Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.
The trial of Hamid Noury, an Iranian prison official charged with torturing inmates in the Gohardasht prison (Karaj) as part of the 1988 massacre of thousands of Iranian political prisoners, continues as the world watches. Noury’s trial began in the District Court of Stockholm before being transferred to the District Court of Durres, Albania.
During this trial, the judge and members of the court have heard testimony from those who were imprisoned during that summer and the atrocities that they witnessed. Many of these individuals are part of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), which was the primary target of the Iranian regime during the summer of 1988. The regime’s leaders have continued to target this group, both inside and outside of Iran.
The witnesses in Noury’s trial are speaking out about the horrific conditions within Iran’s prisons, particularly during the summer of 1988. Prisoners were led in front of the Death Commission, a group that decided whether these individuals lived or died. Members of that commission included Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and former justice minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi. This commission’s decisions were made within minutes, and many individuals were sent to the gallows for their beliefs.
“All that we heard indicated changes and certain developments in the making. A number of the prisoners had seen Davoud Lashgari and a number of prison guards in the ward’s TV room. They had a wheelbarrow with ropes (nooses),” said Akbar Samadi, who testified during the trial. Samadi spent 10 years in prison as a political prisoner after being arrested at age 14. In 1988, he was transferred to Ward 2 of the Gohardasht Prison.
What started this horrific process? It was an attempt to rid the regime of any opposition, even if it cost Iran thousands of young people. The regime’s Supreme Leader issued a fatwa, essentially making it a crime against God to disagree with the regime’s leadership.
In what was known as the Death Corridor, Noury led prisoners to the Death Commission and the Death Hall, where the executions took place. Samadi testified that Noury would read out the names of the prisoners and then take them to the end of the corridor.
“The technical staff, clinic personnel, store managers, all of them went to the Death Hall and they all participated in the execution, including Nayyeri, the store manager, and the sentries,” said Samadi, indicating that those in charge of the prison could not deny their knowledge of what was happening.
This event in Iranian history has rightly been described as a crime against humanity. Prisoners did not receive any legal representation or a trial. The Iranian regime had no right to take those prisoners out at night and hang them. Among those who were executed included individuals who had completed their prison sentences but had not yet been released.
According to Article 6 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, “genocide” is the commission of any act, such as killing members of a group, inflicting severe physical or psychological harm on the members of that group; by a calculated move, deliberately creating difficult living conditions for that group with the intention of destroying all or parts of them. Khomeini orders to execute the prisoners who, according to him, are apostates and worse than infidels. In other words, they were a religious group and believed in modern and democratic Islam.
From the first day of his reign, Khomeini tried to force the Mojahedin into full compliance with his regime and accept Velayat-e-Faqih (Supreme Leader). When he realized that this was not practical, he decided to destroy the Mojahedin. In April 1980, in a private meeting in Qom with some of his clerics, Khomeini said: “The Islam without the mullahs that is heard around, Mujahideen’s idea and the clergies must square off with them.”
The Mojahedin believe that without freedom, human identity is not formed, and by denying freedom of choice and political and social freedoms, the essence of human existence is denied. The issue of freedom was the basis of the dispute between Mojahedin and Khomeini and the mullahs.
The Mojahedin also believe that it is the free vote of the people that approves political legitimacy. Khomeini and the current Supreme Leader of Iran, Khamenei, do not value the people’s vote. In the eyes of the mullahs, legitimacy comes only from the Supreme Leader, and he surrounds and controls all the people’s affairs. Despite calls for division between religion and state, the regime uses religion as a means of control and oppression.
Clearly, Noury’s trial is exposing more of the human rights violations that Iran would like to pretend do not exist. The international community would do well to remember that Iran’s policies involve medievalism and gross violation of human rights.