Exiled author sheds light on Iranian assassinations

“Assassins of the Turquoise Palace” author Roya Hakakian discussed Iranian political history at the Slifka Center for Jewish Life on Tuesday night.
“Assassins of the Turquoise Palace” author Roya Hakakian discussed Iranian political history at the Slifka Center for Jewish Life on Tuesday night. Photo by Tory Burnside Clapp.

When Roya Hakakian set out to tell the story of eight assassinations ordered by the Iranian government 20 years ago in her book “Assassins of the Turquoise Palace,” she took the novel approach of focusing on the victims themselves.

Hakakian, a poet, author and human rights advocate born and raised in Tehran, spoke to a crowd of about 30 students and community members at the Slifka Center for Jewish Life on Tuesday night about writing the book, which was published in 2011. The assassinations and ensuing trial, she said, had all the intrigue of a suspense story and a political significance that has not received enough attention by world historians.

On Sept. 17, 1992, eight leaders of the Iranian opposition, four of whom were Kurdish, were having dinner together at Mykonos, a restaurant in Berlin, when two men walked in, opened fire at the table, and killed four of the eight men. Legal scholars have placed the April 1997 verdict of the German court — which implicated the entire Iranian leadership in the assassinations and caused diplomatic ruptures with Iran throughout Europe — as one of the most important verdicts in the history of Germany since Nuremberg Trials of Nazi leaders following World War II.

Although her editor wanted the book to center on the assassinations themselves, Hakakian said she chose to focus on the trial.

“As an Iranian exile, assassinations have been a dime a dozen — what was most intriguing was what followed, the trial. Against the wishes of my editor I told the story of the assassination right in the first two pages, and got it done with,” she said.

According to Hakakian, before these assassinations, Germany had been Iran’s closest ally, and although nearly 100 Iranians had been assassinated throughout the world, including singers, open homosexuals and sartorialists among political dissidents, no country had ever publicly called on Iran to take responsibility for these assassinations.

“In the United States, Geneva, Rome, Turkey, London, India, the Phillipines, everywhere in the world these assassinations had occurred, and in more cases than one when a proper investigation had been carried out, the killers footsteps led to Tehran’s embassy,” she said, noting that in 1988, Austria had arrested a perpetrator but upon realizing his ties to the Iranian embassy chose to deport the man to Iran rather than conduct a trial and upset its relationship with Iran.

Hakakian’s talk was sponsored by the Friedlaender Krohner Lecture series, which was founded by Gary and Linda Friedlaender with the goal of opening up conversations about Jewish identity. Gary Friedlaender, a member of the School of Medicine faculty, and Linda Friedlaender, the curator of education at the Yale Center for British Art, founded the lecture series over 20 years ago in honor of both their parents’ wedding anniverseries..

An Iranian Jew herself, Hakakian’s first book, “Journey From the Land of No: A Girl Hood Caught in Revolutionary Iran,” discussed her Jewish identity, a topic she spoke about more in a dinner with several students and community members before her talk. Although “Assassinations in a Turquoise Palace” does not mention Jews or the Holocaust, Hakakian said she felt that both were relevant to the story.

“The history of the Holocaust is never mentioned in the book, but its presence hugely affected the story” she said. The emotions and reactions among German people to the events of the book take place against the backdrop of the Holocaust, she said.

Justine Kolata ’12 said she was impressed by the powerful way in which Hakakian told the story.

“It was absolutely wonderful as an intersection of human rights and art, the way she told a story that was is in of itself artistic and has such important social implications,” Kolata said.

Nathaniel Meyer ’13 agreed, saying that the talk made him think more about the power of dialogue and the role of recording history.

“History for a large part is storytelling, and the talk struck me about the power of storytelling in conveying important political events.” he said.

Hakakian won a 2008 Guggenheim fellowship in nonfiction for “Assassinations of the Turquoise Palace.”

