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