Agents of the Islamic Republic acted on the basis of Khomeini’s “Islamic” teachings. (Keystone)

By Faramarz Davar

November 20, 2021

The almost 43-year history of the Islamic Republic of Iran is deeply associated with incidents of  kidnapping and assassination abroad. Since the beginning of Ruhollah Khomeini’s rule over Iran, which ran from February 1979 to June 1989, silence dissidents outside their country of origin took on a religious aspect, coming as the criminal operations did on the orders or fatwas of a religious leader. Agents of the Islamic Republic and or the persons employed by them acted on the basis of Khomeini’s “Islamic” teachings, based on the theory of the “Velayat-e Faqih” [Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist]. These acts of violence and abduction were therefore not only official missions, but a religious duty.

In the immediate aftermath of the Islamic Revolution, new officials repeatedly stated the need to “eliminate” the opposition and specifically, to assassinate Mohammad Reza Shah. They failed on both counts, but scores of assassinations and murder attempts targeting Iranian dissidents have taken place since then.

This is the first part of a chronology of assassinations and kidnappings by Islamic Republic, covering those killed during the reign of Ruhollah Khomeini. Most were remnants of the Shah’s era, or members of opposition groups, who managed to get out of the country while other officials, military men and political agitators were slaughtered. From Ayatollah Khomeini’s jurisprudential point of view, these people were working against his notion of Islamic rule and as such, deserving of a death sentence – even if issued from thousands of miles away.

IranWire has previously published an incomplete list of people known to have been killed overseas by the Islamic Republic. What follows are the details on just a few of them in the Khomeini era, whose cases have been pieced together from sources including diary entries, media and press reports, official statements, court rulings and the comments of their own families. They represent just a fraction of the Islamic Republic’s four-decade campaign of transnational repression. But they are also an undeniable part of it.

Shahriar Shafiq, assassinated in Paris on December 7, 1979

Shahriar Shafiq was the son of Ashraf Pahlavi, the brother of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi and a captain in the former Imperial Navy. Shafiq was shot in the head and neck on the Rue Pergolese outside his mother’s home in Paris. He was one of the first known victims of the Islamic Republic’s assassination campaign abroad.

Shapour Bahktiar, assassinated in Paris on August 6, 1981 after a failed attempt on July 18, 1980

The last prime minister of Iran under the Shah, Shapour Bakhtiar escaped an attempt on his life by three attackers at his home in Paris. A police officer and one of Bakhtiar’s neighbor were killed. Five agents of the Islamic Republic envoys to Paris were later tried in the French capital for their part in the killing, under the direction of a Lebanese national, Anis Naccache, who also worked with Tehran in forming Hezbollah. They were given life sentences but later pardoned by then-French President François Mitterrand in July 1990.

Back in Iran, Naccache went on to speak publicly about the plot and lamented his failuter to kill Bakhtiar. He later gave “expert” advice to the Iranian government on various matters, and also attended meetings with the Foreign Ministry.

Then on August 6, 1991, Bakhtiar was murdered at his home along with his secretary, Soroush Katibeh, by three assassins armed with kitchen knives. Their bodies were not found until 36 hours later even though Bakhtiar had police protection. Two of the assassins escaped back to Iran and received a hero’s welcome, but a third was caught together with an accomplice in Switzerland and sentenced in France to life in prison.

Ali Akbar ‌Tabatabai, assassinated in Washington on July 22, 1981

Ali Akbar Tabatabai was the press advisor to the former Iranian Embassy in the United States, and was shot dead on the porch of his home in Maryland by an agent of the regime dressed as a mailman. His assassin was David Theodore Belfield, later Dawud Salahuddin, who had converted to Islam and met with Islamic pro-Khomeini students in America. After the revolution and the closure of the Iranian embassy in Washington, he was hired as a bodyguard in the Islamic Republic’s interests section of the Algerian embassy.

Salahoddin fled to Iran and still resides there to his day. He was paid $5,000 for the murder. In 2001, he suddenly resurfaced playing a starring role in Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s film Kandahar. He was also chief online editor for Iranian state-controlled outlet Press TV for three years in the 2000s.

Shahrokh Misaghi, assassinated in Manila on January 14, 1982

Shahrokh Misaghi was a student activist and member of the Fedaiyan-e Khalq Organization. He was shot dead in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, at the age of just 25. No-one was prosecuted for the murder.

Shahram Mirani, assassinated in India on June 8, 1982

Shahram Mirani was a Kurdish student and a member of the minority branch of the Fedaiyan-e Khlaq, which did not accept the Islamic Republic. He was fatally wounded with a cold weapon during a trip to India. Later on a state visit to the country, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani demanded the release of the suspects. The Indian government complied in the face of sustained threats from the Islamic Republic, and the accused was released.

Ahmad‌ Zolanvar, assassinated in Karachi on September 5, 1982

Ahmad Zolanvar was a former political leader in Sistan and Baluchistan province but fled Iran for Pakistan due to the political situation. He was beaten to death in the capital on September 5, 1982, according to the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center. No trial has been held in connection with the killing.

