The legacy of Iran’s 1988 prison massacres

No revolutionary zeal, no religious dogma, no state security consideration can justify the mass bloodshed.
Sunday 09/12/2018
Bitterness. A woman looks at signs as she takes part in a rally marking the anniversary of the 1988 massacre of Iranian political prisoners in Paris. (AFP)
Bitterness. A woman looks at signs as she takes part in a rally marking the anniversary of the 1988 massacre of Iranian political prisoners in Paris. (AFP)

The bloody crimes may date back more than three decades but they testify to a ruthless mindset that has implications for today.

The crimes in question were perpetrated by Iranian authorities who “forcibly disappeared and systematically killed thousands of political dissidents within a matter of weeks between late July and early September 1988,” said Philip Luther, research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

The accusations were documented in a report, released December 4, titled “Blood-soaked secrets: Why Iran’s 1988 prison massacres are ongoing crimes against humanity.”

It details how, 30 years ago, Iranian authorities put prisons on lockdown and proceeded with the execution in a matter of weeks of at least 5,000 political dissidents. Most of the victims had ties with the People’s Mujahideen of Iran but hundreds more belonging to leftist political organisations and Kurdish opposition groups were also killed.

The report called on the United Nations to hold Iran accountable and for Tehran to admit to its crimes. That is unlikely to happen considering Tehran’s persistent denial of the crimes. Amnesty International worries that “the enforced disappearances are continuing today.”

No revolutionary zeal, no religious dogma, no state security consideration can justify such mass bloodshed.

Set against this historical background, one can perhaps better understand today’s regional and global wariness about Iranian designs at home and abroad.

6