Iran's massacres of political prisoners continue today

"The war is a divine gift," said the Ayatollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, before being defeated in the eight-year war with Iraq.  Thirty-two years ago, he was forced to accept the ceasefire in a decision that he then defined as "drinking the chalice of poison."

Accepting the ceasefire was a bitter defeat for Khomeini, who had been using the war to repress all those who would fight for freedom as well as a way to suppress popular economic and cultural demands.  He had always said he would continue until the destruction of the last house in Tehran and reaching Quds via Karbala.

At that time, the mullah regime decided to massacre political prisoners as a way to dilute the consequences of war failure.  It was also a way to intimidate the Iranian society.  In 1988, Khomeini issued a fatwa (a religious decree) that established that all the MEK prisoners who remained "steadfast" should be executed and massacred in all prisons across the country. 

In his handwritten decree, which primarily targeted members of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq organization (MEK/PMOI), he stated: "Those who are in prisons throughout the country and remain steadfast in their support for the MEK/PMOI are waging war on God and are condemned to execution." 

This decree allowed the creation of the so-called "death commissions," that were composed of three officials in charge of implementing the order.  More than 30,000 political prisoners were executed in a short span during the summer of 1988. 

History has witnessed many crimes and massacres, but this one has some unique characteristics:  

1. It was committed based on the written order of the highest authority of the political and religious system.

2. The only 'crime' that these victims had committed was to be committed to a belief that they persevered on.

3. The executed prisoners were serving their sentences or they had already completed their terms and were waiting for release.  

Geoffrey Robertson, Q.C., former appeal judge on the United Nations Special Court for Sierra Leone, described the 1988 massacre as the "worst crime against humanity since the  World War II."

Ironically, members of such death commissions are currently holding key positions within the regime, including the Judiciary chief, Ebrahim Raisi, and the Minister of Justice, Alireza Avaei.  This underlines the responsibility of the international community to hold the Iranian regime accountable for this crime against humanity.

Current executions continue the 1988 massacre path

Between November 15 and 19, 2019, Iran's security forces illegally used violence to crush nationwide protests.  Protests had erupted in over 200 cities across the country in reaction to the increase of the fuel price, so the Iranian regime started massacring protesters.

They ended killing over 1,500 people, while thousands were arrested and sent to prison, dozens were killed under torture, and thousands are still in prison under torture and threatened with execution.

The regime executed Mostafa Salehi on August 5 for his participation in the nationwide protests in 2017–2018, despite the international protests held against this.  Five other detained protesters have also been sentenced to death, and they are currently in prison.

Amnesty International has uncovered evidence that the victims included at least 23 children: 22 boys between 12 and 17 years old and a 12-year-old girl.  The gravity of the violations perpetrated and the systematic impunity prevailing in Iran requires that the U.N. Human Rights Council urgently mandates an inquiry into the unlawful use of lethal force by the Iranian security forces in the November 2019 protests.

The mullahs' regime has been clearly oppressing, executing, and torturing people.  Yet it has never been seriously held to account.

Image credit: Philafrenzy via Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA 4.0.

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