This week marked the 26th anniversary of an underreported incident that took place over the course of three months in Iran in 1988. Between July and September of that year, an estimated 30,000 political prisoners were executed after trials before three person death panels seeking to weed out opposition to the Khomeini regime at the end of the Iran-Iraq War.
The main target of this crackdown was the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), or the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI).
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 massacres of political prisoners began in late July and continued unabated for several months.
By the time it stopped in the Fall, some 30,000 political prisoners, the overwhelming majority of them activists of the MEK were slaughtered.
After a detailed study of irrefutable evidence that included thousands of reports and documents, interviews with the families of victims, the Iranian Resistance declared the number of those slaughtered in 1988 to be 30,000.
It is common knowledge that given that this colossal atrocity was conducted in full secrecy, the international bodies were not given the opportunity to learn of the actual scale of this crime against humanity, especially that in many prisons not even a single prisoner was left to recount the catastrophe.
However, as time passed, many independent experts, witnesses and political figures gradually arrived at this truth and testified to it.
A former cultural advisor to the Iranian regime's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei who turned against him following the suppression of 2009 anti-regime protests has confirmed that more than 33,000 people were executed during the 1988 massacre of political prisoners.
Prior to him, a senior official of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) who spent many years in Evin Prison for unveiling some aspects of regime’s 'Chain of Murders', secretly sent a video clip abroad in 2008 addressed to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Speaking of the 1988 massacre of political prisoners, he said: “The atrocity of this regime is such that in 1988 in just a few nights over 33,700 (thirty-three-thousand seven-hundred) prisoners with sentences of five, two and one years in prison were executed and were buried in mass graves by using bulldozers."
Despite losing more than 120,000 of its activist in this and other violent repressions by the Iranian regime, today the MEK is the principal constituent organization of the NCRI, and it works inside of Iran and on a global scale to advocate for firm policies towards Iran and to expose regime activities and encourage domestic action in opposition to its rule.
After detailing the processes by which the 1988 massacre was carried out and indicting every member of the regime at the time, including current president of the Iranian regime, Hassan Rouhani, for being complicit in it, it is evident that the regime is still working relentlessly to repress resurgent MEK influence.
Despite such a ruthless crackdown focused on the PMOI/MEK, the MEK is making a significant inroads in the Iranian political landscape.
The regime has issued more than 300 publications in the last two years aimed at discrediting the MEK, and has also organized rallies and demonstrations for the same purpose, aiming them at Iranian youth in particular.
The legacy of the 1988 massacre has not, however, been wiped clean by mere propaganda. The MEK remains a prime target of violent repression by the Iranian regime, as well. On June 1, Gholamreza Khosravi, an activist of the opposition group was executed and his body buried in an unmarked grave because of his communications with and financial contributions to the MEK.
Amnesty International focused some attention on Khosravi immediately before and after his execution, but there have been many other victims of Iranian political crackdowns who have not been recognized by Western media. Neither have their killings been considered in a court of law.
It is time that the pervasive silence of the past quarter century be shattered. The UN should launch an independent investigation into one of the most hideous crimes against humanity after the Second World War.
This outcome become more likely as the MEK gains more political clout and public exposure.
On June 27, international supporters of the Iranian Resistance gathered outside of Paris, France. Persons who had previously attended the event insisted that it has consistently grown, with attendance approximately doubling in the past five years.
Outside observers called attention to one of the major factors contributing to this level of commitment among the MEK supporters, indirectly highlighting the history of the 1988 massacre. With 30,000 individuals killed in that event alone, 26 years ago, virtually every one of those who attended this year’s rally know at least one person who was killed by the Iranian regime.