A group of senior Belgian politicians gathered on Friday, October 21 in Rotselaar, Belgium to express their desire that Iranian leaders who have committed human rights abuses be brought to justice. They also expressed their support for a free and democratic Iran.
The meeting, entitled “Justice for Victims of 1988 Massacre in Iran,” was organized by Dirk Claes, Rotselaar’s mayor and president of the Belgian Committee of Parliamentarians and Mayors for a Democratic Iran.
“The main reason that I called for this meeting today was to commemorate a crime against humanity in summer of 1988, when over 30, 000 political prisoners, mostly from main opposition PMOI (MEK), were executed by the order of Ayatollah Khomeini,” said Claes in his opening speech.
“Many of them were serving their prison sentences and were supposed to be released soon. They were buried in mass graves and so their families did not know where to grief for their loved ones.”
He made reference to an audio file released in August featuring Hussein-Ali Montazeri who in 1988 was heir-apparent to Ayatollah Khomeini before being placed under house arrest for subversion. In the tape, released by members of Montazeri’s family, he can be heard in frank discussion about the execution of political dissidents with members of the “death committee”, a central organizing body based in Tehran that engineered the massacre.
“It is interesting to note that one of those members of that “death committee” is the current Minister of Justice in the government of President Rouhani who pretends to be a moderate,” Claes said. “All those who had a role in implementing this decree were involved in a crime against humanity.”
He echoed the calls issued by many other politicians and activists for the 1988 massacre to be placed on the agenda of the U.N. Human Rights Council.
“The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights must issue a call for an investigation in this regard. We urge the European governments, including the Belgian government to condition their relationship with Iran to a suspension and halt of executions,” he said.
Belgian Senator Peter Van Rompuy, vice-president of the Flemish Parliament, reaffirmed his support for Iran’s democratic opposition, of which he has been a supporter for years.
“Before I formed my contact with the Iranian opposition 10 years ago, it was my father (former President of the European Union Herman Van Rompuy) who was doing this, so you could say this have become a family issue and it goes from father to son,” Van Rompuy said. He seconded the opinion of Claes that the publication of the audio file has ignited a divisive internal struggle in Iran between those who stand by their actions and those who wish for the regime to distance itself from them.
Mr. Van Rompuy drew parallels between contemporary Iran and apartheid-era South Africa, pointing out the role played by the international community in ending racial segregation in the country.
“The support of the international community is your strongest weapon,” he said.
“Just keep knocking on that door”, he added, borrowing a quotation from Nelson Mandela.
He also drew attention to Iran’s exacerbatory role in the Middle East’s regional conflicts.
“All the problems we face now with ISIS, the Syrian civil war, the influx of the refugees to Europe… these are the result of the interferences of Iran in the region. They support Bashar Al-Assad who has caused all of this human tragedy.”
The speakers were joined by Razeieh Parandaque, mother of Mehran Bigham, one of the victims of the 1988 massacre.
“For six months I was going from prison to prison looking for him. They wouldn’t tell me that he had been executed. They didn’t even say where he was buried,” she said.
“The victims of the 1988 massacre were all political dissidents with clear political views who had all served jail sentences for their beliefs; most had been savagely tortured,” said Dr. Massoud Kashefi, one of a group of Iranian academics who spoke at the event.
“The trials took only 2-3 minutes. There were no lawyers. No one was informed. They were buried in mass graves. All was based on the fatwa of Ayatollah Khomeini.”