By Heshmat Alavi
The Federalist, April 19, 2018 - Who is Iran’s Alireza Avayi? Now Iran’s justice minister, he is also among those involved in imprisoning, torturing, and executing Iranians in the past 39 years.
It appears the “moderate reformist” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani appointed Avayi to replace the defamed Mostafa Pourmohammadi and continue his crackdown policy in the face of an uprising nation.
Avaie’s recent speech at the United Nations Human Rights Council disgraced this world body and resulted in numerous protests. His appointment calls for a deep look into this individual’s past.
Blacklisted Iranian Official Stirs Outrage at U.N. Human Rights Council - A speech in Geneva by Iran’s minister of justice, Seyyed Alireza Avaei, who has been the subject of sanctions for his role in human rights abuses, caused diplomats to walk out. https://t.co/3tZLJU97JZ— Social Media News (@Social_Media_gz) February 28, 2018
Previously a figure is hidden from the limelight, Avaie’s past speaks for itself. He has been involved in Iran’s so-called judiciary system from 1979 to this day, as a public prosecutor, judge, and administrator.
Avaie’s resume clearly shows his involvement in Iran’s executions spree of the 1980s. Avaie was the main figure in charge of executions in Dezful prison following the 1988 fatwa issued by Iranian regime founder Ayatollah Khomeini.
Throughout the 1980s, Avayi played a major role in executions, along with his brothers. Reports indicate these individuals are accused of committing coup de grace alongside the most heinous crimes in Khuzestan Province.
#Avaei was a perpetrator of the #1988Massacre of political prisoners and a member of Death Commission in Khuzestan Province that sent many political prisoners to execution during the massacre. Between 1979-1988, he was General& Revolutionary Prosecutor in Dezful& Ahvaz. #HRC37 pic.twitter.com/a23PnOv1BQ— Peymaneh Shafi (@peymaneh123) February 27, 2018
Prior to the clerical regime’s rule, a UNESCO institution was established in the city of Dezful to fight illiteracy and support children. It was later renamed the “Teachers’ Club.” Following the 1979 revolution, like many other centers, the UNESCO building was used as a prison where young dissidents were held, tortured, and killed. In the early 1980s, the “UNESCO prison” had four rooms filled with 350 inmates.
As the regime escalated its crackdown, this facility saw the construction of six quarantine rooms, along with 40 other wards and cells. More cells were made available in a newly constructed basement to prevent inmates from hearing the screams of those under torture.
During the 1988 massacre of more than 30,000 political prisoners
, in which most of the victims were members and supporters of the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), Avaie was promoted to the Death Commission in Dezful. Shocking stories of Dezful’s “UNESCO Prison” remained hidden for years until Mohammad Reza Ashough, a former inmate able to escape this jail, shed light on its atrocities.
Based on Ashoogh’s reports, the Death Commission in charge of the UNESCO prison consisted of Mohammad Hossein Ahmadi, a cleric; Shamsedin Kazemi, an interrogator; Alireza Avaie, a public prosecutor; and an Intelligence Ministry representative, along with Hardavane, the prison warden, and a number of guards.
From 1981 to 1983, nearly all executions were carried out in the prison courtyard, where prisoners were tied to trees and executed by firing squads. Ashough’s reports indicate teenagers such as Abdulreza Zanguyee, 15, Hamid Asekh, 15, and Gholamreza Golalzadeh, 16, were among those executed.
The mass grave of political prisoners executed in Ahvaz, found in a barren land located three kilometers from this city’s Behesht Abad cemetery, is yet another crime on Avaie’s report card. A dirt road from this cemetery was used by the families of the executed political prisoners to visiting this site.
The land used to be full of date trees. Those executed in the years of 1982 and 1983 are said to be buried in this area, and this trend continued until the 1988 massacre when all victims in Ahvaz were mass buried at this site. At the time, Ahvaz judiciary officials immediately made arrangements for the mass graves to be covered by cement, aiming to prevent any possible discovery of the victims’ bodies.
As the Tehran Province judiciary chief in 2009, Avaie played an important role in launching kangaroo courts seeking death sentences and long prison terms for those arrested during the nationwide uprising.
On 9 July 2009, the police arrested a large number of protesters outside Tehran University. Under orders of Saeed Mortazavi, Tehran’s public prosecutor, and his deputies Hassan Zare Dehnavi and Ali Akbar Heidari-Far, they were transferred to the Kahrizak detention center. Three of these individuals, Mohsen Rouholamini, Amir Javadifar, and Mohammad Kamrani were murdered under torture.
Exactly a year later, in an interview with Keyhan daily, known as the mouthpiece of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Avayi emphasized the method used in Kahrizak dossier was “correct.”
From 10 October 2011 to this day, the European Union has blacklisted Avayi for his effective role in the crackdown imposed on the Iranian people. The EU statement describes Avayi as responsible for arbitrary arrests, violating detainees’ rights, increasing the number of executions, and other human rights violations.
Iran's Justice Minister - Alireza Avaie - is on the EU terrorist list. He was involved in the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in Iran in 1988. His invitation to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva next week is a disgrace. He should be arrested at the airport. pic.twitter.com/DP2plgDLR3— STRUAN (@STRUANSTEVENSON) February 26, 2018
Despite all this, the “moderate reformist” Rouhani appointed Avayi as chairman of the President’s Special Inspector’s Office in 2016 and Minister of Justice in 2017. Instead of an invitation to speak at the UNHRC in Geneva, Avayi must face justice for his role in the Iranian regime’s ongoing crimes.
Members of @EUatUN delegation, @SwedenUN and others leave the room in sign of protest as #Iran's MoJ Seyyed Alireza Avaei, accused of involvement in 1988 massacre, speaks at #HRC37. Well done! pic.twitter.com/1M06ubx6in— OMCT (@omctorg) February 27, 2018
“The Human Rights Council should be ashamed to allow Mr. Avaei to address its membership. Yet again the Council discredits itself by allowing serial human rights abusers to highjack its work and make a mockery of its mandate to promote universal human rights." -Ambassador Haley pic.twitter.com/okyWfG1b50— US Mission to the UN (@USUN) February 25, 2018
According to Agence France Press, “As Avaie arrived in Switzerland Monday, a Swiss lawyer filed a complaint on behalf of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, asking the Swiss attorney general to prosecute the Iranian minister for crimes against humanity.”
This is a litmus test for the European Union to live up to its initial blacklisting and take on meaningful measures for Tehran to pay for its human rights violations. Only then can the EU claim to be standing alongside the Iranian people’s will for a better future.
Appalled that #Iran has sent Minister #Avaei, a man responsible for summary executions + systematic imprisonment of innocent Iranians, to address #HRC37. Such human rights violators should not use the Council as platform to distort the fundamental values it was created to defend. pic.twitter.com/ge3t7epamJ— U.S. Mission Geneva (@usmissiongeneva) February 27, 2018
Heshmat Alavi is a political and rights activist. His writing focuses on Iran, ranging from human rights violations, social crackdown, the regime’s support for terrorism and meddling in foreign countries, and the controversial nuclear program.