Twenty-two years after the political "Chain Murders" in Iran, Pirouz Davani's family is still waiting to hear about his whereabouts. His brother, Hossein Davani, says that no trace remains of his brother, who he says was murdered in the heat of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence's project to kill dissidents in 1998.
The writer, translator, and owner of Pirouz magazine, Pirouz left home on August 25, 1998, and never returned. Now, in an interview with Radio Farda, Hossein described in detail the family's pursuit of the abduction and hushed-up the murder of his brother.
In May 1998, four months before Pirouz disappeared, Ali Razini, then the chief justice of Tehran Province, "warned my brother to stop writing; otherwise, he would disappear without leaving a trace behind," Hossein said. "And they did exactly that. There is still no trace of my brother."
Razini is now the head of Branch 41 of the Iranian Supreme Court.
On August 25, 1977, Pirouz left home to visit his hospitalized mother. But he neither arrived at the hospital nor returned home.
"They kidnapped him, and despite our constant inquiries, we received no response concerning Pirouz's disappearance and his whereabouts," Hossein said. "I even went to Geneva and talked to Maurice Capitorn [the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran]. He wrote a letter to the Iranian Foreign Minister. They told him that they did not know anyone by that name. They said he must be inside Iran; he must have escaped. They told the family that Pirouz must have had an accident or that he might have been taken to a hospital and had become mentally ill. They denied responsibility."
In 1998, Iran's Ministry of Intelligence issued a statement claiming responsibility for the murders of political activists Parvaneh and Dariush Forouhar, and writers Mohammad Jafar Pouyandeh and Mohammad Mokhtari, claiming that a group of "rogue" employees of the ministry were involved in their murders.
The ministry, however, never claimed responsibility for abducting Pirouz Davani and never commented on his fate. Nor did it take responsibility for the murders of dozens of other dissidents, critics, writers, and translators, who were killed in a suspicious manner at the time.
Hossain referred to a journalist, Akbar Ganji, who has investigated the 1998 Political Chain Murders.
"Mr. Akbar Ganji had said in an interview that Mr. (Gholam Hossein Mohseni) Ejei (a mid-ranking cleric who was later promoted as the Minister of Intelligence) had ordered the murder of my brother. Nevertheless, Mr. Ejei denied the allegation. He said he did not even know my brother, but he was not scared of killing a smuggler if necessary. Also said that he did not know him at all and that if we were to kill a smuggler," Hossain Davani laments, adding, "They not only refrained from claiming responsibility, but they insulted my late brother, as well. No matter how hard we tried, we did not achieve any results from our constant inquiries."
Searching for Pirouz yielded no results, similar to the questionable murder of other dissidents and intellectuals such as Majid Sharif and Hamid Hajizadeh, the latter mutilated along with his nine years old son.
Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei, who was Prosecutor-General of the Special Clerical Court at the time of the Political Chain Murders, was never questioned or investigated.
Parasto Forouhar, whose father and mother fell victim to the Political Chain Murders, described, "At that time, Pirouz Davani's family filed a lawsuit against Mr. Mohseni Ejei since one of the defendants in my parents' murder case had mentioned Mr. Ejei as the man responsible for ordering Pirouz Davani's murder. Unfortunately, the judiciary never pursued the lawsuit, and the investigating judge did not even ask the defendant to elaborate on his claim."
Hossain Davani said his sister went to complain at the time about his brother's death, but their family did not even file a case. "They gave her the same answer they did on the first day of our inquiries about Pirouz's whereabouts. 'We do not know; we do not know.' They even refused to tell us where Pirouz's body was and let us commemorate him as a dead person. Therefore, we are still in pain. Our attorney, Nasser Zarafshan, also endangered himself by inquiring about Pirouz's body but received no response, but the routine we do not know.
Pirouz Davani was 37 years old when he was abducted. He was initially arrested in September 1982 for supporting the Tudeh (Communist) Party's Youth Organization and imprisoned for seven months. In March 1990, he was arrested again and sentenced to three years in prison and 50 lashes.
Hossein was informed of his brother's disappearance through Dariush Forouhar's statement. "The late Forouhar's statement regarding Pirouz's disappearance was published three days after his disappearance. Still, the authorities dismissed it. When they admit that somebody has been abducted, the case becomes complicated because one does not know who is responsible for the kidnapping, where and how their loved one was taken, and how they torment him. But, when somebody is detained, one knows where to go and inquire about them. In an abduction case, they easily disclaim any responsibility and push you into a mental crisis, wondering what had happened."
After Pirouz's disappearance, his mother suffered a stroke and eventually died. His father and sister also had strokes but survived.
"My mom went everywhere to find a trace of her son," Hossain remembered. "They told her to go to the coronary. She did. There, they used to laugh at her, saying, 'Women do not come to the morgue to identify men's bodies.' I implored her to stop wandering around. 'What can I do? He is my child,' she lamented. My sister replaces her in search of Pirouz, but they harassed her to the extent that she also had a stroke."
Iran's Ministry of Intelligence did not take responsibility for the abduction and murder of Pirouz, and the judicial authorities did not attempt to pursue the case, though they did engage in harassment of his family.
"They would call and say that your son is in a mental hospital," Hossein said. "When my mother went to follow up, they reiterated that Pirouz was bedbound in a mental hospital. 'Very well, but which hospital? Tell us to visit him,' we begged. Still, we received no response other than threats to keep us silent. This behavior tormented our family, especially my mom, who even visited the then President Mohammad Khatami's office, but failed to achieve any result. The least a mother wants is to find her lost baby."
Before his disappearance, Pirouz also ran the research company Payam Pirooz and published a bulletin on political issues, with his brother quoting him as saying, "I am not on a two-year military service, I am a political activist whose term has no ending and his responsibilities never finish."
"The authorities kidnap people, and nobody can determine their fates," Hossain said. "They think that soon the case will be forgotten, but it does not. No one forgets. The family does not forget. This national pain will always remain with us and will not be forgotten, and one day justice will prevail."