Fatemeh Zarei was born in Abadeh, Shiraz. She studied physics. After gaining her Bachelor’s degree in physics, she became a high school teacher.
The mother of two small children, Fatemeh taught with love. She was one of those responsible for establishing the Shiraz Teachers Association.
Her distinguished humanitarian personality was why she was nominated by the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) for the first parliament after the 1979 revolution in Shiraz. The misogynous reactionaries could not tolerate this nomination, and they fraudulently prevented her election.
In the months preceding June 20, 1981, when Khomeini’s guards opened fire on peaceful protesters in Tehran, massive protests against the killing of PMOI/MEK members and supporters took place across Iran.
One of the demonstrations took place in Shiraz on June 17, 1981. On this day, many female PMOI/MEK supporters gathered in Vakil Bazaar to protest how the regime’s agents confronted their fellow Iranians. Fatemeh Zarei was among the organizers of this great protest. The regime’s mercenaries, who knew Fatemeh and were aware of her active role at this demonstration, arrested her.
Fatemeh Zarei was imprisoned on June 20, 1981, at the onset of the just nationwide resistance against the religious dictatorship. Fatemeh was savagely tortured but resisted strongly and became a national symbol.
An eyewitness to Fatemeh’s bravery in prison wrote, “Fatemeh was in dire health condition due to the torture she had endured. They [prison guards] had beaten her so badly that she had contracted infectious diseases. To prevent anyone from helping her, [the prison authorities] kept her in solitary confinement. Nobody was allowed to have any contact with her.”
The henchmen, defeated by her strong spirit, tried to capitalize on her maternal instincts to make her surrender. But they didn’t realize how resilient Fatemeh was, nor how strong-willed she was as a female member of PMOI/MEK.
An inmate who was with Fatemeh Zarei in the same ward wrote, “The IRGC agents tried to bring her children to meet her to break her. But each time she defeated them. The scene of her visit with her two children, named Shora and Masroor, 3 to 4 years old, was truly a lesson for everyone. It was a scene of a mother’s pure love, even while she was severely tortured and wounded by the henchmen’s lashes.”
PMOI members and supporters were organized inside prison, and Fatemeh, too, was a member of this hierarchy. She was a symbol of resistance against torture and other pressures. Under the harshest of circumstances, she would not forget two things: connecting with the other inmates and studying and following political and ideological issues. She built contacts with other resilient prisoners and worked to increase morale among new inmates. She felt responsible for them. She had such high spirits and was so lively that any new inmate recognized and trusted her immediately.
Another writing from Shiraz Prison reads, “We took our lessons from her seriousness and the sacrifices she made in the struggle, and this opened new paths for us. All of us who saw Fatemeh in those days asked ourselves, ‘how does she have so much honesty, and how could she sacrifice so much?’ until one day, when one of the fellow inmates was taken for interrogation. When she returned, she told us that the regime wanted to spread rumors against Massoud Rajavi among the prisoners to break their resistance and attack their morale. Fatemeh, being very vigilant, gathered us all and said, ‘The enemy is not aiming at Massoud by this, as they cannot reach him. The enemy’s goal is to separate us from him. Above all, this is a test for us to see how we react to the enemy and how much faith we have in Massoud.’ This was when we realized the depth of the bond between Fatemeh and the resistance leader; this was why she was so resilient.”
In laying the groundwork for the 1988 massacre of political prisoners, prison guards curtailed Fatemeh’s visitation rights. The henchmen would not accept any clothing, food, or money for her. In response to her family’s questions, they replied, “We don’t know. Nobody with that name is jailed here.” When her family persisted in asking about Fatemeh, they were referred to the prosecutor’s office. This bitter game continued until the late fall of 1988.
Eventually, on December 4, 1988, it was clear that Fatemeh had lost her life during the massacre. Employees at the cemetery told her family that she had been executed along with 300 others.
Fatemeh’s sister, Fattaneh Zarei, had already been executed by Khomeini’s regime.
Fatemeh and Fattaneh were among the generation of women who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of their people. They will always be remembered, and their names will be a beacon that lights the path along with the struggle for freedom and equality.