After enduring years in prison already, Maryam has been denied access to medical care because of the letter. It was written as an official complaint to launch investigations into the 1988 massacre in Iran. In the letter, Maryam demanded that “the indictment of the victims and those who were executed in the 1980s be made available and published.”
In 1988, during the space of just a few months, more than 30,000 victims were executed without a fair trial in Iran, Maryam’s family members among them. She lost three brothers and her sister during the massacre. Her youngest brother was only 17, arrested for the ‘crime’ of distributing a newspaper, belonging to PMOI/MEK. Her brother endured a devastating fate – he was sentenced to three years in solitary confinement in prison, before his execution in 1988, among many other Iranians who lost their loved ones that summer.
“Many of those who were executed in 1988, including my sister and brother, had already been sentenced to prison terms,” Maryam writes. “They had been tried in courts that lasted a few minutes without due process and their crimes were at most reading or distributing newspaper (published by the PMOI/MEK ) or participating in peaceful demonstrations.”
Maryam herself was arrested in December 2009. The authorities did not inform her family of her whereabouts, leaving them in the dark. She was trialed at the Revolutionary Court in Tehran several months later, where she was sentenced to fifteen years in prison for “enmity against God”. The infamous Judge Salavati proclaimed to Maryam that she was sentenced “because of your siblings.”
One of her brothers, Alireza Akbari Monfared, was executed only 10 days after his trial and imprisonment. “In his commemoration ceremony on the seventh night of his death,” Maryam writes, “the regime agents raided our house and arrested a number of people and transferred them to Evin prison and the Joint Committee detention. Among those arrested were my mother and my sister, Roghiyeh Akbari Monfared.”
In her letter, Maryam appealed to the fact that her family members should have been treated as Prisoners of War (POW) since the PMOI (MEK) were in a state of war against the Islamic Republic at the time of their execution. Executing a POW goes against the Geneva Conventions and sharia law, making these crimes as unlawful as they are inhumane.
Amnesty International have demanded Maryam’s immediate and unconditional release. The organisation also appealed against the harassment of families like Maryam’s who had family members executed during the 1988 massacre, stating that the Iranian regime should “stop the harassment and persecution of families of the victims of 1988 mass executions and respect their rights to truth, justice, and reparation, including by conducting a thorough, effective and independent investigation and bringing to justice those responsible in fair proceedings without recourse to the death penalty.”
Family members and supporters of PMOI/MEK in several cities, including Tehran, Shahrekord, Tabriz and Mashhad, have also pledged their support for Maryam and demanded her immediate release. “We the families of MEK/PMOI martyrs in Mashhad demand immediate and unconditional release of Maryam Akbari Monfared and call on all international human rights bodies and activists and all freedom-loving people across the world to support us in our legitimate demands for the release of all political prisoners particularly Maryam Akbari Monfared,” their statement read.
The 1988 Massacre are still fresh in the memory of many Iranians, and many families are forced to live shattered lives since then. “All the pressure that put on us is now imposed on our families and is affecting their lives,” Maryam wrote in her letter: “Some families have torn apart after all the sufferings and many others are suffering from various physical and mental illnesses. Some of them are forced to fled the country and migrate to other countries and many others live [in isolation] in the corner of their privacy. The arrest and detention of our loved ones were like kidnapping. We were not informed about the time of their trial or their whereabouts.”
Maryam was due for a retrial, following her request and new Iranian laws, but the Supreme Court have held her case for months with no further information. Her fate remains uncertain, and she is well aware of the fact, having released the letter regardless of the consequences in a brave and bold move.
“Now that I am writing this letter, I do not know after releasing the letter what fate awaits me,” Maryam concludes her statement. “But with the knowledge of all possible consequences, I demand clarification on how the 1988 massacre of political prisoners, especially my sisters and my brother, was carried out.”