For three decades, those responsible for the massacre tried to avoid defending the atrocity in official statements. In 2016, however, when the Justice Movement for the Massacred provoked a wave of hatred against Khomeini and the others responsible for this crime, and in 2017, when a notorious member of the Death Commission announced he would run for president, various officials began to defend Khomeini’s decree to kill the MEK and other political prisoners. Their remarks confirm their complicity in the crime and illustrate that their decades-long silence did not reflect their disapproval, let alone regret, but their desire to protect the regime against the Iranian people’s protests.
These confessions are mentioned in paragraph 74 of UN Special Rapporteur Asma Jahangir’s report on human rights in Iran: “An audio file from a meeting in 1988 between the government high officials and the clerics was published in August 2016. This audio file revealed the names of the officials who carried out the executions and defended them; including, the current Judicial Minister, a Supreme Court judge, the head of one of the largest religious institutes in the country, and the presidential candidate for the May presidential elections. After this audio file was released, some of the clerical officials and the head of the Judicial System acknowledged the executions and in some cases defended them”. (Secretary-General, United Nations, “Situation of human rights in the Islamic ًRepublic of Iran”, 14 August 2017)
Their statements illustrate an interesting difference between those responsible for the 1988 massacre and those who took part in even the most infamous crimes in human history. For example, based on Hannah Arendt’s report from his trial, Adolf Eichmann, who was responsible for sending countless Jews to their deaths in WWII, defended himself as an ordinary man who personally did not believe in carrying out the crime, but was just obeying orders. Those responsible for the 1988 massacre, in contrast, make it clear in their recent accounts that they were personally pleased to carry out Khomeini’s orders, without any indication of regret.
Below, 19 examples of such remarks are cited:
“Unfortunately, some people are trying to create an atmosphere of innocence for criminals [the victims] who killed thousands of ordinary people, officials, and renowned dignitaries, and distort the radiant image of the late Imam [Khomeini]. But these evil hands will not succeed and they will fail as they have before.”
Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, 27 August 2016
“This wave [of disapproval of the massacre] has embraced virtually all foreign opposition media, to the extent that the Mayor of Paris recently held an exhibition which recreated the scenes of the executions in those days. The extent of current support for this terrorist group [PMOI/MEK] is something to think about. The main objective of our international and domestic enemies is to avenge the unprecedented role and status of the Imam [Khomeini] in the contemporary history of Iran and the world. We must act vigilantly and describe the Imam’s path in a way that prevents it from being abused by opponents.”
Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, Justice Minister and formerly a member of the Death Commission, Tasnim News Agency, 28 August 2016
“God commanded, ‘Show no mercy to the non-believers because they will not show mercy to you,’ and there should be no mercy shown to the [PMOI/MEK] because if they could, they would spill your blood, which they did…We are proud to have carried out God’s commandment concerning the [PMOI/MEK] and to have stood with strength and fought against the enemies of God and the people.”
Assembly of Experts, official website, 28 August 2016
“Perhaps for some, it is still hard to grasp the historic and revolutionary decision of His Eminence Imam Khomeini, i.e. his decisive and uncompromising action against the [PMOI/MEK] and prosecution of the [PMOI/MEK] leaders and some members in 1988, and the deep understanding and foresightedness of that heavenly man in saving the Islamic regime, which is the fruit of the struggle and labors of young and old in this country. The late Imam halted the sedition through his timely decision at that critical juncture. Isn’t it true that the heartless [PMOI/MEK], whose crimes and treachery against this land are a well-known fact, have from time to time with varied support from the Arrogance [the West] and reactionary states, sought to revive their evil and corrupt existence?
“While condemning the crimes of the evil [PMOI/MEK] grouplet in Iran and Iraq, the Assembly of Experts condemns the publication by the supporters of this grouplet of this audiotape, which only adds fuel to the fire of the enemy. The Assembly warns the wise and aware people, in particular the dear youths of Islamic Iran, that given its crimes and the fragmented state of its organization, the [PMOI/MEK] is on the brink of complete annihilation and will get nowhere from such hopeless attempts to stain the truth about His Eminence the Imam [Khomeini] and the holy regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran. And they will not reduce by an iota the firm belief of you, the wise and pious people, in the path of the Imam and the Revolution.”
