By EMERSON VERMAAT
On Saturday evening January 29, Dutch radio and TV news programs reported that Zahra Bahrami, a Dutch-Iranian woman aged 45, had been hanged for drug smuggling in the notorious Evin prison in the Iranian capital of Tehran. Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal commented: "I am deeply shocked by this outrageous act by this barbaric regime. I wish to add that I was told yesterday (by Iranian ambassador Gharib Abadi, V.) that the judicial process was not finished and the next day Mrs. Bahrami was hanged. It took me by surprise. I strongly recommend Dutch-Iranian citizens not to travel to Iran. We will freeze official contacts with Iran." Rosenthal later told parliament he had been fooled by the Iranians. The Iranians lamely commented the hanging of Mrs. Bahrami was just an internal issue others should not interfere with. Iran also accused the Netherlands of supporting "a terrorist organization," possibly referring to the Mujaheddin-e-Khalq (MKO). They failed to substantiate their assertion. Moreover, this accusation is an outright lie. The Dutch government never ever supported such an organization. MKO is more active in Germany and France where they are closely monitored by domestic intelligence and security services.
The Dutch press reported on January 5 that Zahra Bahrami had been found guilty of drug smuggling and sencented to death by a court in Tehran. (The death penalty itself had been pronounced a few days earlier, though.) The death sentence was then carried out later that month.
However, it was on January 17, twelve days before that execution, that the Press Section of the Iranian Embassy in The Hague published a misleading letter in the Dutch daily newspaper NRC Handelsblad claiming Mrs. Bahrami's trial had been legal. "The verdict is not yet final and still needed to be approved by the Minister of Justice," the Press Section asserted. "The Iranian justice system does not recognize dual nationality," they added. As if they wanted to warn other "politically unreliable" Dutch-Iranians not to count of diplomatic protection by the Netherlands in case they run into trouble in Iran.
Uri Rosenthal has indeed reason to be worried about Iran's judicial authorities: four other Dutch-Iranian citizens have also been jailed in Iran - and they, too, might face the death sentence penalty. The so-called Islamic Republic of Iran does not care about human rights and due judicial process. Prisoners are often subjected to torture and ill-treatment. Show trials are no exception.
The Iranians do not recognize dual citizenship. If an Iranian citizen flees to Europe or North America, and successfully applies for nationality there, the only thing that Iran really recognizes is the original Iranian citizenship. Former Iranian refugees who return to Iran with a view to visiting family members, for example, run the risk of being arrested, especially if they have joined opposition groups outside or inside Iran. But those who have been recruited by Iranian intelligence "VEVAK" agents abroad, do not run that particular risk should they decide to visit Iranian family members. Those who refuse to be recruited, could be arrested anytime after their arrival on Iranian territory. In Germany and Holland, for example, VEVAK closely monitors Iranian immigrant and opposition groups, seeking to infiltrate them. Iranian immigrants in the West can often easily be recruited after threats have been issued against family members in Iran.
Zahra Bahrami could have been a target for recruitment, too. If an attempt to recruit her as an informant was ever made, she must have turned down any such proposal.
Zarah Bahrami was a divorced mother of two daughters when she arrived in Holland in 1994 to apply for political asylum. Her daughters were not allowed to join her, they had two stay with their father. No longer could she endure the oppressive atmosphere in Iran where women are subjected to harrassment and discrimination. She wanted to enjoy Western freedom, but did not fail to keep in touch with her children.
It did not take long for her to become a Dutch citizen. She spoke Dutch fluently - a rare phenomenon among non-Western immigrants. She settled in the Dutch town of Spijkenisse, near Rotterdam, and earned her money through belly dancing at parties of Hindustani Surinamese immigrants. She also traveled to Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname. A voluptous Iranian belly dancer abroad is regarded by the conservative Iranian clerics as a sinful prostitute. Officially, prostitution in the Islamic Republic of Iran is strictly forbidden. Yet, some 300,000 prostitutes work on the streets of Tehran alone.
Moreover, "Iran's new Islamic guided government has established a system of legalized prostitution through a practice of 'sigheh' or 'temporary marriages,' by which a mullah arranges a 'legal union' between a man and a girl (some as young as nine years old) for a fee," Lily Mazerherv writes in the Jerusalem Post. "The so-called marriages can last anywhere from one hour to 99 years." Not only does this legalize prostitution, also does it legalize pedophilia - allowing sex with 9 year old girls.
