The 1988 massacre is a stark reminder of the Iranian regime’s complete disregard for the sanctity and dignity of human life
The 1988 Massacre in Iran and the Urgent Need for Independent Inquiry
35 years ago, in the final days of July, the Death Commissions in prisons all over Iran engaged in a quiet yet hurried massacre and genocide. Their goal was to eliminate those who ‘stood their ground and continued to do so,’ as per Khomeini’s order.
During this time, the Evin and Gohardasht prisons witnessed the massacre of prisoners, leaving only a few Mojahed prisoners in other cities’ facilities. In some prisons, not a single person survived.
The 1988 massacre in Iran, deemed the most significant crime against humanity since the Second World War, stands as a stark reminder of the Iranian regime’s complete disregard for the sanctity and dignity of human life. It serves as evidence of the corrupt and repressive regime’s relentless pursuit of power, regardless of the cost.
Remembering these dark days is an act of honoring the victims of this massacre and amplifying their voices in the quest for freedom and justice in Iran. We must never forget that their voices were brutally silenced by the mullahs’ regime during those years, with extreme brutality.
In his speech to the Free Iran World Summit 2023, on July 3, Mr. Stanislav Pavlovski said, “The massacre of 1988, which claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people, was a tragic event that deeply shocked not only Iranian society but the entire civilized world… It is known justice delayed is justice denied, and the time for justice has come. Such tragic events should have no place in the world based on the principles of humanity, where human life and dignity are absolute values protected by all jurisdictions, and the world should do everything to guarantee that they will never happen again.”
Reflecting on the massacre of 30,000 innocent souls
Reflecting on the massacre of 30,000 innocent souls sends a chill down one’s spine. The manner in which the Iranian regime executed these individuals is deeply unsettling. Take a moment to pause and consider: why did they all sacrifice their lives?
Prof. Anand Grover told the Free Iran World Summit, on July 3, “This is one of the finest moments for people who believe in something so simple; I will not agree with you, and I’m prepared to die. Can you think about this? It’s an amazing fate of human effort to be able to do it. Please appreciate the conviction of their beliefs, their bravery, and the courage of their conviction.”
Among those executed during the 1988 massacre was Monireh Rajavi, a student at New Castle University and the sister of Massoud Rajavi, the leader of the Iranian Resistance. Despite having two young daughters at the time of her execution, Monireh remained resolute, writing, ‘They want to destroy our human identity. We must fight.’
A genocide carried out while the press remained silent
The 1988 massacre stands as a genocide perpetrated while the press remained silent, both during that year and the subsequent ones. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that Khomeini’s heir finally wrote his memoirs, revealing shocking details about the massacre.
Within those memoirs, it came to light that Khomeini had decided to eliminate his opponents using any means necessary. In a chilling letter to his son, Ahmad Khomeini, who had asked about the prisoners’ fate, the response was unequivocal: “Kill them all. Do not waste time with procedures. Just kill them!”
Amb. Zorica Marić-Djordjević told the Free Iran World Summit 2023, “The Iranian regime has never acknowledged, never the facts of admitting its involvement in 1988 massacre or any of the continuous brutal killings and barbarian executions of the regime. Many perpetrators have remained in high positions of power today and no trial have been held in Iran. Some of those have not only been prosecuted for their crimes but have even been glorified as national heroes who fought against terrorism.”
The direct role of Ebrahim Raisi, the mullahs’ president, is undeniable. He is the architect of the 1988 massacre of political prisoners, and he must face justice for his crimes.
History will never forget nor forgive the crimes of criminals.
Women paid a heavy price in the 1988 massacre
The massacre of political prisoners began on July 19; however, the executions reached their peak between July 27 and August 16. This horrific event extended into autumn and, in some places, even persisted until the following year.
Numerous untold scenes and memories from eyewitnesses of this immense humanitarian disaster remain unregistered. Many individuals still grapple with uncertainty, unaware of where their loved ones have been laid to rest.
A tragic note regarding women prisoners at the Prison of Ilam reveals, “On July 20, 1988, the Revolutionary Guards relocated Farah Eslami, Hakimeh Rizvandi, Marzieh Rahmati, Nasrin Rajabi, and Jasomeh Heydari from the prison, claiming that Ilam Prison was unsafe and they needed to be transferred to a secure location. Initially, it was believed that they were moved to Kermanshah or Tehran prisons. However, the next day, devastating news emerged that the prisoners had been taken to a hill near Salehabad and executed by firing squads.”
Regarding the massacre of PMOI women, the Prosecutor of the Court of Stockholm explained: “Women were executed in the initial wave. Throughout our investigations, we could not find any women who survived the executions.”
Memories that are never forgotten
The former mayor of Paris told the Free Iran World Summit, “Despite the passage of 35 years, the memory has not faded. The emotion has not faded. When we see these faces again, we feel as if we are hearing their voices, their cries. Each of their personal destinies is irreplaceable. And that’s why this is genocide.
“That’s why this crime has absolutely no statute of limitations. And that’s why we have to remember it. And that’s why we need to ask international bodies to judge Iran for this crime against humanity.”
Seeking Accountability: UN Special Rapporteur’s Call for Justice in the 1988 Massacre
At a briefing with British MPs at the UK Parliament in London on July 18, 2023, Prof. Javaid Rehman, the UN Special Rapporteur on Iran, addressed the absence of accountability and the prevalent culture of impunity in Iran. He called for accountability and justice for victims of serious violations of human rights, including the victims of the 1988 massacre.
Prof. Rehman told the panel: “In 1988, thousands of these prisoners were extrajudicially executed pursuant to a fatwa issued by the Supreme Leader of Iran and implemented across prisons in the country. There are extremely serious concerns about the very grave crimes under international human rights law and international humanitarian law having been committed in 1988.”
“The mass executions of 1988 have been followed by state authorities refusing to publicly acknowledge the killings and to disclose the fate of those killed and the location of their remains to victims’ families and subjecting families to threats, harassment, intimidation, and attacks.”
“There has thus been the determination of the Iranian government to hide these massacres through false narratives and statements, distortion of historical data, and active harassment of survivors and family members of victims, as well as by hiding the evidence, such as the destruction of mass graves. Systematic concealment of the fate of the victims, not providing the location of their remains, or not providing family members information about the causes of their deaths is deeply troubling. Such concealment, in my judgment, constitutes enforced disappearances and a crime against humanity.”
“One possibility to ensure accountability is the use of universal jurisdiction to try individuals for serious crimes, including crimes against humanity and other serious human rights violations.”
“The other path is the setting up of an international tribunal or an investigative mechanism to hold accountable all those who have committed grave crimes against the Iranian people.”
It is high time to establish an independent international commission for inquiry with an international mandate to clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing and forcible disappeared persons in the 1988 massacre in Iran and all disappeared in continuous brutal killing and torture in Iran these days.
 Stanislav Pavlovski, a lawyer and a former European Court of Human Rights judge (2001-2008) and the Minister of Justice of Moldova
 Professor Anand Grover, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health (2008-2014), a senior lawyer, and an acting member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy
 Amb. Zorica Marić-Djordjević, Special Representative of Montenegro to the UN Human Rights Council (2013-2015)
 Remarks by the Prosecutor in the Court of Stockholm, August 11, 2021
 Jean Francois Legaret, President of the Middle East Studies Foundation, former mayor of the 1st District of Paris