The conference was co-sponsored by the Committee to Support Human Rights in Iran and the Committee of French Mayors for A Democratic Iran. A number of political personalities, lawyers and a large number of elected representatives of France participated in the conference and delivered their speeches, calling on the UN, world governments and relevant judicial authorities to show appropriate reaction to this “crime against humanity” which had been forgotten for years, but has been recently brought up in Iran and on the international level.
The speakers included former Algerian Prime Minister, Mr. Sid Ahmad Ghozali, Bernard Kouchner,
Rama Yade, Ingrid Betancourt, William Bourdon, lawyer, and Tahar Boumedra, jurist, expert and former UN senior officer, who called for the formation of an international committee to investigate the extra-judicial executions of 30,000 political prisoners in summer 1988 and the following months upon the fatwa of Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the theocratic regime in Iran.
Many speakers including former Algerian Prime Minister Sid Ahmed Ghozali, former Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, former Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Human Rights, Rama Yade, Ingrid Betancourt, Attorney William Bourdon, expert jurist Tahar Boumedra, a former senior UN official, called for the establishment of an international commission of inquiry into the extrajudicial executions of 30,000 political prisoners in the summer of 1988, and following month, following a fatwa by Ayatollah Khomeini, founder of the ruling theocracy in Iran.
sent a video message to the conference, in which she declared, “The international community’s appeasement of the Iranian regime and the immunity enjoyed by its officials over some 40 years has emboldened these criminals. The mullahs who carried out the massacre in 1988, now hold world record in per capita executions.”
Mothers of some of the victims of this crime who are still searching for the bodies of their loved ones, as well as representatives of Iran’s young generation who demand accountability of the Iranian regime’s officials on these crimes, also gave their testimonies in this conference.
Bernard Kouchner recalled that Khomeini decided in the name of God to order the death of 30,000 political prisoners within a few months, which he described as ‘climax of barbarism’. He condemned the fact that a member of the death commission is Rouhani’s justice minister. In the opinion of the former foreign minister, it is time to ask all levels to investigate this massacre.
Ingrida Betancourt noted that the economic benefits of the nuclear deal are taken by the Revolutionary Guards. The IRGC has used this opportunity its aggressions in the region. In the opinion of Ingrid Betancourt, the separation of the nuclear issue from human rights issue has not been but a trap. The IRGC interferes in Syria and Iraq and finances terrorists like Hezbollah. The policy of appeasement gave a blank check to Iran to attack its neighbors and exploit the people of Iran. She strongly criticized the position of Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, saying that Europe has made a mistake and has no right to betray itself by turning a blind eye to the sufferings of the Iranian people.
Rama Yade demanded an international investigation into the 1988 massacre, and recalled that the Iranian judiciary, whose minister had a direct role in the massacre, is not competent to investigate this crime. She also criticized the nuclear deal with Iran, saying that the deal served as a permit for the regime so long as repression in Iran and war and terrorism pursued by the regime continue. She stressed that if the Iranian regime refuses to end its missile program and withdraw its militias from Syria, then we should to re-enforce the sanctions.
William Bourdon pointed out that the 1988 massacre in Iran is the largest massacre of political prisoners since World War II. We must put an end to this impunity of the perpetrators of the massacre. Over the past 30 years, there have been lots of massacres in Iran. It is essential to recognize the executioners of Tehran a criminals because they are today bound to the executioners of Damascus and have formed an ignoble cult of criminals.
The co-chair of the Committee of Mayors of France for a Democratic Iran, Jean François Legaret (mayor of the 1st District of Paris) announced the support for of the conference’s objectives by a few thousand mayors and members of city council, who had signed a declaration after the recent Mayor’s Congress regarding the need for investigation into the 1988 massacre and human rights in Iran.
A large number of documents, photos, film footages, handcraft of martyred prisoners and other artwork were put on exhibition on the sideline of this conference. A versatile combination of people including a large number of students of international law participated in the conference.
The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, made reference to this crime in his November 2017 report, saying that the UN had received many complaints from families of the victims.
Also, Ms. Asma Jahangir, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, reiterated in her recent report to the General Assembly on October 25 that the families of the victims have a right to remedy, reparation, and the right to know about the truth of these events and the fate of the victims without risking reprisal.
