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Iranian Opposition & Resistance | Latest News on NCR Iran

LIVE PAGE: Perpetrators of Iran's 1988 Massacre Must Be Held Accountable

Perpetrators of Iran's 1988 Massacre Must Be Held Accountable

In the summer of 1988, Iran's regime summarily and extra-judicially executed tens of thousands of political prisoners held in jails across Iran. The massacre was carried out on the basis of a fatwa by the regime’s Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini. Death Commissions sent victims to the gallows after mock trials. The vast majority of the victims were members of the main opposition People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), also known as the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK).

The perpetrators of this crime against humanity have never been held accountable. Worse still, some have been promoted to the most senior positions of the Iranian government and judiciary. A panel of experts and witnesses are discussing the 1988 massacre and the need for international prosecution of the perpetrators on Monday, July 15, 2019, Day 5 of the Free Iran convention at Ashraf 3, home to the MEK in Albania. We'll be updating this page with the latest from the panel.

The facts:

• More than 30,000 political prisoners were massacred in Iran in the summer of 1988.
• The massacre was carried out on the basis of a fatwa by Khomeini.
• The vast majority of the victims were activists of the opposition PMOI (MEK).
• A Death Committee approved all the death sentences.
• Alireza Avaei, a member of the Death Committee, is today Hassan Rouhani’s Justice Minister.
• The perpetrators of the 1988 massacre have never been brought to justice.
• On August 9, 2016, an audio tape was published for the first time of Khomeini’s former heir acknowledging that that massacre took place and had been ordered at the highest levels.


16.00: The conference is now underway.

16.05: Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), is addressing the conference on the 1988 massacre.

Behzad Naziri

16.50: After Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi urges the international community to end the impunity of Iranian regime officials for their role in this crime against humanity, NCRI member and former political prisoner in Iran Behzad Naziri welcomes today's panel to discuss the 1988 Massacre.

16.55: Renowned Spanish jurist Juan Garcés tells the conference on Iran's 1988 massacre:

“In the case of the 1988 massacre, this is a crime against humanity. Not only the criminal code of Iran had been violated, but also the known international norms were trampled during and before this crime.”

“We need to know the facts, those responsible, the rights trampled, and which court is qualified to tend to this case. You have the right to the truth. You have the right to reparations and the right to justice,” Mr. Juan Garcés continued.

 Juan Garcés

“The court of justice and the investigation cannot be allocated to Iran. While it is not possible to carry out this investigation in Iran, there are other instruments, such as the International Criminal Court, and courts of justice in other countries. The UN Security Council is qualified to set up a tribunal,” he stressed.

“Many facts show that the 1988 massacre is a crime that has continued to this day, meaning the ICC, founded after this crime was committed, is qualified to tend to this case,” Mr. Garcés further implied.

“Judiciary work is difficult, political conditions are changing and may become favorable for this crime. However, international law does not recognize the amnesty that these regimes bestow upon themselves after committing these crimes. We must seek a court of justice that will investigate this case and bring the perpetrators to justice. I’m sure you will be victorious,” he concluded.

17.05: Tahar Boumedra, former Chief of UNAMI Human Rights Office and Representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Iraq, tells the conference:

“Within the framework of an association of international lawyers founded in London, Justice for the Victims of the 1988 Massacre in Iran (JVMI), we’re gathering evidence of the possible prosecutors of the political prisoners and the perpetrators,” said Tahar Boumedra, former UN special representative for human rights in Iraq.

Tahar Boumedra

“We have applied the criteria of fact-finding criteria of UN missions. We have only put down evidence that is beyond doubt evident. We ended up by identifying 70 suspect perpetrators who are beyond any doubt involved in this massacre. The documents are available. We made it available to the UN and the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the diplomatic community,” he added.

“We have identified these perpetrators. Mrs. Rajavi just point to on the type of crime committed. International lawyers, such as Geoffrey Robertson, have qualified the 1988 massacre not only as a crime against humanity but also possibly a genocide,” Mr. Tahar Boumedra continued.

“Among other evidence we gathered, published in a separate document by the JVMI, is the location of the mass graves. These locations are very well identified. Anyone who challenges these documents, we invite them to go to the locations and verify for themselves,” the former UN chief human rights officer in Iraq added.

“We have identified the facts, the crimes, the perpetrators and the victims. How are we going to proceed?” he asked.

Mr. Boumedra recounted his experience in being in a group of jurists who referred the case of Gen. Hassan Al-bashir to the UN Security Council in 2010. “He is a fugitive now. He’s on the run,” Mr. Boumedra explained.

“We have identified 120 countries which could entertain the judicial process of crimes against humanity, the crimes of war and genocide. We’re not dreaming. The situation changes,” he stressed.

