Iran: 1988 Massacre, Ongoing Human Rights Violations” rally, vigil, and photo exhibition

OIAC Iran Human Rights Exhibition & Vigil on Capitol Hill


On September 12, 2019 on the Lawn of the U.S Capitol, senior members of Congress joined Iranian Americans at an exhibit which concluded with a candle light vigil to expose Iranian regime officials & condemn their continued role in crimes against humanity, including the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners. Event called on the international community to hold Iranian regime Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, President Hassan Rouhani, Judiciary Chief Ibrahim Raissi, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, and other regime officials accountable for complicity in and cover up of this crime against humanity.  


As addressed in the House Resolution (H.Res. 188) in 115th Congress, “the massacre was carried out pursuant to a fatwa, or religious decree, issued by then-Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, that targeted the People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI), also known as the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK);

In his remarks, Chairman Elliot Engel (D-NY) said, “when you stand here and you look as far as the eye can go and you realize that all these good looking young people who were murdered by the murderers and Iranian regime in Tehran.” Chairman Engel reiterated the event’s call to action and added, “what is so disgraceful, if that was not enough, we find that many of the people who were responsible for massacre of these beautiful young people here, are the very people who have high positions in the Iranian regime today.” Pointing to bipartisan support for a free Iran, Rep. Engel said, “As the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I want to tell you that on both sides of the aisle, democratic and republican, we support Iranian freedom and I am here to tell you that in person.”

Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN) called for an official U.N. inquiry into the mass killings in Iran and said, “The massacre of 1988 needs to be investigated, justice needs to be brought in some way, and justice brought in some way by the United Nations and the United States, in terms of bringing it to light and condemning actions of Iran and crimes against humanity.”  

Congressman Juan Vargas, member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee also attended at the event. In his remarks he said. “I am here to pay my deepest respects to those who were massacred and to those who continue to struggle for the rights that they deserve. And I hope that things will change and change soon in Iran.”

In December 2018, Amnesty International published a comprehensive report on the said massacre, labeling it an “ongoing crime against humanity” and urged the U.N. to take action. The “ongoing” designation of this crime, AI said, was based on the fact that “perpetrators have remained key figures in the regime’s leadership.” For the first time, the United Nations Secretary General also addressed this crime in his 2018 annual report. During 115th Congress, nearly 100 bipartisan members of Congress cosponsored House Resolution 188, condemning Iranian regime for forcibly disappearing 30,000 political prisoners in 1988, and calling for justice for its victims. Also in the 115th Congress, the House unanimously passed H.R.4744 – with it condemning the 1988 mass killings in Iran. 

Media report:


Click HERE for the event’s Photo Gallery.

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Date: : September 12, 2019
Time: 9am to 7pm
Location: Capitol grounds (Area #10) of U.S. Capitol
SPONSOR: Organization of Iranian American Communities (OIAC)

On September 12, 2019, Iranian Americans will participate in the “Iran: 1988 Massacre, Ongoing Human Rights Violations” rally, vigil, and photo exhibition on the grounds (Area #10) of U.S. Capitol.  We urge you to attend this exhibition, and help our community save lives of the innocent in Iran and hold accountable, the religious despots who are committing these atrocities.

1988 Massacre-Background

In the summer of 1988, the Iranian regime summarily and extra-judicially executed tens of thousands of political prisoners held in jails across Iran. The massacre was carried out on the basis of a fatwa by the regime’s then-Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini.

The facts:

  • More than 30,000 political prisoners were massacred in Iran in the summer of 1988.
  • The massacre was carried out on the basis of a fatwa by Khomeini.
  • The vast majority of the victims were activists of the opposition PMOI (MEK).
  • A Death Committee approved all the death sentences.
  • Alireza Avaei, a member of the Death Committee, is today Hassan Rouhani’s Justice Minister.
  • The perpetrators of the 1988 massacre have never been brought to justice.
  • On August 9, 2016, an audio tape was published for the first time of Khomeini’s former heir acknowledging that that massacre took place and had been ordered at the highest levels.

