A conference about the international community’s role in preventing crimes against humanity will take place in a live broadcast on September 1st.
The 1988 massacre of more than 30,000 political dissidents in Iran has gone largely unacknowledged by the international community. On June 5th, 2013, Canada became the first government to officially recognize the killings.
This year, new revelations about the extent of Tehran’s active role and complicity in the killings have come to light: the publication of an audio tape of Ayatollah Montazeri, Supreme Leader Khomeini’s then-successor, denouncing the massacre before a “death panel” of other Iranian officials made clear that many in Tehran had no qualms about eliminating political opponents.
This new information is sparking a political firestorm within Iran as some seek to divert blame while others defend the government’s actions. Previously, discussion of the massacre in public or on social media would result in imprisonment. Today, Tehran is no longer able to control public awareness of the events.
The political liability of the situation is extremely high because many Iranian cabinet members complicit in the massacres still hold office under president Hassan Rouhani.
A recent push has been made by members of the Iranian opposition to bring the remaining perpetrators of the massacre to justice through international criminal tribunals. Human Rights Watch stated on October 24, 2005 that “the deliberate and systematic manner in which these extrajudicial executions took place constitutes a crime against humanity under international law.” Increased scrutiny of the events has created a key window of time for the Iranian resistance to make itself heard.
In 2013, Canada’s Parliament adopted a motion stating “that the House condemn[s] the mass murder of political prisoners in Iran in the summer of 1988 as a crime against humanity, honour[s] the memory of the victims buried in mass graves at Khavaran cemetery and other locations in Iran, and establish[es] September 1 as a day of solidarity with political prisoners in Iran.”
Members of Iran’s opposition seek similar recognition from other western governments to put further pressure on Tehran’s increasingly fragile hold on power.