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Courageous Resistance: Iranian political prisoners

Hojjat ZamaniNCRI – The following is an article contributed by RAMESH SEPEHRRAD in the memory of Hojjat Zamani, a member of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, who was secretly hanged by the Iranian Regime on February 7. He was considered to be the first victim of clerical regime’s referral to the UN Security Council for its nuclear weapons program. The mullahs have warned that if its nuclear file were to be referred to the Security Council all political prisoners will be executed, an act of brutal revenge as the PMOI exposed the regime’s secret nuclear program for the first time back in 2002:

"The Iranian regime settles scores in an old fashion way, by executing opposition at home and assassinate them in exile", said Bruce McColm, who is a former Executive Director of Freedom House and current co-chair of the Iran Policy Committee (IPC). Mr. McColm delivered this quote in a speech at a congressional briefing in the House on February 16th. The conference included a bi-partisan panel of members, hundreds of congressional staffers as well as the leaders of Iranian-American communities. Moments before the briefing, the news of the execution of Hojjat Zamani, 31-year-old teacher was released. Zamani was a supporter of the main Iranian opposition group, and his execution was confirmed by his family in Gohardasht, Iran.

Zamani served four years in Iranian prisons prior to his execution. He was executed because he was, and would still be if he were alive, a supporter of Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MeK), translated as the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI). Since his execution, political prisoners in notorious Evin and Gohardasht prisons have began a hunger strike. Exiled Iranians across the world, including Washington DC, Berlin, Copenhagen, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and elsewhere held candle light vigils and rallies in his memory. While the regime has not yet handed over his body to his family, Zamani’s execution took place just three days after Iran’s nuclear file was reported to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It appears as though the killing of Hojjat Zamani was a retaliatory gesture targeted at the MeK/PMOI network, the main source of exposing Tehran’s illegal nuclear activities. Indeed, Tehran’s regime is shameless in settling scores. News, also confirmed by Radio Farda and other media outlets, indicate that the visitation rights of political prisoners have been suspended in various cities throughout the country. More specifically, the Iranian regime has threatened to massacre all political prisoners, particularly those associated with MeK/PMOI, if Iran is referred to the UN Security Council next month. If carried out, this would not be unprecedented. More than 30,000 political prisoners were systematically executed in summer of 1988.

On February 18, 2006, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) issued a statement that describes the Iranian regime’s strategy to create the conditions for the massacre of political prisoners. In its statement, the NCRI explained the conditions in Ghohardasht prison where Zamani was killed, and said: "At the instigation of prison authorities, the regime’s agents posing as ordinary prisoners assembled in front of the wards housing political prisoners on Wednesday night (February 16) and shouted, ‘death to political prisoners,’ ‘death to counter-revolutionaries,’ and ‘Mojahedin prisoners must be hanged.’" NCRI also warned on the intensified wave of executions given that 13 people were publicly hanged or executed in just one week. Listing the 13 cases from the Iranian regime’s own media sources, NCRI urged the international community to condemn the Iranian government for its recent escalation of violence against its own citizens.

Threats against political prisoners have continued since Zamani’s execution. On February 26th, the NCRI issued a statement listing the names of those prisoners who have been threatened with excution. The list includes Mr. Valiollah Feiz-Mohammadi, Mr. Saeed Massouri, Mr. Gholamhossein Kalbi, Mr. Amir Parvizi, Mr. Alireza Karami Kheir-Abadi, Mr. Khaled Hardani, Mr. Shahram Farhang-pour and Mr. Mansour Pour-Farhang.

At their core Iranian officials are fanatical reactionaries, without respect for international democracy. Reacting to the consequences of its referral to UNSC, the Iranian government is desperate. Its record of recent executions occurring over the last several weeks is engineered to instill fear among political prisoners and the Iranian society. It is clear that the Iranian regime fears the people of Iran, particularly political prisoner, who maintain the flame of resistance, keeping it bright in the dark cells of Evin, Ghohardasht and numerous other prisons or secret torture chambers across the oppressed Iranian state.

