(I posted a link to this article on Facebook below, but a lucky few cannot read Facebook, so here is the article supplied by Shadi herself for publication here)
By: Shadi Paveh
Amidst the Iranian Revolution, The Shah reluctantly left Iran on Jan 16, 1979, hoping to reclaim his throne upon his quick return. Instead, many of his loyal high ranking officers, politicians and secret agents faced the firing squad by the hundreds under the new Islamic Republic (IR) founded by Ayatollah Khomeini; an austere fundamentalist Muslim clergy whose intolerance for opposition and minority groups covered Iran in an impenetrable blanket of repression for the next thirty three years and sent tens of thousands to the gallows.
In a speech addressed to the people, Ayatollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic (IR); the man of God who had extensively criticized the Shah’s human rights violations, declared all who opposed or criticized the Islamic government, “Enemies of God”, and assured their elimination. Along with political dissidents, the government put in place over one hundred capital offences which included drug trafficking, adultery and homosexuality. This brought forth an unprecedented wave of arrests and executions in the ensuing years. In order to justify the executions of political opponents to the public, the officials started using antiquated torture methods to coerce dictated confessions. Since all mandates of the previous regime were replaced with strict Islamic laws, the old Judges were ousted in lieu of Islamic clergy who had no training in the field of law. Therefore, the fate of the accused solely rested on the residing Judge’s discretion, which operated the vast majority of trials in absence of lawyers, witnesses or evidence. This resulted in the rapid deterioration of the judiciary system, and permanently dissolved lawful trials.
The first victims of the IR, or Enemies of God, were the people of the province of Kurdistan, the largest minority group in Iran, who had dutifully fought for the revolution in the hopes of achieving regional autonomy denied them under the previous regime. Naturally they resisted the control of the newly formed government, which incensed the Ayatollah. After failed negotiations, the Ayatollah angrily issued a fatwa (Islamic edict) to crush the Kurds and sent 110.000 troops complete with heavy artillery, fighter jets and armed helicopters to Kurdistan. The fighting was so intense that residents were forced to flee into the harsh mountains for survival. A group of volunteer surgeons and medical staff rushed from the capital to help the wounded but within days of their arrival they were put against the outside wall of the hospital and shot. Kurdish men were executed dozens at a time; a photograph of which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1980.
The next casualties were members of various leftist opposition groups such as Paykar, Fadaie, Tudeh and the Mujahedin along with the rest of the Shah’s high ranking officers and intelligence officers who were missed during the first bloody executions of 1979.Many of the opposition groups had fought arduously to overthrow the Shah but still strongly rejected the marriage of government and fundamentalist Islam installed by the revolution. As a result, they decided to orchestrate protests and armed activities to topple the newly found Regime in the hopes of a more socialist democratic Iran. The regime violently fought back with the massacre of all opposition factions, unparalleled in Iranian history. Although there is no precise information on the exact number of executions, some human rights groups estimate 7000 executions took place by 1982. It has been reported that 12,028 individuals belonging to various opposition groups had been killed between 1981 and 1985 by the IR. The majority of victims were in their teens and early twenties but the list also included senior citizens between the ages of 65-70. The youngest victims who were executed by firing squad were 12 year old Masuod Rezai, five 13 year old boys and one 13 year old girl (Boroumand Foundation). During this wave of mass executions, in many cases the officials sadistically asked the family to pay for the bullets used to kill their children in exchange for the body. Such was the case with 18 year old Shapour Jalili, who was executed in 1982 for reading Marxist literature.
During the summer and fall of 1988, over 4500 political prisoners who were currently serving time for their political views or activities in the early ‘80s, who had not been sentenced to death, were abruptly taken from their cells, blindfolded and taken straight to the gallows without trials, appeals or the knowledge of their families. The lucky ones were shot; others were slowly hoisted up by cranes resulting in a very slow and painful suffocation. They were executed in groups in order to speed up the process and were hastily buried in mass graves in a secret location. The families were ordered by government officials not to speak of the death of their loved ones and were forbidden to hold public memorials. Few dared disobey and thus; silence became the official language of Iran. Mr. Geoffrey Robertson, a prominent UN Jurist, who wrote a 145 page report on these mass executions, concluded that”…. the killings were of greater infamy than the Japanese death marches at the end of WWII or the slaughter in Srebrenica” and urged the UN to set up special courts to ensure the perpetuators were similarly punished for their crimes against humanity.
