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Watchdogs Accuse Iran Of Paving Over Mass Grave Sites


A site in the southern Iranian city of Ahvaz that is believed to be a mass grave of victims killed in extrajudicial executions in 1988. (file photo)

Iran is deliberately destroying or concealing mass graves of victims from a 1988 spate of extrajudicial executions of political detainees, according to a new report by the nongovernmental watchdog Amnesty International and the London-based Justice For Iran.

The April 30 report alleges Tehran is erecting buildings or constructing roads over at least seven locations where some of the estimated 5,000 victims of the political purge are believed to have been buried.

Amnesty International experts based their assessment on satellite imagery and testimony of eyewitnesses at the sites in Iran's Gilan, East Azerbaijan, Kurdistan, Khuzestan, Khorasan Razavi, and Tehran provinces.

"The actions include: bulldozing; hiding the mass graves beneath new, individual burial plots; constructing concrete slabs, buildings, or roads over the mass graves; and turning the mass grave sites into rubbish dumps," the report states. "In at least three cases, the authorities appear to be planning actions that would further damage the mass graves."

The executions came at the end of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, which left more than 1 million people dead. When Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini accepted a UN-brokered cease-fire in July 1988, members of an Iranian opposition group called the Mujahedeen-e Khalq, which was based in Iraq and armed by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, launched a surprise attack against Iran.

The attack was used as a pretext to round up political opponents who were sent to be executed by "death commissions." International rights monitors estimate a total of 5,000 people were killed, while the Mujahedeen-e Khalq says the real figure was 30,000.

Tehran has never openly acknowledged the executions, which are believed to have been ordered by Khomeini.

"It has not become a part of history yet," Justice For Iran Executive Director Shadi Sadr told the Associated Press. "As long as those responsible for the crimes are still in power…it's not something that belongs to the past."

With reporting by AP
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