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Outspoken Daughter Of Slain Iranian Dissidents Going On Trial For 'Spreading Propaganda'

"It's a fact that the security establishment murdered my parents," says Iranian artist Parastou Forouhar. "They said themselves that they did it."

The murders of Parastou Forouhar's parents were pinned on Iran's Intelligence Ministry. Now, the same ministry is going after the artist for speaking out about their deaths and her alleged ties by extension to a scandal over an activist who was photographed drinking wine.

Forouhar will go on trial on November 25, three days after the 19th anniversary of the deaths of her parents, Dariush and Parvaneh Forouhar. The two political activists and dissidents were stabbed to death in their Tehran home in November 1998 in a killing that officials later blamed on rogue intelligence agents, despite suggestions otherwise.

Their deaths were part of a series of extrajudicial killings of Iranian dissidents and intellectuals that later came to be known as the "Chain Murders of Iran."

Authorities said the agents responsible for the killings had acted "arbitrarily." An investigative journalist and activists suggested that senior officials had authorized the killings, however.

Forouhar, an artist based in Germany who travels to Tehran every fall to hold a memorial service for her parents, has suggested that she's being pressured over her efforts to keep her parents' memories alive, as well as her calls for justice.

Parvaneh Forouhar was murdered in her home in Tehran in 1998, along with her husband, Dariush (not pictured).
Parvaneh Forouhar was murdered in her home in Tehran in 1998, along with her husband, Dariush (not pictured).

The charges against Forouhar include "spreading propaganda against the [Iranian] establishment," which she says stems from her interviews and attempts at raising awareness about the killings.

"The [Intelligence Ministry] charged me with 'propaganda against the state' because they said I gave interviews [to foreign media] and condemned the security establishment for murdering my parents," Forouhar told the New York-based Center For Human Rights In Iran last week.

"Well, it's a fact that the security establishment murdered my parents. They said themselves that they did it," she added.

Forouhar said she has been also charged with "insulting the sacred" over a photograph in which human rights activist Shadi Sadr appears to be drinking wine while sitting in a chair with Islamic motifs that was created by the artist.

Rights activist Shadi Sadr sits on a chair featuring Islamic motifs that was created by Forouhar.
Rights activist Shadi Sadr sits on a chair featuring Islamic motifs that was created by Forouhar.

The photo, which was posted online by Sadr last year, drew condemnations by hard-line conservatives, who claimed it was disrespectful to Islam and Islamic sanctities.

Forouhar said she has already been summoned three times over the controversial photo.

"The fact is that they are using that photo as an excuse to punish me. I told them that this photo has nothing to do with me," she told the New York-based rights group. "I'm not responsible for what people do with my artwork."

In past years, authorities have prevented commemorations of the Forouhars' deaths by blocking streets leading to their home and harassing those aiming to participate in the ceremony.

In a November 21 blog post, Forouhar wrote that authorities this year told her that she was allowed to hold a ceremony for her parents and that it was her "right."

The authorities warned her, however, that she would be held responsible for any transgressions by those attending.

She said the warning came in a meeting at the presidential department of the Passport Office, which she visited this week after her passport was confiscated upon her return to Tehran earlier this month.

"They told me that I will be responsible for anything that will be said at the ceremony or in the streets around and that it will add to the gravity of my case at the revolutionary court," she wrote.

"The officers present at the meeting said they will deal with antirevolutionary elements who are aiming to take advantage of the ceremony to break the laws and create insecurity," she added.

In order not to give authorities an excuse for further pressure, Forouhar called on all those citizens willing to attend the November 22 commemoration to come and stand with her in silence.

"Let's remember Dariush and Parvaneh Forouhar this year in silence," she said.

"Silence is full of unsaid things and the silence of this day will bring the promise of the day when we will regain our right to freedom of speech," she wrote on her blog.