The Forouhars’ death was atrocious. Dariush, founder of the Hezb-e Mellat-e Iran (Iran Nation’s Party), was killed in his study on his chair by being inflicted with eleven knife blows. Parvaneh, his wife, was killed with twenty-four stabs. Their bodies were also mutilated. According to reports, Dariush was decapitated, while Parvaneh’s breasts were cut off.
The murder of the Forouhars revealed for the first time to the public opinion the chain murders of Iranian intellectuals, perpetrated by the regime in the late Nineties. The Forouhars’ assassination provoked a public outcry, and thousands participated in their funeral procession. Mourners carried portraits of the couple, shouting “Death to tyranny” and “Freedom of thought forever”. The Foruhars’ funeral was the first show of open opposition to the Islamic regime.
This year marks the10th anniversary of their assassination, perpetrated by the Iranian regime at the beginning of Mohammed Khatami’s presidency. During the last few days, their family and their daughter, Parastou, a well-known artist, were threatened by the security services and advised not to arrange any gathering to mark the day.
The serial murders shook the Iranian public opinion and in particular the Iranian students’ movements, which condemned the chain murders by organizing unprecedented demonstrations. In February 2000, Iran went to vote for the legislative elections. Rafsanjani hoped for a landslide victory. However, the Khatami-camp launched attacks on Rafsanjani, by also linking him to the chain murders. That year, the Reformists won big in the legislative elections.
The Forouhars were killed under Khatami’s presidency. However, key figures appointed under Hashemi Rafsanjani presidency were still active inside the government, and the conservatives were holding the majority inside the Majlis (Iranian Parliament). Furthermore, the President in Iran has the nominal rule over the Supreme National Security Council and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), but in practice it is the Supreme Leader Khamenei who dictates the security policy.
In early 1999, Khatami ordered a full investigation on serial murders. Hence, officials had been obliged to open investigations for the assassinations of Darioush and Parvaneh Forouhar, and two other victims. However, the chain murders included many other opponents to the regime, whose names were revealed by two well-known journalist and human rights activists, Akbar Ganji and Emadeddin Baghi.
Ganji wrote also book “’Alijenab Sorkhpoosh va ’Alijenaban Khakestari” (His Red-Robed Highness and the Grey Eminence) on the subject. His Red-Robed Highness referred to Former President Rafsanjani, currently Chairman of the Assembly of Experts, whereas the Grey Eminence was Ali Fallahian, former Minister of Intelligence and currently serving as Khamenei’s security advisor, both identified as the men behind the chain murders. Fallahian was also involed in the bombing of the Jewish center in Argentina in 1994.
In the book, Ganji also reveals that Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeyi, now Minister of Intelligence under Ahmadinejad’s presidency, was involved in the assassinations.
In April 2000, Ganji participated in a conference in Germany on the future of reforms in Iran, organised by the Heinrich-Boll Foundation. The meeting provoked outrage in conservative circles in Iran. Ganji’s participation in the conference was the pretext to send him to trial in Tehran, charging him of taking part in it.
Appearing before an Islamic Revolution court, Ganji took the opportunity to denounce publically Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s spiritual mentor, for having encouraged the assassinations by ruling that apostates and those who question Islam’s principles could be executed without a court order.
Ganji served in Tehran’s Evin Prison from 2001 to 2006. However, while in jail, Ganji wrote a letter saying that Khamenei should leave his post, because of his responsibility to the chain murders. Furthermore, Reformist supporters became disillusioned, as Khatami proved incapable and not willing of advancing any reform agenda.
The assassination of the Forouhars is one of the keys to understand the history and the present of the Iranian regime. People involved in the chain murders are actually still holding decision-making positions. Parastou Forouhar declared that Iran urgently needs international support for the process of democracy and the enforcement of human rights.