This week, Tehran announced it would continue a missile development program that defense analysts say could allow Iran to launch nuclear weapons. It was a public threat that has understandably stirred strong response from the U.S. and the west: the risk of nuclear proliferation by a fanatical regime is indeed a threat to millions across the region. But there is another, potentially greater threat from within Iran, one made more insidious by the fact that no one outside of Iran seems to care but which nonetheless imperils the values and moral conscience of the civilized world. I am speaking of the massacre of some 30,000 Iranians—including my uncle— at the hands of the state in 1988. And the arbitrary killings and executions continue.
In 1981, during the early years of Iran’s so-called “Islamic Revolution” my uncle Mahmood ‘Masoud’ Hassani was 21 years old and in his second year studying Economics at Tehran University. On June 30, my uncle never returned home from school.
Nearly two traumatic months passed before Masoud called my family to say he had been in jail since his disappearance and had been sentenced to serve ten years in the notorious Evin Prison. Even in absence of any evidence, he was convicted of ‘acting against national security’ and ‘spreading corruption on Earth’ all because he had distributed pro-democratic pamphlets near his campus.
When my uncle was in the seventh year of his sentence, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a notorious fatwa, calling for the immediate execution of Iran’s political prisoners. Death panels were commissioned to demand that blindfolded prisoners repent for their actions and those of their cellmates. Those who complied were granted amnesty. Those, like my uncle, who offered no such apology, were taken through a set of doors from which they would never return.
Without ever seeing the inside of a courtroom or being allowed to contact his loved ones, my uncle was hanged at the age of 27 sometime between July 28th and August 1st 1988.
Unfortunately, his story is not unique. In less than five months, 30,000 of Iran’s brightest students, professors and devoted activists suffered the same fate. Expectant mothers and children as young as 13 were among the victims of these systematic killings, which effectively decimated an entire generation of Iranians who had devoted themselves to the struggle for democracy.
But 29 years later, the mullahs’ regime has still not succeeded in silencing the people’s calls for freedom and justice. Last year, the son of Ayatollah Ali Montazeri, the intended successor to Supreme Leader Khomeini, released an audio recording that detailed the troubling extent of the purges. In it, Iranian jurists themselves described an obvious crime against humanity. For leaking this tape, Ahmad Montazeri was swiftly arrested, but not before unprecedented public discussion began of the 1988 massacres.
Thus, 60 million Iranians who were born after the revolution came to confront an issue that had been long swept under the rug, both by Iranian authorities who fear a public uprising and by thousands upon thousands of victims’ families who, with the most noble of intentions, have silently endured their grief and sadness, for fear of reliving the horrors they know this government to be capable of. Their fears are well-founded: many members of the judiciary who oversaw the execution of Khomeini’s fatwa in 1988 occupy the same posts today.
Despite the ongoing threats of violence, torture and execution, brave Iranian youth have recently risen up to put this issue at center stage, as when presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi was overwhelmingly rejected at the polls, in large part, due to his role in the 1988 massacre.
The newfound scrutiny has forced a number of Iran’s high-ranking governmental officials to speak to the issue head-on and acknowledge the historical record. But they have not done so with contrition. On August 28th 2016, the Iranian prosecutor and politician Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi said of the mass executions, “We are proud to have carried out God’s commandment and to have stood with strength and fought against the enemies of God and the people.”
As dissatisfaction, disillusionment and dissent continue to grow among Iran’s young and vibrant population, authorities have begun to feel the pressure and initiate new plans to conceal their history. There are plans to build commercial centers over the unmarked mass burial sites often frequented by families of the fallen. Doing so would destroy crucial forensic evidence that would allow for perpetrators of the 1988 massacre to be brought to justice.
Civil society organizations continue to receive unsettling news about persecution and arrests of surviving family members who have sought information about the location of their loved ones’ remains. Maryam Akbari Monfared, for instance, is currently serving a 15-year sentence at Evin Prison, without family visits or medical care. Three of Mayram’s brothers and her sister were executed in the course of the purges, and her own ‘crime’ consists of having published a letter asking for an explanation of these executions and the subsequent secret burials.
As grassroots efforts surrounding this issue gain momentum, two things should give global audiences pause. First is the ongoing impunity of the Iranian judicial system, with at least 3,100 executions being carried out since Hassan Rouhani took office in 2013. The second is the silence of international governmental bodies tasked with documenting these very sorts of human rights abuses.
