Home News Iranian Opposition Survivors of Iran’s 1988 Massacre Testify in Durres Court—Part Five

Survivors of Iran’s 1988 Massacre Testify in Durres Court—Part Five

During Tuesday’s session, Mahmoud Royaei, a former political prisoner, gave a harrowing account of the atrocities that took place in Iran’s prisons during the 1988 massacre.

On Tuesday, November 16, the 39th session of the Swedish trial of Hamid Noury, an Iranian prison official, continued in the western Albanian province of Durres, where it is being hosted. Hamid Noury is being held to account for torturing inmates and playing a role in the extrajudicial executions of 1988 in Iran. Swedish authorities had arrested Noury on November 9, 2019.

During the past two years, Hamid Noury denied his involvement in human rights violations, particularly the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners, mostly members, and supporters of the opposition Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK/PMOI).

The hot subject in Iran is the people’s decision to seek justice from the regime. Especially for the victims of the 1988 massacre and the November 2019 protests.

From the 1988 Massacre to the bloody crackdown on the November 2019 uprising, Iran’s people and youths are sacrificing their lives for a free and democratic Iran, to present a brighter future to the coming generations. Waves after waves of justice-seeking people are standing up to the regime.

From the shocking memories of survivors of the 1988 massacre Mohammad Zand, Majid Saheb-Jam, Asghar Mehdizadeh, and Akbar Samadi, who served 11, 17, 13, and 10 years in prison respectively, and their bid farewell to their best friends at the death corridor before the mass executions, to the remarks of Asghar Mehdizadeh which were so dramatic that no one would tolerate to hear it twice—these are the signs of a nation which has sought freedom for more than 43 years.

Opening the eyes in the death hall and seeing the hanging comrades and the pile of their bodies on the corner of the room is speaking about a generation who said a decisive ‘NO’ to Khomeini and accepted freely the death to pave the way for a free country from the religious tyranny.

These people decided to go through this path with full consciousness. Akbar Samadi’s testimony of how he was forced to wait six times in the death court and corridor is the proof. And the many other testimonies by other political prisoners who are not participating in Hamid Noury’s trial are speaking about the same things.

They speak of the brutality of the regime and the courage of a generation that decided to confront the regime in the darkest era in Iran’s history. Now, these witnesses have become the voice of thousands of families who have lost one or more of their beloved ones.

This is the resurrection of a nation from the grave that the regime dug for them. From July 1988 to November 2019.

During their testimonies in the last four court sessions, former political prisoners Mohammad Zand, Majid Saheb-Jam, Asghar Mehdizadeh, and Akbar Samadi, pointed to the role of Hamid Noury in gross and systematic human rights violations, particularly in extrajudicial executions of 1988.

“They took me to a room that was later used for the ‘Death Commission.’ He was there, [Noury] changed my verdict,” Mohammad Zand testified in the court on November 10. “I realized Nasserian [the aka name of Mohammad Moghisseh] was the prison’s judiciary official and Hamid Noury was his chief of staff.”

“When we had been taken to Gohardasht prison, the guards brought us to a corridor, an almost empty ward, and the guards stood in lines to form a tunnel for the prisoners. As the prisoners passed through the human tunnel, the guards beat them with sticks and cables,” Saheb-Jam said in his testimony on November 11.

“I was surprised to see [Hamid Noury] there,” he said. Saheb-Jam had previously seen Noury in Evin prison, where the latter served as a normal prison guard, taking prisoners to the bathroom, torture chambers, and for breaks. “I had seen him more than ten times in Evin,” Saheb-Jam continued.

“I said to myself, God, what is going on here?” Mehdizadeh recalled. “I saw 12 MEK supporters standing on a chair each with a rope around their necks. I witnessed that next to them were other bodies of the martyrs whose feet were grabbed by the guards and dragged out of the hall.”

“As we were being transferred, Davoud Lashgari [one of the senior authorities of Gohardasht] saw us and yelled at the prison guards, ‘Why have you brought this group? Don’t bring them until I’ve called them by name,’” Samadi said.

“They had emptied a building in preparation for the massacre,” Samadi recounted, adding, “Since this section had no connection to the other sections, and the administrative building prevented this ward from being connected to other wards, it was located far from the other wards. That is why they had chosen it as the site to carry out the executions.”

“When I was there, I witnessed several times that Hamid Noury read out the names of the prisoners who were to be executed,” Samadi said.

1988 Massacre Survivor Mahmoud Royaie Testifies

“In March 1988, a group of prisoners was brought from Kermanshah to Gohardasht. We did not know why the authorities had done this, but we later found out that this was part of the plan to classify the prisoners, a plan that had been carried out by Davoud Lashgari, Nasserian [Mohammad Moghiseh], and Hamid Abbasi [Noury] in February 1988,” Royaie said.

“They asked them what their accusation was. As soon as they said they were supporters of the MEK, the guards severely beat them,” Royaie said. “One or two hours later, they were brought back, bruised and bloodied. The guards said we’ll come back for you on Saturday.” 

“Around noon, I was speaking to one of the inmates when we heard the news that there were some suspicious movements around one of the warehouses,” Royaie said.

“These series of events reminded us of the dark memories of 1981. Every night, hundreds of prisoners were executed while the authorities shouted, ‘Death to the Monafegh’ [the term the regime uses to refer to the MEK,” Royaie said. “I personally thought that they can’t execute everyone, and it would have a very heavy price for them. I thought that they were only executing the group of prisoners who had been transferred from Mashhad to Gohardasht.” 

“Around 5 or 6 pm, Nasserian came and said ‘Get up.’ He took me to the Death Commission,” Royaie said. “When I got in the room, there was a chair. I sat down and they told me to remove my blindfold. There was a long table and behind it were sitting two clerics and two individuals in plain clothes. Sitting across me was [Hossein Ali] Nayyeri.

“I didn’t recognize the other ones, but among the members of the Death Commission were [Mostafa] Pourmohammadi, the representative of the intelligence ministry, whom I didn’t know; [Morteza] Eshraghi, who was wearing plain clothes and I knew him; and there was Raisi whom I thought to be a prison guard because when I saw him, he was walking and holding a string of prayer beads.”

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