In the past two weeks, Iran has been embroiled in mass protests against the Iranian regime. The streets are filled with courageous women and young Iranians fed up with medieval barbarism, massacres and the regime’s systematic discrimination and oppression in virtually every sphere of human life.
The protests, which have turned into a nationwide uprising, spread like wildfire to 162 cities by the end of September. At least 240 protesters, many in their 20s and 30s, were shot dead and 12,000 arrested.
Despite this, the protesters have remained defiant. In their cries I can feel the spirit of thousands of my generation massacred by the genocidal theocracy in 1988.
This regime must be held accountable for the multiple crimes it has committed, including the 1988 massacre, lest it continue to murder innocent young Iranians who are currently demanding their basic human rights on the Iranian streets.
Because of this, a group of Iranian expatriates filed a lawsuit against President Ebrahim Raisi in a US district court. Raisi was instrumental in issuing orders for the execution of at least 30,000 political prisoners in 1988.
I am one of the 16 plaintiffs in this case.
The fact that Raisi was allowed to speak at the UN last week despite the slaughter of protesters across Iran was abhorrent and shameful.
Raisi was implicated in perhaps the greatest unsolved crimes against humanity since World War II, earning him the infamous nickname “Butcher of Tehran” among the Iranian people. He was one of four officers on Tehran’s “Death Commission” that oversaw a 1988 nationwide massacre of political prisoners. Ultimately, around 30,000 political prisoners were killed, over 90% of whom belonged to the main democratic opposition, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK).
My own brother Mahmoud was serving a prison sentence in 1988 for taking part in rallies and distributing literature for the MEK. In 1988, my family awaited his release. But instead the authorities ordered my other brother to Evin prison in Tehran and told him that Mahmoud had been executed. They didn’t even give us his body, and now, more than 34 years later, we still don’t have definitive information about his final resting place.
Mahmoud Hassani’s story tragically typifies what is still being told by the tens of thousands of families who lost loved ones during the massacre and have been crying out for accountability ever since.
Each of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit we have filed against Raisi are current supporters of the MEK, which has grown in strength and continues to challenge the regime as an existential threat.
During the recent uprisings, the regime’s parliamentary speaker, the interior minister and a number of Friday prayer leaders made televised references to the MEK as the leader of the protests and called for the suppression of its supporters. Songs of “Death to the hypocrites [MEK]’ are broadcast on television every day.
The regime is afraid of people’s power. Raisi’s appointment last year was part of a broader strategy to salvage the regime by quelling forthcoming protests from a restive population.
Since then, the regime has more than doubled its execution rate compared to the previous year, while initiating terrorist attacks against the MEK’s headquarters in Albania and against high-profile Western supporters of the organization, such as former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, as a lesson to hundreds of other international dignitaries.
These trends are indicative of Tehran’s continued commitment to the policies and concepts underlying the 1988 massacre. And now Raisi and his regime are committing more murders of Iranian protesters.
Such crimes, which took place more than three decades after the 1988 massacre, are vivid evidence of the Iranian regime’s impunity.
Raisi’s appointment as President was described by Amnesty International at the time as a “dark reminder that impunity is paramount”. The organization’s secretary-general said unequivocally that rather than rise to the regime’s second-highest office, Raisi “should have been investigated for crimes against humanity of murder, enforced disappearance and torture.”
But his rise to the presidency is no reason to give up the prospect of such an investigation, not even a year after his inauguration.
If the international community wanted to end the era of impunity in Tehran, Raisi should have been barred from speaking at the UN
Still, the Iranian people have shown that they will not allow Raisi to escape justice. The leaders of the regime must and will be brought to justice for their heinous crimes. Our lawsuit is a step in that direction.
Ahmad Hassani is a mechanical engineer. He lives in Ottawa
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