Over 30 years have passed since the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners. The perpetrators of this crime against humanity, as described by many human rights experts, have enjoyed systematic impunity, rendered by the international community’s inaction.
This systematic impunity reached its peak in June 2021 when the Iranian regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei selected Ebrahim Raisi as the new president. Raisi was a member of Tehran’s “Death Commissions,” responsible for killing thousands of political prisoners, mostly members and supporters of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK).
Today, 1000 political prisoners, including dozens of the survivors of the 1988 massacre along with international dignitaries from across the globe joined a virtual conference to continue the effort to seek justice and accountability.
Maryam Rajavi, President-elect National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)
Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)
“From the onset of the 1988 massacre, the Iranian Resistance provided information about the mass executions to the United Nations. Unfortunately, they chose to turn a blind eye to these crimes,” Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, said in her keynote speech at the conference.
Mrs. Rajavi described the 1988 massacre as “a clear example of genocide.”
“Khomeini’s fatwa was an explicit decree to execute all the Mojahedin who remained steadfast… the goal of the regime goes far beyond the execution of several thousand; it is the obliteration of a generation, an ideology, and men and women who rejected religious extremism under the guise of Islam and stood up for human freedom and dignity,” she said.
Accordingly, the gathering of 1,000 PMOI/MEK prisoners is a unique capital for the Call-for-Justice movement and the Resistance movement that seeks to overthrow the regime, she added.
“The fact that such a large and valuable group of witnesses to the regime’s crimes are at the core of a revolutionary movement speaks volumes about a tremendous social reality,” Mrs. Rajavi said. “Over the past 33 years, they have continuously contributed to the Call-for-Justice Movement with their high spirit and effective presence in the struggle against religious fascism.”
Mrs. Rajavi also stressed that the ongoing rallies and demonstrations of freedom-loving Iranians and supporters of the Iranian Resistance outside a Stockholm court “are yet another glorious feature of the Call-for-Justice Movement.”
“For us, the Call-for-Justice movement is synonymous with perseverance, steadfastness, and resistance to overthrow this regime and establish freedom with all our strength. For this reason, the regime has denied the massacre, minimized the number of victims, and erased their identities in a bid to prolong its rule,” she said. “The discussion about erasing the identity of the victims of the massacre is not a partisan issue. It is the core of the issue and the critical step to undermine the principles and positions those martyrs laid down their lives for and walked to the gallows.”
Therefore, the powerful movement that seeks justice for the victims of the 1988 massacre has defied the expectation of Khomeini, Khamenei, and their accomplices, who ordered the hanging of thousands upon thousands of prisoners by executioners like Ebrahim Raisi.
In her speech, Mrs. Rajavi reiterated the responsibility of the international community in holding the perpetrators of the 1988 massacre to account.
“I again call on the U.S. and Europe to recognize the 1988 massacre in Iran as genocide and a crime against humanity. They must not accept Raisi in their countries. They must prosecute and hold him accountable,” she said.
Mrs. Rajavi also reiterates her call to the UN Secretary-General, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Human Rights Council, the UN special rapporteurs, and international human rights organizations to “visit the Iranian regime’s prisons and meet with the prisoners there, especially the political prisoners.”
“The dossier of human rights violations in Iran, especially regarding the regime’s conduct in prisons, should be submitted to the UN Security Council,” she concluded.
Dominique Attias, President of the European Bars Federation Since March 2021
This is a grave day. We know what is happening in Iran. Thanks to you and your efforts, these martyrs will be avenged. These murderers have reached the peak of their crimes. This destruction of the lives of mothers, sisters, children.
This is a crime against humanity. This has to be stopped. Europeans and the entire world are silent. Today, a murderer is ruling Iran. The Iranian parliament might have accepted him, but we won’t. Iranian women will not accept him. Women are a fundamental element of society. If we close our eyes, we will be responsible too. The Bar Association of Europe will stand with you.
Geoffrey Ronald Robertson, QC, Human Rights Barrister, Academic, Author, and Broadcaster.
It has been a crime to kill prisoners for centuries. The difference is that if it amounts to a particular crime of genocide, there is an international convention that binds countries to take action and punish that genocide.
It is important to see whether what happened to MEK members can be lawfully classified as genocide. Genocide is the killing of a group based on their religion or race. The fatwa [decree] issued by [regime founder Ruhollah] Khomeini began by saying the MEK does not believe in Islam, has become renegades, and has waged war on God: ‘moharebe’. The MEK was distinguished from Khomeini because of their different view on Islam.
When the news of these killings first came out, there was an attempt by the regime to defend them. The Chief Justice at the time said we are not a secular state and blasphemy is not permitted. He said that this was a form of punishing blasphemy. So it seems to me there is very strong evidence that this is genocide and the genocide convention was ratified by Iran in 1956. It applies to killing or causing serious physical or mental harm to members of a group.
