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Online conference calls for justice for the victims of Iran’s 1988 massacre

Online conference with the attendance of more than 1,000 witnesses of the 1988 massacre
Online conference with the attendance of more than 1,000 witnesses of the 1988 massacre

Reporting by PMOI/MEK

Iran, August 28, 2021—More than 1,000 witnesses of Iran’s 1988 massacre, one of the greatest crimes against humanity in recent history, convened in an online conference on Friday and called on the international community to bring the perpetrators to justice. The virtual conference featured speeches from the witnesses, jurists and politicians, and Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). The speakers detailed how Iranian regime authorities executed more than 30,000 political prisoners in the summer of 1988, how they have since enjoyed impunity, and what role nation states must play moving forward.

The conference of special significance since the Iranian regime’s new president Ebrahim Raisi is one of the key perpetrators of the 1988 massacre. At the time, Raisi was the deputy-prosecutor of Tehran, He became a key member of the “death commission,” a group of regime officials who summoned political prisoners one by one and interrogated them on their political stance. Those who did not repent their support for the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) were immediately sent to the gallows.

The 1988 massacre was carried out based on a fatwa issued by Ruhollah Khomeini, then-supreme leader of the regime.

“Khomeini's fatwa was an explicit decree to execute all the Mojahedin who remained steadfast… the goal of the regime goes far beyond the execution of several thousand; it is the obliteration of a generation, an ideology, and men and women who rejected religious extremism under the guise of Islam and stood up for human freedom and dignity,” Mrs. Rajavi said in her keynote address.



Mrs. Rajavi emphasized that the regime failed in its efforts to obliterate the Iranian opposition in 1988, which shows itself in Friday’s conference, the ongoing protests across the world, the justice movement for the victims, and the ongoing trial of Hamid Nouri, a regime official who is now being tried in Sweden for his role in the 1988 massacre and other human rights abuses.

“The fact that such a large and valuable group of witnesses to the regime's crimes are at the core of a revolutionary movement speaks volumes about a tremendous social reality,” Mrs. Rajavi said. “Over the past 33 years, they have continuously contributed to the Call-for-Justice Movement with their high spirit and effective presence in the struggle against religious fascism.”

In her speech, Mrs. Rajavi reiterated the responsibility of the international community in holding the perpetrators of the 1988 massacre to account. She called on the U.S. and Europe to recognize the 1988 massacre in Iran “as genocide and a crime against humanity.”

“They must not accept Raisi in their countries. They must prosecute and hold him accountable,” she said.

Mrs. Rajavi also reiterate her call to the UN Secretary-General, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Human Rights Council, the UN special rapporteurs, and international human rights organizations to “visit the Iranian regime's prisons and meet with the prisoners there, especially the political prisoners.”

“The dossier of human rights violations in Iran, especially regarding the regime's conduct in prisons, should be submitted to the UN Security Council,” she added.



Geoffrey Ronald Robertson, distinguished jurist and the first President of the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone, made the case for classifying the 1988 massacre as a genocide.

“It is important to see whether what happened to MEK members can be lawfully classified as genocide. A genocide is the killing of a group based on their religion or race. The fatwa [decree] issued by [regime founder Ruhollah] Khomeini began by saying the MEK do not believe in Islam, have become renegades, and have waged war on God, moharebe. The MEK was distinguished from Khomeini because of their different view on Islam,” Robertson said. “When the news of these killings first came out, there was an attempt by the regime to defend them. The Chief Justice at the time said we are not a secular state and blasphemy is not permitted. He said that this was a form of punishing blasphemy. So it seems to me there is very strong evidence that this is genocide.”



Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General of Amnesty International (2018-2020), expressed his admiration for the witnesses and the families of the victims, who have persisted in their call for justice in the past three decade.

“It is moving for me to see the strength and courage of people who have been through so much and seen so much tragedy and endure these atrocities. I would like to pay tribute to all the PMOI prisoners and applaud you,” he said.

Naidoo also reminded that while the international community must take a leadership role on the 1988 massacre, the fact that a regime resorts to violence is a sign of its weakness. “Governments that behave like this must recognize that that behavior is not so much a show of force as an admission of weakness,” he said.

A common theme among the speeches was the need for the international community to investigate the 1988 massacre.

“Despite all the calls for an independent international investigation into the 1988 massacre, the European Union has ignored these calls, shown no reaction, and not been prepared to show a reaction,” said Audronius Ažubalis, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania. “I would like to call on the EU to sanction the regime for crimes against humanity. I think Lithuania can take the lead among EU members.”

Eric David, Professor of International Law from Belgium, reminded that every nation can take the lead in trying the perpetrators of the 1988 massacre. “All international jurisdictions can try this crime. If a regime official is in any country, that country can easily accuse and try that person for his responsibility in the 1988 massacre. We have no difficulty judicially to bring this case to court,” he said.



Gulnara Shahinian, UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery (2008-2014), brought attention to the issue of the mass graves where the regime has buried the victims of the 1988 massacre, and the regime’s recent attempts to destroy the evidence of the crime.

“The roles of states and the international community are critically important. They must bear responsibility to protect these sites. The respect of the lawful handling of mass graves must be assured,” she said. “The international community must do much more. All actions to protect human rights are critical now. We must make sure future generations do not forget these crimes.”