Last week, Ebrahim Raisi, a notorious human rights abuser, announced his candidacy for the upcoming sham Iranian presidential elections on May 19. Raisi was a member of “Death Commission,” as it is known among Iranian political prisoners. The commission oversaw the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in the summer of 1988, mostly members and supporters of the opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI or MEK).
Raisi was a low level cleric at the time and in return for his services was elevated in the rank and files of the mullahs’ hierarchy. Raisi is a close confidant of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and has even been tipped as a possible successor to him. Currently Raisi is the custodian of Astan Quds Razavi, the wealthiest charity foundation in charge of Iran’s holiest shrine in Mashhad, northwestern Iran, with very close ties to Khamenei’s powerhouse.
Raisi and Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi — Iran’s Justice Minister in Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet — were two of the four members of the Death Commission who were tasked by then Supreme Leader Khomeini to summarily execute political prisoners. Khomeini hand wrote a fatwa, a religious decree, authorizing the Commission’s task. In the summer of 1988, the Commission handed down 30,000 death sentences. The kangaroo courts hardly lasted more than three minutes on average. Some of the political prisoners who miraculously survived the slaughter have written or spoken of their ordeals. A simple question was asked by the judges: Do you still believe in Mojahedin? And depending on the answer, one could end up before a hangman. The gruesome accounts of survivors, especially female prisoners, often leave the listeners in shock.
What first shined light on all of this was an audio tape that was leaked out by Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri’s son in August 2016. Montazeri, the handpicked successor of Khomeini, was sacked for his public objections to mass executions in 1988. He spent the rest of his life under house arrest and died in 2009.
In the moving tape, Montazeri can be heard telling a meeting of the “Death Commission” in 1988 that they are responsible for a crime against humanity. He said: “The greatest crime committed during the reign of the Islamic Republic, for which history will condemn us, has been committed by you. Your names will in the future be etched in the annals of history as criminals.” Pour-Mohammadi has since admitted his role in the “Death Commission” and boasted that he was proud to “carry out God’s will and he has not lost sleep over what he did.”
Canada’s Parliament adopted the following motion on June 5, 2013: “That the House condemn the mass murder of political prisoners in Iran in the summer of 1988 as a crime against humanity, honor the memory of the victims buried in mass graves at Khavaran cemetery and other locations in Iran, and establish September 1 as a day of solidarity with political prisoners in Iran.”
The elections in Iran – for parliament or president — have been designed or “engineered,” as the word has been widely used by the regime’s inner circles for both internal and external consumption. However, after the nuclear deal with the West it has become much more significant for the regime since it wants to display a popularity show at home and sell it to rest of the world. It is no secret that the regime has no popular support in Iran.
The mullahs’ regime is surrounded by social and economic problems at home, such as 11 million unemployed. Tehran’s mayor said on April 3 that 10 million Iranians live under absolute poverty line. The IRGC is involved in three active wars in the region — Iraq, Syria and Yemen — not to mention financing and training other militia groups elsewhere in the world as far from Iran as South America. In the case of the Syrian war alone, the regime has spent over $100 billion. Bringing a fresh player to the so-called elections is more out of desperation than a show of control.