Unresolved Tragedy: The Hidden Graves of Iran’s Executed Activists

On May 9, 2010, Farzad Kamangar, a dedicated teacher and human rights activist, was executed alongside four fellow political prisoners—Ali Heydarian, Shirin Alam Hooli, Farhad Vakili, and Mehdi Eslamian—following a highly flawed judicial process. The executions, conducted secretly in a prison parking lot, proceeded without prior notification to their lawyers or families.

Fourteen years after these executions, the burial sites of the deceased remain undisclosed. The trials and executions faced widespread international condemnation, highlighting severe violations of legal rights, including arbitrary arrests, prolonged solitary confinement, lack of legal representation, and physical and mental torture—particularly noted in the detention facilities of Sanandaj and Kermanshah operated by the Ministry of Intelligence. Most disturbingly, at least three of the prisoners, Kamangar, Vakili, and Heydarian, were reportedly sentenced for Moharebeh (enmity against God) in a cursory seven-minute court session.

Kamangar’s lawyer has openly criticized the judiciary for its politicization, stating that the court disregarded their arguments and asserting his client’s innocence. Despite ongoing appeals from human rights organizations, Iranian authorities continue to withhold information on the locations of the graves, refusing to return the bodies to their families.

In memory of Farzad Kamangar and to honor his legacy, several teachers’ unions have marked May 9, coinciding with Teacher’s Week in Iran, as a day to celebrate the “free-minded teacher,” commemorating his commitment to education and human rights.

7 Years after Farzad Kamangar’s Execution; No Information about His Burial Location

HRANA News Agency – Farzad Kamangar, teacher and human rights activist, and 4 other political prisoners with the names of Ali Haidarian, Shirin Alamhouly, Farhad Vakili, and Mehdi Islamian, were executed in Evin prison parking in secrecy, after a flawed trial and judicial process, without informing their lawyers and families on May 9th, 2010. After 7 years from this execution, yet there is no information regarding the burial location of their bodies.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), the execution of Farzad Kamangar and four other prisoners happened during an unprecedented wave of national and international protests, while according to documents in the lawsuit, the judicial process of these cases were flawed and in violation of law, including illegal arrest, long term solitary confinement, prevention from having access to lawyers after the arrest, mental and physical tortures, especially for three of them in Sanandaj and Kermanshah detention centers of intelligence, in addition to multiple cases of violation of law, in which at least three of them (Farzad Kamangar, Farhad Vakili and Ali Haidarian) did not have chance to defend themselves and were charged with Muharebeh in a 7-minute-long trial and sentenced to death. Continue reading “7 Years after Farzad Kamangar’s Execution; No Information about His Burial Location”

An Unpublished Sound Track of Farzad Kamangar

HRANA News Agency – Farzad Kamangar, a teacher and human rights activist who was executed in the morning of May 9, 2010 along with Ali Heidarian, Farhad Vakili, Shirin Alam Holi and Mehdi Eslamian in Evin prison, in his short life, due to his human concerns and by his formidable pen wrote open letters addressed to the Iranian society. Letters full of humane emotion, hope, resistance, peace and equality. The letter called; “Be strong Comrades” is one of his latest letters which was written by Farzad in May 2010. The letter was addressed to imprisoned teachers at that time. The sound track of the letter in which Farzad Kamangar reads this letter is being published for the first time, now:

Continue reading “An Unpublished Sound Track of Farzad Kamangar”

The Graves of 5 Political Prisoners Executed on May 9, 2010 Are still Unknown

HRANA News Agency – On May 9, 2010, Farzad Kamangar, teacher and human rights activist, along with four other political prisoners named Ali Heydarian, Shirin Alam Holi, Farhad Vakili and Mehdi Eslamian were executed after a flawed judicial process, secretly and without the knowledge of their lawyers and families at the parking of Evin prison.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency in Iran (HRANA), the execution verdict of Farzad Kamangar and four other prisoners among the unprecedented wave of domestically and internationally protests, was carried out while according to the documents, their judicial process was full of specific cases of rights violation including detention in contravention of the law, the long-term maintenance in solitary confinement without access to a lawyer during detention, physical and psychological torture against them especially in the case of three of them in detention centers of Sanandaj and Kermanshah, as well as numerous procedural violations, so that at least three of the defendants (Farzad Kamangar, Farhad Vakili and Ali Heydarian) were known as “Muhareb” and the death sentence was issued a for them without their chance of defense in a seven-minute-long court. Continue reading “The Graves of 5 Political Prisoners Executed on May 9, 2010 Are still Unknown”

