The Bloody Red Summer of 1988
25 Aug 2009 14:49
[TEHRAN BUREAU] The 1980s, particularly the period between 1980 and 1988, are the darkest and bloodiest in the history of contemporary Iran. In 1980, the country was still in the grip of the chaos of the 1979 Revolution. Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi had been toppled, but the provisional government of Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan did not last long either. They resigned on November 5, 1979, the day after Islamic leftist students overran the United States embassy in Tehran.
The reactionary right, which began to emerge at this time, was eager to clamp down on dissent. With their help, political freedom began to wane only a year into the Revolution. As more and more restrictions began to be put in place, internal strife began to increase dramatically as well. As always, the universities were the centers of dissent. Secular leftist students were particularly strong and well organized on campuses. The reactionary right managed to convince the Islamic leftists of the necessity of a crackdown.
To crackdown on dissent, and to purge the secular leftists from the universities, the political establishment began to speak of the necessity of a "cultural revolution." To formalize it, on Friday April 18, 1980, after Friday prayers, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini strongly attacked the universities in a speech.
We are not afraid of economic sanctions or military intervention [which were feared at that time because of the hostage crisis]. What we are afraid of is Western universities and the training of our youth in the interests of the West or East.
Many interpreted Ayatollah Khomeini's speech of April 18, 1980, as a signal for attacks on the universities. In the evening of that day, right-wing paramilitary forces called Phalangists, after the Lebanese Phalangist forces that were fighting the leftist forces in the civil war in that country, laid siege to the Teachers Training College of Tehran. The campus looked like a "war zone," according to a British reporter, and one student was reportedly lynched.
Other campuses around the country did not fare any better. Over the next two days, offices of leftist students at universities in Ahwaz, Isfahan, Mashhad and Shiraz were ransacked, leaving hundreds injured and at least 20 people dead. The violence then spread to several campuses in Tehran, particularly the University of Tehran, which has always been a hotbed of political dissent.
All the universities were shut down on June 12, 1980, and did not re-open until two years later. Officially, the goal was the "Islamization" of the universities, which was an absurd notion. (How, for example, do you "Islamicize" the natural and medical sciences, or engineering?) It was really just a guise for exercising oppression and repression.
While the country was in disarray, Saddam Hussein decided to invade Iran. He had never been happy with the 1975 Algiers Agreement signed by Iraq and the Shah intended to settle a border dispute. Add to that the threat of a revolution led by Shia clerics next door, especially when the Shiites made up the majority of the population in Iraq. Ayatollah Khomeini and his disciples were also using tough rhetoric to denounce Saddam Hussein.
Hussein also made a great miscalculation: He thought that with Iran's regular army disorganized and demoralized, and with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) still in its infancy, he could easily invade Iran and occupy a significant portion of it. That, in Hussein's thinking, would provoke a military coup by the remnants of the imperial army and get rid of the clerical leadership.
Hence, after some border skirmishes, Iraq's army invaded Iran on September 22, 1980, and began a war that lasted approximately eight years. "This war is a gift from God," said Ayatollah Khomeini. And from his perspective, it was. On the one hand, the war unified a nation that was getting tired of all the chaos and gave them a patriotic cause to rally around: defending the homeland. On the other, the war gave the extremist right wingers the perfect excuse, to use the threat of 'national security and territorial integrity of Iran' to brutally repress the opposition with much bloodshed.
At the same time, the Mojahedin-e Khalgh Organization (MKO), the most powerful opposition group, was constantly agitating the political scene. It was not totally their fault. The right-wing, and even some elements of the Islamic left, were opposed to the MKO, and played an important role in ratcheting up the rhetoric and the confrontation between the two camps.
Mohammad Reza Saadati, who was among the top leaders of the MKO [and who had been jailed by the Shah from 1973-1978], had also been arrested by the new regime on the charge of being a spy for the Soviet Union. [To the best of the author's knowledge, the charge was bogus]. However, his arrest outside the Soviet embassy had provided the right wing with much ammunition and propaganda to attack the MKO. Supporters of the MKO, and even very young, impressionable people who were simply selling the MKO mouthpiece, Mojahed, were constantly harassed and persecuted. Seventy-one of them were killed between February 1979 and June 1981.
