This is Khavaran, Iran’s largest known mass grave.

Khavaran is an irregular graveyard where hundreds of political prisoners were buried secretly in mass graves during the 1988 political mass executions. As such, it is an unmarked cemetery, and located in the southeast of Tehran. Initially, it was the burial site of the Baha’is, a persecuted religious minority in Iran. However, from 1981 onwards, leftist opposition activists who were killed in prisons by death squads or under torture, were also buried in the southern corners of Khavaran. Members and supporters of the Mojahedin, an Islamic opposition group, were buried in Behsht-e Zahra, Tehran´s main cemetery.

In June 1981, the Islamic Republic of Iran initiated a wave of arrests, imprisoning, torturing and executing thousands of Iranian citizens because their beliefs, values and political engagements were considered at odds with that of the Islamic Republic. The exact number of prisoners that were executed during this time remains as a point of contention. The Iran Tribunal has so far verified over 11,000 individuals but alternative estimations suggest that the number could exceed 20,000. The mass execution of political prisoners in the summer of 1988, during which time over 4,000 political prisoners were executed in what was a culmination of a series of mass killings of political prisoners in the early years of the 1980s. It was in late September of 1988,that distraught families discovered the body parts of their loved ones protruding from the earth and Khavaran’s dark secrets were exposed. Since then, twice a year, mothers, accompanied by other members of the families of executed gather to mourn at Khavaran.  This takes place once on the last Friday before the Iranian New year, Nowrooz, and again on the 30th of August. The latter date is observed as the anniversary of the mass executions. In recent decades since the executions took place, the Islamic republic has become increasingly aggressive about preventing families from holding memorial ceremonies on the site. They have trampled the flowers and removed any attempt to lay down memorial stones. In spite of these hostilities, families, lead by the increasingly frail mothers of the dead, continue to resist, remember and visit the site. Khavaran is Iran’s largest known mass grave site. It has become a symbol of the belligerent and buried violence of the Islamic Republic. To this day, four decades later, many families do not know where their loved ones are buried. Bodies have been consistently withheld, disappeared and denied since the inception of the regime in the early 1980s.

Here are a number of video klips that have been taken during the times that Mothers and family members gathered at Khavaran.

Last Friday of Nowrooz 1395 (27 Esfand 1395/17 March 2017)

Last Friday of Nowrooz 1386 (26 Esfand 1386/17 March 2008)

9 Shahrivar 1386 (31 August 2007)

Shahrivar 1384 (August 2005)

Shahrivar 1383 (August 2004)