Monday, August 4, 2014

Residences of Gaza are not deserved to be killed,

August first, was a terrifying day at work. One of my colleagues, after reading the news that the 72 hour ceasefire between Israel and Hamas had abruptly ended, according to Israeli sources, because of the “kidnapping” of an Israeli soldier, became angry and made some brutal statements.

He said that “if you don’t have the power to fight Israel, then you should sit down, stop complaining and live your life”, to which I calmly responded that “there is no life in Gaza”. He then shockingly stated that “they deserved to be killed” and argued that leaders like Stephen Harper were right in calling for their destruction (I don’t think that even Stephen Harper, the staunch Conservative and pro-Israel PM of Canada, could publicly voice such an opinion).

I told him, it is clear example of discrimination: to protect the life of Israeli citizens and soldiers and prevent Hamas of continuing their military operations, you ask for the massacre of Hamas militants. Such an statement when, in last 26-27 days, more than 1600 Palestinians have been killed, most of them civilians and among them hundreds of children, for me, was intolerable.

I was not able to stay silent; I needed to show him that I was extremely upset about the brutal statement and that I did not want to hear such comments again. After 20 minutes or half an hour, I told him to “please never again talk to me about massacring other people”.

In response he said his judgment is realistic and that I am just a dreamer. I told him it is my choice (1).

I am horrified about talking about politics or even humanitarian issues with such a person. I did not continue. 

Normally, we think that the people sitting beside us, passing us in the streets or living in our neighbourhood cannot be cruel. Hannah Arendt, in her writings about “banality of evil”, is pointing exactly to this misconception. She is trying to show us how a “good German”, one that listens to Beethoven and Mozart, reads the poems of Goethe and Shriller, falls in love, loves their kids, says hello to their neighbours and colleagues, are able to commit such horrible crimes (She was talking about genocide of the Jews, Gipsies and massacre of communists, social democrats and whoever stood against fascism). She is explaining that these terrible crimes, for many ordinary citizens, became an administrative and technical matter, not a humanitarian issue. 

 Arendt remind us that occurrences of horrible crimes (like the holocaust), not only need a government or authority capable of organizing and encouraging the crime, but also a transformation in the consensus of many citizens, who participate in the crime (by killing others, by supporting the killings or even by remaining silent), is necessary. For them hating and eventually killing “others” became like killing germs or destroying a disease. 

My colleague’s brutal statement endorsing massacre against Hamas militants (an organization born out of the crisis which continues to benefit from the crisis) which each time effectively ends in the massacre of the residents of Gaza is an example of making terrible crimes a simple and ordinary action. It is horrifying that a citizen of a democratic country is endorsing and asking for such a crime. 

Israel, either as a prison guard (if I consider Gaza as a big open-air prison) or an occupying power (if I consider Gaza as an occupied territory), under international law, does not have the right to knowingly target and kill the residents of Gaza. Israel is responsible for the lives of the residents of Gaza.

In my opinion, it is our responsibility to unconditionally condemn the perpetual siege/blockade of the territory (which not only causes a humanitarian catastrophe, but also empowers the extremist groups) and the massacre that Israel is currently perpetrating in Gaza.

August 4, 2014

1- I love “Imagine” by John Lennon;

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Some correction to Mr. Glavin Article about Iran:

Forward to a correction

I had a conversation with Mr. Terry Glavin, a columnist with the Ottawa Citizen, On June 4, 2013. Mr. Glavin quoted me in his article which was published on June 4, 2013 in the Ottawa Citizen. The quotes were inaccurate and misleading.
On June 22, 2013, I sent the following email to Mr. Andrew Potter, chief editor of Ottawa Citizen:

Your newspaper published an article by Mr. Terry Glavin on June 6th 2013, “There’s much to reckon with in Iran’s bloody recent past”. Some of his quotes from me are not accurate and are misleading. Therefore, I would like to request that you correct this by publishing the attached note.

