On the eve of the twentieth anniversary of the mass excutions of 1988 in Iran, families of the deceased were kept from holding their annual memorial service at Khavaran today.
“Relatives and survivors call it the “Flower Garden,” but others know it as the “place of the damned.” It’s the Khavaran cemetery in the southeastern part of Tehran, housing the remains of religious minorities, as well as Marxists, leftists, and other “anti-revolutionaries” and “non-believers.”
It’s also the burial site of hundreds — or perhaps thousands — of political prisoners who were executed at two main prisons in Tehran in the dog days of summer in 1988. The prisoners were hanged after a brief informal questioning by three men who became known as the “Death Commission.”
Since the mass executions, relatives and friends have visited their mass graves every year on the last Friday in August or the first Friday in September. Under the watchful eyes of the plain-clothes security officers, the visitors sing, pray, cry, give speeches or stand together in silence. After a few hours, security officials ask them to leave the cemetery. Although the gathering is not officially sanctioned, and security officials sometimes harrass the participants, the commemoration has always been peaceful and without incident.
Today, however, the officials did not allow the gathering to take place, and in the preceding days, police raided a house where the families of some victims were gathered.
Of even greater significance to the victims’ families is the fact that they have never received an answer to why the revolutionary regime decided to send so many young people to the gallows — many of them political prisoners who had already spent years in jail and were expected to be released soon.”
Those executions, and circumstances leading to them, the way they were carried out, the reasons for them, and the way they were covered up remain IRI’s closest kept secrets. I can understand why they would be their best kept secrets. What I can’t understand is why are those executions our secrets, too?
Is it because the event was so macabre, so larger than life, so huge in dimensions and brutality, that we find our minds defying its belief? Is it because we have different political views and ideologies, and murders of Toudeh-ees and Mojahedin-e-Khalghs and Fadaee-e Khalghs doesn’t “fit” in the ways we choose to object to the systematic violations of human rights in Iran? Is it because the whole story sounds just like that, a story to us?
They did happen, you know. They did. All those beautiful, young, educated sons and daughters of Iran were imprisoned, tortured, murdered, and buried in unknown mass graves, without any explanation to their grieving families. Their families have been routinely barred and discouraged from memorializing them in any way, not even through a simple tombstone placed somewhere on that godforesaken cemetery, to show that they were somebody’s son, daughter, brother, sister, father, or mother; not even through an austere gathering in that barren piece of the earth named “Khavaran.” The whole approach is directed towards denial. It seems the gentlemen think that if they deny these men and women ever existed, they won’t have to explain how their lives ended. They did exist. They were alive, and they were murdered in cold blood.
To those who think they should rush and welcome and conduct dialogues with Mr. Ahmadinejad on his upcoming trip to USA this September…if you must go, won’t you be kind enough to ask him about those graves and those who are sleeping in them? Won’t you ask him why those people’s families cannot remember them in the ways in which Iranians remember their dead? You won’t need to ask him to explain the reasons they committed one of the darkest travesties of recent times, because he won’t answer, much like all his other counterparts and friends never have. Please just ask him to let the families of Khavaran to remember their loved ones. Rest assured that in doing so, you would be taking a step towards helping Iran and Iranians close an open wound, one that has now been bleeding for 20 years.
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