Thirty-two years ago, Ayatollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran then, had to drink what he referred to as the “cup of poison” when he agreed to a UN-mediated ceasefire after an Iranian warship drowned during the Iran-Iraq war that lasted for eight years. Khomeini referred to this truce as a “cup of poison” because he was forced to accept such a ceasefire although it is against his ideology of exporting terrorism and instigating war, which was a cornerstone for the Wilayat Al-Faqih (Guardianship of the Jurist) regime. This ideology is most apparent in Khomeini's statements, such as when he said that he was willing to continue this war until he reaches Jerusalem through Karbala, even if the cost would be the destruction of each and every inch of Tehran.
Khomeini’s decision to accept the ceasefire deal was followed by a decision to execute unarmed political prisoners. The second decision served as an attempt to neutralize the consequences of drinking the “cup of poison” that indicated his failure in the war with Iraq, and to destroy the Iranian society.
To that end, Khomeini issued an appalling fatwa stressing the need to execute all political prisoners who remained “loyal and steadfast to their beliefs.”
Khomeini's fatwa, which is marked in history and which he wrote himself, states that:
“Those who are in prisons throughout the country and remain steadfast in their support for People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran are waging war on God and are condemned to execution”. That being the case, more than 30 thousand political prisoners were executed under Khomeini’s decree within a short period of time.
History has witnessed several crimes and massacres, but what makes the 1988 massacre against political prisoners different is the following:
This crime was committed based on a written order issued by an official of the highest rank in the regime.
The only “crime” committed by the victims was that they held on to their beliefs and ideals and did not abandon them.
The majority of massacres were committed against prisoners who were prosecuted and found sentenced by the judiciary system and its court in a matter of a few minutes, while most of them had already been serving or served their prison terms, or even were released and reimprisoned under this criminal fatwa.
The abovementioned facts prompted Geoffrey Robertson, former UN Appeal Judge in Sierra Leone, to describe the 1988 massacre as the “worst crime against humanity since World War II”.
As for Hossein Montazeri, who at that time was Khomeini’s designated successor, he said that those events have placed Khomeini and his regime among the worst criminals in history.
Meanwhile, the mujahidin prisoners have given the world a unique and impressive example because of their strength on the one hand, and steadfastness to their beliefs and principles on the other.
Those prisoners, thousands of them, were forced to determine their fate of either being released or executed by answering one question by the “Death Commission”. They knew that if they uttered the word “mujahid” while answering the Commission’s question on the reason why they were behind bars, it was enough for them to be sentenced to death. Yet, it was found that 95 percent of the thousands of prisoners across Iran who were asked this question had bravely said that they were mujahidin and supporters of the People's Mojahedin Organization.
Now, 32 years later, Amnesty International declared this massacre as a crime against humanity, and the US Department of State announced that since it is a crime against humanity, the 1988 massacre does not fall under the statute of limitations. This proves that the world’s conscience is more awake now than it ever was.
This acknowledgement pays respect to the People's Mojahedin Organization, which has been active in its resistance for 40 years, and to their journey to freedom that they embarked on when they had the choice of martyrdom or surrender. This journey will persist until the world sees a free and democratic Iran.
To this day, the regime is still committing countless crimes against the Iranian people whether directly or through its agents, like Qassem Soleimani. Soleimani led a massacre committed by IRGC’s Al-Quds Force and its Iraqi mercenaries in September of 2013, when 53 young fighters struggling for the freedom of Iran were targeted in an armed attack that took the lives of many, including my son Rahman.
Those crimes are also manifested in the brutal crackdown on demonstrators in the nationwide uprising of November 2019. As a result, Amnesty International published a full report on the detained demonstrators, while Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, called on the UNSC, UN Secretary General, High Commissioner, UN Human Rights Council, and the European Union to take immediate action to release all detainees and prisoners of conscience in Iran.
Rajavi said that silence and inaction surrounding such crimes against humanity and the torture of unarmed civilians are violations against human values that millions gave their lives to achieve.
It is time for the UN General Assembly to act on its resolution condemning the 1988 massacre of political prisoners by dispatching a fact-finding mission to Iran to investigate the crimes against humanity being committed in prisons in Iran. This is a request by the people of Iranian and freedom fighters across the world.
Masoumeh Bolourchi is a Representative of the National Council of Resistance of Iran in Germany.
This piece was originally published in Okaz.