Iran’s presidential election is scheduled for May 19. Last week the Guardian Council, the body controlled by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei which vets election candidates, eliminated all but six candidates. Only two of the remaining six are considered serious applicants for the Islamic Republic’s next president: incumbent President Hassan Rouhani and Ebrahim Raisi, a cleric currently heading the Astan Quds Razavi, a so-called charity foundation with an estimated value of $15 billion.
As far as the Iranian people are concerned, there is no difference between these two candidates and no fundamental change will result from the selection of either candidate.
However, this presidential election has set the stage for the Iranian people and the international community to witness the most unprecedented confessions by various candidates regarding the 1988 massacres and crimes against humanity carried out by the entire Islamic Republic regime.
Based on a decree issued by the leader of the Iranian Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran’s brutal ruler from 1979 until his death in 1989, the regime massacred over 30,000 political prisoners in a span of four months during the summer of 1988.
The decisions of who would be executed were decided by a four-man committee appointed by Khomeini himself. Raisi, currently running for president, and Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, ironically Rouhani’s justice minister, were two members of this body known as the “Death Committee.”
In 1988, Rouhani himself was a high-ranking official in the defense ministry, making it highly unlikely that he was not aware of the massacres taking place.
In addition, when former Iranian president Ahmadinejad chose Pour-Mohammadi as his interior minister in 2005, there was an international outcry against the appointment due to Pour-Mohammadi’s role in the massacres.
In August 2016, a sound file, attributed to a 1988 meeting between Khomeini’s slated successor, Ayatollah Montazeri, and Death Committee members, shed more light on the horrific scope of this atrocity.
Montazeri is heard describing the executions as the “gravest crime in the Islamic Republic’s history.” (Immediately after the meeting, Montazeri became a “non-person” and was held under house arrest until his death in 2009.)
Despite the constant exposure of these crimes by the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), whose members and supporters were the main victims of the 1988 massacre, until the Montazeri sound file was revealed, the mullahs and their regimes would never mention this massacre in public. Various attempts were made to maintain a lid on these unspeakable crimes.
Iranian society is against the current regime in its entirety. Despite the passing of 30 years since this horrific event, it has not been forgotten and the public has shown extreme hatred in response to Raisi’s candidacy. He has even been dubbed the “massacre mullah.”
Going on the defense, Raisi and Khamenei’s faction were forced to first confess to the 1988 events by ridiculously describing the measure as part of the regime’s struggle against terrorism.
The state-run Afkar News website posted Khomeini’s decree – a first in the Iranian regime’s history – and wrote:
“With the execution of thousands of monafeqin (term used by the Iranian regime for PMOI/MEK members), the monafeqin’s chaff structure inside the country was destroyed, and the country’s security and stability was sealed for years to come…”
Rouhani has continuously claimed to be (and is feted internationally as) a “moderate.” His role, however, in the 1988 massacre is known to all and until 1988 he was chair of the Khatam al-Anbia and the regime’s deputy commander of the Iran-Iraq war, in charge of sending juveniles to the horrific minefields. The rival faction, however, revealed his true identity, specifically indicating how Rouhani and members of the so-called “moderate” faction were all directly involved in the 1988 massacre.
Afkar News continues in this regard:
“Once again the summer 1988 dossier has gained coverage in the news… There are those inside the country who are heard condemning the 1988 executions as crimes against humanity, all in an effort to tarnish Raisi’s image. All while the ‘reformists’ and supporters of the current Rouhani government have apparently forgotten how the decision-makers in those years are currently the spiritual fathers of today’s ‘reforms.’”
Whatever the outcome of Iran’s elections may be, Rouhani or Raisi becoming president will not render any fundamental change in Iran.
The entire regime admitting to the crimes of 1988 has surfaced from within the wars of this regime’s factions. The perpetrators of these crimes have yet to face justice.
Rouhani and Raisi are both considered murderers of the Iranian people, responsible for sending thousands of people to the gallows and children to war. Now they have been forced to confess to their crimes, yet there has been no action from the international community.
This must come to an end. Parallel to its pressure measures against Tehran due to its nuclear aspirations, the new U.S. administration must also demand the regime be held accountable for its flagrant human rights violations.
Shahriar Kia is a political analyst and member of Iranian opposition (PMOI/MEK). He graduated from North Texas University. He tweets at @shahriarkia.