Death sentence Zahra Bahrami meant to intimidate diaspora
Europe, be vigilant with tyrants of Tehran
13 Jan 2011
■ Shervin Nekuee
In the bloody, 32-year existence of the Islamic Republic in my motherland Iran, the umpteenth death sentence is unfortunately no longer something that surprises us. Whether the verdict is related to political activism, indecency offenses, drugs or murder cases or a ‘suspect’ who stood up for his own faith or sexual disposition – the Iranian regime rapidly proceeds to taking the lives of its own citizens.
Nevertheless, the case of Zahra Bahrami, a Dutch woman of Iranian descent, is very remarkable. On January 2th, she was sentenced to death in Tehran. She is accused of having been in the possession of cocaine. It was also announced that a second trial against her would follow, concerning her activities for a royalist organization that is accused by Iran of organizing bomb attacks. Third, Bahrami is accused of having taken part in a Green Movement demonstration in December 2009 – the nonviolent protest movement that came to life after Iran’s presidential elections of June 2009.
The prosecutor has turned Zahra Bahrami, mother and nightclub dancer, into a sort of number one enemy of the state. The accusations she is faced with call to life the bad scenario of a Hollywood movie. Nightclub dancer with mafia contacts gets triple assignment: spread destruction in Iran by smuggling cocaine, shed blood with bomb attacks and challenge the state by demonstrating with the Green Movement. Even for Iran, such an absurd stack of accusations is remarkable. This messy scenario gives the Netherlands every right to protest violently against this judgment.
The Bahrami case is not an isolated one. Tehran wants to put pressure on Iranians who are living in diaspora, especially in Europe, and wants to block their contribution to the democratization of Iran. Why would the Iranian regime to that? Well, an estimated 2,5 million Iranians are living in Europe, Turkey included. Contrary to their compatriots in the United States, Canada and Australia, where socio-economic immigrants and richer Iranians have moved to and where they mainly make themselves known as economic immigrants, the majority of the Iranian-European immigrants are here because of their political past.
Tehran wants to put pressure on Iranians who are living in diaspora, especially in Europe
After having disappeared from the scene for two decades, a large group has already had the opportunity to visit their home country. During the presidency of the reformist president Khatami (1997-2005), they massively started visiting friends and family. For those who could not go back, email, Skype, Facebook and Twitter were ways out to renew their ties with Iran. The involvement of European Iranians and their chance to again get in touch with their motherland has undoubtedly contributed to the political awareness of Iranian citizens. That is why the Bahrami case is certainly part of the Iranian wish to frighten European Iranians who want to visit Iran. The regime does this in several ways.
Turning the political activism of the Iranian diaspora into a criminal act.
If it is true that Zahra Bahrami took part in the political demonstrations of 2009, then she is not the only Iranian. Thousands of people from the Iranian diaspora have gone to Iran in 2009. Undoubtedly, many of them have taken to the streets during the demonstrations of the Green Movement. The aim of linking participation in demonstrations to drugs and terrorism is to make black sheep of Bahrami and other people like her.
Intimidating the Iranian diaspora.
The death sentence against Bahrami is a threatening letter directed at the Iranian diaspora. If those people do come to Iran, they should keep quiet. This intimidation also wants to force activists to stop their virtual activities with Iran. Since the Green Movement has originated, there is a real revival of solidarity and activism among Iranians in Europe and Iran. It has now become common practice to interrogate European Iranians as they enter Tehran’s airport and to claim access to their Facebook and emails.
Legitimizing violence against political activists.
The accusation of terrorism is aimed at making a harsh crackdown on Green Movement activists possible. Since 9/11, terrorism has become the universal key word for states to legitimize the suppression of their own citizens. The whole of democratic Europe, the Netherlands in the lead, has to be vigilant when faced with the tyrants of Tehran, who are using with this triple strategy the case of Zahra Bahrami to silence Iranian-European citizens who are showing solidarity with their brothers and sisters of the Green Movement.
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