Iran Human RightsFormer Political Prisoner who escaped 1988 Massacre,: ‘No one...

Former Political Prisoner who escaped 1988 Massacre,: ‘No one was spared’

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Iran Focus

London, 6 October – In his article published October 4 in the National Post, Mostafa Naderi writes about he is relief when he learned that Canadian-Iranian professor Homa Hoodfar had been released from Evin prison, and had safely left Iran. “I have a sense of what she went through,” he said.

Naderi was sentenced to 11 years in prison, back in 1981, for political dissent and human rights activities. As we know now, his imprisonment occurred during a time of massive upheaval, and if not for a chain of fortunate occurrences, he may have been one of the 30,000 victims of Iran’s 1988 massacre of political prisoners. 

At 17, Naderi was arrested for selling the publication of, and supporting, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). Seven years later, in 1988, he’d been transferred to the prison hospital for treatment of his feet, which had been injured during a flogging.  “When I regained consciousness,” he said, “another prisoner told me that my name had been called by authorities several times. ‘Who was looking for me?’ I wondered. I didn’t immediately understand what was going on, but when I returned to my cell and saw 60 other prisoners standing in the halls, I began to piece it together.” 

The Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had issued a fatwa ordering the massacre of political prisoners, particularly supporters of the MEK. Those 60 prisoners had been executed. “No one was spared — no one,” he said.

He later learned that Khomeini had dispatched amnesty committees, also known as death squads, to the prisons, who would ask each political prisoner about their allegiances. Those who failed to repent their former political activities and fully submit to the theocracy were charged with “waging war on God.” 

Iran’s prisons became butcheries in 1988. Political prisoners were hanged, at least six at a time. Meat trucks dumped the bodies in mass graves at night. Executions were carried out with such horrifying efficiency that on some nights, up to 400 were executed. 

Reports estimate that some 30,000 prisoners were massacred in a matter of a few months. “But because I had been hospitalized, unbeknownst to some of the guards, my name was passed over by the executioners and I became one of about 250 political prisoners who survived the death squad in Evin,” said Naderi. 

He escaped the country after his release in 1991, and has been working hard ever since, to determine the real scope of the 1988 massacre, and to bring the truth to the world’s attention. 

Naderi states, “Make no mistake: the international community has known about this crime for quite some time. Over the years, human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, have called it a crime against humanity. According to Geoffrey Robertson, the former  judge at the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone, the 1988 bloodbath was the largest mass execution of prisoners since the Second World War. Yet there has never been any international inquiry into the incident, and the masterminds and perpetrators of this heinous crime have gone unpunished.” 

On August 9, an audio recording of the former heir-apparent to Ayatollah Khomeini was revealed, which has provided new information about this incident. The Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri can be heard chastising the members of Tehran’s Death Squad for their participation in what he called “the greatest crime of the Islamic Republic,” on the 1988 recording.  He criticizes them over the most shocking aspects of the massacre, including executions of pregnant women and teenage girls, and the targeting of people whose support for the MEK extended no further than reading its newspapers and magazines. 

Montazeri was cast out of the regime as a result of his dissent. and was subsequently put under house arrest. However, his recorded words carry weight that cannot be disregarded by the regime. The audio recording has led to renewed discussions of the massacre, which is  now spreading across the globe and bringing a new light and scrutiny to this dark chapter in Iranian history. 

Shockingly, dozens of the top perpetrators of the massacre currently hold high positions in the regime, including Mostafa Pourmohammadi, Justice Minister in the Hassan Rouhani administration. Pourmohammadi publicly ‘justified’ his role in the massacre. These very same people continue to persecute Iranian dissidents today. 

“Very much to its credit, Canada has been a leading voice on human rights in Iran for the past decade. It is time for the international community, including Canada, to finally move to prosecute the perpetrators of this massacre. A UN inquiry and fact-finding task force is the first step — one that is long overdue,” Naderi concludes. 

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