The MKO's goal was gaining power at any cost, at the earliest time possible. The MKO leaders, Masoud Rajavi and Mousa Khiabani, had even proposed to Ayatollah Khomeini to "deliver to them the government," as they considered themselves the only group qualified to run the government. But Ayatollah Khomeini rejected the proposal. In fact, before the victory of the Revolution and while still in Paris, Ayatollah Khomeini had reached a consensus with others, including Mehdi Bazargan, Ayatollah Seyyed Mahmoud Taleghani, a popular progressive cleric who passed away on September 9, 1979, and others, that no top governmental position should be given to the MKO. Rajavi was also disqualified from running in the first presidential election in February 1980.
By early 1981, Abolhassan Banisadr, who had been elected the Islamic Republic's first president in February 1980 and had been a close aid of Ayatollah Khomeini during the Revolution, was also on a collision course with the Ayatollah and his circle of clerical aids, and the MKO was supporting him. On June 10, 1981, the Ayatollah sacked Banisadr as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces [according to Iran's Constitution, the Ayatollah was the commander-in-chief, but he had transferred the authority to Banisadr]. On June 19, the MKO issued a harshly-worded statement, calling Ayatollah Khomeini all kinds of names [the same ayatollah who, up until a few weeks earlier, had been called by the MKO "the Father," "the Leader," etc.], and declaring armed struggle against the government. Over the next two days, huge demonstrations were held by the MKO and the government against each other.
Lajevardi (standing) and Ayatollah Gillani, who had two of his own sons executed. On June 21, 1981, the Majles (parliament) impeached Banisadr; he was fired. By that point, he had already fled and gone into hiding in western Iran. The IRGC executed several of his close aids, including Hossein Navab, Rashid Sadrolhefazi, and Manouchehr Massoudi, an attorney. Their mouthpiece, Enghelab-e Eslami [Islamic Revolution] was also shut down. [Enghelab-e Eslami is still published in exile in France.] Dozens of others were also executed on June 21 and 22, including at least 12 young girls whose identities were not even known to the judiciary. Ayatollah Mohammad Mohammadi Gilani, the prosecutor of the revolutionary court, declared that he did not care about the identities of the young people whose execution he was ordering. Saeed Soltanpour, a poet and a leftist, was arrested during his wedding ceremony and later executed.
June 20, 1981, was also the last time that the author spoke with his younger brother, Ali. Living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and attending graduate school, I called Ali, who was home in Tehran. I was worried about my family. Ali had just gotten home when I called. His voice was hoarse and angry. He had supported the Revolution and had actively participated in it, but had turned against the political establishment. I never spoke to him again. It was impossible to find him after that last conversation.
Almost three months later, on September 8, 1981, the author's brother was arrested, and was executed on September 17. In the morning of the day after his execution, the author's family received a phone call from the notorious Evin prison, notifying them that Ali had been executed, and that they should go there to take his body and belongings. When my father, an aunt, and a cousin went to Evin, they were told to go to the Behesht-e Zahra cemetery because Ali had already been buried. When they went there, they were told that no one with that name had been buried there.
Hopeful that there could have been a mistake made, they went home. But, in a television news program broadcast at 2:00 p.m. that day, the government announced the names of 180 people who had been executed two nights earlier, among them my brother. So, the entire family rushed to the cemetery, and this time they were told where Ali had been buried. The official policy at that time was not to confirm the burial of any executed person until his or her name had been officially announced. So, the life of a 23-year-old university student and patriot was abruptly ended.
The family was ordered to refrain from mourning the death of Ali publicly, and also told not to put a tombstone on his grave. They did both, and ran into a great deal of trouble for doing so. When they put in the tombstone, it was immediately broken by the Phalangists. The family installed two more, both of which met with the same fate. After the fourth tombstone was installed, the Phalangists stopped breaking it.
Many Muslims follow a tradition of visiting the grave of a loved one every Thursday afternoon for the first year after their death. The author's family closely observed this tradition. Every week, when they visited the cemetery, they were harassed by the Phalangists, who shouted that they hoped they -- the author's family -- would be dead soon too. When on the anniversary of the author's brother's death, the family had visited his grave, they were all arrested and taken to a police station nearby, interrogated for hours, and finally released. They refused to guarantee that they would not visit the cemetery again.
But that was not the end of our troubles. The author's father was forced to retire and stay home, because he was very outspoken against the clerics. He was threatened that if he did not stay home, he would be jailed. The author's youngest brother, who was 16 at that time, was arrested and jailed for a week. Twice he was blindfolded and taken to a mock execution. It was a miracle that he too was not executed.