A New Year Message from Dayeh Saltaneh, Farzad Kamangar’s Mother

HRANA News Agency – Dayeh Saltaneh, Farzad Kamangar’s mother, has released a message on the occasion of Nowruz [the Persian New Year]. Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) has translated this message from Kurdish to Farsi and released it. The exact message reads as follows:

Last Nowruz, when I went to Evin Prison anticipating my son’s release, he was saying to me with high hopes, “Mother, Nowruz will certainly be the day of freedom, and we will celebrate it together.” Alas, they took my child from me.

Continue reading “A New Year Message from Dayeh Saltaneh, Farzad Kamangar’s Mother”

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Teachers’ Union of Kurdistan Threatened; Twelve Teachers Summoned

 HRANA News Agency – Agents working for Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence are placing undue pressure on teachers summoned by the agency to repudiate the statement released by Teachers’ Union of Kurdistan for May 9th.  In this statement, the union has named the day Farzad Kamangar was executed a day to reject violence and defend the right to live.


According to a report by Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), in recent days, Bahaldyn Maleki, Ramin Zandnia, Ali Qarishi, Mokhtar Asadi, Peyman Navidian, Heydar Zaman, Reza Khatami, Kamal Fakorian, Mostafa Sarbazan, Mohammad Sadiq Sadeqi, Hiva Ahmadi and Ezatollah Nosrati were summoned to the Intelligence Agency in Kurdistan Province.  The aforementioned individuals were questioned and threatened by the interrogators who had traveled from Tehran to Sanandaj [Kurdistan Province, Iran], and demands were made to rescind the union’s statement.


However, union members have so far insisted on their call to observe May 9th, the anniversary of Farzad Kamangar and four other individuals’ execution.  According to this report, intelligence forces have focused on pressuring Peyman Navidian and Mokhtar Asadi the most because they are union activists with prior convictions.  Peyman Navidian was exiled for nearly three years to Zanjan Province and was not allowed to work for several months.  Similarly, Mokhtar Asadi was in exile for 2 years and banned from work for 6 month.


In their statement, Teachers’ Union of Kurdistan has asked teachers all over Iran to light a candle on May 9th and reject organized violence.  By defending the right to live and teaching lessons of peace and human benevolence to their students, educators throughout Iran have been asked to commemorate Farzad Kamangar and his legacy as a fallen teacher


May 9th: A Day to Reject Violence and Defend the Right to Live

HRANA News Agency – Teachers’ Union of Kurdistan has issued a statement on the occasion of Teacher’s Week in Iran.In this statement, Teachers’ Union of Kurdistan recounts the problems facing the union and the weaknesses of our country’s education system and demands the release of its imprisoned members.To commemorate May 9th and the shocking execution of Farzad Kamangar, Teachers’ Union of Kurdistan has named May 9th to be a day to reject violence and defend the right to live.Farzad Kamangar was a union member and also a human rights activist who was executed by the Islamic Republic of Iran on May 9, 2010.  

The union also has requested teachers all over the country to light a candle on May 9th and teach their students lessons to reject violence and defend the right to live.The full text of this statement is as follows:



In the Name of God, Creator of Life and Wisdom

Blessed Be Teacher’s Day


It was exactly this time.We were all energized, bustling around with our hearts full of joy because our day was approaching.With the words “Teacher’s Day” on our lips, we wrote a statement and gathered at Abidar1 to recount many years of pain.Long ago, Samad Behrangi wrote about the same pain while delving and probing into educational issues, and now that more than thirty years has passed after the revolution, we still struggle with the same set of problems.


They said that it was Teacher’s Week!?They held meetings and made much ado about nothing while getting on their soapboxes, blowing hot air and complimenting each other for making a difference in these youngsters’ lives.We stared and only watched; they didn’t allow us to say anything, but we thought how long they could keep up with all the prayer and praise.We were all worried about Rasoul’s children who were awaiting his return.What exactly had Rasoul Bodaghi and Hashem Khastar said?


At the foot of the mountain, we talked and said all there was to say without endangering senior management’s careers in the education system or threatening their bottom line.Far from the senior managers’ advice on the virtues of silence and away from the prying eyes of Herasat’s2 closed circuit cameras, we talked for hours about our pupils’ pain in the classroom.Without endangering national security, we talked about child labor.


