The Forgotten Massacre: MEK Iran Seeks Justice for 30,000 Executed in Bloody Summer of 1988
In 1988 the Iranian regime executed 30,000 political prisoners over the course of a single summer. The victims were targeted for their association with the MEK Iran and included teenagers, pregnant women, and prisoners who had already completed their sentences and were awaiting release.
The perpetrators of this atrocity have never been prosecuted, and the 1988 Massacre is rarely acknowledged in discussions of crimes against humanity. For decades the mullahs have gone to great lengths to destroy evidence of mass graves, and family members of victims are forbidden to hold public memorials for their loved ones. The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and the MEK are determined to lift the veil of silence surrounding the 1988 Massacre and seek justice for the victims of the Iranian regime’s bloody campaign to silence political dissent.
Near the end of the Iran/Iraq War, regime founder Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa ordering the deaths of all MEK Iran members imprisoned inside Iran. He ordered the formation of three-member Death Committees to travel to the regime’s prisons to carry out the executions. Political prisoners were summoned for trials that lasted mere minutes and consisted of a single question: “Do you renounce the Monafeqin [a pejorative word for the MEK Iran used by the regime]?” Those who refused were taken to the gallows and hanged in groups.
In 1988, 30,000 political prisoners of #MEK members were summarily executed in #Iran on the #Fatwa of Regime Founder Ruhollah #Khomeini
https://t.co/A8VLtwEGqI#WeSupportMEK #FreeIran @USAdarFarsi pic.twitter.com/8h1pCQotUd
— MEK Iran (Mujahedin-e Khalq) (@MEK_Iran) October 10, 2019
Bodies were loaded into dump trucks and hauled to unmarked mass graves. Families were often not notified for months that their loved ones had been executed, and many never received death certificates. Because the victims’ bodies were buried in mass graves, families were not able to observe Islamic burial rituals. In subsequent years the regime has bulldozed the sites of these graves and constructed buildings and roads over them to conceal their crimes. Family members have never been informed of the locations of their loved ones’ remains.
The Crime of Dissent
The overwhelming majority of the victims of the 1988 Massacre were originally imprisoned for peaceful political activities. According to Amnesty International, the crimes included “distributing newspapers and leaflets, taking part in peaceful anti-government demonstrations, and having real or perceived affiliations with various political opposition groups,” most notably the MEK Iran. The victims served lengthy sentences for these crimes of dissent, and some had already completed their sentences and were awaiting release when the fatwa was issued. Others had been released and were re-arrested.
Once imprisoned these peaceful activists were brutally tortured in the years leading up to the massacre. The regime showed no mercy to children or pregnant women, treating all with stunning cruelty. In July 2019 survivors of the 1988 Massacre gave testimony at the Free Iran Conference at Ashraf-3, the MEK’s headquarters in Albania. Former MEK Iran political prisoner Kobra Jokar stated that prison guards did not provide food, milk, or medicine for children who were imprisoned with their mothers, and some of the children remained in prison after their parents were executed. She also described how the regime interrogated a small child.
“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.
Pregnant women were not spared from torture and execution. Teenage girls were not spared from rape or execution. Nasrin Shoja’i was arrested at the age of 13 for her support of the MEK Iran. She was raped by prison guards before being executed at age 19.
One Death Committee member described this behavior as a kind of mercy. In an August 15, 1988 comment to Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri (considered Khomeini’s heir apparent until he expressed regret over the 1988 Massacre), the unnamed committee member said, “We were considerate about those who were under the age of 18, while most of the prisoners hanged were (high school) students. This means that they were between 15 and 17 years old at the time of the arrest.”
A Lack of Consequences
To date, none of the perpetrators of the 1988 Massacre have been held accountable. In fact, the opposite has been the case. Those who played the largest roles in the massacre have been rewarded with high-ranking positions in the clerical regime.
In the summer of 1988, the #Iranian regime summarily & extra-judicially executed tens of thousands of political prisoners across #Iran. The massacre was carried out based on a fatwa by the regime’s then-Supreme Leader Ruhollah #Khomeini. #MEK #WeSupportMEK @USAdarFarsi pic.twitter.com/F9Yv0xrn8w
— MEK Iran (Mujahedin-e Khalq) (@MEK_Iran) August 29, 2019
Former Tehran Death Committee member Ebrahim Raisi is the current Judiciary Chief for the regime and has a seat on the mullahs’ Assembly of Experts.
Former Death Committee member Alireza Avaei is the current regime Minister of Justice.
Former Evin Prison Death Committee member Mostafa Pourmohammadi is a former Minister of Justice and current advisor to the regime’s Judiciary.
On July 29, 2019, Pourmohammadi bragged about his involvement with the 1988 Massacre, saying, “We are proud of killing these people.”
A Call for Justice
The NCRI and the MEK Iran have repeatedly called for the United Nations to conduct an independent investigation into the 1988 Massacre and to hold the perpetrators accountable. NCRI President-elect Mrs. Maryam Rajavi’s calls for action have gained traction in the international community over the past two years in light of the Iranian regime’s continued human rights abuses.
Former Colombian Senator Ingrid Betancourt is one of many prominent voices who has joined the Call for Justice Movement. In a recent speech, she spoke passionately about the need to fully investigate the 1988 Massacre.
“The only way [to end human rights abuses] is by asking the world to give us what has been taken away from us which is justice. We need to ask the UN to play its role. There is a High Commissioner for human rights in the UN. This is the first step. We need to ask the High Commissioner to begin an independent inquiry to investigate [the 1988 Massacre],” she urged.