Ali Razini, Judiciary official, interview with state-run Fars News Agency, 4 August 2016
Fars news: “In their propaganda, they try to present the issues from a different perspective and look innocent. One of the issues that they bring up every year is the executions in 1988. What are the roots of this incident?”
Razini: “The issue is not really complicated. Some people commit a crime, are sentenced and imprisoned. While they are in prison, they again commit a crime or some of their previous crimes are revealed. For example, a person is sentenced to two years in prison for the crime he committed; however, during this time, it is revealed that he also participated in a terrorist act. Some of the Monafeqin had new crimes, so the Imam ordered them to be tried again, and a group consisting of judges and prosecutors came and tried all of them over a period of time and verdicts were issued.”
Fars News: “Was this incident connected to the timeline of the final years of the war and Mersad [regime’s name for its military operation in response to the NLA’s Operation Eternal Light]? Because we heard that these two were coordinated and when they occurred, they tried to incite unrest.”
Razini: “From the Imam’s point of view, this was like a miracle… In the final days of the Imam’s life, when he was ill and felt that his passing was close, he fired off several rounds, each strategic to saving the country. One was the death sentence [assassination] fatwa for Salman Rushdie [author of The Satanic Verses] … The revision of the constitution was another … The issue of his successor was solved when the person whom he had designated showed he could not run the country, and the Imam removed him [Hossein Ali Montazeri]. If the Imam had not solved this issue then, the country would later have faced many crises.
“Another of these problems was the issue of the Monafeqin [PMOI/MEK]. After careful attention, he understood that the Monafeqin would not quit, and he also knew that western powers had acknowledged the Monafeqin as a tool and would use them as the fifth column… “
Fars news: “How many were executed?”
Razini: “I was not present in the court, however, those who were in prison at that time and had committed new crimes were sentenced again.”
Ahmad Khatami, Tehran Friday Prayer Leader, 19 August 2016
the State-run Keyhan: “Those who had collaborated in the prisons and said ‘we are committed,’ they too are Mohareb [at war with God] … What the late Imam did in 1988 was a religious, Quranic, and revolutionary act, and it was a great service to the Iranian Muslim nation. If the Imam had not committed that brave act, we would have had major issues today. We wouldn’t have security. We owe our security today to the Imam’s revolutionary measures… People should not believe whatever is broadcast by foreign satellite networks.”
Mohsen Rafiqdoost, former Minister of the IRGC, 28 August 2016
Tasnim News Agency: “The Imam wrote in his will that he would go to an eternal place with a calm and certain heart. Because if he had not resolved the problem of the [PMOI/MEK], the revolution would have faced problems.”
Sadeq Larijani, Head of the Judiciary, 15 August 2016
“Western countries and their regional proxies try to support the [PMOI/MEK] by inviting them to Paris and holding rallies and, unfortunately, some inside the country also try to somehow go along with this movement and disturb public opinion. But they should know that the Judiciary will act forcefully, as always, and any disturbance of public opinion on these security issues will certainly face judiciary prosecution…What has been done based on the sentences of the courts cannot be compromised, and the verdict for mohareb groups is very clear, but, unfortunately, some go astray and say strange things.”
Ali Razini, Judiciary official, 16 August 2016
The state-run Mashreq: “Unfortunately, there are political strategies active inside and outside the country to somehow revive the MEK…Those whose verdict was moharebeh [enmity to God], had their sentences carried out, and the roots of other problems were annihilated. The security that we have now in Iran, which shines as a stable island among all the unstable countries in the region, is because Imam Khomeini did not neglect to carry out the sentence…We are thankful to the Founder of the Islamic Revolution, who dealt so decisively and prevented the penetration of insecurity.”
