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The 1988 massacre: How the Iranian regime tried—and failed—to destroy the MEK

In the summer of 1988, Iranian regime supreme leader Ruhollah Khomeini ordered the execution of more than 30,000 political prisoners, mostly members and supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK)
In the summer of 1988, Iranian regime supreme leader Ruhollah Khomeini ordered the execution of more than 30,000 political prisoners, mostly members and supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK)

Reporting by PMOI/MEK

Iran, July 24, 2020—In the summer of 1988, a fatwa of by mullahs’ regime founder Ruhollah Khomeini sent 30,000 Irianian political prisoners to the gallows in a matter of months. Khomeini’s goal was clear: The total annihilation of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the most organized and capable opposition movement of Iran. Most of the prisoners executed in what became known as the 1988 massacre were members and supporters of the MEK.

But while Khomeini managed to set a record in barbarity and crimes against humanity, he did not achieve his goal. Thirty-two years later, the MEK and the Iranian Resistance still stand, stronger than ever, and they recently held their yearly Free Iran Global Summit, connecting more than 30,000 locations in 102 countries, and calling for accountability regarding atrocious human rights violations by the mullahs’ regime in Iran.

A look at the 1988 massacre and the history of the MEK show why the Iranian regime has failed to wipe out the opposition.

An unprecedented crime against humanity in modern history

In his fatwa, Khomeini clearly states: “Those who are in prisons throughout the country and remain steadfast in their support for the Monafeqin (the regime’s derogatory term to describe the PMOI/MEK), are waging war on God and are condemned to execution.”

To prevent his henchmen from hesitating in their crimes, Khomeini wrote: “It is naive to show mercy to those who wage war on God. The decisive way in which Islam treats the enemies of God is among the unquestionable tenets of the Islamic regime. I hope that with your revolutionary rage and vengeance toward the enemies of Islam, you would achieve the satisfaction of the Almighty God. Those who are making the decisions must not hesitate, nor show any doubt or be concerned with details. They must try to be ‘most ferocious against infidels.’ To have doubts about the judicial matters of revolutionary Islam is to ignore the pure blood of martyrs.”

The unique features of the 1988 massacre

Many massacres were carried out throughout the history, all of them despicable and heinous. The 1988 massacre, however, stands out for many reasons.

The 1988 massacre was carried out by a written order of the top leader of the mullahs’ regime.

Those who were massacred had a single crime: staying steadfast in their beliefs.

All the victims were prisoners who had been convicted by the judiciary of the same regime and many had served their prison sentences and should have been released long before the events of 1988.

In this regard, prominent British Human Rights lawyer Sir Geoffrey Robertson QC described the 1988 massacre as one of the worst crimes against humanity since World War II.



Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who was at that time heir apparent of Khomeini and fell out with the supreme leader later on, told the death commission members: “The greatest crime committed during the Islamic Republic, for which history will condemn us, has been committed by you. Your (names) will in the future be etched in the annals of history as criminals.”

Also, the resistance of the prisoners massacred in 1988 is a unique and glorious example in history. Thousands of prisoners could have secured their release when facing the regime’s death committee. The death committee asked them a single question: “What is your crime.” If the prisoners said “being member or sympathizer of the MEK” they would be executed. If they insulted the MEK and repented their support for the opposition, they would be spared. Incredibly, 95 percent proudly defended their support for the MEK.

The 1988 massacre, 32 years later

The Iranian regime’s effort to destroy the MEK failed thanks to the continued efforts of the Iranian resistance and repeated calls for the investigation and punishment of this hateful act of brutality. Now, 32 years after the 1988 massacre, not only the Iranian people and their resistance movement continue to hold dear the memory of those who laid down their lives for freedom in Iran, but the international community is also starting to recognize that crimes against humanity do not get forgotten with time.

Morgan Ortagus, spokeswoman of the U.S. Department of State said in a video message on twitter that “July 19th marks the anniversary of the start of Iran. So-called death commissions on the orders of Ayatollah Khomeini. These commissions reportedly forcibly disappeared and extra judicially executed thousands of political dissident prisoners. The current head of the Iranian judiciary and current minister of justice have both been identified as former members of these death commissions. The Iranian judiciary is widely perceived to lack independence and fair trial guarantees. And the revolutionary courts are particularly egregious in ordering violations of human rights. All Iranian officials who commit human rights violations or abuses should be held accountable. The United States calls on the international community to conduct independent investigations and do provide accountability and justice for the victims of these horrendous violations of human rights, organized by the Iranian regime.”




Also, a statement by 31 American personalities addresses the 1988 massacre: “The leading figures in this evil regime have been in positions of authority for years ... (They) must now be held accountable.” The statement adds, “We recommend that countries that have been victimized by Iranian-government sponsored terrorism, including the US and its European allies, send teams of experts to study the evidence at Ashraf 3 while organizing their own evidence for eventual use in international tribunal proceedings.”

Jurists are not urging the international community and the United Nations to investigate the 1988 massacre and punish the perpetrators.

In his address to the Free Iran Call-for Justice event, Tahar Boumedra, former head of the Human Rights Office of the UN Advisory Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), said: “Let us warn the UN that enough is enough. The regime will not investigate its own crimes. Since 2015, at the launch of this campaign on the massacre of political prisoners, we have come a long way, and the UN is now very aware of what happened in the summer of 1988 in Iran. But there are facts that we should not ignore.”



But more importantly, the regime’s crime against humanity is now backfiring against itself and sowing the seeds of its own collapse. The sacrifice of the brave members and supporters of the MEK in 1988 is still reflected in continued struggle of MEK members in Ashraf 3, Albania, and a new generation of youth inside Iran who are joining the fight against the mullahs’ regime for a free Iran.

Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) said in her remarks on the Free Iran Global Summit:

“By his fatwa sanctioning the 1988 massacre, Khomeini intended to annihilate the generation of the PMOI/MEK, just as the Mongols did in Iran, to guarantee his rule.”

“The sacred blood of those martyrs, particularly those slain in 1988, are today roaring in Iran, giving rise to generation after generation of rebellious youths who are motivated and inspired by it… The PMOI/MEK members, who walked to the gallows and sacrificed their lives by the thousands for the cause of freedom, are now the topic of discussion in the Iranian society and the wave of arrests of defiant young people and widespread arrests of the families of PMOI/MEK members in recent months attest to this truth.”