Mr. Potter informed me (June 2, 2013) that my request has been forwarded to Mr. David Watson. On June 27, 2013, Mr. Watson sent me the following message:

I’m the editorial pages editor at the Citizen. Andrew Potter passed me along your note on Terry Glavin’s column. I’ve taken this up with Mr. Glavin and he’s standing by the quote and I would be inclined to support him.
If you’d like to write a letter expanding on some of your ideas we can talk about that but I don’t see the need to discredit Glavin’s reporting.

In response to Mr. Watson, I sent the following message on July 3, 2013:

I listened again to the recording of my conversation with Mr. Glavin. I strongly insist that some of the quotes that have been presented by Mr. Glavin are wrong and/or misleading. I believe it is my right to ask for a correction. 
Therefore, once again, I ask you to publish my note in the same section as Mr. Glavin.

It was the last email.

At that time, I decided to not publish the note because I thought it may affect the efforts of those who were active in “The massacre 88 Campaign”.

February 23, 2014

Some correction to Mr. Glavin Article about Iran:

1-    Mr Glavin mentioned that “Behkish said he agrees wholeheartedly with the Massacre 88 campaign and with the work of the Iran Tribunal, a citizen-diplomacy effort at The Hague that has been gathering evidence about the Khomeinist massacres of the 1980s”.
This is not exactly what I said. I am not in opposition to Iran Tribunal or Campaign 88 and I support their right to put forward their initiatives as a voice in movement for truth and justice in Iran.
However, I am critical of their point of view. I said that facing past atrocities is a process that requires active involvement from civil society. I mentioned that we need to be careful about the politics of justice and truth in Iran.
We have to convince the public that facing past atrocities will help us build a more prosperous society. But, at this moment, many think reformists are the only option they have and see no benefit in raising the issue of what happened in the 80s. Recognizing that the reformists, with the strong support of Ayatollah Khomeini, had the upper hand during the first decade of the Islamic republic and that they were responsible for the atrocities of the 80s takes away from their current perceived legitimacy.
It is for this reason that I believe any radical approach may deepen the disconnect between those who are looking for some sort of accountability and significant portion of the population, who think they should support reformists.
In addition I said that we have to recognize the existing efforts being made in Iran by families of victims, known as Mothers of Khavaran, for truth and justice. I noted that they are a group of families who have gathered in Khavaran cemetery for the last 32 years to challenge the IRI policy of isolation and denial. Their approach and narratives is more appealing to the wider public.
I mentioned that Campaign 88, in their proposed motion, asked the House of Common to establish September 1st as the day of solidarity with political prisoners in Iran. But, Campaign 88 documents provide no reason or basis for this seemingly arbitrary date. They do not convey its history.
I said that in 1989, the first anniversary of the 1988 prison massacre, the families decided to establish a commemoration day for the victims of the 1988 prison massacre on the tenth of Shahrivar which coincides with first of September in Khavaran cemetery. This is the only public commemoration in a public space for the victims of the massacre inside Iran.
I mentioned many of Mothers of Khavaran were harassed, arrested and summoned by the authorities to prevent these commemorations. But, Mothers of Khavaran, despite all the pressure, have remained persistent in holding these commemorations. It is a historical date. It is one of the main reason why Khavaran cemetery has become a prominent symbol of any movement for truth and justice in Iran.
I think we should direct our efforts into supporting them. I think we need to request of the international community to ask the IRI to stop any type of harassment against Mothers of Khavaran and all the victims’ families. We need to ask the IRI to accept the rights of victims’ families to gather in Khavaran cemetery and all other cemeteries around the country to commemorate the victims.
For your information I sent an alternative motion to 5 members of parliament, including Peggy Nash (my MP) and Thomas Mulcair to let them know my position as a member of the victims’ families and an activist in this movement during the  last 28 years. This is the alternative motion I sent to the MPs:

“That this House condemns the systematic harassment against victims' families specifically Mothers of Khavaran, whom have pursued truth and justice for last thirty three years.  This house establish September 1, the day on which in last 25 years a public commemoration for the victims of the 1988 prison massacre, an example of "crime against humanity”, has been held in Khavaran cemetery in Tehran by Mothers of Khavaran,  as a day of solidarity with political prisoners in Iran."

