On August 3, the new president of Iran was inaugurated. Ebrahim Raisi embodies the totalitarian regime’s cruelty and violence, spreading killing and destruction inside Iran and the region. Two of my six brothers were executed by Iran’s religious totalitarian regime in the 1988 massacre. Raisi was one of the most instrumental members of the Death Committees that contributed to this massacre. The Death Committees implemented the historic and inhumane fatwa of Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic. The fatwa ordered them to eliminate anyone opposing the regime, particularly the Mojahedin. Raisi is known as the executioner of 88 inside Iran. His installment as Iran’s new president is Khamenei’s desperate attempt to control Iran for his dying regime.
The smiling and childish face of my 17-year-old brother is etched in my heart. He has become part of my being. All Seyyed Mohammad Hossein Borhani, who was in his fourth year of high school, wanted was to express his opinion. He was distributing the Mojahedin – the publication of the Mojahedin Khalq Organization – in the streets and back alleys of Qazvin, a city west of Tehran. On March 25, 1981, he was arrested for selling the Mojahedin paper and was executed in 1988, one of more than 30,000.
My other brother, Seyed Ahmad Borhani, was arrested in August 1981 and sentenced to 15 years. His crime was his affiliation with the Mojahedin. After multiple prison transfers, he was executed along with 30,000 political prisoners. During his time in prison, he suffered continuous brutal torture and harassment. Most prisoners were executed because of their affiliation with the Mojahedin, their belief in freedom, and opposing the oppressive regime slaughtering freedom. Raisi played a crucial role in one of the Death Committees, which issued a death sentence for prisoners like my 17-year-old brother in just a matter of minutes. It is not without reason that Khamenei has chosen him to be the president, hoping to strengthen its suppressive apparatus.
According to Amnesty International, unfortunately, impunity prevails in my country, Iran. I am the only one left from a family of 10. My four brothers were executed before the 1988 massacre, and my two brothers and my brother’s wife (Mohammad Mehdi Borhani) were executed in the 1988 massacre of political prisoners. My father, a cleric, was stripped of his clerical outfit for opposing the regime, which made religion a tool for its power. My father died due to the pressures of prison. My mother passed away from grief at the loss of her children.
In 1975, my older brother Seyyed Mohammad Mehdi Borhani, a professor of philosophy and fluent in five living languages, was arrested for his political involvement against the Shah’s dictatorship. He was imprisoned for seven years and subjected to severe torture. He was very popular in our hometown of Qazvin, west of Tehran. He was a member of the Mojahedin organization. He was arrested again in 1982, imprisoned, and tortured. After he was executed, my family did not know where he was buried. All we heard was that many victims of the 1988 massacre were buried in the Khavaran area.
My other brother, Seyed Mohammad Ali Borhani, was a student at the Shahroud University of Mines. He was a genius and had taken several challenging classes together. During his first year of university, he transferred to the University of Tehran as an assistant professor. His first arrest was in 1978 for opposing the Shah’s regime. After Khomeini’s so-called Cultural Revolution in 1979, professors opposing the regime were expelled, including my brother. He was arrested for his activities and affiliation with the Mojahedin. Twenty days after his arrest, he faced mock execution five times, was subjected to horrific torture, and the guards used cigarettes to etch “Death to the hypocrites” on his body. Hypocrites are the name the regime uses for Mujahedin.
He was shot dead with four others at 4:00 a.m. on September 9, 1981, after repeated torture at the age of 24. The news of his execution was immediately reported in the newspapers. His body was handed over to his family because we agreed not to hold a memorial service.
My other brother, Seyyed Mohammad Mofid Borhani, also a political activist during the Shah’s reign, joined the Mojahedin after the 1979 revolution. In 1981, the arrests and executions of members and supporters of the Mojahedin began, so he started a secret life. In August 1988, he was martyred in a clash with the Revolutionary Guards.
My youngest brother, Seyyed Mohammad Hassan Borhani, who was 15 years old, sold the Mujahedin newspaper. He was a very talented student and had earned several scholarships. He was an expert painter of produced elaborate handicrafts. On June 20, the Revolutionary Guards thugs attacked his newspaper stand, arrested him and his friends, imprisoned and tortured them. He was kept in prison for four years with no charges. He was released in 1985 and decided to leave the country to join the Mujahedin. While crossing the border in 1988, he was killed by regime border security.
Khamenei appointed the executioner of the Mojahedin as “president” while chanting of “death for the dictator” occurs throughout Iran. Raisi’s presidency put an end to any illusion of moderates or reformists in this regime. A low turnout of less than 10 percent in the regime’s recent presidential election in June 2021 is undoubtedly the result of numerous uprisings that began in 2017 and have been going on throughout Iran, especially in recent weeks. The Iranian people want a republic where the separation of religion and state, the freedom of religions and sects, gender equality, and a non-nuclear Iran, free of weapons of mass destruction, will be its hallmarks. Khamenei is vigorously trying to postpone another widespread uprising by continuing to ban the import of Covid-19 vaccines, resulting in human casualties in Iran.
The Western countries’ policy of appeasement with the religious fascism ruling Iran is not only fruitless but also undermines the values of Western democracy. The international community must stand by the Iranian people and the resistance of Iran. They desire to establish a democratic republic based on the votes of the people and the separation of religion and state.
*Khadijeh Borhani is a former political prisoner