The Katyn Forest massacre has gone down in history as one of the most horrific mass slaughters ever recorded; 22,000 Polish prisoners of war, primarily military officers, intellectuals, policemen, and other public servants, were executed by the Soviet NKVD in the Katyn Forest in Russia in April and May 1940. Joseph Stalin and every member of the Soviet Politburo signed the document ordering their execution. The Soviets spent many years trying to cover up their culpability for this butchery, which has now become the subject of countless books and films. 

Monstrous acts of carnage like Katyn have become grisly milestones in the history of oppression and tyranny. So why is it that the West seems determined to ignore an even greater massacre that took place within our own lifetimes, the perpetrators of which are not only still alive, but in positions of power? I refer, of course, to the summary execution of more than 30,000 political prisoners by the Iranian regime in the summer of 1988.The vast majority of the victims were activists of the opposition PMOI (MEK). The mass executions, in jails across Iran, were carried out on the basis of a fatwa by the regime’s then-Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. A ‘Death Committee’ approved all the death sentences. Indeed Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, a member of that ‘Death Committee’, is today President Hassan Rouhani’s Justice Minister.None of the perpetrators of the 1988 massacre have ever been brought to justice. 

On August 9ththis year, relatives of Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, the former Deputy Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic and the nominated successor to Ayatollah Khomeini, published a previously unknown audio-tape in which Montazeri acknowledged that the massacre had taken place and had been ordered at the highest levels. In the electrifying tape, Montazeri can be heard telling a meeting of the ‘Death Committee’ in 1988 that they are responsible for a crime against humanity. He says: “The greatest crime committed during the reign of the Islamic Republic, for which history will condemn us, has been committed by you. Your (names) will in the future be etched in the annals of history as criminals.”Because of his forthright protests, the Grand Ayatollah was dismissed as the heir to the Supreme Leader by Khomeini and placed under house arrest until his death in 2009.

Although it has long been known that more than 30,000 political prisoners were brutally murdered by the Iranian regime, the emergence of this audiotape provides startling and unprecedented evidence of one of the greatest crimes against humanity ever committed, a crime that the theocratic regime has tried desperately to cover up. In a fatwa released in July 1988 Khomeini decreed: "Whoever at any stage continues to belong to the Monafeqin(the regime’s derogatory term to describe the PMOI/MEK) must be executed. Annihilate the enemies of Islam immediately."He went on to add: "... Those who are in prisons throughout the country and remain steadfast in their support for the MEK/PMOI are waging war on God and are condemned to execution... It is naive to show mercy to those who wage war on God."When the massacres began, hundreds of political prisoners were hanged or shot every day and their corpses were buried hurriedly in mass graves in all of Iran’s major cities, in particular Tehran.

In my book ‘SELF-SACRIFICE – Life with the Iranian Mojahedin’ I included a series of interviews with PMOI supporters who had been imprisoned and horrifically tortured at that time. One woman I interviewed was Hengameh Haj Hassan. She had been a nurse in Tehran in the 1980s when she was arrested and thrown into the notorious Evin Prison. She told me that one night she and her cellmates were awakened by the sound of a lorry tipping a load of gravel in the prison courtyard. It wasn’t gravel. It was the roar of machine guns as dozens of young prisoners were executed. She said that they soon learned to count the sound of the individual gunshots as each prisoner was given the coup de grâce. Some nights she counted hundreds of shots. Hengameh was imprisoned and brutally tortured for supporting the PMOI – the main Opposition to the fascist theocracy. But she was one of the lucky ones who survived. Khomeini ordered there should be no mercy for anyone, including teenagers. He said even pregnant women should not be spared or have the chance to give birth to their babies and should be executed immediately.

Like the Soviet massacre at Katyn or the Nazi holocaust, all senior officials in the regime knew about and were complicit in the crime. Iran’s so-called ‘moderate’ President, the smiling Hassan Rouhani with whom the West believes it can do business, was Deputy Commander-in-chief of the regime's armed forces at the time. As such he was certainly fully aware of the shocking extermination of the political prisoners in Iran and as such should be held to account, together with all of the other perpetrators. 

Twenty-eight years on from this barbaric crime, international condemnation has been slow to emerge. Indeed the West seems determined to overlook this greatest human rights outrage since the end of World War II, so that it can sign lucrative deals with the Iranian regime. It is a disgrace that there has been no prosecution of the criminals who orchestrated and carried out the gruesome 1988 murders, which the regime continues to deny ever occurred. 

If the UN is to retain any shred of legitimacy it must immediately launch a full and independent investigation into this appalling crime and insist on the arrest and trial for crimes against humanity of Khamenei, Rouhani and all of the other murderers whose bloodstained hands the West continues to shake.

Struan Stevenson

Struan Stevenson was a Conservative MEP representing Scotland in the European Parliament from 1999 until his retirement in 2014. He was President of the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq from 2009 to 2014 and President of the Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup. He is now President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA).