Never forget! Never forgive! The massacres of 1988

khavaranIn the first of a series of articles for Hands Off the People of Iran Aida Foruzan looks at the mass murder carried out by the theocratic regime in the summer of 1988.

In the summer of 1988 the rulers of the Islamic Republic of Iran committed one of the greatest crimes against humanity, they massacred at least 10,000 Iranian political activists, some of them only a sympathizer or reader of a political paper, the statistics which detail how many were murdered varies from 5000  this is the number of the ones who are defiantly known and identified, many who got executed including a family member of my own are not on this list) to 100,000 the statistic that Mujahedin have given (which seems exaggerated). I believe that the the quantity is not important when it comes to killing human beings for the way they think, even if the Islamic republic had killed only one person in this way every person responsible for this had to answer and pay for it, but still of course it is important to follow-up the exact statistics of the number of the people who lost their lives in that deadly summer, but falling in the trap of just arguing about the number which is done by some political tendencies consciously, and some individuals with out knowing the consequences is just what helps the Islamic Republic, because the statistics are vary drastically! The Islamic Republic is using this disagreement between political groups and individuals and witnesses to confuse people, of course the fundamentalists and the reformists (whom now days consider them selves as the opposition to Ahmadinejad’s government) have different reasons and attitudes doing this which I will discuss soon in another article.

In this article I want to go through why we should not fall in the trap of numbers there are different reasons why we should not emphasize and put too much time on this. Firstly logically we can not! We can never be sure how many people exactly died in that summer, before the fall of the regime and having access to the governmental documents of those days it is impossible to find a exact number, people who are trying to find the number using the names of the people who got executed and their relatives declared their names to the UN or other international organizations are never going to be close to the real number because the names are usually given by the families or sometimes friends who were in the same prison with them and got out alive. There are many families (specially from small towns or villages) who never sent out the name of their executed beloved ones. Some of them feared that the regime would make life harder for them, some were frankly threatened by the regime that they should be silent or wait for revenge and some (not many of course) were religious and a supporter of the regime so obviously they didn’t give out the name (I know people who gave up their own children). Some were illiterate or living in very small towns and villages and had no connection to send out the name, or they did not have the knowledge to know doing so is needed and finally some were very depressed after loosing their lost ones and simply they didn’t think that giving out a name or trying to revile the murderers is going to ease their pain.

People who think that the number of the executed is close to the number of the identified names, may argue that the families were not the only sources for these names, I would answer no some of the executed people were among the known leaders and some of the names were reported by the witnesses who survived, but as we know according to the testimony of the witnesses for example,
out of a section with 250 people in Evin prison only 35 remained alive, so it is possible that in some part of smaller prisons every one has been killed and there are no witnesses, or there are a few witnesses who live in Iran or for any reason they have not witnessed what happened to Mujahedin or leftists. Many families were not sure if they were in prison or in the partisan camps and were never informed of their deaths.

Above I discussed some of the reasons why we can not believe that the number of the executions is a close number to the names that we have, on the other hand making up numbers (like Mujahedin are accused of doing it) is not going to help reviling this great crime and seeking justice. The attitude that leads to making up numbers by guess work and without sources is an attitude which does not really respect the value of human life, the ones who are doing this probably think very pragmatically that if they raise the numbers people are going to be more concerned and the leaders of the Islamic Republic have to face justice sooner. What they forget is that making up numbers has only helped the Islamic Republic so far to get out of this case in the international courts and in the minds of some people, they forget that the life of any human being is sacred and any dictatorship which takes a life has to pay back for it.

Arguing about the number has led us to an endless fight which will never end until we get the official documents. Firstly for this happen we have to fight for the collapse of the theocratic regime. This disagreement has been helping many to have an excuse for not opposing the theocratic regime, above all western media which makes hundreds of documentaries against the Cuban regime for having political prisoners and what Stalin did during the 30’s have kept almost quiet for the past decade over one the greatest mass murders in history. This useless fight about the numbers is one of the reasons that some of the tendencies of the European left which support the Islamic republic for being anti imperialist! (a very anti-Marxist, anti-socialist and opportunistic reason!) These groups have been able to keep defending the Islamic Republic without feeling responsible to explain and condemn what happened in the summer 1988 in Iran.