Perhaps with the majority of the Mujahedin and other opposing groups eliminated, the focus of the regime changed to individuals who were a strong threat to the regime. Between 1988 and 1998, opposition leaders, former officials, along with a number of journalists, activists and writers who had been critical of the Islamic Regime in some way, were assassinated both in Iran and in Europe. These murders claimed 80 lives by various methods of violent stabbings, car crashes, injections and drive by shootings. These killings were later dubbed “The Chain Murders of Iran”. Additionally, in 1994, the Regime was responsible for bombing the offices of the largest visible Jewish organization in Argentina. The bomb claimed 85 lives and injured 151 people. This was the largest bombing in Argentina’s history and the deadliest attack on the Jewish community since the end of the WWII. This bombing was in large due to Argentina’s decision to stop nuclear aid to Iran at the time. The youngest victim was 5 year old passerby Sebastian Barreiro who was walking with his mother.
Hearing the loud silence of the United Nations and that of the International community, despite their Stalinist purges and brazen assassinations abroad; the Islamic Republic of Iran realized the power of impunity and became even more feral in policing its dissatisfied populace. The slightest act of dissidence or criticism of the government was met with arrest, imprisonment, unspeakable torture and execution. Journalists, bloggers, human rights activists, women’s rights advocates, lawyers representing political prisoners, pro-union workers and Iranian expatriates all became targets of the Regime.
The following cases are examples of the Islamic Regime’s treatment of dissidents. The stories of the following victims are not exceptional in their brutality or rarity. They stand merely as examples of gross human rights violations committed by Iran’s present Regime against its own citizens. The most horrific documented cases have been omitted from this article in order to avoid further traumatizing the reader.
Miss Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian-Iranian photojournalist, who had left Iran in 1974, returned in 2003 to cover a story about Iran. She was soon arrested and famously detained in the notorious Evin prison on charges of espionage. Since Iran does not recognize dual citizenships, Ms Kazemi was not allowed representation by Canadian authorities. She later died in custody. The Iranian officials claimed she had died as a result of a stroke and refused to return her body to Canada. In 2005, however, Dr. Shahram Azam, a doctor with the Iranian security forces, who had examined Ms. Kazemi’s half dead body, fled Iran. He testified that the victim’s body showed extensive signs of torture, administered over a few days. The notes from his medical journal included a crushed toe, broken fingers, missing finger nails, broken ribs, a skull fracture, severe abdominal bruising, marks of flogging on her back and feet, extensive damage to the genitals and peculiar deep scratches on her neck. She was 52 years old and the first victim of the Islamic Regime’s war of terror on Iranians holding dual citizenships. Although her murder attracted international attention, her case was soon forgotten. In essence she died twice. This further solidified the Regime’s impunity and despotic rule.
Miss Zahra Bahrami 45, who held dual Dutch and Iranian citizenship, had travelled to Iran to visit her ailing daughter. She was arrested in 2009 for participating in anti-regime protests and taken to the dreaded Evin prison. According to eyewitnesses, Ms. Bahrami was tortured so severely she could not sit or stand easily and was denied medical care for serious lung complications. On Jan 29, 2011, she was suddenly hanged at 5:00 A.M. without anyone’s knowledge. She was then hastily buried by the authorities in the absence of her children. Dutch authorities expressed shock and sadness over her execution and yet only cut off diplomatic relations with Iran for approximately 20 days. Her case too was soon forgotten.
Mr. Amir Hekmati 29, an American born in Arizona to Iranian parents who was visiting Iran for the first time, was arrested in 2011 and charged with espionage. He was tortured until he gave a televised confession and was later sentenced to death. Due to heavy international pressure his sentence was overturned, yet he remains in prison. Three Canadians: Mr. Saeed Malekpour 37, Mr. Hamid Ghassemi-Shall 42, and Hossein Derakhshan 36, were all arrested while visiting relatives in Iran in 2008 on various charges. Mr. Malekpour was charged with designing software that was used in an “un-Islamic” way, where Mr. Ghassemi-Shall was accused of the customary espionage. Both were tortured before being given swift death sentences and are in the danger of imminent execution. Mr. Malekpour wrote from prison that his jaw had been broken while his interrogators were trying to extract his teeth with pliers. The Canadian officials have not been able to negotiate the release of these prisoners. Mr. Derakhshan, best known for bringing blogging to Iran, was sentenced to 19 years in prison for the contents of his blogs. All are presently kept in Tehran’s dreaded Evin prison which is best known for its routine use of torture, as well as keeping prisoners incommunicado during yearlong solitary confinement in cold, closet size cells with no medical care and minimal food.
