Interview with Parastou Forouhar
April 22, 2004
"I received a phone call and someone on
the other side asked me when was the last time you heard from
parents? Are they OK? There is some news coming out of Iran that
These were the words uttered by Parastou Forouhar, the daughter
of Dariush and Parvaneh. She was in Germany on that awful Autumn
day in 1998 and her parents had been stabbed the night before
in their home in
Tehran. At first, she thought that they were in the hospital but
the news agencies reported a grimmer story, of the brutal
stabbing to death of the couple.
Since then, life has not
been the same for her, her brother Arash, and their entire family.
Parastou gave a poignant talk at a gathering at George Washington
this past Easter Sunday. The audience shed tears as she was
speaking. She is an eloquent speaker like her late mother, Parvaneh.
We spoke for twenty minutes before her departure for Frankfurt,
Germany, where she has been living with her two sons, Kourosh and
Kaveh. She told me Kourosh would not speak Farsi for
a long time, would walk in the hallway of their house in disbelief
and say, where were these people
to defend my grandparents? Why did no one come to their defense?
Kourosh stopped talking for a long time and went into his
own world. He blamed Iranians for their death and his refusal
speak the language was a kind of resentment towards his birth
country. Both her sons were extremely close to their grandparents,
deaths impacted them greatly. Personal
photos (1) (2)
I put forth the following questions to Parastou:
What is the current situation with their murder case
at the judiciary of the Islamic Republic?
After we declared that we would not participate
in the trial, as all the investigations which had been done were
the mishaps, which our lawyers had seen, were not addressed, whatever
the justice ministry was doing, we would not even be informed.
The case went to the higher courts and all the verdicts were
handed down without our knowledge. We tried to go through the parliament
to find a way, but that also didn't produce much, even though we
went with the families of [murdered writers] Mokhtari, Poyandeh.
We wrote letters and asked for an explanation, but no reply was
given to us.
In my last trip, when I spoke to the head of the parliamentary
"Article 9" commission, Mr. Ansari-Rad, I asked him why we have
not received a response
to our demands. He said that in their investigations
they noticed that some of the individuals in question are
beyond parliament's jurisdiction. What this shows
is that there are people included in this dossier, who are
but have such immunity that they cannot be called to testify
before the commission.
Four years after the murders, we announced that we had
no hope that the IRI judiciary will in fact follow
through or bring any indictments against the real perpetuators.
And, in fact, they have no desire to find the truth and have only
created obstacles in the case. We have no hope they will
bring anyone to justice and they have obscured and hidden facts
from us. This is why we have gone to the international courts of
law and the defenders of human rights worldwide.
Who or which individuals
do you consider to be the real elements behind these murders?
In my opinion, it is not an individual or individuals who are
the real culprits. It is a system of thought or ideology, which
behind such crimes. The same ideology that allows "believers" to
eliminate "non-believers" by any means - the ones
who have attempted to silence the intellectual or secular elements
during the last many years. In my opinion, it is this type of organization,
which is behind such killings. It isn't just a person or persons
who committed these crimes or even those who gave the orders; it
is the ideology behind it. It is a school of thought.
I heard that they were going to confiscate your parents' house
at one point. Is there any truth to this?
Look, this house, since it became a sort of shrine for people who
came to visit my parents' home, to pay their respects, became in
fact a place of gathering especially for young people. Even discussions
were being held there and this was not to the liking of the officials.
The security people became sensitive to the comings and goings.
In the last year especially, some of the people visiting the house
were stopped, beaten in the surrounding alleys, and even arrested
for a few hours after having visited the place. So, the government
in a way warned members of my family that if such activities went
on, they would in fact confiscate the house in their name. So in
order to keep the house, as it was when they lived there, there
is less traffic. We have tried to keep the house, as it was when
my parents lived there.
The last time you went to Iran, how did government officials
Well, you see for the commemoration of my parents there were some
skirmishes last year, and we were confronted by the intense pressure
of the security forces. Therefore, I knew that this year we would
have the same problems.
I asked that the ceremony be held in Hosseiniyeh
Ershad, which was not accepted by the government. They wanted
us to go
outside Tehran to Behesht Zahra, so it would be out of the
way and far from the eyes of the public. I vehemently objected
to this. We really didn't need permission to have a ceremony
inside a building, but still I asked and finally it was granted.
a difficult task. That is why I went to Tehran long before the
event. Sometimes, two or three times a day I would go to different
ministries to ask for permission. We wanted the ceremonies to be
held where there is life, in the city, and not the cemetery, where
there is no life.
