“As political liquidations go, it is a massacre that ranks alongside some of the worst excesses of the 20th century: at least 20,000 Iranians executed in prison in the 1980’s.”

It has been called a crime against humanity.

In 1988, nearly a decade after the Islamic revolution in Iran, thousands of political prisoners were murdered.

Most of us don’t know that.

Not only did the regime take its usual measures to cover it up, the world was distracted by other major events, including the fall of Berlin’s wall, which came only one year after these barbaric killings.

A tribunal in London heard testimony from survivors and family members of the ‘missing’ in 2012, in an attempt to piece together exactly what had happened, and that testimony was damning.

Rather, it should have been damning, but this was Iran.

Ayatollah Khomeini, who seized power in 1979’s revolution (not to be confused with the current tyrant Khameini) issued a fatwa that led to prisoners being loaded into trucks and taken off for execution. Many of them were women and teenagers.

The victims were hanged from cranes in groups, every half hour in what must have been the most Hellish display.

Other victims were shot to death by firing squad, while the ‘lucky’ who were not killed outright were instead tortured.

These victims were largely students, and members of MEK, the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran.

Some were members of ethnic and religious minority groups. All were considered left wing/liberal groups who were seen as enemies by the regime who had just imposed Islamic law.

Prior to that, Iran had been a secular nation under the Shah.

Out had gone religious freedom, and in had stormed the Mullahs, sending Iran backward in time and undoing most of the progress and growth they had achieved under the previous government.

London’s tribunal had no legal standing, but existed simply to give a voice to the victims and their families, most of whom asked for their names to be withheld in fear for the safety of loved ones who remained in Iran. What was revealed in these testimonials was nothing short of horrific.

While Iran’s prisons have never had a reputation for humane treatment or any form of true justice, these were still quite shocking accounts.

One witness testified that his cell mate, a boy of only 16 years old, was raped by guards each night. Another spoke of rooms that existed in Evin Prison‘s basement level, from which he could hear the screams of those being tortured below at all hours.

A survivor had this to say. “They also had ‘coffins’ where prisoners stayed in for two, three, five or more months. It was dark 24 hours a day. I had to relieve myself in the same cup I used for my tea,” he said. “I will suffer physically and mentally for the rest of my life.”

His name is Rahman Darkeshideh, and he spent eight years in jail for writing some graffiti on a wall.

Eric David, a professor of international law in Brussels, was able to compile and compare multiple survivor accounts and said

“There is a coherence among all the testimonies. They confirm the same story and match what was already known.”

Surviving victims reported that they had been separated based upon political and religious beliefs, then taken before a kangaroo court made up of only one Islamic judge, a prosecutor, and an intelligence official.

They were asked questions such as “Are you Muslim? Do you pray?” and if their answers did not satisfy the ‘court’, they were sentenced to execution. One account even states that a cleric had his young son with him during these proceedings, and the child reportedly said “Papa, please also execute this one.”

There is no lower depth to plunge than the perverting of your own children, but Iran’s regime has apparently never seen a low they won’t sink to, so while this should be shocking, it isn’t.

The families of the victims were not told for months of their loved ones’ deaths, and they were denied even knowing where the bodies had been buried, removing their ability to  go visit the final resting place of their own relatives.

The tribunal had the backing of Desmond Tutu, a second tribunal to then be held before the Hague, with nothing to actually be done about these murders beyond bringing some measure of closure to the families and a small sense of justice if only by being able to tell the rest of the world what had been done to them.

This is the very same regime that people in Iran are rising up against today. Let us hope the people will see some support from the outside world this time around.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”-Burke