The suffering of the author's family was neither unique, nor the worst. Thousands of families who lost their loved ones in the 1980s went through the same kind of suffering, sometimes under more dire circumstances. There were families who lost several loved ones to executions. Hundreds of thousands of families also lost loved ones to the Iran-Iraq war.
On June 28, 1981, there was a huge explosion in the headquarters of the Islamic Republican Party, a clergy-dominated political group founded by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Ayatollah Abdolkarim Mousavi Ardabili, and others. Nearly 120, by some estimates, including the judiciary chief, Ayatollah Seyyed Mohammad Beheshti, and scores of other senior government and political figures were killed. The MKO considered Beheshti its archenemy.
To evoke emotions, however, the government announced that Beheshti and 72 -- not the correct number -- of his comrades had been killed. This was done in order to make a parallel between that and the events of October 10, 680 A.D. in Karbala, in modern day Iraq, when Imam Hossein, the Shias' third Imam, the grandson of the Prophet and one of the most revered figure in Iran, and 72 of his close supporters and family members were slain in an epic battle.
It is widely believed that the MKO carried out the bombing of the Islamic Republic headquarters, which took the bloody confrontation between the MKO and the government to a completely new level. The MKO began assassinating senior political figures, including many leading ayatollahs. Mohammad Ali Rajai, who had been elected President after Banisadr; Dr. Mohammad Javad Bahonar, the Prime Minister under Rajaei, were assassinated on August 30, 1981. In retaliation, the government would arrest and kill MKO members and supporters, showing no mercy, not even on the very young, and in some instances children. The youngest victim that the author is aware of was a girl named Fatemeh Mesbah, who was said to be 12 when killed. Ayatollah Mohammadi Gilani even ordered the execution of two of his own children.
At Behesht-e Zahra cemetery, the author's brother's grave is surrounded by those of other people who were executed around the same time, including very young people between the ages of 14 and 28. Next to the author's brother's grave is the resting place of a young medical doctor, who was executed at 28. His only "offense" was treating protesters who had been injured during street demonstrations. A cousin of the author met the same fate. He too was a medical doctor, and about the same age, when he too was executed for the same "offense." His brother and another cousin had already been killed during the Revolution.
Two other victims of the executions also evoke deep emotions in the author. Laid to rest in Behesht-e Zahra cemetery, in the same section of the author's brother's grave, are Maryam Golzadeh Ghafouri and her husband Alireza Haj Samadi, both MKO members. Maryam's father, Ali Golzadeh Ghafouri, taught the author to read and interpret the Holy Quran, when he was young. The author's father and several friends had started a weekly gathering on Tuesday nights to read the Holy Quran and study its teachings. Typically, 50 people would participate, and the place of the meeting would rotate between the members' homes. The author also participated in the gatherings, as his father was keen that he learn about the Holy Quran.
Each person in the gathering would read a few verses, or lines, from the Holy Quran. Golzadeh Ghafouri, who was not a clergy, would first correct the way we read, making sure that we pronounced the Arabic words correctly. Then, at the end, he would interpret what we had read. He was a devout Muslim, who was progressive, extremely knowledgeable and very kind, a true gentleman in every sense of the word, and a friend of the author's father. The author had the highest respect for him. He supported the Revolution, and was a deputy in the first Majles after the Revolution. But after his daughter and son-in-law were executed, he quit the Majles and went into seclusion. He has hardly been seen in public since.
No one was safe, not even those who had played prominent roles in the Revolution. One example was Ayatollah Hassan Lahouti, the first clerical commander of the IRGC, whose two sons were married to Rafsanjani's daughters. Lahouti went to Evin to see another son, who had been arrested -- apparently for being a member of the MKO -- and died there. Lahouti, who had been very critical of the clerics, was reportedly killed there.
The MKO tactic of assassinating government officials had been emulated from leftist Latin American guerrilla fighters. For example, when the Tupamaros were unable to take over the government of Uruguay in the 1960s through elections, they began a campaign of assassinations. The goal was to provoke the military to take harsh action, and then use the military's reaction as an excuse to further provoke the population against the government. The MKO was using the same tactic.
Mohammad Reza Saadati, a top MKO leader, was executed on July 27, 1981. Before his death, he had asked to be released in return for helping put an end to the MKO's armed struggle; but the hardliners did not care. They wanted blood and revenge. The next day, Banisadr and Rajavi fled Iran. A Boeing 707, flown by an air force pilot, took them first to Turkey and then to Paris, France. That began the process of the MKO going into exile. Eventually, MKO forces settled in Iraq, and worked with Saddam Hussein against Iran. The group, or what remains of it, is now listed as a terrorist organization by the United States State Department.
In February 1982, the MKO suffered a tremendous blow. Mousa Khiabani, the commander of the MKO forces in Iran, his pregnant wife Azar Rezai [whose brothers Ahmad, Reza and Mehdi had been killed under the Shah], and Ashraf Rabiei, Rajavi's wife, and 18 other MKO members were killed by the IRGC in a shootout. The three had managed to break through the IRGC forces, but their bulletproof Peugeot was hit by an RPG that killed everyone but Rajavi's 1-year-old son. Rajavi appointed Ali Zarkesh the new commander of the MKO forces in Iran. He was killed in 1988 during the MKO attacks on Iran from Iraq (see below).
The campaign of assassinations by the MKO, and the execution of young members and sympathizers of the MKO, continued for another two years. The right wing used that and the war with Iraq to also go after other political groups, such as the Paykar [confrontation], a Stalinist-Maoist group and offshoot of the MKO; Rah-e Kargar [worker's path], and a faction of the People's Fadaaiyan Guerrilla (which had played an important role in the struggle against the Shah), called the minority faction. Gradually, even the members and supporters of the Tudeh Party [the pro-Soviet communist party] and another faction of People's Fadaaiyan Guerrilla, called the majority faction, who had supported the government were no longer safe either. Thousands of people, mostly the young or very young, were summarily executed.
At the same time, the war with Iraq was raging on. By June 1982, Iranian forces had pushed back Iraq's forces from almost all of Iran's occupied territories. When Khorramshahr, Iran's most important seaport on the Persian Gulf, was liberated, there were celebrations all over Iran. The war should have ended then. Saddam was ready to accept a ceasefire.
But, according to a friend of the author from his college years in Iran, who was in a meeting with Ayatollah Khomeini [who was initially in favor of ending the war], commanders of the IRGC and government officials to discuss what to do about the war, the ideologues in the IRGC convinced the Ayatollah that they could easily overrun Iraq and liberate its Shiite part. They told the Ayatollah that it would not take that long to accomplish the goal. Ali Khamenei, then president, was apparently opposed to the continuation of the war as well.
The Ayatollah gave the IRGC commanders his blessing, but it was another six years before the war finally ended. The war ended only when the government, its resources, and the population were totally spent. Mir Hossein Mousavi, then Prime Minster, had informed Rafsanjani, then the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, that his government could no longer sustain the war efforts.
The government's own statistics indicated that during the war with Iraq, 273,000 soldiers were killed and another 700,000 injured, many with long-term wounds. Of the soldiers killed, 30,000 had died up to and including the time of liberation of Khorramshahr, and the rest in the remaining years of the war. Thus, close to 88% of the soldiers who died in the war did not have to, had Iran ended the war in June 1982.
At the same time that political activists were being killed, young soldiers were also dying in the war. Political freedom and the freedom of the press were nonexistent.
At the same time, two other events were taking place:
One, forced televised "confessions," similar to what the hardliners have staged over the past month. A wide range of people, from Noureddin Kianouri, secretary-general of the Tudeh Party, to Maryam Shirdel, a simple supporter of the MKO, were paraded in front of the camera to "confess." Shirdel was forced to say that she had sexual relations with an MKO member, a totally bogus confession.
The second phenomenon was tavvab saazi: forcing prisoners to repent for their "sins" and accepting the reactionary version of Islam that the interrogators and the tavvab saazaan -- the interrogators who "converted" the prisoners and put them back on the "right" path to "redemption" -- were feeding them with. Some of the prisoners became tavvab, they repented to save their lives; they had not really set aside their beliefs. A small number became tavvab and began serving their masters. The majority refused to "repent." Hossein Shariatmadari, the dreaded managing editor of Kayhan, the hardliners' mouthpiece, and Saeed Emami, the notorious gang leader who was responsible for the murder of scores of dissidents and intellectuals from 1988-1998, were two such tavvab saaz.
During this dark period, almost all government, judiciary and military officials either supported the bloody crackdown, or were silent. The most important person, practically the only one with stature, who courageously opposed the bloodshed was Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri. He was the deputy to then Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, and tried his best to prevent the executions, and improve the conditions of those imprisoned. He visited the prisons frequently and ordered improvements. He also sent his representatives, such as Hojjatoleslam Ansari Najafabadi, to the prisons to visit and report to him.
