On Thursday June 2, 2011, women's rights activist, Haleh Sahabi (aged 54) was killed as a result of brutal beatings by the Iranian regime's security forces. Her body was later snatched from her house and buried secretly to curb the outcry of the family, friends and ordinary Iranians. Haleh, a political prisoner, had been let out of prison temporarily to attend her father's funeral.
The regime's heinous actions drew outrage at home and abroad. The State Department condemned "the killing of Iranian activist Haleh Sahabi in the strongest possible terms." Britain also called for an immediate investigation into her death.
Haleh's killing is the latest case of state-sponsored murder by the regime ruling Iran. The past three decades abound with examples of state-sponsored killing of dissidents. On April 8, 2011, Tehran used its Iraqi proxies to crack down on exiled opponents. The Iraqi Army, using armored personnel carriers and Humvees, attacked unarmed Iranian dissidents in Camp Ashraf, north of Baghdad, killing 35, including eight women, and injuring hundreds.
The 29-year-old Asieh Rakhshani, raised in Northern California, was one of eight women. She was shot at close range, while filming the attack on Ashraf. She graduated in Albany, California majoring in journalism. A caring, conscientious and intelligent girl, she decided to join her fellow comrades in Ashraf in the quest for democracy in Iran.
Because she carried a camera, Asieh was a prime target of the snipers during the raid. She managed to film her last moments as she was shot in cold blood by an Iraqi sniper. Many other wounded victims died as the result of the injuries as the Iraqi authorities denied them access to proper medical care.
Commenting on the bravery of Asieh and other women at Ashraf, Dana Perino, former White House press secretary told a Washington conference on April 14: "To the women in Camp Ashraf, I express my admiration." Perino added, "You have an amazing story to tell...I met a young woman earlier today whose brother is at Camp Ashraf. Her first memory is the execution of her parents. Her biggest problem is figuring out how to save her brother."
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay condemned the attack on Ashraf, as did Senator John Kerry (D-Massachusetts), who described it as a "massacre."
And last week, Ambassador Nancy Soderberg, a senior official in the Clinton administration, told a Washington symposium, "We need to be vigilant of the Iranian activities outside of Iran as well, particularly many of you here are very concerned about the attacks on Camp Ashraf, particularly last April. I think many of you have seen the brutal video footage of that. It seems to have gone largely unnoticed by the United States...we must stand up against these types of attacks."
Regarding the broader challenges the Iranian regime is posing to regional and international peace and security, Ms. Soderberg added, "As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put it, Iran is moving towards a military dictatorship. We need to all recognize, it is moving not toward a democratic system that we saw in response to the democratic protests on the street in 2009 but the Revolutionary Guard is in effect supplanting the government of Iran, the Supreme Leader, the president and Iran's repressive behavior. Its nuclear program, support for terrorism, are all directly related to the lack of democracy at home." It is that lack of democracy, which has prompted Iranian women to take matters in their own hands, and propelled them to the forefront of the nationwide movement for change; a position deservedly theirs.
Ambassador Paula Dobriansky, former Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affair told a Capitol Hill conference in Washington in March, "The recent uprisings in North Africa drew inspiration from the 2009 democratic protests in Iran... Women and youth are indispensable agents of change; their leadership needs to be recognized and their efforts supported... Maryam Rajavi... recognizes in her Ten-Point Plan for a future Iran that there would be complete political and social gender equality, including equal participation in elections and the abolition of discrimination against women. We must support these women activists. This platform is one that underscores the basic rights not only of women but of all Iranians."
The 3,400 residents of Camp Ashraf in Iraq, 1,000 of them women, are members of the main Iranian opposition group, the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). The organization is committed to women's rights and has a leadership primarily consisting of women, mostly former political prisoners.
The mullahs need to watch out; as the Arab Spring is advancing, the Persian Spring -- this one led by Iranian women -- will soon sweep the Ayatollahs from power.
To read more about Asieh Rakhshani click here.