I put forward this alternative motion because I am deeply concerned that international recognition of the 1988 prison massacre as a “ crime against humanity” will escalate the pressure on Mothers of Khavaran, likely leading to them being completely barred from holding the annual commemoration in Khavaran or even going there. But by recognizing their efforts in last 32 years, the IRI would understand that the international community stands firm with Mothers of Khavaran and strongly opposes and condemns any further harassment against them. 

2-    Mr. Galvin mentioned that “Jafar Behkish says one possible way forward for Iran, eventually, might be something along the lines of the truth and reconciliation commissions established in South Africa, Guatemala and Argentina.”
This is not exactly what I said. At the beginning of our conversation, I said “The way Iran will face the past atrocities is related to the balance of power and who has the upper hand during the transitional period.” I continued, “but what I want is a combination of trial along with truth and reconciliation. I think we need a truth commission and to have trials for the leaders of the Islamic republic, who bear the brunt of the responsibility for the gross and systematic human rights violations in Iran.  I continued that we need reconciliation with low ranking operatives. Because the atrocities were wide spread and it is not possible to have trial for all perpetrators.” To show that the trial of all wrongdoers is not possible I mentioned that in last 10 years, the ICC, with about a billion dollar budget, has been able to try only 10-12 accused. I reiterated the same position several times in our conversation.

3-    In my conversation, I emphasized that I did not want to stand with Conservatives and Leftists that, while condemning some human rights, ignore and violate others. I mentioned it is a slippery and very narrow pass. I criticized both camps of using human rights to pursue their agenda.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Mothers of Khavaran; a Strong Voice for Truth and Justice in Iran