The reports that Grand Ayatollah Montazeri was receiving were horrible. Thus, he began writing letters to Ayatollah Khomeini, his teacher and mentor, protesting the conditions in jails. In one letter in October 1986 that he mentions in his memoirs, he wrote,
Do you know that,
The crimes that are taking place in the jails of Islamic Republic did not even take place in the Shah's regime?
Many people have died due to torture?
In Shiraz's jail [in southern Iran] a young woman who was fasting [during the month of Ramadan] was executed for a very minor offense right after she broke her fast [in the evening]?
Some young girls have been forcefully possessed [raped]?
During the interrogation of young women very nasty profanities are used?
Many prisoners have become blind or deaf, due to torture, and nobody has helped [to treat them]?
In many jails they even prevent the prisoners from saying their prayers?
In some jails the prisoners do not see the light of the day for months?
Even after a prisoner is given a jail sentence, he/she is still beaten regularly?
I am sure that [if you talk to others about this letter] they will tell you that these are lies and he [Grand Ayatollah Montazeri] is naive.
Note the striking similarities between what Grand Ayatollah Montazeri reported to Ayatollah Khomeini in 1986 and the charges that Mehdi Karroubi, a leader of the reformists and the Green Movement, has been making about what takes place in Iranian jails.
A happy camp: Lajevardi and colleagues. There are many culprits in the killings and horrible treatment of detainees. But one in particular is Seyyed Asadollah Lajevardi, who had been jailed by the Shah's government several times. After the 1979 Revolution he was appointed the Tehran Prosecutor. When in June 1981 the MKO assassinated Mohammad Kachouei, the warden of the Evin prison, Lajevardi was appointed the warden. He even moved his family to Evin.
One of Lajevardi's main claims was that he was an excellent tavvab saaz, boasting that 95% of his "guests" at Evin prison eventually gave a tape-recorded "confession" and "praised" the Islamic Republic. In reality, he was a brutal, possibly mentally ill man, known aptly as the "Butcher of Evin." He was responsible for thousands of executions, including those in 1988.
By 1988 Iran was totally exhausted and could not continue the war. On July 20, 1987, the United Nations Security Council had already passed Resolution 598, calling on Iran and Iraq to cease the hostilities. But it took Ayatollah Khomeini one more year to accept the ceasefire -- "to drink the poison," as he put it.
Right after the ceasefire went into effect, the MKO forces attacked Iran from Iraq in an operation they called Amaliyat-e Forough-e Javidaan [Operation Eternal Light], but referred to as Amaliyat-e Mersaad [Operations Trap] by the IRGC. The MKO forces were defeated easily and had heavy losses -- at least 1700 according to the MKO, and many more according to other sources.
Evidence indicates that before the ceasefire went into effect and the MKO attacks began, the Islamic Republic was already thinking about eliminating most, if not all, the political prisoners. Ayatollah Khomeini had ordered the formation of a secret commission to look into executing the MKO prisoners, as well as secular leftists, and had secretly authorized their execution. The former were classified as the mohaarebs [those who fight against God], while the secular leftists were considered as mortads [those not believing in God].
First, the MKO prisoners were interviewed in Evin and Gohar Dasht prisons. They were first asked their affiliation. If they responded "the Mojahedin," that would be the end of the interview. The prisoners would be taken to the gallows after writing their wills. If, however, they responded "the Monafeghin," the hypocrites, the name that the government had given to the MKO, they would be asked the next six questions: (i) Are you willing to denounce your former colleagues? (ii) Are you willing to denounce them in front of cameras? (iii) Are you willing to help us hunt them down? (iv) Will you name secret sympathizers? (v) Will you identify those whose repentance were fake? (vi) Are you willing to go to the war front and walk on the minefields? If the answer to any of the questions was not affirmative, the prisoner would be hanged.
The secular leftists would be asked even more questions: (i) Are you a Muslim? (ii) Do you believe in God? (iii) Is the Holy Quran the word of God? (iv) Do you believe in heaven and hell? (v) Do you accept Muhammad to be the last of the prophets? (vi) Will you publicly recant historical materialism? (vii) Will you denounce your former beliefs before the cameras? (viii) Do you fast during the fasting month of Ramadan? (ix) Do you pray and read the Holy Quran? (x) Would you rather share a cell with a Muslim or non-Muslim? (xi) Will you sign an affidavit that you believe in God, the Prophet, the Holy Quran and in Judgment Day? (xii) When you were growing up, did your father pray, fast and read the Holy Quran?
