1982 Iranian diplomats kidnapping

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Iranian diplomats kidnapping (1982)
Date 4 July 1982 (1982-07-04)
Location al-Barbareh, Lebanon
Missing Ahmad Motevaselian, Seyed Mohsen Mousavi, Taghi Rastegar Moghadam, Kazem Akhavan
Inquiries Lebanese government, Iranian government, Sayyed Raed Mousavi, Nazih Mansour
Suspect(s) Lebanese Phalange forces
Accused Phalange forces (accused of killing the abductees), Israel (accused of detaining the abductees)

Three Iranian diplomats as well as a reporter of Islamic Republic of Iran News Agency were abducted in Lebanon on 4 July 1982.[1] None of them have been seen since.[2] The missing individuals are Ahmad Motevaselian, military attaché for Iran's embassy in Beirut; Seyed Mohsen Mousavi, chargé d'affaires at the embassy; Taghi Rastegar Moghadam, an embassy employee and Kazem Akhavan, IRNA photojournalist.[3] They were stopped at a checkpoint in northern Lebanon by Lebanese Phalange forces commanded by Samir Geagea.[4] Speculation about their fate has circulated since their abduction. Iranian officials believe that they were handed over to Israel after they were kidnapped and are still alive and being held in Israeli territory.[5][3] Israel believes that the diplomats were executed by Phalange shortly after their abduction.[6]

Both the Iranian and Lebanese governments have tried to gain information about their whereabouts. According to Nazih Mansour, former member of the Lebanese parliament, the case has turned into a political issue, rather than a judicial one.[6][7]


During the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, Ahmad Motevaselian, a military attaché for Iran's embassy in Beirut; Seyed Mohsen Mousavi, chargé d'affaires at the embassy; and Taghi Rastegar Moghadam, an embassy employee, were sent on diplomatic mission to Lebanon[8] along with Kazem Akhavan, an IRNA photojournalist covering the events in Lebanon. They were sent from Iran's embassy in Damascus.[9][10] According to US and Israeli sources Motevaselian was in command of the IRGC expeditionary force supporting Shia militias like Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley to fight against the Israeli invasion.[11][12][13][14]

Ahmad Motevaselian was the most well-known of the abductees because of his service in the Iran-Iraq war. The 27th Mohammad Rasoul-Allah Brigade, under his command, played an important role in Liberation of Khorramshahr, a "turning point" in the war.[8] Indeed, he had been chosen to lead the Iranian expeditionary force in Lebanon because of his success in crushing the 1979 Kurdish rebellion in Iran.[15]


The diplomats disappeared in Lebanon during the invasion of Lebanon in 1982.[16] After reaching the al-Barbareh checkpoint in northern Lebanon, Lebanese Phalange forces[1] headed by Samir Geagea stopped the diplomats.[4]

The abducted individuals were reportedly imprisoned under the supervision of Elie Hobeika, a then Phalangist, in Karantina for 20 days and were moved to the prison of Adonis.[17]

Fate of abducted diplomats[edit]

Israeli detention speculation[edit]

In the aftermath of the incident, Iran accused Israel of kidnapping and holding the diplomats in their jails, and called on the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to clarify their whereabouts.[5] According to Ghazanfar Roknabadi, former Iranian ambassador in Lebanon, "there are concrete evidences proving that they are alive", held in Israel.[3][18] The claim was repeated years later by Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah resistance movement,[19] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's ex-president,[20] and Iran's Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan.[8]

In 1997 the Prisoners' Friends Association, "an Israel-based prisoners' aid organization", said that a released prisoner had seen the four "disappeared" Iranians in Atlit Prison in Israel two years previously, the claim which was denied by "a spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister."[21] Israel has said it does not know what happened to the diplomats and that it believes that they were kidnapped by a Lebanese militant group and executed shortly after their abduction. It was believed that they were then buried at a site where construction later obliterated their graves.[6] According to the Fars News Agency, Israel has made contradictory comments on the issue by rejecting the allegation of diplomats being surrendered to it, and claiming that they are already dead.[22]

