Issues & Insights

Election 2021 In Iran, Where Murderers Still Rule

Iranian presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi. Source: Tasnim News Agency, via Wikimedia Commons, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/deed.en).

On June 18, the mullahs in Iran will hold their presidential “elections.” It’s almost universally accepted that genuine elections are anathema to the ruling religious dictatorship. This year, if the International Criminal Court were to do its job, the candidates would essentially be called in to form a police line up. They are a who’s who of mass murderers, international terrorists, thieves and embezzlers.

The frontrunner is Ebrahim Raisi. I first saw him when I was being tortured as a young woman in the 1980s — as I was pregnant.

Let me set the context first. For the Iranian people, Raisi’s name is synonymous with the 1988 massacre, when it is estimated that at least 30,000 political prisoners were brutally murdered in prisons across Iran simply for promoting democracy After Raisi announced his candidacy this month, young Iranians took to social media in protest and the hashtag “1988 Henchman Raisi” (in Farsi) quickly started to trend.

In 1988, the 28-year-old Raisi became a notorious member of the “Death Commissions,” appointed by former Supreme Leader Khomeini, to round up thousands of political dissidents in prisons. The majority of those killed, including teenage girls and pregnant women, expressed open support for the main democratic opposition Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK).

Amnesty International has called it an ongoing crime against humanity because the regime dumped the bodies in unmarked mass graves and has been covering up the evidence ever since. Last year, several top United Nations human rights officials called for a long overdue international probe into the 1988 massacre.

Now, one of the main perpetrators is running for president. After all, this is a regime that is at war with the Iranian people.

I started my political activism in the early 1980s, immediately after the theocratic, fundamentalist hooligans stole the Iranian people’s anti-monarchic revolution of 1979. It was exactly like the Shiite version of ISIS took over the country. As a politically-active woman, I was public enemy number one.

I was arrested on July 2, 1983, in Hamedan. I was 21. I was nine-months pregnant. I was brutally tortured

The regime’s agents knew my pregnancy was in its final stages. They lashed me with thick electrical cables, triggering sharp unbearable pains that I remember to this day

I saw Ebrahim Raisi among the torturers. At the time, I did not know who he was. I found out later that he was a prosecutor in the western province of Hamedan. Little did I know that the 23-year-old torturer was being groomed to become one of the most evil mass murderers of the late 20th century.

I also knew more than a dozen of Raisi’s victims even before the 1988 massacre. He signed the death sentences for all of them. For example, Mahnaz Sahrakar, from Hamedan, was arrested in 1982 and executed in 1983 after being raped in prison.

Raisi has never been held accountable for his heinous crimes. After he was appointed as Judiciary Chief in March 2019 by Khamenei, he continued signing death warrants, brutalizing a young population that simply wants democracy, just as we did in the 1980s. Among the hundreds of people he ordered to be killed since 2019 is Navid Afkari, a 27-year-old wrestling champion who participated in anti-regime protests.

This year’s elections happen against the backdrop of major nationwide protests in 2018 and 2019, where the Iranian people in over 200 cities called for the regime’s overthrow. The war is on, and Raisi has been unleashed to murder more people.

Decades before ISIS, the clerical regime wanted to establish the world’s first Islamic caliphate in modern times, but could not fully implement that model in a country like Iran. So, the mullahs acquiesced to a paradoxical system of absolute clerical rule mixed with sham elections serving as a facade for undeserved legitimacy.

The presidency in such a system is only worthy of functionaries like “moderate” Hassan Rouhani and “hardliner” Ebrahim Raisi. Both have spent a lifetime to prop up a regime that stands on crushed bones and dreams. That is why the main rallying cry on the Iranian street is “Reformist, hardliner, the game is now over.”

Indeed, decades of mass murder, lies and blind theft should be over. As the grieving mothers of the more than 1,500 slain protesters of the November 2019 uprising recently said in a viral video, our only vote is “overthrow.” Our vote is a democratic republic that contributes to the world by promoting human rights, not by producing henchmen like Raisi.

The world needs to help. The UN must finally open an international investigation into the 1988 massacre and hold the regime’s mass murderers accountable.

Farideh Goudarzi, 59, is a member of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/EMK). She spent six years in prison in Hamedan.

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