- The Washington Times - Friday, January 14, 2011

Early on Dec. 28, as Westerners were celebrating the Christmas and New Year holiday season, I had just awakened when one of my friends reached me with tears in his eyes. In broken sentences, he said, “Akbar, Akbar, Ali Saremi has been hanged.”

A bitter feeling overwhelmed me. For a few minutes, I felt numbed.

Ali Saremi, the most prominent Iranian political prisoner, was my father.

Since he had been sentenced to death as a “mohareb,” or enemy of God, a year before, I had constantly reviewed this scene in my head. But no preparation could help when the moment came.

From my earliest days, the word “prison” was part of my vocabulary. My father was jailed for the first time under the shah. After the shah’s downfall, we thought political imprisonment belonged to the past. We never imagined that under the clerics, prison would turn out to be my father’s main home.

He was a teacher, fluent in five languages. He was 63 and an activist in the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the principal opposition movement.

My father spent two years in jail under the shah and was freed on the eve of the revolution of 1979. Under the mullahs, he was imprisoned four times for a total of 22 years. His last arrest was in the summer of 2007 after he gave a speech in memory of political prisoners massacred in 1988 on the site of a mass grave. He never returned home and was sentenced to death in December 2009 after the Green Movement’s uprising.

I have been living in Camp Ashraf, the residence of 3,400 members of the PMOI/MEK in Iraq, for years. Charges against my father included visiting me in Ashraf (after 17 years), possessing videos and CDs of PMOI/MEK activities and sending news clips to the organization.

Pause for a moment: execution for possessing pictures and videos of the opposition. This speaks volumes about the regime in Iran.

I did not know that his execution was imminent. I found out later that neither did my mother, my sisters or even my father and his lawyer. My father mysteriously disappeared on the eve of his execution from Gohardasht Prison in the suburbs of Tehran. He was transferred to the notorious Evin Prison in northern Tehran, to be hanged the following dawn. Learning of his disappearance, my family went to the gates of Evin at night, seeking news. To no avail. After the execution, my sister wrote: “Father, on that cold winter night we had not come so they could hit me, my mother and my sisters in the heart, but so you would stay and defend my people.”

The clerical regime probably thought this kind of news would not attract much attention during the Christmas holidays and that my father’s execution would not get much publicity abroad.

But I don’t understand the silence and inaction of some in the West and, in particular, in the U.S. government toward such brazen crimes. The bitter reality is that this silence sends the worst possible message to the Tehran tyrants: that the West is not willing to condemn the clerical regime for human rights violations even in words, let alone through practical steps.

Does the fact that the United States is anticipating a new round of nuclear negotiations with Tehran and does not want to agitate the mullahs justify silence regarding the vicious hanging of my father? Does the negotiation list include the most rudimentary rights of Iranians? Is this the response to slogans of young Iranians in the streets of Tehran who were chanting,”Obama, Obama, either with the mullahs or with us”?

The U.S. attitude may stem from the fact that the PMOI/MEK is still blacklisted by the State Department. The terrorist label on the PMOI/MEK, placed on the organized resistance by the Clinton administration to please the mullahs, is not an abstract issue or just a subject of political debate. It has turned into a tool of suppression in the hands of the mullahs.

I am living proof of this reality.

But the clerical regime does not need an enabler like the United States to further suppress the Iranian people and murder political dissidents like my father.

Following rulings by the seven highest courts of the European Union and the United Kingdom clearing the PMOI/MEK of any connection with terrorism, its name was removed from their blacklists in 2008 and 2009. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit chastised the State Department for keeping the PMOI on its list and ordered a review. After a bipartisan resolution sponsored by 110 members of Congress calling on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to delist the organization, what is the excuse for continuing the status quo?

Let’s hope that 2011 will be a new beginning for U.S. policy on Iran, a policy based on morality as President Obama promised. The Iranian people are waiting.

Akbar Saremi is an Iranian refugee living in Iraq.

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