In the past week, the first person to be on trial for his involvement in the 1988 massacre in Iran, former Iranian prison official Hamid Noury took to the stand in a Swedish court to give his own testimony which outlined the Iranian regime’s vulnerabilities and their domestic affairs.
Noury was arrested in Sweden in 2019, under the principle of universal jurisdiction, and has been charged with war crimes, as well as his participation in the massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners in the summer of 1988. The majority of the victims were members of the Iranian opposition movement, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).
Prof. Ivan Sascha Sheehan, the executive director of the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Baltimore said, “Noury’s unwillingness to identify the affiliation of those he reportedly tortured and killed in an international court may have puzzled casual regime observers, but the refusal was hardly lost on those that follow Iran closely.”
In his sworn testimony, Noury explained that the mere mention of the MEK’s official name by an Iranian citizen would result in them being arrested and prosecuted by the regime. The Iranian resistance group has been in complete opposition to the regime’s fundamentalist ideology of Islam since the 1979 revolution in Iran. The MEK has always advocated for a democratic, secular republic in Iran, whereas the regime took the totalitarian approach to Islam and used it to monopolize political power across the country.
For the past four decades, the regime has refused to accept the MEK’s interpretation of Islam and acknowledge them and their supporters as genuine Muslims. As a result, they have deemed that even speaking the name of the organization is a crime against the state.
Prof. Sheehan said, “To subjugate and smear the opposition movement, the regime’s first Supreme Leader, Ali Khomeini, coined the pejorative name “Monafeqin” (translated as hypocrites) as the preferred moniker for the dissidents.”
During his tenure inside Iranian prisons, Noury and his fellow officials took to torturing political prisoners that refused to denounce their support of the MEK, sometimes to the point of death. This was during a campaign of demonization against the regime’s opposition in a bit to undermine their support from the public and suppress their movement.
When these actions failed, a fatwa was issued by then-Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini to condemn all MEK supporters to death by execution. During a three-month period in the summer of 1988, political prisoners were put before ‘Death Commissions’ and interrogated on their loyalties. If they refused to side with the regime, they were immediately sent to the gallows.
Prof. Sheehan said, “Based on the Swedish prosecutors’ indictment, Noury is believed to have led hundreds of prisoners to their deaths in Gohardasht Prison where he allegedly tortured and killed political prisoners.”
In an excerpt from Noury’s testimony, he claimed, “In Iran, we don’t have anything by the name of People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran. If anyone in Iran uses this term they would be arrested. The Iranian judiciary is extremely serious about this. During the interrogations (by Swedish authorities), I used this term a few times and now I am terrified. Fear has overwhelmed my entire being.”
While the MEK’s headquarters is currently in exile in Albania, a large number of MEK activists inside Iran continue to organize protest rallies, echoing calls for democracy and fighting against the regime’s political repression of society. These brave individuals are standing together and risking their lives for the cause in order to create a better future for the generations of Iranians to come.
Prof. Sheehan said, “Despite decades of brutal suppression, the MEK remains unyielding in their calls for a free Iran. By speaking the name of those that gave their lives for freedom, U.S. officials can close ranks with Tehran’s democratic opposition and give hope to those on the Iranian street that the future can be brighter than the past.”