Following the re- election of Iranian President Ahmadinejad in 2009, it is estimated that three million protestors poured into the streets to challenge the election results. The police force, known as the Basij, descended on the crowd with unimaginable brutality unrivaled in the past. Protestors were beaten, shot, mutilated and some were run over by vans. Many were killed and hundreds were arrested and taken to Evin as political prisoners. Those arrested were to meet inconceivable fates of torture. Among those arrested were Amir Javadifar, 24, and Taraneh Musavi, 28. Both died in custody. Miss Musavi was raped with such brutality that her uterus, genitals and rectum were torn. Her father suffered a fatal heart attack after learning of his beloved daughter’s fate. The family was threatened into keeping the circumstances of her death secret and strongly advised not to hold a memorial. Vicious rape of both men and women was widespread method of torture during the wave of 2009 arrests.
After his arrest on July 2009, during which he was badly beaten on the street, Mr. Javadifar was transferred to the now infamous Kahrizak prison, where he reportedly died of his injuries within 5 days. According to interviews conducted by The Boroumand Foundation with a cellmate of Mr.Javadifar, he was in grave condition upon arrival, had a broken jaw and suffered from a badly infected eye. According to witnesses, he was further sadistically beaten by the guards due to the weakness of his injuries. A friend of Mr. Javadifar described the condition of the body of his friend in an interview with Radio Farda. He stated that the head was shaved and fractured, all the toenails had been pulled out, one eye appeared crushed, plus his jaw and many teeth were broken. It must be stated that Mr. Javadifar sustained his fatal injuries in Kahrizak; a concentration camp style, beastly and inhumane dungeon of horrors dedicated to torture of political dissidents. The cells were mostly underground without running water or toilets, where over one hundred prisoners were packed into one cell for days at a time in the unbearable heat, without water. Many men barely survived the starvation, scorching heat and the daily beatings before being transferred to Evin, which in comparison appeared humane. Kahrizak was closed later in 2009 due to the public outcry of some survivors, only to be allegedly re-opened under a new name (Sourush III). Mr. Mehdi Mahmoudian, a journalist and a survivor of Kahrizak, filed a detailed report about the grotesque treatment and primitive conditions the detainees were forced to endure. He remains presently in prison under dire conditions, mainly due to the report. It is interesting that the body of Mr. Javadifar was returned to his family for burial, as this is highly unusual for political prisoners due to the severe damage sustained during torture. Many believe this was done to terrify opponents. The family was ordered however, not to speak publicly and to give the cause of death as a “car crash.”
There is currently an estimated 50,000-100,000 political prisoners in Iran, who have been arbitrarily arrested and held for years without formal charges, trials, representation or access to medical care or their families. Prisoners are usually kept in solitary confinement for extended periods during which torture is routinely used to extract confessions. Authorities often refuse to give information to the families and when visitations are granted, the visitors are kept waiting 4-6 hours and the visit lasts only moments. Many executions are performed secretly without anyone’s knowledge. Lawyers, who bravely choose the futile task of defending political prisoners, are often arrested. In short, Iran is a lawless society whose leaders refuse accountability for their gross human rights violations. Iran is an unimaginable place where everyone is guilty without the possibility of being innocent. And yet, even in the face of unspeakable torture and definite execution, the defiant Iranian people have tried time and time again to topple their present regime, but each time they have been met with a force more sadistically brutal than the last.
In March 2012 and February 2013, Mr. Ahmad Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur for Iran, presented a report on the gross human rights violations in Iran to the United Nations. In January 2012, Reza Pahlavi, the son of the former Shah of Iran, prepared a 45 page report documenting unspeakable torture and lawlessness in Iran, which was sent to most heads of state as well as the United Nations. In addition, Mr. Geoffrey Robertson, a prominent UN jurist, wrote a 145 report documenting the 1988 massacre of political prisoners. Amnesty International, Campaign to Free Political Prisoners in Iran, Untied4Iran, Mission Free Iran, International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, Human Rights Activists News Agency, are some of the organizations dedicated to the plight of the Iranian people. The Boroumand Foundation, in Washington, DC, has painstakingly documented executions by the IR since 1979, and along with many other organizations continues to interview survivors and witnesses. And yet the regime boldly continues terrorizing its own citizens while disregarding these reports as fabrications by its western enemies.
The Islamic Republic of Iran, a lawless and unaccountable regime, which continues to terrorize its citizens, whose President has publicly declared the Holocaust “a myth” and has repeatedly called for the “demise” of Israel, is now on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons. As Mr. Geoffrey Robertson, the UN jurist who wrote the report about the 1988 massacres of political prisoners in Iran stated;”…. the question is whether the very men capable of this level of lawlessness and barbarity against their own people can be trusted with nuclear power….”