Action Memorandum 011

May 6, 1996

FDI releases report on assassinations


Today the Foundation for Democracy in Iran is releasing a reporton Iranian government involvement in the assassination of Iraniandissidents living abroad, which shows a dramatic upsurge in attackssince Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani assumed the Presidency of Iran in1989.

Since the 1979 Iranian revolution, some 70 Iranian exiles andpolitical activists have been killed by Iranian government agentsoverseas, according to credit reports. Forty-four of those killingstook place since June 1989 when Mr. Rafsanjani took office.

The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (KDPI) has beenparticularly hard hit. Iranian government assassins have murdered twosuccessive party leaders, according to court documents in Berlin andinterviews with officials in Vienna, Austria, where the attacksoccurred.

The KDPI alleges than an additional 36 Iranian Kurds have beenkilled in Iraqi Kurdistan since 1989 by Iranian government agents.These killings have been more difficult to document independently.Since open clashes between the two rival Iraqi Kurdish groups eruptedin April 1994, an uncertain security climate has reigned in whichassassinations are believed to have been carried out by Iraqiintelligence, the People's Mujahidin of Iran (PMOI), and the rivalKurdish groups themselves, in addition to those carried out byIranian government "hit squads." Nevertheless, the KDPI allegationsmust be taken seriously, since the KDPI maintains good relations withboth rival Iraqi Kurdish groups and with Baghdad, which has nointerest at present in targeting Iranian Kurds. Dozens of KDPImembers inside Iran have been executed in recent years, according toofficial Iranian government accounts.

Systematic effort to decapitate the opposition

The overseas assassination campaign has targeted individuals andorganizations who had been or who were becoming prominent on theIranian political scene, and must therefore be seen as a systematicattempt by the government of Iran to eliminate the opposition bytargeting the leadership of opposition organizations.

The Iranian government has shown remarkable constancy in thisgoal. Between the first, unsuccessful attempt to assassinate formerPremier Shahpour Bakhtiar in France and the second, successfulattempt, some eleven years elapsed. According to court recordsexamined by the Foundation, the Iranian government worked on thesuccessful scheme for more than three years - the time it took toinfiltrate an agent into Bakhtiar's personal entourage who succeededin winning the former Prime Minister's confidence. It was this agentwho introduced the killers to Mr. Bakhtiar without arousing hissuspicion in August 1991. The individual responsible for the failed1980 attempt, Anis Naccache, was flown to Iran where he received ahero's welcome, following his release from a French prison upon aspecial pardon from President Mitterrand.

Other major targets include the members of the PMOI, the Flag ofFreedom Organization, and the National Movement of the IranianResistance (NAMIR). No monarchist leader has been attacked since1987, perhaps a sign that the government in Tehran has felt lessthreatened from this direction in recent years than in the earlyyears of the Revolution.

A number of assassination attempts have been thwarted, in somecases by the intended victims themselves. It has been reported thatan Iranian leader in Paris, Colonel Hassan Aghilipour, President ofthe Foundation for the Independence of Iran, a human rights andpolitical organization, spotted surveillance by Iranian governmentagents on at least two occasions since 1993 and reported them to theFrench police, who have placed him under protective surveillance. Theleader of the Flag of Freedom Organization, Dr. Manoucher Gandji,claims a half dozen hit teams have been sent from Iran to assassinatehim, and alleges to have obtained a copy of the Iranian government"fatwa" or death edict ordering his assassination. The People'sMujahidin assert that their leader, Massoud Radjavi, has escapedseveral attempts on his life by Iranian government agents operatingin Baghdad.

Attacks on foreigners

The Iranian government has also targeted foreign nationals in itsoverseas assassination efforts. Since the 1980 attempt against formerPrime Minister Shahpour Bakhtiar in 1980, in which two Frenchcitizens were killed, some 13 other foreign nationals have beenkilled in attacks attributed to Iranian government agents orindividuals operating on orders from Iran. Among them are individualsinvolved in publishing or translating British novelist SalmanRushdie's Satanic Verses, and foreign diplomats of countries withongoing disputes with the Iranian government.

When attacks on foreigners are included, a total of 85 individualshave been assassinated outside of Iran by Iranian government agents,according to court documents and other open sources, since a nephewof the former Shah was gunned down in Paris on December 7, 1979.

UN Resolution

The Foundation applauds the UN Subcommission on Human Rights forits condemnation of Iran's extraterritorial killings, that wascontained in a resolution voted in Geneva on April 24. The resolutionsaid the body "deplores the continuing violence against Iraniansoutside the Islamic Republic of Iran," and reaffirmed thatgovernments "are accountable for assassinations and attacks by theiragents" against people living in other states. It was the 37th UNresolution condemning Iran for its human rights record. Theresolution came on the heels of a highly critical, if reserved,report on the human rights situation inside Iran issued by theCommission's Special Representative for Iran, Maurice Copithorne, onMarch 21.

Mr. Copithorne concluded:

"the term 'human rights' does not yet seem to be widely acceptedin the country as a system of values and procedures to preserve thedignity of the individual. A sense of the universality of thatdignity, of its importance beyond politics, seems at bestrudimentary." [UN report E/CN4/1996/59, paragraph 127, page31.]

Call for judicial investigations

The Foundation for Democracy in Iran applauds the recent decisionby the German Federal Prosecutor to issue an international arrestwarrant for Iranian Intelligence Minister Ali Fallahian-Khuzestani,for his role in plotting the assassination of Iranian Kurdish leadersin Berlin in 1992. The Foundation urges other Western governments,including the United States, to pursue vigorous judicialinvestigations into several outstanding cases where Iraniangovernment involvement has been credibly alleged, including that ofHashem Abdollahi (murdered in Paris, 9/17/95), Cyrus Elahi (murderedin Paris, 10/23/90), and Abdelrahman Qassemlou (murdered in Vienna,7/13/89), and Kazem Rajavi (murdered in Geneva, 4/24/90). TheAustrian and Swiss authorities have been particularly remiss inallowing Iranian government agents identified by local lawenforcement agencies for their direct involvement in the Qassemlouand Rajavi murders, to escape back to Iran.

The Foundation also calls on the government of Iran to immediatelystop the murder of political opponents, both at home and abroad, andengage in a full, direct, open, and democratic dialogue with theopposition, without preconditions.

The Foundation for Democracy in Iran is a private,non-profit corporation registered in the State of Maryland.Contact: Kenneth R. Timmerman, Executive Director ( materials, including the FDI Newswire, are availablefree-of-charge via the Internet at