Justice Delayed: The massacre of political prisoners in Iran

Posted on: September 21st, 2012

HRANA News Agency – Massacre of Political Prisoners in Iran 1988, is  one of the darkest human rights violations in Iranian history. WNN Iranian reporter Elahe Amani shares insight and history into the increasing need for Iranian government accountability.

1988 is a year that thousands of political prisoners were executed in Iran followed by dumping their bodies in a mass grave in the outskirt of Tehran. Who were these prisoners in Iran?  What crimes did they commit? Why were they executed en masse?

The systematic execution of thousands of political prisoners across Iran by the government of Iran began on July 19, 1988, lasting about five months. A majority of the prisoners, men and women, were young political opponents to the Islamic Republic of Iran.  Many received their sentences, yet they were executed in masses in extreme secrecy.

Ervand Abrahamian, the renowned historian in “Tortured Confessions,” (1999), called the executions an “act of violence unprecedented in Iranian history — unprecedented in form, content, and intensity.” Amnesty International in its report, “Violations of Human Rights 1987 – 1990,” provides a glimpse into the scope of these executions.

In its report Amnesty states: “Another major aspect of the death penalty in Iran is its extensive use against political opponents. In contrast with criminal executions, which often take place in public and are usually announced in the official media, political executions are usually carried out in secret. For this reason the numbers of political executions which have taken place in Iran are disputed. Amnesty International has recorded the names of over 2,000 prisoners reported to have been the victims of a wave of secret political executions between July 1988 and January 1989. Amnesty International has no way of knowing the full extent of the massacre of political prisoners which took place during this six-month period. However, the organization has interviewed dozens of Iranians whose imprisoned relatives were killed at that time and has received written information about hundreds of other prisoners who were among the victims.”

At the time Amnesty International also spoke to eye-witnesses who were political prisoners in Iran while the mass killings were being carried out. Evidence has also emerged from Iranian government circles. In particular, letters written in July 1988 toAyatollah Khomeiniby Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, then the designated successor as leader of the Islamic Republic, referring to “thousands of executions in a few days” (Reuters, 29 March 1989).

The Ayatollah Montazeri is also reported to have said: “Many are the innocents and minor offenders who were executed following your last order” (Reuters, 29 March 1989). Taken together, Amnesty International believes that there is overwhelming evidence that in the latter part of 1988 the Iranian government carried out the largest wave of political executions.” Anotherdocumentpublished by Amnesty International on the occasion of the 20thanniversary of the massacre in 2008, confirmed that “starting in August 1988 and continuing until shortly before the tenth anniversary of the Islamic revolution in February 1989, the Iranian authorities carried out massive wave of executions of political prisoners – the largest since those carried out in the first and second year after the Iranian revolution in 1979. In all between 4,500 and 5,000 prisoners are believed to have been killed, including women.”

While these systematic mass executions were carried out with great secrecy and the statesmen in power denied it happened, the operation was leaked by survivors, and at least one of the mass graves was accidentally found by an Armenian man passing by the area.

This burial site is now called “Khavaran.” Despite the fact that the shocking executions of political prisoners are now undeniable, those who were holding key government positions at the time remain silent; or continue to imply that it was in response to the violence instigated by the Mujahedeen in the western borders of Iran.

Despite all the obstacles to holding the Iranian government accountable for these crimes, seeking human rights justice has moved from the margin to the center of global awareness within the last 24 years, and many of the narratives and testimonies of Iranian political prisoners and their families have been recorded. The annual memorial conferences by Iranians in exile; the efforts of human rights organizations; and this summer’sInternational Tribunal for Iran – 1980s Massacre of Political Prisonersare all steps forward in fully understanding the scope, intensity and magnitude of the massacres in Iran during 1980s, and in particular in summer of 1988.

The word is now out about these political crimes.

Many survivors are daring to come forward now about one of the darkest human rights violations in Iranian history. According to Geoffery Robertson, a human rights lawyer, academic and author of “Crimes Against Humanity: The Struggle for Global Justice” who wrote a 146 page comprehensive report titled “ Massacre of Political Prisoners in Iran 1988” and who also sat as an appeal judge at the United Nations said the UN reverted to silence in the case of the mass executions in Iran.