Comments

  • Elmi

    I hoped Mrs. Hakakian, an Iranian Jew, who seems to devote her life to demonize his birth country, by articles, books and what ever she can, to speak a little bit about the Iranian scientists who recently killed by assassination teams from Israel. She could do a better job if speaks about the history of misusing ethnic groups by the US and Israel to reach political goals in Iran history.
    Mrs. Hakaian is more an Israeili than an Iranian and it is unfortunate that some Jews in the world are supportive to whatevere wrong Isral is doing but just attaking their first homeland. This is the case with Mrs. Hakkakian who I always see a hatred toward her coutry in her works.
    If you are Iranian, stop demonizing your country, there are enough people doing this job. do something constructive to show how Iran is a civilized nation.

  • Arafat

    I hope Elmi. a Muslim apologist, who seems to devote her life to demonize Israel, by articles, books and what ever she can, to speak a little bit about the Jewish children killed by a Muslim in Toulouse, France. She could do a better job if speaks about the history of missing ethnic groups exterminated throughout the Islamic world in Muslims race towards a worldwide Ummah. Elmi is more a Muslim than an America and it is unfortunate that some Muslims in the world (99.9% of them) are supportive of Muslims whatever wrong Muslims is doing but just attacking their first homeland. This is the case with Mrs. Elmi who I always see a blind love of Islam in her works. If you are Muslim, stop lying about Islam, there are enough people doing this job. do something constructive to show how Iran is a barbaric outcast from civilization.

  • yale122

    The two comments above are just absurd. To the first responder– I’m an Iranian. And let me say, your statement, “If you are Iranian, stop demonizing your country, there are enough people doing this job. do something constructive to show how Iran is a civilized nation.” is just revolting and misleading. The Iranian government tortures, rapes, executes, hangs, stones, and commits heinous civil rights and ethnic abuses. Don’t anyone dare try cover this. A true Iranian would go out of their way to expose these abuses, help their people, take pride in the actions their people take to fight against the oppression. What you’re doing just strengthens that oppression and covers the truth.

    To the second responder, you’re bigot. Go educate yourself. I’d love to see how you came with your assessment that 99.9% of Muslims in the world are blindly supportive of all Muslims. The vile garbage that came out of your mouth right there is precisely what is dividing this world and fueling artificial separations among people. And by the way, the Iranian regime does not represent Islam by any stretch of the imagination. I’m no Muslim, but it really doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the Iranian regime, as a totalitarian, oppressive, lying dictatorship, abuses Islam for its own political convenience.

  • yale122

    Also, I find it very interesting that although the topic of the Mykonos Restaurant Assassinations came up, nowhere did anyone bring up the Hossein Moussavian scandal. Hossein Moussavian was the Iranian ambassador to Germany during the assassinations and now he’s a professor at Princeton and his son goes to Princeton. The Iranian regime’s influence in American academia and lobbying runs deep. Hillary Leverett professorship at Yale last year was only the tip of the iceberg…

    http://iransnews.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/a-terrorist-at-princeton-university/

  • Arafat

    Yale122,

    The second comment was a parody of the first comment. A play off of its bigotry and lies. Same words, more or less, with different pronouns.

    As to me being a bigot why don’t you enlighten me as to what Muslim country DOES represent Muslim values if Iran does not. Would Saudi Arabia be more representative, or Sudan, or Syria, or Afghanistan, or Pakistan, or Pici-astan, or Somalia? Why don’t you tell us which country best represents Muslim values? Or would that be America?

    • AlmostYale

      Is subjugating women a Muslim value? Stoning homosexuals a Muslim value? So my question is which Muslim country doesn’t partake in any of the aformentioned “values”? Also, Muslim countries seem to do a good job in demonizing themselves.

    • yale122

      What the hell? Who ever said there’s a country that represents Muslim values? You’re listing oppressive, corrupt, fascist regimes. The fact that Muslims are found there is inconsequential. Don’t let these regimes further damage the world beyond oppressing their own people by allowing them to soil your mind.

  • Arafat

    Muslim values?

    Quran (2:244) – “Then fight in the cause of Allah, and know that Allah Heareth and knoweth all things.”

