Witnesses to the 1988 Massacre Tell Their Stories on Day Five of the Free Iran Conference
The final day of the Free Iran Conference was dedicated to seeking justice for the 30,000 victims of the 1988 Massacre and their families. A number of dignitaries gave speeches on Monday, but the most memorable words came from survivors of the massacre. Their words are summarized below.
“I spent six years in prison. The Revolutionary Guards 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. Jokar.
“A few days later, they executed my husband with 75 others. The torturer said his intention was for him to never see his child. When I gave birth to my child, they took me to a hospital and quickly brought me back to prison even though I was very ill. I personally knew 50 MEK pregnant women who were executed, including Masumeh, the sister of Mrs. Maryam Rajavi,” she said.
“In prison, they would not give milk and food for the kids, and my cellmates would provide their sugar rations to me to give something to my baby. There was no doctor or medication for the children. In the public ward, there were only 15 minutes of warm water every other 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 strapped a six-year-old girl to a chair in a dark room and said they would leave her there if she did not reveal the names of her mother’s friends,” she said.
“I managed to escape prison in 1986. All of those ladies who shared the cell with me were executed in the 1988 massacre,” Ms. Jokar said.
“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. Ms. Jokar remained stoic throughout her testimony but many in the room were visibly moved by her words.
“I was a nurse in Tehran. In 1981, I was arrested and imprisoned in Evin Prison and Gohardasht Prison along with many of my colleagues. We were charged with helping the people who were injured by the IRGC,” said Ms. Haj-Hassan.
“In prison, we were subjected to severe tortures. Insomnia, packed cells, sleeping in coffins were what we had to endure,” she said.
“I was in a cage for seven months. 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. Inside the cage, we had to be prepared for any torture at any moment. 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,” she added.
“The torturers sought to break our will and force us to turn our backs on our struggle. I decided that I would not tell the enemy the name of the Mojahed. My friend Shekar was arrested with me, and she was executed in 1988 after suffering torture and the cage,” she stressed.
“I decided to prepare myself for hard days. I scheduled all my moments every day. My program was I started to remember all the songs and the contents of the Mojahedin books and the martyrs’ biographies that I already had read and started to repeat them. I had a physical exercise program. We weren’t allowed to move, but I exercised in my mind. I nursed patients in my mind,” she explained.
“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. 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 emphasized.
“In prison, we considered ourselves PMOI 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 until the end,” Ms. Haj-Hassan concluded. Her speech drew chants and applause from the audience.
“I was in the regime’s prisons for five years and I witnessed many tortures. I was arrested in 1981 because I had participated in a peaceful MEK protest and spent many years in Gohardasht (Rajai Shahr) and Evin prisons. When the regime wasn’t able to break the will of the MEK woman through torture, they created a compound called the ‘residential units,’” said Ms. Jaberi.
“This was a secret compound. I was there for 40 days. From 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 stated.
“My hands were swollen from the whiplashes. My face and body were bruised. The regime’s torturer said, ‘This is your hell. No one will hear you here. You will all die here.’ They kept us awake for many days and didn’t let us sleep,” she continued.
“Some of my friends were kept in this place for six months. We weren’t even allowed 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 the prison,” she concluded to cheers and chants from the audience.
A video clip about the 1988 Massacre was shown to the conference attendees. MEK members held up photographs of loved ones who were martyred in the massacre. Some held more than one photograph. Mrs. Rajavi wiped tears from her eyes during the presentation.
Witnesses to the 1988 Massacre
Majid Saheb Jam
“I was imprisoned for 17 years. 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 families of the victims the whereabouts of the burial places,” said Mr. Sahebjam.
“During the massacre, the judges only asked one question, in a short trial that lasted only a few minutes. They asked, “What are your charges?” Uttering the word ‘Mojahed’ was enough to seal the fate of the prisoner and send him to the gallows,” he added.
“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 personally know at least 20 families who have lost two of their children to the executioners of the regime,” he went on.
“Many of the prisoners were aged 14,15 and 16 when they were arrested. These people were later executed by the regime,” he stressed.
“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,” Sahebjam concluded.
“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 clinic when they called my name for execution, and this is how I survived,” said Mr. Naderi.
“After the executions, when you were taken to the cells, they asked for your name and checked in a notebook. In the notebook, all the names were crossed, which meant they were executed,” he explained.
“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 added.
“In prison, I was severely tortured. After eight months of torture, I and five other prisoners were taken to a mullah who said we were enemies of God and 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 show a meter above our heads. We suffered a traumatic experience. One of the prisoners fainted and another lost his eyesight,” he said.
“The 1988 massacre was planned from two years before. However, the massacre continues to this day. We must stop this,” Mr. Naderi concluded.
“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. 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 said.
“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 recalled.
“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 said.
“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.