“In terms of NGO activism, it’s up to the activism undertaken by concerned associations to pave the path toward arresting and prosecuting the perpetrators. Within JVMI, we need to be more mobilized, we need to be persistent, and we need to be patient. These kinds of crimes and their prosecution take time. However, as long as the mullahs know they can be arrested and taken to court, they will have to negotiate whenever they want to go anywhere,” Mr. Boumedra continued. “There will be a day when we will arrest and prosecute these people. We will do it,” Mr. Boumedra concluded.

17.20: Survivors and witnesses of Iran's 1988 massacre are now giving testimony about the crimes they witnessed. Kobra Jokar says:

“I was in the regime’s prisons for six years. The Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) arrested me while I was pregnant. I was taken to Evin Prison and the torture chambers. I was transferred to Ward 209. In the cell, I saw four torturers torture my husband in front of me. They also tortured me in front of him,” said Ms. Kobra Jokar.

Kobra Jokar

“A few days later, they executed him with 75 others. The torturer said, ‘I wanted him to never see his son.’ “The regime had executed 50 pregnant women, including Masumeh, the sister of Mrs. Maryam Rajavi. They took me to a hospital and quickly brought me back to prison even though I was very ill,” she added.

“In prison, there was no doctor or medication for the children. In the public ward, there was only 15 minutes of warm water per day, which we had to use to give the children a bath. Many of these children had lost their parents,” Ms. Jokar continued.

“The torturers even interrogated the children. They had strapped a small child to a chair in a dark room and tortured her so she would reveal the names of her mother’s friends,” she said.

“I managed to escape prison in 1987. One year later, all of those ladies who shared the cell with me were executed in the 1988 massacre,” Ms. Jokar added.

“The roots of our hopes and faith in our leaders helped us overcome the dark times in prison and to fight for freedom,” she concluded.

17.30: Hengameh Haj Hassan says:

“I was a nurse in Tehran. In 1981, I was arrested because I was an MEK supporter. We were charged with helping the people who were injured by the IRGC,” said Ms. Hengameh Haj Hassan.

“In prison, we were subjected to severe tortures. Insomnia, packed cells, sleeping in coffins were what we had to endure,” she added.

 Hengameh Haj Hassan

“We were taken to the cages. These were small partitions where you could only squat. You couldn’t move, you couldn’t even cough or sneeze. If we moved, we were tortured. Our eyes were blindfolded. My eyesight has been degraded and my back was injured. I was operated on five times and yet I still have not recovered,” Ms. Haj Hassan continued.

“When we came out of the ‘cages,’ our friends didn’t recognize us. When we were in the cages, the torturers used any excuse to torture us,” she emphasized.

“The torturer told us that we would die here. We were only given three minutes per day to go to the bathroom. We couldn’t even brush our teeth. The food they gave us was scarce and very dirty. At night, when we were allowed to sleep, they would turn on loudspeakers and play the regime’s mourning songs,” Ms. Haj Hassan added.

“The torturers sought to break our will and force us to turn our backs on our struggle. I decided that I would teach them a lesson and show them who we were. My friend Shekar was arrested with me, and she was executed in 1988 after suffering torture and the cage,” she continued.

“I decided to prepare myself for very hard days. I meticulously organized my daily schedule. I rehearsed all my school courses, all the poems I knew, all the songs. I had a physical exercise program. We weren’t allowed to move, but I exercised in my mind,” Ms. Haj Hassan said.

“At night, when we couldn’t sleep due to the loudspeakers, I trained myself to shut down those noises and take myself to pleasant places in my memories,” she added.

“The hardest times were the feeling of loneliness. I thought of God, and I thought of my leader, Massoud Rajavi. I spoke to him, and this way, I didn’t feel alone anymore,” Ms. Haj Hassan continued.

“The torturers thought they would break our will through torture. However, they only made us stronger, as we understood that this proved what we were doing was right,” she added.

“In prison, we considered ourselves PMOI (MEK) representatives, and we deemed it our responsibility to defend their values. When I came out of prison, the first thing I did was to re-join my organization. This is a path that will continue till the end,” Ms. Haj Hassan concluded.

17.40: Homa Jaberi says:

“I was in the regime’s prisons for five years and I witnessed many tortures. I was arrested in 1981 and spent many years in Gohardasht (Rajai Shahr) and Evin prisons. When the regime wasn’t able to break the will of MEK prisoners through torture, they created a compound called the ‘residential units,’” said Ms. Homa Jaberi.

“This was a secret compound. I was there for 40 days. In the first day, I was tortured brutally with whips and physically beaten. They took all of us to a room, blindfolded us, and told us that they would kill us until that night. They tortured us for hours until midnight,” she added.

Homa Jaberi

“My hands were swollen from the whip lashes. My face and body were bruised. The regime’s torturer said, ‘No one will hear you here. You will all die here.’ They kept us awake for many days and didn’t let us sleep,” Ms. Jaberi continued.

