New Year with Continuing Protest in Iran

December 22, 2018 by  

Shahrokh Ahkami Persian Heritage, No 92, Winter 2018

I send my heartfelt greetings for the upcoming New Year to all of our supporters and readers in Iran and the Diaspora. May the New Year bring us all health, prosperity, equality, compassion and a peaceful planet. I pray for the innocent whose heartbreaking voices coming out of Iran are clearly heard; people yearning for their rights as human beings. I was hoping that I could write more pleasant news for this editorial. Unfortunately, the news out of Iran is more conflicting and disturbing. Sparkles of hope have diminished with President Trump’s and his administration’s threatening and divisive language. This, combined with Iran’s oppressive government, has made life more confusing and discouraging for the people. Demonstrations, incarcerations, executions, unemployment, inflation, bankruptcies, the closing of factories, a bankrupt banking system and hunger are what Iranians face today. The underprivileged and middle-class citizens are becoming disheartened. And, if this is not enough the country has been ravished with severe storms and earthquakes. How much can people endure? How close are they to a breakdown? How close are they to giving up? So many other citizens and countries have collapsed with much less pressure? My anxiety for the people of Iran subsides a bit when I think of the history of their fortitude. How proud they are of their country and their determination to achieve. I pray that grows stronger, for it is the basis of their survival. 

It is now the twentieth anniversary of the serial chain murders of writers, poets, professors, politicians and liberals in Iran. I felt compelled to address this. It seems relevant, since over the past few weeks the world, young and old, are obsessing and are appalled with the recent assassination and butchering of an Arab born, American resident. It is perplexing to me that most of us don’t know the names of our neighbors, yet because of the constant coverage of his assassination Mr. Khashoggi has become a household name. The news of his disappearance and murder was like a bomb that exploded, not only in the US, but throughout the world. President Trump, using the excuse of American interest in the region and the hundred-billion-dollar deal with the Arabs, tried to disregard the truth of this atrocity. This behavior has shocked the nation! But where is the shock and media coverage of the daily bombing by the Saudis of innocent civilians in Yemen? Where is the shock and coverage of the starvation of innocent men, women and children in Yemen? Where is the shock and coverage over the women killed by bullets and bombs? The press, except for news sources in Persian, do not cover these atrocities nor of the butchering and killing of Iranians by the hands of the cruel present Iranian regime.

 This takes us back to the twentieth anniversary of the chain murders, (this is the term used to describe serial murders and disappearances.) We never heard or read information from the beginning of the revolution on the shooting of General Gharani, Ayatollah Mottahhari and Taleghani who allegedly suffered and died from a sudden heart attack. Nor do we read or hear about the death of Dr. Sami, who was the head of the Ministry of Health and the pioneer in introducing universal health in Iran. He was knifed and his skull was broken while in his office seeing patients.

These chain murders also included former Prime Minister Bakhtiar and a friend who were knifed and butchered in Paris; General Oveissi, Reza Mazlouman killed in Paris; the Mykonos Restaurant assassinations in Germany that killed three Iranian Kurdish opposition leaders and their translators; and in Tehran, the butchering and knifing of Dariush Forouhar and his wife Parvaneh Forouhar, who at the beginning of the revolution played an important role in the talks of not allowing the separation of Kurdestan. There was also the series of murders of scholars and writers like Mohammad Mokhtari and many others. They were choked to death; their butchered bodies were left to rot on the side of the road outside of the city in order for people to find their corpses and report their murders to the authorities. 

Sadly, I remember Mr. Saidi Sirjani, an admired journalist and writer. God bless his soul., Mr. Saidi Sirjani came to the United States early in the revolution. We were together at a mutual friend’s house. During that visit Mr. Sirjani (who was an avid skeptic and cynic of the regime in Iran) invited all who loved Iran to return and serve their homeland. He was heavily criticized by many as a collaborator of the regime after he returned to his beloved country. Following a letter that criticized the leadership of the revolution he was placed in prison and then assassinated allegedly by a cyanide suppository (still questioned.) Many young activists, who could have made great strides for the country, after spending time in prison for distribution of propaganda against the policies of the regime, were murdered. They are left behind without tombstones or names in a cemetery called Khavaran. Public hangings of many, in the name of theft and robberies, was another way to suppress or destroy oppositional voices. 