Abdolamir‌ ‌Rahdar, assassinated in Bangalore on September 29, 1982

Abdolamir ‌Rahdar was one of the leaders of the student movement against the Islamic Republic who had had settled in India. He was attacked and killed in Bangalore weeks after the murder of Ahmad Zolanfar. No perpetrator was identified.

Gholam Ali Oveissi, assassinated in Paris on February 7, 1984

Gholam-Ali Oveissi was the military governor of Tehran in September 1978, a general and Commander-in-Chief of the Iranian Armed Forces before the revolution. He and his brother were shot and killed as they walked on the Rue de Passy, Paris on the fifth anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. The Islamic Jihad group, led by the Lebanese Imad Mughniyeh, who later became an in-law of Ghasem Soleimani and second-in-command of Hezbollah, claimed responsibility for the murder. Mughniyeh evaded international warrants for his arrest and was ultimately killed in an Israeli operation in Syria.

Behrooz Shahverdilou, assassinated in Istanbul on August 16, 1985 in Istanbul

Behrouz ‌Shahverdilou was a colonel in the Iranian army who joined Shapour Bakhtiar’s National Movement of the Iranian Resistance after 1979. He was living as a political refugee in Turkey at the time of his murder. No-one was arrested and no trial was held in absentia.

Hadi ‌Aziz-Moradi, assassinated in Istanbul on December 23, 1985

Hadi Aziz-Moradi was a colonel in the Iranian Army’s special forces who had settled in Turkey after the revolution. He was killed at the entrance of a house he was staying in. Though there were suspects, no action was taken.

Bijan Fazeli, assassinated in London on August 19, 1986

Bijan Fazeli was the son of Reza Fazeli, a former actor and the director of an anti-Islamic Republic TV station. He was killed in a bomb blast at an Iranian store in central London selling pro-monarchist literature, where he also worked. Bijan was just 22 years old and the attack is thought to have been aimed at his father. Police did not identify the culprits.

Ahmad-Hamed Monfared, assassinated in Istanbul on October 24, 1986

Ahmad-Hamed Monfared was Mohammad Reza Shah’s former bodyguard and a senior military officer in Iran prior to the Islamic Revolution. He had taken refuge in Turkey but was shot dead in the capital. No trial was held in connection with the murder.

Ali Akbar Mohammadi, assassinated on January 16, 1987 in Hamburg

Ali Akbar Mohammadi was the former personal pilot of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who had defected the previous year by flying a plane to Baghdad, Iraq in protest against the Iran-Iraq War. At the age of 36 he died after being shot six times by two gunmen in a street in Hamburg, West Germany. Seventeen years later, his brother announced that the German Federal Attorney had reopened his case in light of fresh evidence in the murder of singer Fereydoun Farrokhzad, which had also taken place in Germany in 1992.

Hamid Reza Chitgar, assassinated in Vienna between May 19 and July 17, 1987

Hamid Reza Chitgar was a member of the Labor Party of Iran and its representative on the National Resistance Council. He worked at Louis Pasteur University in Strasbourg, France but travelled to Austria on May 19, 1987 to meet with a man who claimed to sympathize with the cause. His body was found in a Vienna apartment until two months later on July 17; he had been shot twice in the back of the head. The perpetrators were not arrested or tried.

Faramarz ‌Aghaei and Alireza‌ ‌Pourshafizadeh, assassinated in Pakistan on July 7, 1987

Faramarz ‌ Aghaei and Alireza ‌Pourshafizadeh were both members of the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK) who were living  in Pakistan as political refugees. They were killed on the same day in two near-simultaneous attacks in Quetta and Karachi, Pakistan. Nine people were arrested following the attack and Pakistani officials said they were identified as members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, but their identities were never released.

Amir Hossein Amir-Parviz, survived an assassination attempt in London on July 19, 1987

Amir Hossein Amir Parviz was the Minister of Agriculture before the Islamic Revolution and widely recognized as the architect of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi’s land reforms. A bomb was planted in his personal car in the British capital but after it exploded under the front seat, Amir-Parviz managed to escape from the wreckage through a window. A group called Guardians of the Islamic Revolution later claimed responsibility.

Ahmad Moradi Talebi, assassinated in Geneva on August 10, 1987

A colonel and former F-14 pilot in the Iranian Air Force, Ahmad Moradi had studied in the US and called from Europe for a more democratic Iran after the Islamic Revolution. The father-of-three was shot dead in Geneva, Switzerland after a previous attempt on his life in May. No-one was arrested in connection with the case.

Abdolhassan Mojtahedzadeh, escaped an abduction attempt in Istanbul on October 19, 1988

Abdol Hossein Mojtahedzadeh was a senior member of the MEK. Turkish officials discovered him in the trunk of a car belonging to the Embassy of the Islamic Republic bound for Iran, with his mouth taped shut. His life was saved and in the aftermath, then-Iranian ambassador Manouchehr Mottaki was expelled from his mission. His co-conspirators did not face prosecution after they cited diplomatic immunity.

Iran Wire

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Track PersiaTrack Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.