“The UN did not bother about Saddam Hussein’s use of poison gas atHalabjaearlier that year, and it turned a deaf ear to Amnesty reports about the prison slaughter (Iranian diplomats claimed the deaths had occurred in battle). But there is no statute of limitations on prosecuting crimes against humanity, and the mass murder of prisoners already serving sentences for political protests must count as one of the gravest of unpunished crimes,” said Robertson in a June 2010 op-ed for The Guardian News.

If one searches “Massacre of political prisoners in Iran” in Google these are the results:

7/1/1988         7/1/1998          3          (In the first decade )

7/1/1998         7/1/2008         47        (In the second decade)

7/1/2008         7/1/2012         1,540   (only first 4 years of 3rd decade)

While the results of the search are not an exact measure, they reflect the fact that the world is becoming more aware of the mass execution of political prisoners in Iran.

Geoffery Robertson also stated in 2010 that: “Most of the judges and officials who implemented the fatwa are still in high office in Tehran – under a supreme leader who, when asked about killing prisoners replied: ‘Do you think we should have given them sweets?’ There is still time for the UN Security Council to enforce international law by setting up a court to try the perpetrators of the prison massacres. This may be a better way to deal with a theocracy whose behavior in 1988 provides the best reason for concern over its future behavior with nuclear weapons.”

Knowledge about these crimes against the very soul of humanity requires the global community to hold the government of Iran accountable for these crimes.

Justice will not be served until all those who orchestrated one of the most appalling human rights violations in Iranian history are brought to justice. It is only then that the families of the victims may have closure and begin to heal the wounds of their loss.  As Bertrand Russell said inthe opening of the Vietnam War Crimes Tribunalon November 13, 1966, “May this Tribunal prevent the crime of silence.”

While justice has been delayed for 24 years many feel as though impunity has won, history tells us otherwise.  ”Crimes against humanity,” first defined at Nuremberg, is a phrase that has become the key to unlocking the closed door of state sovereignty, enabling all of us in the international human rights community to bring tyrants and torturers to heel.

As in the case of Argentina and Chile, we must continue to hold those who ordered and those who carried out the orders for these crimes responsible and accountable for their human rights violations.

Accountability provides justice for victims, and also helps to ensure that past atrocities and political crimes are not repeated.


©2012 This Article was republished from WNN – Women News Network with permission.


Elahe Amani is President of the Society of Human Rights in Iran (Southern California) and Chair of Global Circles for Women’s Intercultural Network.  Elahe is a well published writer both in English and Persian on issues related to Human Rights, Status of women in South and West Asia particularly Iran and Afghanistan, violence against women, social justice for women of color in US and peace in public and private, local and global.   Many of her articles are published by Women News Network.  Currently she holds the position of Director of Technology Services for Student Affairs at California State University Fullerton.

Amnesty: Iran must immediately release prisoner of conscience Arzhang Davoodi

Posted on: August 24th, 2012

Iranian writer Arzhang Davoodi

HRANA News Agency –Writer Arzhang Davoodi, who is facing fresh charges after being imprisoned in Iran for nearly nine years, must be released immediately and unconditionally, Amnesty International said.

Arzhang Davoodi, 60, who has been imprisoned since October 2003, faces a court hearing before Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran on 28 August on a new charge of “enmity against God” (moharebeh), which carries a possible death sentence.

The new charge is believed to be linked to his peaceful political activism and writings, including the release of an audio recording in which he called for “freedom and democracy”.

Therecorded messagewas widely distributed on the internet after the Confederation for Iranian Students (CIS), a 7,000-membership independent, pro-western student movement, released the recording in a conference in the United States of America. 

Arzhang Davoodi is feared to have been tortured and ill-treated since being transferred on 27 June to Section 209 of Tehran’s Evin Prison which is believed to be under the control of the Ministry of Intelligence.

“Not only is Arzhang Davoodi held solely for peacefully exercising his rights to freedom of expression and association in his writings and political activism, but he now faces fresh charges after being in jail for nearly nine years,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director.

“He is a prisoner of conscience and the Iranian authorities must release him immediately and unconditionally.

“The intolerance of dissent of the Iranian authorities is such that they continue to harass Arzhang Davoodi and his family although he is already in jail.

“The Iranian authorities must also protect him from torture or other ill-treatment and provide him with all necessary medical care and allow him immediate access to his family and his lawyer.”

