The hastily organized execution of at least 20 Sunni prisoners in Tehran, who were killed shortly after being violently apprehended on Monday, has provoked responses of anger, sadness, and defiance from many Iranians and from the international community.
The prisoners were being held at Gohadarsht Prison, about 20 km west of Tehran. On Monday, August 1st, members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) apprehended them and bound the prisoners’ hands and feet, taped their mouths and covered their heads with plastic bags. They relocated them to solitary confinement wards in the IRGC section of the prison.
They were then transferred to Rajaee Shahr prison, where they are believed to have been executed shortly before sunrise the following day.
Families of the prisoners were informed of the impending executions and were encouraged to come say their final goodbyes. While en route to see their loved ones, however, the families were called and informed that the execution had already taken place, and they were to instead collect the bodies of the executed at the morgue.
“We got on the road, but they called us on our way and told us not to go to prison, and to go to the morgue in Kahrizak instead,” one family member said to the New York-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “We realised he must have been executed. They called again to say that we should go directly to Behesht-e Zahra cemetery. They had executed him before we arrived. We were only able to get the body.”
According to Shahin Gobadi, chair of the NCRI Foreign Affairs Committee, “there’s a long-standing precedent by the regime of first executing prisoners and then informing their families.”
“One explanation for this is that the regime is afraid of a public backlash and protests outside the prison by the families to halt the executions. It is particularly cruel as none of the mothers and fathers managed to say goodbye to their loved ones.”
The men had been held on terror charges, although there have been reports that they gave forced confessions and were subject to unfair trials.
Prisoners in Gohadarsht Prison held a commemoration on Tuesday for their cellmates.
Activist Ahmad Ebrahimi, who was held prisoner in Iran for 10 years before moving to London, spoke about conditions in Iranian prisons with Express.co.uk.
“Being in prison was just everything horrible, from their care of the political prisoners to whatever I saw – the abuses I saw there.
“Every time was different, there was nothing the same. We never knew what to expect. Sometimes we would not be given food, sometimes we would be tortured.
“We lost many friends, noticed the people disappearing. People were called and taken from their cells and, we learned after, went to their so-called court.
“Then the people would come back to their rooms, to their cells, and when they were called again they were taken to be executed. With bullets.
“We counted the bullets after, to see how many lives had been taken.”
Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), released a statement calling the executions “an appalling crime against humanity.”
“The mullahs’ anti-human regime carried out the mass execution of our Sunni brothers on the anniversary of the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in Iran,” she said. “They are trying in vain to contain the volatile social atmosphere and popular protests by terrorizing the public.
“The 1988 massacre of political prisoners in Iran is the biggest crime of its kind since World War II. The clerical regime’s crimes systematically committed over the past 37 years are all examples of crime against humanity, war crimes or genocide. And how the international community reacts to these crimes is its great test.
“The time has come for the UN Human Rights Council and the UN Security Council to end their silence and bring the record of the Iranian regime’s crimes before the International Criminal Court. Ali Khamenei and other leaders of the regime as well as direct perpetrators of these crimes must be brought to justice.”