Call for UN action over 1988 mass murder of Iranian political prisoners

September 13, 2021
An outdoor display honouring the victims of the 1988 massacre. Photo supplied by the author

Members of the Iranian-Australian community are writing to the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Marise Payne, calling on the government to support their struggle for justice for more than 30,000 victims of the massacre of Iranian political prisoners, which took place from July to September 1988.

Ahrooa, a 19-year-old man from Melbourne, writes: “My mother was only 14 years old and my father was only 15 years old when they were put in prison in harsh conditions and for a long time.”

Molki, an 85 year-old mother from Sydney, writes: “This is an international call for justice by the ‘Iranian Mothers’ who have been suffering at the hands of mullah’s dictatorial regime for the last 43 years.”

Sadollah, 56 years old and now living in Adelaide — and a political prisoner in 1988 — writes: “I was only 16-years old and a member of Iran’s National Youth Wrestling Team before being arrested by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps on a charge of supporting the People’s Mojahedin Organisation in Iran.

“I was detained in Tehran in August 1981 and freed in November 1993, after serving 12 years in prison. In the prisons where I was confined, I personally witnessed many of my friends being ruthlessly executed.”

After their arrests, tens of thousands of political prisoners were asked three simple questions by a three-person kangaroo court: First, “Why were you arrested?” If the answer was “Mojahed”, they were executed; secondly, “Are you ready to deny the Mojahedin?” If the answer was “No”, they were executed; and lastly, “Are you willing to cooperate with us?” If they answered “No”, execution.

In 2012, Maryam Rajavi, leader of the exiled National Council of Resistance of Iran, provided details of more than 5000 Mojahedin prisoners massacred in 1988 to the United Nations and the international community, calling for action.

Geoffrey Robertson QC believes that these events must be classified as a "crime against humanity" and "genocide", and has called on the UN to establish an international inquiry.

The mothers and families of the victims of the 1988 massacre, like the Argentinian Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, are calling for justice for their loved ones.

The Iranian community around the world is also eagerly following the first-ever trial of an alleged perpetrator of the 1988 massacre, taking place in Stockholm, Sweden, which brings them both sadness and joy.

Hamid Nouri, better known as Hamid Abbasi, is accused of hundreds of executions in Gohardasht Prison, Karaj. He was arrested at Stockholm Airport on November 9, 2019.

In a disturbing development, on June 18, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, anointed Ebrahim Ra'isi as the Islamic Republic’s 8th president. Ra’isi is known as the “1988 executioner”.

In response, Amnesty International secretary general Agnès Callamard said: “The fact that Ebrahim Ra'isi, instead of being prosecuted for crimes against humanity, has taken over the presidency is a tragic manifestation of the international community's failure to address the crisis of structural impunity in Iran.”

In 2017, the son of the late Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri published an audiotape that was recorded in September 1988. In it, Montazeri, who was then to succeed Ayatollah Khomeini as supreme leader, tells officials involved in the massacre: “In my opinion, the greatest crime committed during the Islamic Republic, for which history will condemn us, has been committed by you. Your (names) will in the future be etched in the annals of history as criminals…”

Ra’isi was a junior member of this death commission.

Montazeri was put under house arrest until his death in December, 2009.

After this revelation, Montazeri’s son was arrested and the government began demolishing many of the secret graves of the 1988 massacre victims.

There is now an opportunity for the international community to do the right thing by supporting the call by the Iranian community in Australia for action at the UN General Assembly.

The community are calling on the federal government to include a call for a UN fact-finding mission into the 1988 massacre in this year’s UN General Assembly resolution on Iran.

[Mohammad Sadeghpour is president of the Association to Defend Freedom and Human Rights in Iran – Australia.]

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