Justice for 1988 Massacres

The Montazeri Tape

On August 9, 2016, relatives of Hossein-Ali Montazeri, Khomeini’s former heir, published a shocking audio tape in which Montazeri can be heard telling a meeting of members of the “Death Committee” 28 years ago (August 15, 1988) that they are carrying out a crime against humanity. The Montazeri tape revealed new information about the scope and breadth of the massacre of political prisoners at the time. It has sent shockwaves in Iran and in particular among the regime’s officials who had for more than two decades attempted to impose an absolute silence on the massacre.

The clip also showed that the Iranian regime’s leaders who held positions of power since the beginning of the regime’s establishment must face justice for committing one of the most horrific crimes against humanity.

In the audio tape, Hossein-Ali Montazeri, who was subsequently dismissed as the heir by Khomeini, for these very remarks, tells members of the “death commission”, Hossein-Ali Nayyeri, the regime’s sharia judge, Morteza Eshraqi, the regime’s prosecutor, Ebrahim Raeesi, deputy prosecutor, and Mostafa Pourmohammadi, representative of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), “The greatest crime committed during the reign of the Islamic Republic, for which history will condemn us, has been committed by you. Your (names) will in the future be etched in the annals of history as criminals.” He adds, “Executing these people while there have been no new activities (by the prisoners) means that … the entire judicial system has been at fault.”

Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the Iranian Resistance, described the audio recording as a historical document. She said the recording attested in the strongest possible manner both to the Mojahedin (PMOI/MEK) political prisoners’ rejection of surrender and to their admirable allegiance to, and perseverance in, their commitment to the Iranian people. The recording is also irrefutable evidence that leaders of the mullahs’ regime are responsible for crimes against humanity and the unprecedented genocide, Mrs. Rajavi said.

There are strong indications that Khomeini’s fatwa, which led to the massacre of some 30,000 political prisoners in Iran, was issued on July 26, 1988.

The Iranian regime has never acknowledged these executions, or provided any information as to how many prisoners were killed.

The majority of those executed were either serving prison sentences for their political activities or had already finished their sentences but were still kept in prison.

Some of them had previously been imprisoned and released, but were again arrested and executed during the massacre. The wave of massacre of political prisoners began in late July and continued unabated for several months.

By the time it ended in the autumn of 1988, some 30,000 political prisoners, the overwhelming majority activists of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI or MEK), were slaughtered.

Mass executions of prisoners in 1988 begins with Khomeini’s death decree

In the final phases of the Iran-Iraq war, Khomeini who felt that defeat was imminent, decided to take his revenge on the political prisoners. He issued fatwas (religious decrees) ordering the

Khomeini Decree Letter

execution of anyone who had not “repented” and who was not willing to collaborate entirely with the regime.

The massacres began, and everyday hundreds of political prisoners were hanged and their corpses were buried hurriedly in mass graves all over major cities, in particular Tehran.

Khomeini decreed: “Whoever at any stage continues to belong to the Monafeqin (the regime’s derogatory term to describe the PMOI/MEK) must be executed. Annihilate the enemies of Islam immediately.” He went on to add: “… Those who are in prisons throughout the country and remain steadfast in their support for the MEK/PMOI are waging war on God and are condemned to

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini Decree Letter

execution… It is naive to show mercy to those who wage war on God

Text of Montazeri’s letter to Khomeini on July 31, 1988, complaining that mass execution of Mojahedin (PMOI/MEK) prisoners would only enhance their legitimacy and popular appeal.

