Ambassador Butler, You Are On The Wrong Side!

It was an early morning when I heard the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) had raided our house and arrested my mother to the horror of my 7-year-old brother. They confiscated our house. My mother was charged with arranging a memorial service for “Abbas Omani” at our home. Abbas, a teenager in the neighborhood, had been shot to death when he was distributing the MEK’s popular newspaper. He was only 16 years old.

I was 18; it was the spring of 1980, a few months after the revolution in Iran. My mother was released 2 months later and was able to get our house back after lots of aggravation. But a few months after that, the IRGC arrested her again, this time along with my father and my 16-year-old brother.

At that time, sympathizers of MEK (PMOI), which is the largest and most popular opposition movement inside Iran, were massacred by the regime for just expressing their beliefs and opinions. The regime’s state-run media had announced that any material support for MEK such as distributing their newspaper, raising funds and helping MEK with their medical needs – which was my father’s work because he was a physician – was a crime. “They all deserve the death penalty,” the Mullahs, or “maintainers of the faith” had announced.

The regime made a point of announcing grisly executions and publicly fanning fear among the population to discourage any support for the MEK who were challenging the mullahs. They did not want to lose any time to reach this vital objective. And therefore the mass execution of political prisoners was taking place without even registering the prisoners at the prison’s admissions department.

The media published the pictures of the executed and asked their loved ones to identify them and contact the authorities to take custody of the bodies, after they paid for the bullets used in the execution!

Every day I would read the newspaper to find out if my loved ones were among the victims until the moment which I feared most finally arrived. On September 28, 1981, Keyhan published the pictures of 53 persons executed in Isfahan prison, among them my parents (Morteza and Efat Shafaei) and my 16-year-old brother Majid.

As I stared at their innocent faces, tears flowed down my face and deep down in my soul a burning pain ripped through my body. I loved my family. For what sins were they executed?

My days were passing in grief while the memories of my father’s words expressing his passion for freedom, were filling his painful absence. I could remember that when the savage Basij militia had burned his car once he had told me, “My dear, when you decide to stand up for your freedom, you have to put all you’ve got on the line. Today they burn our car, tomorrow they will take our house. One day we might have to even give our lives! Freedom is not given to anyone on a silver platter…”

Six months later, my 27 year-old brother, Javad, an Industrial Engineer, was arrested and murdered under torture and one month later my only sister, Maryam, 24 years-old, was murdered along with her husband.

A few years later I had occasion to meet some of the ex-prisoners who were my parents’ cellmates. They told me their memories about my parents’ heroic aspirations when they were under cruel pressure from interrogators and torturers and were offered their “freedom” in exchange for participating in TV interviews to publicly recant their views and condemn the MEK.

They told me how my parents had rejected this shameful offer and preferred to be incarcerated and executed, but remain faithful and loyal to the cause of freedom for Iran.

Shafaei Family 1975
The Shafaei family 1975 from a family of 7, only me and my younger brother Mohammad sitting in my mother’s arms are left.

The rest were executed by the Iranian regime. Standing: my brother Javad and my sister Maryam, (27 and 24 at the time of execution) Sitting: My father Dr. Morteza and my mother Efat (50 and 45 years at the time of execution) My other brother Majid who was taking this picture was executed at the age of 16.

As a victim of this dictatorship, whose loved ones have died in line with other Iranian people for freedom and democracy, I am shocked by US Ambassador Lawrence Butler’s statements in the New York Times 22 July 2011 “Iranian Exile Group Poses Vexing Issue for U.S. in Iraq.”

Does Mr. Butler know of our history and our lives? Why is he aiming to condemn the resistance and the valor of the victims instead of the crimes and atrocities of the Mullahs’ agents and torturers?

Has Mr. Butler stopped for a minute to think of why a 16-year-old teenager should be executed for distributing a political leaflet or expressing his support for the MEK? Has he even tried to understand why they do not betray freedom’s cause even in the face of torture and death? Has he even noticed that in 1988 over 30,000 of them went to the gallows for just not betraying their belief in democracy and support for the MEK?

My little brother, Mohammad, was only 7 years old at the time of my parents’ death. He, who is the only other remaining member of my family of seven, was taken out of Iran with the help of friends and immigrated to the United States where he grew up and studied hard to become a physician in the memory of our father.

Mohammad is now 38 and lives in Camp Ashraf, where he decided to go to stand for Iran’s freedom with thousands of other Iranian dissidents.

Mohammad Shafaei s
Mohammad 38, in Ashraf summer of 2010

I worry for him and all others in Ashraf. I want to tell Mr. Butler: you are responsible for each single word that you utter.

For God’s sake, do not play your usual realpolitik games with the lives of our loved ones. The United States of America has a responsibility to protect the lives of 3,400 of our loved ones in Ashraf and I have just mentioned one in thousands of cases. You are responsible. The US signed an agreement with each and every one of Ashraf residents in 2004 to protect them.

They haven’t committed any crime other than sacrificing their lives and all they have with great courage for the freedom of their country. Naturally, it is expected that others would pat them on the back, cheer them on, and pray for them and not stab them in the back and give a green light for their massacre by the brutal Iranian regime.

As an Iranian who loves her country, I call on the United Nations to undertake responsibility to protect Camp Ashraf and I call on the United States to live up to its promises of protection of Ashraf and to not let our loved ones be victimized. To all who read my words today, I plead for your prayers for Ashraf and for Iran’s deliverance.

Zohreh Shafaei is a human rights activist and prominent figure in the Iranian opposition movement for freedom in Iran (NCRI) Contact her through NewsBlaze.