"We were told at the Ministry of Intelligence that 'it was a simple mistake,'" prominent Iranian writer Farkhondeh Hajizadeh says in an interview with Radio Farda. "By a simple mistake, they killed, dismembered, and mutilated two people,"
Farkhondeh is the sister of Hamid Hajizadeh, a poet and teacher from Kerman, who was stabbed to death on September 22, 1998, along with his nine-year-old son, Karoun, in his house.
Murderers stabbed Hamid with 28 strikes and his nine-year-old son Karoun with ten. Iran's fearsome Ministry of Intelligence never officially claimed responsibility for the killings.
Arvand and Aras Hajizadeh, the other sons of Hamid Hajizadeh, were 16 and 14 years old at the time of the murder of their father and brother, and were the first to reach the crime scene. In an interview with Radio Farda, they have disclosed the details of the murder for the first time.
Farkhondeh, the director of Vistar Publication, remembers her brother's visiting Tehran a few weeks before his tragic death.
"Hamid came to Tehran a month before his death. He did not want to return to Kerman," Farkhondeh said. "Unfortunately, we did not know the reason. He came to Tehran in absolute silence and did not want to return. He was in a strange mood. I do not know if he was scared or somehow informed of what was coming? I still blame myself for not being more inquisitive. My brother Mohammad and I lived in Tehran, and we strongly encouraged Haamid to move to Tehran with his family. He promised to do so. Yet, he went to Kerman and never returned."
Hamid had prepared three books of poetry for publication, Farkhondeh said. "He promised me that he would give us his poetry books so that we could publish them, and that he would request a transfer from Kerman to Tehran. A few days after he left, he called and gave me the good news that he sent three ready-to-publish books to the printing house."
Farkhondeh clearly remembers the last day of summer 1998 when she was informed of her brother's death. "We were asleep. Suddenly, I saw a swarm of black-clad people stormed our house. They said that my mother had an accident, but I had dreamed of Hamid. I told them to stop deceiving me; Hamid is dead. I did not know he was killed. I said Hamid is dead; He did not die alone; one died with him. I had dreamed of the bodies of Hamid and a younger person, and they woke me up at the same time. They did not tell me anything on the way to Kerman. On the plane, I asked my other brother when Hamid died. Tell me the truth. He said everyone, everyone died. And when we got to Hamid's place, we found ourselves in a slaughterhouse."
The book of poems that Hamid had prepared for publication disappeared at the time of his murder.
"I stayed over my brother's scattered poems until noon, but they had taken those three books," Farkhondeh remembers, adding, "His Samsonite briefcase was broken and covered in blood. The scene of the bizarre murder was like that of the Forouhars'. They had killed him with the same number of stabs, and in the same way, they had assassinated [political dissidents] Darioush Forouhar and his wife, Parvaneh."
In their interview with Radio Farda, Hamid's sons, Arvand and Aras Hajizadeh, referred to two people, named Mahmoud Jafarzadeh and Morteza Fallah, as the team sent from Tehran to kill their father and brother. The two names have also appeared on the suspects' list for killing Dariush and Parvaneh Forouhar, two prominent political dissidents. Jafarzadeh was a member of the Ministry of Intelligence's Operations Department who stabbed Dariush Forouhar to death, while Morteza Fallah was the head of the operation to kill the two activists.
Hamid's brother, Mohammad, published the details of the murder of his brother and nephew in a report entitled "Report of a Murder, Karoun is in Me Tonight" in February 1999 in Payam Hajar magazine in Iran.
Describing the murder of his brother and nephew, he wrote, "The forensic doctor had estimated they had stabbed his brother's chest with 27 strikes from below his throat to underneath the navel. And they had pierced Karoun's chest with ten strikes."
Initially, Hamid and Karoun Hajizadeh's murder was addressed as a criminal case. Their family was barraged with a torrent of condolences.
However, as soon as the political nature of the murders was revealed, the Hajizadehs were abandoned.
After, Iranian Ministry of Intelligence agents summoned some of the Hajizadeh's relatives and interrogated them. The family members were threatened and warned to stop talking about their brutally murdered beloved ones.
The Ministry of Intelligence never admitted that Hamid Hajizadeh's murder was a part of the infamous political killings in the 1990s, known as Chain Murders.
Furthermore, Farkhondeh tells Radio Farda that Iranian intelligence authorities recently tried to present her brother's murder as the result of infighting between drug smugglers. "They are whispering here and there that my brother was killed amidst a drug-smuggling operation," she said.
"We say if Hamid and his son, Karoun, were killed in the smuggling scene, why don't they come and openly announce it?" she added. "What smuggling scene? A smuggling scene at night and in bed? Hamid was killed between midnight and 3:30 a.m. They have started a process of destructing Hamid to rub salt in our wounds."
Farkhondeh, who is also under intelligence agents' pressure as a writer and member of the Writers' Association of Iran, laments, "We knocked on all the doors and went everywhere, but they did not give us a clear answer. Only from time to time do they take Hamid's children for questioning. Or they summon his wife forcing her to accept some Diya (the Islamic financial compensation paid to the victim or heirs of a victim in the cases of murder, bodily harm, or property damage)."
Ms. Hajizadeh says that she and her brother were also summoned to the Ministry of Intelligence once.
"Hamid's children were underage at the time. They called us, and after we talked for a while we talked, a heavyset man appeared and joined the conversation. We did not know who he was. In the end, the gist of his talk was presenting my brother's murder as a simple mistake'" Farkhondeh said, adding, "Two people were killed by a 'simple mistake,' indeed! They were torn to pieces; they were mutilated."
Hajizadeh also recalled, "I was invited to a cultural trip to Wisconsin College a few years ago. After hours of interrogation, the intelligence authorities finally made two conditions to let me leave the country. One was to admit in writing that they had nothing to do with Hamid and Karoun's murder, and the other was to testify that the Writers' Association of Iran was an illegal entity. Naturally, I rejected the offer and lost a valuable cultural and literary trip."
Farkhondeh asserted that the tragedy of her family's deaths extends beyond the killing of two people.
"Do not think that with every murder, only one person is killed,." she said. "A family is killed emotionally and non-emotionally. You cannot imagine how many times we have been threatened. Do we have peace? Are our books easily allowed to be published? I have a book stuck in the Ministry of Islamic Guidance (where books are censored in clergy-dominated Iran) for a year. Similar themes published in some other books are not allowed to be published in my book. Why? Because Hajizadeh's name is on this book. Because I speak up. Because I have not been silent about my brother's murder or any other issue."
Hajizadeh reiterated that the tragedy is not limited to her brother's murder, and that Iran's intelligence agents have killed other poets and writers. "What is the difference? Was the murder of Mohammad Mokhtari (a prominent poet and author) a joke?" she said. "Was the murder of Forouhars a joke? Was Parvaneh Forouhar less human? What had Mohammad Jafar Pooyandeh (author and translator) done? What did Ahmad Mir Alaei (renowned translator) and Pirouz Davani (editor and political activist) do? Why should all of them be mutilated and gone? We do not know where these murders stop. Right now, three members of the Writers' Association of Iran are under arrest and taken away. Two were sentenced to six years in prison and the other to three and a half years in jail. Their only crime is visiting the grave of (the members of the Writers Association of Iran, and the victims of Political Chain Murders) Mokhtari and Pooyandeh."
Farkhondeh referred to three Iranian writers, Baktash Abtin, Keyvan Bazhan, and Reza Khandan-Mahabadi, who were placed behind bars on September 26 in Tehran's notorious Evin prison.