Trumped up charges
When her 18-year old daughter had committed suicide in 2000, Zarah Bahrami decided to return to Tehran to attend the funeral. She would visit Iran several times between 2000 and 2009 with a view to seeing her other daughter and friends. In 2006, she moved from Holland to Britain, hoping to get married. The planned marriage did not materialize, however. In Britain, too, she worked as a belly dancer. Iran later accused her of having joined there an Iranian monarchist opposition group, the "Association of Monarchists." These allegations have been denied by both Mrs. Bahrami and the Association of Monarchists.
In 2009, she traveled from London to Tehran to see her 26-year old daughter Banafsheh Nayebpour, a student of psychology, again. It was then that Iran's highly controversial president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was reelected after fraudulent elections. At the end of 2009, Zahra Bahrami joined an anti-Ahmadinejad demonstration. Four days later she was arrested and subsequently held in section 209 of Tehran's Evin prison - the section for political prisoners and not for drug criminals. The drug charges came later.
Sadegh Naghashkar, a well informed Iranian human rights activist, told the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant that the drug charges were made up to give Mrs. Bahrami the death penalty. "The real reason for hanging her was not drugs but her political activities," Naghashkar, said. He claims that two new Iranian lawyers, recently paid by the Dutch government, told him that they wanted to have access to the prosecution file against her. The Iranians were afraid that these lawyers would then discover that the whole trial was a farce - so they decided to hang her in great haste. After Zarah Bahrami was hanged, the state run Iran news agency Fars repeated the charges: "Zahra Bahrami had previously been arrested for security related charges and 420 grams of cocaine and 420 grams of opium was discovered when her apartment was searched."
Family members believe the Iranian secret service put the drugs in Zahra Bahrami's apartment to have a case against her. Drug dealers are usually convicted and sentenced to death. Prisoners in Evin prison have very few rights, but they are allowed to spend a few minutes on the phone very occasionally. (All these calls are being monitored.) Mrs. Bahrami's Dutch lawyer Adrie Tilburg said he had been called by her on November 1, 2010. She told him those drugs had been put in her apartment. "I am being tricked," she said.
Answering a question about her mother's televised self-incriminating confession Banafsheh Nayebpour said: "It was the beginning of her detention, around nine months ago, when channel 6 (of Iran state TV) aired a program that showed my mother making self-incriminating confessions. I was extremely upset. I even told Mr. Dolatabadi (the prosecutor, V.) that (the false charges) attributed to my mother are shameful. My mother is an artist and she studied music in the Netherlands for a few years. She was told that if she gave (a televised) interview, she would be released. Even Mr. Dolatabadi told me: 'Yes, I did tell your mother that she would be released if she gave a televised interview, however, later on, certain circumstances arose that prevented us from releasing her.'"
Lying, making false promises to defenseless prisoners, is very typical of Iran's judicial system. Iran's so-called "revolutionary courts" have a brutal reputation and often do not hesitate to allow fake evidence. Dutch embassy officials were not allowed to attend to trial.
Mina Saadadi, editor-in-chief of the Amsterdam based Persian-English website Sharzhad News, wrote in the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant that when Mrs. Bahrami's self-incriminating confessions were aired on Iranian TV, additional footage was aired showing her performing an act of belly dancing in a London restaurant. Such footage is normally banned on Iranian national TV, but in this case they wanted to depict her as a whore, Mina Saadi writes.
It is true that Zahra Bahrami had a prior criminal record in the Netherlands. In 2003, she got a three year jail sentence for cocaine trafficking. Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal, however, said that this prior conviction is not related to the drug charges in Iran: "We dispute the Iranian trial. We were not allowed to attend the trial. It was a farce."
Mrs. Bahrami's daughter Banafsheh told the Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad that someone had given her mother a suitcase, asking if she was willing to put it on the plane to Holland. "She did not know there were drugs in the suitcase. That is why she received a low verdict." I don't know if this is a true version of events. I only know that a lot of drug dealers in Surinam and the Carabbean often do approach lone female travelers to Europe asking them to put a suitcase on the plane. Of course, they don't tell their victims they are drug dealers. That suitcase is just for a friend or a family member, they claim. It also often happens in Thailand.
Friends and relatives described Zahra Bahrami as "a cheering, but naive woman."
