Political prisoner Maryam Akbari-Monfared: Four executed, two imprisoned and all the suffering of my family

The following is a letter by Maryam Akbari-Monfared on 16 October 2016:

Maryam Akbari Monfared
Maryam Akbari Monfared

Autocratic and totalitarian regimes cannot tolerate any growing entity that inspires people to join it. Under such regimes physical and psychological tortures are among the main tools of suppression, and monitors who are aware don’t expect the accused to be able to defend themselves freely in the courts. And that’s even if there is a court at all.

Secret courts where the accused are put under pressure to ‘confess’ and or lawyers are themselves pronounced to be guilty simply for the crime of defending their clients.

The past is the past. But our reflection on the previous occurrences and our efforts to explain and analyse that which happened to us and our nation give us sufficient insight and strength to deal with today’s issues. Covering up evidence and spraying dirt into the eyes of observers of this country is tantamount to eliminating the light. At this juncture of our country’s history, while exposing the crimes and oppression of the 1980s and in particular the massacre of prisoners in the summer of 1988 has turned into a general demand of social and political activists around the world. I, Maryam Akbari-Monfared, as a relative of a number of the victims from this dark period, am one of the plaintiffs of this file and demand clarity into the secret dimensions of the death of my sister and brothers. I believe that the discovery of the truth and clarity into the dimensions of that era will act as a barrier against a repeat of such events in the future.

Many of those who were executed in 1988, including my sister and brother, had previously been sentenced to serving time in prison. This had taken place in courts which lacked due process and some of which lasted only several minutes. The charges that the majority of them faced was at most distributing and or reading [the PMOI’s] newspaper and or taking part in a demonstration.

But now this is the story of what I and my family have faced in the past three and a half decades: Three of my brothers and one sister were executed in prison in the 1980s. My younger brother Abdolreza Akbari-Monfared was arrested at the age of just 17 while he was a school pupil in 1980. His crime was distributing the Mojahed newspaper. He was kept in solitary confinement in Gohardasht (Rajai-Shahr) Prison for three years. Although the Tehran Revolutionary Court had sentenced him to three years in prison, he was kept in prison until 1988 and was eventually martyred in August of that year alongside a large number of prisoners.

Alireza Akbari-Monfared, my other brother, was arrested on 8 September 1981 and was executed in prison on 19 September of the same year. The entire process of his arrest, prosecution and implementation of the verdict lasted just 10 days. During a memorial held for him a week after his execution, the agents raided our house and arrested a number of the guests and transferred them to Evin Prison and the Joint Komiteh (a suppressive security forces’ centre). My mother and my sister, Roqieh Akbari-Monfared, were among those arrested. My mother was released from prison five months after her arrest. But my sister, who was sentenced by a court to eight years imprisonment, was executed in August 1988 while she was serving the final years of her sentence.

My other brother, Gholamreza Akbari-Monfared, was arrested in 1983 and was martyred under torture in 1985. My mother, Gorji Bashiri-Pour, who was in her forties died due to psychological pressure from these occurrences, in particular the execution of my sister, Roqieh, who had an infant child.

My father Ali Awsat Akbari-Monfared after having to tolerate his children’s suffering in jail and execution lost hope in being able to see his other children who were in [Camp] Ashraf [the previous camp of the PMOI in Iraq], since visiting them was considered a crime, and he departed this world in 2005. Currently, a number of my relatives – my brother, sister, nephew and niece – are in Albania, and for years we have been unable to meet them. Additionally, I myself am currently in Evin Prison serving the eighth year of my 15-year sentence, and my other brother Reza Akbari-Monfared, 63, is in Rajai-Shahr Prison serving his five-year sentence.

I have tolerated a lot of hardships over these years; however my sister and my brothers who lost their lives are to me the stars of love and hope in my life, and I have learnt from them how to be strong and tolerate hardships.

After all these years, they (the regime) continue to kill freedom-seekers and protesters in my country, and we the relatives of the victims of the 1980s have been and continue to be under immense pressure in these years, and it seems that this is a continuing pattern. The pressures imposed on us and our relatives is now being meted on our children and affecting their lives. Some of the families after tolerating all these pains have been split apart and many have suffered all sorts of physical and psychological illnesses. Some have been forced to emigrate abroad and others have been left in their own solitude. The arrests of our loved ones were like acts of kidnapping. We were neither informed of the time of their prosecution nor of where they were held. After they were executed, not only were their wills not given to us, their bodies were not handed over to their families and their burial sites were kept secret. They did not even allow us to mourn our loved ones over these years. They threatened us and they closed off the nameless cemetery where they were buried. At one point they closed off the Khavaran Cemetery to us and at another point they overturned and levelled our loved ones’ graves and broke their gravestones.

We the relatives of the victims of the 1980s continue to face pressure, and while I write this letter I don’t know what fate awaits me after it is published. But, aware of all the possible consequences, I demand that light be shed on the circumstances of the 1988 massacre of prisoners, in particular my sister and brother.

I, Maryam Akbari-Monfared, urge the families of other victims to make the following demands alongside me:

  • Pursuing and prosecuting the perpetrators of the executions of prisoners in the 1980s and the 1988 massacre of prisoners
  • Announcing the names of those buried in mass graves and the Khavaran Cemetery
  • Presenting and publishing the indictments for those who were prosecuted and executed in the 1980s.

Maryam Akbari-Monfared – Evin Prison – 16 October 2016