“Some of my friends were kept in this place for six months. We weren’t even aloud to scream under torture. Every command was given with whip lashes. For instance, if they wanted to tell us that we could sleep, they would do so by whipping us,” she added.

“After 40 days, I was taken to Evin Prison. Some of my friends had lost their mental balance. Some of the prisoners would not even speak of the tortures they had suffered. They said that the torturers made them make animal noises and insult themselves. Some had been raped,” Ms. Jaberi explained.

“I have faith that with the leadership of Massoud and Maryam Rajavi, we will free Iran. It was this faith that helped me overcome the tough conditions of prison,” she concluded.

Jordanian MP Abed Al Masiri

17.45: Jordanian MP Abed Al Masiri, who is visiting the MEK's compound in Ashraf 3 in Albania, tells the conference on Iran's 1988 massacre:

“The PMOI (MEK) is not just a name. You are a cause, and a message. A great message. I see MEK men and women who have put aside everything in their lives for others. This is something I’d never seen in my life. You are freedom-lovers. The mullahs are in chains. You are the free people,” said Jordanian MP Abed Al Masiri. “Dictator regimes will be sent to the trash bin of history.”

17.50: More survivors and witnesses of Iran's 1988 massacre are now giving testimony. Majid Sahebjam says:

“I spent 17 years in prison. My crime was supporting the MEK. I witnessed many human rights violations. The 1988 massacre was a premeditated and well-planned crime. Some of the people who were directly involved in this crime still hold high positions of power. The regime has done everything in its power to hide its crime. It didn’t even tell the burial places to the families of the victims,” said Mr. Majid Sahebjam.

Majid Sahebjam

“During the massacre, the judges only asked one question, in a short trial that lasted only a few minutes. They asked about the crime of the defendant. Uttering the word ‘Mojahed’ was enough to seal the fate of the prisoner and send him to the gallows,” he added. (Prisoners who instead responded with the word ‘Monafeq’, meaning ‘hypocrite’ – the regime’s derogatory term for describing the MEK – were returned to their cells.)

“The prisoners in the regime’s dungeons bore the scars of torture on their bodies. The 1988 massacre was an opportunity for the regime to hide the evidence of its horrible crimes. I know at least 20 families who have lost two of their children to the executioners of the regime,” Mr. Sahebjam continued.

“Many of the prisoners were aged 14,15 and 16 when they were arrested. These people were later executed by the regime,” he explained.

“During the 1988 massacre, dozens of MEK supporters had served their sentence. However, they were kept in prison because they would not repent their support for the MEK. They were executed in 1988 because of their dedication to freedom and human values,” Mr. Sahebjam concluded.

17.57: Mostafa Naderi, a survivor of Iran's 1988 massacre, says:

“I spent 11 years in prison, five of those years in solitary confinement. During the 1988 massacre, I was hospitalized because of torture. I was unconscious in the infirmary when they called my name for execution, and this is how I survived,” said Mr. Mostafa Naderi.

“After the executions, when you were taken to the cells, they asked your name and checked in a notebook. In the notebook, all the names were crossed, which meant they were executed,” he added.

Mostafa Naderi

“In the beginning, they said nothing of the executions, claiming the prisoners were going for family visits. In many smaller cities, not even a single person survived to tell the story of the massacre,” Mr. Naderi continued.

“In prison, I was severely tortured. After eight months of torture, I and five other prisoners were taken to a mullah who said we would be executed that night. They took us to the place of execution. They tied our hands and we heard the guns being loaded. They fired, but they aimed a bit higher than our heads in this mock execution. We suffered a traumatic experience. One of the prisoners fainted and another lost his eyesight,” he recalled.

“The 1988 massacre was planned from two years before. However, the massacre continues to this day. We must stop this,” Mr. Naderi concluded.

18.03: Mahmoud Royaie, a former political prisoner, says:

“I spent 10 years in the regime’s prisons. Many of my friends were teenagers when they were arrested. They spent many years in prison and were finally executed. People who had served their sentences and their families were waiting for them. However, they never got to see them,” said Mr. Mahmoud Royaie.

“One of my friends was executed five years after his sentence was finished. He was taken to the gallows just as he defended the name of Mojahed. Many of the prisoners’ families died after hearing that their loved ones were executed. The father of one of my friends had a cardiac arrest when he heard about his son’s execution. So you could say the regime even executed our families,” he continued.

Mahmoud Royaie

“Some of these families are still staring at the pictures of their loved ones and crying after 30 years. Some of the parents lost their sanity when their children were executed,” Mr. Royaie added.

“The regime even executed the disabled and handicapped. Yet these prisoners stood tall when they went to the gallows. One of my friends had lost his mentality due to the tortures. However, when they took him to the judge, he stood tall and said, ‘I’m a Mojahed.’ He was executed,” he explained.

