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How the Iranian mullahs raped and killed a Canadian Muslim journalist

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  • Tarek Fatah
    Friends. Today s front page of the Globe and Mail in Toronto is flooded by an exclusive account of how the Iranian mullahs raped and killed Canadian journalist
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 31, 2005

      Today's front page of the Globe and Mail in Toronto is flooded by an
      exclusive account of how the Iranian mullahs raped and killed
      Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi, and how they covered up the murder
      as well as the murderers.

      The account is given by the the Physician who saw Kazemi's beaten
      and bruised body just before she died.

      This should be an eye-opener to those who feel the Islamic Republic
      of Iran is paradise on earth and serves as the model for our
      community. Funny, none of them would like to live there!

      Read and reflect.

      Tarek Fatah
      Thursday, March 31, 2005

      Doctor reveals what happened to Kazemi

      Globe and Mail

      Stockholm - Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi was savagely
      beaten, tortured and raped while in Iranian custody in 2003,
      according to an emergency-room doctor who examined her before she
      died. Dr. Shahram Azam, an unassuming, intense man in his late 30s,
      had barely started his emergency-room shift when he admitted a
      female patient on a stretcher from Tehran's Evin prison at 12:15
      a.m. on June 27, 2003.

      The doctor has recently received political asylum in Canada.

      Shahram Azam, formerly a physician on the staff of the Iranian
      Ministry of Defence, says he examined Ms. Kazemi, a 54-year-old
      Iranian-born dual citizen, at Tehran's Baghiattulah hospital early
      on the morning of June 27, 2003 -- four days after she was arrested
      while photographing a demonstration outside Tehran's Evin prison.

      His account of Ms. Kazemi's condition in the days before her death,
      the first by a medical eye witness, confirms that she was tortured --
      far more brutally than even critics of Iran's hard-line theocratic
      regime had believed.

      "Her entire body carried strange marks of violence," Dr. Azam
      said. "She had a big bruise on the right side of her forehead
      stretching down to the ear. The ear drum was intact, but the
      membrane in one of her ears had recently burst, and a loose blood
      vessel could be seen. Behind the head, on the left-hand side, was a
      big, loose swelling. Three deep scratches behind her neck looked
      like the result of nails digging into the flesh. The right shoulder
      was bruised, and on the left hand two fingers were broken. Three
      fingers had broken nails or no nails."

      Dr. Azam's account of his examination, which he intends to describe
      at a press conference in Ottawa today, goes on to describe severe
      abdominal bruising, "stretching over the thigh down to the knees."
      Though male doctors in Iran are not allowed to carry out vaginal
      exams, Dr. Azam's emergency-room nurse thoroughly examined Ms.
      Kazemi and found the bruising to be the result of "a very brutal

      The nurse told him that "the entire genital area had been damaged,"
      Dr. Azam said.

      There was also evidence Ms. Kazemi had been whipped.

      "The backs of both legs where the skin had come off indicated
      flogging, five marks on one leg and seven on the other. The big toe
      on the left leg was crushed," he said.

      Though senior Iranian officials have at various times acknowledged
      that Ms. Kazemi was murdered by state security officers -- Iran's
      ambassador to the United Kingdom said as much in February, but later
      retracted his remarks -- the official Iranian position is that Ms.
      Kazemi died after she fainted, fell and hit her head.

      Canada has tried to pressure the Iranian regime, without visible
      success, into reopening the case. Canada's ambassador to Iran was
      withdrawn last July, after a lower-level Iranian official was
      acquitted in a brief trial that was widely viewed as a sham. A new
      ambassador was sent to Tehran in November.

      Dr. Azam fled Iran last August under the guise of seeking medical
      treatment in Finland. He later went to Sweden and from there applied
      for political asylum in Canada. This month he received landed-
      immigrant status as a refugee sponsored by the Canadian government.

      He, his wife and 12-year-old daughter landed in Canada on Monday.
      For security reasons, he has not revealed where in the country they
      intend to settle.

      Dr. Azam wants to testify to what he saw in a public hearing, he
      said, in hopes that the truth about Ms. Kazemi's death will renew
      worldwide attention on her case, and ultimately lead to
      the "indictment" of Iran's Islamic Republic.

