The faces of thousands of people killed by the Iranian regime were featured in a photo exhibit outside of Capitol Hill on Friday.
“Today’s exhibit of pictures of 120,000 fallen for freedom in Iran manifests the Iranian people’s resolve for freedom while urging the international community to apply maximum pressure on the regime, including referring its human rights record to the U.N. Security Council,” Ramesh Sepehrrad, an advisory board member for the Organization of Iranian American Communities, told the Washington Examiner.
The OIAC, which put on the event, is based in the United States and is tied to the National Council of Resistance of Iran, a leading dissident organization working to overthrow the Iranian regime.
The regime’s killing of political prisoners in the 1980s, particularly in 1988, was a major focus. That year, thousands of activists who spoke out against the regime were secretly and summarily executed without trials. Among the faces were some of the estimated 1,500 who were killed during the mass protests against the regime in November 2019.
The event featured a bipartisan slate of speakers, including Republican Reps. John Katko of New York and Debbie Lesko of Arizona and Democratic Reps. Steve Cohen of Tennessee, Angie Craig of Minnesota, and Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois.
Maryam Rajavi, the leader of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, also spoke at the event. She said the thousands of photos “depicts only a small part of the crimes and terrorism committed by the ruling religious fascist regime.”
She added, “I have continually called on the international community to condemn the clerical regime and to take urgent action to stop the executions.”
One of the speakers, Lincoln Bloomfield, touched on Navid Afkari, an Iranian champion wrestler who was given two death sentences for his participation in protests against inflation in 2018. President Trump drew attention to Afkari on Thursday when he asked the leaders of Iran to spare the 27-year-old’s life over Twitter. Bloomfield said the world needed to stand by those like Afkari.
“They have sentenced Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari to death and his brothers to decades in prison for standing in protests. These are brave people, ladies and gentlemen. Let’s stand with them,” Bloomfield told those watching the event. Most were doing so virtually.
Bloomfield, who served as a national security official in the administrations of former Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush, told the Washington Examiner in an interview after his speech that the killings carried out by Iran in 1988 should be better publicized and more well-known than they are.
“This is one of the worst crimes against humanity since World War II,” Bloomfield said. He noted that while the world was largely left in the dark during the worst of the 1980s killings, “there’s a lot of evidence in 2020 that didn’t exist” at the time of the executions.
Bloomfield said that many of the judges who gave the orders to kill various dissidents in 1988 are now the people leading the country and its judiciary, and he compared the atrocious nature of the executions to the Bataan Death March.
“The guilty are sitting there exercising power,” Bloomfield said. He said the international community should be working together to document the past actions of the Iranian regime.
Bloomfield added that while various governments disagree about the nuances of the Iran nuclear deal, arms embargoes, and other international treaties, “one thing they’ve never disagreed on is what to do about major crimes against humanity. Whether it’s Hitler or Pol Pot or the former Yugoslav leaders, they have gone to justice, and that’s what needs to happen now.”
The event comes the same week as human rights group Amnesty International released an 80-page report detailing Iran’s torture and killing of its own citizens during the November 2019 protests. Earlier this summer, the U.S. State Department branded Iran as the “foremost state sponsor of terrorism” in its annual Country Reports on Terrorism.
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