The West should focus on Tehran’s Achilles’ heal: human rights

earth-newBy Ross Amin, vice president of the Organization of Iranian American Communities

This April marked the 24th anniversary of the assassination of a dedicated human rights activist by the murderous regime in Iran. The high-profile assassination of Dr. Kazem Rajavi once again showed how much the clerical regime is afraid of the slightest mention of its abhorrent human rights violations and the lengths to which it would go in order to silence voices of opposition.

On April 24, 1990, while driving home, Dr. Kazem Rajavi was brutally gunned down near the Swiss city of Geneva by several masked gunmen sent from Tehran. Dr. Rajavi was Iran’s first Ambassador to the united nations headquarters in Geneva following the 1979 Iranian Revolution. He had resigned from the post shortly thereafter, when he witnessed the crimes committed by the then-newly established clerical regime against the Iranian population. His resignation and his ensuing activities at the United Nations, which exposed the regime’s crimes at the world stage, drew the ire of the regime’s leaders.

He once famously said, “In Iran, we write the history of human rights with our blood.” Indeed, he practiced what he preached, and became a true advocate for the millions of people in Iran who suffer immensely from gross rights violations, a small portion of which are regularly documented by the united nations.

I had the honor of knowing Dr. Rajavi for a brief period of time. He was a beloved figure among dissidents and exiles, especially the main opposition Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK). At that time, there was no Twitter or the World Wide Web. But, Dr. Rajavi’s dedication showed the true face of a brutal dictatorship to the entire world.

Prior to that, he had saved the life of his brother and historical leader of the MEK, Massoud, when the latter was sentenced to death by the Shah. Kazem’s international campaign had prevented the execution of Massoud.

That is why it was like a dream come true to see such a historical and dedicated figure. When I found out he was coming to New York in 1984 to raise awareness about rights violations in Iran at the UN, one of my friends and I picked him up at the airport. I found him to be a charismatic, intelligent, and extremely knowledgeable individual, with a great sense of humor.

In the course of diplomatic meetings at the UN, many representatives knew him personally because they were either his former students or they had heard about his dedication and zeal. Right from the outset, I was mesmerized by his presence, logic, and power of persuasion. At the same time, he was extremely humble. He wanted to be treated like everyone else, even though he was an intellectual in his own right. At the age of 56, he held six doctorates in the fields of law, political science, and sociology from universities in Paris and Geneva. Yet he despised special treatment.

During his stay with us in New York, where he refused the comfort of a good hotel, his sister, Monireh, was executed in prison. I remember he went silent for a few minutes after finding out about her sister’s execution in a phone call. Minutes later, he criticized himself for not doing more to save the life of his young sister and the tens of thousands of others who were executed by the clerical regime in the summer of 1988. These were the executions which Amnesty International later called a crime against humanity.

Dr. Rajavi’s visit to New York changed my life. His intellectual and educational achievements, paralleled only by his dignity, humility, and dedication were qualities that I strive to achieve every single day. He wanted to be the voice of the voiceless in Iran, the millions of people who are suppressed, tortured, harassed and murdered by an illegitimate regime bent on spreading terror and acquiring nuclear weapons. I now understand why he saw the regime as the greatest threat to humanity and why he fought so hard to replace it with a democratic, secular and non-nuclear Iran. His ideals and the political program which he subscribed to for the Iran of tomorrow are recognized by the democratic coalition of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

I believe that the best way to honor Dr. Kazem Rajavi is by cherishing his legacy, and by fighting for justice and human rights in Iran, no matter what the cost. By assassinating him, the Iranian regime in effect exposed its Achilles’ Heel: human rights. That is where the West should focus its attention on.