We were happy since Farzad’s attorney had informed us that he was to return to us, and the villages of Kamyaran [Kurdistan Province, Iran] could embrace him.Repeatedly we mentioned Teacher’s Day while they proudly rubbed Teacher’s Week in our faces.It was exactly Teacher’s Week, and in front of our bewildered gazes, they took him away from us at dawn, and no one saw him again.Now, at night, he twinkles in Kurdistan’s grief-stricken sky.


Esteemed Educators

The year that we have put behind us was a year full of events and changes in Iran and the Middle East.It has been years that neo-conservatives have imposed their policies on people all around the world.The outcome of these policies has been privatization, unemployment, cancellation of subsidies, layoff of workers under the pretence of workforce adjustments, warmongering and militarism, weakening and dissolution of trade unions, reduction of education budgets, decreasing health insurance and social benefits, and in many countries, an increase in retirement age under the excuse of government cost-saving ideas.


The blatant attack on people’s basic rights in the Middle East became further apparent through the violence displayed by the police, security forces, and military governments.Threatening political rights became the means by which such countries utilized in order to impose this economic disaster on people.Nonetheless, declaring long periods of time as the state of emergency and the rule of terror didn’t deter the masses from trying to change the situation.As we have witnessed, a hung tsunami of change has washed over the Middle East and North Africa in the name of pursuing happiness and democratic rights.By making numerous sacrifices, those seeking freedom are achieving new victories every day, and dictatorships are vanishing each day.


Along with the spirit of twenty-first century human beings in quest of freedom, the members of Education International have not remained silent.The global federation of teachers’ trade unions has jumped into action to fight against new worldwide policies through which education is overshadowed by profit margins, and quality is sacrificed for the sake of quantity.This year, the World Congress of Education International will meet in South Africa in order to address the same issues.Obviously, the representatives of teachers’ unions throughout Iran will attend the World Congress, and with one voice together with all other teachers of the world, we will defend our democratic rights and also the right to education.


By placing profit at top of their agenda, recent governments in Iran have also imposed undue burden on the working class.The elimination of subsidies has made this policy apparent.In Iran, the right to form unions is not recognized.In other words, the majority of the society has been denied its legitimate right to negotiate and bargain with the government that plays the role of a major employer.Social insurances don’t have sufficient resources through which effective services can be offered to the community.Unemployment insurance hasn’t been designated for people over eighteen, and the nightmare of white signed contracts3 have become an integral and inseparable part of people’s daily lives.


Unfortunately, the implementation of removing subsidies has not accounted for any of these issues.Considering that minimum wage is not significantly different from last year, soaring prices and repeated sanctions imposed by the Security Council have driven a greater percentage of Iranian families below the poverty line.This means that a large number of school age children leave their classrooms behind as they head to the job market in search of work.Meanwhile, deviance and criminal behavior is on the rise.


Education in Iran

The atrocious story of education in Iran is a long, tragic tale piled up in the hearts of teachers throughout this land from Balochistan to Gilan, from Azerbaijan to Kurdistan, from Turkmen Sahra to Khuzestan, from Lorestan to Kermanshah, and from Ilam to Hormozgan.In the remotest corners of Iran, the sad story of education and forsaken enlightenment and intellectualism is a tale of deprived children, broken-down school buildings, substandard school books, archaic teaching methods, and under-appreciated, forgotten hardworking teachers, the same teachers who reflect the misery of their deprived pupils, the same teachers who despite poverty still lovingly keep the candle of knowledge burning in stormy nights.


Enduring imprisonment, exile, deportation and even flogging has become the reward for safeguarding thoughts and the praise for intellectuals.Governments come and go, and ministers hand over their responsibilities to their successors.Sometimes, they talk about changes and transforming structures, books and creating new positions or eliminating the old ones.However, it has been long since nothing substantial or worth remembering has occurred.After this useless period, we return again to the same old education system while no one is held responsible for wasting so many resources and so much energy.More importantly, no one is held accountable for the game played with a generation trapped in an education system that uses them as laboratory rats.


We believe that the problem is not only blocking teacher involvement but also is related to the decision making process which ignores teachers, the most important element in education.It must be acknowledged that creativity and vitality is nurtured in a democratic environment and in an atmosphere of respect for the dignity and basic rights of teachers.


