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The Night They Stabbed My Husband and Son to Death: Chain Murders' Victim's Wife Remembers

Rouhangiz Soltaninejad, widow of Iranian writer Hamid Hajizadeh, who was killed during Iran's Serial political assassinations in the late 1990s.

Rouhangiz Soltaninejad -- whose husband, Hamid Hajizadeh, and nine-year-old son, Karoun Hajizadeh, were both killed in the Political Chain Murders -- has broken her silence after 22 years.

Speaking exclusively to Radio Farda, Soltaninejad narrates her husband and nine-year-old son's murder in graphic details that some might find difficult to read.

"Karoun's eyes were wide open," she said. "His mouth and hands were full of hair and blood, his father's hair. From behind, he had taken his father by hand and teeth, as if he had tried to defend his father or panicked."

A poet and writer, Hamid Hajizadeh was stabbed to death at his home in Kerman at midnight on September 22, 1998, along with his youngest son. Hamid was stabbed 27 strikes, and his son ten times.

Iran's Ministry of Intelligence did not formally claim responsibility for their murders and never acknowledged them as a part of Political Chain Murders that shook Iran in the late 1990s.

More than 100 writers, translators, and political activists were killed during the deadly project attributed to the Intelligence Ministry, based on some reports. Hamid Hajizadeh was a contemporary Iranian author, poet, and political activist who wrote under the pen name "Sahar."

Hamid Hajizadeh's older sons, Arvand and Aras, were the first to arrive at the scene of the murder of their father and brother. After 22 years of silence, they shared their memories of the crime in detail in an interview with Radio Farda.

Iran -- Rouhangiz Soltaninejad
Iran -- Rouhangiz Soltaninejad

Now, their mother, Rouhangiz Soltaninejad, has followed suit. Deeply devastated and weeping, Soltaninejad shared more details of brutal killings, referring to some rumors that hold her responsible for the death of her husband and youngest son, which she says were so overwhelming that they confused and negatively impacted her.

"I used to ask my mother, 'Why did you give birth to me so that I could give birth to Karoun?' I considered myself guilty of bearing Karoun," she recalled. "What had he seen in the world to pass away like this? I was afraid of all human beings; I said that all human beings could be murderers."

Radio Farda: Let's go back to the day you and Karoun came back from Baft, near Kerman. Arvand and Aras were not home, but Mr. Hajizadeh was. What exactly happened that day?

Rouhangiz Soltaninejad: Karun was at my mother's house in Baft for ten days. Since he was scheduled to go back to school, I went to my mom's place to fetch him. When we returned to Kerman, it was almost sunset. Mr. Hajizadeh was alone and said that Arvand and Aras had gone to Rafsanjan to attend his niece's wedding. My brother had passed away, and, out of respect, Mr. Hajizadeh had not gone to the party. Mr. Hajizadeh's cousins came and were with us until 10:30 p.m. When they left, Karoun didn't let their child go, and the kid stayed with us and played with my son.

I was tired, and I went to sleep in the opposite room, which was three meters away from Mr. Hajizadeh's room. Mr. Hajizadeh used to stay awake, reading books until 3:30 a.m., until our children came back. That's why I went to sleep in another room. I fell asleep. While I was asleep, the father of Karoun's playmate had come and taken his child. Arvand and Aras returned at 2:30. They knocked on the door; no one opened it. Arvand says I went over the wall and opened the door. They had gone to their father's room and saw that the light was off, and they had turned off the electricity meter. There was no electricity in our house at all. There was only a faint light from the road lamp outside the home.

Aras thinks I'm dead, too; they had also killed me. He pulled the quilt away and woke me up. When he woke me up, he said Dad was dead. With my brother's death in my mind, I entered the room and saw that Mr. Hajizadeh's lying down, his head toward the window and his feet toward the door. I held his foot. It was warm. I said, 'Aras, your dad had a heart attack.' I thought he had a stroke, and his head hit the window because his head was on the side of the window. I thought that's was why his face was covered with blood. Then, Aras said they had also killed Karoun.

In a glance, I saw that they had horrifically killed Karoun. His mouth was full of hair and blood. His eyes were wide open. His hands were also full of hair, full of blood. I couldn't stand it anymore. I ran out, just screaming and calling Karoun. I couldn't bear to go back to the room. I saw Karoun's shoe on the doorstep. I smelled his boots. He was a short distance away from me, but I was smelling his shoes.

