Sept. 28 (UPI) -- While international leaders are making lofty speeches at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, during their "virtual" annual conference this week, the Iranian regime has plumbed the depths of depravity by torturing and executing young political prisoners who were arrested during the nationwide uprisings in 2018 and 2019.
On Sept. 12, they hanged 27-year-old Navid Afkari, a champion wrestler and a celebrity in Iran. He had been detained along with his two brothers for participating in street protests in the city of Shiraz in 2018. Afkari was brutally tortured for 50 days then forced to make a false, televised confession. His burial was restricted to only half a dozen close family members and heavily policed to prevent further mass demonstrations from Iranians outraged by his execution.
Seventeen Nobel laureates signed a statement condemning Afkari's execution. Now many other political prisoners, tortured into making confessions, have been transferred to death row to await execution.
Resistance units inside Iran have uncovered the scandalous extent of torture and human rights abuse directed mainly at political prisoners and particularly at the thousands of young people detained during the nationwide uprising across Iran last November. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the theocratic regime's Gestapo, has utilized its Intelligence Division to set up a network of temporary and secret torture centers across Iran to deal with the huge number of arrested protesters. In Shiraz, the city where Afkari was brutalized and executed, the secret torture center has been identified in the Ebrat building.
Over 12,000 political prisoners, many of whom were children or teenagers under the age of 18, who were arrested following the November uprising, were taken to Ebrat and other secret torture centers across Iran for brutal beatings, agonizing electric shock torture, mock executions and whippings to force them to make false confessions, after which they were transferred to prisons such as Gohardasht, Evin and Greater Tehran (Fashafuyeh) for detention and possible execution.
Secret torture centers have been identified at Shahriar Security Police Center and Gisha Security Police base, among a long list of others. Many prisoners who were severely wounded by torture, by having their fingernails pulled out, or bones broken, were denied medical attention after their wounds became infected. Dozens who were wounded by gunshots during the protests, when the IRGC and security forces fired live ammunition into the crowds, killing 1,500 and wounding thousands, were dragged from their hospital beds by the security forces. They were taken to the network of secret torture centers, where they were tied, blindfolded and assaulted for days on end. Some died under torture.
These are depraved crimes against humanity of the worst kind. It is incredible that medieval tortures and executions are continuing, even as leaders of the international community participate in the U.N. General Assembly in New York, making noble speeches about human rights. It is a scandalous indictment of the international community's failure to hold the Islamic Republic to account for these crimes and indeed for the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, one of the worst atrocities since the end of World War II.
It is thought-provoking that the United Nations recently sent an independent mission of investigation to Venezuela, resulting in a harsh and condemnatory report accusing the Nicolás Maduro regime of human rights abuse in that country. While that action was commendable, it is bewildering that no such similar action has been directed at the Iranian regime, where the abuse of human rights is much, much worse than in Venezuela.
At a time when both Amnesty International and the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights have furnished the U.N. Secretary General with detailed reports on the abuse of human rights ongoing in Iran, urgent action needs to be taken. The United Nations must instruct an independent mission of investigation to visit political prisoners in Iran and demand their immediate release. They must urge individual member states of the United Nations, particularly from European countries, to instruct their ambassadors in Tehran to visit political prisoners and to call for an end to torture and execution. The world cannot stand idly by and watch this horror unfold.
Twenty-one human rights groups have issued a joint appeal to the United Nations to launch an investigation into the 1988 massacre of political prisoners in Iran. The massacre, which led to the execution of more than 30,000 political prisoners, primarily members of the opposition People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), has never been investigated and the perpetrators have never been held to account. Many of the key executioners from 1988 are now in positions of power in the clerical regime.
Key among them is Ebrahim Raisi, the regime's current judiciary chief. In 1988, he was Tehran's deputy prosecutor and a key member of Tehran's "Death Commission," a group of regime officials who carried out minutes-long trials for the prisoners being sent to the gallows. Alireza Avaie, a member of the Death Commission in Khuzestan, is today justice minister in President Hassan Rouhani's government. His two predecessors, who held office in the previous eight years, Mustafa Pour-Mohammadi and Morteza Bakhtiari, were also members of the Death Commissions.
Surely this is a wake-up call for the United Nations. The time for fine words is long past and the time for action has arrived. The United Nations must stop dithering. There must be no impunity for those past and present crimes. The guilty must be indicted for crimes against humanity and brought before the international criminal courts. As the U.N. General Assembly continues in New York, the world is watching.
Struan Stevenson is the coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change. He was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), president of the Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and chairman of the Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14). He is an international lecturer on the Middle East and is also president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association.