The face of Omran Daqneesh has become instantly recognizable all over the world through social media. His is the face of the suffering children living through the terrible conflict of the civil war in Syria. People are reminded that the Syrians are just like them, that this could be their child, except that their children have few worries. They don’t live in a war-zone. Tragically, stories like Omran’s are quite common, and they happen in large part because of a regime who has followed the same playbook for years, yet has escaped media attention.
According to Williams, “The current Iranian regime and its face, Hassan Rouhani is not covered in dirt or blood, he is well groomed, and according to the public perception forged by some western media outlets, a ‘moderate’. However, it is Hassan Rouhani’s Iran that has helped the Assad regime in Syria to target civilians like Omran and is directly responsible for the scenes of devastation that Omran’s photo gave a small glimpse of. It is the same regime, who carried out the systematic slaughter of approximately 30,000 political prisoners in 1988.”
The Massacre of 1998 occurred during a few short weeks of summer. It’s unimaginable, the horror of innocent civilians, who were forced to appear before the “Death Commission” to determine their sympathy to the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (also known as PMOI or MEK). Williams writes, “While not a dramatic air strike, the judges’ words had a similarly deadly effect. Men were joined by women of all ages and even those in pregnancy, were questioned on their sympathies to the PMOI.” Even an admission that the group had some intellectual appeal carried a death sentence. “Children were ripped from their mother’s arms, screams and cries for forgiveness were left unanswered and in the end 30,000 innocent lives were taken.”
Social media has allowed a window into the realities of these outrages, but in 1988, those innocent men and women were faceless, mere numbers, and “not our problem.” Today, as President Rouhani’s regime involves itself in Syria, the same people who oversaw the slaughter of 30,000 innocents in Iran are condemning those who do not believe in their radical ideology: the Syrians, Iraqis and many others, to the same fate. However, now we cannot look the other way.
“Critics will argue that this Iran is different, that they have abandoned nuclear activities and that change does not come overnight. According to them we will have to ‘wait and see.’ Yet we have waited decades since the 1988 massacre and after that long wait, we have only seen those murderers and extremists who perpetrated the slaughter get promotions. A newly available audio recording of the late Ayatollah Montazeri, who was Khomeini’s heir and the Supreme Leader in-waiting at the time of the massacre, censuring the ‘Death Commission’ proves this fact. One of the main figures in the death tribunals of 1988 was rewarded for the bloodshed by Rouhani’s government of ‘moderates’ and is currently Justice Minister,” writes Williams.
The truth is that Iran has the highest execution rate in the world, statistically speaking. “…and it’s spreading to places such as Syria and Iraq. It is spreading because of inaction, because of indifferent populations who see issues in far off places as ‘not their problem’. But, Omran and others like him, remind us not to forget our humanity,” according to Williams, who adds, “If we do not stand up for Omran and others like him, who will be there to stand up for us when fundamentalist and terrorists attack us? We can never allow ourselves to forget our humanity.”
Action must be taken, and policies toward Iran must change. Justice must intervene on Tehran’s human rights abuses and it’s intervention in the affairs of the region. We must stand with the Iranian regime’s victims.
Williams concludes with a powerful quote from the great parliamentarian Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”.