Kaveh Shahroz’s article in Ottawa Citizen on May 28, 2013, “How Canada Can Lead On Iran” explains very well the pain that has been inflected by the Islamic Republic of Iran (the IRI) on the victims and victims’ families in last thirty five years, prevalence of “The culture of impunity” and a long overdue proper reaction/action by international community on systematic and widespread human rights violations by the IRI.
However, I would like to look at the 80s atrocities and their consequences from a different aspect, which has not been elaborated in Kaveh’s article.
Kaveh wrote about his young uncle, Mehrdad, 20 at the time of arrest in 1980. Mehrdad was sentenced to ten years imprisonment in the early 80s. After seven years of hardship and torture inside prison, Mehrdad was hanged along with four thousands political prisoners, in the 1988 prison massacre, under the direct order of ayatollah Khomeini, the then supreme leader.
It is heart breaking when Kaveh wrote: “We still don’t know exactly when he was executed or where his body is buried. My family has never truly recovered from that loss. My grandmother and mother have both passed away since then, both with the unfulfilled wish of seeing justice in Mehrdad’s case. “ This is a pain shared by many similar families in Iran.
In transitional justice literature, it is claimed that although, dictatorial regimes suppress political and social activists, ironically, the suppressions lead to other types of resistance. Victims’ families and many others become active in order to save the life of their loved ones and ask for truth and justice. Is Iran an exception?
It has been 33 years since the mass executions of political activists in the early 80s, and 25 years since the 1988 prison massacre, yet victims’ families still do not know the truth and have not seen justice. It is important to ask, with about 20,000 thousands victims, and hundreds of thousands of political prisoners and exiles; why has a strong movement for truth and justice not been established in Iran? Is it only because Canada and other countries did not act properly? Then, why is it that such a strong movement for truth and justice in Latin America and other parts of the world is evident, despite the fact that in many cases, United State, Russia (Former Soviet Union) and China and their allies supported the dictators?
In the 80s, the IRI put enormous pressure on the victims’ families to stay silent in the face of the atrocities that were happening inside prisons all around Iran. Although a majority of victims’ families were forced to comply with this brutal policy, few hundreds of victims’ families, known as Mothers of Khavaran, became a voice for justice and truth inside Iran.
Before 1988 prison massacre, these families, tried to save their loved ones or improve the prison condition. They knew that the prisoners did not have any right to defend themselves. So it was up to family to do that. I remember in the 80s, my mother along with other mothers, sisters and wives of political prisoners, gathered in front of governmental buildings to submit their requests for fair trial and improvement of prison conditions.
In the 80s, each Friday, and despite all the harassment, they went to Khavaran cemetery, a piece of land where non-believer victims were buried in single or mass graves. The authorities named it “doomed land”, to show their disrespect.
In the 80s, family arrest was very common. In 1984, when I released from prison, after they kept me inside for 15 months, without any accusation, two of my siblings were killed and were buried in unknown grave in Khavaran and three others were in notorious Evin prison. Families like mine acted as a connecting point between families of political prisoners and executed.
In summer of 1988, when the authorities canceled all prison visits and isolated prisoners, again this group of families went to the officials to find out what was happening inside of the prisons. They felt that something terrible was happening. It was autumn of 1988, after about four months of being in the dark, we received the horrible news. My brothers, Mohammad-Ali and Mahmoud, and my brother in law, Mehrdad Panahi, were among four thousands victims of the massacre.
In 1989, the first anniversary of the 1988 prison massacre, Mothers of Khavaran decided to hold a public commemoration in Khavaran cemetery. Each year on September first or the closest Friday to it, the only semi formal commemoration inside Iran has been held In Khavaran cemetery by Mothers of Khavaran, despite of all the harassment by the IRI. In the last thirty three years, many of them have been arrested or summoned by the authorities.
Mothers of Khavaran also hold commemorations in their residence. Many times the authorities have attacked the ceremonies and summoned the participants. They have collectively gone to officials, sent collective and personal letters, filed complaints, given interviews to media outside of Iran and written numerous articles about the atrocities and harassment that the families have faced.
My mother and my sister are among them. In the 80s and 90s, my mother was summoned several times to the ministry of intelligence to prevent her pursuit of justice and truth. My sister has also been arrested and summoned many times. I was part of this group of courageous families before I immigrated to Canada in 2002.
Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, in her book, “Golden Cage”, explains her experience when she went to Khavaran cemetery:
I recognized the woman they called Mother, the spokes-woman of their grief… She was about seventy years old. Mother slowly raised her arm and began to speak. The buzzing stopped, “Today we’re here to remember. We know that blood can’t wash away blood. We are women, not guerrilla fighters. Wives and mothers and daughters and sisters who have already seen more than enough violence. Killing the murderers will not bring back the victims…” “silence, infidel! They weren’t victims—they were traitors, and they deserved to die!” We’d been surrounded by women and men of the goruh-e feshar. The forces that attacked and broke up public demonstrations were once again ready to act."
With the persistence of Mothers of Khavaran, Khavaran cemetery became a prominent symbol of systematic and widespread human rights violation in Iran and Mothers of Khavaran became a strong voice for truth and justice in Iran.
I agree with Kaveh Shahrooz that it is very important that the international community recognize the massacre of 1988 as a “crime against humanity”, it is long overdue.
But it is more important to emphasise that without active and effective dialogue with the younger generations, without an attempt to involve civil society in this discourse; it will not possible to pursue truth and justice. 
Facing past atrocities and asking for truth and justice is a social process. Mothers of Khavaran are a nucleus for such social movement. But both opposition political parties that want to overthrow the IRI by any means and reformist faction of the IRI, who have direct and indirect responsibility for the 80s massacres are ignoring them.
After 33 years of systematic suppression in Iran, and after 33 years resistance by some victims’ families, there is no recognition for Mothers of Khavaran and other groups of families, such as families of the victims of political killing in 1998. May be because, Mothers of Khavaran, distanced themselves from political parties. May be because the families did not discriminate against each other because of political affiliation of the victims? Or maybe because their goal was to neither forget, nor overthrow the government.
They simply ask for their basic rights; why, where, when, by whom and under whose orders were the victims executed? Where are their bodies? Why aren’t the families allowed to hold commemorations in public and private spaces? Why do the authorities harass the families when they ask for their basic rights? .
This year is the 25th anniversary of the 1988 prison massacre. I urge and ask the human rights community in Canada to recognize and acknowledge the efforts that have been made by Mothers of Khavaran for truth and justice and to ask the IRI to stop their harassment.