Later in 2016, according to a report by the London-based Rai al-Youm,[23] translated to English by Fars News Agency, a recently released Greek prisoner from Israeli jails informed the Iranian embassy in Athens that he had seen the four abducted individuals alive in Israeli jails. The report also said that Ahmad Habibollah Abu Hesham, known as a "spiritual father" of prisoners of Israeli jails, had made a similar comment that Motavesellian and the others were alive in Atlit detainee camp after visiting and inspecting prisoners in Israeli jails. He died in what Rai al-Youm claimed was a "made up accident by Israel."[24]

Possible death[edit]

In an interview with the London-based Al-Wasat magazine published on 31 August 1997, Elie Hobeika verified the abduction of the diplomats and their handing over to Israel by Geagea's group[25] known for its close ties with Israel and for handing over many Lebanese and foreigners to Israel during its invasion of Lebanon.[4] Later, Geagea said the Iranians died sometime after their capture.[26] Ali Qusair, Press TV journalist and Sayyed Raed Mousavi, son of the kidnapped Sayyed Mohsen Mousavi, had an interview with Karim Pakradouni, former head of phalangists. Referring to his conversation with Assaad Chaftari, a senior intelligence official of Lebanese Forces, Pakradouni believed that the abducted diplomats could have been killed before reaching Karantina.[27] Hobeika's security chief in the early 1980s, Robert Hatem, who was code-named "Cobra," accused Hobeika of "kidnapping and murder[ing] four Iranian diplomats in 1982," in his published biography of Hobeika.[28]

Political response[edit]

In 2016, Adnan Mansour, minister of foreign affairs and emigrants, in an interview with IRNA stated that Iran had not stopped investigating the fate of the diplomats. He stated that the Lebanese government was responsible in the first step, because the abduction had occurred in Lebanese territory. Nazih Mansour, former member of the Lebanese parliament, had been the official lawyer of one of the families. Speaking to IRNA, he said that the progress of the case in Lebanese courts was very slow. Mansour also said that after so many years, the case had turned into a political issue rather than a judicial one.[7]

In a statement, Iran expressed appreciation for efforts by the Lebanese government and international figures, including a 2008 letter from Lebanon to UN confirming the abduction, to bring international attention to this case.[4] Mohammad Fathali, Iranian Ambassador to Beirut,[29] said that Iran has seen no serious action by "the international community and human rights bodies" regarding abduction of the Iranian diplomats in Lebanon and their fate.[22]

Hezbollah had included the fate of the diplomats in indirect negotiations for a prisoner exchange with the Israelis after the 2006 war[30] and as terms of the deal, Israel agreed to give a report on the fate of the four Iranians kidnapped and allegedly murdered.[6]