“Death Committee” of 1988 massacre of political prisoners

1988 executions of Iranian political prisoners

Khomeini assigned an “Amnesty Commission” for prisons. In reality it was a “Death Committee” comprised of the three individuals: A representative of the Ministry of Intelligence, a religious judge and a prosecutor. The final decision rested with the Intelligence Ministry official. They held a trial for a few minutes that resembled more of an integration session. The questions were focused on whether the inmate continued to have any allegiances to the PMOI (MEK). The PMOI prisoners made up more than 90 percent of those taken before the “Death Commission.” If the prisoners were not willing to collaborate totally with the regime against the PMOI, it was viewed as a sign of sympathy to the organization and the sentence was immediate execution. The task of the Death Commission was to determine whether a prisoner was a so-called “Enemy of God” or not. In the case of Mojahedin prisoners, that determination was often made after only a single question about their party affiliation. Those who said “Mojahedin” rather than the derogatory “Monafeqin” were sent to be hanged.

Khomeini’s heir protests haste of executions prisoners in 1988 massacre

The haste to execute was so abhorrent that some of Khomeini’s closest confidantes, most notably, Hossein Ali Montazeri, Khomeini’s heir apparent, had doubts and protested it. In letters to Khomeini, Montazeri urged for some leniency and slowing down. But Khomeini ordered there should be mercy for no one, including teenagers. He said pregnant women should not be spared or have the chance to give birth to their child and should be executed immediately.

In December 2000, Montazeri published his memoirs. The book revealed shocking documents on the atrocities committed by the clerical regime, none as horrendous as the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in 1988 on the orders of Khomeini.

Montazeri’s book was not the first document informing the world of this massacre. News of the carnage had already begun to trickle through the iron curtain of censorship imposed by the mullahs to ensure a complete blackout on their crime.

Khomeini required total conformity from the regime’s officials

All officials of the regime at the time had to conform fully to this massacre or they would be sacked or deposed. Ayatollah Montazeri, who protested the massacre, fell from grace and was sacked by Khomeini in March 1989. Montazeri’s memoirs in December 2000 and its shocking enclosures exposed the horrendous scale of the massacre. What gave weight to the revelations is that they were made by a man who was at the time of the executions the officially ordained successor to Khomeini and the second highest authority in Iran. Yet when it came to massacring political prisoners, Khomeini showed no mercy to slightest nonconformity even by Montazeri.

Role of Hassan Rouhani in 1988 massacre of political prisoners

Hassan Rouhani was Deputy Commander-in-chief of the regime’s armed forces at the time. Furthermore, since 1982 he was a member of the regime’s Supreme Defense Council and a member of the Central Council of the War Logistics Headquarters.

In those positions, he was fully cognizant of this hideous crime and obviously was in full conformity.

This shows that the notion that Rouhani is a “moderate” and “reform minded” is absolutely preposterous and baseless. Actually he, like all other senior officials of the regime, is a culprit of this hideous crime.

International assessment

There has been little international attention to this crime against humanity. In 2008, twenty years after the massacre Amnesty International “renewed its call for those responsible for the ‘prison massacre’ to be held accountable. There should be no impunity for such gross

Amnesty International

Sites of a mass graves of the victims of the 1988 massacre of political prisoners in Iran human rights violations, regardless of when they were committed.” Amnesty added: “Those responsible for the killings –

one of the worst abuses to be committed in Iran – should be prosecuted and tried before a regularly and legally constituted court and with all necessary procedural guarantees, in accordance with international fair trial standards.”

Justice not yet served

The massacre of 1988 remains to be one of the darkest stains on the recent history of mankind, as one of the least exposed and discussed. Some human rights experts have described it as the greatest crime against humanity in the 20th Century following World War II that has gone unpunished.

It is the darkest irony of this very dark episode, that of all its human rights violations the Iranian regime has been most successful at keeping the 1988 killings a secret from the international community and even from many Iranians. By now, virtually everyone knows of the reign of terror that immediately followed the Islamic Revolution, the Iranian government’s assassination campaign abroad, and the “Chain Murders” that targeted opposition intellectuals and activists in the late 1990s. Tragically, however, there is very little public awareness of the 1988 executions.

Not only has there been no prosecution of the criminals who orchestrated and carried out that summer’s gruesome murders, but the regime continues to deny that they even occurred. The Iranian regime continues to deny the 1988 elimination of opposition prisoners. None of the perpetrators or masterminds have been brought to justice and none of the regime’s senior officials including the current Supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, have been held accountable.