Iranian lawyer arrested
After the first day of Zahra Bahrami's trial before "Revolutionary Court number 15" on August 28, 2010, in Tehran, her female lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh called on the Dutch government to do everything to alert the public about the case. It must be a combination of quiet diplomacy and "public actions." "The charges of drugs and (political) activities are very dangerous," she said. "Her life is in danger."
Nasrin Sotoudeh herself was arrested on September 4, 2010, and subsequently sentenced to eleven years' jail. Banafsheh Nayebpour says that "Nasrin Sotoudeh was a very good lawyer for my mother, but unfortunately she was arrested. She defended my mother bravely and was the only person who gave an interview to a Dutch newspaper and said that the charges related to 'possession of narcotics' are trumped up and fabricated. I think because she spread the news and defended her clients it landed her in trouble.'"
Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi called for Mrs. Sotoudeh's release, saying: "Mrs. Sotoudeh is one of the last remaining courageous human rights lawyers who has accepted all risks for defending the victims of human rights violations in Iran." Sotoudeh is imprisoned in Evin prison.
Dutch Foreign Minister Rosenthal could have done more to save Zahra Bahrami
Zahra Bahrami realized she had to find a new lawyer, but she needed funds to pay him. She preferred Alizadeh Tabatabai, a well-connected lawyer. She also wanted the Dutch government to do more on her behalf. So she called her Dutch lawyer Adrie Tilburg on November 1, 2010, asking for 18,000 euros to pay the new Iranian lawyer. This money had to be provided by the Dutch Foreign Ministry through its Embassy in Tehran.
Tilburg later claimed that the Dutch Embassy was rather slow to act. They waited until the death penalty was pronounced and then decided to pay two Iranian lawyers which had not been selected by Mrs. Bahrami herself. The Dutch Foreign Office claimed there was an internal regulation - the so-called "Verhagen richtlijn" - that such payments could only be made if the death penalty is about to be pronounced. "There are thousands of Dutch citizens abroad who ask for money to pay their lawyers," the Foreign Ministry said. Adrie Tilburg does not agree. "Death sentences are carried out quickly in Iran," he says. This is what the new Dutch Foreign Minister, a typical university professor and gentleman, failed to realize.
Rosenthal also failed to act in November 2010 when the then Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki had been invited to The Hague to address a meeting of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Dutch journalists and politicians claim this would have been a unique chance to raise the issue of Zahra Bahrami directly with Iran's Foreign Minister. Rosenthal, however, wanted to obey U.S. sanctions which meant that Iranian planes would have to be refused fuel. So Mottaki cancelled his visit. Two weeks later he was sacked by Iran's hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - both had been clashing over numerous issues for some time.
Whether a meeting between Rosenthal and Mottaki would really have produced results, remains to be seen. As his dismissal in December 2010 shows, Mottaki no longer enjoyed the confidence of the hardliners in Tehran. Yet, in a Dutch parliamentary debate on February 3, 2011, Rosenthal admitted himself that he could and should have done more to save Zahra Bahrami's life. He had failed to contact the Iranian Foreign Minister or the president. It was, in retrospect, wrong not to have met Mottaki at the end of November, Rosenthal said. And he been misled by the Iranian ambassador later. The Iranian diplomat told him that all legal remedies had not yet been exhausted. Members of parliament argued that whatever the Iranians say is usually not very reliable. Rosenthal said he had had "sleepless nights" over the issue and that "there were lessons to be learned."
Four days later, on February 7, Rosenthals recalled the Dutch ambassador in Iran - in protest of what the Iranian authorities had done with Mrs. Bahrami's body. They had simply refused to hand over her body to family members for burial - the normal procedure in those cases when criminals have been executed. Instead, they buried Mrs. Bahrami in Semnam, a provincial town some 250 miles from Tehran, on Sunday February 6. Mrs. Bahrami's daughter Banafsheh Nayebpour was informed of this decision by the Ministry of Intelligence and Security just two hours before the actual burial. So there was no way for her or other family members to be present at the burial and pay their last respects.
This once again shows the Iranian authorities' utter disdain for both Bahrami's family and the Dutch Foreign Ministry. Mrs. Bahrami's Dutch lawyer Adrie Tilburg commented on Dutch TV: 'They refused to comply with her daughter's request to hand over her body. This behavior strengthens my opinion that she was executed for political reasons. Otherwise they would indeed have handed over the body to family members. Those drug charges were just trumped up to harm her."
