A brave, determined and cheerful revolutionary woman, with a heart filled with hope, a face filled with cheer, and a presence firm and resilient
Stories of women’s resistance – The 1988 massacre
The third part of our conversation with Mrs. Fereshteh Akhlaghi goes to Fatemeh (Razieh) Ayatollah-Zadeh Shirazi, a 36-year-old, bachelor of physics from the University of Tehran, and married with a child, who was executed during 1988 massacre.
Razieh Ayatollah-Zadeh Shirazi became acquainted with the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) before the 1979 Revolution, when she was 24 years old. She actively took part in different political activities and protests. Those who know Razieh closely, describe her as an eager and brave individual, someone whose kindness and cheerfulness lifted the spirits of those around her.
She was an avid mountain climber, who with strong determination and high spirits encouraged others to accompany her. In difficult situations when one couldn’t find a way out, Razieh always volunteered to help find a solution. Although she was very tiny and slim, she had a strong spirit and no one could stop her from performing her duties.
As political activities were banned during the Shah’s era, Razieh began to live a clandestine life in 1975 and continued her efforts under these circumstances up to 1979.
After Khomeini seized power in Iran in 1979, political groups and organizations especially activist women and girls faced growing pressure building up against them. This trend continued until 1981, when all political activities in Iran were banned.
A turning point was on June 20, 1981, when the revolutionary guards opened fires at the behest of Khomeini on peaceful protesters in the streets of Tehran and many other cities across Iran. Hundreds were killed and thousands more arrested. The reign of terror started.
Razieh, pregnant at the time, was arrested during this protest and subjected to the most severe tortures in Evin and Gohardasht prisons until 1988.
Razieh was two months pregnant at the time of her arrest, said one of her cellmates, who had been with her in ward 311 of Evin Prison for some time. She said that throughout her pregnancy which lasted until February 1982, Razieh Ayatollah-Zadeh Shirazi lived in a cold solitary cell without a window. As the cell door was opened twice or sometimes only once a day, her kidneys became dysfunctional. Her body had swollen and she could hardly walk.
The day she went into labor, she was taken to a hospital after hours of delay. Fearing that she would run away or that people would find out about her condition, the guards returned her immediately to prison right after delivery. She said that she had heard the cries of her baby girl after she was born, but she was told that her baby had died.
Razieh’s cellmate continued: After we got closer, she told me her story and said that her father and grandfather were both clergymen, but her husband, Sadegh Hashemzadeh Sabet, and two of her brothers were members of the opposition PMOI/MEK.
I realized then that it was not without reason that Razieh faced so much pressure. It was intolerable for the regime to see her, her brothers and husband being members of PMOI/MEK while her father and grandfather were clergymen. The regime could not tolerate that she, her two brothers, and her husband and brother in laws were all members of the Mojahedin.
The regime put Razieh under maximum pressure during a period of time. She was interrogated and beaten every day. One day, when Razieh returned from interrogation, her whole body had been bruised. When we lifted her dress, we saw her back as if a black wax had been applied to her shoulders, and there was no intact area on her back. From her condition and the fact that she was vomiting blood, and from my medical experiences, I knew that her medical condition would lead to dialysis.
She laid unconscious in a corner … That night she bled excessively and was taken to the prison’s medical center. We did not hear from her until twenty days later. Once she did return there was nothing left of her. She had lost more than twenty kilos. Her face was withered and thin. “But her spirit was still the same.”
One of her cellmate said they were together with Razieh in one of the cells of Gohardasht Prison in Karaj in 1988.
She was always looking for new initiatives and creative solutions. During the nights the guards did not turn off the lights so that the prisoners could not rest and get their sleep. To solve this problem, Razieh had made a cover for the cell light by recycling newspaper and nylon thread. Each night, we would cover the light after the guards left the ward after checking the cells. And in the mornings before the guards entered the room we would remove it. We did this as if we were raising and lowering a flag, while singing an anthem. This in itself created a ritual for us, one that we looked forward to, and made the time bearable.
Razieh Ayatollah-Zadeh Shirazi was a symbol of resistance and endurance. Her brilliance impressed everyone. She was a selfless PMOI woman who had a lasting impact on others. She chose to stand against the ruling religious and misogynist regime and defeat their cruel torturers and interrogators. She ultimately sacrificed her life for what she believed in. Although she was hanged on September 25, 1988 in front of other prisoners during the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners, her lovely smiling face will be with us forever.
The day will come when Iran will be free and all perpetrators of the 1988 massacre and all the torture and executions under the mullahs’ inhuman regime will face justice.
 Repression and the threat of arrest, torture and imprisonment by the Shah’ secret police (SAVAK) brought excessive pressure on political activists in those days. There was no freedom of expression, opinion or political activities. Therefore, all members and supporters of the opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran had to live a clandestine life.
 In addition to Razieh, a number of other members of her family also sacrificed their lives in the struggle for the liberation of Iran: Morteza Ayatollah-Zadeh Shirazi (brother); Ahmad Ayatollah-Zadeh Shirazi (brother); Sadegh Hashemzadeh Sabet (husband); Qadir Hashemzadeh Sabet (brother-in-law); and Nayyereh Shafii (sister-in-law)