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.

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