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Executioners In 1988 Massacre ‘Deserve Medals’

Iranian cleric Ayatollah Seyed Ahmad Khatami delivers a sermon during Friday prayers in Tehran, May 26, 2017
Iranian cleric Ayatollah Seyed Ahmad Khatami delivers a sermon during Friday prayers in Tehran, May 26, 2017

Tehran’s acting Friday Prayer leader, Ahmad Khatami, has said medals of honor should be awarded to those who, under the orders of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, executed thousands of prisoners in summer 1988.

“Confronting them [imprisoned dissidents] and wiping out the munafiqin [members of the anti-regime group People’s Mujahedin Organization, or MKO] was one of the imam’s most righteous and valuable actions, and all of the persons who complied with his edict should be awarded a Medal of Honor.”

Echoing an earlier comment made by the supreme leader, Khatami cautioned against unnamed websites that, as he described it, “replace martyrs with executioners.”

Kahatmi is a firebrand hardliner who always echoes the most radical statements or expands upon slogans uttered by Ali Khamenei and his conservative follower.

Executing thousands of prisoners serving their terms in the final days of the Iran-Iraq War has become an indelible smear on the country’s record. Any reference to the event, which led to some 3,000-5,000 prisoners being executed in summer 1988, was strictly forbidden in Iran.

Nevertheless, it was Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazari, Khomeini’s former heir apparent, who for the first time openly wrote about the massacre in his memoirs, in 2000. However, his memoirs had a limited readership.

Later, in August 2016, when Montazeri’s son, Ahmad, published a recording of his father chiding those responsible for following Khomeini’s orders, it was immediately a bombshell.

In the audio recording taped in 1988, while the executions were still being carried out, Montazeri is heard lashing out against those responsible for carrying out Khomeini’s edict.

“In my view, the biggest crime in the history of the Islamic Republic, for which history will condemn us, has been committed at your hands," Montazeri admonished four judiciary officials directly involved in the executions, including current Justice Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi; Ebrahim Raeisi, who lost against incumbent Hassan Rouhani in May’s presidential election; Morteza Eshraqi; and Hossein Ali Nayyeri.

“Your names will be written in history as criminals,” Montazeri said to the four, who were later called the Death Quartet or the Death Commission.

Pourmohammadi defended the mass executions following the release of Montazeri's audio, maintaining, “We're proud to have carried out God's order regarding the munafiqin [literally meaning hypocrites, a term used by Iranian officials to refer to MKO members] and stood up strongly against the enemies of God and the [Iranian] nation.”

During Friday’s sermon, Khatami said people should re-read books on 1980s events in Iran to be clear on what happened. “Executioners should not be replaced by martyrs,” he reiterated.

The summer 1988 prison massacre was also highlighted in the recent presidential campaigns.

Eleven days before the vote, Rouhani, while implicitly referring to his main conservative challenger and a member of the Death Quartet, Raeisi, derided him by saying, “The people of Iran declare that they do not accept those who, during the past 38 years, knew nothing but imprisonment and execution.”

Deputy Parliament Speaker Ali Motahari, an outspoken conservative lawmaker, made a surprising call in 2016 for an investigation into the mass killings.