Supressing and murdering dissidents at home but praising the "Islamic liberation movement" in Egypt
While Iran's Islamo-fascist leaders suppress and murder dissidents at home, they openly and repeatedly praised the masses who took to the streets in Tunisia and Egypt - describing the demonstrators as being part of an "Islamic liberation movement." It was at the traditional Friday prayers in Tehran on February 4, that Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said: "The awakening of the Islamic Egyptian people is an Islamic liberation movement, and I, in the name of the Iranian government, salute the Egyptian people and the Tunisian people." "If Egypt halts its alliance with Israel and takes its real position, what a great event will happen in the region. All the late Imam's prophesies will come true," he said referring to Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeni, the leader of Iran's revolt in 1979 who called for popular uprisings throughout the Islamic world. "Khamenei also called on the Egyptian army to back the protesters and 'focus on the Zionist enemy,' a reference to Israel." (Muslimvillage.com.)
Khamenei draws an analogy between the "popular Islamic uprising in Iran" back in 1979 and the current mass protests in Egypt and Tunisia. He hopes that the Muslim Brotherhood will soon be part of a powersharing deal in Egypt. From the experiences with their Hezbollah ally in Lebanon, they know that militant Islamic, anti-Western and non-secular forces will eventually prevail. They are much better organized.
It should be no surprise at all that Khamenei wants the powerful Muslim Brotherhood to take over Egypt. Dutch writer and columnist Leon de Winter claims that it was Ali Khamenei who once translated the books of Sayyid Qutb into Persian. Qutb was a prominent Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood member who admired Hitler and hated the Jews. "Hitler had been sent by Allah to kill the Jews," Qutb wrote in his book "Our Struggle with the Jews." His books inspired fellow Egyptian Ayman Al-Zawahiri to revolt against the Egyptian government in the 1980s. Al-Zawahiri later joined Al-Qaeda, to become the deputy of Osama bin Laden.
Leon de Winter quotes from a recent Pew Research Center Poll showing that 84 percent of the Egyptians believe that those who break with Islam - so-called apostates - must be sentenced to death. And more than half of the Egyptians - 57 percent, that is - identify themselves with fundamentalist Muslims - not with moderates. Anti-Semitism is still rampant in Egypt. Egyptian protesters hold posters or portraits of president Hosni Mubarak with a Star of David - and the crowds are cheering. This is not just aimed against Israel, it is aimed against the Jews.
Emerson Vermaat is an investigative reporter in the Netherlands. Website: emersonvermaat.com.
RTL4 Nieuws and NOS Journaal, December 29, 2011 (Dutch TV, between 7.30 and 8.30 pm.).
Uri Rosenthal in Dutch parliament on February 4, 2011; NOS Journaal (Midnight), February 4/5, 2011.
Dagblad De Pers (Amsterdam), February 9, 2011, p. 5 ("Nederlandse woede maakt weinig indruk op Iran"); Algemeen Dagblad (Rotterdam), February 9, 2011, p. 3 ("Ruzie om Iran ontaardt in een ordinaire scheldpartij").
Bundesamt für Verfasungsschutz, Verfassungsschutzbericht 2008 (Cologne: BfV/Ministry of Interior, 2009), p. 296-299 (On "Mujaheddin-e-Khalq" - referred to as "a terrorist organization" - in Germany).
De Telegraaf (Amsterdam), January 5, 2011 ("Nederlandse vrouw in Iran ter dood veroordeeld"); Radio Netherlands Worldwide, January 5, 2011 ("Dutch-Iranian woman sentenced to death in Iran").
NRC Handelsblad (Amsterdam), January 17, 2011, p. 9 ("Mevrouw Bahrami kreeg gewoon een wettig proces"). A letter from the Press Section of the Iranian Embassy: "Het vonnis tegen mevrouw Bahrami is niet finaal en moet nog worden goedgekeurd door de minister van Justitie van Iran." "Het rechtssysteem van Iran erkent geen dubbele nationaliteit en daarom heeft Bahrami's andere nationaliteit geen invloed gehad op haar rechtszaken in Iran."
Algemeen Dagblad (Rotterdam, Netherlands), February 1, 2011, p. 2 ("Nog vier Nederlanders in cel riskeren de doodstraf").