    Quran (3:56) – “As to those who reject faith, I will punish them with terrible agony in this world and in the Hereafter, nor will they have anyone to help.”

    Quran (4:76) – “Those who believe fight in the cause of Allah…”

    Quran (8:57) – “If thou comest on them in the war, deal with them so as to strike fear in those who are behind them, that haply they may remember.”

    Quran (8:65) – “O Prophet, exhort the believers to fight…”

    Quran (9:123) – “O you who believe! fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness.”

    Bukhari (52:177) – Allah’s Apostle said, “The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say. “O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him.”

    Bukhari (52:220) – Allah’s Apostle said… ‘I have been made victorious with terror’

    Muslim (1:33) – the Messenger of Allah said: I have been commanded to fight against people till they testify that there is no god but Allah, that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah

    Muslim (1:30) – “The Messenger of Allah said: I have been commanded to fight against people so long as they do not declare that there is no god but Allah

    Muslim (1:149) – “Abu Dharr reported: I said: Messenger of Allah, which of the deeds is the best? He (the Holy Prophet) replied: Belief in Allah and Jihad in His cause…”

    Muslim (20:4696) – “the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: ‘One who died but did not fight in the way of Allah nor did he express any desire (or determination) for Jihid died the death of a hypocrite.'”

    Tabari 7:97 The morning after the murder of Ashraf, the Prophet declared, “Kill any Jew who falls under your power.”

    Tabari 9:69 “Killing Unbelievers is a small matter to us”

    Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 992: – “Fight everyone in the way of Allah and kill those who disbelieve in Allah.”

    • yale122

      I’m not going to entertain this. You spread your scum enough in al-alusi’s article (http://www.yaledailynews.com/news/2012/feb/17/al-alusi-and-hamid-fighting-islamophobia-at-yale/). you make me sick.

      • Arafat

        What makes me sick is when Muslims in Toulouse march in support of their brother, a brother who shot three 7 year old kids point blank in the head. This is what makes me sick. What makes me sicker still is when people like you pretend this is not happening and accuse me of bigotry when all I am doing is relaying factual information.

  • Arafat

    yale 122 writes, “Who ever said there’s a country that represents Muslim values? You’re listing oppressive, corrupt, fascist regimes. The fact that Muslims are found there is inconsequential.”

    Inconsequential?

    You’re like an ostrich. Head buried deep in the sand.

    • yale122

      Yes, I’m sorry I have to be the one to break this to you, but when a dictatorship runs a country with force and brutality, the dictatorship doesn’t represent its people. When Khomeini proclaimed bahais as enemies of Islam, believe it or not, 1.6 billion people in the world didn’t also believe bahais were heretics who needed to be ethnically cleansed. When Louis XIV declared himself as the sun king who was given divine right by God, not all Catholics believed he was a sun king appointed by god. I know it’s a tough concept to get around. Maybe when you get an education it’ll be easier for you.

      I think Yishai Schwartz described this ignorance best:
      http://www.yaledailynews.com/news/2012/feb/21/scwhartz-writers-need-shame/

  • Arafat

    yale122,

    So when Islam’s prophet, Mohammed, ordered his men to behead the 600+ Jewish men’s heads in the village of Qurayza he was not acting in the name of Islam?

    Or when Mohammed and his men enslaved boys he was not acting in the name of Islam?

    So when Mohammed and his men took women as sex slaves he was not acting in the name of Islam?

  • Arafat

    There are several other episodes in which Muhammad is offered the clear opportunity to disavow raping women – yet he instead offers advice on how to proceed. In one case, his men were reluctant to devalue their new slaves for later resale by getting them pregnant. Muhammad was asked about coitus interruptus in particular:

    “O Allah’s Apostle! We get female captives as our share of booty, and we are interested in their prices, what is your opinion about coitus interruptus?” The Prophet said, “Do you really do that? It is better for you not to do it. No soul that which Allah has destined to exist, but will surely come into existence.” (Bukhari 34:432)

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