A FATWA issued by Iran’s supreme leader led to the massacre of 30,000 prisoners including some as young as 13 in a shocking two-month purge.
The 1988 executions were revealed in the memoirs of Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, one of Ayatollah Khomeini’s closest advisors who went on to condemn his murderous act.
Secret documents revealed how Khomeini ordered the deaths of 30,000 political prisoners in a chilling Fatwa, a strict decree handed down by Islamic religious leaders.
In it, he accused prisoners of “waging war against God” and urged Death Commissioners in charge of the mass killings to ‘”show no mercy”.
A similar Fatwa was issued against novelist Salman Rushdie in 1989 after his controversial book based on the Islamic religion was released.
Last week, it is feared a knifeman thought to be sympathetic to the Iran regime tried to carry out the Fatwa after stabbing the writer on stage in New York.
Just a year before Salman Rushdie was declared an enemy of the state, political inmates from Iran’s prisons were loaded onto forklifts in groups of six and attached to cranes so their necks could be broken in 30-minute intervals.
In the first two weeks of the 1988 massacre, 8,000 people were said to have been killed with women and children as young as 13 being among the dead.
Whether a prisoner lived or died was decided by “Death Committees”, a panel including an Islamic judge, a representative from the Ministry of Intelligence, and a state prosecutor.
Inmates were asked if they were now loyal to the Islamic regime and if not they would be sentenced to death.
The corpses were buried in 36 mass graves and a recent book from the National Council of Resistance of Iran, Crimes Against Humanity, names 5,015 of the victims as well as detailing eyewitness accounts.
One eyewitness says a “death factory” was set up so prisoners could be executed quickly while regime leaders watched on.
They said: “The ropes were suspended from the high ceiling. The prisoners, blindfolded and hands-tied, were led onto the stage in groups of 10 to 15.
“There the guards would place the noose around their necks. The prison governor would then hang each one by kicking him from behind and throwing him off the stage.”
Another added: “If they felt that an inmate hanging from the gallows was still alive, they would grab his feet and pull down his body with all their weight to finish him off.
“In several cases, when they lowered the body, they noticed that the victim was still alive.
“[The prison governor] would say ‘no problem’ and would order the guards to bring the next batch of prisoners on the stage.
“The victim would be taken to mass graves along with other corpses and buried alive.”
Montazeri was so sickened by the mass executions, that went on for two months, that he question his leader’s actions and sealed his political fate.
He condemned the killings and those that followed in letters that were broadcast by the BBC and criticized the fatwa issued against Salman Rushdie after his controversial book, The Satanic Verses.
He said: “People in the world are getting the idea that our business in Iran is just murdering people.”
In his own correspondence with Khomeini, Montazeri called the killings a “vendetta” that would spark an uprising against the regime.
He wrote: “The execution of several thousand prisoners in a few days will not have positive repercussions and will not be mistake-free”.
A battle for succession had already begun at the time due to Khomeini failing health – he would die just 12 months later.
Montazeri was stripped of his Grand Ayatalloh title and he was later put under house arrest after questioning the appointment of cleric Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei as the new Supreme Leader.
The regime claimed it was to protect him from hardliners but he remained there until 2003.
He continued to criticize Iran’s government until his death in 2009 at the age of 87.
At the time of the killings, human rights organisations remained silent and Amnesty International only dedicated a few pages to the massacre in a 1990 human rights report on Iran.
In 2017, The United Nations highlighted the 1988 killings and issued a statement that said the perpetrators were continuing to enjoy impunity.
Since then an appeal to the UN has been set up to seek justice for the victims of those executed and their families.
A letter, signed by hundreds of current and former UN officials, stated the massacre is believed to amount to “crimes against humanity” and “genocide”.
Iran has continued to carry out shocking executions for seemingly minor crimes because of its harsh ‘”eye for an eye” laws.
Leaked documents from Iran’s torturous prisons revealed 5,370 people are holed up on death row on charges as petty as drinking alcohol or insulting the Supreme Leader.
The cruel law is designed to inflict as much pain as possible in retaliation – including having eyes gouged out, hands chopped off and even the mass, public hangings.
It comes as Rushdie’s accused attacker – believed to be sympathetic to the Iranian regime – pleaded not guilty after allegedly stabbing the author 15 times.
More than 30 years ago, the regime called for Rushdie to be murdered – forcing him into hiding.
Rushdie, who was born into a Muslim Kashmiri family in Bombay, now Mumbai, before moving to the UK, has long faced death threats for his fourth novel, The Satanic Verses.
It was banned in many countries with large Muslim populations upon its 1988 publication.
A few months later, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then Iran’s supreme leader, pronounced a fatwa, or religious edict, calling upon Muslims to kill the novelist and anyone involved in the book’s publication for blasphemy.
Iran’s dictatorship has celebrated the horror attack – branding Rushdie an “apostate” and “heretic” as they praised his attacker for “tearing neck of the enemy of God with a knife”.