There is no doubt that there is a case for prosecuting [regime President Ebrahim] Raisi and others. There has been a crime committed that engages international responsibility. Something must be done about it as has been done against the perpetrators of the Srebrenica massacre.
Theo Van Boven, Director of the UN Division of Human Rights (1977-1982) and UN Special Rapporteur on Torture (2001-2004)
The current president of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, has a lengthy career in the judiciary. While holding these functions, large-scale killings occurred across Iran, including the 1988 massacre, bringing into question the rule and accountability of Ebrahim Raisi.
We call for an independent inquiry by the United Nations into the 1988 massacre and the accountability of Raisi.
Kumi Naidoo, Secretary-General of Amnesty International (2018-2020)
The 1988 massacre was a brutal and bloodthirsty massacre and a genocide. It is moving for me to see the strength and courage of people who have been through so much and seen so much tragedy and endure these atrocities. I would like to pay tribute to all the PMOI prisoners and applaud you.
It is critically important that in this moment of history we look for a new source of inspiration coming from youth across the world. It is very inspirational to see that there have been a significant number of young people in the last decade in Iran who have stood up on the lines.
It is important to understand how unjust governments use their ideological apparatus to control the population. It is important that the EU and broader international community adopt leadership roles on this issue. This government in Iran, led by Raisi, has even greater culpability on the issue of the 1988 massacre.
Governments that behave like this must recognize that that behavior is not so much a show of force as an admission of weakness.
Audronius AžUbalis, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania (2010 – 2012) and Member of Parliament
No one has yet faced justice for this crime against humanity. There is no political will to hold the perpetrators to account. A UN investigation into the 1988 massacre is a must.
Despite all the calls for an independent international investigation into the 1988 massacre, the European Union has ignored these calls, shown no reaction, and not been prepared to show a reaction. I would like to call on the EU to sanction the regime for crimes against humanity. I think Lithuania can take the lead among EU members.
Eric David, Professor of International Law from Belgium
There is no doubt that this is a crime against humanity. It was an attack on a civil population. This is also a genocide because the victims were killed based on their adherence to a set of beliefs that was banned by the mullahs.
All international jurisdictions can try this crime. If a regime official is in any country, that country can easily accuse and try that person for his responsibility in the 1988 massacre. We have no difficulty judicially bringing this case to court.
We have to reiterate that these criminals be brought to justice in international courts.
Gulnara Shahinian, UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery (2008-2014) From Armenia
When atrocities are not punished but the perpetrators are recognized as heroes, this does not reflect the people of the country nor the families of the victims. Little has been done to address the issue of mass graves. Mass graves are places of evidence and critical for justice. They are proof that heinous events took place that must never have happened.
The roles of states and the international community are critically important. They must bear the responsibility to protect these sites. The respect of the lawful handling of mass graves must be assured. The international community must do much more. All actions to protect human rights are critical now. We must make sure future generations do not forget these crimes. We have to call for accountability and not allow this to happen again.
Former Iranian Political Prisoner Mehri Hajinejad
Four of my siblings were killed by the regime. When I was in prison, the interrogators tried to make us believe that we were alone. I thank all of you for your advocacy of the justice movement. More than 1,000 former political prisoners are present here. Unfortunately, a small number were accepted in the Swedish court that is trying regime criminal Hami Nouri.
The PMOI started the justice movement immediately after the 1988 massacre began. Iranian Resistance leader Massoud Rajavi warned instantly about a massive wave of political executions in Iran as the massacre began. Since then, the Iranian Resistance has issued thousands of statements, held many conferences, published documents, and taken other measures to prevent this genocide from being forgotten.
There is no doubt that Hamid Noury must be brought to justice. But there are also many others who were perpetrators in this case, and at the top is Ebrahim Raisi. They must all be brought to justice. Khamenei and Raisi must be tried for the 1988 massacre, for the executions in the 1980s, for the murder of protesters, and for their murderous Covid policy.
Sima Mirzaei, a Relative of the Victims of the 1988 Massacre
My sister, Khadijeh, was arrested in 1981 and tortured brutally for several months. She died under torture. My brothers and sister were executed in 1988 after spending seven years in prison. My brother, Hossein, spent half of his seven years in solitary confinement. My sister, Masoumeh, was tortured in front of her son.
Regime torturer Assadollah Lajevardi told my father we will burn your roots because your children are PMOI supporters. One of my brothers was 16 years old when he was arrested. The torturer told my mother I personally shot your son in the head.
After 33 years, the memory and soul of the 1988 massacre martyrs can be seen in the Resistance Units and in the justice movement. All these criminals will be brought to justice.
Franco Frattini, Foreign Minister of Italy (2002–2004 and 2008–2011)
Anyone who has laid their lives down for the non-negotiable rights of humans is forever a source of inspiration. The actions of the new government of Iran are in line with the regime’s history. The new foreign minister has served under previous governments. There is no difference between conservatives and reformists. It is the same regime. This is confirmed by the foreign minister’s closeness to the commander of the Quds Force. He even confirmed that he will continue the path of Qassem Soleimani.