The disappearance of the abducted diplomats is commemorated in Iran[31] and Beirut.[30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Staff writers. "Islamic Revolution Document Center – Iranian Diplomats kidnapping by Israeli agents in Lebanon". www.irdc.ir. Retrieved 18 May 2016. 
  2. ^ Staff. "Berri meets families of kidnapped Iranian diplomats". The Daily Star. Retrieved 18 May 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c "Envoy: Iranian abducted diplomats alive in Israel". Al-Alam. 5 July 2013. Retrieved 18 May 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Tehran Urges UN to Pursue Fate of Iranian Diplomats Abducted by Israel". Tasnim News Agency. Retrieved 18 May 2016. 
  5. ^ a b "Iran urges UN to pursue issue of diplomats abducted in Lebanon". www.irdiplomacy.ir (Iran Diplomacy). 4 July 2015. Retrieved 18 May 2016. 
  6. ^ a b c d Stern, Yoav (1 July 2008). "Lebanon: Hezbollah Prisoner Swap Marks 'Failure' for Israel". Haaretz. Reuters. Retrieved 18 May 2016. 
  7. ^ a b "Release the four Iranian kidnapped diplomats, an endless hope". IRNA (in Persian). Retrieved 19 May 2016. 
  8. ^ a b c Karami, Arash (25 May 2016). "Tehran accuses Israel of holding four Iranians who disappeared 34 years ago". Al-Monitor. Retrieved 21 June 2016. 
  9. ^ "The Islamic Republic News Agency Saturday called on international...". UPI. Retrieved 16 January 2017. 
  10. ^ Fathi, Hasan ali. "Akhavan, us and others". Islamic Republic News Agency. Retrieved 16 January 2017. 
  11. ^ Crenshaw, Martha (2010). Terrorism in Context. Penn State Press. p. 586. ISBN 9780271044422. 
  12. ^ Boustany, Nora (May 4, 1990). "U.S. a 'stubborn' child, Iranian President says". Washington Post. 
  13. ^ Shapira, Shimon (November 18, 2013). "Iran's New Defense Minister: Behind the 1983 Attack on the U.S. Marine Corps Barracks in Beirut". Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. 
  14. ^ Qureshi, Muhammad A (December 4, 2014). "Understanding the Iran-Hezbollah Nexus from the Perspective of Operational Art". School of Advanced Military Studies: 1–2. 
  15. ^ Alfoneh, Ali (January 24, 2011). "Brigadier General Qassem Suleimani: A Biography". American Enterprise Institute. 
  16. ^ "Iranians kidnapped in Lebanon in 1982 in Israel: Ahmadinejad". The Daily Star Newspaper. 26 September 2011. (subscription required)
  17. ^ "Thirty years with hands closed; A narration from the life of the four diplomats" (in Persian). Fars News Agency. 2013. Retrieved 3 February 2017. 
  18. ^ "Abadi: Four kidnapped Iranian diplomats are still alive in Israel". MTV Lebanon. 4 July 2013. Retrieved 18 May 2016. 
  19. ^ "Nasrallah: Israel has Iranian diplomats". PressTV. 29 January 2009. Retrieved 22 June 2016. 
  20. ^ Kahn, Gabe. "A-Jad: Israel Holding Iranian Diplomats Since 1982". Arutz Sheva. Retrieved 23 June 2016. 
  21. ^ "ISRAEL/SOUTH LEBANON; Israel's Forgotten Hostages: Lebanese Detainees in Israel and Khiam Detention Centre". Amnesty International. 
  22. ^ a b "Envoy: Iran Not to Give Up Pursuit into Fate of 4 Abducted Diplomats". FARS News Agency. 12 July 2014.  – via General OneFile (subscription required)
  23. ^ Jamil, Yasin. "Iranian officer, who announced he was kidnapped in Israel and one of the four diplomats were abducted in 1982 from Lebanon .. and Israel assassinated the Palestinian leader tried to reveal the details of their abduction". Ray al-Youm (in Arabic). Retrieved 22 June 2016. 
  24. ^ "Recently Freed Greek Prisoner: 4 Iranian Diplomats Alive in Israel's Jail". Fars News Agency. 31 May 2016. 
  25. ^ Aminzadeh, Jamshid. "4 July 1982, the anniversary of Iranian diplomats abduction in Lebanon". IRIB World Service (in Persian). Retrieved 22 June 2016. 
  26. ^ Sahimi, Mohammad (24 October 2009). "The Fog over the 1983 Beirut Attacks". FRONTLINE – Tehran Bureau. Retrieved 19 May 2016. 
  27. ^ "Iranian hostages were killed in Barbarah-Karantina way". Mashregh News (in Persian). 2010. Retrieved 22 June 2016. 
  28. ^ "Elie Hobeika's Assassination: Covering Up the Secrets of Sabra and Shatilla". Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. 30 January 2002. Retrieved 23 June 2016. 
  29. ^ "Iranians kidnapped in 1982 believed to be alive in Israel". The Daily Star. 24 June 2011. Retrieved 19 May 2016.  – via General OneFile (subscription required)
  30. ^ a b Staff writers. "Kidnapped Iranian diplomats remembered in Lebanon". Press TV. Retrieved 18 May 2016. 
  31. ^ "Salehi calls on UN to establish committee on abducted Iranian diplomats". Mehr News Agency. 10 July 2011. Retrieved 19 May 2016. 

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