The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), held a news conference on Tuesday to highlight some of the primary reasons for an impending boycott of the Islamic Republic’s presidential election on June 18. The event occurred three days after the election’s seven contenders took part in their first broadcasted debate, which was supposed to focus on economic matters to the exclusion of other issues which are clearly of relevance to the Iranian people.
By omitting these relevant issues, the debate deliberately ignored drawing attention to a pattern of domestic human rights violations that most of the seven countries share. The NCRI’s news conference made up for this omission by giving specifics of the abuses and their implications for the boycott to an international audience of online viewers.
The event, titled “Criminal Record of Candidates in Mullahs’ Sham Election,” included first-hand evidence from surviving victims and families of victims of past atrocities committed in whole or in part by the potential successors to departing President Hassan Rouhani.
The conference understandably focused much of its emphasis on Ebrahim Raisi, the current head of the Iranian judiciary, who is largely seen as the favorite of the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Last month, around 600 people registered with Iran’s Interior Ministry, however the Guardian Council, which is responsible for vetting candidates on compliance to the supreme leader’s will, only permitted Raisi and six others to stand on the ballot.
Over 30,000 political prisoners were killed and buried in secret mass graves between June and September 1988 as part of a campaign to suppress organized opposition, particularly from the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI / MEK Iran). Raisi, who was then Tehran’s deputy public prosecutor, was one of the officials appointed to become a member of the “death commission,” which was in charge of interrogating and execute each political prisoner.
Despite the regime’s previous efforts to eliminate it, the MEK currently leads the NCRI coalition. That is exactly what NCRI activists see as the long-term result of a successful electoral boycott. Last month, Mohammad Mohaddessin, the coalition’s Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, predicted that “the looming nationwide uprising waiting in the wings… will be far more intense and widespread than previous years.”
Mohaddessin was referencing the three widespread protests that occurred between January 2018 and January 2020, and which acted as a display not just for public rejection of the theocratic system, but also for Raisi’s continued dedication to ruthless repression as a way of maintaining the regime’s authority.
In March 2019, Iran’s likely next president assumed control of the judiciary, barely months before the country’s second uprising in November.
Unlike the first uprising, which ended after about a month with dozens of Iranians killed or tortured to death, the second uprising was met with mass shootings that killed 1,500 people in just a few days, followed by at least 12,000 arrests and months of systematic torture, much of which was later described in detail in an Amnesty International report.
Given Raisi’s near-certain victory on June 18, the NCRI has been striving to make his involvement in the 1988 “death commission” a primary topic of discussion and a driving cause for the boycott.
At the same time, the alliance has underlined that none of the alternative candidates provide a better alternative, much less a future of meaningful reform or liberal democracy.