The Serial Murders (Part I) PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 25 November 2005
ImageAt the end of 1998, the Iranian public was horrified and amazed by the brutal murders of four prominent intellectuals, later to be described in the Iranian media as the “chain murders”.

The first to die were Dariush Forouhar, the 70-year-old leader of the Iran People’s Party, and his 54-year-old wife Parvaneh. Outspoken but apparently tolerated critics of the Iranian régime, they were stabbed to death on Sunday November 22, 1998 in their Tehran flat, on the anniversary of the suspicious death of Dr Kazem Sami, another dissident, in 1989. Mr Forouhar was decapitated, and one of Parvaneh’s breasts had been cut off.

The barbaric mutilation of the corpses was reminiscent of the killing of Dr Shapour Bakhtiar, the Shah’s last Prime Minister, whose head and hands were cut off by the murderers - agents of the Iranian regime's Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) - who killed him at his Paris home in August 1991.
Forouhar’s flat was under surveillance and therefore every move was being recorded. How could the murderers have penetrated this permanent intelligence cordon and then escaped without being noticed? The likeliest explanation, in the light of subsequent developments, is that the murderers were known to the authorities, who deliberately took no action. A news agency told the story:

“Friends who called on Dariush Forouhar and his wife one afternoon in late November grew worried when no one answered the doorbell for hours.  Since the husband and wife had the flu, it was odd for them to be out for so long.  Then a close friend climbed over the iron gate of the house to see if all was well.  He came out running, his face ashen.  The couple, longtime critics of the Iranian government, had been slain”.

“Forouhar had been stabbed some 15 times in the heart with a knife.  His blood-soaked body was slumped behind a desk.  His wife, Parvaneh, also stabbed to death, was dressed as if she was just about to go out or had just come home”.

“There was no sign of burglary.  It seemed like a professional killing.  Both husband and wife had been sprayed with some unknown substance, knocking them out so they couldn’t scream for help.  The slayings were chilling in their familiarity: Nine political activists whose actions angered Iran’s clerical rulers have been killed over the past decade, at least half stabbed to death like the Forouhars”.

“They include a Tehran University professor, a magazine editor, a publisher, three Christian priests and two Sunni Muslim preachers who spoke out against Iran’s Shiite Muslim leaders”.

The next to die was Mohammad Mokhtari, a poet and one of the group of six writers questioned in connection with the writers’ association “Kanoun”. His body was found in a morgue on December 9, after he had been missing for six days.  Marks on his head and neck suggested he might have been strangled. Mokhtari had contributed to many liberal newspapers, and was well known as a critic of the regime.  He had been arrested several times by the security forces.  In 1994, he was one of the 134 intellectuals who signed a manifesto demanding freedom of speech .

The fourth victim was Mohammad Pouyandeh, an essayist and translator of French literature, found dead on December 11, 1998.  He had disappeared after leaving his office at about 14.00 on December 9 for a meeting of publishers in downtown Tehran.  His body was found underneath a railway bridge in a suburb of Tehran and according to his family, he had apparently been strangled, though no autopsy was carried out.  His family were not informed of the death until December 13.  Pouyandeh was also one of six writers questioned in October when they formed the writers’ association “Kanoun ”.

To be continued...