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Iran 1988 Massacre: Unpunished for 32 Years, Families of Victims Still Seek Justice

Family members of the victims of the 1988 massacre gathered in Khavaran. After 32 years they are still seeking justice for their loved-ones.
Khavaran, one of the mass graves of the 1988 victims.

Family members over 30,000 Iranian political prisoners massacred in 1988 gathered in Khavaran, near Tehran on Fridayat the site of one of the mass graves identified to commemorate their loved ones. 32 years after this massacre, this crime remains unpunished, and family members of the victims demand justice.  

In the summer of 1988, the Iranian regime massacred more than 30,000 political prisoners, mostly members, and supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). Many international human rights groups such as Amnesty International have described this crime as a “crime against humanity.” Some experts such as Geoffrey Robertson QC, a well-known human rights lawyer, described the 1988 massacre as the worst crime against humanity against political prisoners since World War II. 

Fearing a restive and warn-torn society, the regime’s then-Supreme Leader, Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa, ordering his henchmen to identify and kill those persevering in their beliefs of freedom and democracy. Shortly after, notorious “Death Commissions” were formed and carried out this massacre, which was described by Hossein-Ali Montazeri, then Khomeini’s heir-apparent, as “the worst crime of the Islamic Republic.” He said this during a private meeting with the members of the Death Commission in Tehran, and the audiotape was later leaked out.  

Some 32 years after this crime, the Iranian officials continue their human rights violations and enjoy impunity for the crime they had committed in 1988. In fact, the main perpetrators of this crime now hold top positions in the regime. Ebrahim Raisi, the regime’s current Judiciary Chief, and Alireza Avaei, the regime’s Minister of Justice, are among these officials.  

Appointing mass murderers at the top of the regime’s judiciary system is a testament to this fact that there is no “justice” in this regime and the mullahs have never changed course regarding human rights. As the Iranian Resistance has repeatedly highlighted, the regime is founded on human rights violations in Iran and the export of terrorism abroad. 

Iran’s regime has enjoyed impunity over the 1988 massacre 

Since the 1988 massacre, the MEK has presented several credible documents, such as Khomeini’s fatwa and the testimony of many survivors of this massacre. Yet, the international community has failed to hold the regime to account for this crime against humanity due to the policy of appeasement. Enjoying this impunity, the regime has ever since continued its killing spree and brutal oppression of any dissent.  

In November 2019, the major Iran protests rattled the regime’s foundations. The regime imposed a brutal crackdown on the uprising, killing at least 1500 protesters. Yet again, the international community failed to hold the regime accountable for this crime.  

In line with this, on Friday, the regime’s Judiciary sentenced three brothers to death, imprisonment, and flogging for participating in the Kazerun and Shiraz protests in 2018Navid Afkari, a 27-year-old national wrestling champion was sentenced to two instances of execution, in addition to six--and--a--half years in prison and 74 lashes. In this regard, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), urged the UN Secretary-General, High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Human Rights Council to immediately intervene to stop the execution of Navid Afkari. 

In addition, the regime has recently executed Mostafa Salehi, a protester arrested during the 2018 nationwide Iran protests.  

The ongoing executions in Iran show how the Iranian regime is enjoying the impunity over its worst crime in 1988. As to the Iranian people and the regime’s goal to intimidate the public through these inhuman actions, it is safe to say the mullahs have failed. But when it comes to the regime’s ongoing human rights violations and the international community, the story is different. The international failure to properly address the regime’s crimes has emboldened the mullahs to pursue human rights violations. In other words, the Iranian people are paying the price for the international community’s inaction 

Now, as the United Nations General Assembly approaches, the UN and its member states have chance to reverse course and stand by the Iranian people. To do this, they should first address the regime’s worst crime, the 1988 massacre, and hold the regime to account for this crime against humanity 

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