Jafar Behkish
June 2nd, 2013

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Khavaran Cemetery (part 2)

An important sign of systematic and gross human rights violation by the Islamic republic of Iran

The Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) crushed all the political opposition groups and civil society institutions in the 80s. Thousands of the political opponents were executed. Ironically, the suppression initiated other type of resistance. For example many of the victims’ families who have wanted to know the truth about what had happened to their loved ones and asked for justice and accountability for the atrocities, despite all pressure by the authorities, wrote letters to the authorities and international organizations and went to governmental departments like judiciary system and parliament to put forward their requests and show their protest against the injustice. They gather in the cemeteries to commemorate the victims and hold commemoration ceremonies in their residences. The efforts made by the victims’ families are a resistance to the IRI’s formal policy of amnesia and denial.
Khavaran was and still is one of the gathering locations of the victims’ families. In the last 29 years, they have gone to Khavaran cemetery regularly on Friday morning to show their love and respects to the victims. The following photos give you an idea of what has been the situation in Khavaran.
I took the following photos on August 22, 2008. Few months latter, the IRI bulldozed the Khavaran cemetery and removed all the grave stones, trees and any other signs. I wish I had other photos to show what Khavaran looks like after the destruction. In first part of my posting on Khavaran, I published two satellite images of Khavaran after and before the destruction in January 2009.
After the destruction of Khavaran, I contacted Tehran city council and talked with two councillors (Mohammad Ali Najafi and Ahmad Masjed-Jamei), Tehran municipality, Behesht Zahra organization (Behesht Zahra is the main Muslim cemetery in Tehran and Behesht Zahra organization is responsible for all cemeteries in Tehran and is part of Tehran municipality) and also with the architect who was responsible to prepare a design for the reorganization of all the cemeteries in Tehran. Despite of all of my efforts, I was not able to find any answer to the following questions:
1- Based on what law or regulation the IRI bulldozed the Khavaran.
2- Why the removed the top soil? How deep they went? Have they removed the remaining of the victims?
3- Who was responsible for the destruction? Based on whose order?


Picture 1- Khavaran cemetery; view from the main entrance. This entrance has been closed on the families after January 2009. Look at the few trees on this deserted land.

Picture 2- This grave belongs to my sister Zahra Behkish.
Zahra Behkish arrested in August 25, 1983 in Tehran and killed at the same day or the day after under torture. The authorities never revealed her exact burial location. When my family went to Khavaran Cemetery, the other victims’ families told them: close to the date of her killing, the authorities buried a new victim in this location. However, we need to do forensic test to make sure she is really buried there. Many of the families are very concern that the authorities removed the remaining of the victims in the last destruction in January 2009.

Picture 3- The photo of my brothers and sister who were killed by the IRI:
From left to right: Mohsen Behkish (21 at his arrest on August 25, 1983 and 23 at his execution on April 14, 1985. He was buried in Behesht Zahra), Mohammad-Reza Behkish (26 at his assassination on February 15, 1982. His burial location is un-known), Siamak Assadian (Zhara’s husband killed in a shooting on September 5, 1981. He was buried in his home town), Zahra Behkish (37 at her arrest and killing), Mahmoud Behkish (32 at his arrest on August 25, 1983 and 37 at his killing on August 28, 1988) and Mohammad-Ali Behkish (19 at his arrest on August 25, 1983 and 24 at his killing on August 28, 1988). Mahmoud and Mohammad-Ali were sentenced to 10 and 8 years imprisonment respectively by the revolutionary courts. But they were executed on August 28, 1988, in the great massacre of the summer 1988 (according to survivors of the massacre). Their burial location is unknown. But like other families of the leftist victims of the great massacre of 1988, my family think they were buried in the mass graves in Khavaran. However it is necessary to do forensic test to find out who were buried in these mass graves.

