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Interview with Arash Forouhar

November 14, 2001
The Iranian

I met Arash for the first time when I went to pick him up at the airport. He was a spitting image of his father, the late Dariush Forouhar, whom I remember vaguely when I was a child. He was a tall man with a Poireaux mustache. Dariush had a presence when he came to our home. Here I was meeting his son for the first time in Washington D.C. only a few months after the atrocious murder of his parents in November 1998, a day that shook Iran.

Parvaneh and Dariush Forouhar, husband and wife for nearly 45 years, had met in their teens at Tehran University gatherings. Both were young, passionate, idealists and had started their life together in the struggle against dictatorship. Dariush had been imprisoned on and off during the Shah's time and then again after the revolution. Parvaneh, an outspoken critic of the clergy's oppression of women, had been actively involved in human rights issues. Their love for Iran and their passion never ended until that solemn day on November 23, 1998, when agents of the Ministry of Intelligence entered their home and slaughtered them. Dariush was stabbed 12 times. And Parvaneh, was stabbed 23 times. Their humble house where they had resided all their life, in the southern section of Tehran, was ransacked.

Almost two years before the incident, Arash was forced by his parents to leave Iran for Germany. He did not want to go. But there were phone calls to their home threatening his wife and children. He left for Germany and lived there until a telephone call came and he heard the news, which shattered him to pieces. He was never to be the same. His life and that of his sister Parastou would change forever.

Excerpts from interview with Arash:

I was only two years old when they took my father. My mother used to say how I cried endlessly and did not want to leave his arms. Even the sergeant who had come to take him away was most saddened. And while holding my sister's hand, and me closely in her arms, she sang the Iranian national anthem and we followed my father to the street. From then on, I only knew of my father's house as the prison and every time we went to see him I only thought of how I could find a way for his escape.

After being in prison for his opposition to the separation of Bahrain from Iranian soil., he finally returned one day. I was 4-years old. I was not used to having a stranger, a man in the house. I told my mother, tell this man to go away (my father). My father became really sad but the next day, the sweetest moments of my life would begin with him being present.

My mother was a schoolteacher and with her very little income she tried to manage the household while my father was busy with his political activities. Sometimes my father would work in legal fields (as he had studied law) to help with our household income. We had a small property in Karaj (100 kilometers west of Tehran). One day my father took me with him in his yellow Peykan, which belonged to one of his friends, to go see the property. He was thinking of selling it. All of a sudden, during our trip, a few cars with four people sitting in each car, stopped us. They came out holding machine guns. My father shouted, "Why have you stopped us? Are we drug traffickers or something? What do you want?" They searched the car and then abruptly left.

All through these times, people helped us. I cannot forget them. People like Dr. Sadighi, Dr. Sanjabi, Hassibi and Ardalan, Amir Alai and so many others who were all followers of the great Mossadegh. And I can never forget them or their total loyalty to Iran.

In one of his last interviews, while replying to a question about unity, my father said, "When and if we have been able to free our country from this misery, in the final analysis, it is the people of Iran who will have to determine their form of government. A true democrat is one who will accept the people's wishes even if they vote tommorrow for monarchy. One who will under any circumstances try to defend the people's rights and not necessarily to achieve political power." one of their greatest characteristics was their honnest and demoratic view in politics.

My mother used to type or write leaflets for the Party (Nation of Iran Party) and with dedication and a smile on her face, she would pacify me, whenever I would become restless. I was only 8-years old when a bomb went off in our house. I was so terrified. There were many people in front of our house. And while holding my mother's hand, we looked outside where there were many police and military people there. The grandmother of the landlady where we resided had a stroke and they took her with an ambulance. There were SAVAK agents everywhere. All the windows were broken. I was so scared and they took me away from my mother. I heard footsteps and may father came. His entrance changed my mood and all of the sudden my fear went away. My father asked, "Who's responsible for this cowardly act?" A man came up to him and said I have come to investigate this matter. My father then said, "Aren't you ashamed of yourself? First you bomb my house and then you come to investigate!" We then had to leave our house and stayed with relatives or other members of the party. People were so sympathetic.

I remember the time during the revolution. There were many demonstrations. One day, Mr. Baghai, Ali-asghar, came to our house, all shaken and said to my mother, "What do I do with this Dariush? Doesn't he think of any of us?" He has gone on top of an ambulance and opened up his chest saying, "Come and kill me. Come and kill me you cowards. I am responsible for this gathering not the people." And Dr. Baghai was there at our house to confront my mother about her husband! What had happened was that after the killing of Dr. Nejatollahi, when the Immortal Guards opened fire on people after his funeral, my father had stepped on top of an ambulance and said those words. Everyone would testify to his bravery.

It was during February 1979, during the revolution, when we used to go to the rooftop and listen to cries of Allah-o-Akbar. Our house had become a center for arms and ammunition. Colonel Gharani who was a friend of my father came to our house and was trying to help my parents find a safe place to say as our house had been attacked once again. We went to my grandmother's. After the victory of the revolution, my parents had become very upset over the first executions. They would say we didn't have a revolution to take revenge and spill more blood. We must have amnesty. He tried in vain to obtain an amnesty from the Imam (Khomeini) himself. But in front of their eyes they would see their struggle, which had begun for a great cause, diminish by the day by opportunists who were creeping to power.

