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The Unknown Massacre of 1988

INU:In the summer of 1988, thousands of political prisoners in Iran were brutally murdered in what was one of the most underreported and unknown mass killings of our time. 

As the Iran-Iraq war was coming to an end, the largest political massacre in the history of Iran was just beginning. In July 1988, prisons across Iran went into complete lock down. In response to fatwas, or religious decrees, issued by the Ayatollah, more than 30,000 political prisoners throughout Iran were executed within three months and buried in mass, unmarked graves. 

This political massacre was little reported and widely unknown to the world outside of Iran – and still remains one of the most covered up, untold massacres in recent history.  

What little international media coverage did surface did not come close to measuring the true scale of what was happening in Iran. Reports of an increase in political executions in Iran appeared in The Financial Times and the New York Times in August of 1988, and in September Amnesty International put out an Urgent Action telegram expressing its concern that “hundreds of political prisoners may have been executed.” In these few reports, the only reports written to the international public, there was no notion of the mass scale of the killings.  

In response to any media or international inquiries Iran’s position was and has remained complete denial. 

To keep the mass executions out of the media and out of the eyes of other nations, Iran went to great measures to cover up the killings. 

The Iranian regime did not tell the victims’ families about the situation until nearly all executions had been carried out and the bodies buried. Burial spots were not marked and all citizens were banned fr om marking them, erecting any monuments or holding any type of ceremony. 

In the following years, family members who visited the unmarked mass graves, searching for their loved ones or paying tribute to them were arrested by regime officials.  

The reign of terror that immediately followed the Islamic Revolution, the Iranian government’s assassination campaign abroad, and the “Chain Murders” that targeted opposition intellectuals and activists in the late 1990s are widely known to the public and around the world. However, to this day there is very little awareness of the 1988 political executions.  

Not only has there been no prosecution of the criminals who facilitated that summer’s gruesome spree of murders, but the government continues to stand firm in their denial that the events ever occurred.

 No one has yet been brought to justice and no regime officials, including the Supreme leader Ali Khamenei, have been held accountable for these horrendous actions. 

The pervasive silence of the past twenty-five years must come to an end. 

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