Ahmad Janati, head of the Guardian Council, leader of the Council of Experts, in his Friday Prayer sermon, 9 September 2016
Fars News Agency: “If they had given them the chance, they would have uprooted the government. The Imam said that they had to be annihilated so that the regime could survive. It was the work of the Imam. The Quran also refers to them as enemies of God and commands that we amputate their hands and legs, exile them, hang them; these are the laws of Islam.”
Mohammad Ibrahim Nekonam, advisor to the Attorney General, 24 September 2016
Tasnim News Agency: “God bless our honorable Imam. He took over three issues in his final years in 1988 and 1989; this was among the miracles of the Supreme Leader who was divinely blessed. One of these issues was the acceptance of the [Security Council] resolution [for the cease-fire in the war with Iraq]. The Imam accepted the resolution in 1988, and if he hadn’t accepted it, it would have been a major problem for the Islamic Republic of Iran after his death. One of the other important aspects was the removal of Montazeri [as successor]. If he had not resolved that issue, there would have been a crisis for the Islamic Republic. And another was the issue of the Monafeqin in 1988. These three issues handled by the Imam marked a milestone in the history of the Revolution”.
Gholam Ali Hadad Adel, former Speaker of Parliament, a close advisor to Khamenei, 2 June 2017
State-run Iran: “Mr. Raeisi [member of the Death Committee in Tehran] didn’t sentence anyone to death, and if this sentence was issued for the Monafeqin, it shouldn’t be considered as negative.”
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, in remarks on his official website in defense of Ebrahim Raeisi, his favored candidate in the presidential elections, June 3, 2017
Khamenei’s website: “Recently, there have been some voices and advocates of those voices attacking [the incidents of] the 1980s. My advice to all those theorists and intellectuals who judge the 1980s is to not exchange the place of martyr and executioner. The people of Iran were subject to oppression in the 1980s. The terrorists and the MEK and their supporters and the powers who created them and boasted about them dealt cruelly and badly with the people of Iran. The people of Iran were defending themselves.”
Brigadier General Yousef Foroutan, one of Evin Prison’s officials in the 1980s, 17 July 2017
Tasnim News Agency: “As for the Monafeqin, some of those imprisoned had been sentenced but they had not been issued verdicts for their political stances. They were of two groups: those who had doubts but who had not firmly said ‘we repent’ and ‘these are the crimes that we have committed;’ and others who stuck to their beliefs and did not regret anything they had done.
“After discovering the Monafeqin’s plot to disrupt the prisons which were simultaneous to the Mersad Operation, a three-member delegation was appointed by the Imam to evaluate the Monafeqin vis-à-vis their stances. These delegations would determine the status of the prisoners’ beliefs by evaluating their files and talking to them. In the end, they would also discuss their sentences with the prison administration…
“As far as I know, a large number of the Monafeqin stuck to their positions and continued with their disruptive activities even while in prison and under supervision; their conspiracy was discovered and dealt with seriously. However, I deny the claims made that a large number of Monafeqin were sentenced to death”.
Ahmad Khatami, a member of the Assembly of Experts, in his Friday Prayer sermon in Tehran, 21 July 2017
“We see some people who on their websites switch the place of martyrs and murderers. Confronting them [imprisoned dissidents] and wiping out the Monafeqin was one of the Imam’s most righteous and valuable actions, and all those who complied with his edict should be awarded a Medal of Honor. … Those who have switched the place of martyrs and murderers on their websites should repent and beg for forgiveness.”
Mohsen Rafiqdoost, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Minister, 18 July 2017
Mehr News Agency: “… If the arrested [PMOI/MEK] elements were not executed, it was feared that they would deviate from the Revolution… The wisest person in recent centuries was the Imam [Khomeini] who ordered that anyone who supported their hypocritical ideas should be killed. Today too if we find them, we will do the same.”
Ali Fallahian, former Intelligence Minister, 9 July 2017
Fallahian: “The Imam [Khomeini] decreed, ‘At least execute those [prisoners] who say this and who maintain their beliefs. It doesn’t make sense to release them.’ … “
Interviewer: “Excuse me, I want to make sure if I have understood correctly. The basis was that everyone would be executed, right?”