But the ones who are using it most of all are the former members of the regime, the reformist wing who consider themselves as the opposition these days, to hide their bloody hands behind their back and fade their fingerprints from the mass graves of a revolutionary generation.

What is to be done?

I think, we should admit that we can not have the exact numbers yet, I am sure the day  is not far away when we will have access to the full details of this crime, but until that day we should act and agitate over the facts that we have. In the summer of 1988 thousands of political prisoners who had already been put through a trials and detention were mass murdered by the orders of the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic, ayatollah Syed Ruhollah Moosavi Khomeini, they had no chance to defend themselves and most of them were killed after answering negative to questioning on whether they prayed, believed in god and rejected their political organisations in a so called court.  Court sessions were held for 2 or 3 minutes and one Mullah was the only person present in the room in many cases, they sentenced thousands of prisoners to death, they killed them in the most severe ways some were hanged, some of them were put all together in a room and exploded many never got the chance to even write a goodbye letter.

They buried them in mass graves with their cloths on, never told their families were they were buried and threatened their families to be silent. One of these mass graves has been found today, it is called: Khavaran and some of the families followed the vans that came out of Evin prison and saw the bodies of their loved ones being buried all together in these area in the east of Tehran, even now after 22 years the people who go there to mourn their loved ones or to remember their comrades and friends are usually arrested, beaten, insulted and mistreated.

These are the facts that we have for sure, these are things no one can question or deny, and we have to stop fighting about the details we can not be sure of and condemn the ones responsible for this crime by any means possible. There are some young brave Iranian lawyers in exile nowadays who believe and are trying to prove that the mass murders in the summer of 1988 in Iran was a genocide, killing defenseless people who belonged to one generation and had a different way of thinking.

In the next article I will discuss more about what happened in the summer of  1988 and the attitudes of the different wings of the regime towards this event after 22 years and their attitude of the executions they have committed in the past 30 years. I will also look at the reasons why some activists do not like to attract any attention to the crimes of 1988.

I want to end my article in the memory of Mojtaba my cousin, who was killed in summer 1988, he was 17 when he was arrested, he was a sympathizer of Mujahedin and was arrested with an illegal paper. He was only a school student so he was told to write something asking for forgiveness, he didn’t do it and as a reader of the Mujahedin’s paper he was sentenced to life in prison! During his prison time once he went on a two month long hunger strike which was the reason the other prisoners started calling him Bobby Sands out of respect, in the last time he met his father in prison, he told him: they are doing chemical exams on us, the things that they want to use against Iraq in the war first they try it on us, he looked very pale and under his eyes had turned purple, after that he never got a chance to see or call or write to his family, one year later, in that unforgettable summer of 1988, the manager of the prison called my uncle he said: “we want to release your son, get ready to celebrate”, my uncle and his family prepared a big party and invited a lot of people, my uncle went to evin prison in the day he was told, they put a blindfold on his eyes, and led him through some halls and floors, he said: “I felt strange and unsecured, I felt something is wrong but I never even guessed how cruel they could be.” They led him to a room finally and gave him a bag: inside was Mojtaba’s two shirts and a small towel and a few other personal things, they told him that his son was executed and that he should go home and not to speak a word about this otherwise the authorities “will take your daughter to same place that he is now! No we can not tell you were he is buried.”  My uncle went home and all the preparation for the party was spent for Mojtaba’s small funeral, when he is talking about Mojtaba’s childhood or a memory from him he puts his hand on the shoulder of his other son and tries to smile, Mojtaba’s name is not in any list, we never knew were they hide his warm and kind heart, but he and the memory of his braveness and his way of life remains among the family, and I strongly believe that the one’s who could not stand his social consciousness and human like way of living will one day pay for their guilt, and I know that none of us is never going to forget nor forgive their crimes.

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