Nov 21, 2016

Iranian Kurdistan: Justice Sought for Victims of 1988’s Mass Execution of Political Prisoners

In 1988, thousands of members of the Kurdish community – most of them political prisoners – were executed by the Iranian regime under Ayatollah Khomeini. To this day, this grave injustice remains a stark symbol for those fighting for justice for the Iranian Kurdish community. The search for justice to clear the almost thirty-thousand victims killed as political prisoners during the Khomeini era has never lost momentum and the Kurdish diaspora – be it in London or elsewhere in the world – stages demonstrations and organizes other forms of protests to remind the world of mass injustices of the past and the present committed against Iranian Kurds.

The article below is courtesy of The Metro:

Having had five relatives executed, Omid knows better than most what justice for the thousands killed in Iran in 1988 could bring. The teenager’s uncle, Hossein, was just 16 when he was taken from his home by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in front of his panicked family. It would take the family seven years to learn he was killed by the regime, and in that time three more of his relatives would be executed. The traumatic experience would leave his mother unable to talk for a month, overwhelmed by grief.

Unfortunately, his family’s loss is not an uncommon feature amongst a generation of Iranians. A two month purge of political prisoners in Iran in 1988, said to be under the orders of Ayatollah Khomeini, saw thousands die. Omid Ebrahimi lost two aunts, Farangiz and Soheila; his uncle and great uncle, Aziz, were executed in 1981, while his other great uncle, Houshang, died in 1993.

His father, Ahmad, was a political prisoner for ten years between 1981 and 1991 and counts himself lucky to be alive. At 19, Omid, who now lives with his family in London, is too young to have experienced the trauma of seeing relatives executed personally. Tomorrow he will take part in a demonstration in London seeking that very recognition while also condemning the high amount of executions that still take place in Iran today.

He told that condemnation from the government would mean everything. He said: ‘It would mean the Iranian regime has to watch itself, it can’t go around violating various conventions on human rights. ‘This would be a major step towards major regime change in Iran and that’s the only way we can stem the flow of executions in Iran.’

Despite these concerns and the imprisonment of dual nationality Britons, such as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Kamal Foroughi, diplomatic and trade relations have improved between Iran and Britain this year. In January, economic sanctions were lifted following the implementation of the P5+1 nuclear deal between Iran and a number of world powers, including the UK. The Iranian embassy reopened in London in August and then the following month British Airways announced it was resuming flights to Tehran.

Matthew Offord MP, who has large number of constituents of Iranian heritage and is speaking at the rally, said he felt the resumption of diplomatic relations was a missed opportunity. ‘I was a critic of the nuclear deal that was agreed with Iran,’ he said. ‘I think it was huge missed opportunity that we decoupled human rights from the nuclear deal.

‘I think there is concerted action to rebuild that diplomatic relationship between the two countries, [but] I’m concerned that human rights have been quietly side lined or conveniently overlooked.’ Human rights lawyer, Malcolm Fowler, who sits on an independent committee examining the issue, said there is enough information for the government to condemn 1988 as a massacre. ‘There is a resistance because it doesn’t suit the trading and diplomatic mind set of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office,’ he said.

An audio tape released earlier this year included an alleged discussion of the killings amongst Iranian officials in 1988, renewing the calls for justice. Off the back of that, the Committee for Justice for Victims of 1988 Massacre in Iran (JVMI) was established to examine and re-examine evidence. ‘It provides proof positive of what we’ve been saying for a very long time,’ Mr Fowler continued. ‘We need to assemble this evidence, there is an enormous amount of this ‘

A Foreign Office spokesman said: ‘The British government opposes the use of the death penalty in all circumstances and takes any allegations of extrajudicial killings seriously. ‘We know that between July 1988 and January 1989 executions took place in Iran. However, even with the recording and media reporting on the incident, we have no confirmation of the numbers involved. ‘We have no plans to raise the 1988 executions in the UN Security Council or the UN Human Rights Council, but we continue to take action with the international community to press for improvements on all human rights issues in Iran, including ending the death penalty.’


Photo Courtesy of The Metro