The massacre of summer of 1988 in Iran
26 years ago around this time, the most horrific crime was committed by the Islamic regime in Iran and thousands of political prisoners were executed during the month of July. The massacre went on in several prisons around the counry but Evin and Gohardasht prisons particularly witnessed massacre in a much bigger scale.
Reza Gafari, a survivor of the massacre, in his book A State of Fear describes “around the first week of July in 1988 in Evin , as in Gohardasht, the television was taken away. Those newspapers approved for the prisoners were stopped, all visits to the infirmary were cancelled and any official calling of prisoners ceased. All visits by relatives, usually fortnightly, were cancelled. In fact, all the blocks were put on a ‘quarantine footing’. No one could enter. No one could leave.” Prisoners did not know what was happening and what was awaiting them.
Late in July 1988, Khomeini had to reluctantly accept the UN ceasefire to end the war with Iraq. Regime was well aware of the fact that when war is finished they will face mass protests by people who have suffered eight years during the war and were being forced by the regime to sacrifice thousands of lives and bear economic meltdown. Regime could no longer use the excuse of war to legitimize the unbearable social and economic living condition of millions of people, and it was in danger of facing mass unrests.
The massacre of political prisoners in 1988 was deliberately planned to remove the potential political opposition, terrorize general public and prevent further protests and unrests in Iran. They started executing thousands of political prisoners including those who served their sentences but refused to comply with the Islamic regime.
In the summer of 1988, when the massacre started, every day prisoners were taken to the “Death Committees” which were established in each prison and were consist of 3 or 4 of the most notorious prison and intelligent service officials. Prisoners were kept in an brutal conditions, tortured and then were put on 1-2 minutes military style “trial“ without being able to defend themselves. Meanwhile, all communications to and from prison, including visit from families, were halt. Geoffrey Robertson QC and human rights barrister describes this massacre in his report, the massacre of 1988 as: “Thousands of prisoners were blindfolded and paraded before the death committee which directed them to a conga line leading straight to the gallows. They were hung from cranes, four at a time, or in group of six from ropes hanging from the stage of the prison assembly hall. Their bodies were doused with disinfectant, packed in refrigerates trucks and buried by night in mass graves the locations of which were (and still are) withheld from their families”.
The families of prisoners were not told where their loved one was buried; they were even banned from mourning for their loved ones. Many executed prisoners were buried in mass graves in one part of Khavaran Cemetery which is called “The Place of the Damned” by the Islamic regime.
26 years have been passed and the families of executed political prisoners still do not know where their loved one are buried. Every year, families attend Khavaran Cemetery to commemorate their executed children, even though these gatherings are not tolerated by the regime and they are often attacked by revolutionary guards.
The leaders of the Islamic regime who ordered the executions of thousands of political activists in 1988, such as Mir Hossein Mousavi, who was the Prime Minster at the time, are still free and have not faced any trial for their crime. Mousavi, who called himself a so-called reformist in 2009, has never explained or talked about his role and responsibilities of 1988 massacre. He has shown absolutely no regrets for the crime he committed while in power in the summer of 1988. Around 5000 political prisoner were tortured and executed in a period of month in 1988.
* The above drawing is by a former prisoner at Evin prison, section 209 from the book Memories from Prison, by Sudabeh Ardavan