May 23, 2018
The launch of a report on 30 April, 2018, by Justice for Iran (JFI) and Amnesty International on the desecration of mass graves in Iran has provoked angry reaction from some of the top officials in the Islamic Republic. The former presidential candidate, Ebrahim Raissi, who was a member of a death commission responsible for the 1988 massacres, defended the executions and hailed former Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, Khomeini, a “national hero” for ordering the killings.
These mass graves are the burial sites of thousands of political prisoners who were rounded up and extra judicially executed during massacres perpetrated by the Iranian government in 1988. Following exclusive access to fresh satellite, video and photographic evidence, Criminal cover-up: Iran destroying mass graves of victims of 1988 killings revealed that the Iranian authorities are bulldozing, constructing buildings and roads, dumping rubbish or building new burial plots over mass grave sites across the country.
Launch of the report generated considerable interest from Persian language media. 26 popular platforms – including BBC Persian, Manoto, and Iran International – broadcast news of its findings to millions of viewers both inside and outside Iran. The report also attracted much attention across the globe. 35 international media outlets covered news of its release, including the Associated Press, Washington Post, New York Times and Daily Mail.
The German, Swiss, Australian and Portuguese press also picked up the story. Underscoring the report’s wider, international relevance, Spanish media drew interesting parallels between the mass graves in Iran and those of General Franco’s victims in Spain.
Extensive coverage by mainstream Persian TV channels, combined with active social media campaigning, in turn encouraged many victims’ families and survivors to speak out about their experiences of this dark chapter of modern Iranian history and to share with JFI information about both new and previously identified mass graves. It was the combined effect of these developments that elicited the hostile reaction of the Iranian authorities.