London — Iran's Islamic revolution -- once an idealistic and utopian dream of a just society abiding by the rules of the Koran -- has turned into a nightmare for many Iranians.
The attempt to build a democratic and free society out of the embers of the Shah's autocracy has created a new reign of terror -- sometimes systematic and sometimes erratic.
It is a regime that lashes out at both its political and its religious opponents.
From June 20 to July 28 of this year, for instance, Iran's revolutionary authorities publicly announced almost 300 executions -- three-quarters of which were for purely political "crimes." Some circles estimate the number of victims much higher.
The travail of one Iranian family illustrates the new climate. Its encounter with revolutionary "justice" started on Saturday, June 29.
That was the day hundreds of thousands of Tehranis heeded a call by the left-wing Islamic Mujahideen guerrilla organization to protest the ousting of President Bani-Sadr. It was also the day that marked the beginning of a wave of unrestrained, often random terror by the Islamic regime.
The family's 15-year-old boy, who had fought against the Shah, now joined those voicing their concern about the turn their revolution had taken. He never returned home. For weeks his parents stood in vain front of Tehran's notorious Evin Prison and checked the local hospitals.
Reacting to a tip, they visited the Tehran morgue last week to go through the piles of albums with pictures of the executed. Beneath his picture -- with bullet holes in his chest -- was the number of corresponding to the number on his grave at the Behesht-e-Zahra Cemetery.
His execution -- like so any others -- had never been officially announced. A visit to his grave is virtually impossible; the risk is too great of harassment by hezbollahi -- the regime's street thugs calling themselves the Party of God -- and Iran's omnipresent revolutionarry guards.
On July 11, the Marxist underground publication Rah-e- Kagar (the Worker's Way) published a list of 117 names of people executed -- among them 13-year-old Zahra Mohammedi, her 15-year-old sister, and a pregnant woman. Rah-e-Kagar "eyewitnesses" claimed to have counted 250 bodies in the nights June 20-21, when the present wave of executions began.
Another victim at that time was a leader of the now-illegal minority faction of the Marxist Fedayeen, Said Sultanpoor. He had been arrested this spring on his wedding night on charges of planning to smuggle money out of Iran.
Waves of executions also came in the wake of Bani-Sadr's June 22 dismissal and the June 28 bombing of the Tehran headquarters of Iran's dominant Islamic Republican Party. Tehran's revolutionary prosecutor Lajverdi says: "We have increased our capacity, speeded up the process, and grasped the opportunity."
On June 27, the Evin Prison and its offices were closed to the public. Questioned by phone about the reasons, a prison official said: "After all the arrests we have so much to do. We've mobilized all employees to investigate the cases. The prison will be closed till further notice."
Precise estimates of the numbers of those executed both in prison and in the streets of Tehran immediately following the Bani-Sadr ouster are unavailable. Parents of executed children often keep their tragedies to themselves out of fear of persecution.
In many cases, those sentenced to execution who refused to reveal their names to the revolutionary courts remain unidentified and never had a lawyer to defend them.
Says revolutionary prosecutor Lajverdi: "The court does not rule regarding names but personalities. Some of the accused failed to identify themselves to the court, but we tried them upon the evidence and the fatal instruments found on them."
Lajverdi finds nothing wrong in the absence of lawyers for the defense. "The problem is which barrister is ready to run the risk of defamation by defending such people."
Tehran's revolutionary judge Ayatollah Gilani declares nine-year-old girls of age and therefore, if convicted, punishable by execution.
The accusations raised against those facing execution speak for themselves: corruption on earth, waging war against God and His prophet, rebellion against the righteous Imam Khomeini (an accusation tabled for the first time during the past six weeks), sympathy with the ideas of left-wing organizations or direct or indirect contacts with such groups, and even just the intention to participate in demonstrations.
On June 21, Tehran's revolutionary prosecutor-general issued a warning to hospital employees "to assist the masses of the nation and not to collude with counterrevolutionaries." Eyewitnesses report that medical personnel who treated the injured according to the seriousness of their wounds (instead of giving priority to Hezbollahi and revolutionary guards) were beaten.
These witnesses further saw wounded demonstrators being transferred on stretchers to Evin Prison. One revolutionary judge, an ayatollah, let it be known that "killing the halfdead" does not contradict Islamic law.
To many of those who had dedicated their lives to the overthrow of the Shah, repression in the Islamic Republic has become worse than it was in the days of the Shah.
"The regime has gone a step further than the Shah ever did," said the last (June 25) edition of the Mujahid, the Mujahideen publication. The Mujahid pointed out that even in the heyday of repression under the Shah there were limits.
"They [the Mullahs] are more treacherous and barbaric than the Shah ever was, " it said. "Was not the identification of the accused person the most important thing in the torture chambers of the Shah, no matter how long it took? Was it not that when Nixon came we staged demonstrations and even threw stones at his car, and those arrested were sentenced to only three to six months?"
But on July 9, Ayatollah Khomeini referred to the arrests and executions in a speech in which he expressed the hope that "through these godly actions the last remnants of the US will receive new punishment."
He urged the revolutionary courts to act with "revolutionary decisiveness in treating these corrupt elements. In doing this the courts should pay no heed to nonsense uttered by those who do not believe in Islamic jurisprudence."