Iran’s Most Feared Mullah Acknowledges Massacre of Political Prisoners

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Iran massacred over 30,000 political prisoners in summer of 1988 and kept a lid on this atrocity for three decades. In this year’s presidential election a conservative cleric by the name of Ebrahim Raisi, one of the perpetrators of the massacre, was selected as a main candidate, resurfacing the 1988 massacre and forcing regime officials, one after another, to confess about the carnage.

Last week in an unprecedented interview, former Iranian intelligence minister Ali Fallahian revealed the mindset behind the 1988 mass execution. Fallahian, described as “perhaps the most feared mullah in Iran” by Newsweek, is wanted by Interpol for his involvement in the 1994 AMIA bombing that killed 85 people in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

In his interview Fallahian explains whoever had any relation with the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) was condemned to death.

“Imam [Khomeini] said you must execute those who are steadfast in their beliefs,” he said referring to the Iranian regime founder. “We couldn’t let them go and couldn’t keep them in jail. If we had kept them in jail, we would have had a bunch of people over our head telling us don’t keep them in jail. So a 3-man team of judges and ministers was assigned to oversee these cases, release those who were eligible and execute those that were not,” he continued.

In the summer of 1988 Khomeini issued a religious decree calling for the massacre.

“Whoever at any stage continues to belong to the (PMOI/MEK) must be executed. Annihilate the enemies of Islam immediately! … Those who are in prisons throughout the country and remain steadfast in their support for the MEK are waging war on God, and are condemned to execution … It is naive to show mercy to those who wage war on God,” the decree reads in part.

A committee of four men was formed to implement the order, and in a matter of a few months over 30,000 political prisoners were executed, mostly members and supporters of the main opposition PMOI/MEK.

“The principal point was to execute all prisoners, except those who were eligible for parole?” asks the interviewer.

“They were supposed to check and see and talk to the prisoners to find out if they still adhere to their beliefs,” Fallahian responds.

“What was the benchmark for evaluating who is steadfast and who is not?” asks the interviewer. “To say that I believe in the PMOI and don’t believe in you,” Fallahian explains.

Last year the revelation of an audio tape and unpublished letters of the late Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, former successor to Khomeini, shed light on new dimensions of this grave crime. Pregnant women and girls as young as 14 and 15 years old were among those executed, Mr. Montazeri wrote.

the late Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri.
The late Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri

Mr. Montazeri told the massacre perpetrators that due to these executions you will be remembered as “history’s worst criminals.”

The interviewer asks Fallahian about Montazeri’s position.

“Mr. Montazeri had a different case. He disagreed with Imam [Khomeini]. Mr. Montazeri and some others believed that killing and execution of so many would backlash at us and the history would judge against us and against Islam. He believed that we shouldn’t go forward with that process (executing the prisoners). Later in time, the enemy would use this against us. But Imam said don’t worry about the history, carry out your duties according to the religion and don’t worry about history,” Fallahian added.

“A full accounting of what’s called the ‘death commission’ created by Khomeini has yet to be carried out. But thousands died – by hanging or firing squad or in places such as Tehran’s Evin prison,” according to a 1990 Amnesty International report.

The victims were buried in unknown mass graves while many graves have been discovered by the victims’ families. As the atrocity began to surface, the Iranian regime tried to destroy all the evidence, including the graves.

In a report in 2009, Amnesty called on “Iranian authorities to immediately stop the destruction of hundreds of individual and mass, unmarked graves in Khavaran, south Tehran, to ensure that the site is preserved and to initiate a forensic investigation at the site as part of a long-overdue, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into mass executions which began in 1988, often referred to in Iran as the ‘prison massacres’. The organization fears that these actions of the Iranian authorities are aimed at destroying evidence of human rights violations and depriving the families of the victims of the 1988 killings of their right to truth, justice and reparation.”

All we hear in the West is about Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, and their malignant actions in neighboring countries. For far too long the West has turned a blind eye to Iran’s atrocious human rights violations.

Marking the 29th anniversary of this horrific purge, the time has come to hold the mullah’s regime accountable for crimes against humanity.

Keyvan Salami is an Iranian activist with a passion for equal rights. Keyvan graduated from the University of New York, and his focus is Iran and the Middle East. He has contributed writing to many sites. His work covers a wide variety of issues concerning Iran’s state sponsorship of global terrorism, ballistic missile, and violation of human rights.