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Orange County

Speakers Say Iran Ignores Killings

Human rights: Group meeting in Costa Mesa wants regime to take responsibility for deaths of an estimated 30,000 political prisoners.

September 02, 2002|EVAN HALPER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Hamid Ershad didn't need to see the video playing before a shocked crowd of 300 at an Iranian human rights conference in Costa Mesa on Sunday. He witnessed the horrors being shown on the screen firsthand: the mob violence, the stonings, the whippings.

When he lived in Tehran, Ershad was thrown into jail in 1974. He was released during the 1979 revolution but said Islamic radicals were about to throw him in jail again and torture him--or worse--when he fled to the United States.

On Sunday, Ershad joined others for the Mission for Establishment of Human Rights in Iran conference hoping to raise awareness about ongoing rights violations in Iran, even at a time of supposed reform.

"A lot of people don't know what is still going on there," said Ershad, 54, who lives in Venice Beach.

The conference focused on the massacres of the Islamic regime in Iran in the summer of 1988, when human rights groups estimate that 30,000 political prisoners were killed. The organizers pointed out that many in the administration of President Mohammad Khatami held positions of power during those massacres and have yet to denounce them.

"Why is the West trying to appease a regime responsible for the massacre of thousands of people?" asked Mohammad Parvin, the founder of the group that held the conference. "Have we heard even one word from [Khatami] condemning stoning? The number of people stoned to death has been heightened under Khatami."

A keynote speaker at the conference was Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove), who promised to fight against warming relations with Iran if it means ignoring human rights abuse. "We know human rights are abused in Iran, and it must stop," she said.

Sanchez also demanded accountability for the massacres. "The mass murder of thousands of political prisoners in 1988 must be recognized by the world as a crime against humanity," she said.

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