By Ehsan Mehrabi
December 4, 2020
Clashes between political groups in Iran over the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh have reminded the public of previous assassinations of Iranian nuclear and industrial scientists. And yet, this review of history is not welcomed by the government. This is because authorities have preferred to see these deaths, from Ardeshir Hosseinpour, a professor at Shiraz University, to three researchers at the Space Research Center, as accidents or mishaps, and not acknowledge them as assassinations or acts of sabotage.
Islamic Republic officials have issued contradictory statements about the fire at the Transportation Institute of the Space Research Center, which took place on January 28, 2017. Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, the Minister of Communications and Information Technology of Iran, announced on February 3, 2017 that two research technicians and an engineer had died in the fire.
Hassan Najafi Anbar, an employee of the Ministry of Communications and Technology, died in the blast. Mohammad Hosseini, the head of the Martyrs’ Foundation in District One of Karaj, said at his funeral that he had been killed during a weapons test at the Ministry of Defense.
The incident, however, coincided with two unsuccessful attempts by Iran to launch a satellite, on January 15 and February 5, 2017. However, Azari Jahromi emphasized that the incident had nothing to do with the failed launch of “Satellite Friendship” and was not a terrorist attack.
And yet, a month later, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the failure to launch two Iranian satellites could have been due to “sabotage” by the United States.
The New York Times quoted current and former US government officials, saying that the United States had resumed its plan to sabotage Iran’s missile program.
The Minister of Communications’ words were ambiguous even for the domestic media, so much so that an article on the website Baztab reported that the original news about the fire had not been posted on the research center’s website.
The Baztab article posed the question: “How is such a thing possible? Is it not possible to honor the memory of the victims by publishing pictures of them and a message of condolence, and to comfort their survivors? Is not this kind of action the minimum duty of every official and institution?”
The site also said the incident took place on January 28, 2017, and the burial ceremonies for the victims had been held. But a week later, neither the minister nor any other official was persuaded to provide any information about it for the public.
A simple search on the research center’s website reveals that the three researchers were probably not the only victims in the space research center. These deaths and the cause of them were all covered up.
The research center website also refers to Yaghoub Bozorgi and Mohsen Majosti as “martyrs” who died on March 7, 2010.
The organization’s website states that a man called Yaghoub Bozorgi was killed while “on duty,” but no further explanation is given.
The Assassination of Ardeshir Hosseinpour
The name of nuclear scientist and physics professor Ardeshir Hosseinpour has also been raised in the last few days, in the wake of the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and following criticisms of the Ministry of Intelligence’s failure to prevent it.
Some have suggested that Hosseinpour was killed during the period when Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei was the Minister of Intelligence, and that other nuclear scientists were killed during the period of Heydar Moslehi’s ministry, both of which were during the administration of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
But Mahboubeh Hosseinpour, Hosseinpour’s sister, has a different story. She accuses the Islamic Republic of killing her brother.
Ardeshir Hosseinpour began studying at Shiraz University in 1984 and went on to be a professor at the university. According to his sister, he died on January 15, 2007 in his home on the third floor of an apartment building on Saheli Street that was used to house the university’s professors.
According to Mahboubeh Hosseinpour, her brother’s family-in-law had conspired with the security agencies. She said his wife, who he had been married to for less than a month, was at an event and not at home on the night he was killed.
Mustafa Moein, Minister of Science in Mohammad Khatami’s government, posted on his Telegram channel that Hosseinpour had been assassinated by the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, but that his assassination had been kept secret so the Ministry of Intelligence could avoid questioning.
In 2016, the issue of Hosseinpour’s assassination was again raised, but Islamic Republic authorities refused to talk about it. Furthermore, following the publication of reports about the possible involvement of Mossad in the murder of the university professor in The Sunday Times, Time, and an Israeli newspaper, Fars News Agency quoted an “informed official” who denied Hosseinpour’s involvement in Iran’s nuclear affairs.
Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, also denied claims that an Iranian nuclear scientist had been assassinated at the same time, refusing to engage with the claim that Iran’s nuclear experts were being targeted.
However, the Baztab website quoted a relative of Ardeshir Hosseinpour, who said that he was “one of Iran’s leading nuclear physicists and a centrifuge designer” and added that he was managing “12 important defense projects, from design to execution,” and had also designed the engine and propulsion of the Shahab-3 missile.
Iranian Ministry of Intelligence officials, however, have not yet given an accurate account of the incident after 14 years, and Hosseinpour’s name has been added to the list of obscure and unaccounted for deaths in the Islamic Republic.