For families of victims, like my own, it has become painfully clear that the maintenance of economic ties with an oil-rich country has repeatedly trumped earnest efforts to speak out on Iran’s human rights record. With an abundance of contemporary and archival evidence supplied to the appropriate intergovernmental agencies, how else might we explain their silence if not as an instance of quid pro quo? Judging from the lack of outrage or historical record in the west, do atrocities that do not directly affect others simply not happen? Are these truths inconvenient?
The JVMI participated in a side event about Iran’s 1988 massacre at the 36th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on 14 September 2017.
The event called on the OHCHR to launch an international commission of inquiry into the 1988 massacre of more than 30,000 political prisoners in Iran.
Speakers at the event included Tahar Boumedra, former head of UNAMI’s human rights office and the lead author of two JVMI reports into the 1988 massacre; Alfred de Zayas, UN Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order; Rama Yade, former Human Rights Minister of France; Dr. Alejo Vidal-Quadras, former Vice President of the European Parliament and current President of the international committee In Search of Justice (ISJ); Kirsty Brimelow, Chair of the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales; and Laurence Felhmann Rielle, Swiss Federal Councillor. The event was moderated by Perviz Khazai, the representative of the opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in Nordic countries.
A number of survivors and family members of victims of the 1988 massacre also addressed the event about the scenes that they had witnessed at the time.
Alejo Vidal-Quadras started the event by stating that he was encouraged by the recent report of Asma Jahangir, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, in which the issue of the 1988 massacre was raised. Vidal-Quadras detailed how the information campaign conducted by the opposition about the massacre has had a very large impact on public opinion and officials both outside and within Iran. He pointed out that the majority of victims of the massacre belonged to the opposition group People’s Mojahedin (PMOI or MEK) and he emphasised that the best source of evidence about the massacre are the PMOI members currently residing in Tirana, Albania.
Vidal-Quadras further explained the link between the massacre and the current leadership of the Iranian government, including the fact that two subsequent Ministers of Justice appointed by President Hassan Rouhani have been directly implicated as central actors in this crime against humanity. He concluded that due to the continued presence of the perpetrators at the highest levels of government and judicial system there can be no credible national investigation and the next report of the Special Rapporteur should therefore take the step to recommend the UN refer the case to the International Criminal Court.
Finally Vidal-Quadras entreated European and other Governments to put human rights first when dealing with Iran. The credibility of the democratic world has been damaged by years of appeasement towards the Iranian Government despite their gross violations of human rights, he said. One way to reclaim that credibility would be to include language about the 1988 massacre from the Special Rapporteur’s report in the UN resolutions on the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and on the human rights situation in Iran, he added.
Tahar Boumedra gave an overview of the extensive research into the 1988 massacre carried out by the JVMI since the launch of the organisation last year. The JVMI has gathered details about the victims, alleged perpetrators, sites of mass graves as well as applicable laws and treaties, he said. Boumedra explained that the events of 1988 would not have been possible without the Iranian Government setting up a machine of mass killing which remain in place today.
United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland 14/09/2017
Boumedra went on to show some of the evidence that has been gathered since the publication of the organisation’s first report in February. There have been multiple public confessions by the perpetrators, currently high ranking officials in the Iranian state. Not least, there were several admissions of guilt during the presidential campaign earlier this year, he said.
Boumedra emphasised that although the exact extent of the massacre is unknown there is no doubt whatsoever that thousands of people were executed in an extra-legal process. The killings were systematic and widespread, with as many as 70 death committees set up in all the major cities in Iran.
Boumedra questioned whether it is normal that after twenty-eight years there has not been any attempts at an investigation by the Iranian authorities. The families have a right to know what happened to their loved ones, how they died and where they are buried. He recommended that the UN take a new approach to this issue. He encouraged all relevant UN mandate holders to investigate the events of 1988.
