Newsletter, Parastou Forouhar, 06.12.2003

I am writing to you in order to inform you about my trip to Iran in November of this year concerning the latest developments affecting the investigation process into the political assassinations of autumn 1998 in Iran. My parents, Dariush and Parvaneh Forouhar, both opposition politicians, were the first victims of this political murder series. 

My trip took place on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of my parents’ death. The memorial services that are held annually in Iran to mark this occasion have acquired political symbolism over the course of the years. These services pool together the resistance of the dissidents who have faced the repressive measures of the Islamic Republic’s regime over the years. 

For three weeks I had to make daily departmental visits in order to obtain official approval for the commemoration. Representatives of the security forces expressed their unwillingness at having an event within Tehran itself and only issued a permit for the Tehran Central Cemetery, far outside the city.
The verbal agreement from the Iranian Home Secretary to my request of being able to hold the commemoration within Tehran, and at an appropriate location, was initially met with resistance by the security authorities, who went so far as to unceremoniously shift the publicly announced date of the 21st of November to the 23rd of November at the very last minute with the official justification that “the safety of the participants could not be otherwise guaranteed!”

We were, however, finally able to successfully hold the memorial service at one of the most traditional locations for political gatherings in the middle of Tehran. Despite the overwhelming presence of security forces and already notorious threats on the part of the gangs of hired thugs, several thousand people came together this year. Three opposition politicians and I made speeches at the service. Two of the speakers, one a former Minister of the First Cabinet after the Revolution and the other a representative of the Iranian People’s Party, demanded the separation of state and religion, in the tradition of my parents’ political position. They argued the case for a constitutional amendment to give the faltering democratisation process a chance. Another speaker and I pointed out the importance of investigating and solving political murders for the vital democratisation process in our society. The impressive manifestations of solidarity from the thousands gathered inside and outside the venue clearly showed the will and desire of the people for democratic changes. The usual demonstration march to mark the end of the event was however prevented by the overwhelming deployment of security forces.
These events resonated greatly in the Iranian press. The importance of investigating and solving the political crimes was emphasised in many articles that appeared in the bigger daily newspapers. The political statements concerning the constitutional amendment and necessary separation of state and religion as conditions of democratisation were however censored. 

During my stay in Iran I repeatedly contacted the parliamentary investigative commission called “Commission for Article 90”, with whom we, the surviving relatives of the victims of the political assassinations of 1998, had filed a lawsuit three years earlier. The Chair of the Commission informed me that they had been unable to bring the investigations to a close as the commission “had come across people who couldn’t be summoned!” The Commission Chairman repeated this significant statement in an interview a short time later – a testament to our long-standing belief that the persons behind the ordering of these murders were able to enjoy inviolable immunity courtesy of their high positions in the system. I demanded the closing of the investigation before my departure in a letter to the commission as I saw no chance for serious investigative work towards a solution after the end of the parliamentary session in the upcoming winter.

The situation of our lawyer, Dr. Zarafshan, who was sentenced to five years imprisonment and fifty lashes as a consequence of his investigative work and who has been incarcerated since July 2002, has not changed. His appeal against his conviction was rejected in the final analysis.

The longing for democracy and constitutionality in Iran has become conspicuous. The powers that be, which are standing in the way of this process, are feeling forced to turn to increasingly brutal measures to curb the growing willingness for resistance. The forces for reform within the hierarchy have lost their credibility to a large degree. They were not able to establish any of their key reform projects. On the contrary, they have gradually entered into compromises with their fundamentalist opponents, which have sacrificed the drive for democracy as a consequence. 

Nothing is more important in this situation than international support for the democratisation process and for the enforcement of human rights in Iran. International pressure can be effectively used to investigate and solve of the political assassinations, which represents a “key event” for the Iranian population.

In the hope of your support I remain yours sincerely,
Parastou Forouhar