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Three decades of Iran's terrorism in Turkey

Zahra Rajabi (left) and Ali Akbar Ghorbani (right), two MEK members assassinated by the Iranian regime in Turkey
Zahra Rajabi (left) and Ali Akbar Ghorbani (right), two MEK members assassinated by the Iranian regime in Turkey

Analysis by PMOI/MEK

Iran, February 21, 2021—On Tuesday, February 20, 1996, at 9:00 pm, the Iranian regime’s terrorists assassinated Zahra Rajabi, 38, the representative of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in Turkey and a member of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

According to evidence released by Turkish prosecutors, Reza Barzegar Masoumi, an Iranian regime intelligence agent who had disguised himself as a MEK supporter, led the assassins to the NCRI office at Fateh district in Istanbul.

Through its sources, the MEK also revealed that the regime had dispatched a professional team from Tehran to carry out the terror plot. The terrorists had intercepted Rajabi in front of the elevator to her office, murdering her and her aide Ali Moradi with silenced guns.

Zahra Rajabi was born in Tehran in 1958. In 1978, she entered Iran’s Meli [National] University to continue her architecture faculty education. In the final years of the monarchic dictatorship, she joined nationwide protests seeking freedom and independence for Iran.

Following the beginning of the mullahs’ rule in Iran, Rajabi played a leading role in revealing the religious dictatorship’s human rights violations and oppressive measures. She joined the MEK and quickly turned into an active member of the organization.

In 1995, she was elected as an NCRI member. NCRI President-elect Maryam Rajavi appointed her as the head of the Council’s representation in Turkey to aid Iranians refugees who had fled the Iranian regime’s suppression and cruelty. Iranian refugees always describe Rajabi as a great supporter of refugees rights and appreciate her efforts.

Rajabi’s considerable role and efforts earned her the scorn and enmity of the Iranian regime, which planned to eliminate her. She traveled to Turkey for the last time on January 28, 1996. Initially, the Iranian regime’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) initially planned to abduct her. Then-regime president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and his MOIS Minister Ali Fallahian were behind the plot.

On February 3, 1996, the Iranian regime’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) discussed and decided to proceed with the murder plot. MOIS officer Mohsen Barzegar Masoumi was to initiate relations with MEK supporters and posing as a human rights defender and supporter of the organization. He used this guise to discover Rajabi’s office and figure out her itinerary, and sent all the information to Tehran.

On February 16, 1996, Iran-backed terrorists tried to kidnap Rajabi. However, given the presence of three other individuals, their plot was foiled. Four days later, they cancelled the abduction plan and instead assassinated Rajabi.

According to Turkish authorities, several Iranian diplomats were directly involved in the terror plot. They included Mohsen Kargar Azad, Deputy Counselor in Istanbul; Shadkar, Embassy Attaché in Ankara; Reza Behrouz-Manesh, Deputy Counselor in Istanbul; and Ali Ashrafi, Embassy Press Attaché in Ankara.

Following the murder, in his first evaluation, Fateh district prosecutor Salim Ulush declared that this incident was a political terror, and Iran’s secret services have probably carried it out. Turkish media echoed the prosecutor’s remarks.

Before Rajabi’s assassination, the Iranian regime’s terrorist had abducted and tortured MEK member Abolhassan Mojtahedzadeh in Istanbul in 1989. Abductors had created a fabricated car accident and kidnapped him wearing Turkish security forces fatigues.

“They took and tied and put me in a cage. For four days, they were torturing me. Once, I saw four abductors, one of them was a security agent of Iran’s Consulate in Istanbul. Turkish authorities later arrested them,” Mojtahedzadeh said in an interview with al-Arabiya TV Channel in June 2015.

“During tortures, abductors were frequently threatening me with execution. ‘Haji has said to execute you today. This is your last day,’ they said. Once, one of the abductors called my name. When I wanted to turn around, he severely slammed me caused me to lose my balance. However, I suddenly saw Iran’s ambassador to Turkey Manuchehr Mottaki, who stood in a corner,” Mojtahedzadeh added.

Al-Arabiya explained that the Turkish authorities chased clues and eventually found the abductors’ cars. They managed to rescue Mojtahedzadeh while terrorists were trying to transfer him to Iran in cars with diplomatic plaques.

Furthermore, the Iranian regime’s terrorists in Turkey kidnapped and tortured Ali Akbar Ghorbani, another MEK member, on June 4, 1992. