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The 1988 Massacre of Political Prisoners in Iran: Eyewitness Accounts, Majid Saheb Jam

The 1988 Massacre of Political Prisoners in Iran: Eyewitness Accounts, Majid Saheb Jam

My name is Majid Saheb Jam. I am a former political prisoner and supporter of the Mojahedin-e-Khalq, MEK. I spent 17 years in Evin, Ghezelhesar, Joint Committee, and Gohardasht prisons. During the massacre of political prisoners in 1988, I was at Gohardasht Prison and in the Death Corridor. I witnessed the crimes committed by the clerical regime’s agents and in this particular instance Hamid Noury, or Hamid Abbasi.

In 1982, I was imprisoned for supporting the MEK. The initial ruling sentenced me to 12 years in prison. Trials that lasted 2 to 3 minutes, including the trial that was headed by Nayyeri, who was the chair of the Death Committee in 1988. In these so-called trials, we did not have anything to say. We either said yes or no. And in 2, 3, and 4 minutes, the so-called trial was over.

The 1988 massacre, as public opinion knows it today, was prepared years before. There are evidence and documents that in 1985 and 1986, and especially 1987, the groundwork was being prepared for the start of executions in 1988 by categorizing prisoners that they thought are committed to the MEK on the basis of the sentence and the activities he/she had conducted.

It should also be reminded that those who survived in Iranian prisons had very light cases, like selling publications or distributing leaflets, or participating in assemblies and gatherings of the organization. So, if anyone had conducted activities beyond this would not even live to serve the remainder of his/her sentence. So, the majority of the MEK in prison had conducted political activities, activities that today are said to be peaceful, to promote their programs and political ideas.

With that being said, in 1988, after the initial preparations by the Intelligence Ministry and the IRGC’s intelligence, and headed by Khomeini and his office and son, simultaneous with the end of the war, they wanted to, in their own words, also conclude the dossier of prisons. How would they conclude the prison dossier? Well, the only way they know how. They could not conclude the prison dossier by opening prison doors and freeing prisoners, but by massacring the prisoners. So, as they themselves would say, this is how they wanted to conclude the issue. But they did not succeed.

With respect to the executions and massacre of 1988, I want to underscore this important point, which I referred to before. The issue of the identity of political forces and especially the MEK was the source of confrontation since day one with Khomeini. The use of the word “Mojahed.” As everyone knows, even today in the official documentation of the clerical regime, there is nothing known as the “Mojahedin,” or MEK but rather the “Monafeqin.” So, our identity was questioned since day one. The identity of the MEK as a political and religious group, with progressive ideas, could not and would not be accepted by them, something that has continued to this very day. And one of the conclusions of this rejection of our identity surfaced in the massacre.

People were executed for using the term “MEK.” So, the references to “anti-revolutionaries,” “spies,” “Mohareb” (enemy of God), “Molhed” (heretic), and anything in the mullahs’ lexicon, were used politically to cast doubt on the MEK’s identity. This has a very long story, which I will not delve into, but it is extremely important, and the core issue of the massacre was the declaration of the imprisoned MEK members about accepting the identity of a Mojahed or do you still accept the MEK as a political organization. The yes or no answer to this question would seal the individual’s fate.
At the time of arrest, some of the prisoners were minors, under the age of 18. These were MEK supporters that spent years in prison. I can name a few among my own friends. For example, Ardalan Darafarin. They were arrested when they were under the age of 18 and executed later in the massacre. Afshin Memaran, Mehran Samadi, Baqar Qandehari, and many other individuals who would be considered minors, were arrested under the age of 18, and later executed in the massacre. Or, it was said that the Pardon Committee had said that we have executed only one person from each family, and we tried not to execute more than one person from each family. This was also a complete lie.

Again, I remember friends like martyred Hossein Mirzai, whose sister was executed in Hamedan. Saeed and Arfa Jebreili, two brothers, who spent many years with me, were both executed. Ahmad and Hossein Razaghi, from a well-known family who lived in northern Tehran, and many people knew them, were brothers who were executed. Asghar and Hamid Khezri, and many other families lost two or three of their children in the massacre.

A very sad and painful scene that I personally cannot ever forget is the scene of transferring two of my friends, supporters of the MEK, one of whom had received a brain injury in prison and suffered from extreme epilepsy. On the day of execution, his epilepsy acted up in a bad way. His name was Kaveh Nassara. He was executed in that condition. In order to take him to the execution hall, another prisoner was holding him up so he wouldn’t fall. The Khomeini regime and henchman Raisi and Hamid Noury and others involved took such people to their execution. I witnessed another one of my friends in the Death Corridor. He was Nasser Mansouri. He had a spinal cord injury and was laying on a stretcher. He couldn’t even move. They brought him from the prison clinic to the Death Committee, the so-called trial set up by Khomeini and Raisi and Hamid Noury participated in it.

Then they took him on a stretcher to the Death Corridor, and at that time he was roughly in front of me. Lying on a stretcher as he suffered from a spinal cord injury. How can a person with a spinal cord injury even be physically executed? This cruelty was applied against civilians and prisoners. Behind these words was a sea of suffering and blood, grief, resistance, and perseverance. All those who have healthy hands, heads, and legs, and hear what I’m saying must know that a MEK member persevered until the last moment even as he was suffering from a spinal cord injury, a brain injury, or epilepsy, and with the chant of “Long live freedom,” “Hail to Rajavi.” This is how they showed their commitment and vow and died.

In the end, I want to name a few of my friends with whom I spent the last hours in the ward. These are very important reminders of Iran’s history. We have to have these reminders about the history of Iran’s political struggle every day so that we can take a step further toward realizing freedom and against religious fascism and religious tyranny.

In a banner used in all protests around the world, there are pictures of several of my friends. I said goodbye to them at the last moment and they were committed to their vow. And, of course, those who died were the most courageous and most dignified children of the Iranian people. Those who survived, in whatever manner, must know and they know, and the world should also know, that there is a qualitative difference between those who survived and those who courageously and bravely persevered and remained committed to defending the sacred term “Mojahed” and stayed loyal to this vow.

Morteza Borz Abadi, Ebrahim Akbari Sefat, Bijan Keshavarz, my friend from northern Iran who promised to take me to his house in Rasht but unfortunately it didn’t happen; Hadi Saberi, Hossein Mahjoubi, Ma’boud Sokouti, Bahman Moussapour, Mohsen Mohammad Baqer, who was also incidentally physically disabled from birth and had appeared in one of the famous movies directed by Mr. Beyzai, which I think was called “Stranger and fog.” People can watch the movie now and they will see this kid who was later hanged as a supporter of the MEK during the massacre.

He remained committed to his vow and ideal as an artist. He had a cane which he used to walk in the Death Corridor and went to the execution hall. Dariush Hanifeh Pour, Shirang Dorostkar, and my other friends, who today their mothers, sisters, brothers, fathers, and relatives are gathering in front of the criminal Hamid Noury’s trial and also other courts to take place in the future, and they are standing there and are reminding everyone about the vows of these strugglers for the freedom of the Iranian people. I hope that we would also have the ability and competence to remain committed to our own vows until the end of this path. Thank you to all of you.