Alfred de Zayas, Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order started his intervention by stating that he believed in the cause presented by JVMI and ISJ and in particular that he wished to align himself with Boumedra’s call for an international commission of inquiry. He argued that the matter of the 1988 massacre in Iran impacts international order, truth and justice. It is not simply an Iranian matter. The Independent Expert reminded that there have been countless UN resolutions condemning impunity for human rights abuses and crimes against humanity around the world. The 1988 m
Rama Yade reminded the audience that there can no peace without justice because without justice there is always the risk of recurrence of the crime. All it took was a fatwa from the Supreme Leader for thousands of people, political prisoners as well as prisoners of belief and conscience, to be killed. Yade asked, without justice, what is to prevent it from happening again? While acknowledging the ‘important and excellent work’ of the Special Rapporteur and her report, Yade argued that the international community must go further and accept its responsibilities. In her view, a fact finding mission is not enough, there must be an independent international commission of inquiry.
The former French Secretary of State outlined one of the largest potential problems of any investigation into the events of 1988, the fact that the Iranian authorities consistently find, intimidate and punish any individual who cooperates with UN Special Procedures or human rights organisations. In order for an investigation to be successful, witnesses must be able to come forward without fear of reprisals, which means the international community must be ready to protect witnesses. Yade further argued that for justice to be done there must be legal sanctions against those found guilty and this requires the involvement of the International Criminal Court, which in turn requires that the Security Council take action.
In response to those who might be intimidated by Iran and the struggle ahead, Yade argued that the only strategy which has proven effective against regimes like that in Iran is strength, not cowardice. She reminded that Iran has much more too lose from lost trade and business, which means we should not be intimidated by Iranian threats of economic losses if we put human rights first. In terms of regional and security policy it is clear that Iran will not play a positive role in the region, such as ending the war in Syria, regardless of the actions of the world community when it comes to human rights in general and the case of the 1988 massacre in particular.
Yade ended her intervention by praising the ‘brilliant report’ by Boumedra compiling the evidence to date and encouraged everyone to do what they can to help the Iranian people become involved and present their evidence.
Kirsty Brimelow took the floor to encourage states and organisations to follow the lead of Canada which officially recognised the 1988 massacre as a crime against humanity in 2013. In what could potentially be described as a genocide, executions took place every thirty minutes all over Iran, she said. She argued that these mass killings might have been dressed up in judicial wrappings but clearly violated all international principles of fair trials and independent judicial systems.
Brimelow went on to argue that even in cases were atrocities have already happened, states have responsibilities and must aid reconciliation by recognising the crime, informing relatives and taking measures to ensure non-recurrence. This particular crime was pivotal to the development of human rights in Iran. Centrally placed perpetrators were promoted and two Ministers of Justice are among those accused of carrying out the mass killings, she said. The current extreme rate of executions of Iran is also a product of the past and unlikely if not for the 1988 massacre.
Brimelow reminded the international community that over one hundred accused perpetrators have been identified. It is not possible, as is too often the case and which have impeded other calls for justice, for perpetrators to hide behind some faceless grouping. These individuals can and should be brought to justice, but what is the appropriate venue? Brimelow argued that Iran has proven both unwilling, given the twenty-eight years without any investigation, and unable, given the lack of an independent judiciary, to hold its own tribunal. An international inquiry in some form, potentially a hybrid tribunal such as that attempted in the case of Sri Lanka, is necessary. A remedy is urgently required, she added.
Laurence Felhmann Rielle recounted her many interactions with in particular the women who are fighting for justice in the case of the 1988 massacre. She expressed how impressed she was with their activism and struggle in the face of extreme obstacles put up by the Iranian authorities.
Felhmann Rielle denounced in the strongest terms the horrible events of 1988. One third of those executed were women, among them pregnant women, teenagers and old women. She argued this case, and the information campaign of the families and PMOI, has an enormous impact on Iranian society to this day. She reminded the audience that while the PMOI paid the highest price they were not the only victims and that this campaign is for all those impacted by the crime.
She hailed the report of the Special Rapporteur as a step forward but not enough. Although the report means we can no longer ignore the facts of what happened in 1988, the international community must also keep up the pressure on the Iranian Government. Felhmann Rielle pointed out that many non-governmental organisations such as Amnesty International and FIDH have also demanded that the internal community take action. As part of that action, she argued there must be protection for opponents of the Iranian Government and witnesses.
