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The 1988 Iran Massacre: A Tragedy Untold

INU: This summer marks the 25th anniversary of the 1988 Iran Massacre, one of the darkest, most heinous mass killings in recent history. 
As the Iran Iraq war was coming to a hostile end, the largest political massacre in the history of Iran was just beginning. In July 1988, prisons across Iran locked their doors, cancelled all visitation and privileges and ended all trips to the infirmary – beginning the tragic movement of the Ayatollah to eliminate every individual who had expressed adherence to the Mojahedin Khalq Organization (the MKO). This mass extermination of all political advocates in Iran resulted in the brutal end to more than 30,000 lives. 
In the final phases of the war, Khomeini, who felt Iran’s defeat was imminent, decided to avenge all the political prisoners. In response to the loss of the war and a rise in resistance to the Regime, Khomeini issued fatwas, or religious decrees throughout Iran, ordering the mass execution of every individual unwilling to commit complete and unquestioning allegiance to the Regime.  
In one of these unexpected fatwas, Khomeini ordered the following:
“Those who are in prisons throughout the country and remain committed to their support for the [Mujahedeen], are waging war on God and are condemned to execution…. Destroy the enemies of Islam immediately. As regards the cases, use whichever criterion that speeds up the implementation of the [execution] verdict.”
The fatwa declared that any individual fr om the Mojahedin who had been imprisoned at any time must be executed if a majority of a three-man panel composed of a prosecutor, a religious judge and an Intelligence Ministry representative in any area voted that the prisoner was holding firmly to his political beliefs. If the panel thought that a person was still supporting the Mojahedin, even if he or she had already served the required sentence, he must be executed. 
Khomeini ordered that there should no mercy, not to men, women nor adolescents, even saying that pregnant women should not be spared.
The actual execution process began the morning of July 19, 1988 with the isolation of political prisoners fr om the outside world. Prison gates were closed, scheduled visits and telephone calls were canceled, letters, care packages, and even vital medicines were turned away and the courts went on an unscheduled vacation. Even relatives of prisoners were forbidden to congregate outside the prison gates. This total darkness continued for three months. 
Inside the prison walls, cell blocks were isolated fr om each other and cleared of radios and televisions. Communal areas, such as lecture halls, workshops and infirmaries, were all closed and inmates were confined to their cells. Prison guards and workers were ordered not to speak to prisoners. Without notifying any family members, prisoners were executed by the masses – hung fr om cranes four at a time, shot by firing squads and buried by night in mass graves. By September 1988, thousands of prisoners had been killed without trial without appeal, and without mercy. 
The exact number of the victims in not known, but has been estimated at upwards of 30,000. By any measure, the massacre of 1988 constitutes a crime against humanity and those involved in committing this crime must be brought to justice.  
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