1988 massacre of political prisoners in Iran

In the summer of 1988, the Iranian regime summarily and extrajudicially executed tens of thousands of political prisoners held in jails across Iran.

The Iranian regime has never acknowledged these executions, or provided any information as to how many prisoners were killed.

The majority of those executed were either serving prison sentences for their political activities or had already finished their sentences but were still kept in prison.

Some of them had previously been imprisoned and released, but were again arrested and executed during the massacre.

The wave of massacre of political prisoners began in late July and continued unabated for a few months.

By the time it stopped in Fall, some 30,000 political prisoners, overwhelming majority of them activists of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) were slaughtered.

 

A site of mass grave of some of the political prisoners victims of 1998 massacre of political prisoners


Mass executions of prisoners in 1988 begins with Khemeini’s death decree

In the final phases of the Iran-Iraq war, Khomeini who felt the defeat was imminent, decided to avenge the political prisoners. He issued fatwas (religious decrees) ordering massacring anyone who had not repented and was not willing to totally collaborate with the regime.

The massacres began and everyday hundreds of political prisoners were hanged and their corpses were buried hurriedly in mass graves all over major cities, in particular Tehran.

Khomeini decreed: "Whoever at any stage continues to belong to the Monafeqin (PMOI/MEK) must be executed. Annihilate the enemies of Islam immediately." He went on the add: "... Those who are in prisons throughout the country and remain steadfast in their support for MEK/PMOI are waging war on God and are condemned to execution...It is naive to show mercy to those who wage war on God."

Khomeini's "Death Decree" for mass executions of Iranian political prisoners in 1988

 


“Death Commission” of 1988 massacre of political prisoners

Khomeini assigned an "Amnesty Commission" for prisons. In reality it was "Death Commission: comprised of the three individuals: A representative of the Ministry of Intelligence, a religious judge and a prosecutor. The final word was the Intelligence Ministry official. They held a trial for a few minutes that resembled more of an integration session. The questions were focused on whether the inmate had any allegiances to the PMOI/MEk. The PMOI prisoners made more than 90 percent of the prisoners. If the prisoners were not willing to collaborate totally with the regime against the MEK, it was viewed as a sign of sympathy to the organization and the sentence was immediate execution. The task of the Death Commission was to determine whether a prisoner was an Enemy of God or not. In the case of Mojahedin prisoners, that determination was often made after only a single question about their party affiliation. Those who said "Mojahedin" rather than the derogatory "Monafeqin" were sent to be hanged.

 

Five member of death commission


Khomeini's heir protests haste of executions prisoners in 1988 massacre

The haste to execute was so abhorrent that some of Khomeini's closest confidantes, most notably, Hossein Ali Montazeri, Khomeini's heir apparent did not tolerate and protested it. In letters to Khomeini, Montazeri urged for some leniency and slowing down. But Khomeini ordered there should be mercy to no one, including teenagers. He said pregnant women should not be spared or even be given chance to give birth to their child and should be execute d immediately.

In December 2000, Hossein-Ali Montazeri, a cleric who had been the designated successor to Khomeini for 10 years, published his memoirs. The book revealed shocking documents on the atrocities committed by the clerical regime, none as horrendous as the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in 1988 on the orders of Khomeini.

Montazeri’s book was not the first document informing the world of this massacre. News of the carnage had already begun to trickle through the iron curtain of censorship imposed by the mullahs to ensure a complete blackout on their crime.

 

Text of Montazeri’s letter to Khomeini on July 31,1988, complaining that mass execution of Mojahedin (PMOI/MEK) prisoners would only enhance their legitimacy and popular appeal.

 

Khomeini required total conformity from the regime's officials

Whoever was somebody in the regime at the time had full conformity with this massacre or they would had been sacked or disposed. Ayatollah Montazeri, who protested to the massacre fell from Khomeini's grace and was sacked in March 1989. In December 2000 Montzaeri published his memoirs and revealed shocking documents on the massacre. What gave weight to the revelations is that they were made by a man who was at the time of the executions, the officially ordained successor to Khomeini and the second highest authority in the land. Yet when it came to massacring political prisoners, Khomeini showed no mercy to slightest nonconformity by Montazeri.


Role of Hassan Rouhani in 1988 massacre of political prisoners

Hassan Rouhani was Deputy Commander-in-chief of regime's armed forces at the time. Actually since 1982 he was a member of regime’s Supreme Defense Council and a member of Central Council of War Logistics Headquarters.
In those positions, he was fully cognizant of this hideous crime and obviously was in full conformity.
That clearly shows that the notion that Rowhani is a moderate and reform minded is absolutely preposterous and baseless. Actually he like all other senior officials of the regime is a culprit of this hideous crime.

International assessment

There has been little international attention to this crime against humanity.
In 2008, twenty years after the massacre Amnesty International "renewed its call for those responsible for the 'prison massacre' to be held accountable. There should be no impunity for such gross human rights violations, regardless of when they were committed." AI added: "Those responsible for the killings - one of the worst abuses to be committed in Iran - should be prosecuted and tried before a regularly and legally constituted court and with all necessary procedural guarantees, in accordance with international fair trial standards."

Justice not served yet

The massacre of 1988 remains to be one of the darkest stain in the recent history of mankind, s one of the least exposed and discussed.

It is the darkest irony of this very dark episode, that of all its human rights violations the Iranian government has been most successful at keeping the 1988 killings a secret from the international community and from many Iranians. By now, virtually everyone knows of the reign of terror that immediately followed the Islamic Revolution, the Iranian government's assassination campaign abroad, and the "Chain Murders" that targeted opposition intellectuals and activists in the late 1990s. Tragically, however, there is very little public awareness of the 1988 executions.

Not only has there been no prosecution of the criminals who orchestrated and carried out that summer's gruesome murders, but the government continues to deny that they even occurred.

The Iranian government continues to deny the 1988 elimination of opposition prisoners. None of the perpetrators or masterminds have been brought to justice and none of the regime's senior officials including the Supreme leader, Ali Khamenei has been held accountable yet.

The pervasive silence of the past twenty-five years should be shattered. The UN should launch an independent investigation on one of the most hideous crimes against humanity after the Second World War.

 

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Iran human rights record: 120k killed and growing