Tom Syrin, visiting scholar at the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, explained why the particular atrocity of the 1988 massacre needs to be urgently addressed. He drew on several historical examples to show that atrocities and crimes against humanity often follow large losses of legitimacy for non-democratic regimes. In the case of the 1988 massacre, the Iran-Iraq war had severely challenged the Iranian Government and this loss of prestige and legitimacy led to the repressive actions culminating in the mass killings. Syrin argued that in the case of the current Iranian Government, its support is based in part on the clergy and in part on the merchant class which will only support the government as long as money is diverted to them. The Iranian constitution also stipulates a goal of eternal expansion of the revolution. With the economic troubles of Iran and setbacks in its regional policy, particularly in Syria, there is thus a large risk of renewed repression and recurrence of the events of 1988. There is a clear connection between a lack of rule of law and the use of external crises to conceal and motivate repression.
Syrin ended his intervention by emphasising that the public and repeated admissions of guilt by perpetrators is a jurist’s dream and must move the Human Rights Council to action. If the UN Human Rights mechanisms are not to risk their own legitimacy, these warning signs must be followed by substantial actions.
Zohreh Bijanyar spoke out on behalf of the family members of those killed in the 1988 massacre. She told the audience of her sister, a human rights activist, who was arrested in the summer of 1988 and soon after executed along with more than 30,000 other political prisoners following a fatwa by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini.
She spoke of the pain to see at least three known members of the death committee which sentenced the prisoners to their executions currently occupying high positions in the Iranian judiciary. Thousands of families, including her own, have waited twenty-nine years to know why their loved ones were killed, when, where and how they were killed and where their bodies were buried. On behalf of these families she called for the truth to be established through an international commission of inquiry and reiterated that the pain is still present every day for the families.
Mostafa Naderi recounted the story of his imprisonment. He was first arrested in 1980, he was only a student at the time, rounded up with many other youngsters who wanted to ensure that they did not lose the freedoms they had gained after the 1979 revolution. The only charges presented against him were selling newspapers and participating in protests which were perfectly legal at the time.
He spent in total five years in solitary confinement and endured extensive torture and pain. In 1988 he was suffering from internal bleeding of the kidneys as a consequence of being whipped with cables and was often unconscious and hospitalised. When he was brought back to his prison cell after he recovered, he was told by the remaining few prisoners that the others had been executed. The regime had, using the so-called death commissions, separated the prisoners into those that would live and those that would die. Between 150 and 200 people had been executed every night. The doors to most cells were open, their former inhabitants gone and only their bags with nametags left, he recounted. Many had been told that they were being brought to see their families and instead led to their executions. Only 200 of the previously 12,000 of the prisoners in his prison had survived. Naderi told the audience about how he was released three years after the massacre and how he managed to flee the country.
Naderi explained that the massacre neither started nor stopped in 1988. It started with the execution of the first political prisoner and continues to this day. He ended his remarks by asking for a commission of inquiry not just for those that have already died but also for those currently awaiting execution in Iranian prisoners.
Simin Nouri, President of the Association of Iranian Women in France, highlighted that one third of all those executed in 1988 were women. She explained that women have always had a very prominent role in all social movements in Iran and that through the decades much progress had been made. Despite the grave misogyny which faces the women of Iran, their struggle still continues. Nouri urged all Iranian women to come forward with their stories, to record all the details of what they have witnessed and experienced, and submit it to both the members of the panel and to the UN. She ended her intervention with the hope that the women of Iran can count on all in the audience and the international community to help them.
No longer having the tacit support of a U.S. administration inclined toward rapprochement, the regime of Tehran is gradually facing the consequences of its unrestricted incursions in the neighboring region and brutal crackdown on domestic dissent in past years. With regime change in Iran gaining increasing support both at home and abroad, Tehran is frantically resorting to the oldest trick in its book: demonizing the opposition.
This is a campaign that the Iranian regime has been leading for decades, although in recent months it has seen an uptick. Massoud Khodabandeh, a U.K.-based Iranian whose ties to Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS) are well known, recently ran a long tirade in the Huffington Post against the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), a prominent opposition group that advocates regime change in Iran.
United Nations Secretary General António Guterres has in a new report highlighted the ongoing calls for truth and justice over the 1988 massacre of political prisoners in Iran.
A new report by the Secretary-General to the UN General Assembly about the “Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran”, dated 31 October 2017, includes a paragraph about the 1988 massacre.
