An interview with Ayatollah Khomeini’s then-heir, recorded in 1988, reveals the extent to which the Iranian government was aware of the massacre of more than 30,000 prisoners which took place that year.
“The greatest crime committed during the reign of the Islamic Republic, for which history will condemn us, has been committed by you,” says Hossein-Ali Montazeri in the audio interview. “Your (names) will in the future be etched in the annals of history as criminals. Executing these people while there have been no new activities (by the prisoners) means that … the entire judicial system has been at fault.”
He is referring to the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners, most of them members or supporters of the People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI, or MEK) in 1988 by Iranian security forces. While the extent of the Iranian government’s complicity in the massacre has been debated, this new evidence indicates that high-ranking Iranian officials were aware of the killings.
On the tape, Montazeri meets with a “death commission” composed of Hossein-Ali Nayyeri, the regime’s sharia judge, Morteza Eshraqi, the regime’s prosecutor, Ebrahim Raeesi, deputy prosecutor, and Mostafa Pourmohammadi, representative of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), among others (Pourmohammadi and Nayyeri are still currently high-ranking cabinet members).
At one point, Montazeri states that Pourmohammadi and the MOIS had been aware of the coming massacre months before it took place.
“[The Ministry of] Intelligence wanted to do it and had made investments,” said Montazeri of the massacre. “And Ahmad (Khomeini’s son) had been personally saying for three or four years (prior to the massacre) that the MEK (Mojahedin-e Khalq) must all be executed, even if they read their newspapers, publications and statements.
“The Mojahedin-e Khalq are not simply individuals. They represent an ideology and a school of thought. They represent a line of logic. One must respond to the wrong logic by presenting the right logic. One cannot resolve this through killing; killing will only propagate and spread it.”
He also recounted personal anecdotes:
“Someone was in prison. They said his sister was also accused. So, they went and brought his sister. They executed the man. Her sister had been imprisoned for only two days. She was only 15. They asked [the man’s] sister, ‘what do you say?’ ‘I liked these people’, she said. They said ‘because her brother was executed, execute her as well.’
“In Isfahan, a pregnant woman was among [those massacred]. In Isfahan they executed a pregnant woman.” He adds that in clerical jurisprudence, “one must not execute a woman even if she is a mohareb (enemy of God). I reminded [Khomeini] of this, but he said they must be executed.”
Elsewhere, the audio reveals the haste and lack of due legal process which characterized the massacre. Members of the “death commission” also admit that the families of many of those waiting to be executed had already been executed, and that many prisoners had been 15 or 16 years of age at the time of their arrest.
Pourmohammadi has denied any involvement in the killings.
In response to these revelations, the National Council of the Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an umbrella group which counts the PMOI as its largest constituent group, has urged the international community to hold Iranian government officials accountable for their actions through international criminal tribunals.