News & Views
Aligned With Mecca?
By Nora Boustany
Two decades after Iran's Islamic Revolution scrambled political and religious landscapes of the Middle East and of Muslim states beyond, Arash Farouhar, 30, the son of Iranian dissidents who were stabbed to death late last year, offered a glimpse into the unresolved and heroic struggle for freedom and democracy in his country.
His father, Daryush Farouhar, a lawyer and secretary general of the opposition Iran National Party, and his activist mother, Parvaneh, were assassinated Nov. 22. They were victims of a wave of killings and kidnappings -- which moderate government leaders have blamed on extremist security and intelligence elements in the regime -- that was aimed at paralyzing a growing challenge to the legitimacy of Islamic rule.
Arash Farouhar, who lives in exile in Germany, said he is touring the United States to call for an international nongovernmental group to investigate the killings. The Tehran government has acknowledged that elements of its security apparatus were implicated in the terror campaign and has called for an investigation, but no one has been named, charged or brought to justice, Farouhar said in an interview Monday. A cleric close to President Mohammed Khatemi who was sent to express condolences to the family told the young Farouhar that "international pressure" was needed because "Khatemi cannot do it alone." A commission assigned by Khatemi to investigate the killings announced recently that "the motivation was not political." That infuriated students and activists who say that failure to identify the culprits will discourage intellectuals and encourage a "reign of terror."
"Those . . . who expected to improve the establishment were suppressed by the very same establishment," Daryush Farouhar said in an interview three weeks before his death. A week later, he wrote in an underground journal that Khatemi was "distancing himself from what he has promised as days go by. Expecting something from him is a major deviation from the path we must follow."
At the Farouhars' funeral in Tehran, which drew more than 100,000 people, one mourner went down on his knees facing the freshly dug grave and away from Mecca, Arash Farouhar recalled. Daryush Farouhar, who had fired the imagination of young Iranians, had been stabbed 11 times in the chest and placed on a chair facing the qiblah -- the point to which Muslims turn to face Mecca when they kneel in prayer. So the mourner, turning his back to Mecca, declared: "They said they killed you and directed you toward the qiblah. You are my qiblah."
Students, who formed protective chains around Arash Farouhar when he came for his parents' burial, told him that the time will come when Khatemi must choose between the rule of clerics and of the people. "I don't want to defend Khatemi, and I don't want to condemn him," Farouhar said. "He will only make a difference when he puts his life on the line."
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