Thousands of Political Dissidents are Buried in Mass Graves Across Iran

August 28, 2018

29 August s2018: Thirty years after the 1988 prison massacre, the Islamic Republic of Iran continues to deny the extra-judicial killing of thousands of political dissidents and their burial in mass graves across the country. Justice for Iran’s research confirms that most of the mass graves were created during the course of the 1988 massacre when thousands of political prisoners were secretly killed over the course of two months is summer. Other mass graves were largely used during the political crackdown of the early 1980s in Iran and only two sites are connected to events pre-dating the 1980s crackdown.

On the 30th anniversary of the 1988 massacre and on the eve of the ‘International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances’, Justice for Iran presents the results of its research on mass graves and enforced disappearances. PainScapes is the first bilingual interactive multimedia platform which includes maps and information pertaining to mass grave sites across Iran, videos from witnesses and information about the victims of enforced disappearance and the perpetrators.

Justice for Iran’s research demonstrates that there are over 120 sites across Iran are believed to be mass graves by the families of those executed, survivors of the massacre, witnesses, and local activists. PainScapes offers an interactive map giving the locations of more than 70 confirmed and suspected mass graves. Furthermore, research is underway on another 50 potential mass grave sites. At least 16 confirmed and suspected mass grave sites have either been destroyed or are at risk of destruction by Iranian authorities and government officials.

The PainScapes platform is a product of collaboration among over 200 individuals, including- survivors, families of those executed, and other activists both inside and outside of Iran. Our volunteers visited the mass graves and took photographs and videos, despite the risk of persecution and arrest. They also helped Justice for Iran to find the exact or approximate locations of mass grave sites on maps and satellite images, through their testimonies.

“One characteristic of this research project that makes it different from its counterparts in other countries is the lack of physical access to the mass grave sites and the threats to individual security present during the capturing of photographs and videos,” said Shadi Sadr- Co-Director of JFI.

“PainScapes is not just a narrative of pain and suffering for those who lost their lives and their families, instead, it is a geography of collective resistance – the resistance of those who endeavor to prevent the atrocities of the 1980s from being forgotten. This resistance has been documented using the most advanced technology available today,” She added.

PainScapes was officially launched yesterday, commemorating, during a seminar-exhibition in London. At the event, survivors of the 1980s’ political suppression, victims’ families, and internationally-known personalities delivered speeches. Fourteen short films, about victims of enforced disappearances and about the mass graves in the cities of Rasht, Bandar Anzali, Dezful, Jahrom, Mashhad, Isfahan, Ghaemshahr, Ilam, Ahvaz, Sanandaj, Ghorveh, Shiraz, and Tehran, were shown at the event.

“PainScapes invites the visitors to witness the testimonies, learn about the mass graves, and then participate in continuing the collective resistance to protect these sites and their historical memory,” Shadi Amin, Co-Director of JFI said.

“PainScapes is not a finished research project. Rather, it is an ongoing effort to collect information which will continue until experts are granted direct and independent access to the sites marked as mass graves. This project requires the collaboration of all the enforced disappearance victims’ families, witnesses, informed sources, researchers, and activists in the field,” She added.

Thirty years ago, in August and September of 1988, thousands of political prisoners in different cities across Iran were secretly executed. Most of them were arrested in the early 1980s due to their association with political organisations opposing the Islamic Republic. They were subjected to summary trials and convicted in the Revolutionary Courts, having been denied the right to legal counsel. Some of them were already serving their prison terms, while some were kept in prison for refusing to recant, even after completing their sentences.

Most families have not received any remains of their loved ones and are still seeking the truth about the reason for their relatives’ execution and about those responsible; even after three decades. Such situations are known as enforced disappearances, as defined by the relevant UN body.

In past years, UN Working Group on Involuntary and Enforced Disappearances recognised two of those who were executed in 1988, Abdolreza and Roghieh Akbari Monfared, as victims of enforced disappearances. According to international law, enforced disappearance is a continued human rights violation and an international crime. However, no statute of limitations can be applied unless the victim is found, or their fate is fully determined.


PainScapes Audiovisual Platform

PainScapes Video Library

Criminal Cover-Up: Iran Destroying Mass Graves of Victims of 1988 Killings, a joint research report by Amnesty International and Justice for Iran