Maryam Sinaiee (RFERL)
A historical appeal of Amnesty International highlighted by one of the human rights watchdog’s Iran researchers has proven that Iranian authorities were aware of the execution of dissidents between July 10 and August 16 in 1988, which set the scene for the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners later that year.
Raha Bahreini, an Iran researcher with Amnesty International, tweeted an image on Wednesday of an appeal to the Iranian authorities from August 16, 1988 to stop the executions. “We found the Urgent Action [appeal] of August 16,  in the Amnesty archives,” she wrote. “It was a shocking discovery that showed government and judicial authorities as well as Iran’s ambassadors were aware of the executions at least since August 16 but the policy of [Prime Minister Mir-Hossein] Mousavi’s Foreign Ministry was denial. Even today, with utmost dishonesty they claim that they did not know [about the executions].”
Over 5000 people were executed in Iranian prisons in the summer of 1988 for their membership or affiliation with leftist groups including the Marxist-Leninist Iranian People’s Fedai Guerrillas and Tudeh Party, the Maoist Peykar, the Islamic People’s Mujahedin Organization (MEK) and several other dissident groups.
Iranian authorities have never been held accountable for the executions, with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who served as president in 1988 after the massacre, saying that those who were executed “deserved it.”
According to the historical document found by Bahreini, at least 19 members of the outlawed People’s Mujahedin Organization (MEK) and Tudeh Party were hanged in public in Bakhtaran and Ilam or were executed by the firing squad in Evin Prison between July 10 and the time of the appeal on August 16.
The appeal also points out that 10 additional people were executed on allegations of being “counter-revolutionaries” and spying for Iraq during the same period, and 55 political prisoners were on death row awaiting execution.
The Amnesty appeal called on Iranian authorities to provide details of the procedures by which death sentences were being passed and approved, urging commutation of all outstanding death sentences and an end to executions in Iran.
The appeal was addressed to Chief Justice Ayatollah Abdulkarim Musavi Ardebili and Justice Minister Hassan Habibi, and was copied to diplomatic representatives of Iran in other countries.
Bahreini’s tweet appears to be a jab at Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who served as Prime Minister to Khamenei at the time, as well as his supporters. Mousavi, who came out of semi-retirement to run for president in 2009, claimed during his election campaign that he neither knew of nor had a role in the executions. Mousavi disputed the outcome of the election and the presidency of the Khamenei-favored candidate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and has been under house arrest since 2011.
Most of the victims of the massacre were buried in unmarked and often mass graves in various places. In recent years, reports have emerged of the desecration and destruction of some of the mass graves in various cities.
On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the executions in December 2010, Amnesty International said in a statement that the organization had sent 16 urgent action appeals to Iran to stop the killings in the summer of 1988, but never received a response.