      What the doctor found:
      "Her entire body carried strange marks of violence."
      -Tehran ER physician Shahram Azam

      *Bruised from forehead to ear
      *Skull fracture
      *Two broken fingers
      *Broken and missing fingernails
      *Severe abdominal bruising
      *Evidence of 'very brutal rape'
      *Swelling behind the head
      *Burst ear membrane
      *Bruised shoulder
      *Deep scratches on the neck
      *Broken 'nose-bone'
      *Evidence of flogging to the legs
      *Crushed big toe

      What the Iranians said:
      'The death of the late Kazemi was an accident due to a fall in blood
      pressure resulting from hunger strike and her fall on the ground
      while standing.'
      -Iranian judicial branch, July 28, 2004

      [Here is the account in Dr. Azam's own words]

      Zahra Kazemi was accompanied by three guards and a written diagnosis
      of hemorrhage as a result of digestive problems. Dr. Shahram Azam
      soon found that she was deeply unconscious due to a skull fracture
      and had wounds and bruises all over her body.

      "The first time I set eyes on her, she was an unconscious woman
      lying under a sheet on a stretcher with just a bruise on her
      forehead," he recalled. "Acting on the diagnosis sent from the
      prison clinic, a nurse tried to pass a tube to her stomach through
      her nose, but we discovered that the nose bone had been broken."

      It was immediately obvious that Ms. Kazemi had been severely beaten,
      Dr. Azam said.

      Three hours later that same night, as he was taking Ms. Kazemi to
      the CAT scan, he passed two colleagues who were not on the hospital
      staff, but had brought their own patients in to take advantage of
      the hospital's excellent equipment.

      "They were terribly shaken when they saw Ms. Kazemi's condition,"
      Dr. Azam said.

      "When they asked what had happened and I said she'd been severely
      beaten, they asked if she'd been sent from prison. I said yes.
      Before I inquired further, they volunteered information about her
      background and the circumstances of her capture. I didn't ask, but I
      take it that they had been present at the demonstration where Zahra
      Kazemi had been arrested."

      It was then, Dr. Azam said, "that I understood the political
      implications of her condition."

      Accused of spying, Ms. Kazemi had been kept in custody under the
      supervision of Tehran's General Prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, until
      her transfer to the Baghiattulah hospital.

      Mr. Mortazavi, a crony of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali
      Khamenei, was already known for his decision to close 150 newspapers
      within a month in 2000, thereby signalling the end of hopes for a
      new political opening in Iran.

      Hours after being admitted on June 27, Ms. Kazemi was declared brain-
      dead. She was kept on life support for another two weeks.

      On July 10, Canada's Foreign Affairs Department summoned Iran's
      ambassador to a meeting, at which it demanded both independent
      medical treatment and an investigation into Ms. Kazemi's injuries.
      On July 11 she was taken off life support. Her death was announced
      the next day by Iran's Ministry of Information. There was no mention
      of violence as the cause of death.

      Ms. Kazemi's family immediately requested that her body be returned
      to Canada for autopsy and burial. Instead, she was hastily buried in
      her city of birth, Shiraz, in southern Iran.

      Soon after, Ms. Kazemi's mother testified that she had been forced
      by authorities to sign a document authorizing the burial.

      Amid intense international pressure and fierce factional infighting
      between Iranian reformers and hard-liners, an Iranian parliamentary
      investigation was launched, parallel to an inquiry by a five-member
      ministerial committee set up by President Mohammed Khatami.

      It emerged during the parliamentary inquiry that Mr. Mortazavi had
      tried to cover up the cause of Ms. Kazemi's death by forcing
      Information Ministry officials, under threat of arrest, to say she'd
      died of a stroke.

      There was also testimony, later withdrawn, that Ms. Kazemi had been
      beaten unconscious within an hour of her arrest, when a prison
      official tried to confiscate her camera.

      An official at the reformist-leaning Ministry of Information,
      Mohammad Reza Aghdam Ahmadi, was named in September of 2003 as the
      suspected killer. Mr. Ahmadi was cleared of the murder charge on
      July 24 of last year.

      During his trial, lawyers representing Ms. Kazemi's mother named
      Mohammad Bakhshi, the head of security at Evin prison and a
      political ally of Mr. Mortazavi, as the possible killer. Four days
      later, Iran's judiciary stated that the head injuries that had
      killed Ms. Kazemi were the result of an accident.

      "With the acquittal of the sole defendant, only one option is left:
      The death of the late Kazemi was an accident due to a fall in blood
      pressure resulting from a hunger strike and her fall on the ground
      while standing," the official Iranian statement said.

      Despite protracted diplomatic efforts by Foreign Affairs, among
      others, to have that decision overturned and a new investigation
      launched, this remains Iran's position today. This outcome came as
      no surprise to Dr. Azam. Given the fact that three of the five
      ministers on Iran's presidential committee had known about Ms.
      Kazemi's arrest and had done nothing to reverse it, he said, the
      stage was set for a series of smokescreens from all parts of the
      power structure.

