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On Israel TV, prisoners who escaped Iran’s 1988 killings compare Raisi to Hitler

Describing the torturous conditions in the Islamic Republic at the time, ex-political prisoners label new president ‘the head of Auschwitz’ for his role in mass executions

President Ebrahim Raisi delivers a speech after taking his oath as president in a ceremony at the parliament in Tehran, Iran, on August 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
President Ebrahim Raisi delivers a speech after taking his oath as president in a ceremony at the parliament in Tehran, Iran, on August 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

In Israeli TV interviews broadcast Thursday, former political prisoners who escaped Iran compared the Islamic Republic’s new President Ebrahim Raisi to Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler for his alleged central role in extrajudicial executions, mostly of young people, across Iran in the late 1980s.

“It was exactly like the final solution that Hitler made for the Jews,” Iraj Masadagi, a former Iranian political prisoner, told the Kan public broadcaster.

“Raisi was a killer,” Masadagi continued. “He talked to me, and he said that they don’t want to have any more political prisoners. He said that we want to solve the ‘problem.”

The ultra-conservative cleric Raisi was sworn in on Thursday as the Islamic Republic’s eighth president. He has been accused by activists and human rights groups of having played a key role as a prosecutor on the “death commission” that sent thousands of prisoners to their deaths in 1988.

Amnesty International has described the killings as a crime against humanity.

“They sent hundreds of prisoners to the gallows,” Masdagi said. “When I see him I see the face of the one who killed my fellow prisoners, my friends, my beloved ones.”

Masdagi, one of the tens of thousands of political prisoners in Iran at the time, told Kan he spent 10 years in jail, starting in 1981. “I was in solitary confinement for a long period, and when I see him, I remember those days, that I was tortured,” he said.

Iraj Masadagi, a former political prisoner in Iran, speaks with the Kan public broadcaster, August 5, 2021. (Video screenshot)

Masdagi described the Islamic Republic’s new president as “the head of Auschwitz.”

Siamak Naderi, another political prisoner during the 1980s, told Kan he was also held in harsh conditions. “I was personally jailed in solitary confinement, which followed by severe torture,” Naderi said, adding that many of those who were tortured ended up committing suicide or were left with serious mental disorders.

“There were some who were also harmed severely physically,” Naderi said.

Siamak Naderi, a former political prisoner in Iran, speaks with the Kan public broadcaster, August 5, 2021. (Video screenshot)

At just 20-years-old, Raisi was appointed prosecutor for the district of Karaj and then for Hamadan province, before being promoted to deputy Tehran prosecutor in 1985.

It was in this role, campaigners allege, that Raisi played a key part in the executions of thousands of opposition prisoners — mostly suspected members of the proscribed People’s Mujahedin Organisation of Iran (MEK) — when, activists say, he was part of a four-man “Death Committee” that sent convicts to their death without a shred of due process.

Most rights groups and historians say between 4,000 and 5,000 were killed, but the political wing of the MEK, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), puts the figure at closer to 30,000.

“For me, it’s as if they brought the evilest man, and turned him into the president. This is an insult and betrayal to the Iranian people and the world” Naderi said.

Portraits of some 800 victims of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran are put on display along the Esplanade des Invalides in Paris to commemorate the executions of thousands of Iranian political prisoners in 1988, October 30, 2019. (Eric Feferberg/AFP)

In May, a group of more than 150 rights campaigners, including Nobel laureates, former heads of state or government, and former UN officials, called for an international investigation into the 1988 killings.

Raisi, tied to the mass killings, is on a blacklist of Iranian officials sanctioned by Washington, due to his complicity in the “brutal crackdown” on protests and “extrajudicial executions of thousands of political prisoners in 1988,” accusations Raisi rejected.

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