Iran’s Srebrenica: How Ayatollah Khomeini sanctioned the deaths of 20,000 ‘enemies of the state’

The horrors visited on tens of thousands of Iranians in the years after the Islamic revolution were spelled out as the Iran Tribunal published its final judgment. Described as “a great achievement… a miracle,” by one of the survivors, the Tribunal found that during the 1980s the Islamic Republic was guilty of the murder of between 15,000 and 20,000 political prisoners.

Inspired by the Russell Tribunal set up by Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre to investigate American war crimes during the Vietnam war, the Tribunal, sitting in The Hague, set about documenting and publishing the crimes against humanity committed by the Islamic regime that have been referred to as Iran’s Srebrenica after the massacre by Ratko Mladic’s Bosnian Serb forces on Muslims during the Balkan wars. British QC Sir Geoffrey Nice, a member of the Tribunal’s Steering Committee, told The Independent: “There are a number of such tribunals around the world, but what is particularly striking about this one is that it was started and seen to fruition not by lawyers but by the Iranian diaspora itself, by people who had themselves been tortured.”

It was in 1981 that Iran’s new Islamic government, with Ayatollah Khomeini as its figurehead, rounded on the leftists and others who had come together with the Islamists to bring down the autocratic rule of the Shah two years earlier and gave them two choices: convert or be liquidated.

“In the 1980s the Islamic Republic of Iran went about arresting, imprisoning and executing thousands upon thousands of Iranian citizens because their beliefs and political engagements conflicted with the regime,” the judges wrote. “The religious fervour of these crimes makes them even more shocking: for instance, a woman’s rape was frequently the last act that preceded her execution in Iran, as under the ‘Sharia’ law guidelines, the execution of a virgin female is non-permissible.”

In June 1981 there was a wave of arrests and summary executions. Ms Shekoufeh went underground but the following February the Revolutionary Guards arrested her. “It was amazing and bewildering,” she recalled. “Those who had been in jail during the Shah’s time said this was much worse. The big difference was that they weren’t going after big organisations – my organisation had already fallen apart – but were collecting everybody who had the motivation to be ‘different’. The jail was so full of high school students you could hardly move. The project was mass conversion.” The executions had been a way of softening up the youth for conversion.

Those like Shekoufeh who proved stubborn were given the “coffin” treatment – nine months of sensory deprivation and complete immobility. “It was a horrible psychological torture,” she said. “You couldn’t move, talk, cough, sneeze, if you did they’d beat you up. There were constant sermons and Islamic teaching classes through the loudspeakers. The whole point was to empty the person of their own identity, making you an empty shell then filling you up with their garbage. After two or three months I felt I was losing my mind, losing control of my sense of reality. A lot of people had nervous breakdowns.”

Full article: Iran’s Srebrenica: How Ayatollah Khomeini sanctioned the deaths of 20,000 ‘enemies of the state’ (The Independent)

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