      The efforts of both the reformist and hard-line factions to cover up
      what happened have, in Dr. Azam's view, been laughable. He believes
      the regime, not used to demands for accountability, has fallen into
      disarray. "Neither of the two sides in power seemed to be interested
      in anything but passing the buck," he said. "The ministers claimed
      there were no traces of deliberate damage to her body after they'd
      interviewed us in the hospital."

      Dr. Azam cited their words: "It is not clear whether death was
      caused by a hard object hitting the head or by the head hitting a
      hard object." Given that Ms. Kazemi's entire body was testimony to
      the use of torture, Dr. Azam said, he felt he had no choice but to
      find a way to tell the truth. He knew he couldn't do this in
      Iran. "I'd meet a fate as bad as hers. I discussed it with my wife,
      and we both agreed that we should leave."

      He and his wife of 19 years, Forouzan, made the decision together,
      he said. The tale of their escape reads like the plot of an
      espionage thriller. Bound by the rule that bars military men from
      leaving Iran except on official duty, Dr. Azam had to find an excuse
      to seek special permission to go abroad without arousing suspicion.

      The chronic injury he'd suffered as a 15-year-old soldier in the
      Iran-Iraq war solved the problem. He was allowed to seek special
      treatment in the West on condition that he left the deeds of the
      family house in Tehran as collateral. Dr. Azam used Sweden, where he
      has family, as a base to wait for a courier who would take out of
      Iran documents that prove his case. Meanwhile, he was searching for
      Ms. Kazemi's son, Stephan Hashemi.

      "I did not tell the Swedish immigration authorities the full story.
      I wasn't sure that it wouldn't leak to the Iranians. I was set on
      coming to Canada to testify in court."

      The months of uncertainty he spent in Sweden, without police
      protection, waiting for his asylum application to be processed, were
      far from easy, he said. Had neither Canada nor Europe accepted him,
      he would have tried to find his way to South Africa or Venezuela, he
      said. Eventually Mr. Hashemi and his lawyers came to Stockholm for a
      face-to-face meeting, Dr. Azam said.

      "I told them from the beginning that I was not looking for publicity
      or a scandal. I'm only looking for a judicial following of the case.
      I would like this case to be taken up by democratic states and human-
      rights organizations, leading, hopefully, to the indictment of the
      Islamic Republic."

      In interviews that began in Stockholm last December, Dr. Azam
      explained why he couldn't keep what he'd observed to himself. "I'd
      say that I am primarily a member of the human race, then I am an
      Iranian, then a physician," he said.

      "Meanwhile, I'm also a father, a husband and so on. As a doctor, I
      have taken the oath of Hippocrates, whereby I have sworn to help
      humanity to my utmost, to safeguard the health and well-being of
      patients, irrespective of race, sex or religion."

      He wants to testify at a hearing that will make clear to the world
      what he knows, he said. To his mind, he has observed a death caused
      by torture, and keeping quiet about it would make him an accessory.
      He added that he hopes his testimony will set in motion a process
      whereby all the available evidence will be collected, examined and
      discussed by an international court to show how, in the Islamic
      Republic, a person on the street can be captured, reduced to pulp
      within five days, and discarded.

      "Events in and around Iran right now suggest we are at a watershed."
      he said.

      "The world is more sensitive than usual to human rights abuses in my
      country. Even inside the country, the cost to the regime of
      arbitrary arrests and killings has gone up. At the very least, my
      testimony could force the power holders in the country to realize
      that they might have to pay up."

      Dr. Azam believes that the dominant political mood in the country is
      an ardent desire for change, coupled with a weariness of violence.

      "A friend of mine said that in 1979, when the heads of the shah's
      regime were executed without trial, and the intellectuals, the
      political organizations and the general public did not protest, they
      sowed the seeds of the violence and the executions in prisons in the
      late 1980s. This time we do not want any revenge at all. We joke
      among ourselves, saying: 'We are prepared to pay Khamenei out of our
      own pockets if he just goes.' "

      He added: "I'm quite ashamed and humiliated when I hear that there
      are doctors who contribute to torture, who are prepared to harm,
      rather than heal. For my part, what has happened and I know about,
      should not be allowed to be repeated."
      Haideh Daragahi is a Swedish-Iranian writer, journalist and academic
      committed to freedom of expression and women's rights issues in
      relation to immigrant communities.

      Arne Ruth, former editor-in-chief of Dagens Nyheter in Stockholm, is
      a writer and lecturer on politics, culture and human rights and a
      winner of the Swedish Grand Award for Journalistic Achievement. He
      is a member of the board of the Swedish Helsinki Committee and the
      Article 19 Freedom of Expression Centre in London.
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