Picture 4- Ms. Najiyeh Peyvandi dreamed that her executed son (Mehrdad Panahi Shabestari) was buried in this location in one of the mass graves was discovered in Khavaran after the great massacre of 1988. It is 22 years that she is going to Khavaran each Friday morning to keep his name and memory alive.
Mehrdad Panahi Shabestari (My brother in law) has been arrested in January 1984. In March 1986, he was convicted to 3 years imprisonment by the revolutionary tribunals. He was executed in August 29, 1988, in the great massacre of the summer of 1988 in Evin Prison (according to survivors of the massacre).

Picture 5- Changiz Arshi was executed on July 4, 1981, few days after his arrest. He was buried in Khavaran. His families wrote his name on a peace of stone, because, in the last 29 years, the authorities have not allowed them to put a gravestone on his grave.

Picture 6- A sign on a grave in Khavaran cemetery. The families are not allowed to plant trees or flowers. The victims’ families put the flowers inside a bottle of water, with the hope the flowers will stay fresh for few hours.

Picture 7- The location of the commemoration ceremony for the victims of the great massacre of the summer of 1988 on the mass graves in Khavaran

Picture 8- The commemoration ceremony for the great massacre of 1988 on the mass graves in Khavaran (This photo is taken from internet)

Picture 9- The plot where several mass graves were discovered after the summer of 1988 great massacre. The victims of the massacre were buried in these mass graves. Behind the wall is the Armenians’ cemetery. The curb on the top right is the border of the plot belongs to Bahá’ís.

Picture 10- A view of Khavarn from the other side. The main entrance is visible in this photo.

Picture 11- The grave of Mojtaba Ahmadzadeh. He was executed in October 29, 1981 only few days after his arrest. After his two brothers were executed in the Shah’s regime, he was the only son of his fother Mr. Taher Ahmadzadeh. Mr. Taher Ahmadzadeh was in prison in the shah’s regime for couple of years and was the first governer of the Khorasan province after the Feburary 1979 revolution. But he was arrested in the 80s and remained in prison for couple of years. The Authorities forced him to a televised recantation.

Picture 12- The grave stone for Bagher Yazdani who was executed on August 27, 1981. The families put the broken gravestone, with the hope that for the next time the security forces become ashamed of what they had done.

Picture 13- Another sign in Khavaran.

Picture 14- Some of the families thought the cement is the only way that they can use to identify the grave of their loved ones. They wrote on the cement “salute you”.

Picture 15- The photos of a victims in his anniversary. His family puts lots of flowers on his grave.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Khavaran Cemetery (part 1)

An important evidence of systematic and gross human rights violations by the Islamic Republic of Iran

In June 1981, the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) started a massive attack on all opposition groups and civil society institutions. From 1981 to 1988 thousands of political opponents were executed and many others were killed under torture inside prisons. At the same period tens of thousands were arrested by the security forces and sentenced to prison terms by revolutionary tribunals. Tens of thousands were purged from their workplace, universities and schools. Tens of thousands of political opponents were forced to exile.

On July 18, 1988, Iran accepted the terms of UN Security Council resolution 598. Few days after that, Sazeman Mojahedin Khalq Iran (People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran) launched a military offensive in the west of Iran. In that situation, Ayatollah Khomeini agreed with the recommendation by some of his close advisers (Ayatollah Montazeri memoir), and issued a secret order "setting up Special Commissions with instruction to execute Mojaheds as moharebs (those who war against God) and leftists as mortad (apostates from Islam)" (Abrahamian, 1999). The authorities killed more than 4000 political prisoners in less than 6 weeks from late July to early September 1988. Almost all of the victims were already convicted to prison terms by revolutionary tribunals and even many of them had finished their prison terms and were kept in prison illegally. Non of the IRI's officials, except Ayatollah Montazeri the then deputy leader, objected to the massacre.

