By executing a number of royal officials right after the revolution, the Islamic rulers institutionalized repression and violence in the society. In continuation of political and social repression, they launched attack on Kurdistan, Turkmen Sahara and Khozestan, destroyed a number of cities and villages, killed, arrested and executed thousands of people in early months of the revolution. Women´s march which were held in Tehran in 1979 and 1980 in protest to forced Hijab, were severely suppressed.
In June 1981, the Islamic Republic of Iran went about arresting, imprisoning, torturing and executing thousands upon thousands of Iranian citizens because their beliefs and political engagements conflicted with that of the regime. The religious fervour of these crimes makes them ever more shocking: for instance, a woman’s rape was frequently the last act that preceded her execution in Iran, as under the “Sharia” law guidelines, the execution of a virgin female is non-permissible.
The exact number of prisoners executed remains a point of contention. Iran Tribunal has so far recorded over 11000 but an alternative estimation suggests that the number exceeded 20,000.
This process culminated with Khomeini’s “Fatwa” (Islamic Decree), in July 1988, whereupon the mass execution of Iran’s political prisoners was implemented and within two months, between August and September of that year, thousands of political prisoners were executed. They were asked a few questions by what became infamously known as the “Death Commission” and were later sentenced to death.
Shortly after the end of the Iran-Iraq war in early July 1988 and incursion into western Iran by MKO, “Ayatollah Khomeini” leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued a fatwa in which he established committees (“Death Commissions”,) that were to sentence to death political prisoners.
Each Death Commission comprised a religious judge, the local prosecutor and a representative of the Ministry of Intelligence, along with other state officials. Prisoners in both Gohardasht and Evin were sentenced to death by the same Death Commission.
Vast numbers of prisoners were taken to their deaths in 1988. Virtually all of them were still serving their prison terms at the time and some were due for release.
There are no exact figures of the number of victims due to the suppressive political climate and severe censorship in Iran. Nevertheless, to this day, Iran Tribunal has recorded over 4000 names. It is believedthat the true number is much higher.
The victims’ bodies were buried in undisclosed mass graves. To this day, many families do not know where their loved ones are buried. The Islamic Republic of Iran refuses to give any information about where the graves are located, but a number of graves have been discovered by the families. This difficulty is symptomatic of the effects this atrocity had on the families of those directly victimised by the massacre. Wives, mothers, sisters, husbands, brothers, daughters and sons of victims have suffered extended psychological and emotional damage.
The Islamic Republic of Iran had prepared itself to carry out the mass executions of summer of 1988 earlier in December 1987. In the early days of December 1987 the political prisoners had gone through a new phase of interrogations and had been “categorized” by their ideology, belief and their stance with regards to the Islamic Republic rule. The prisoners were asked a few questions; such as if they were still devoted to their political organization, whether they would be prepared to be interviewed and renounce their ideology, or as decreed by Khomeini, if they would “repent”. According to the answers, the prisoners were “categorized” upon their prison sentences and segregated by either “leftist” or “religious” ideologies in January 1988.