Pirooz Davani

In recent years Iran has witnessed a new wave of terror and scrutiny launched on pro-democracy political activists. Chain murders and abduction of Iranian journalists and opponent political leaders, despite being a long tradition of the fundamentalist regime, has appeared under a newly reconstructed vigilante organisation supported by the conservatives inside the governing structure and most prominently the Iranian judiciary system controlled by the Islamic hardliners.

Pirooz Davani was a primary target for the regime's security forces as he openly vowed for deeper democratic reforms through his organisation, the Organisation of Left Unity for Democracy in Iran. He was last seen in August 1997 before an abduction allegedly carried out by the insiders in the Islamic regime. The abduction later became the first of a chain of murders in which five other Iranian intellectuals and journalists were killed. Through the media, the government ironically tried not to link the disappearance of Pirooz to the chain murders in order to marginalise the disappearance of a socialist figure.

Born in 1961, Pirooz Davani joined the Iranian revolution to overthrow the Pahlavi dynasty. He was arrested in 1981 for his alleged links to the communist opposition and was imprisoned for seven months. After his release from prison and under the regimes unprecedented pressure on left in early years of the revolution, Pirooz attempted to re-organise the socialist forces which lead to the necessity of a different approach and interpretations of socialism to enhance the compatibility of theories to new socio-political conditions of the country.

As a true philanthropist Pirooz maintained an ever lasting relation with the families of political prisoners. In 1988, following the mass execution of political prisoners, he launched a new campaign against the totalitarian regime by divulging their crimes. In winter of 1991, Pirooz was again arrested for his activities and after spending six months in solitary confinement, was sentenced to four years in prison. He was released from prison in 1995.

Following his release, and in the wake of promised reforms by the newly elected president Muhammad Khatami, Pirooz Davani established a cultural institute to publish and promote new interpretation of left's struggle for democracy in Iran. The attempt successfully gained overwhelming support from various political groups and intellectual circles and lead to creation of the Organisation of Unity for Democracy in Iran.

Pirooz Davani was last seen in late August 1998 while leaving his residence in Tehran. His family has been since trying to find traces of his whereabouts by appealing to various humanitarian organisations worldwide and also creating a web site

New information on journalists killed before 2002

The murder in late 1998 of a group of intellectuals and regime opponents - among them Daryush and Parvaneh Foroohar, symbolic figures of the liberal opposition, Majid Sharif, a columnist with the monthly Iran-é-Farda and writers and journalists Mohamad Mokhtari and Mohamad Jafar Pouyandeh - deeply shocked Iranians and outraged much of the reformist media. The authorities reacted by opening an investigation and in January 1999 the intelligence ministry officially admitted some its agents had been involved and announced the arrest of dozens of suspects. Pirooz Davani, editor of the newspaper Pirooz who disappeared in late August 1998 and whose body was never found, was also among the victims, according to reformist leaders who added his name to the list in 2002. In January 2001, three intelligence ministry agents were sentenced to death and 12 others to prison terms for murdering the Foroohar couple. Three other people were acquitted. The case was sent to the supreme court, which had not yet ruled by the end of 2002. The victims’ families complained that those who ordered the killing were still free. The families’ lawyer, Nasser Zarafshan, was arrested on 7 August. A military court had convicted him in March of disclosing details of the case file and sentenced him to five years in prison, which was upheld by an appeals court in July. The families announced to a rally of 5,000 people on 22 November to mark the killings that they would petition the UN Human Rights Commission to investigate the murders.