What is Khavaran?
1988 is a year that is remembered for resistance to the 1988 IMF and World Bank Conference in West Berlin. This summer is the twenty-fifth anniversary of execution of thousands of anti-capitalist political prisoners in Iran in 1988. What is Khavaran? Where is Khavaran? It may not be surprising that a vast majority of the leftists and progressives around the world are not yet familiar with the mass grave of thousands of their counterparts murdered in Iran in 80s. Khavaran is a cemetery in southeast Tehran where mass graves of those Iranian political prisoners executed in 1988 summer are located.
Sitting face to face with my interrogator in section 209, an unofficial secret detention centre inside the well-known notorious Evin prison, run under the administration of the VEVAK (Islamic Republic of Iran’s Secret Service) I had to answer questions asked by this man who is one of “experts” about every single piece I had written, word by word, as he meant to figure out my “motivations” for what I had done. I had to explain my reasons for opposing the executive order [of the Supreme Leader] on the Article 44 of the Constitution, which deals with the privatisation policies of government services. Writing constantly and openly about one of Islamic Republic’s off-limit areas was my major felony and as the evidence he showed me a copy of a letter written by one of the known Khavaran’s mourning mother ( the Iranian version of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo) in my support. I could not have imagined then that I would have to write again about Khavaran some other time, and this time in diaspora inside the so-called “Free World” and this time against its being hijacked by the so-called international community in between the disputes with the ruling theocracy in Iran with an obvious attempt to use the legacy of the anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist revolutionary forces as another merchandise in the human rights industry and as a weapon to justify un-peaceful confrontations.
In the summer of 1988, the Islamic republic’s-Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a secret fatwa ordering the execution of any political prisoner who remained steadfast in his or her opposition to the Iranian theocracy. “Those who are in charge to make these decisions [to execute prisoners] must not hesitate,” Khomeini wrote in his edict. The regime’s top brass was ordered to eliminate revolutionaries with “revolutionary rage and rancour”; a command they took to heart. Ervand Abrahamian, the renowned historian in “Tortured Confessions,” (1999), called the executions an “act of violence unprecedented in Iranian history — unprecedented in form, content, and intensity.” Amnesty International in its report, “Violations of Human Rights 1987 – 1990,” provides a glimpse into the scope of these executions. After August 27, the commission turned its attention to the leftist prisoners – members of the Tudeh Party, Majority or Minority fractions of Fedayian, Kumaleh, Rah-e Kargar, Peykar, Ranjbar, Communist Unity etc. whom were under arrest for years generally with no trials or no official charges. They were all assured that they were in no danger and were asked a few simple questions to be sentenced: ‘Are you a Muslim?’, ‘Do you believe in Allah?’, ‘Will you publicly recant historical materialism?’ As a result, thousands of leftist political prisoners, most of whom had already been imprisoned for years and subjected to unimaginable torture, were brought before tribunals (known among prisoners as “death commissions”) and were executed after hearings which often lasted no more than a couple of minutes. Iran’s political scene lost its strong and progressive left wing almost entirely just like that.
Steven Harper in the role of vengeance of Iranian anti-capitalist/ anti-imperialist forces
The ongoing hue and cry over Canada’s parliament to recognize the 1988 prison massacre as constituting crimes against humanity by Iranian mainstream human rights activists who are at the service of “international community” lead me to write these words. The dark days of massacre during of 80s and the final scene of 1988 summer could not ever be hampered and depoliticize such to the fit the banal discourse of human rights concept just adequate for the international community’s market. Listening to Guatemalan history these days and the role of Reagan played behind the scene of one the most intensive campaigns of mass murder in recent history, makes me rethink the notion of all “Khavaran”s around the world, from Chili and Argentina and Indonesia and Philippines to Iran. The same story, same pattern, different names around the world. The moot point of all this is the genocidal nature of all these mass murders clearly based on the political views of those brutally wiped out off the political map. This is as simple as it gets: the petitioner pleading for justice for the blood of thousands of anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist forces in Iran cannot be their arch enemy. We should not let another tragedy.
It was certainly not a coincidence that parallel to the 1988 massacre of leftist political prisoners in Iran, those revolutionary radicals from whom some could have played an alternative role in the future of Iran; Islamic Republic systematically opened the door for certain reference books of political philosophy to be published and promoted, thoughts and ideas essentially that refuted any forms of aspiration and radicalism as being “ideological” and dismissed it. A silent political coup in prison, and in society.
A couple of decades silence and betraying Khavaran to serve G8-1* agenda
Hence over a couple of decades absolute silence about the 1988 mass executions of Iranian political prisoners could simply depict the hypocrisy of the so-called international community and the human rights industry. No wonder when UN official reporter Maurice Copithorn visited Iran in the late 1990s, as many witnesses have said, did not show any interest in reporting these executions, as the international community then was in favour of negotiations with the regime’s ‘reformist’ wing and the last thing they wanted brought out was Iran’s “human rights record”. Now the time has changed and the ad hoc situation of Iran and constant pressures from AIPAC in US and CIJA in Canada and the international community has provided an opportunity for the neocolonizer force complicit with their Iranian neoliberal power seeking counterparts in diaspora for exploiting Khavaran in order to move on their dominant agenda amid brutal sanctions against the people of Iran. By any stretch of the imagination I am not able to understand what Stephen Harper and such ilk from the core of right-wing imperialist forces have to do with the ideology and dreams of the best children of Iran fighting against western hegemony and freedom in Iran. Before this recent gesture there were attempts by organizations affiliated with the US department of State to add Khavaran into their list of human rights violation lists but these attempts were interpreted by many radicals and comrades of the people killed in the massacre as a direct blatant to their legacy. Reading on the NYtimes, that the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center based in New Haven, has received $1 million from the State Department and could receive more, makes me wonder about this old saying that “There is honor among thieves.”
