Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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The Judiciary

Ayatollah Khomeini's Decree Ordering the Execution of Prisoners 1988

Ayatollah Khomeini
Ayatollah Montazeri
July 28, 1988
Official document

Source : Memoirs of Ayatollah Montazeri, the then appointed successor to Ruhollah Khomeini the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The English translation of this document was published in Crime Against Humanity, by the National Council of Resistance of the Iran Foreign Affairs Committee.

Introductory note

The National Council of Resistance is a political organization close to the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI). A revolutionary leftist group, with Islamic tendency, PMOI was founded in the 1960's as a guerilla force against the Pahlavi regime. In 1979 it rallied with Ayatollah Khomeini and supported the Islamic Revolution. It also supported the revolutionary tribunals in the beginning of the revolution and the hostage taking in the American Embassy. In 1981, PMOI joined the opposition to the Islamic Republic. This rupture with revolutionary Iran resulted in a violent crackdown against all the opposition groups. Iran was henceforth under the rule of terror. Thousands of PMOI and other opposition militants and sympathizers were arrested and summarily executed, and thousands were given prison sentences. In 1988, the leadership of the PMOI, based in Iraq, launched a military attack against the Islamic Republic. Khomeini used this attack as a pretext to liquidate the imprisoned militants who had nothing to do with the attack and who had been in detention for years. The victims were not only the members or sympathizers of PMOI; they also included nonviolent leftist militants of other organizations. In a few months, thousands were secretly executed in Iranian prisons. There names were never published officially, and the regime denied the fact.

The following document is the written order by Ayatollah Khomeini that initiated the prison massacre. This letter was published in the memoirs of his presumptive successor, Ayatollah Montazeri, himself one of the founders of the Islamic Republic. Montazeri protested against the prison massacre and was sacked by Khomeini in retaliation in the spring of 1989.

Montazeri :What prompted me to write the letter (of protest against the massacre of prisoners) was that at the time (in 1988) certain people had decided to liquidate the Mojahedin and get rid of them once and for all. They received a letter from the Imam stating that all individuals from the Mojahedin who have been in prison from any time in the past must be executed if a majority of three-man panel composed of the prosecutor, the religious judge, and an intelligence Ministry representative in any area vote that the prisoner is holding firmly to his belief. In other words, if two out of the three members of the panel thought that prisoner X was still supporting the Mojahedin, even if he had been sentenced previously to one or two or five years or more in prison, he must be executed. The Imam's letter was undated, but it was written on a Thursday. On Saturday, a religious judge brought me a copy and was extremely distressed. I read the letter. It was very sharply written in response to the Mojahedin's operation and it was said to be in [Khomeini's son] Haj Ahmad's handwriting.

Imam Khomeini's letter in connection with the execution of "steadfast" Monafeqin [Mojahedin] in prisons

In the Name of God,

The Compassionate, the Merciful,

As the treacherous Monafeqin [Mojahedin] do not believe in Islam and what they say is out of deception and hypocrisy, and as their leaders have confessed that they have become renegades, and as they are waging war on God, and as they are engaging in classical warfare in the western, the northern and the southern fronts, and as they are collaborating with the Baathist Party of Iraq and spying for Saddam against our Muslim nation, and the as they are tied to the World Arrogance, and in light of their cowardly blows to the Islamic Republic since its inception, it is decreed that those who are in prison throughout the country and remain steadfast in their support for the Monafeqin [Mojahedin], are waging war on God and are condemned to execution.

The task of implementing the decree in Tehran is entrusted to Hojjatol-Islam Nayyeri, the religious judge, Mr. Eshraqi, the Tehran prosecutor, and a representative of the Intelligence Ministry.

Even though a unanimous decision is better, the view of a majority of the three must prevail. In prisons in the provinces, the views of a majority of a trio consisting f the religious judge, the revolutionary prosecutor, and the Intelligence Ministry representative must be obeyed. It is naive to show mercy to those who wage war on God. The decisive way in which Islam treats the enemies of God is among the revolutionary rage and vengeance toward the enemies of Islam, you would achieve the satisfaction of the Almighty God. Those who are making the decisions must not hesitate, nor show any doubt or be concerned with details. They must try to be "most ferocious against infidels."

To have doubts about matters of revolutionary Islam is to ignore the pour blood of martyrs.

Ruhollah Moussavi Khomeini

The preceding letter (writes Montazeri) in his memoirs is not dated, but Haj Ahmad has written on the back of the original decree:

My Pre-eminent Father, His Eminence the Imam,

With greetings, [Chief Justice] Ayatollah Moussavi Ardebili has telephoned to raise three ambiguities about your Eminence's recent decree on the Monafeqin [Mojahedin]:

Does the decree apply to those who have been in prison, who have already been tried and sentenced to death, but have not changed their stance and the verdict has not yet been carried out, or are those who have not yet been tried are also condemned to death?

Those Monafeqin [Mojahedin] prisoners who have received limited jail terms, and who have already served part of their terns, but continue to hold fast to their stance in support of the Monafeqin [Mojahedin], are they also condemned to death?

In reviewing the status of the Monafeqin [Mojahedin] prisoners, is it necessary to refer the cases of Monafeqin [Mojahedin] prisoners in counties that have an independent judicial organ to the provincial center or can the county's judicial authorities act autonomously?

Your son,


Underneath the letter, the Imam's reply was written:

In the name of God, the Most High,

In all the above cases, if the person at any stage or at any time maintains his [or her] support for the Monafeqin [Mojahedin], the sentence is execution. Annihilate the enemies of Islam immediately. As regards the cases, use whichever criterion that speeds up the implementation of the verdict.

Ruhollah Moussavi Khomeini