When Mr. Haj Babaei was appointed as the education minister, teachers’ trade unions were delighted since after a long time, someone with positive tendencies and inclinations was chosen.During his term in the Parliament, Mr. Haj Babaei was willing to meet with the representatives of trade unions while ignoring government red tape and restrictions.Unfortunately, teachers were disappointed very soon as the process to eliminate critics sped up, and the pressure on trade unions increased.Meanwhile, there remains no place for teachers in the colossal ministry of education, and there are apparently no plans to transform the disappointing environment dominating over our schools into an atmosphere of informed, mutual participation and service.


Is it possible to envision a fundamental change in the quality of education without democratizing the education system?School curriculums change, and new school hours are implemented without the input of main players namely teachers.In the twenty-first century, teachers are treated as if they are subjects receiving sacred and holy commands from the above and are given orders that are binding and may not be questioned.As a result of a policy that considers “master’s word to be God’s word,” human energy is wasted, teachers are discouraged, and the education system is stagnant.Additionally, teachers witness the ineffectiveness of the education system every day but have no means by which they can inform the public or concerned parents.However, we feel a sense of responsibility to communicate the ongoing, pending disaster to our students’ parents in any which way possible.


Dear Colleagues

Congratulating Teacher’s Day to all of our colleagues throughout Iran and wishing them success in their work, Teachers’ Union of Kurdistan declares the following items to be their main demands:


1. We demand the immediate and unconditional release of our jailed colleagues, Rasoul Bodaghi, Hashem Khastar and Nabiollah Bastan and call for the dismissal of all pending cases against union activists in different courts.


2. We demand removing the ban on the publication Qalam Moalem [Teacher’s Pen] which is Iran’s only independent journal of educators.


3. As you are aware, May 9th is the anniversary on which Farzad Kamangar, a board member of Teachers’ Union of Kurdistan, lost his life.While honoring the humanitarian efforts of this noble and revered educator and with the slogan of “rejecting organized violence and defending the right to live,” Teachers’ Union of Kurdistan asks all educators to light a candle in their classrooms to commemorate this day.We request all teachers to designate their lectures on May 9th to be a lesson on rejecting violence in any shape or form.We shall teach the children that human beings regardless of their ethnicity, religion, language and social class are equal.We shall rise up to fight materialism and warmongering and consider seeking peace to be the highest human virtue.We shall replace animosity and hostility amongst nations with love and alliance.


At the end, Teachers’ Union of Kurdistan congratulates the International Workers’ Day, May 1st, to all workers and declares the union’s support for their demands.


Teachers’ Union of Kurdistan

Ordibehesht 1390 [April – May 2011]


Footnotes for the English Translation:

1.Abidar, a mountain east of Sanandaj, is a major recreational area in Iran’s Kurdistan Province.

2. Herasat is Iran’s semi-secret police tasked to monitor all educational institutes throughout the country.

3. “White signed contracts” are in effect white papers that workers in Iran sign allowing employers to determine all the terms of employment.

Commemorating May 9th in Sanandaj’s Schools

HRANA News Agency – Teachers and students from different grade levels throughout the city of Sanandaj [Kurdistan Province] commemorated the first anniversary of Farzad Kamangar’s execution on May 9, 2011.


According to a report by Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), in response to a call issued by Teachers’ Union of Kurdistan to reject violence and defend the right to live, a number of schools in Sanandaj honored Iran’s beloved teacher, Farzad Kamangar, on May 9, 2011.


On this day, a significant number of students in Sanandaj attended schools with candles in order to light them in their classrooms.  Similarly, many teachers devoted their lessons to discussions about rejecting violence and defending the right to live and dedicated time to introduce Farzad Kamangar further to their students.  In addition, in several schools, Farzad Kamangar’s letters were read in classrooms.  According to local HRANA reporters, although no particular problem occurred, a number of schools were dismissed earlier than usual.


It must be noted that in the last few days, many civil and political activists have issued a collective call in support of Teachers’ Union of Kurdistan and have named May 9th “Liberal Teachers’ Day.”





A Message from Farzad Kamangar’s Mother for Global Day to Support Political Prisoners

To break this lock, solidarity is essential!

I have said it numerous times in my messages and will say it again that we must think of our beloved prisoners and don’t allow them to be kept in prison, tortured and killed.No prisoner will be set free without our efforts because the cruelest and the most apathetic individuals are tasked to decide the prisoners’ fate.To break this lock, solidarity is essential.