The paragraph reads:
“54. During the reporting period, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) continued to receive a large number of complaints from families of the victims of executions which took place in 1988. In a joint statement issued in March, 20 human rights organizations called on the authorities to stop the harassment, intimidation and prosecution of human rights defenders seeking truth and justice on behalf of individuals who were summarily executed or forcibly disappeared during the 1980s and of their families. Among them are Mansoureh Behkish, Maryam Akbari-Monfared and Raheleh Rahemipour. In February, Mr. Ahmad Montazeri, the son of the late Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who released an audio recording of his father denouncing the executions and was sentenced to 21 years of imprisonment in November 2016 was taken to Evin prison to serve his sentence but was released a couple of hours later”.
The Advance unedited version of the report A/72/562 is available at this link:
NCRI – In the summer of 1988, in response to a fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini immediately following Iran’s announcement that it had agreed to a cease-fire in the devastating eight-year Iran-Iraq war, the Iranian regime massacred an estimated 30,000 political prisoners.
Three-men commissions were created to determine who should be executed. The commissions, known as the Death Commissions, questioned prisoners about their political and religious beliefs, and depending on the answers, determined who should be executed. The questioning was brief, not public, there were no appeals, and prisoners were executed the same day or soon thereafter.
The victims were buried in secret mass graves.
An investigation by Justice for Victims of 1988 Massacre in Iran (JVMI) that began in 2016 has traced the existence of 59 mass graves across Iran. The findings are based on eye-witness reports, information provided by family members of victims and documentary and photographic evidence from the sites.
The JVMI has published an interactive map that highlights the mass graves.
Some are located near Tehran, like the Behesht-e Zahra Cemetery (Blocks 93 / 103), and the Khavaran Cemetery. Many are in the Mazandaran Province, such as Beneath the Abbas Abad – Kelardasht Road, near the forest, and at the Seyed Nizamuddin Shrine, Taleb Amoli Street, next to Amol sports stadium, as well as Shahrak Shahab Nia, Darzikola Akhondi, Babol, near the green area.
Others are as far away as Hormozgan Province, near the The Strait of Hormuz, where at least 30 corpses were discovered in a mass grave by construction workers building the Minab physical training centre there. They are even located near the Iraqi border, in Saleh-Abad, in the Ilam Province, at the Ali Saleh Holy Shrine. As well, in the city of Ahvaz, Khuzestan Province, by the Susangerd-Ahwaz highway, past Afagh village, near the Jihad cemetery; and in Dezful, also in the Khuzestan Province, near the Roudband Square, Komeil Street.
They are located in large cities. Isfahan, in Isfahan Province, for example, in the Bagh-e Rezvan Cemetery (Block 41), as well as Shiraz, in Fars Province, at the Dar-al-Rahma Cemetery (Block 38).
In June, Amnesty International published a news item on its website warning that the Iranian authorities may be attempting to desecrate a mass grave site in Ahvaz, southern Iran that would destroy vital forensic evidence and ruin opportunities for justice for the mass killings.
In December 2016, reports and video evidence surfaced of a mass grave discovered by sewage workers who were drilling in an area of Tabriz in Iran’s East Azerbaijan Province. It is suspected of holding bodies of a large number of political prisoners who perished in the 1988 massacre by the regime. Now, The United Nations must respond with a commission of inquiry following this discovery.
These are only a few of the previously secret sites that have been brought to light by the JVMI, who are is calling on the United Nations’ human rights body to set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the 1988 massacre as a crime against humanity and to hold the perpetrators to account.
F. Mahmoudi, Special to Al Arabiya EnglishMonday, 9 October 2017
On browsing social media accounts of Iranian activists — on Feacebook, Twitter, Telegram and Instagram — one can feel the pulse of the Iranian society, where a sense of social unease and protest is evidently brewing.
Even regime officials are writing in the social media about the “huge challenges” they are facing from protesting social classes, such as laborers who have not recieved their salaries and farmers who await payment for their produce. There are also investors and depositors whose money has been blocked by state institutions.
University students are facing a hard time finding jobs and there is also a dramatic increase in the number of unemployed and homeless. On the other hand, many families who lost their children in the 1988 massacre in prisons still do not know the burial sites of their loved ones.
These calamities are the handiwork of a corrupt and criminal regime, as was rightly pointed out by US President Donald Trump in his speech at the UN.
