Home | English | Publications | Witness Testimony | Witness Statement: Amir Atiabi

Witness Statement: Amir Atiabi

39. In the early days of the lockdown, we listened in on a conversation taking place between members of what, we later learned was, the “Death Committee.” The Death Committee initially met in a room in the supplementary ward that was on the first floor above the ground floor (above our ward). This room was perpendicular to our ward. It was summer and the weather was warm. They had left the windows open. We peeked up and listened to their conversation from the cell closest to their meeting room. We heard the Committee members discussing a fatwa8 and how to implement it. We did not know what they were talking about. We were wondering which fatwa they were referring to. (We came to know about Khomeini’s Fatwa years later). They were discussing what to do if the prisoners lied about their real beliefs, and how to render proper judgment under these circumstances.

40. I do not remember what they agreed upon, but I did manage to listen in on a trial session in which a Mojahedin prisoner was being interrogated. Someone asked the Mojahedin prisoner if he was still committed to his political beliefs. He said he was not. Then he was asked whether he would agree to go to the front line and fight against the Iraqi government if he were set free. He said he would. After that he was asked if he had repented for his past activities. He said he had. Next, they asked him if he would reveal the identities of prisoners who pretended to be tavvabs. He said that he did not know anybody who was a pretender. Finally, he was asked if he was ready to execute his nonrepenting wardmates. He said that he could not do this. They sent him out of the room. They wanted him to prove that he was a true tavvab. I could not believe my ears when I heard this exchange.

41. Another time, I overheard a discussion on the logistics of hanging prisoners. One of the members of the Death Committee explained his experience using a crane to hang several prisoners. I later learned from one of the few Mojahedin survivors that prisoners were called six at a time to come forward to be hanged. Several survivors miraculously returned from the gallows after they had been taken there by mistake (and after they had already written up their wills and put their personal belongings (i.e. watches and glasses) in plastic bags). After listening to these conversations, we realized that Mojahedin supporters were being executed in droves. We also realized that many prisoners did not know what was about to happen to them until the very last minute. Even when they faced the gallows, some believed they were simply being threatened with mock executions in order to soften them up for further interrogations.

42. Around the time of these conversations, a senior prison officer came to visit our ward. We guessed that he had been sent to check our mood and determine whether we had a clue as to what was going on around us. He went to each cell and looked at the windows. I will never forget this—as he was checking up on the prisoners, he looked at one of our older ward-mates who was somewhat heavy-set and said: “You have the appropriate weight.” When he said this, we all knew what he meant. He was referring to the impending hangings. I believe the prison guard may have known that we had been exposed to the Death Committee’s conversations. After that, they changed the Death Committee’s meeting location.

43. After the officer’s visit, I started recording extraordinary events on my calendar. I kept the calendar’s existence a secret, and managed to sneak it out with me after I was released from prison. Every time I saw trucks in prison or heard strange sounds, I coded them on my calendar. For example, I marked my calendar two times on August 3, 1988, which means I saw two trucks that night around Husseiniyih Hall. Some days in my calendar are not marked at all, which means that I did not see any activity or hear any strange sound.

8 A fatwa is as religious edict issued by a high-ranking cleric.

« 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 »
  • Email to a friend Email to a friend
  • Print version Print version
  • Plain text Plain text

Tagged as:

Imprisonment, 1988 Prison Massacre, Freedom of Religion