The pervasive silence of the past 28 years should be shattered. The UN should launch an independent investigation into one of the most hideous crimes against humanity after the Second World War.

During 115th Congress, robust bi-partisan resolutions,H.R. 4744 and  House Resolution 188, condemn Iranian regime for massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in 1988 and calling for justice for its victims.

H.RES. 188

Condemning the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for the 1988 massacre of political prisoners and calling for justice for the victims.


March 9, 2017

Mr. McCaul (for himself, Mr. Royce of California, Mr. Engel, Mrs. Comstock, Mr. McClintock, Mr. Sessions, Mr. Keating, Mr. Sherman, Mr. Young of Alaska, and Ms. Judy Chu of California) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs


Condemning the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for the 1988 massacre of political prisoners and calling for justice for the victims.

  • Whereas over a 4-month period in 1988, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran carried out the barbaric mass executions of thousands of political prisoners and many unrelated political groups;
  • Whereas according to a report by the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, the massacre was carried out pursuant to a fatwa, or religious decree, issued by then-Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, that targeted the People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI), also known as the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK);
  • Whereas according to a November 2, 2007, report by Amnesty International, “between 27 July 1988 and the end of that year, thousands of political prisoners [in Iran], including prisoners of conscience, were executed in prisons nationwide”;
  • Whereas the killings were carried out on the orders of a judge, an official from the Ministry of Intelligence, and a state prosecutor, known to the prisoners as “Death Commissions” which undertook proceedings in a manner designed to eliminate the regime’s opponents;
  • Whereas those personally responsible for these mass executions include senior officials serving in the current Government of Iran;
  • Whereas prisoners were reportedly brought before the commissions and briefly questioned about their political affiliation, and any prisoner who refused to renounce his or her affiliation with groups perceived as enemies by the regime was then taken away for execution;
  • Whereas the victims included thousands of people, including teenagers and pregnant women, imprisoned merely for participating in peaceful street protests and for possessing political reading material, many of whom had already served or were currently serving prison sentences;
  • Whereas prisoners were executed in groups, some in mass hangings and others by firing squad, with their bodies disposed of in mass graves;
  • Whereas according to Amnesty International, “the majority of those killed were supporters of the PMOI, but hundreds of members and supporters of other political groups … were also among the execution victims”;
  • Whereas later waves of executions targeted religious minorities, such as members of the Baha’i faith, many of whom were often subjected to brutal torture before they were killed;
  • Whereas the families of the executed were denied information about their loved ones and were prohibited from mourning them in public;
  • Whereas in a recently disclosed audiotape, the late Hussein Ali Montazeri, a grand ayatollah who served as Khomeini’s chief deputy, noted the regime’s efforts to target the MEK and said that the 1988 mass killings were “the greatest crime committed during the Islamic Republic, for which history will condemn us”;
  • Whereas the current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was reportedly aware of, and later publicly condoned the massacre;
  • Whereas in violation of its international obligations, the Government of Iran continues to systematically perpetrate gross violations of the fundamental human rights of the Iranian people; and
  • Whereas the November 2, 2007, report from Amnesty International concluded “there should be no impunity for human rights violations, no matter where or when they took place. The 1988 executions should be subject to an independent impartial investigation, and all those responsible should be brought to justice, and receive appropriate penalties”: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives—

(1) condemns the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for the 1988 massacre, and for denying the evidence of this manifest set of crimes against humanity;

(2) urges the Administration and United States allies to publicly condemn the massacre, and pressure the Government of Iran to provide detailed information to the families of the victims about their loved ones and their final resting places; and

(3) urges the United Nations Special Rap­por­teur on the human rights situation in Iran and the United Nations Human Rights Council to create a Commission of Inquiry to fully investigate the massacre and to gather evidence and identify the names and roles of specific perpetrators with a view towards bringing them to justice.