One thing I see, the reaction most ordinary people
have shown even in the different government offices is always with
such kindness when they find out who I am and when their bosses
are not around to watch over. They tell me stories of encounters
with either my father or mother. They are such great moral support
The murderers, those who actually committed the crime, have you
ever met them or seen them? And if you ever see them, how do you
think you would react?
No, I have never seen any of them. As you
know, none of us (the families of the serial murder case) attended
the mockery trials. But I read some of the accounts. It is chilling.
One of them testified that my mother who was stabbed 24 times,
was still alive and she was moving, so he stabbed her again and
again to make sure she was no longer living.
Either they were doing
this out of their religious of political beliefs, or it was on
the orders of others, but can one imagine what sort of human beings
would stab an old man and an old woman like this - with so much
hatred and contempt for another human being? It is beyond anyone's
I cannot honestly tell you how I would react and what I would
say if I saw any one of them. I don't know.
If you want to remember from among the memories you have of your
parents, which one is the most outstanding in your mind?
The image of their faces, standing in the stairs
of our house looking with such kindness and love towards us, and
anyone who entered
their house, in the Eyvan of our house in Hedayat St. they greeted
everyone warmly. Those are the images sunk in my head.
What are you doing now, in Germany? How do you live your days?
Well, you know I went to art school in Tehran, graduated
from Daneshkadeh Honarhayeh Ziba, and then came to Germany to continue
I am an artist. I have some exhibitions from time
to time and of course, I lead my own personal life with my two
sons. And like many, I have daily
responsibilities. Sample art (1) (2) (3)
In many places, where crimes against humanity have taken place,
especially where you live, in Germany, like the Holocaust victims,
their families, after decades, took the perpetuators to courts.
Do you think this will ever happen in Iran, with those who have
committed crimes against people? Are the families of the victims,
not just this serial murder, but also the murders of so many individuals
throughout the years, are they going to ask for an international
I hope so. I hope we will come to that. What we have done
so far is that we believe and are in full agreement that the political
murders of the last two decades in Iran are not separated from
the murders in 1998. They are totally related. It was the same
organization and ideology behind all of them, either inside or
outside of Iran.
In order to find the answers to all these crimes,
the whole system must come under scrutiny. Of course, as you know,
it is extremely difficult, especially inside Iran, since many of
the crimes were committed under the guise of accidents. It was
never an admission of "crime". And also it is hard on
the families of most victims to get together, they are still so
hurt. But I certainly hope that one day we will have justice. And
there are many people who have begun to take action.
Did you ever get a direct message from any of the officials
of the IRI or the person of Khatami regarding your parents' death?
On the first days of that nightmare, when the murders occurred,
I received a message of condolence from one of the secretaries
of Mr. Khatami during the funeral, privately. But what was important
to us was the follow up on the case itself, which never really
happened, even though he made many promises in the press. Although
Mr. Khatami himself said we must take out this cancerous tumor
from our society, we haven't seen any results, nor do I have any
hope that we will, under the present circumstances.
If you have one message to give to the people abroad, especially
the young people, as you yourself are a young woman, what would
That they should never forget that in their homeland, or their
parents' birthplace, there is a lot of pain and suffering, for
a long period now. It has deep roots.
In order to find remedy for this pain, we need positive energy.
We must all find the cure for this illness, all of us, together.
When Dariush Forouhar was in prison during the Shah's time,
one of his prison mates was Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
The story goes that Rafsanjani, who was a young clergyman at
being beaten by a prison guards. Forouhar
told the guard to flog him instead. He
was concerned about the young prisoner's life.
Pages of history turned and Dariush Forouhar died savagely
by those he defended at one point. And now Rafsanjani
heads the powerful Expediency Council and is a wealthy man
with many investments throughout the world.
Parastou is trying to live a somewhat normal life with
her sons. She goes to Iran frequently in the quest for justice
She has written book entitled "Kafshaaro Dar Areen" (Take
Off Your Shoes), a satirical drawing of the life in the courts
of the Islamic Republic.
She is determined to find the real perpetuators and bring them
to justice in a genuine court of law. She will never give up.
goodbye to spam!