Roya Hakakian, US-based writer and rights activist. (Supplied)

August 25, 2021

In an article published Monday by the New York Review, writer and rights activist Roya Hakakian revealed that she was informed by two FBI agents visiting her home in rural Connecticut in August 2019 that she might be killed by Iranian agents in the United States, where she has lived since leaving Iran in 1985.

“They said that they knew nothing concrete or specific beyond a vague danger; they relied on me, with my knowledge of Iran’s past dealings with dissidents, to surmise that it could mean an assassination plot,” Hakakian wrote.

Hakakian suspected she was being targeted due to her collaboration with Masih Alinejad, another US-based activist, who she calls “the most formidable thorn in the [Iranian] regime’s side.” Hakakian and Alinejad were among the August 2019 signatories of the Statement of Fourteen Female Activists Abroad issued after the publication of a statement by 14 female civil rights activists in Iran.

The statements called on Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to resign, and for “civil and non-violent measures” against the regime and for a new Iranian constitution. By September 2019, 16 of the 28 signatories of the statements in Iran had been arrested. Some, such as retired teacher Hashem Khastar, are still in prison.

Assassination in Berlin

Hakakian, a co-founder of the Connecticut-based Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, is the author of Assassins of the Turquoise Palace, a ‘factional’ account of the 1992 assassination of three leading Kurdish politicians − including Sadegh Sharafkandi, General-Secretary of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran, which was committed to Kurdish autonomy − and a Persian interpreter at Berlin’s Mykonos restaurant.

Two Iranians, including an intelligence officer, and three Lebanese were found guilty of involvement in the assassinations by a German court in 1997, with the intelligence officer and one Lebanese sentenced to life in prison, although Iran has always denied any role. Iranian intelligence allegedly assassinated the previous KDPI general-secretary Abdulrahman Ghassemlou in Vienna in 1989, former prime minister Shapour Bakhtiar in Paris in 1991, and other dissidents including royalist singer and poet Fereydoun Farrokhzad in Berlin in 1992.

Hakakian’s article in New York Review follows the US Justice Department announcing in a July 13 press release that it had indicted four Iranians over “conspiracies related to kidnapping, sanctions violations, bank and wire fraud, and money laundering.” Of the four, three were in Iran and one, Niloufar Bahadorfar, a Californian resident, had been arrested.

While the Justice Department referred only to a plot to kidnap “a Brooklyn journalist, author and human rights activist” and said an indictment was an allegation with defendants “presumed innocent until proven guilty,” Alinejad quickly identified herself as the alleged victim in disclosing what she called an Iranian intelligence ministry plot foiled by the US law enforcement.

Decades-long pattern

Alinejad told Iran International in July that the FBI had moved her to three different safe houses, and each time the “conspirators” had found her, planning to take her to Venezuela on a speedboat and then deliver her to Tehran. Alinejad, previously a parliamentary reporter in Tehran, left Iran in 2009, published the 2018 memoir The Wind In My Hair, and in 2019 held a highly publicized meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a year after the Trump administration introduced ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions. Alinejad’s campaigns, ‘Stealthy Freedom’ and ‘White Wednesdays’, express opposition to compulsory public hijab in Iran.

In a statement in July, the Washington DC-based Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran said the alleged plot to kidnap Alinejad fitted “a decades-long pattern” of intimidation, extrajudicial killings and abduction of dissidents. The center said it had identified 540 people killed or abducted by Iranian intelligence, mainly in the Middle East and Europe.

Iran International

About Track Persia

Track Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.