Jun 30, 2020

Iranian Kurdistan: Kurdish Activist May Have Been Murdered By Death Squads

Iranian Kurdish Hedayat Abdollahpour was a political activist who had been arrested by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and sentenced to death. As Abdollahpour’s family, lawyers and international organizations advocated for his freedom, Abdollahpour’s whereabouts became unknown. As the pressure mounted on Iran to disclose information on the case, the government finally released a death certificate for Abdollahpour, but without specifying on how he died. International Human Rights groups suspect Abdollahpour was killed by a death squad and have called for more transparency.


Below is an article published by Amnesty International

The Iranian authorities are responsible for the ongoing crime of enforced disappearance against prisoner Hedayat Abdollahpour and his family, and must reveal the full truth concerning his secret execution and return his body to his family, Amnesty International said today.

The organization is also calling on the Iranian authorities to account for why they led his family and lawyers to believe that he was still alive for weeks after he was forcibly disappeared.

Hedayat Abdollahpour, a Kurdish prisoner on death row, was transferred on 9 May from the Central Prison of Urumieh, in West Azerbaijan province, to an undisclosed location. Over the following four weeks, the authorities refused to provide his family and lawyers with any information regarding his fate or whereabouts, therefore subjecting him to enforced disappearance.

Following repeated requests for information, his family were last week given a death certificate that stated he had “died” on 11 May. The certificate states his death was as a result of “being hit by hard or sharp objects” and does not clarify that the death resulted from an execution - even though his family was told on 10 June that he had been executed in secret.

Amnesty International has previously documented this phrase being used on the certificates of deaths from gunshot wounds. The whereabouts of his body continues to be concealed by the authorities.

“The relentlessly cruel games the Iranian authorities are playing with Hedayat Abdollahpour’s family must stop. By refusing to reveal the truth, they are deliberately causing untold distress to his loved ones,” said Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director.

“Hedayat Abdollahpour’s body must be returned to his family, and an independent investigation must be conducted into the circumstances surrounding his secret execution and ongoing enforced disappearance.” 

Secrecy surrounding circumstances of death

On 24 June, Hedayat Abdollahpour’s family were provided with a death certificate at the National Organization for Civil Registration in Oshnavieh, West Azerbaijan province, stating that he had “died” in Urumieh on 11 May as a result of “being hit by hard or sharp objects”.

Amnesty International believes this is consistent with reported claims made by the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) that Hedayat Abdollahpour had been executed by firing squad in a Revolutionary Guards military base in Oshnavieh.

On 10 June, a prosecution official verbally told Hedayat Abdollahpour’s family that he had been executed in Oshnavieh, but he was not allowed to provide them with further information.

To date, Hedayat Abdollahpour’s lawyers have not been notified of his execution, in contravention of Iranian law.

Ongoing enforced disappearance

Since Hedayat Abdollahpour was forcibly disappeared, Iranian authorities have repeatedly refused to reveal the truth about his fate and whereabouts, passing his family and lawyers from one office to another and making contradictory statements.

For weeks, the prison officials and prosecution authorities in Urumieh told his lawyers that they had no information about his case, and that it had been referred to Oshnavieh for processing. However, prosecution authorities in Oshnavieh denied this.

On 12 May, the deputy prosecutor in Urumieh told his family: “When the Ministry of Intelligence and the Revolutionary Guards do not tell you where your relative is, you better refer to the cemetery.”

However, on 23 May, his lawyers were told by the same deputy prosecutor in Urumieh that Hedayat Abdollahpour was being held in a detention facility run by the intelligence unit of the Revolutionary Guards in Urumieh.  

Since the authorities told the family on 10 June that he had been executed, they have refused to reveal the circumstances surrounding his death and the location of his remains.

Under international law, the crime of enforced disappearance continues until the state releases information pertaining to the fate or whereabouts of the individual concerned, and this requires, when the disappeared person is found to be dead, returning the remains to their family.

The anguish inflicted on the family due to the continuing uncertainty around the fate of their loved one and the whereabouts of his remains violates the absolute prohibition on torture and other ill-treatment.


Hedayat Abdollahpour was sentenced to death in 2017 following a grossly unfair trial, in connection with an armed clash between the Revolutionary Guards and members of KDPI which took place on 14 June 2016.

Iranian authorities have a long-standing history of secretly executing members of ethnic minority groups, and refusing to reveal their fate and the whereabouts of their remains for years.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. Amnesty International recorded at least 251 executions in Iran in 2019 in its annual Death Penalty report.