During a press conference that took place at the House of Commons on the 6th of October, prominent Parliament members, individuals belonging to the Iranian community in Canada and people who witnessed the horrors of the 1988 massacre for themselves urged the Canadian government to take a stance against the perpetrators of these vile acts, many of whom are in powerful positions in Iran today.  

The Canadian 2013 resolution stated that Canada “condemns the mass murder of political prisoners in Iran in the summer of 1988 as constituting crimes against humanity,” and the members of the press conference appealed on that basis to urge the Canadian government into demanding that a UN inquiry into the massacre be carried out. They also highlighted the fact that Canada has been a sponsor of the annual UN resolution which highlights and condemns the violations of human rights in Iran today, including the maltreatment of prisoners, ‘mock trials’ and ongoing mass executions, often based on nothing more than religious or political convictions. They hope to send a clear message to the Iranian government that there will be consequences, should the human rights abuse carry on.

The summer of 1988 saw more than 30,000 civilians be executed in Iran for their political convictions – most belonged to the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, which remains the main force of resistance to the current Iranian regime. New information surfaced in August this year, shedding light on the way the executions were carried out. Audio tapes, published on the website of the late Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri (who was once destined to take the role of Iran’s Supreme Leader, after Ayatollah Khomeini) revealed a meeting taking place with members of the specially devised “Death Commission.” 

During the meeting recorded on the audio, Montazeri is heard criticising the commission for its brutal treatment of anyone who opposed the regime. “In my opinion, the greatest crime committed during the Islamic Republic, for which history will condemn us, has been committed by you,” Montazeri said. He urged the commission to consider that an ideology or a line of thought, such as the PMOI, cannot be stamped out by brutally executing its members. He was right – today the National Council of Resistance (NCRI) has been able to secure the support of more than 100,000 people who turned up to the rally which took place in Paris earlier this year.

Despite Montazeri’s pleas, more than 30,000 prisoners were massacred in 1988, including pregnant women and children, and buried in unmarked mass graves. Since then, more information has surfaced, revealing new facts surrounding the shocking massacre. 

A spokesperson for the Iran Democratic Association, Shahram Golestaneh, who took part in the press conference, provided details about the secret mass graves and the officials involved in these crimes. He brought the issue of human rights violations to the present day context, quoting the UN Secretary General, according to whom “1,000 executions were reported in Iran in 2015, the highest in the past two decades.” The problem is intensified due to the fact that scores of officials who formed the “Death Commission” at the time, remain in power in Iran today. “In recent weeks, about 60 of the most senior officials responsible for this massacre, whose names had remained secret for nearly three decades have been identified. These individuals were members of the “Death Commissions” in Tehran and 10 other Iranian provinces.” 

Golestaneh also provided details of several mass graves which have remained a secret until now, further illustrating the extent of the massacres. These include Mashhad (north-east Iran), Zanjan (north-west Iran), Kermanshah (western Iran), Sume’e Sara (northern Iran), Tonekabon (northern Iran), Dezful (south-west Iran), and Bandar-e Gaz (northern Iran). 

The former Minister of State of Canada, Candice Bergen, highlighted the human rights abuse taking place in Iran now, especially the oppression of women’s rights, as reported by the UN Secretary General, and expressed her lack of faith that things might improve under the Presidency of Hassan Rouhani.

One of the Members of Canadian Parliament, Michael Cooper, drew attention to the fact that children no older than 15 were among the victims of the 1988 massacre and expressed his solidarity with the Iranian community in Canada in commemorating the victims. He also pointed out Iran’s involvement in Syria and the funding of such terrorist organisations as Hezbollah. 

Chairman of Canadian Friends of a Democratic Iran, David Kilgour further pointed out the role of leadership that Canada could potentially undertake in the field of championing human rights, in the same way that it championed the change within the status quo of South Africa under Apartheid. 

The press conference also included those who had actively witnessed the 1988 massacre. Mr. Ahmad Hassani related the story of how his own brother Mahmoud Hassani’s was executed in 1988 and revealed the sad and appalling notion that the Iranian regime had not allowed him to find out where his brother had been buried to this day. Mr. Mehdi Garmroudi also lost his brother in the massacre and relayed his heart-tearing story during the press conference.