We are the outsiders
Interview with Khosrow Seif, leader of Mellat Iran
January 10, 2005
Khosrow Seif is a well known opposition figure in Iran. He
entered politics at the age of 16 and was the long time political
of Dariush Forouhar. He became the head of Mellat Iran (Nation
of Iran) Party after the tragic death of Forouhar.
He has been incarcerated several times. The last time was
shortly after the student uprising at Tehran University in July
and many others were taken from their homes or while walking in
the streets of the capital and jailed without any clear charges
against them. The fact is that in the Islamic Republic of Iran,
you don't need an official warrant to arrest anyone. There
is no justification to arrest, imprison, or torture anyone. It
is the law of the land!
On a personal visit in the
U.S., Seif talked briefly about current issues. He
began by recollecting the dreadful day in November 1998 when Iranians at home
and abroad learned of the news of the murder of Dariush and Parvaneh Forouhar
in their home in the southern part of Tehran. This past November, the annual
memorial service for the Forouhars and other murdered intellectuals and writers
was prohibited by the Iranian authorities.
Excerpts from conversation with Seif:
Shocking day: On Saturday, 1st of Azar, at about 4 in the
afternoon, several people from the Bazaar who were acquaintances of the Forouhars
to meet with them at their house on Hedayat Street. They rang the bell several
times but no one showed up. They became worried. One of the guests climbed
the wall and went into the house. He returned, shocked and shaken at the appalling,
bloody scene he had just seen. They called me immediately; I knew something
I took a taxi as I was unable to drive under the
circumstances. We arrived there, but they didn't let us in. People
from the Ministry of Information and other Ministries were inside the house,
taking finger prints, collecting evidence, etc. No one was allowed inside. We
contacted Parvaneh's family. It was the worst day of my life, everyone
was crying in disbelief. The 24 hour radio, the BBC and other international
news agencies reported the tragic news to the world. It was almost midnight
had come to the house, and we were finally able to enter and survey the horrific
Relatives, Parvaneh's sister and mother, and friends like Mr.
Sehabi, Mr. Tavassoli, Dr. Boroumand were all there. We were standing on
the front porch
which faced Mr. Forouhar's office. Dairush was sitting in
his chair, his back to the chair and his mouth wide open. Parvaneh
who had been very ill at the time was upstairs in her room, on the floor.
Twenty four stab wounds on her body showed that she had struggled against
She was a fighter to the end.
It was our conclusion that on the 30th of Aban, at about 10:30 in the evening,
two people who claimed to be concerned about a stolen car had entered the
house. The other nine or ten perpetrators followed. We believe that there
were a total
of eleven people who were involved in the crime. (A friend of the Forouhar's,
Dr. Sepehri who was the last one to see him had gone there to arrange for flowers
to be sent to the Embassy of Italy. The Italian government had just released
a famous Kurdish/Turk leader and Mr. Forouhar had been involved in the negotiations.
The last fax had been sent around ten in the evening).
Mr. Forouhar had asked
Dr. Sepehri to stay for dinner but seeing that Parvaneh was ill, he decided
to leave. The perpetrators had taken their time to do what they had planned.
They broke one of Mr. Forouhar's arms and then stabbed him, sitting him
in his chair. Subsequently, they went after Parvaneh. The Forouhars had a small
dog which was taken to a room and locked up. It was obvious that the people in
the Ministry of Information were involved. It was their work, no doubt.
We learned later that Saeid Emami (Eslami) had submitted a report to the the
ruling elite in 1374 which pointed out that the following five years would
be dangerous times for the Islamic Republic and several political groups and
individuals were to be targeted.
The report specifically warned the officials
of the threat the Forouhars posed. He had warned of their outspokenness
and their house becoming a center for the opposition. Indeed, their
house was under surveillance
twenty four hours a day. The night of the murder, their immediate neighborhood
was watched from 4 surrounding mosques. When one of the guests had gone
into the house to find out why the couple had not opened the door, there was
a telephone call; no one was on the other side of the line. I guess they wanted
to make sure that someone now knew of what occured, of the crime that had just
The house became a crime scene and government officials prevented any
everyone who knew the Forouhars came to my house. People who didn't even
know them were crying. No one could imagine that this famous couple
who had lived and fought courageously for their country were really gone
most brutal and tragic way. The couple's two children, Arash
and Parastou, arrived from Germany. They went to see the wounded,
lifeless bodies of their parents at the morgue.
I could not make myself
go see the two people I had admired and worked closely all my life in
I never imagined I would be in the position of planning for their funeral.
