Amnesty International has launched a campaign to urge Iranian authorities to "stop the imminent destruction" of a mass grave in the southern city of Ahvaz, the capital of the oil-rich Khuzestan Province.
The London-based rights watchdog urged the public to join the campaign on September 4, saying that construction began earlier this year near the site where dozens of prisoners killed during a wave of mass extrajudicial executions in August and September 1988 are buried.
A statement says that recent footage obtained by the organization shows that the site is "gradually being buried beneath piles of construction waste."
Philip Luther, Amnesty International's research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said that bulldozing the mass grave would destroy forensic evidence that could be used to bring those responsible for the executions to justice.
It would also "deprive families of victims of their rights to truth, justice, and reparation, including the right to bury their loved ones in dignity," Luther said.
Amnesty International is calling on people to join the campaign by sending letters and e-mails to the chair of the Ahvaz city council, the secretary-general of Iran's High Council for Human Rights, and the deputy justice minister for human rights and international affairs.
It also suggests promoting the hashtag #MassGraves88 on Twitter and target Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif with tweets.
This is not the only mass grave from the 1988 extrajudicial mass executions of political prisoners said to be at risk of destruction. The London-based rights group Justice for Iran has reported apparent efforts to tamper with a site in the northeastern city of Mashhad, where up to 170 political prisoners are believed to be buried.
"Instead of desecrating the mass grave with piles of rubbish and waste and further tormenting families, who face repression for their efforts to protect the memory of their loved ones, the authorities should be upholding their duty to preserve all Iran's mass-grave sites so that investigations can be carried out into the 1988 extrajudicial executions and other mass killings," Luther said.
Human rights organizations estimate that at least 4,500 people were killed in the summer of 1988 in prisons across Iran, following an unsuccessful armed incursion by the People's Mujahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI or MKO) in July that year.
Political prisoners were rounded up and held incommunicado, with no news of them heard for months afterward. Families were later told their relatives were killed but the bodies were not returned.
No Iranian officials have been investigated and brought to justice for the executions, according to Amnesty International.