The Iranian regime has committed numerous and various human rights violations since coming to power in 1979, but one of the most egregious had largely been forgotten until last week, according to political scientist Dr. Majid Rafizadeh.
That crime? The 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners, including the elderly and juveniles, was recently given public attention after several UN human rights experts wrote a letter describing it as a potential “crime against humanity” and urging the international community to investigate.
This letter was applauded by Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, Diana Eltahawy, who called it “a momentous breakthrough” and “a turning point” fight for justice by the survivors and the victims’ families.
“Although the letter is a step in the right direction, the UN must do more to hold the Iranian leaders accountable, both due to the heinous nature of the crime and the high positions that some of the officials who played key roles in orchestrating the massacre currently have. Current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was, for example, reportedly aware of the massacre,” Rafizadeh said.
He advised that the regime has systematically tried to hide the massacre, where thousands of opposition activists were slain on the orders of regime founder Ruhollah Khomeini, according to a comprehensive 2017 report by Amnesty International, despite being convicted of non-violent activism and having already started serving a prison term.
This massacre was so horrendous that even the regime’s second-in-command, Hossein-Ali Montazeri, condemned the regime in a recorded meeting with members of the Death Committee in Tehran, where he called it “the biggest crime in the Islamic Republic” and predicted that “history will condemn us”. He further wrote letters to Khomeini urging him to end the killing and, for this, was stripped of his position and placed under house arrest until his death in 2009. In 2016, his son, Ahmad, posted the confidential recording on his website and was sent to prison.
Rafizadeh noted that almost all of the people addressed by Montazeri in the audio clip have or had high-ranking regime positions, including:
- Former justice minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi
- Chief justice Ebrahim Raisi
- Supreme Court deputy Hossein Ali Nayeri
All three have defended their role in the massacre.
“The foundations of the current regime’s power structure, with Khamenei as the leader, were built on that massacre. The world must know that the authorities now in charge of Iran showed their true allegiance and unwavering fealty to the fundamentalist regime and its goals by having no qualms about ordering and implementing one of the greatest political crimes of the 20th century. The international community must do more to identify those Iranian officials who committed crimes against humanity and hold them accountable,” Rafizadeh wrote.