The last question was very important. If the prisoner responded "no," then he could not be held accountable for the fact that he did not believe in Islam, and would escape hanging. But, many prisoners did not know about this.
Thousands of political prisoners were then executed in the summer of 1988. The majority of them were MKO members, but many also belonged to other groups. Many of them were buried in mass graves in the Khavaran cemetery, east of Tehran. Recently, the government tried to convert the cemetery to a park in an apparent effort to erase all signs of the crime.
The exact number of those who were executed is unknown. Grand Ayatollah Montazeri puts the number at up to 3800. Others have made a list of a little over 4500. There are estimates as high as 12,000. All those who were executed had been given jail sentences, and many had actually finished their sentences. Many were college or even high school students. Almost none had committed a serious offense, for the simple fact that they would have been executed right after their arrest, if they had. Roughly 10% of the executed were women.
The executions constitute a crime against humanity. Those who were responsible should be put on trial by the International Criminal Court. Some of them, such as Hojjatoleslams Jafar Nayyeri, Ebrahim Raeisi, and Mostafa Pourmohammadi, Ahmadinejad's first Interior Minister, still hold important positions within the political system.
Grand Ayatollah Montazeri strongly protested the mass killings, and resigned. He was then attacked savagely by the right-wing extremists, but the Ayatollah never backed down, which explains the immense respect that he enjoys today. Mehdi Bazargan and his Freedom Movement colleagues also protested the killings, and were detained, but released later.
The exact motivation for the killings is not known. It has been claimed by various officials of the Islamic Republic, most recently two weeks ago by Hossein Saffar Harandi, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance who resigned three weeks ago and is a former IRGC commander, that they were killed in retaliation for the MKO attacks from Iraq.
But, as mentioned earlier, there is evidence that the preparation for the killings had been started even before the ceasefire. For example, Anoushirvan Lotfi, a student in Faculty of Engineering of the University of Tehran in the 1970s [he and the author were students there at the same time] and a member of People's Fadaaiyan, had been executed in May 1988, two full months before the ceasefire and the MKO attacks. Indeed, if the MKO attacks were the reason, why were the secular leftist prisoners such as Lotfi, who opposed the MKO attacks, killed?
In addition to Lotfi, whom the author remembers from his day at the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Tehran, the author knew at least three other people among the executed. One was a childhood friend. Two others were brothers of his close college friends. One was a brother of the author's friend who was in the meeting between Ayatollah Khomeini and the IRGC commanders when they discussed whether they should stop the war with Iraq in 1982 [he quit working for the government, after his brother was executed]. The other had spent eight years in jail beyond his sentence, was about to be released, but was executed instead. His family vowed that they would not put a tombstone on his grave until the Islamic Republic is overthrown.
After the events of 1988, Lajevardi retired and went back to his work in Tehran's Bazaar. He lived in the same neighborhood as the author's parents, and would pass by their house in Tehran every morning to go to work a couple of years after his retirement. For years, my mother, who never recovered from the loss of my brother, would sit every morning by the window of the kitchen on the first floor of our house, looking outside and waiting for Lajevardi to pass by. As she would see him passing by, she would start reading Quranic verses, saying, "Oh God, if he had any role in my son's murder, punish him in any way you deem appropriate."
Lajevardi was assassinated on August 22, 1998, presumably by remnants of the MKO in Iran [the author personally doubts that the culprits were the MKO], a year after the author's father passed away after suffering from three years of illness. According to his doctors, his illness had largely been caused by the stress and anxiety of losing my brother. So, he did not live long enough to hear about Lajevardi's death.
The author's mother lived long enough to hear about Lajevardi's assassination in 1998. After his assassination, she told the author, "I never wanted to live longer than my children. But now that Ali is gone, I have only one more wish: to live 30 years after Ali, so that I could be put to rest in Ali's grave when I die." According to the Islamic teachings, a grave could be opened after 30 years and a newly dead person can be laid to rest in it. She continued, "If that happens, I know that I'll be resting next to Ali forever."
She did not get her wish. She passed away in December 2006, 25 years after her son had been executed. She never got over the fact that she was living, but her young son had been killed. The author too has not been able to get over the fact that he did not get to see his brother one last time.
Copyright (c) 2009 Tehran Bureau