As an Iranian-American who has regularly spoken out against the injustices of the regime in Iran, one might assume I feel no personal threat from a tyrannical government on the opposite side of the world. That is not the case. And the new administration should take stock of a terrorism trial in a Belgian court whose verdict is expected next month. It may have significant policy implications as hundreds of Americans, including myself and many distinguished former officials, were among the targets.
A few months ago, a State Department fact sheet stated, “Iran’s global campaign of terror has included as many as 360 targeted assassinations in other countries, and mass bombing attacks that killed and maimed hundreds.”
The regime in Iran uses different techniques to suppress its opposition inside and outside the country. In December 2020, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution condemning the grave and systematic violation of human rights in Iran.
Abroad, terror attacks and abductions are the favored modus operandi. In June 2018, several thousand Iranian-American pro-democracy activists — several hundred Texans among them — and I traveled to Paris, France, to attend the annual Free Iran Summit. We later learned the regime had plotted to bomb the event, with the intention of murdering thousands of participants.
Thankfully, the attack was foiled and Assadollah Assadi – a top Iranian “diplomat” stationed in Vienna – currently awaits sentencing in Belgium on numerous terrorism charges. His trial late last year and detailed investigating by Belgian security and law enforcement agencies again confirmed that Tehran’s foreign ministry, specifically Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, are at the front and center of Iranian terror operations abroad.
As Zarif’s diplomat in Austria, Assadi used his diplomatic immunity to transfer a sophisticated, powerful bomb from Iran to Europe, where he handed the device to a couple with instructions on how to detonate it at the rally, where tens thousands of people, including hundreds of distinguished American and international political figures had gathered. According to Belgian officials, Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the democratic opposition coalition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, and the event’s keynote speaker, was the main target of the plot.
The Iranian regime is ruthless. Beyond its mass killings, it has also been known to abduct activists abroad and transfer them to Iran in violation of many international laws, induce forced confessions, stage kangaroo courts, and ultimately execute or imprison them. Rouholla Zam, an Iranian dissident journalist residing in France, was kidnapped in Iraq in October 2019 and taken to Iran. While in prison, he was forced to make a confession, which was used by the judiciary to sentence him to death by hanging. Shortly thereafter, he was summarily hanged.
Which explains why innocent prisoners familiar with the regime’s tactics are willing to endure cruel torture rather than offer up a confession. Ali Younesi and Amir-Hossien Moradi, two university students arrested by the regime in April 2020, are currently detained. After months of imprisonment without any trial or hearing, both students are under intense torture to participate in a TV interview where they would recant their alleged crimes. Ayda Younesi, Ali’s sister and a European resident, explained on her Twitter account that her brother was told that if he confessed in a televised interview, his execution sentence would be commuted to a life sentence. To date, the regime has been unable to force either Ali or Amir-Hossien to confess.
The Iranian regime’s behavior has not changed over the past 40 years. It has continued its malign activities, suppressing, torturing, and killing its own people while conducting terrorist acts and assassinations in foreign lands. As an activist living in the United States, I do not know if or when the regime may attempt to abduct or eliminate me. What I do know, is that if we do not stand up to this regime, the West and the United States are not off limits to a tyrannical dictatorship that knows no bounds.