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AI Calls For Protection of Iranian Mass Grave

A mass grave in the southern city of Ahvaz, containing remains of prisoners executed in 1988

Amnesty International (AI) has asked Iranian authorities to stop the destruction of a mass grave in the southern city of Ahvaz where dozens of people killed in the 1988 prison massacres are believed to have been buried.

In a statement issued on September 4, AI said it has obtained footage showing construction taking place on the site and the mass grave is being “gradually being buried beneath piles of construction waste.”

The issue of the extrajudicial killings of opponents in prisons that took place in August and September 1988 has come to the fore on several occasions in the past few years, as more details have emerged of the role of still-active Iranian officials in the killings.

The AI statement says it has launched a campaign to stop the destruction of this important piece of evidence.

“Bulldozing the mass grave at Ahvaz will destroy crucial forensic evidence that could be used to bring those responsible for the 1988 mass extrajudicial executions to justice. It would also deprive families of victims of their rights to truth, justice, and reparation, including the right to bury their loved ones in dignity,” said Philip Luther, AI research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

AI maintains that the Ahvaz mass grave was covered by concrete at the time to prevent families from any attempts to recover remains.

In June, AI also reported on ongoing attempts to destroy another mass grave in the northeastern city of Mashad suspected of containing the remains of 170 killed prisoners.

Based on estimates, more than 4,000 prisoners serving their sentences were killed in Iran in 1988. Opposition groups insist the toll was much higher.

Last year, an audio file emerged that shed new light on the prisoner massacres. In the recording, Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who was then Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s designated successor as supreme leader, was heard admonishing the members of a “death committee” for their decision and actions leading to the killings. Montazeri is heard saying, “This is the biggest crime of the Islamic Republic.”