There must be solidarity between families, and people must help them.Certainly, this assistance does exist.We must ask why our loved ones are imprisoned when they are innocent; we must ask what gives the authorities the right to kill our children.Although many years have passed, a large number of families still don’t know in which prison their children are locked up or even whether they are still alive or already slaughtered.Those families whose children are slain don’t know where they are buried.

Thousands of families similar to me are wandering from town to town.What law, which God and which human can accept this?What was my Farzad’s crime?He only said that a human being must live like one.The authorities imprisoned my son for this reason and executed him.

For sure, there are other young individuals who wish to live like a human and state the same desire similar to my son.Why should they be imprisoned?How long must these mothers suffer, weep and wear black for mourning?I am a mother who has suffered immensely both when my Farzad was in prison and now that the authorities have taken him from me.I understand what other mothers go through for their loved ones day and night.I neither wish grief nor pain even for my enemies’ mothers because I am a mother myself.I want no mother wail for her child.

I say this to all the families of political prisoners and to all human beings.The only solution out of the current situation is solidarity.We must become united as one in both inside the country and abroad.From all the defenders of human rights organizations, I request not to forget this country’s youth and not to permit the authorities to imprison our young and murder them.It is enough.

I kiss your all.

A Statement from Mothers of Park Laleh for Teacher’s Day

Teacher, I learned lessons of life and liberty from you!


“You can’t be afraid of everything all the time; once we’re on the way, our fear disappears.” Samad Behrangi


We are observing Teacher’s Day under such circumstances that our country’s educators have been denied the slightest social and trade union rights, and whenever they scream for justice, they are forced into silence by either empty promises or by torment, torture, imprisonment, execution and dismissal from work.

We are commemorating Teacher’s Day in an atmosphere where expressing one’s beliefs and thoughts is an offense, and our teachers and scholars are fed up with the rule of censorship and inquisition.  What is more painful is the fact that the majority of conspiracies to convict others are often spearheaded by those who have not been endowed with the least amount of literacy.  The government came to power with slogans in support of liberty and emancipation but instead began to arrest professors, teachers and students, transforming Iran’s prisons into schools while changing the face of Iran’s universities into military bases.

Since a hundred years ago, Iranian mothers have raised educators such as Samad Behrangi, Abolhassan Khan Ali and other teachers with fighting spirits who learned how to be free.  In turn, the same educators trained other children belonging to the same generation as Mothers of Park Laleh.  This chain of continuity in human development eventually delivered a child such as Farzad Kamangar to our society, a child committed to sacrifice himself for human prosperity and to end discrimination, a child who became a teacher himself and trained informed, defiant students who are not willing to accept the status quo and yield without an argument.

In 1961, Dr. Khan Ali was killed by a bullet during teachers’ protests and strikes.  Samad Behrangi later said about him, “Learn from Dr. Khan Ali and take back your rights.”

Samad was a teacher who taught his students [through his writings and stories] how to reach the ocean [of freedom] without anxiety and fear.  These children [similar to the main character in the story of Little Black Fish] woke up [and became self-aware] after being sleep for so long.  In contrast, they didn’t become students whose paths led them to a spinning, never ending cycle of intolerance and abuse of others.  Their course of life didn’t lead them to become individuals who arrest and massacre others or with bullets, knives and daggers murder people on the streets in cold blood.  Now cemeteries such as Behesht-e Zahra which used to be the resting place for our dead have been transformed into the burial grounds for the fallen.  Since the early years after the revolution until now, new cemeteries such as Khavaran with unmarked and unknown graves have been built in different cities all over the country.

We, Mothers of Park Laleh, with appreciation towards all teachers fighting for freedom throughout our country, commemorate May 9th and the anniversary of Farzad Kamangar’s execution and cherish the memory of a teacher whose lessons of love and liberty persevere to this day.  Hand in hand with our country’s teachers, we stand alongside our educators in support of their union demands and request all imprisoned teachers to be set free.

Until we achieve our demands that include freedom of all political prisoners, abolition of capital punishment and prosecution and punishment of those responsible for crimes committed during the last thirty two years, we continue to stand together with our defiant nation.

Wishing to attain freedom, equality and social justice,

Mothers of Park Laleh (Mourning)

May 2, 2011