Fallahian: “That’s correct. …”
Interviewer: “We want to move forward from this topic, but for my own knowledge, I’d like to ask, were all those who were executed armed when they had been arrested?”
Interviewer: “Had they all carried out armed rebellion?”
Fallahian: “They had all carried out armed rebellion. But many were arrested in team houses where we only found one or two guns, or for example, some were arrested on the street and many of them were unarmed.”
Interviewer: “So how did this qualify as armed rebellion?”
Fallahian: “Because they were part of that organization.”
Interviewer: “So, it’s not necessary for that person to personally carry out that action?”
Fallahian: “No. When someone is a member of a group or army, and when that army has taken up arms, then it makes no difference if that person is armed or unarmed.”
Interviewer: “Even if they were arrested with only a [PMOI/MEK] newspaper in their possession?”
Fallahian: “Yes. They were part of that organization. They were prepared to carry out operations. Maybe today someone goes and buys bread for the people in the team house, or someone might provide other provisions…”
Interviewer: “What if, for example, someone is not part of the operational force and is just part of their propaganda force?”
Fallahian: “Well, that person is still part of them. When a unit is fighting, it has everything. It doesn’t just have arms. Right? They have a provisions unit.”
Interviewer: “They don’t qualify as prisoners of war?”
Ali Razini, head of branch 41 of the Supreme Court, formerly head of Supreme Administrative Justice and several other key judicial positions, Tasnim News Agency 2 July 2017
Tasnim News Agency: Question: “What are your views on the executions of 1988 of the Monafeqin
and the objections raised recently by some of their supporters?”
Razini: “The officials involved in this affair were Messrs. Nayeri, Raisi, Reyshahri, Eshraqi, and Pour-Mohammadi, and you should put the question to them since we were not involved in this affair. But in general, I must say that if Imam [Khomeini] wanted to issue death sentences without any considerations, as suggested by counter-revolutionaries, then there was no need to set up commissions comprised of three people. It would have been announced in the prisons, execute them then and there.
“They were religious judges who were not appointed by high-ranking religious leaders but were the same religious judges who had previously been appointed in various cities. For instance, the person who headed the Revolutionary Court in Semnan or Mashhad, the Revolutionary Prosecutor in the same city, plus the representative of the Intelligence [Ministry] in that city, who formed the three-man commissions. The trials sometimes lasted about an hour, and in the end, some were sentenced to death and some were not. Although the Revolutionary Courts at that time were managed by only one person, these courts were managed collectively and the decisions were made by consensus, although they could go by majority vote, that is two out of three votes. The sentences were only implemented when all three were united in the decision. In any case, all the procedures in 1988 were fair and conducted entirely in accordance with the law.
Mohammad Hossein Ahmadi Shahroudi, member of the Council of Experts, Religious leader of Khuzestan Province in 1988, 8 August 2017
Tasnim News Agency: “It was a midnight in 1988, I don’t remember the exact date when the Director-General of the Intelligence and Justice Departments came and gave me a letter which included a fatwa from the Imam about dealing with the Monafeqin. The letter stated: ‘For those who are committed to their beliefs, the verdict is death.’ This [commitment] was determined by a majority vote of the three-member delegation, i.e. the prosecutor, the religious judge, and the Director-General of Intelligence. This was the Imam’s verdict, and its application depended on the three-member delegation. That meant we had to speak to each individual and check if they were still committed to their stances, or not. A few days after that decree, we started to act accordingly. There were some differences among the three members of the delegation, which was also natural. For example, one of the members believed that such and such a person stood firm on his positions, but I said no. So we spoke with one another and all three of us had to be convinced whether he was or was not committed, because all three of us had to sign the verdict…
“Those who stood firmly on their positions were sentenced to death, and we would carry out the sentence. However, we were not the ones who determine the sentence; we only determined whether or not it applied. Actually, the main verdict was from the Imam, and we would definitely defend his verdict.”