Thirty-three years after the mass executions of political prisoners in Iran, one of the few survivors of the atrocities has given a chilling eyewitness account of what took place in the summer of 1988.
Political prisoners from a variety of backgrounds were the target of a horrific campaign resulting in the executions of more than 30,000 political prisoners, mostly members and supporters of the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).
Asghar Mehdizadeh was one of the few survivors of the 1988 massacre. According to a fatwa issued by then-Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini, the regime formed ‘death commissions’ to interrogate political prisoners in minute-long trials and those who remained loyal to the MEK were sent to be executed immediately.
Through the past three decades, the small number of survivors of Iran’s 1988 massacre have detailed their accounts in various articles, interviews, and books. According to his eyewitness reports, Mr. Mehdizadeh is the only individual to have actually seen the room described as “Death Hall” in Gohardasht Prison of Karaj (west of Tehran) and survived.
Gohardasht and Evin Prisons were the scenes of the mass executions, where prisoners were executed in the ‘Death Hall’ in groups of 12. Mehdizadeh recalled the ‘Death Hall’ consisting of a large room housing a stage that had 12 nooses suspended from the ceiling.
Being imprisoned in solitary confinement, he heard from another inmate in a nearby cell that they were to be subjected to ‘interviews and intelligence cooperation’, and those who refused to cooperate would be executed on the following day. He recalled that he had been told by a fellow prisoner that guards would first take the prisoners to show them the hall where the executions would take place.
He said, “… the guard who had brought me called me and took me into the death hall. I took a loom from underneath my blindfold and saw many corpses in front of a stage in the hall. I was kept some distance away from the stage. I eventually uncovered my blindfold and fainted from what I saw.”
These accounts shed light on the sheer number of executions carried out by the regime in just one prison, and the rate that authorities deemed necessary to execute 12 prisoners simultaneously to render their own version of the “final solution” aiming to literally eradicate the PMOI/MEK.
Mehdizadeh recalled his thoughts once he had regained consciousness saying, “I said to myself, God, what is going on here? I saw 12 MEK supporters standing on a chair each with a rope around their necks. I witnessed that next to them were the bodies of the martyrs whose feet were grabbed by the guards and dragged out of the hall.”
More recently, Geoffrey Robertson, QC, who has thoroughly investigated the 1988 massacre, underscored that this mass killing amounts to genocide.
He said that for centuries, killing prisoners has been a crime and that if such an act amounts to what is considered ‘genocide’, then under an international convention, countries who adhere to it are required to punish such a crime.
Robertson said, “There is no doubt that there is a case for prosecuting [regime President Ebrahim] Raisi and others. There has been a crime committed that engages international responsibility. Something must be done about it as has been done against the perpetrators of the Srebrenica massacre.”