The authorities were and still are of the opinion that in Islam it is forbidden to bury non-believers (for example leftist victims) in Muslims cemeteries (Abrahamian, 1999). Therefore, in the June 1981, when the mass execution of the leftists had been started, it was decided to bury the non-believers victims in a peace of land close to the Armenians and Hindus cemetery in Tehran. They named this peace of land Lanatabad (doom land). But the victims’ families named it Golzar Khavaran (Khavaran Rose Garden) or simply Gorestan Khavaran (Khavaran Cemetery). The first groups of the victims were buried in Khavaran on June 20, 1981. Saeed Soltanpour a well known poet and writer and a member of Iranians Writers Association was among them.

After the February 1979 revolution, the IRI destroyed Bahá’ís’ cemetery in Tehran and some other cities. In the fall of 1981, the authorities , ordered Bahá’ís who lived in Tehran to bury their death relatives in Khavaran Cemetery (Nasser Mohajer).

Picture 1- The location of Khavaran Cemetery relatives to Tehran city centre and on the Imam Reza Highway (Khorasan Road).

Picture 2- Khavaran Cemetery location relatives to Armenians’, Hindus’ and new Bahá’ís’ cemeteries and the Imam Reza Highway.

In late July or early August of 1988, a new mass grave were found by the victims’ families in Khavaran. The families of the leftist victims of the great massacre in Tehran believed that their beloved relatives were buried in the newly discovered mass graves in Khavaran. Later on several other mass graves were found in Khavaran.

Picture 3- Khavaran cemetery, a close up view

Picture 4- The photo belongs to the first mass graves, which was discovered in late July or early August 1988 in Khavaran cemetery.

Since June 1981, the IRI has put pressure on the victims’ families to prevent them to go to Khavaran (and other) cemetery and held commemoration ceremony for the victims in Khavaran or their residences. But the pain of the families was so grave that many of them was and still are ready to take any risk to confront the IRI's policy of denial and amnesia. In the last 29 years, many of the victims’ families were arrested, beaten and insulted by security forces.

In this period, the authorities have not let the victims’ families to put gravestone and plant trees or flowers on the individual or mass graves in Khavaran. The authorities, several times bulldozed the two plots where the victims of the 80s massacres were buried.

In January 2009, the authorities bulldozed the Khavaran again. They removed the top soil. The families don't know if the authorities removed the remaining of the victims or not?

Picture 5- The satellite view of Khavaran cemetery before the last destruction on January 2009

Picture 6- Khavaran satellite view after the destruction in January 2009, as it is clear all the signs had been removed by the authorities

The two satellite picture show that what the authorities have done in Khavaran. In picture 5, the light spots are the signs that families had put on each grave (I will publish the photos of these signs in another posting). On picture 6, it is clear that all the signs have been removed.

After the destruction the authorities have increased restrictions on the families. In many cases, the victims' families were not allowed to go into the cemetery.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Stop execution in Iran, Iran’s Protestors Are Facing Death Penalty

