Legacy of a dictator: Iran's 30,000 murdered, then and now
In the wake of the 30th anniversary of the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in summer of 1988 in Iran, the people of Iran and especially families of the victims are still waiting for justice and an international tribune.
In the summer of 1988, the political prisoners were systematically executed in almost two months. In a barbaric two-month purge, prisoners, including teenagers as young as 14, were loaded onto trucks in groups and hanged from cranes.
During the past three decades, the regime blocked all attempts to investigate the extent of the massacre. They even went farther to cover up the crimes by toppling and damaging cemeteries and headstones of martyrdom graves with bulldozers.
In Iran, there is no criminal justice system or government institutions deterring crime or sanctioning those who violate laws with criminal penalties. The supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, controls everything. He sets the tone and direction of Iran's domestic and foreign policies. Many of those in the "Death Commission" responsible for the 1988 massacre are still in power, including Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, who is now Iran's justice minister in President Hassan Rouhani's Cabinet, and cleric Ebrahim Raisi, favored candidate of the supreme leader for the 2017 presidential election. Both, defended the massacre of 1988.
"[A] dictatorship that appoints as its justice minister someone who killed 30,000 people is telling you everything you need to know about the core nature of the dictatorship," said Newt Gingrich, 50th speaker of the United States House of Representatives, at the Free Iran Rally in Paris on July 1, 2017. "[D]ictatorships like the one in Iran threaten freedom anywhere," according to Gingrich, who called Iran the largest supporter of state terrorism in the world.
The massacre was ordered by the Khomeini decree, called a fatwa, that reads: "[P]olitical prisoners throughout the country who remain steadfast in their backing for the Mojahedin (MEK) are condemned to execution."
The massacre happened 30 years ago to eliminate the main opposition group, the MEK. Despite the continuation of execution, torture, and crackdown during the past three decades, miraculously, the regime has failed. "You will someday be proud to say you were a part of what freed Iran," Gingrich said.
"I want to salute you today for your courage and for your perseverance of the MEK and the NCRI," Said Linda Chavez, chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and former director of the Office of Public Liaison, at the Paris gathering. "You are the ones who remain committed to freedom and to democracy for Iran and to eradicate the suppression, the terrorism, and the regime's demonizing campaign that has been directed at you. Your perseverance gives up hope that we shall, in the end, defeat the phenomenon of Islamic fundamentalism, whose heart beats in the clerical regime in Iran. I wish you a good meeting, and I wish that your message will be carried throughout the world."
"They have on their hands the blood of so many of your people," said former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, "but they have on their hands the blood of my people, too, who they helped to kill in Iraq and who they've helped to kill for years and who they've held hostage. If they're not a terrorist organization, there is no such thing as a terrorist organization. And we should declare them a terrorist organization so we can cut them off of support around the world." Giuliani wants the Revolutionary Guards to be classed as at terrorist organization.
Despite the dark legacy of Iran's dictator, the "light of liberty can overcome and replace the darkness of the tyrannical Iranian regime," Tom Ridge, the former United States secretary of homeland security, said at the rally. "The light of freedom is kept going by all those who have lost their lives for the cause."
As the Greek philosopher Xenophon put it, "the true test of a movement is whether its followers will adhere to his cause from their own volition, enduring the most arduous hardships without being forced to do so, and remaining steadfast in the moments of greatest peril."
Hassan Mahmoudi is a human rights advocate, specializing in political and economic issues relating to Iran and the Middle East. @hassan_mahmou1