Davoodi has served his sentence in a number of different prisons in Iran since his detention began, including at Bandar Abbas Prison, Hormozgan Prison, 1,500 km south of his home in Tehran; Reja’i Shahr Prison and Evin Prison – including Section 209.

He has also spent lengthy periods of time in solitary confinement in Evin Prison since his arrest and has had no contact with his family since his transfer to Section 209.

Davoodi was arrested in October 2003 for participating in a documentary,Forbidden Iran, in which he spoke out about human rights violations in Iran.

Following a trial in 2005, he was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment and 75 lashes by the Revolutionary Court on charges related to “spreading propaganda against the system”, “establishing and directing an organization opposed to the government”, being the director of the Parto-e Hekmat Cultural Education Centre in Tehran, participating in the making of the documentary and for his writings on a secular system of governance in Iran.

His flogging sentence has not been implemented.

Pastor Youcef’s Wife: New Charge is Rumor/ New Court Date Been notified and Death Sentence Remains

Posted on: August 20th, 2012

HRANA News Agency – Pastor Youcef’s Wife rejects new charge against her husband and called it rumor. She mentioned New Court Date Been notified and “Apostasy” Charge remains.

Fatemeh Pasandideh, Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani’s wife, in a conversation with the reporter of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) said: “He  is scheduled to appear in court on September 8 and “Apostasy” Charge is the only one in the case. She added “Banditry and Extortion” charge does not exist in the case and is just rumors.



Amnesty‎: Iran- Releases of prisoners of conscience after pardon not enough

Posted on: August 18th, 2012

HRANA News Agency – Amnesty‎ International; Anyone held in Iran solely for the peaceful exercise of their human rights should immediately and unconditionally be released, Amnesty International has said, following the pardoning by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of at least 130 political prisoners, including prisoners of conscience, from Tehran’s Evin Prison.


Iran: Prisoners released after annual pardons

Posted on: August 16th, 2012

HRANA News Agency – Following reports that Iran’s Supreme Leader has pardoned 130 prisoners charged with security crimes, the Tehran Prosecutor’s office announced that so far about 90 prisoners have been released.

It is customary for Iran’s Supreme Leader to grant some pardons on the occasion of Eid of Fetre, at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.


Web Master & Blogger Vahid Asghri Sentenced to Death

Posted on: January 9th, 2012

HRANA News Agency – One month after his trial held at the 15th branch of the Revolutionary Court, the authorities have notified Vahid Asghri that a death sentence has been issued for him.

According to a report by Human Rights Watch in Kurdistan, Vahid Asghri, 25, was arrested on October 4, 2008 by plain clothes agents working for IRGC (the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution).  Judge Abolqasem Salvati presiding over the 15th branch of the Revolutionary Court has sentenced Vahid Asghri to death.

In February 2009, IRGC Cyber Police announced that Vahid Asghri and a few other web masters of Internet sites opposing Islam had been arrested.

Vahid Asghri and other accused individuals were physically and psychologically tortured while in custody and were forced to appear in televised confessions.  These sessions were broadcast in Iran prior to their trials.

Copyright © 2009-2012 All Rights Reserved


Roghieh Hassanzadeh’s Prison Term & Lashes Upheld

Posted on: January 2nd, 2012

HRANA News Agency – Roghieh Hassanzadeh’s prison term and lashes have been upheld by the Appeals Court in East Azerbaijan Province.Roghieh Hassanzadeh is a resident of Tabriz.

According to a report by Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), the 104th branch of the criminal court in Tabriz sentenced Roghieh Hassanzadeh to 91 days in prison and 20 lashes.The 12th branch of the Appeals court in East Azerbaijan Province has upheld this ruling.

Roghieh Hassanzadeh was charged with and subsequently convicted of disturbing the peace by shouting slogans against the regime.

Copyright © 2009-2012 All Rights Reserved

Shutting Down Political Prisoners’ Cell Block in Urmia

Posted on: December 29th, 2011

HRANA News Agency –Following the transfer of six political prisoners to solitary confinement in the Urmia Central Prison, Mehr Ali Farhang who is in charge of political prisoners’ cell block has announced that Ward 12 will be closed down soon.

