groups] are creating an environment so that they can say the government is incapable of running the country, and try to bring it down, and the other one is lack of security due to theft and robbery. The way we deal with these two is different; we have plans regarding both and, having coordinated with law enforcement forces, we are seriously trying to maximize the use of all the means at our disposal to establish security, and we’re also asking for the people’s help.” (Enqelab Eslami newspaper, April 22, 1981).

The reaction of the Islamic Republic authorities in official media regarding the explosion of hand grenades was to say that the protesters themselves had thrown the grenades in the middle of the demonstrations so that they could kill some people and pretend that they were victims [of the regime]. Jomhuri Eslami newspaper stated that the demonstrations had taken place with “guidance from Radio Baghdad and [former Prime Minister] Bakhtiar” and continued: “Yesterday, the grouplets exploded a bomb among themselves in order to pretend that they had been victims.” Kayhan newspaper wrote: “On the anniversary of the start of the Cultural Revolution, around 200 girls and boys affiliated with the Peykar Organization chanted slogans in opposition [to the Islamic regime] and demonstrated in front of Tehran University. A group of Moslem youth confronted them. A young girl intended to explode a Serahi (three junction bomb/grenade) when it exploded before she could throw it, injuring a number of demonstrators.”

Impacts on Family

Ms. Danesh, Mr. Torabi’s sister, spoke of the effects of her brother’s death: “The shock of seeing my brother’s dead body, putting him in a casket, and the whole atmosphere, upset me so much that I walked out backward from the morgue. I was so lost and confounded that I couldn’t even cry. After this event, I would get agitated and distressed at the sound of hammers hitting nails for years …” She continued: “My younger sister came and stayed with me for a while. She was the only one I was able to talk to a little bit. She was 15 years old when Iraj was martyred. My other sister was 17. They attended the University of Shiraz [high] school. They bothered and harassed them a lot because of [Iraj]. The school’s Islamic Association constantly controlled them. One time they found Iraj’s picture in my sister’s [purse] and they kept her until they were able to contact my parents. They asked my parents to “talk sense” into their daughter not to keep a boy’s picture in her purse! When she graduated, that same sister faced a voluminous file attesting to her and her family’s lack of ideological competence wherever she applied for a job. That was not where things ended. For a long time after I had left Iran, the Revolutionary Guards would go to our home once in a while and search everywhere just to intimidate them. I even heard that one of our distant relatives had been summoned by the Shiraz Revolutionary Guards several times because of the similarity of his name to Iraj’s, and had been beaten.”

Leyla Danesh stated: “After all these years, many aspects of this harrowing and tragic death remain unclear to me and my family.”


*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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