My father became the Minister of Labor during the provisional government of Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan, and to his dismay, he was clearly seeing things changing for the worse. wishes of the Iranian people were being undermined one by one by religious elements. Nevertheless, he tried to serve the people as he had desired for so long. I remember, one day, when workers had gone on strike for increased wages and better work conditions. He took my hand, and without a security guard , we went to the area where the workers had a sit-in. They were angry and defiant. My father, with a clear and comradely voice said: "My dear friends, I sympathize with you wholeheartedly and I have come here to jointly find a solution for your problems." As if water was poured onto fire, one by one came the protesters came towards us and talked of their daily struggles. The main problem seemed to be that back wages which were not paid during the Shah's time. My father, with a lot of effort, convinced the government to provide them with assistance and give them their wages. In fact, he was able to get the formal letter of endorsement from Khomeini himself.

I remember my mother. She was always doing good deeds for the poor especially in the deprived sections of southern Tehran. She was a teacher and her students loved her. She would always gather clothing and other things for them, as they were quite poor. Every now and then, we would have a new sister. She would bring a student to our home to help out with her family or personal problems.

The war had started. And the Iraqi army was about to invade our homeland. Dariush and Parvaneh and other members of the Party saw the necessity to fight against foreign invaders. They gathered the young people from the party and after some training, sent them to help out the Kurds, specifically the Barezani combatants. I was enthusiastic to learn military training. And my father, with great patience, taught me how to use G-3 and other weapons. I was only 13-years old. He was telling me not to be afraid. The unholy war continued for nearly eight years. As an only son and having medical leave, I could have avoided going into the army. But my father insisted that I enlist. I was in the fields, driving ambulances and helping out with the victims.

I finished my studies and received my diploma in 1986 in physics and math. My parents were proud of me. I had obtained my degree under difficult conditions. I had passed the exams to enter the university but for some reason, I was not allowed. My parents were disappointed as they had envisioned a bright future for me but they knew that this was a way to put pressure on them to stop their activities. One day, I told my father that I want to get aviation training and enter the army. He was very pleased as he always thought I must find a way to serve our country. My mother was not so happy but she as always said nothing to stop me. I passed all the physical exams and the basic training. However, again, I was denied from entering the college of aviation. We all knew the reason behind it.

My parents insisted that I leave Iran. They were becoming more and more fearful for my safety and that of my wife and children. I was living with them. Every time there were footsteps of a guard, I was always there with them listening to every outside noise and being alert. My parents finally arranged for our departure and I left Iran with a lot of anguish. They had been careful with their words while we lived in the house. But when we left, Dariush and Parvaneh became even more defiant of the extreme measures of the regime against human rights violations. They became even more outspoken. They were giving interviews to foreign reporters and sending faxes abroad to let the world know of the human rights abuses in our country.

And then that night -- that awful night -- came. The house I had lived in and experienced joys and sorrows became a bloodbath, the bloodbath of my beloved parents, who had done nothing wrong throughout their lives, except to stand by the people and protect freedom. Despite all the imprisonments, injustices, and name calling, they never stopped their fight for the cause of justice and liberty in Iran. And they never stopped following the teachings of their idol, who was their true inspiration, namely Dr. Mossadegh. My parents died so unfairly, so brutally by those who in the name of religion have committed crimes, taken the life of innocent human beings, whose motto is torture and annihilation.

Hundreds carried out the stabbed bodies of my parents, adorned in the tri-color Iranian flag. They were carrying the real lion and sun of Iran. And my sister and I were there when they were buried, and so were thousands of others. I know that they will forever live in the minds and hearts of all Iranians. And I know those who killed them will one day have to answer like all others who commit injustice. That day will not be far.

When Arash Forouhar showed a videotape of his parents' funeral in a gathering at the Endowment for Democracy in Washington, D.C., many intelligence and military officials of the U.S. government were present.

As always, Arash spoke eloquently:" This is a warning, do not identify a great nation fighting for liberty, secular democracy and dignity with a small violent oligarchy. Do not make the same mistake which you made 50 years ago (1953 coup). This mistake did not benefit anyone; the West, which could have had a close ally in a democratic Iran, lost Iran not only as a military ally but also as an economic and political partner. I am not here to ask for your sympathy. I ask only that you remain loyal to your principles. Overcome your contradictions and be consistent. I ask you to firmly defend human rights, while remaining open and ready for dialogue. In doing so, you will enhance the prestige of democracy and the Declaration of Human Rights. That would be the most valuable support that Western democracies can offer the Iranian people."

Comment for The Iranian letters section
Comment for the writer Fariba Amini


In the name of the pen
News archive created after the Forouhar murders

One day
By Parvaneh Forouhar

Truth & justice
Interview with Arash Forouhar
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