Amnesty International condemns destruction of Khavaran cemetery

Reporting by PMOI/MEK

Iran, May 1, 2021—In a recent statement, Amnesty International warned about the destruction the Khavaran burial site in Tehran by the Iranian authorities.

 “Iranian authorities are banning members of the persecuted Baha’i minority from burying their loved ones in empty plots at a cemetery near Tehran that they have used for decades, instead insisting they bury them between existing graves within the cemetery or at the nearby Khavaran mass grave site for victims of the 1988 prison massacres,” Amnesty International said in its statement.

The Khavaran mass grave site is the most prominent evidence of the 1988 massacre. Thousands of political prisoners were executed at Khavaran after they were executed under an order by then-regime supreme leader Ruhollah Khomeini. On April 25, in an inhuman crime, regime prepared to destroy the evidence of the crime by pressuring Iran’s Bahai community to bury their loved ones at the Khavaran site.

With this despicable act, the regime seeks to cover up all traces of one of the worst crimes against humanity in modern history. This is especially concerning as the issue of the 1988 massacre has been raised by various international right groups, including six United Nations human rights experts who issued a detailed letter in September 2020 demanding clarity on the fate of thousands of Iranian political prisoners executed in 1988.

Previously in 2017, regime authorities destroyed the martyrs’ graves in Behesht-e Reza Cemetery in the city of Mashhad and Vadi Rahmat Cemetery in Tabriz.

In September 2020, authorities destroyed a mass grave site in the city of Ahvaz, Khuzestan province, southwest Iran. Local officials sought to construct a road over this area in an obvious attempt to destroy and literally bury evidence of its horrendous crime against humanity.

 “Iranian authorities are putting the mass grave site at further risk of destruction, tampering with vital forensic evidence, and continuing to commit the crimes against humanity of enforced disappearance, torture and other inhumane acts against the families of those forcibly disappeared and secretly killed,” Amnesty warned in its statement.

“This is the latest in a series of criminal attempts over the years by Iran’s authorities to destroy mass grave sites of victims of the 1988 prison massacres in a bid to eliminate crucial evidence of crimes against humanity, denying truth, justice and reparation to the families of those forcibly disappeared and extrajudicially executed in secret,” said Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

 “As well as causing further pain and anguish to the already persecuted Baha’i minority by depriving them of their rights to give their loves ones a dignified burial in line with their religious beliefs, Iran’s authorities are willfully destroying a crime scene.”

In a detailed 2018 report, Amnesty International concluded that in addition to committing the crime against humanity of murder in 1988 by forcibly disappearing and extrajudicially executing thousands of political dissidents, the Iranian regime is committing ongoing crimes against humanity of enforced disappearance, persecution, torture and other inhumane acts, including by continuing to conceal the fate and whereabouts of victims.

Given the prevailing climate of systematic impunity in Iran, Amnesty International reiterated its call on UN Human Rights Council member states to urgently set up a mechanism for gathering and analyzing evidence of past and ongoing human rights violations and crimes, including those related to the 1988 prison massacres, in order to enable prosecutions of those responsible and provide long overdue justice and reparation for the victims.

Diana Eltahawy also said, “More than 33 years on, these crimes against humanity remain an open wound in Iran amid a crisis of systematic impunity. Those against whom there is evidence of direct involvement with these crimes continue to hold top positions of power. They include the current head of the judiciary and minister of justice, whose roles are vital for the pursuit of justice.”

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