The neighbors came. Inspectors, police, and officers from the Coroner Department forensics arrived. The house was full. In the meantime, as I didn't know who they were. I panicked. I was petrified. I was confused, and I didn't know why. I was also sleepy and wanted to collapse. I was in the same state for two or three days.

When Mr. Pour Rezaqoli (Chief of Kerman's Crime Department) came to the room where I was sleeping, he picked up a piece of cotton or tissue from the mattress and said, "What is this?" I said I did not know. I was completely confused. I saw the same Mr. Pour Rezaqoli sitting and crying. I thought he was the killer, and they had captured him. I attacked him and said, "Why did you kill my beautiful child?" He said he was not the murderer, "I am Pour Rezaqoli," he noted. I still did not recognize him. A gentleman said Mr. Pour Rezaqoli was the Chief Inspector.

The forensic doctor was in the room. Aras and Arvand and I were out. My brothers came and Hajizadeh's brother, whose daughter was married, and the family.

They took the body, and we went to the police station for interrogation. They asked me who our companions were and did we have any dispute with somebody. I said we had no conflict with anyone at any time. Hajizadeh was so kind that one cannot imagine him having friction with others. From there, we went to Hamid's brother's house. They summoned me again to the homicide department. Mr. Pour Rezaqoli interrogated me, asked about our way of life and marriage, and I explained everything.

On the third day, we held the funeral, buried him in Baft, and returned. Meanwhile, I was pursuing the case. I went to the Military Court in Tehran. I wrote letters to the President's, the Supreme Leader's, and the Kerman Governor's, the Friday prayer leader of Kerman's offices. Wherever I knew they could do something, I wrote them a letter. No one rejected me. All of them said they were also pursuing the case. The head of the Islamic Republic Judiciary, Mr. Shahroudi, also came to Kerman on a trip. I wrote a letter, and he replied that they were following up the case.

Radio Farda: What was the story behind the rumors? There was a series of talks at that time targeting and pressuring you.

Soltaninejad: In a house where two people were killed in the same room, while I was in the opposite room, it is normal [to expect rumors]. Even I was deranged. My brother asked me about the story of my hair found in Karoun's hand and mouth. I said I didn't know and picked up my scarf to see if they had cut my hair and placed it on Karoun's hand and mouth to frame me. No, they had not. It was Hajizadeh's hair, not mine. Because, out of fear, Karoun was holding his father with his hands and teeth from behind.

Not officially, but there were rumors in the city that his wife was the killer. The rumors persisted for three months but later died down. I was also confused, searching for an answer. "What does it mean? How could it be possible," I used to ask myself.

When Karoun came home from school, he used to get off the bus down the alley, shouting, "Mommy, what do we have for lunch?" I could hear his voice. But [at that night] they stabbed my children three meters away from me, and I did not hear him. Those who saw Karoun's body said that his hand was broken on his wrist. He must have wanted to come to me, and they did not let him.

Karoun was very noble, and he had a very handsome face. The head of the homicide division was distraught; he said that when I saw Karoun, his beautiful eyes were staring. Hajizadeh was calmer, but Karoun was in a horrifying situation. He must have wanted to defend his father, or he was scared. I do not know what happened to my child, what happened to Hajizadeh.

Radio Farda: They did not answer you, and you stayed with Arvand and Aras at that house. What happened to that house?

Soltaninejad: Where we lived was a semi-built house. It was under construction. I was a single parent with only two children in that house. I could no longer bear staying there. We sold it a year later. I have never returned to the neighborhood.

Radio Farda: You later found out that it was a political assassination and that Iran's Ministry of Intelligence killed Mr. Hajizadeh and your son, but the Ministry of Intelligence did not take responsibility. What did they tell you?

Soltaninejad: They never told me officially. I only heard it in the media or from the people. No official body mentioned it--- However, forty days before the murder, Hajizadeh came home and said that a car stopped in front of me at the intersection of Bagh-e Melli (National Park). There were four people in the car, and they warned me, "Don't play with the lion's tail" (the Persian equivalent of 'Don't play with fire'). At the time, I wondered who they were, but I did not take it seriously and did not ask Hajizadeh for more information.

Radio Farda: For the first time in 22 years, you decided to break your silence about your husband and son's murder. After all these years, do you have anything else that you think needs to be said?

Soltaninejad: What can I say? May God help us to achieve justice. We are the victims of injustice and expect them to follow up on the case and declare the result. What else can I say?