“The 1988 massacre was a national disaster, but it is also the pride of our nation. Today, people who weren’t even born then are calling for justice. The members of the 1988 ‘Death Commissions’ are members of the government today,” Mr. Royaie recalled.

“When I think about those brave prisoners, I am humbled. With the justice movement, I feel that they’re here with us, in Ashraf 3,” he concluded.

18.12: Former Algerian Prime Minister Sid Ahmed Ghozali says:

“We’ve all heard about these massacres. Today, the victims themselves speak to us. We can no longer be observers, albeit sympathetic. We must be responsible. When we become witnesses, the law of men forbids us from remaining silent and doing nothing,” said former Algerian Prime Minister Sid Ahmed Ghozali.

Sid Ahmed Ghozal

“The question we must ask ourselves, we must reflect, especially we the folks of Arab countries. We can’t forgive ourselves if we continue to ignore this and tell ourselves that Iran is far and doesn’t concern us. Crimes against humanity are well defined in the books, and even the Quran says that anyone who kills a single innocent person has killed all of humanity,” he added.

“The laws of men and God forbid us from remaining silent when we become witnesses. As the President of the Committee for Solidarity with the People of Iran, I invite my friends in Arab countries to learn about what happened in Iran and seek justice. We don’t seek revenge, but we seek justice,” Mr. Ghozali continued.

“This is our collective responsibility. There are thousands of films about the massacre of the Jewish people. We must have an equal number of documents on what we just heard. I have never been tortured, but I feel immense pain when I hear these testimonies. Pregnant women killed. Babies killed inside the womb of their mothers,” he concluded. “This has been a hard silence. It’s not enough to shed tears. We must act.”

18.20: Former United States Senator Robert Torricelli says:

“I have never witnessed anything like what I’ve heard today. I’m from a different faith and nationality, but I’ve committed myself to your struggle. It is difficult to find any reason in anything we have heard. It would be easy to leave this room with nothing in your hearts but despair,” said Sen. Robert Torricelli.

“There was a time in human history where the human conscience was protected by these artificial lines we draw on these maps,” he added.

Senator Robert Torricelli

Sen. Torricelli explained how those involved in different genocides and crimes against humanity, including the Holocaust and Cambodia, were brought to justice.

“The only chance for the dead to live on is in the memory of the living. But it’s also evidence for justice. Your responsibility today is almost unbearable. They’re unbelievable. Every man or woman who died must never be forgotten, because if they aren’t, they won’t die and the mullahs won’t achieve victory,” Sen. Torricelli continued.

“As we fight for revolution, we also fight for justice. The temptation to become like them and achieve justice at the barrel of a gun or the noose is very tempting. But our justice will be by law, though it will be swift and sure,” he added.

“There’s only one final justice. The mullahs, hangmen, and Revolutionary Guards, can be taken to court and meet justice. Don’t we have a responsibility to give meaning to why the martyrs died. They would be comforted to know they’re in your hearts. But to those who were martyred, isn’t there really only one justice, which is to destroy the regime?” Sen. Torricelli concluded.

18.30: Fereshteh Akhlaghi tells the conference:

“This exhibition is only the tip of the iceberg. In just two years, the regime executed 477 adolescents and youth, including three 12-year-olds. Eight people were 13 years old. Nineteen individuals were 14 years old. Another 32 individuals were 15 years old. Others were 16 and 17 years old,” said. Ms. Fereshteh Akhlaghi who has researched about the 1988 massacre for decades.

Fereshteh Akhlaghi

“55 pregnant women were executed. One of the pregnant women was summoned by the executioner, who told her he had executed her husband, and then offered to release her if she would do an interview with state television. She spat in the judge’s face,” she added.

“A husband and wife were arrested and tortured to such an extent that they could not recognize each other when they met after two weeks,” Ms. Akhlaghi continued. “The sister or Mrs. Rajavi was executed while six-month pregnant.”

“The regime also executed and tortured the elderly. The mother of the Shafaie family, all of whom were executed, was also executed by the regime. Before her execution, she said, ‘I’m proud that I’ve given my all for freedom,’” she recalled.

“I’m sure that under the leadership of Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, there will be no more torture and execution in our dear Iran,” Ms. Akhlaghi concluded.

18.40: Peter Murphy, Co-Secretary of the Australian Supporters of Democracy in Iran, tells the conference:

“We see three fundamental changes. The first is the continuation of uprisings in Iran. The second is the establishment of Ashraf 3. The third is the Trump administration’s break with the appeasement policy. This is the result of the continuous work of the MEK and NCRI coming here year after year to convey this message,” said Mr. Peter Murphy, Co-Secretary of Australian Supporters of Democracy in Iran.

Peter Murphy

“We are calling for our states to speak out for justice. We are calling on the Australian government to condemn this crime against humanity and pursue justice over the 1988 massacre,” he concluded.

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