On this day 10th of March 1990 Farzad Bazoft a journalist for the UK The observer newspaper was sentenced to death by one of Saddam Hussein’s Baghdad court. He was convicted of spying for Israel while working on a story about an explosion at a weapons complex 30 miles (48km) south of the capital.
The British nurse, Daphne Parish, who was said to have driven him to the site was given a 15 years jail sentence but later released on 16th July 1990.
Before their trial, Saddam Hussein had written to the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, assuring her Farzad Bazoft and Daphne Parish would get a fair hearing.
Farzad had told a British envoy shortly before his death that he was “simply a reporter after a scoop”. According to Farzad’s friend and colleague Adel Darwish: Someone in the Ministry of Information must have known that they would be severely reprimanded or perhaps shot by Saddam because they were friends with Farzad. So they might have said, “We can compensate for that if we expose him as a spy and say we caught him.”
International appeals for clemency fell on deaf ears. Farzad was hanged on 15 March 1990.On 2 August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, starting the Gulf War.
What was amazing was that on one side there was a campaign by Journalists to raise awareness of the case and put pressure on the foreign Office, but at the same time there seemed to be a lack of action by the eight or nine MPs who were present in Baghdad and had not even raised this as an issue.
After the execution there seemed to be a smearing campaign, and by digging in Farzad’s past it seemed that the foriegn office was trying to compensate for the horrendous outcome of not supporting this British-Iranian Journalist by putting Farzad’s character under allegations and rumors.
I recall that living in my London flat, I was particularly moved by this tragedy, and was following the news to see if there would be clemency.
I did not know Farzad but being a British Iranian I felt a great sense of affinity with what he was going through.
When Farzad was executed I felt that he was badly let down, not just the British Foreign office, but also by the Iranian community living in exile.
Six years later I went to visit a friend who took me to the High gate cemetery where Farzad is buried, there was a memorial service for him. It was semi private gathering. Farzad’s colleagues and friends were all there and the family had decided that this was the last year they would have a remembrance. The scars of this tragedy was still visible in the lives of those who knew him.
I sometimes wonder if Farzad’s fate would have been different if he was born in Argentina, Korea or India.
The Iranian community is just beginning to find a voice. In those days we were utterly voiceless, until we find our unity our fates will be in the hand of others.
In those days many British Iranians amongst us marched in Hyde Park fighting to have Nelson Mandela freed, we marched when the Poll tax was introduced but failed to stand for one of our own, to this day I feel a sense of guilt. Perhaps even with our support the outcome would have still been the same but the lesson to all of us would be that, lack of unity costs lives, and sometimes I envy the unity of other communities.