In the summer of 1988, 11 years after his takeover of Iran during the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa that led to the torture and massacre of 30,000 political prisoners held in jails across Iran. The religious edict stated:
“… Those who are in prisons throughout the country and remain steadfast in their support for the MEK/PMOI [the resistance movement against the Ayatollah] are waging war on God and are condemned to execution … It is naive to show mercy to those who wage war on God.”
Death Commissions were set up that swiftly sent victims to the gallows after mock trials.
In 1988, current Iranian President Hassan Rouhani himself was a high-ranking official in the defense ministry, making it highly unlikely that he was not aware of the torture and executions taking place. Shortly after taking office in 2013, Rouhani — who was touted as a moderate — appointed Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi as his justice minister. Pour-Mohammadi was one of the three members of the “Death Commission” that pronounced the execution verdicts of the 30,000 prisoners killed in 1988.
On July 15, 2019, during the Free Iran conference at Ashraf 3, the new home base to the MEK located in Albania, survivors of the 1988 massacre gave their testimony about the crimes they witnessed.
Here are some of the first-hand testimonies:
I was in the regime’s prisons for six years. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) arrested me while I was pregnant. I was taken to Evin Prison and the torture chambers.
In the cell, I saw four torturers torture my husband in front of me. They also tortured me in front of him.
A few days later, they executed him with 75 others. The torturer said he, ‘” wanted him to never see his son.’”
The regime executed 50 pregnant women, including Masumeh, the sister of Mrs. Maryam Rajavi [now head of the Iranian resistance group]. They took me to a hospital and quickly brought me back to prison even though I was very ill.
In prison, there was no doctor or medication for the children. There was only 15 minutes of warm water per day, which we had to use to give the children a bath. Many of these children had lost their parents.
The torturers even interrogated the children. They had strapped a small child to a chair in a dark room and tortured her so she would reveal the names of her mother’s friends.
I managed to escape prison in 1987. One year later, all of the women who shared the cell with me were executed in the 1988 massacre.
The roots of our hopes and faith in our leaders helped us overcome the dark times in prison and to fight for freedom.
Hengameh Haj Hassan
I was a nurse in Tehran. In 1981, I was arrested because I was a MEK supporter. We were charged with helping the people who were injured by the IRGC.
In prison, we were subjected to severe torture. We were taken to the cages. These were small partitions where you could only squat. You couldn’t move, you couldn’t even cough or sneeze. If we moved, we were tortured. Our eyes were blindfolded. My eyesight and my back were permanently affected. I have undergone five operations, yet I still have not fully recovered.
When we came out of the “cages” our friends didn’t recognize us. Our torturers told us that we would die here. We were only given three minutes per day to go to the bathroom. The food they gave us was scarce and very dirty. At night, when we were allowed to sleep, they would turn on loudspeakers and play the regime’s mourning songs. We were forced to sleep in coffins.
My friend, Shekar, who was arrested with me, was executed in 1988 after suffering torture and the cage.
Our torturers sought to break our will and force us to turn our back to our struggle. I decided that I would teach them a lesson and show them who I was. I meticulously organized my daily schedule. I rehearsed all my school courses, all the poems I knew, all the songs. I had a physical exercise program. We weren’t allowed to move, but I exercised in my mind.
At nights, when they turned up the loudspeakers, I trained myself to shut down the noise and take myself to pleasant places in my memories.
“The hardest was the feeling of loneliness. I thought of God, and I thought of my leader, Massoud Rajavi. I spoke to him, and this way, I didn’t feel alone anymore.
The torturers thought they would break our will through torture. However, they only made us stronger, as we understood that this proved what we were doing was right. In prison, we considered ourselves PMOI representative and we deemed it our responsibility to defend their values.
When I came out of prison, the first thing I did was rejoin the organization. This is a path that I will continue until the end.
I was in the regime’s prisons for five years. I was arrested in 1981 and spent time in Gohardasht and Evin prisons. When the regime wasn’t able to break the will of MEK prisoners through torture, they created a compound called the “residential units.”
This was a secret compound. I was there for 40 days. In the first day, I was brutally whipped and beaten. They took all of us to a room, blindfolded us, and told us that they would kill us sometime that night. They tortured us for hours until midnight.
My hands were swollen from the lashes. My face and body were bruised. The regime’s torturer said, “No one will hear you here. You will all die here.”
They kept us awake for many days there.
Some of my friends were kept in this place for six months. We weren’t allowed to scream under the torture. Everything they commanded us to do was given with lashes of the whip. For example, if they wanted to tell us that we could sleep, they would do it by whipping us.
After 40 days, I was taken to Evin Prison. Some of my friends lost their minds. Others would not even speak of the tortures they had suffered. Some had been raped.
I have faith that with the leadership of Massoud and Maryam Rajavi, we will free Iran. It was this faith that helped me overcome the torture in prison.
Maryam Rajavi commented, ” Since 1988, the clerical regime has taken numerous measures to eliminate the traces of the mass graves of victims of the 1988 massacre all across Iran. They have built buildings or roads on these graveyards, or have bulldozed them and turned them into new cemeteries.
“The time has come for the United Nations to form an international fact-finding mission for the 1988 massacre, and the world to recognize the right of the people of Iran to resistance and struggle to overthrow the mullahs.