Action memorandum 028 - Nov. 15, 1996

Subject: Attacks on writers suggest the return of "deathsquads"

The Foundation for Democracy in Iran has learned from reliablesources in Tehran that another Iranian writer, Ghafar Hosseini,appears to have been murdered by death squads. Mr. Hosseini's bodywas found at his home in Tehran on Nov. 12.

On Nov. 3, well-known journalist Faraj Sarkouhi disappeared as hewas boarding a flight from Tehran to Frankfurt, Germany. Familymembers believe he was kidnapped and subsequently murdered, and hisdisappearance was confirmed by the Iranian public media on Nov.13

FDI sources in Tehran initially reported that a third well-knownwriter, Reza Barahani, had also recently disappeared from his Tehranhome. It now appears, however, that he may have travelled to Sweden.[Mr. Barahani is a member of the International PEN Club, and wasinstrumental in drafting an open letter to PresidentHashemi-Rafsanjani in Oct. 1994 calling for greater freedom in Iran,that was signed by 136 Iranian writers and journalists.]

FDI believes the murder of Mr. Hosseini and the disappearance andpossible murder of Mr. Sarkouhi confirm a disturbing trend that hasemerged in recent months, of intensifying harassment of writers andintellectuals in Iran. This deteriorating climate forced theprominent Islamic scholar Abdolkarim Soroush to leave Iran earlierthis year, after his lectures at Tehran University had been forciblybroken up by gangs of club-wielding thugs of the Ansar-e Hezbollahgroup.

The Ansar-e Hezbollah group has vowed to rid Iran of "liberal" and"anti-Islamic" intellectuals, by force if necessary.

FDI calls on the UNHCR Special Representative for Iran, Prof.Maurice Copithorne, to urgently investigate these cases with theauthorities of the Islamic Republic, and to explore the possiblerevival of semi-official "death squads." If confirmed, these murderswould represent a dangerous escalation in the use of organizedviolence against private citizens in Iran.

The Foundation for Democracy in Iran is a private, non-profitcorporation registered in the State of Maryland. Contact: Kenneth R.Timmerman, Executive Director. Tel: (301) 946-2918. Fax: (301)942-5341. FDI materials, including the FDI Newswire, are availablefree-of-charge via the Internet at