- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 1, 2011

A leading Iranian dissident has killed himself in what appeared to be a final act of defiance against the Iranian regime that had nearly ruined him.

Farsi-language websites reported over the weekend the death Friday of Siamak Pourzand, an 80-year-old journalist and essayist who was one of his country’s leading political and cultural writers before the 1979 revolution that later brought a theocratic regime to power.

After the revolution, Mr. Pourzand became one of the main writers affiliated with Iran’s domestic secular opposition in the 1990s.

According to his children, Mr. Pourzand jumped from the sixth-floor balcony of his apartment in Tehran, where he has been under house arrest for the last five years.

“My father was a secularist, and he believed the culture of Iran needed to be safeguarded from the religious revolutionaries in 1979,” said his daughter, Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi in a phone interview Sunday.

“So he stayed in Iran, when he was given many opportunities to leave. He loved Iran, and he gave his life for the freedom of his country. He leapt to his own death to prove his disgust for a regime that is inhumane and un-Iranian.”

Mr. Pourzand’s suicide is a reminder that the first generation of Iranians who stayed in Iran after the revolution but opposed the clerical rule of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini will likely not live to see a democratic Iran.

Today, many of the initial supporters of the 1979 revolution have turned on the current regime. The opposition intensified after the 2009 elections that pro-democracy advocates of the “Green Movement” accused the government of stealing to ensure the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Mr. Pourzand was a correspondent for Keyhan newspaper. He interviewed President Richard M. Nixon and covered the funeral for President John F. Kennedy. He also covered Hollywood and became of one of Iran’s best known film critics, penning essays for the French film journal, Cahiers du Cinema (Notebooks of the Cinema).

After the revolution, he lost his job with Keyhan and made a living writing for Iranian trade journals.

In the 1990s, he re-emerged as part of a new opposition that formed in the years following the death of Ayatollah Khomeini and the end of the Iran-Iraq war.

As a dissident and opponent of the regime, he drew attention from Iran’s secret police when he covered the proceedings of the 1998 funerals of Darius and Parvaneh Forouhar, two anti-regime intellectuals who were killed in their Tehran apartment.

The murder of the Forouhars were part of a string of killings of regime opponents that came to be known as the “chain murders.”

Mr. Pourzand reported their funeral live by telephone for KRSI, a Los Angeles-based Iranian radio station that catered to the Iranian population in that city.

Another one of his daughters, Azadeh Pourzand, said, “I would like to think of his death as a way for him to finally find freedom. We were so exhausted anticipating the end. I think he emotionally had given up. When the Green Movement was repressed, his optimism about Iran was crushed with it.”

In 2001, Mr. Pourzand was kidnapped by a branch of Iran’s intelligence service. He was missing for several months. Eventually, he was forced to make a confession of his disloyalty to the state on national television. Authorities accused him of receiving money from the CIA and having an adulterous affair. Since 2006, he has been forced to live under house arrest in his Tehran apartment.

Azadeh Pourzand was the only member of her family allowed to visit her father in 2005.

“When I visited him, I said we are trying to get you out of Iran, and he banged his cane on the ground and said, ‘I will stay here until I can testify before a new truth and reconciliation commission that can hear about what this regime has done to all of us.’ “

• Eli Lake can be reached at elake@washingtontimes.com.

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