Always the Iranian presidents have spoken about their adherence to the UN’s values. But in practice, the regime has lost popular support, applying for the rule of guns instead of the rule of law. Finally, I hope for an independent investigation with no limitation into the 1988 massacre. The credibility of the UN system is at stake.
Iran will obviously never accept the rule of the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. But the UN Security Council has a moral duty. The UN owes this moral duty to innocent victims. Let us seek justice. Let us go forward with a serious international investigation.
Guy Verhofstadt, Prime Minister of Belgium (1999 to 2008)
I am still shocked by what happened in 1988 and it is because the people had no chance to protect themselves and flee from torture. They were locked up and deprived of freedom. And based on the fatwa, they were hanged after short inquisitions by the death commission.
The 1988 massacre targeted an entire generation of young people. It is crucial to know that this was planned in advance. It was the consequence of the regime itself. The regime is always trying to brutally silence those who ask for the improvement of human rights and freedoms.
The 1988 massacre was planned and rigorously executed with a clear target in mind. It qualifies as genocide. Imagine if these people were not slaughtered and were freed and given the chance to build their country. Without that massacre, there would be a totally different Iran. This is why the 1988 massacre has a deep signification.
The massacre was never officially investigated by the UN and the perpetrators were not indicted. They continue to enjoy impunity. Today, the regime is run by the killers of that time.
Giulio Maria Terzi, Foreign Minister of Italy (2011 – 2013)
The massacre does not only belong to the past of this regime. It is significant for the present and future of Iran. Over 90 percent of them were MEK members and supporters. The prisoners chose to stand tall by refusing to renounce their support for the MEK.
Many have called for an international investigation into the 1988 massacre. EU High Representative Josep Borrell should end his usual approach toward the Iranian regime. He should encourage all UN member states to demand accountability for Iran’s great crime against humanity.
There are thousands of people out there who expect a more assertive approach by the international community, especially the EU.
Prof. Valeriu M. Ciucă
We demand an investigation into the 1988 massacre of political prisoners in Iran. I think the Iranian government must answer any questions regarding the massacre. He who remains silent when accused admits to the allegations. It is time to start this process. It is time for international action.
Former Iranian Political Prisoner Parvin Kouhi
During my time in prison, on some nights, up to 600 people were executed per night. The massacre took place in all cities of Iran. In Dastgerd prison, when I returned from solitary confinement, I was surprised by the small number of prisoners left. They were all executed. The guards implied that all prisoners were executed.
Former Iranian Political Prisoner Khadijeh Ashtiani
I was in prison for five years, in Evin and Ghezelhesar. I personally saw Hamid Nouri during my time in prison. The regime killed my brother in prison. He was only 19 years old when arrested and executed in 1988. The massacre was planned in advance. Family meetings were suspended. Prisoners were transferred to Evin. One day, they told us to collect my brother’s belongings. He was executed.
Dr. Javad Ahmadi, Former Political Prisoner
My sister, Ashraf Ahmadi, was arrested by the Shah’s security forces, tortured in prison, and released in 1979. She was arrested again by the mullahs’ regime in 1981 and transferred to Evin prison, where she was brutally tortured. She was hanged with other prisoners in the 1988 massacre.
The mullahs wanted to destroy the PMOI’s memory with this massacre. These martyrs prevented them from doing so.
Former Political Prisoner Nezam Mir Mohammadi, Lawyer
I spent 18 months in the regime’s prisons without trial. Before my arrest, as a lawyer, I was seeing to the MEK members’ legal cases arrested by the regime. In Gohardasht prison, I witnessed brutal torture.
As a lawyer, it is my duty to pay tribute to all those who lost their lives and all the prisoners who sacrificed their lives. And I thank all those who are helping to hold the perpetrators to account.
Former Political Prisoner Azadali Hajilouei
I was arrested in 1984 for supporting the MEK. I spent several years in Evin and Gohardasht prisons. During the 1988 massacre, one day I was sent to the death commission. I was then kept in the death corridor. During this time, Hamid Nouri, who is now on trial in Sweden, read out the names of thirty prisoners, including some of my cellmates. I later learned that they had been executed. I was kept there until midnight and then sent back to my cell.
One of the prosecutors told me that I should have been executed and sent me to a cell where I was told to write my will. I was then sent to solitary confinement. I was kept there for 20 days. When the doors opened, the prison guard tried to intimidate me and told me that if I did not renounce my support for MEK, I would be kept in solitary until I died. They also sent a note to my family and told them that I had been executed.
Abulfazl Mahzoon, Former Political Prisoner
I was arrested in 1981, sent to Evin prison, and sentenced to ten years behind bars. In 1986 I was transferred to Gohardasht prison and the next year, sent to Qazvin. During the 1988 massacre, a delegation came to the prison and started asking questions and inspecting our belongings. Sometime later they came and took away several prisoners and transferred them to Gohardasht. We later learned that they were taken for execution.