The Trump tirade
The average Iranian also believe that Trump’s speech was accurate in its description of the Iranian regime and they feel happy that their voice has been heard in the most important forum of the world.
In his speech President Trump said: “The Iranian government masks a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy. It has turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed, and chaos. ”
Although Iranian President Hassan Rohani visited New York to attend the annual UN summit in order to keep the so-called Iranian nuclear deal alive, but Trump’s speech against the corrupt and criminal regime of Iran dashed all his hopes. Trump exposed that Rouhani is not a moderate leader but an opportunist following Khamenei’s commands.
Also read: Iran confirms nuclear negotiator imprisoned for spying
In the words of John Bolton, former US Ambassador to the UN, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is an “agreement with a swindler! ” What has the deal brought for Tehran’s theocrats that they emphasize and insist so much on maintaining it?
The regime agreed to an agreement under heavy pressure of international sanctions and fear of social discontent. Knowing the policy of the West’s deal to overcome the predicament, they have apparently given up their aim to devlop an atomic bomb for the time being.
But for the regime, the actual achievement of the deal has been the acquisition of billions of dollars and the ability to keep selling oil for, continue suppressing the Iranian people, increase production of ballistic missiles and the perpetuate destabilization activities in the region.
Although Trump’s speech indicates a change in US policy towards the Iranian regime, it remains to be seen how the US President executes this policy and what are his real motives behind making this speech.
Two policy options
There are two possible options with the US president. In order to put an end to the destabilizing activities by the Iranian regime and to curtail its missile programs there is the option of regime change.
In fact, bring about regime change is the mission of Iranian opposition groups that held strong protests against the presence of Hassan Rouhani in front of the UN .This is the only means for gaining freedom and democracy for Iranian people who have been suffering for nearly four decades.
The theocrats in Tehran understand very well the language of power and once they feel the US government is serious about taking action against them, they will choose to retreat. However, they will not allow their weakness become apparent to their own supporters inside the country.
They will try to maneuver their way to avoid and mitigate the pressure of the US government against them. The acceptance of inspections of military sites by Zarif and the regime lobby network is one of those tricks to test the reaction of the White House. Zarif attempts to keep the support of European governments and cheat the international society again with a fake promise; “the acceptance of inspections of military sites in six years”.
Mohammad Javad Zarif, the foreign minister of Iranian regime, has a difficult mission both to issue threats as well as to continue begging to buy time. He feels defeated after the press meeting on 30 September 2017, when he asked European governments not to support the US stance, as that would be the end of the JCOPA.
ANALYSIS: The disintegrating moral fabric of Iranian society
According to Zarif, Trump will not approve Iran’s compliance of the deal and he will toss the issue back to the US Congress. However, the diplomatic system and lobbies in the US and Europe will seek to prevent the isolation of the illegitimate Iranian regime.
They would seek to take advantage of the differences between the US and Europe. After Donald Trump’s speech at the UN, some European countries including France took positions contrary to those of the US. However,they would eventually be left with the option of either choosing the US or the Iranian regime.
The other weakness Iran will seek to exploit is in the procrastination and lack of coordination among US executive agencies that have still not embraced Donald Trump’s position of supporting the desire of Iranian people and those of the region.
The bill known for dealing with American enemies signed by Donald Trump on August 2, 2017, which put sanctions on Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has still not come into effect.
Regime afraid of the people
Trump said that the Iranian regime is afraid of its own people more than the US army, since the people themselves want the regime changed. In order to deal with the harmful policies and actions of the Iranian regime, the people of that country should be supported.
This is the best, simplest, and cheapest policy against the regime, along with enforcing effective sanctions to isolate the regime and opening up criminal cases against its policies and acts of terrorism, human rights violations and the 1988 massacre of thousands of political prisoners.
F. Mahmoudi is a Kurdish-Iranian political and human rights activist.
NCRI – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran addressed the Seventy-second session of the General Assembly in New York on October 25, to discuss the dismal situation of human rights in Iran that has been prevalent since the Regime took over in 1979.
Asma Jahangir, who was addressing the General Assembly for the first time since taking the role in November 2016, delivered a report on the first six months of 2017 which was based on sources both inside and outside of Iran.