Algemene Inlichtingen- en Veiligheidsdienst (AIVD), Jaarverslag 2009 (The Hague, Netherlands: AIVD/Interior Ministry, 2010), p. 28. ("…ondersteuners van de Iraanse oppositie vormen een doelwit van deze inlichtingen- en beïnvloedingsactiviteiten. De activiteiten vormen een aantasting van de grondrechten van Nederlandse ingezetenen kunnen een gevaar opleveren voor de veiligheid van henzelf of hun familie in Iran.")
Verfassungsschutzbericht 2009 (Cologne: Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, 2010), p. 346, 347. ("Das MOIS/VEVAK unterhält an der Iranischen Botschaft in Berlin eine Legalresidentur, die auch mit der Beobachtung von in Deutschland lebenden Oppositionellen beauftragt ist.")
De Volkskrant (Amsterdam), January 31, 2011, p. 10, 11 ("Buikdanseres vluchtte het ongeluk tegemoet"). Biographical details, section 209 Evin prison and quote from Sadegh Naghashkar.
New York Times, August 28, 2002 ("To regulate prostitution, Iran ponders brothels").
Jerusalem Post, January 15, 2011 ("The silent screams of women and girls").
Iran Human Rights, January 29, 2011 ("Iranian-Dutch citizen Zahra Bahrami executed in Tehran").
Algemeen Dagblad, January 31, 2011, 13 ("Nederland te laks om executie te voorkomen"). "Ik wordt erin geluisd," aldus de vrouw.
Persian2English, January 18, 2011. ("Daughter of Ashura death row prisoner: Mom's false confessions based on promise of release"), also on Nasrin Sotoudeh, Mrs. Bahrami's defense lawyer.
De Volkskrant, February 4, 2011, p. 21 ("Bahrami móest dood"). Mina Saadadi's article.
Nieuwslijn (Dutch TV), January 31, 2011 ("Zahra Bahrami is ook in Nederland veroordeeld voor harddrugssmokkel"), also quote from Uri Rosenthal; NRC Handelsblad (Amsterdam), February 1, 2011 ("Bahrami zat eerder in cel voor smokkel").
Zahra Bahrami, http://e.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zahra_Bahrami (prior criminal record).
NRC Handelsblad, February 1, 2011 ("Waarom zegt Rosenthal dat?"). Quote from Banafsheh Najebpour: "Mijn moeder heeft me altijd verteld dat iemand haar destijds had gevraagd een koffer mee te nemen. Ze wist niet dat daar drugs in zaten. Daarom was haar straf ook zo laag."
NRC Handelsblad, January, 31, 2011, p. 7 ("Ze was een goedlachse, maar naïeve vrouw"), also on Nasrin Sotoudeh. Nasrid Sotoudeh, http://en.wikipedia.org/Nasrin_Sotoudeh (quote from Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi.
Uitgesproken TV (VARA, Dutch TV), January 31, 1, 2011 (18,000 euros to pay an Iranian lawyer, quote from Adrie Tilburg).
De Telegraaf, February 4, 2011, p. 7 ("Rosenthal had meer moeten doen"); NRC Handelsblad, February 4, 2011, p. 1, 5 ("Rosenthal: fouten in kwestie-Bahrami"); de Volkskrant, February 4, 2011, 7 ("Rosenthal erkent tekortschieten").
NRC Handelsblad, February 7, 2011, p. 1 5 ("Ambassadeur uit Iran teruggeroepen"); RTL Nieuws (Dutch TV), February 7, 2011, 7.30 pm. (Quote from Adrie Tilburg).
Muslimvillage.com, February 4, 2011 ("Khamenei credits Iranian revolution with fuelling Egyptian revolt"); België Eén Nieuws (Belgian TV), February 4, 2011 (19.00 pm); NRC Handelsblad, February 5, 2011, p. 7 ("Iran ziet islamitische opstand in Egypte").
De Telegraaf, February 5, 2011, p. 9 (Leon de Winter's column: "Alleen vrijheid voor gelijkgezinden").
John C. Zimmerman, Sayyid Qutb's influence on the 11 September attacks, in: Terrorism and Political Violence, Summer 2004 (Vol. 26, No. 2), p. 225 (hating the West), p. 237, 238 (anti-Semitism), p. 223, 240-242 (Osama bin Laden and Al-Zawahiri)
Judith Apter Klinghofer, Egyptian Demonstrators' Antisemitism, February 7, 2011 (http//hnn.us/blogs/entries/136319.html).
©2011 Emerson Vermaat. All rights reserved.