The funeral was attended by thousands, all political parties and affiliations,
carrying their photos and openly shouting their defiance. I remember
seeing the late Mohammad Mokhtari, who was to be the next victim
of what is known
as the serial murders. It was the first show of open opposition to the
Arrest in the serial murder case- the government, after an initial investigation
arrested 18 perpetrators. We don't really know whether their identities
were real or they had faked their names. What we know is that
there was a Fatwa-a religious decree to kill several people. My name
was also on this
list. Unlike what the officials wanted everyone to believe, this
was not the work of a few rogue agents inside the ministry of Intelligence,
with the knowledge and consent of higher officials: it was a religious
Fatwa. The trial was a mock trial and the documents presented at the
trial had been
Some crucial evidence was omitted and for obvious
reasons the victims' lawyers and relatives boycotted the trial. We never
faces of those charged with the crime. Two individuals, named Kazemi
and Alikhani (possibly alias's) belonged to the Ministry of Information.
they are still in prison, but no one really knows. There were lots of
rumors going around. The government officials even claimed that
work of ‘Zionist' elements working for foreign governments; they
had committed the crimes in order to discredit the Islamic regime.
fact is that these crimes were committed on the order of the highest
echelon of the ruling
elite. What happens in a country is the responsibility of the officials
of that country. They are the ones who are directly accountable to the
people. In this
case, Dori Najaf- Abadi who was the head of the Intelligence Ministry
was spared and he did not have to be accountable to the government
or the people.
he was replaced by Younesi , later he was rewarded a higher position.
He is now the country's general prosecutor!
The serial murder case is an
open case to this day. Consequently, like
so many other political cases in the last decade which have never been
handling of this case is in fact in direct violation of the Constitution
of the Islamic
Republic. People want to find out what really happened and
who were behind these murders. This is now a political/national dossier.
Protests and arrests- only five days after the incidents at Tehran University,
I was arrested. The student protest in July 1999 was at first peaceful
and only turned violent when provocateurs of the regime attempted to
identify the student
activists and their leaders. In order to do so, the security guards viciously
attacked their dormitories while they were asleep. The sacred grounds
of the university were violated by thugs of the Islamic regime.
The students' demands were basic. They protested the new law passed in
the parliament regarding more restrictions on the press and the banning
of Salaam newspaper. But in fact, as previously planned, the armed guards
forces intervened and we all know what happened to the students. Hezbeh
Mellat issued a declaration condemning the attacks; members of our youth
organization had also participated.
A few days after the bloody
incidents at Kouyeh Daneshgah, me and some of our party members were
arrested. Eight men came to
my house and took everything, even pictures that I had with the Late
Forouhar from almost 50 years ago. Without an official warrant,
they took me to
Towhid prison. Then they arrested Mr Namazi and Mr.Mehran Abdolbaghi
at their homes. Mrs.
(Dr.) Jeylani was arrested while she was walking in the street. In
prison we were tortured, not physical but psychological torture. Sometimes,
physical torture, sometimes psychological torture, and then the two combined.
In my case, I was kept in solitary confinement for six months in Towhid.
could hear my son being beaten next door. I could hear his voice. I felt
helpless and could not sleep. They did the same to other prisoners: a new
of breaking their spirits. But I found out much later that all
the voices I heard were actually
a recording. They had somehow used a voice similar to my son's, making
me believe that he was in the adjacent cell, being beaten. One
day, while coming out from my prison cell to attend my trial, I asked
one of the guards
to give some fruits to be taken to my son. He said your son is not here.
He and your family will be coming to visit you shortly.
All this time, I was under the
impression that he was next door to me. I knew of other prisoners who
had similar experiences. Using this same technique, they would
make us believe that our families
were being tortured. They had used similar methods on Mrs. Jeylani: they
had used tapes making her think that I was being thrown out of
a helicopter, in order
to extract confessions from her. She was asking to see her brother whom
she thought they had executed; she wanted to see the corpse. None
of it was true. It was
all a tape. Unbelievable! Yet, in our minds it was quite believable.
At my trial,
I was charged with instigating the bloody incidents at Tehran University
and condemned to death. Later my sentence was lowered to 14 years.
I spent close
to a year at Towhid and Evin prisons. During this time, I
had heard that they dealt most violently with the arrested students. They had
them severely, like Batebi, Mehrdad Lahrebi( who just had a small book stand
outside the university) and the Mohammadi brothers. They are still in jail
as I speak.
Coming elections- our party has repeatedly boycotted the elections since
never believed that we should give legitimacy to an election where people can
not choose their candidates freely and their only choices are those already handpicked
for them. We also believe that the main obstacle is the present Constitution
and the existence of the Guardian Council. As long as these gentlemen appoint
the candidates and offer them as the only options for the people, then such elections
can never be legitimate. Even the late Forouhar had denounced the last election.
