OpinionEditorialA massacre gone unpunished

A massacre gone unpunished


Iran Focus – Editorial: In 1988, Iranian prisons saw perhaps the most heinous case of state-organised mass murder since the end of the Second World War.

Iran Focus


The international community has made some important – albeit delayed and so far insufficient – strides in holding Tehran accountable for its nuclear defiance. More serious sanctions by Washington and the European Union mean more pressure on Tehran to comply with its obligations. But, the regime has not been held to account for its flagrant and persistent human rights abuses.

In 1988, Iranian prisons saw perhaps the most heinous case of state-organised mass murder since the end of the Second World War. Immediately after Ayatollah Khomeini “drank the poisonous chalice of the cease-fire” in the Iran-Iraq War, he issued a fatwa to eradicate “without delay” all political prisoners “still insisting on their stance.”

Some 30,000 political prisoners, a vast majority from the main Iranian dissident group, the People’s Mojahedin (PMOI), were subsequently rounded up and hanged in prison yards in groups in a space of a few months. The first series of round-the-clock executions continued with extraordinary speed for several weeks in complete secrecy. The victims were dumped into mass graves, and a cover-up campaign quickly ensued.

Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, call it a manifest case of a “crime against humanity.”

Still, 22 years on, members of the so-called “Death Commission” who implemented Khomeini’s cruel “final solution” lead lavish lives and hold Cabinet posts, continuing to hand down execution sentences for political prisoners like Jaafar Kazemi, 47, who is on death row for participating in last year’s anti-government demonstrations and visiting his son in Camp Ashraf in Iraq, home to 3,400 members of the PMOI.

It would be a disgrace if western governments continue to exercise the same inexplicable silence that has tainted the previous two decades. Perpetrators of the 1988 massacre must be brought to justice much like those responsible for crimes in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia were. It is time for the United Nations Security Council to take up the dossier of the 1988 massacre. Silence and inaction are inexcusable.

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