Sholeh Pakravan: 20 June 1981, a turning point in Iran’s history

Sholeh Pakravan: 20 June 1981, a turning point in Iran’s history

Published by on June 21, 2017

In a letter published on social media, Mrs Sholeh Pakravan*, mother of executed Rayhaneh Jabbari, recalls her memories of 20 June 1981 when a peaceful demonstration of hundreds of thousand people turned into a bloodbath by a notorious command of the then Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini. Excerpts of her letter is translated below:

Today is the day when we remember political prisoners, both those executed over the past decades, and those who are held in prison right now.

Back in that day (20 June 1981) I was no older than a teen. The day when fire was opened on demonstrators, following which only the names of young girls and boys who were executed were published in newspapers. The day that became a turning point in the history of our people’s struggle for freedom.

What started years later by civil activists, was once again faced with a wave of repression, capture, and even massacre.
Back then, I had no idea what arrest and execution meant. For me, they were just two words the huge pain hidden within which I didn’t understand. I was unaware and now I’m ashamed of my unawareness.

Years should have passed, years that I sat behind court doors, to understand what oppression really means; what injustice really means. Years should have passed, years that I myself waited behind prison doors to learn the meaning of frustration, to understand the meaning of death penalty, and to feel the pain of losing a family member through execution.

When I say I am ashamed of my unawareness, I mean if I, we, voiced solidarity with those victims back then, maybe we could have prevented such inhumane laws from being legislated.

Getting informed of the situation the prisoners and their families are living in is a duty to be shouldered by all and every single person in society, so we won’t be ashamed in coming decades.

Informing the community is now being done to some extent thanks to social media, although more could have been done in this regard.

Justice seeking by families will continue until all gallows are sent to museums and prisoners of conscience are only history. Until prisoners of conscience and the death penalty are still in place, we will keep commemorating victims of injustice year after year, without making any change in the fate of today’s children and tomorrow’s prisoners, today’s teens and tomorrow’s food for execution machine.

It’s been years the judiciary has been standing against people’s legitimate demands.

Several decades have passed while we have witnessed how people’s bodies and souls were subject to more chains, so much so that today we see amputations, flogging, and executions carried out in public, labor activists tortured, and hundreds more instances of hostility against humanity.

Right when embezzlement, plundering, and murder scandals of regime heads were revealed during election debates, Esmaeil Abdi was on hunger strike, protesting about teachers’ lost rights.

When ministers and lawyers were hypocritically smiling and shaking hands with international officials, Jafar Azimzadeh, Arash Sadeghi, Saeid Shirzad, Rajabian brothers, and dozens more prisoners were refusing to eat, shouting justice by sacrificing their health.

When they were bragging about signing citizenship rights, Atena Daemi was fighting to prevent families of prisoners from being taken hostage to shut the protesting prisoner’s mouth.

When the same laws, injustice, and repression methods have been going on over the past four decades, it is on us to look for other ways to realize the lost rights and establish justice, so that we would no longer be ashamed in front of future generations, executed youth, and fallen loved ones of our recent history.

I, as someone who lost her loved one through execution, will not remain silent and continue to seek justice until those who killed my innocent child are put on a fair trial. On the way ahead, I will stand by thousands of other justice seekers to shout justice, abolition of death penalty, prohibition of torture, and call for release of prisoners of conscience.

Long live freedom, long live life. No more execution, in any form and for any excuse.

*Mrs Sholeh Pakravan is a human rights activist and an anti-death-penalty campaigner. Her daughter, Reyhaneh Jabbari, was hanged on 25 October 2014, after seven years of imprisonment at age 26, for defending herself against rape by a high-ranking official of the Intelligence Ministry who had posed as a client for interior decoration.   


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Dear Secretary General of United Nations,

The number of executions is rising in Iran, journalists are being detained for doing their job and activists face cruel and degrading punishments, long prison terms and even execution. According to the most recent reports by Amnesty International and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, “Iran’s judiciary continues to sentence child offenders to death, and carry out their execution by hanging”. Also, on August 9th, 2016 the son of late Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, Khomeini’s designated successor in 1988, published a shocking audio tape of his father’s meeting with the “Death Commission” which summarily and extra-judicially executed tens of thousands of political prisoners held in jails across Iran. The massacre was carried out on the basis of a fatwa by the regime’s then-Supreme Leader Khomeini.

We, the undersigned, hereby urge you to take up this issue and raise it in the General Assembly in order to;

1. Put pressure on Iran to immediately halt the executions and abolish death penalty in Iran.
2. Call on all Western governments to make any improvement in economic relations with Iran contingent on its human rights record.
3. Demand in its resolution on human rights violations in Iran, to bring the perpetrators of 1988 massacre (one of the worst atrocities the post-war world has ever seen – Geoffrey Robertson-QC) to justice before an international tribunal.

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