On January 28, 2010, the office of Tehran’s general and revolutionary prosecutor has declared the execution of Mohammad-Reza Ali-Zamani and Arash Rahmanipour. They were convicted of moharebeh (enmity against God) and being member of “Anjoman-e Padeshahi-e Iran”. Amnesty International describes the trials that led to Mr. Zamani’s and Rahmanipour’s execution as “show trials,” as well as a “mockery of justice”. Both victims were arrested before the June fraudulent election. Nine other dissidents also were convicted of moharebeh and are waiting execution. Another trial for the Ashoura protesters will be started tomorrow in Tehran.
Ayatolah Jannati, a member of the Guardians Council in his congregation in today Friday Prayer at the University of Tehran campus “Lauding Judiciary for execution of two of the post-vote rioters on Thursday” and said if several people were executed on July 9, 1999 (when university students in Tehran and other major cities protest against the new wave of suppression) “we would no longer witness such event as that of Ashoura”. He wants judiciary system repeat the massacres of the 80s.
Before today execution, Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, Tehran’s general and revolutionary prosecutor, declared during in an interview with Fars News Agency on January 8, 2010 that the trial of five men arrested in Ashoura protest of Sunday 27th of December has already started by Tehran’s Revolutionary Court. The five are accused of moharebeh (enmity against God) and if found guilty, they could face execution.
Several high-ranking clerics and government authorities, are asking for tougher measures against those arrested in intermittent protests that has swept Iran since the flawed presidential election of last June.
Iranians understand and yesterday executions show this is not an empty threat. Time and again they have been subject to harsh repressive measures in the last 31 years. Just after the victory of the February Revolution in 1979, the Revolutionary Courts executed hundreds of Shah’s officials, military and security officers without due process (some of them low ranking officers). At the same time the courts ruled for the execution of dozens of religious and ethnic minorities like Bahá’ís, Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen.
In the early 80s the regime carried out mass execution of its political opponents and non-conformists. Thousands of men and women, many of them teenagers, were executed or killed under torture inside prisons around the country. In the summer of 1988, the regime executed about 4000 political prisoners in less than 6 weeks. The massacre occurred under the direct order of Ayatolah Khomeyni.
The suppression of the opposition did not cease after the massacre: security forces inside and outside of Iran killed dozens of opposition figures. In autumn 1998, the security forces killed five intellectuals. The government investigation committee, appointed by the incumbent president, found that the security forces were responsible, but did not reveal the names of the high ranked officials and clerics who ordered the killings.
Since the fraudulent elections of June 12, 2009 the regime has embarked on suppressing peaceful demonstrations. Dozens of protesters have been killed in the streets or under torture inside prisons. Thousands of protesters have been arrested by the security forces. There are reports of rape and other abusive treatment.
Most of the detainees are ordinary people. In many cases, the location of detention centres is unknown. The families of the detainees know that if their loved ones’ location of detention is made public; it would be more difficult for the government to mistreat them. The families are gathering in front of prisons like Evin and Revolutionary Courts to obtain information about their loved ones. They are the main source of news about what’s happening inside prisons in Iran.
Officials make false allegations against the arrested. The Tehran prosecutor said the five member of one of the opposition groups are on trial for moharebeh, but he did not release any names. The details surrounding the arrests and trials have not been made public. Other official reports claims that Bahá’ís arrested recently were in possession of illegal firearms and other deadly weapons. The International Bahá’ís community “rejects the allegations that the arrested Bahá’ís had weapon at home”.
Recent reports also indicate that the regime is targeting ethnic minorities once again. In recent months several Kurds have been executed, Fasih Yasamini is the last victim who was executed on January 6, 2010.
Iranian and international human rights activists and organizations are quite concerned about the life of political prisoners in Iran. Amnesty International in its statement of January 8, 2010 on the accusations by the government said, “The news comes amid signs that the Iranian authorities may be planning to increase the use of the death penalty as a means to deter demonstrations”.
On many occasions the international community failed to show enough sensitivity to the massacre that was taking place, like the genocide in Rwanda. The new wave of repression in Iran is taking place in front of the very eyes of the world, partially due to the huge number of videos released by the protesters. There is no excuse for silence and turning a blind eye.
It is the responsibility of the international community to exert pressure on the Islamic Republic of Iran so that they allow UN officials into Iran to meet with detainees and the family of political prisoners and victims. It is the responsibility of all concerned Canadians to ask for a fair trial for all detainees and stop execution of the accused.

Jafar Behkish
January 29, 2009