By Shahin Zoghi Tabar
When I was a small child I was forced by my school principles to take part in mass prayers. If the teachers asked about praying I would answer, “No, I haven’t.” Then they would beat me with a ruler on my shoulder, hands and legs.
During my childhood years I knew nothing about praying and the Quran, other than being forced into doing so. In line during the early morning headcount at school I was forced to stand alongside other students and chant against those opposing the velayat-e faqih, not knowing even the meaning of the word. If my attention swayed, intentionally or unintentionally, playing and talking with others as any small child would do, the school moderator would come after me with a ruler.
I only learned what the system wanted me to learn. For example, in history and Iran’s own modern history, especially the 1979 revolution and Khomeini’s era, I learned only what the mullahs’ education system saw fit… I realized this when I grew older and went to college. During my years in college the mullahs’ education system, with its classes about Islam and the history of the “Islamic revolution,” sought to dictate its own words and mentality to me.
However, the difference in the college years was that I had access to the internet and satellite TV, and I began to learn about new criteria and perspectives I had never heard about in any book in Iran. For example, from the internet and satellite TV I heard the name of Mohammad Hanif-nezhad, founder of the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), and the path he started. I came to know about the Iran-Iraq War, of which the mullahs’ media claimed was forced upon Iran, while they actually viewed it as a gift from the heavens. Also, thanks to the internet and satellite TV, I came to learn that many Iranians, including 9-year old girls, pregnant women and many youths were executed under a fatwa, or decree, issued by Iranian regime founder Ruhollah Khomeini, who is now dead himself. They had never talked about these issues in any history books, school or university in Iran.
Of course, at that time I had never heard anything about various issues, such as the 1980s executions. I thought to myself maybe the things I am reading about in the internet or seeing on satellite TV are exaggerations. I couldn’t understand the depth of the tragedy… Most probably many of Iran’s youths, especially those born in the 1980s and afterwards, have experienced a similar fate. In addition to undergoing a similar childhood and college years like mine, they were all subject to duplicity.
However, when I was arrested in the later years of college and spent more than a year in solitary confinement, while being beaten and tortured; and when I saw thousands of people, especially those my age or even younger, being executed in prison or placed on death row; and when I saw Sunni Kurdish dissidents being mass executed before my eyes, not only did it end all my doubts, in fact I came to understand the atrocities of those dark times. It was far worse than anything than I had ever heard of.
And now, I can understand very well why Iranian regime leader Ali Khamenei and senior regime officials do not dare publish Khomeini’s fatwa on TV, as it rendered the massacre of over 30,000 prisoners in the summer of 1988. And why when the soundbite of Mr. Montazeri was made public by his son, shedding light only on a small portion of Khomeini’s crimes, Khamenei rushed to the scene and condemns him to prison time in a kangaroo court.
As an individual who has spent more than 4 years behind bars, and someone who has witnessed these crimes from up close, I fully understand the justice movement demanding accountability for the 1988 massacre, and why senior officials of this regime, despite knowing all the people are fully aware about the executions of the 1980s, and especially 1988, continue to ban any word of this matter.
In fact, we must continue following up and speaking about this subject, and support this cause to prevent any such repeat of these crimes. Future generations must not be witness to such crimes… I dream of that day…
Shahin Zoghi Tabar wrote this piece from inside Iran’s notorious Gohardasht Prison in Karaj, west of Tehran. He was able to leak it to the outside world. He wrote about his own arrest:
“On the afternoon of May 20th, 2013 a number of Revolutionary Guards and plainclothes agents raided our house. This time I wasn’t shocked like before because three days prior to that the same thing had happened and they had taken my mother away. This time, like before, they trashed the entire house and arrested me when I was 25 years old. They took me to ward 2A of Tehran’s Evin Prison, and then to a small and dark cell.”
Shahin’s crime was having sympathy for the PMOI/MEK.