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What Really Happened At Behesht Zahra Cemetery On The Nights Of July 13-15?


Do these stones, in Tehran's Behesht Zahra cemetery, mark the graves of dozens of victims of Iran's postelection violence?

Do these stones, in Tehran's Behesht Zahra cemetery, mark the graves of dozens of victims of Iran's postelection violence?

In this blog post, the author, who says he/she is the child of a Behesht Zahra cemetery worker, writes about reports of the secret burials of many victims of Iran's postelection violence:

I am a student and my mother is an employee at the cemetery. Our financial situation isn’t good and all of us are loyal supporters of [Iranian President Mahmud] Ahmadinejad. (You may judge this as you wish!)

Even though I am aware that he has won the presidency through a fraudulent election, it is because of Ahmadinejad's government that cemetery employees can own a house after so many years, hence our support.

I strongly believe that superior forces were responsible for the recent violence in the country and that if Ahmadinejad were aware of it, he would have stood up against all this. But due to several reasons, he is unable to do so. Anyway...

My mother is an employee in the services section of the cemetery and has a lot of experience in this field. She and her colleagues were informed that they should expect some car-crash victims in the coming nights -- that is, on July 13, 14, and 15 -- and that they would have to be buried at night.

This shocked me just as much it shocked her, and I sensed that something was wrong. ...

I offered to drop my mom off at the cemetery, but she told me that she was going to be picked up. She returned at 6 the next morning, and I instantly asked her what had happened. She didn’t answer, and I could see the fear and anxiety on her face.

I asked again and she snapped, “Go get your sleep."

I spotted ink stains on her thumb, as if she had put her thumb print on some papers. I asked if she wanted to tell me something about it. Were they actually car crash victims, I asked? She told me to shut up.

She wasn’t feeling well and I quit badgering her.

It was midnight when they called her and came to pick her up for her duties again. This time, she returned at 7 the next morning, completely worn out. She went to sleep.

It was 9 a.m. when I heard her crying.

I rushed to her room and asked her to tell me what was going on, threatening to go to the graveyard myself.

She said it was nothing, nothing at all.

I had never seen my mother cry because of what she had seen at her job, despite the fact that she is extremely kind-hearted.

I badgered her enough that I made her give in. She made me swear upon my dead father's soul that I would not repeat to anyone what she was about to tell me. She brought in a Koran and asked me to swear upon it. She told me that it was for my own safety that no one should find out.

She started with the first night:

"No sooner had I entered the ground of the facility when I saw about 30 frozen corpses left to defrost, and many bearded men who took me along with some of my colleagues into a room. A man started telling us that tonight and in the coming nights we would be burying the corpses of some hypocrites. These were antirevolutionary groups that had killed several of our soldiers. They had been found and brought here from deserted areas near the border for identification. Now they wanted to bury them behind the backs of the media and spies.

" 'If you spread the word to anyone, you and every single member of your family shall be in grave danger, be sure of that,’ one of the bearded men threatened.

"They asked for our names along with the names of family members and they took our thumb prints. They emphasized that we'd better not forget what they had said and then guided us to our respective work places.

"Male corpses had more attendees, and it was I, along with a few colleagues, in the female corpse section. We had been delivered about five female corpses that had been frozen, while there were about 20 male corpses in the other section. The manager of the graveyard who had come as well that night told us to finish the job before sunrise, even if we had to bury them without a complete wash and proper shrouding.

"Therefore, we began. Some of the corpses had severe cuts and frozen blood on their faces. There were three middle-aged women and two women of 20 to 30 years of age. One of the girls had her head smashed so badly that we had to deliver her to the undertakers without thawing the corpse.”

I asked my mother to tell me more of what she saw on the next night. She finally gave in to my persistent inquiries.

“Tonight, we went to the same facility again. The number of corpses this time was about four times more. More than 100!!! We were delivered 23 unidentified corpses in the female section. The bearded men were greater in number as well. There were guards at every entrance to the graveyard, and any possible traffic was being controlled.

"We began our work but told them that it was too much to finish before 5 a.m. This was when the head of the bearded men came in and said, ‘These are a bunch of whores who have sold out their country. They are murderers.'

"He ordered help from the male section and for the first time three men came in to assist us with the job. The image that tortured me the most -- besides seeing the broken jaws on the frozen bodies of these girls -- were the bloodstains that I saw on their anuses. (When [opposition leader Mehdi] Karrubi unveiled the truth about these barbaric acts, I was shocked! Even though we had already guessed the sort of things that happened in the detention centers before this information was released.)

"Tonight the ice on the bodies had almost melted, but there were still patches of ice on them," my mother continued. "We managed to somehow prepare 14 bodies until 4 in the morning, when we were told to shroud the rest of them without any wash and cotton work. We did it, but only managed 17 bodies until 5 a.m. The chief told us to do the remaining bodies the next night, as it was near to sunrise.”

She had tears in her eyes when she told me that she had heard that these were the victims of postelection violence in Tehran. She had to go back the next night as well, for the last time.

On July 15, my mother went again, and I waited for her all night. I couldn’t sleep. She got home at 7 a.m. ...

I have revealed this information for a variety of reasons, even though I was made to swear not to do so. I don't care about anything that may now happen.

If these victims were supporters of [opposition leader Mir Hossein] Musavi, I would have been against them. But they were my fellow countrymen, and my life is not worth more than theirs.

Iran has severely restricted the ability of foreign media to report from the country, necessitating a greater reliance on the reports of bloggers, citizen journalists, and impassioned listeners. RFE/RL cannot vouch for the accuracy or authenticity of such content.

About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.

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