As we commemorate the 31st anniversary of the 1988 Massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in Iran, mainly members and supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI, Mujahedin-e Khalq or MEK), it is important to hear the testimonies of those who lost relatives or those who were spared the noose by pure chance.
That’s why in this short series, we will be looking at the speeches delivered during the "1988 Massacre in Iran, Perpetrators must be TRIED" conference, held on the fifth and final day of the Free Iran gathering at the MEK’s headquarters in Ashraf 3, Albania. The point of the conference was to encourage the global community to hold the perpetrators to account for their crimes against humanity.
Thousands of MEK members were extra-judicially executed on the fatwa of then-Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini, subjected to show trials in front of Death Commissions who wanted to find them guilty. Not one person has been brought to justice for their role in the massacre and many still work in the Iranian Regime today, with some gaining promotions for their sick service.
That’s why these MEK members and supporters spoke at the conference and why we repeat their words here.
In our previous piece, we spoke about Kobra Jokar. Here, we will speak about Hengameh Haj-Hassan.
Haj-Hassan was working as a nurse in Tehran in 1981, when she was arrested and thrown in prison, charged with the ‘crime’ of attending to people, mainly MEK members, who’d been injured by the Revolutionary Guards. She revealed that a friend arrested with her was executed in 1988.
There, she was subjected to severe torture and other inhumane conditions, deprived of basic hygiene needs, food, and sleep. She reveals that she was kept blindfolded in a cage for seven months, only capable of maintaining a squatted position because if she moved, she would be tortured.
She said: “My eyesight has been degraded and my back was injured. I was operated on five times and yet I still have not recovered… We had to be prepared for any torture at any moment. The torturers used any excuse to torture us. The torturer told us that we would die here.”
To survive the torture and keep herself sane, Haj-Hassan retreated inside her head, focusing on remembering the MEK’s songs, the stories in MEK history books, and the biographies of MEK martyrs that she had read.
Haj-Hassan said: “The hardest times were the feeling of loneliness. I thought of God, and I thought of my leader, Massoud Rajavi, [leader of the MEK]. I spoke to him, and this way, I didn’t feel alone anymore.”
The torturers tried to break their will and force the MEK inmates to turn their back on the MEK, but it only made their conviction stronger.
Haj-Hassan said: “In prison, we considered ourselves [MEK] representatives, and we deemed it our responsibility to defend their values. When I came out of prison, the first thing I did was to re-join my organization. This is a path that will continue until the end.”
In our next piece, we will talk about Homa Jaberi.