The circumstances in Iran are dire. Without a doubt, resistance has become an inalienable right of the Iranian people. As Bruce McColm said at the briefing, "Now is time to stop looking at Iranian people as victims, instead, look at them as resources." The right and privilege of regime change in Iran belongs to the Iranian people. Those familiar with American or the French revolution are adept to recognize the determination among the Iranian populace. For 27 years, with thousands of people executed, tortured, imprisoned or exiled, the Iranian people have declared that irreconcilable differences exists between them and the government presiding over them.

It is truly remarkable that Hojjat Zamani was only 4 years old when the so-called Islamic Revolution of 1979 took place. His knowledge and experience of the MeK/PMOI was gained under the intense suppression and constant state monitoring in Iran. It should be noted that two of Hojjat’s brothers were also murdered by the Iranian regime. His older brother, Khaz’al Zamani, a member of MeK/PMOI, was killed in Ilam’s mountainous terrain in 1999 and his other brother, also a MeK/PMOI member, was killed in March 2001 in the Haft-Cheshmeh region of Ilam. His maternal uncle, Abdullah Naderi, was also killed under torture by the regime in 1989.

One can only imagine the pain and suffering inflicted on the Zamani’s family. Sadly, they are not alone; there are thousands of families who have endured such losses. In July of 1981, a Time Magazine article entitled: "Terror in the name of God" reported the news of 12 girls who were brutally executed by the government of Iran because they took part in a demonstration for democracy. The article said: "The Islamic judge who sentenced them" Ayatullah Mohammadi Gilani" did not even know who they were. The twelve girls, the oldest 18, the others under 16, refused to identify themselves in court. When Gilani asked their names, each in turn replied, "Mojahed" (member of MeK/PMOI). To the question "Child of?" each replied, "The people of Iran." Gilani solved the problem of identifying the girls by having them photographed. Then he consigned them to the firing squad. Islamic guards led the dozen girls to the courtyard of Evin Prison in Tehran. As the guards began to blindfold them, the girls started chanting, "Death to fascism! Death to Khomeini!" Three days later, the clergy-controlled newspaper Ettela’at printed the girls’ pictures with a terse message asking the parents to call for the bodies."

There is no difference between wanton brutality and justice in the Islamic Republic of Iran. As McColm said at the briefing on February 16, 2006, "the Iranian regime is neither Islamic nor Republic." In reference to the Iranian people’s resistance, he said: "this talented opposition has been quietly waging a war on the Iranian regime without our support for decades. Among them, there are the finest minds and talents Iran has ever produced. There are generations who have experienced different periods of Iranian history and were participants in major events of the last several decades. They deserve to be consulted and listened to. The Iranian-American community, for instance, dominates the hard science fields in the United States and has become one of the most prosperous and successful communities of recent immigration…Attempts by the United States and the European Union to placate the leadership of Iran by placing the MEK on the proscribed list of terrorist organizations should end. It is way past time to take back Iran’s lone diplomatic victory over the past fifteen years. De-List the MEK and the NCRI now. It is the right thing to do."

Although the Zamani’s and all those who lost their lives for the cause of Iranian freedom are no longer, their message of resistance and struggle continues through the hopes of millions who continue the call for regime change and possess the will to join the fight for democracy in Iran on the D-day.

In concluding his speech, Bruce McColm said: "Before his execution, Hojjat Zamani wrote Kofi Annan a letter to encourage the United Nations investigation of the status of the families of political prisoners in Iran. He was too aware that the Iranian regime has been adroit in blackmailing families of those involved in activities considered contrary to the regime. This practice continues to this day. The international community should create a fund in Zamani’s name to subsidize the families of political prisoners so as to alleviate their financial suffering."
One would only hope the international community will act with courage, and in time to support the Iranian people’s resistance, political prisoners and their families.

Ramesh Sepehrrad, President of National Committee of Women for Democratic Iran. She comes from family of political prisoners who were able to flee Iran in the mid 1980’s. Sepehrrad is also related to victims of the 1988 massacre of Iranian political prisoners.