Remembering the 1988 massacres of Iran's political prisoners

After nine months of processing a complex case, the Swedish prosecution of its district court has finally asked for the indictment of Hamid Noury, accused of participating in the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in Iran in 1988, for a life imprisonment penalty.

The mass executions of political prisoners in 1988 took place simultaneously in prisons throughout Iran.  This began around July 27 in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran and on July 30 in Gohardasht prison in Karaj, west of Tehran.  The executions took place in secret.  Prison guards and other staff were not allowed to leave prisons or contact others during the executions, and the bodies of those executed were hurriedly buried overnight, in unmarked mass graves.  The regime has spared no effort to keep the extent of the mass executions secret.

There are no precise statistics on the number of executed, but the MEK, a leading Iranian pro-democracy group, has estimated that about 30,000 political prisoners were executed throughout the country in that incident.  There are other sources that have estimated the number close to the same.  Mr. Mehdi Khazali, a Tehran regime analyst, affirmed that the deputy head of the Ministry of Intelligence told him that the number was 20,000.  Mr. Reza Shemirani, who testified in Stockholm's district court, has stated that between 3,500 and 4,000 men and women were executed in Evin prison in Tehran alone, while the massacre itself was drawn out over months in prisons all over Iran.

It is known that the number of executed in Evin was several times greater than in Gohardasht and that the number of survivors in Evin was significantly lower in relation to the large number of prisoners who were there.

Witness Mr. Houshang Atyabi said he saw 17 trucks, each loaded with an estimated 50 bodies, in the Gohardasht prison compound during the mass executions.  Other witnesses and plaintiffs also reported having seen trucks full of bodies.

The MEK have been able to identify and publish the names of 5,049 of its own members who were executed during the massacre.  The list was published four years ago.  Since then, several names have been added.

The MEK has published reports that the massacre took place in 110 cities.  In some cities, there were no survivors who could testify about the number of executed.

The death sentences were issued by the death committees.  Members of Tehran's death committee, which also operated in Gohardasht, were named in Khomeini's fatwa.  In the rest of the country, the MEK has managed to identify about 80 people who were part of the death committees.

Victims of the mass executions were buried in mass graves.  Locations of 36 mass graves are listed by the MEK.  The regime is doing everything possible to destroy and conceal these mass graves.  One example is by constructing buildings above them to hide the evidence of the mass executions.

Khomeini's Fatwa Was the Basis for the Mass Executions

Why did this happen?  It came from a fatwa.  In this fatwa, Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini explicitly stated that the MEK were Moharebs (belligerents against God) and Mortad (apostates).  In Khomeini's answer to his son Ahmad's question on how to apply his fatwa, he declares, "Exterminate the enemies of Islam as quickly as possible."

On Oct. 26, 1988, Ayatollah Montazeri commented on the then-ongoing executions as follows: "The brutal execution of 13- to 14-year-old girls who have not taken up arms or participated in demonstrations is disturbing and horrific."

The MEK represents a religious reform movement that has led to political conclusions on equality between women and men, respect for religious and ethnic minorities, implementing a secular democratic state, etc.

These religious and political positions pose a direct threat to the system of the Mullahs Velayate Faqih.  They consider themselves Muslims with a different opinion from the Mohareb and should therefore be exterminated.

In a speech on the subject, Professor Eric David, research fellow at the Center of International Law of Brussels Free University, affirms: "It is indeed a crime of genocide because these people were killed for belonging to a current of Islam that was challenged by the mullahs' regime.  Therefore, for belonging to a religion, these people were massacred.  They were considered as apostates, so it corresponds perfectly to the definition of Article 2 of the 1948 Convention on genocide."

Geoffrey Ronald Robertson, the first president of the U.N. Special Court for Sierra Leone, which chronicled the crimes in that nation, also believes that the 1988 massacre in Iran may amount to genocide.  The principal reason: Moharabs "waging war on God," but the MEK, ever since its foundation, was distinguished from Khomeini's group because of its members' more fundamentalist view of Islam.  And of course, the MEK was more liberal.

It is quite clear, as I read this fatwa's translation, that religion was the primary reason why these people were killed and why Khomeini went on.  This was the direction that Raisi, on his own will, deliberately was following when he said: "It is naive to show mercy to Moharabs, those who wage war on God.  The decisiveness of Islam before the enemies of God is among the unquestionable tenets of the Islamic regime."  And: "So, here is a bureaucracy imposing the death penalty and goes on; kill them with revolutionary rage and rancor these enemies of Islam, must be most ferocious against the infidels."

Image: Philafrenzy via Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA 4.0.

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