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False Promises and a Forced Confession: A Former Kurdish Activist Held Hostage by Iran

May 28, 2021
Hawri Yousifi
6 min read
Mohammad Moradi is held in Naghadeh Prison. Intelligence agents had issued him with a warrant to return to Iran from Iraqi Kurdistan, and a promise he would not face charges
Mohammad Moradi is held in Naghadeh Prison. Intelligence agents had issued him with a warrant to return to Iran from Iraqi Kurdistan, and a promise he would not face charges

In April, authorities handed down a 40-year jail sentence to Kurdish political prisoner Mohammad Moradi on charges of "rebellion through membership to an opposition party and returning to Iran to carry out armed operations.”

But when Moradi, who is from Piranshahr county in West Azerbaijan, decided to return to Iran in 2018, he was given assurances by the local intelligence agency that he would not face repercussions or prosecution for his now defunct membership to the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran.

Moradi was arrested at the Kileh border crossing in Sardasht by Revolutionary Guards; his interrogation began immediately after his arrest. He was taken to Naghadeh Prison and then to Urmia Central Prison soon after being sentenced.

IranWire spoke to a source close to Moradi’s family about the tragic circumstances and the details of the arrest.


Mohammad Moradi, 40, is the father of two young children and is originally from from the village of Ghabr-e Hossein in Piranshahr county, West Azerbaijan Province.

According to the source IranWire spoke with, Mohammad had resigned from the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran two months before returning to Iran from Iraqi Kurdistan. He had secured an official confirmation of his entitlement to “safe conduct”: a promise that authorities would not bring charges against him.

"Mohammad Moradi was neither armed nor a member of the party when he and his family surrendered to th Revolutionary Guards’ intelligence unit at the Kileh border crossing," the source told IranWire. "When he returned, he arrived with his two-month-old baby in his arms, not a gun.

"Mohammad and his family were arrested by the Revolutionary Guards as soon as they entered Iran and were immediately transferred to Sardasht. On the same day, after a brief interrogation, Mohammad's wife and children were released, but after four days, they had not heard anything about his fate. Then it was reported that he had been transferred to Naghadeh Prison after being held and interrogated at the Guards’ detention center.

“Despite explaining the situation to security officials, he was not allowed to bring his furniture and belongings to Iran over the border crossing. However, we still have no answer to the question of how a person who is not armed and is detained as soon as he enters Iran can carry out an armed operation.”

The source says Iranian authorities had shown absolute contempt for Mohammad Moradi by promising him safety and then deceiving him, and through its accusation of armed “rebellion.”

"Mohammad, like other people who surrender upon entering Iran, trusted them and returned to Iran because of this trust. If he had not believed what they had said, he would not have risked his life and his family.

“Mohammad's family have repeatedly asked the case investigator and even the Piranshahr intelligence office that if they do not accept the testimony of witnesses, they should at least refer to the CCTV footage at Kileh border crossing, which records traffic 24 hours a day. But they have not accepted this, and our complaints have got us nowhere."

According to the source, Moradi’s first hearing took place in September 2020 without the presence of a lawyer. He was forced to confess to "membership to the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran and returning to Iran to carry out armed operations” as he saw no other way to avoid being tortured. Moradi, the source said, had signed the entire confession without reading it.

Throughout this period, members of Mohammad Moradi's family faced serious danger. A year after Mohammad surrendered, in October 2019, his two brothers, Abdol Rahman and Sadegh, were shot dead by Revolutionary Guards in the Koterli border area. The family said they could see the two men had been beaten before being shot, and believed they had been tortured.

The Murder of Moradi’s Brothers

The media reported that that killing of the two brothers was linked to their work as kolbars, couriers who carry heavy loads back and forth across the border by foot. But the source said Sadegh had never worked as a kolbar and Abdol Rahman had only done so occasionally. "Sadegh's wife was from Sulaymaniyah in the Iraqi Kurdistan region and worked in the same city and sometimes returned to Iran. But Abdol Rahman pursued his brother's case, insisting on his innocence and that he had been harassed by the Piranshahr intelligence service. Due to this, the security apparatus in Piranshahr became more sensitive and focused on him more. Abdol Rahman received death threats from anonymous callers because he followed Mohammad's case and supported his brother's family. We have no doubt that these contacts were from either Piranshahr or Mahabad intelligence.

“Sadegh Moradi had returned to Ghabr-e Hossein's from Iraqi Kurdistan to visit his family. He wanted to return to Sulaymaniyah, and Abdol Rahman decided to go to Iraqi Kurdistan with Sadegh to coordinate and conclude a work contract. But on the afternoon of October 14, 2019, they were targeted by bullets fired by the Koterli border checkpoint in Piranshahr, about three kilometers from the Iraqi border in Iranian Kurdistan territory.

The source gave more specific details about the torture the family highlighted. “When the bodies of Abdol Rahman and Sadegh were taken from the Urmia Hospital morgue, Sadegh's penis and abdomen were severely swollen, black and bruised, and he had dark bruises on his face, shoulders, chest and back; it was as if he had been dragged across the ground. A bullet had hit him right in the heart. Abdol Rahman, although he did not have any signs of torture and beatings, was shot five times in the back. He would have been in pain."

Both men were married and had children.

The source IranWire spoke to also said that Mohammad Moradi's wife and children were currently living in poverty: "For apparent security reasons, the Islamic Republic has so far refused to issue an identity card to Mohammad's youngest son, even though he is the child of two legal Iranian citizens. Mohammad's wife is suffering severe financial hardship, and has almost no income to support herself. When Mohammad gave himself up and was imprisoned, his wife and children returned to the village of Ghabr-e Hossein village. Mohammad's father gave her no support, so a charity in Ghabr-e Hossein rented a room for them; the villagers pay their living expenses."

The health of Mohammad Moradi's wife has also been compromised, and she has such severe problems with her vocal cords and her right leg that she can barely speak or move. “When Mohammad's wife returned to Ghabr-e Hossein, she did not even have the money to buy a can of powder milk because her breast milk dried up due to shock. If the people of the village had not rushed to her aid, her young child would have starved. She has repeatedly applied to the Piranshahr Relief Committee for financial assistance. But each time and for various reasons, she and her children were refused financial help and support.”

Related coverage:

They Shoot Kolbars, Don't They?: An IranWire Film

Kurdish Political Prisoner Transferred to Jail Far Away From Family

Iranians Targeted for Helping the Families of Political Prisoners



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