Jahangir explained that she was worried about the rate of executions in Iran, as well she should be. Currently, Iran has the highest execution rate per capita and is one of the few countries to still execute juvenile offenders, in clear violation of the UN’s Rights of the Child charter.
She said: “I am concerned by the rate of executions in Iran. Reports indicate that since the beginning of the year 435 persons have been executed…At least four juvenile offenders were executed, and 86 more are known to be on death row, although the actual figure may be higher. I take the opportunity to reiterate my request for a list of all juvenile offenders on death row and reiterate my appeal to the Iranian authorities to urgently abolish the sentencing of children to death, and to engage in a comprehensive process of commutation of all death sentences issued against children, in line with juvenile justice standards.”
Jahangir also expressed concern about the death sentence levied against spiritual leader Mohammad Ali Taheri for so-called corruption on earth- an exceptionally vague charge which the mullahs use when you haven’t actually committed a crime but they want to punish you anyway.
Taheri’s trial is believed to have violated several international standards including due process and coercion of witnesses. As such, Jahangir called for his conviction to be overturned.
She said: “I call for the immediate withdrawal of charges against Mr. Taheri and for his unconditional release, and the withdrawal of charges against all individuals held for peaceful exercise of freedom of expression, religion, or belief.”
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Jahangir also raised the worrying issue of torture, corporal punishment, and the denial of medical care to coerce confessions and punish people, which violates human rights law and international standards of justice.
She said: “I regretfully note that amputation, blinding, flogging, and the continued use of prolonged solitary confinement continues to be regularly practised. I am also deeply concerned by consistent reports of the denial of access to proper and necessary medical treatment of detainees, including the deprival of medical care as a form of punishment.”
Many political prisoners have gone on hunger strikes to protest the dismal conditions they are being kept in and the Regime refuses to allow them access to sorely needed medical care.
Prisoners of conscience
While on the topic of political prisoners, it is important to discuss the routine detention of human rights defenders, journalists, religious minorities, ethnic minorities, and political campaigners for freedom of expression and peaceful activism.
As of June 2017, no less than 26 journalists/bloggers had been arrested and/or sentenced for exercising press freedom. Many more had been harassed and/or intimidated by the Regime through interrogation, surveillance, amongst other things.
Jahangir even spoke to those working at the BBC Persian Service who had been harassed by the Regime and told that if they continued working their relatives would be targeted and their assets would be frozen.
She said: “They all sought private meetings for fear of the consequence of being identified as having provided information to my mandate.”
Another worrying trend is that of the imprisonment of dual nationals, like UK charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who have been accused of spying for Western countries and sentenced to many years in jail.
The 1988 Massacre
This persecution of ordinary Iranians based on their political beliefs is not a recent phenomenon but is well ingrained in the Iranian Regime’s DNA.
In 1988, the Regime slaughtered over 30,000 political prisoners in just a couple of months. They buried their bodies in mass graves, refused to tell the families what had happened, and attempted to hide their “crime against humanity” from the rest of the world.
Despite recent acknowledgements of the genocide from the highest-ranking members of the Regime, the international community has still been largely silent and this silence must end.
Jahangir said: “The families of the victims have a right to remedy, reparation, and the right to know about the truth of these events and the fate of the victims without risking reprisal. I therefore reiterate my call upon the Government to ensure that a thorough and independent investigation into these events is carried out.”
Rights of Women
As you can imagine, women in Iran are routinely oppressed by the Iranian Regime, whether its mandatory dress codes, banning women from attending sports matches, arresting people from reading and sharing feminist literature, excluding women from certain occupations, or many more misogynistic things.
Jahangir said: “I call upon the Government to address these concerns in practice, and in legislation through ratifying the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and to repeal all laws and policies that discriminate against women and girls.”
Jahangir paid tribute to the many human rights defenders who have risked their lives to speak to her about the situation in Iran.
She said: “I have received ongoing and consistent reports of harassment, intimidation, and prosecutions of human rights defenders. For example, the well respected human rights defender, Narges Mohammadi, continues to be imprisoned simply because of her commitment to human rights. I am also deeply concerned by the reports of attacks on women human rights defenders in the form of judicial harassment, detention, and smear campaigns.”
Even those living outside Iran fear reprisals from the Regime’s many terrorist proxy groups or that their family will be targeted by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).