Hamid Yazdan   Panah

With all of the back and forth between Congress and the White House on the Iranian nuclear deal, it is critically important for all involved in the debate – and all Americans – to remember with whom we are dealing when making deals with the Iranian regime.

This August marks the 26th anniversary of the massacre of thousands of tens of thousands of political prisoners by the Iranian regime in 1988. The shock and terror inflicted on the Iranian nation when this manifest case of crime against humanity, perpetrated in a spate of a few months, went unnoticed in the international sphere, and unresolved in the Iranian psyche. The legacy of this carnage has resulted in the survival of a despotic regime, and the stunted growth of a nation.

In order to understand the effect of the 1988 massacre, it is necessary to understand the historical context of 1980s Iran. A decade that began with the highest of aspirations following the 1979 revolution, turned into a nightmarish tragedy. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini came to Iran with religious sanctity that was unparalleled, but his betrayal of the people’s trust has instilled a cynicism towards politics in Iranians that continues to this day. And the war with Iraq which started in 1980 also was used by the mullahs to suppress criticism and justify their expansion of power.

The massacre itself has never been formally investigated, and remains shrouded in mystery. Some estimates place the number of killed as high as 30,000. To date, the most damning evidence has come from within the ruling clergy itself, from Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri who lost his status as Khomeini’s successor by denouncing the massacre.

The orders for the systematic execution of dissidents came from Khomeini himself in the form of a fatwa (religious decree), and was meant to purge the country of any opposition, notably the main Iranian opposition movement, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK). Along with the MEK, many leftist activists were executed for refusing to renounce their beliefs during Kangaroo trials which lasted no more than a few minutes. Many of the executed prisoners had already been sentenced to serve prison terms for their political defiance.


Hamid Yazdan Panah

Hamid Yazdan Panah is an attorney and human rights activist from the San Francisco Bay Area.