It is now surprising that for the first time in twenty years we see more clearly that the government admitted responsibility for some of the atrocities and some of the assassinations exercised against oppositional forces. If we parallel the case of Khashoggi with these chain murders, there is a pattern. That pattern is leadership never taking responsibility for their acts but rather blaming the underdog. The underdog is then sentenced to years in prison and/or even executed. Another pattern that is noticed in these serial chain murders is the use of suicide. With this type of death, the parties are visibly known as martyrs, covering the real source of their demise. According to one foreign source “Deutsche Welle” recently the serial chain murders in Iran, after twenty years have been acknowledge as open wound. 

When we reflect back on the last thirty-nine years post the revolution we are confronted by apathy and regret. The Revolution “right or wrong” began by many innocent young souls. Its purpose was to fight for freedom and the betterment of Iran. They wanted to improve Iran’s policies. This Revolution was hijacked by corrupt and brutal individuals who while on their path to power and dominance destroyed anyone or anything in its way.

Their path was paved with an eight-year war that killed over one million innocent young people who believed they fought for martyrdom and the protection of their homeland. Their path included a bankrupt economy, a hostage crisis, a corrupt government under Ahmadinejad. It also included the disappearance of eight hundred billion dollars of oil money, that reappeared in foreign banks, investments in bankrupt countries such as Venezuela and the extravagant travels of Ahmadinejad and his clan to third world countries all in the name of so called “ brotherhood.” 

Today the doors of the outside world have been slammed shut to Iran and Iranians. Even countries like Russia and China only look out for their own interest by filling the pockets of the corrupt leadership of present Iran. 

A government that stated they looked out for the underprivileged and to serve the people has in fact made them poorer, less fortunate and hungrier. It instead has filled the pockets of its corrupt system and individuals, who are heartless and deceitful. I pray that all faith has NOT left the hearts of all, even the believers who truly believed in the leadership of Iran. I pray that all hope is NOT gone. But I am frightened that the voice in my prayers is softer and weaker.

Remembering and recalling these series of events is heartbreaking and disgraceful. I still hope for the day, when this chapter of Iran’s history is ended, and it becomes only a history learning lesson. A lesson the Germans took to heart. The horrific government of the Nazi’s under Hitler’s rule left the German people embarrassed and beaten. They were looked at by the outside world as Nazi’s not Germans. This hindered the youth from achieving. They then changed. They focused on their love for their country, not the despicable acts of Nazi leadership. Iranians, especially its youth MUST do the same. They, like the Germans MUST have a new clear vision for Iran.  Germans do not make any connection to their past, as a matter of fact they refer to that leadership as Nazis (outsider, not German). Nazi’s and Germans are referred to as two separate entities and are not associated with one another. 

I hope the day is soon when Iranians will isolate the old from the new and no longer allow themselves to be identified by the hateful behaviors of their past and present rulers. I hope the day is near when the outside world will again respect and love Iranians for their humanity. I hope the day is near when Iranians can travel freely to seek a higher education, to see family and friends. I hope the day is near when Iranians are not referred to as terrorists. I hope the day is near when the invisible walls that isolate Iran are removed. I hope the day is near when, the doors that were slammed shut to them, are reopened to freedom and hospitality. Many times, I have written on the pages of my editorial that the government of Iran is not representative of its people. This distinction is crucial to the survival of the humanity of Iranians. 

Again, I wish our wonderful supporters, readers, Iranians, the diaspora and the rest of the world a Healthy and Happy New Year, one where my hopes become realities.

I end on this note with a Poem dedicated to our readers. It is written by the late Mohammad Mokhtari, one of the chain murder victims.



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