In recent months, Mehr Ali Farhang has continued to abuse and threaten political prisoners.Lately, he has announced that Ward 12 which houses political prisoners will be closed, and all inmates will be transferred to different cell blocks in the general prison population.

According to threats made by Mehr Ali Farhang, thirty political prisoners locked up in Ward 12 are scheduled to be transferred to other cell blocks where ordinary prisoners convicted of drug related crimes are being kept.

Two political prisoners, Majid Dalaei Milan and Shafagh Dalaei Millan, have already been transferred to a cell block housing drug addicts.Additionally, Azar Jafari after being beaten and battered was moved together with another political prisoner to different wards in Urmia Central Prison.

According to another report, Habibullah Galiripour, Ali Ahmad Solaiman and Jahangir Badozadeh were finally returned to political prisoners ward after being locked up in isolation cells since December 6, 2011.


Ayatollah Boroujerdi’s Prison Cell Raided

Posted on: December 23rd, 2011


HRANA News Agency – On Monday, December 19, 2011, agents sent by Iran’s Special Court of Clerics raided Ayatollah Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi’s prison cell in Evin and searched through his personal belongings.This raid was coordinated and carried out with the cooperation of prison officials.

According to a report by Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), security agents treated Ayatollah Boroujerdi with violence and insulted him.While calling him a spy, agents confiscated his clothing and medicine.

Since Ayatollah Boroujerdi suffers from various illnesses, the seizure of his medication will further endanger his health and life.

Copyright © 2009-2011 All Rights Reserved

An Open letter From the Family of Anvar Hussein Panahi to Dr. Shaheed

Posted on: December 6th, 2011

Your Excellency, Dr. Ahmad Shaheed,
The Special Rapporteur of the United Nations

Please accept the warm greetings of a Kurdish family who has endured much pain.

We are the family of the social activist Anvar Hussein Panahi who was sentenced to death four years ago for a crime he had not committed.Because of the pressure exerted and the support shown by the international human rights organizations and the European Union, the Appeals Court commuted Anvar’s death penalty and sentenced him to six years in prison.

Anvar Hussein Panahi is the oldest son in our family and has a wife and three children.His younger sister, Ashraf, was the second born child in our family.She had a job in Tehran and provided financial help to her elderly father.After Anvar was arrested and sentenced to death, Ashraf moved from Tehran to Sanandaj in order to help with her brother’s case and that of a cousin also condemned to death.

On September 27, 2008, while Ashraf was traveling towards Tehran and carrying documents that proved her older brother’s innocence, she was regrettably murdered by unknown individuals.Ashraf’s death was a heavy blow to two families since she was our only breadwinner.The effects of this blow increased many folds when Anvar was sentenced to death.

Meanwhile, intelligence agents of the Islamic Republic of Iran detained Anvar’s eighteen year old brother last year because he was following up on Anvar’s case.Anvar’s eighteen year old brother was tortured in order to extract a televised confession from him.The extent of this physical torture was such that it resulted in damage to and ultimately blinding one of his eyes.

All these events have been occurring while Anvar’s seventy year old father, mother and sisters have been summoned to the Intelligence Agency and threatened multiple times.

Your Excellency, we would like to ask you, “Where in the whole world is an individual arrested for the crimes committed by others?”Our entire family has been targeted by the regime because a few individuals including two family members living abroad are politically active against the Islamic Republic of Iran.Is it possible to prosecute and punish the rest of the family?

Our family especially Anvar Hussein Panahi is under very difficult conditions right now.Anvar is a well-known Kurdish political and social activist behind bars in Sanandaj Central Prison.He suffers from kidney infection and bleeding and has been transferred to the prison clinic multiple times.Although the physician in charge of this clinic has strongly advised to hospitalize Anvar outside the prison, the officials refuse to do so.

Anvar Hussein Panahi suffered from broken ribs when he was incarcerated in the Intelligence Agency’s detention center in the city of Qorveh, Kurdistan Province.Since then, he has been suffering for three years from kidney and intestinal infections that are continuously ignored by prison officials.Furthermore, the Intelligence Agency has recently begun new proceedings against Anvar and is about to frame and charge him with new crimes.

Under such circumstances, we reach out to you for justice with the hopes that you hear our innocent cries because we believe that you have the power to carry our message to the United Nations.Let the innocent cry of our family deprived of any momentarily peace and tranquility during the last few years be heard by the whole world.