Ali Khomeini, a grandson of revolutionary leader and Islamic Republic of Iran founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, has defended thousands of summary executions of political prisoners in 1988 following a fatwa by his grandfather.
Some sources claim that more than 5,000 members of the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) and further leftist groups, students, and others were executed in the span of a few months. The prisoners were said to have been executed after brief interrogations by three-member committees -- dubbed "death commissions" -- about their political and religious beliefs.
Speaking at a June 1 event in Qom marking the anniversary of Ayatollah Khomeini's death, Ali Khomeini, a cleric, suggested that the executions of political opponents, particularly MKO members, was a wise move.
"Today, some people feel sorry for the hypocrites" -- a term used by Iranian authorities to refer to MKO members -- "and say, 'Why did you execute them?' These were people who stood against the establishment and committed crimes that [militant Islamist group Islamic State] would not commit," the younger Khomeini was quoted as saying by Iranian media.
"They assassinated the president, the prime minister, and many other senior figures," Khomeini, who teaches at the Qom seminary, said in reference to a series of bombings by the MKO in the 1980s.
Known in Iran as "The Little Ali," Khomeini added that if his grandfather had shown flexibility toward them, "the country would not experience any peace even after 30 years."
He also claimed that Khomeini’s "management" of the crisis -- he was the country's first supreme leader under Iran's postrevolutionary theocracy -- that Iran faced following the 1979 revolution brought peace to the country.
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (1900-1989)
"Maybe several years ago, it wasn’t as easy as today to speak about the management of The Imam," he said of the elder Khomeini in an allusion to the "Arab spring" uprisings for social justice that swept some states in the Middle East and northern Africa in 2010-11 but many critics say were reversed in what some dub an "Arab winter." "It’s easier to speak about it today."
"Who today has a clear idea of the fate of those revolutions? Beside it, we have to look at why Iran’s Islamic revolution was successful." He said, according to the text of his speech published by the hard-line, semiofficial Fars news agency.
The 1988 executions are rarely discussed publicly in Iran, where families of the victims have faced state pressure and harassment for attempting to hold commemorations for their lost loved ones.
Amnesty International has called on Iran "to uphold the right to truth, justice and reparation of the families of those killed" in the 1988 executions, which the rights group said will remain known to Iranians as The Prison Massacre.