Wednesday, August 17, 1988

Iran And Iraq Turn On Domestic Opponents

Edward Mortimer in Tehran on how Gulf peace has failed to end the bloodshed
Financial Times
August 17, 1988

By Edward Mortimer

The end of the Iran-Iraq war has brought no respite from internal political violence in either country...

On the Iranian side there have been systematic executions of leftist prisoners, both Marxist and Islamic, starting in April but greatly accelerated since Iran's acceptance of United Nations Resolution 598 - the UN ceasefire resolution - and particularly since the incursion into western Iran by Iraqi-backed Islamic leftists (People's Mujahedin) which followed it.

The people executed were in prison long before these events. Some had been given death sentences which had been suspended, often because the people concerned had formally "repented" of their crimes and pledged support for the regime. Others had been given prison sentences of which they had already served the greater part, while yet others were still on trial.

The Islamic leftists are sent for burial to a particular area - lots 91 and 92 - in Tehran's Beheshte Zahra main cemetery where in recent days there has been a "traffic jam" of bereaved relatives. The Marxists, assumed to be unbelievers, have been buried in a cemetary east of Tehran, another part of which is used by the Baha'i community.

There, according to a witness who does not wish to be identified, trenches were filled with at least 58 corpses between July 27 and August 10. The bodies were tightly packed, head to foot, and covered with no more than two inches of soil. Dogs and vultures disturbed the graves.

The first executions may have been prompted by the discovery of an attempt to form some kind of secret organisation inside the prison, but the more recent and numerous ones appear to be motivated partly by anger at the Mujahedin invasion and partly by the desire to placate angry radicals after the ceasefire.

For two months leftist prisoners have been denied all meetings with their families, and in the past four weeks families have not been notified officially of the execution of their sons or husbands.

It seems likely that a similar reign of terror is going on in prisons throughout the country, especially in the west where the Mujahedin incursions happened.

In particular many people are said to have been killed in the small town of Kerend, halfway between Kermanshah and the Iraqi frontier. This is the one place where the people are known to have welcomed the Mujahedin.