A side-event held at the United Nations Human Rights Council highlighted the findings of the last investigation of the  UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran and the lack of accountability for the atrocity crimes committed by the Islamic Republic.

Professor Javaid Rehman, who was the key speaker at the event, shared the findings of his  newest investigation regarding the plausibility of genocide committed against religious and ethnic minorities, such as Baha’is and Kurds, as well as political prisoners during the 1980s.

“There is evidence that genocide took place in various forms… against religious minorities such as Baha’is and Sunni Kurds, as well as political opponents,” said Professor Javaid Rehman. “The executions of political opponents took because executioners believed that they were religiously ordained, and on the basis of their religion, they executed people.”

“All states have an obligation to hold the Islamic Republic accountable for potential breaches of the UN Genocide Convention. Civil society and independent researchers should continue to fully examine the issue that the Special Rapporteur has raised, in addition to examining the situations against minority groups in Iran, such as the Ahwazi, Baluch, and Kurds, where the horrific rights violations may also rise to the level of genocide,” said Regina Paulose, international criminal lawyer who took part in the event.

The hour-long event, hosted by Justice for Iran and entitled ‘Iran’s Decades of Impunity: from the 80s to Jina Mahsa Amini’, reopened the conversation about the Iranian regime’s lack of accountability for its monumental role in the systematic rape and gender-based violence against female political prisoners.

Rehman had found that many female prisoners were raped before their execution, and a significant number of children were executed. He confirmed that women and girls were targeted specifically because of their gender.

“Even though women from political opposition were targeted, incarcerated and enslaved [as with men], they were specifically sexually targeted. There are many cases of sexual abuse against young girls and women,” Rehman concluded.

“To rape women, in actual practice, was a religious virtue… I came across testimonies where families were subsequently informed by these people who raped these women,” Mr Rehman added on the subject.

Regina Paulose articulated the Iranian regime’s ability to distract from their crimes, pointing to the clemency granted to war criminal and perpetrator of the 1980s massacre, Hamid Nouri.

Nouri was convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Swedish criminal court in 2022. He was freed back to Iran in exchange for Swedish hostages held by the Islamic Republic in June 2024.

In June 1981, amid the Iran-Iraq war, the Islamic Republic of Iran launched a severe crackdown on political opposition, dissidents, and minority communities under the guise of addressing terrorist threats. Hundreds of thousands were arbitrarily arrested, tortured, subjected to summary trials, and sentenced to death or imprisonment by Sharia courts within a year. Thousands were extrajudicially executed or forcibly disappeared, often buried in unmarked graves. Among the detainees were children and young women who suffered gender-based crimes, including rape, sexual assault, and forced marriage, with some virgin girls being raped before execution. Detained children faced severe deprivation, and those left at home experienced stigma, social isolation, and trauma due to the loss or disappearance of their parents.

The event also invited three survivors of the 1980s massacre to speak on their experiences.

Tuba Kamangar, a survivor and former political prisoner, shared a harrowing account of giving birth alone in solitary confinement at the age of 17. Her child was taken away from her for several days and she suffered grave complications from the birth that were not addressed.

Having been arrested due to her support of a Kurdish opposition group, she recounted the harassment her family endured while she was in prison, as well as after.

Nasrin Nekoubakht, a former political prisoner, spoke about having witnessed the Revolutionary Prosecutor at Evin Prison telling the female prisoners that they would be raped before their execution. She heard him say they, “… will not be going to heaven as virgins.”

Fatemeh Pishdadian was the last of the survivors and family members to speak. She talked about her experience as a child who was incarcerated along with her parents, and the aftermath of her parents’ death.

Fatemeh Pishdadian was arrested as an infant and used as the subject of the torture of her parents. She says she was one of many children who were imprisoned alongside with their parents and used in this way.

Although her mother was executed and her father died under torture, Fatemeh Pishdadian spoke about fighting to be their voices.

Paulose emphasised the relevance of the past to the current situation. “It must be recognised that the regime of the 1980s is the same regime of today. The crimes of 1980 and the crimes of 2022 are not disconnected,” she stated.

The event which took place on the 19th of March were attended by the representatives of the UN member states, including from Canada, the Netherlands, Lichtenstein and Switzerland and UN human rights mechanisms. The side-event took place in the 56th Session of the Human Rights Council, and prior to the publication of the Special Rapporteur’s conference room paper on the 1980s atrocity crimes in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Javaid Rehman’s report is to be published in early July 2024.

Justice for Iran made a statement to the HRC, reiterating the need for an impartial investigative mechanism in order to break the cycle of impunity. Justice for Iran called for achieving justice for all victims of human rights violations in Iran in the past 45 years.

Watch the full panel here.

Watch the video recording of the statement to the HRC here.