Therefore, I would argue that we will not give our blessing to any bogus elections.
percent of the time the struggle is within the two "fronts" but they
are just bickering amongst themselves. They create this false pretense
that there is real opposition in order to deviate from the real
issues. It's always
been a way for the regime to manipulate people. Now the alternatives
are people like Velayati, Larijani, Karroubi, Dr. Moin; they are the
khodis. We are not even considered as Khodi. We are the 'Gheir
Khodi', the outsiders; we are illegitimate in their minds. We are
outside of the political scene.
Basically, we are citizens without any rights.
Mr. Khatami's last speech at Tehran University was a decisive and final
message to the students and to the people of Iran who had invested so
much in his presidency that in fact he was there to reform the system.
He has always
protected the system and came to the rescue of the Islamic Republic. What
Mr. Khatami promised during his tenure never took place.
In my opinion, he was
a symbolic figure to deal with the Europeans and other nations. He was
chosen to make the deals as the others didn't have any credibility
in world public
opinion. The war with Iraq and the election of Khatami prolonged the
life of the Islamic Republic.
My contention is that just like Rafsanjani handed the Presidency to Khatami
eight years ago, he will now take it back from him. I have a hunch
that Rafsanjani will be elected.
Nuclear Energy: Nuclear technology or obtaining
nuclear energy for Iran is nothing new. It started long ago. Even in the
late 1950's people
sent abroad to study the science. They came back to Iran and in the 1970's
Iran had a group of professional technicians in the field of nuclear energy.
During the Pahlavi era, Iran was already working towards obtaining nuclear
capability and was trying to become a nuclear power.
In the 80's and 90's,
Islamic regime was openly developing the necessary means to make nuclear
energy. It was not hidden from anyone. Such knowledge and power helps
the economy of a country if it is used correctly. However, my argument
is that this
government does not and has not worked for our national interest. But,
if used properly, having the nuclear technology is beneficial to the economy
of our country
and will help all Iranians in the long term. This is a national question.
We don't believe that governments should use their military power to control
others or strike at others. Yet, we don't think double standard should
In the past 25 years this government has not protected our national
interest, for example in the Caspian Sea. We have given up a lot of our
rights. Yet I don't
believe that any kind of outside intervention is the way to overcome
what may be wrong. Throughout history Iranians have proven that
military or foreign intervention, they will fight back and this is something
be understood. We hope no foreign power will intervene militarily because
then all Iranians will stand together. These are very sensitive times
for all of
us and we must think and act rationally. Any intervention will only benefit
Opposition: It is a complicated task to accomplish anything
in a closed society and there is obviously much disarray within the opposition. Groups
that share the same interest and hold to the belief that Iran is a sovereign
nation must form a united front. Once there is unity among those
who hold the same ideals, then there is room to work with others who do
share the same political ideology.
We can cooperate with various groups under
a common banner (I think the National Geographic was a good example)
and we can have unity in practice. Nevertheless, we can not allow
those who hold to beliefs
of the past to impose their will on anyone. More than anything else, our
society needs freedom in every area in order to flourish. Freedom has been caged,
we must open this cage. Nothing is more essential than having the freedom
to choose without condition and for the most basic human rights.
are many challenges ahead of us and we have to be practical in dealing with all
of them. We do not have any desire to engage in violence or violent movement.
If violence takes place, it will solidify the regime. We have not signed to the
referendum movement as of yet. I don't think the current political
atmosphere in Iran is ripe for a referendum. There must be more organization,
more awareness. Referendum is a good slogan and we don't disagree at
all with the core principle but we must carefully prepare the foundation for
a referendum. Any referendum must address the complete segregation of State
from religion and the type of government for Iran should be the choice of the
At times, Mr. Seif's Iran's Nation Party has been criticized for
being national – chauvinistic, even while Dariush Forouhar was alive. However, Mr.
Seif who is still a firm believer of Pan- Iranism contends that this only means
the unity of Iran as a sovereign nation with respect to its diverse culture,
ethnicity and religions while recognizing its territorial integrity. His party
is against any form of aggression or meddling in its neighbors' affairs
or the spreading of its political or religious ideology beyond its borders.
to Mr. Seif, Iran's Nation Party believes in working closely first
and foremost with those nations who share the same values, language
as Iran. But at the same time, he believes in full cooperation with
other nations with mutual respect, working on economic trade, international
issues, and recognition
that Iran can be part of the civilized community of nations once it
is free of
any type of autocratic and theocratic rule.
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