Albeit one can argue that the motion has received the support of all Canadian federal parties in a “democratic” system, and is somehow different from the work of human rights organizations directly connected with the western governments or Soros foundation etc, I dare to ask who the members of parliament represent in Canada. What does James Bezan (Conservative, Selkirk-Inter lake), a key supporter of the Massacre88 Campaign bring to this game? As I have said on a number of occasions, the problem is not just the presence of the mainstream human rights activists who openly flaunts their connections with the imperialist-funded National Endowment for Democracy in the United States and Sir Jeffrey Nice the Conservative Party’s chair of Human Rights, The Harper government and such ilk, but it is about those contrite leftists following the mainstream wave in world’s politics and dare to legitimize the nature of such act of domination of the history of the leftists fight in 20’s century against the very capitalist/Imperialist forces running this cirques by using the pretext of the brutality of Islamic Republic in Iran; and this time under the name of Khavaran, it is jut insufferable.
Harper’s record of human rights
Harper Government has said it cut diplomatic ties with Iran because Iran gives military aid to the Syrian regime, may be trying to create a nuclear bomb, threatens Israel’s existence, incites genocide, violates human rights, supports terrorist groups and fails to protect diplomats. At the same time Harper government continues to have diplomatic relations with countries with similar record in human rights in Africa, Middle east and South America, as long as these relationships benefits or does not interfere with Israel’s colonial plans in Middle east. It is all over the news that currently Canada has taken over half the mining activities on the globe and the unpublicized horror stories of child-labour, slave-labour, empowering local war-lords to control the native crowds and spending billions of dollars in building new military bases where these activities are taking place to better the process of strengthening Canada’s colonial grip over areas with rich natural resources is a black eye for Canada. Do not forget that Human Rights Watch blasts Canadian miner Nevsun for Eritrea operation Meanwhile for Native Peoples inside Canada, the residential schools and the unresolved horror of missing aboriginal women falling through cracks of the system are never ending nightmares, and this is in addition to the systematic lack of funding for housing, infrastructures, schools, healthcare and basic living standards in native reservation areas, where energy corporations have made them some of the most polluted areas in the world, yes! Where the true owners of Canada raise their children.
In the other hand constant reports of unlawful acts by Harper’s conservative party in Canada’s last federal election has been another issue which Canadian’s have been dealing with and various scandals related to Senate, a 3 billion dollars unaccounted for in the anti-terrorism budget, the illegalities in voter registration in various ridings, the robocal scandal, the in&out scandal, and more have been in Steven Hasrper’s plate, and for some Canadian the legitimacy of Canadian’s federal government is already under suspicion, and Harper’s effort to get Canada involved evermore in international issues, is another trick to avoid the spotlight in the pressing domestic issues.
And last, it is most important to know that there is a significant Canadian arms industry that goes right down into producing bullets and acts as a big lobby. Israel is a very successful high-tech military economy and from standpoint of the Canadian military companies, developing ties with their Israeli counterparts is quite lucrative and that is definitely an important part of understanding the deepening of ties between Canada and Israel and the hostility of Harper Government toward Iran. Yes! Not the human rights, not the brutal mass murder of leftists, but pure financial gains are in the picture we have here.
Justify imperialist agenda by the crimes of the IR
This is like an irony and acrimonious choice though not a big surprise for seasoned political observers seeing that Mostafa Pourmohammadi who was the Deputy Minister of Intelligence and sat on the Death Commission in 1988 and he has since served in Ahmadinejad’s cabinet and as security advisor to the Supreme Leader returns to the neo liberal security inveterate cleric’s cabinet as Minister of “Justice” these days.
Hence needless to say the Islamic Republic must be put on trial for its crimes against humanity, the massacre of thousands of the leftist political prisoners during 80s and in the summer of 1988 as constituting crimes against humanity. July 2013 also marks the 10th anniversary of the death of Iranian-Canadian photojournalist, Zahra “Ziba” Kazemi. How can one forget Ziba(Ziba means beautiful in Persian), an Iranian-Canadian freelance photographer, who was killed by Iranian officials following her arrest in Iran in 2003 and desperation and rightly fury of her only son in Canada and many other similar cases. In the other hand the key question here is how one can acquiesce to the demands of the so-called international community and as I expressed earlier, justify its imperialist agenda in response to the crimes of the Islamic Republic in Iran? It goes without saying that the United States and its allies are not legitimized in such a case as their own human rights records simply makes them disqualified to do this job. The clear legacy of those Marxists and radical forces killed by the Islamic republic is human dignity and sovereignty, not war not economical sanction of ordinary people, not invasion of countries under name the of human rights, using human rights to sell war, not torturing people in Guantanamo under the name of defending democracy and war on terror , not using drones killing alleged terrorists along innocent children and women, not NSA spying, not austerity policy, needless to say that the so-called international community including the EU and the US or Canada don’t have the moral right to do so.
Soheil Asefi is an independent Iranian journalist in Berlin. He left Iran some years ago after a ten-year professional experience of major Iranian media outlets. He was in prison and was released on bail. He came to Germany as the guest of the City of Nuremberg under the project ‘Writers in Exile’ funded by the German Pen Center. He is the recipient of the Hermann Kasten award in Nuremberg. https://twitter.com/SoheilAsefi