Iranwire – On July 27, 2021, media outlets affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) reported that two members of the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK) had been killed and three others injured in an armed clash with IRGC forces in West Azerbaijan. The IRGC contingent hailed from the Hamzeh Seyyed al-Shohada Base near Bukan. Their opponents were not identified.
A few days later, the parents of Edris Faghihi, a 26-year-old from Sanandaj in Iranian Kurdistan who had been missing since February, received an anonymous phone call to tell them that their son was one of the deceased.
Then, around two months later, the Kurdistan Human Rights Network (KHRN) gave a shock announcement to the contrary. Edris was still very much alive, and being held and tortured at the Al Mahdi Base, one the IRGC’s most infamous and terrifying detention centers. The KHRN had received this information from eyewitnesses who had seen the injured Edris in captivity.
Separately a Kurdish activist who had been held at Haft-e Tir, an IRGC detention center in Urmia, also reported that he had seen Edris. He, too, reported that while there Edris was being tortured to force him to make confessions against himself.
There has been no other news of Edris’s fate since then. Nor has anyone contacted his family despite their repeated appeals for information from local security departments. IranWire spoke to a source close to the family, who unsurprisingly in the circumstances, has asked not to be named.
The Stor(ies) So Far
Edris Faghihi was born in 1986 in Sanandaj, the provincial capital of Iran’s Kurdistan province. He was a qualified woodworker and before he disappeared, he had been working as a foreman on a construction website.
“He was so skilled in his job they all called him an engineer,” the source told IranWire. “That morning in February when he left home, his family thought he had gone to work. But after a long wait, when they started to ask around, nobody knew where he was. Then in August they were told he had been killed.”
At the time, according to several Kurdish human rights organizations including Hengaw and the KHRN, the PJAK had confirmed Edris was a member and had been killed alongside another, Mohsen Ghaderi.
The abrupt news to the contrary was reported in September by the KHRN and Arien TV. They quoted informed sources as having said unequivocally that Edris was alive and being held by the IRGC in Urmia. Local residents who witnessed the clashes told the KHRN they had seen him being taken away. “Faghihi has since been interrogated and tortured for a confession,” the report stated, “despite his poor physical condition due to gunshot wounds.”
Another report by the KHRN said Faghihi had been wounded, but managed to hide, after the initial gunfight with the IRGC. Two days later, he was reportedly caught and arrested by officers from the Seyyed al-Shohada Base, who first took him to the Arefian Hospital in Urmia, then on to the Haft-e Tir detention center. The latter is one of three high-security facilities within the IRGC’s Al Mahdi Base, 20 kilometers from Urmia.
Family in “Extreme Pain”
Edris’s family, the source said, were “convinced” he had been killed in August: so much so that they had held mourning ceremonies for him. The mystery caller had been able to provide them with both Edris’s picture and his national ID number.
After the shock news in September that he might be alive, they travelled to Urmia over and over again in search of news from the security agencies. “They went to Urmia more than 15 times,” the source said. “Every time, they were lied to.
“At one point they told the family he had been killed. Another time they said his friend had taken his body away and buried him in a pit, but ‘We don’t know where it is’. Once, they said they had the death certificate. They said ‘We have a picture of the body and we’ll show it to you’, but they never did. Each time they say something that doesn’t agree with the other things. So they can’t convince the family he has been killed.”
The game-playing has further even than this. On one occasion, after going to Urmia and being given the run-around by officials there, the family were approached by a plainclothes agent who told them Edris was still alive and that if they were patient, they would be able to call him once interrogations were over.
This has yet to happen. The family also tried several times to engage a lawyer to follow up on their behalf, only to be informed that the case was “at a stage where lawyers are not allowed access”.
“The family are in extreme pain,” the source said. “They’ve told security officials, ‘If you can just show us the picture, we won’t bother you again’. His mother has told them she doesn’t need them to release him, or to give her weekly visits; she just wants to hear his voice for five minutes. That would be enough.”
Edris Faghihi’s mother suffers from a heart condition that has become more acute since August. A few days after the family were first told he had been killed, she collapsed and had to have open-heart surgery.
“The family has the right to know about their son’s fate,” the source said, “even if he is a murderer or a terrorist. It is their right to know where he is, and not be messed about with or disrespected. For his mother, every moment is torture. She doesn’t know whether his son is dead or alive, if he’s hurt or being cared for. Life for the family is a living hell.”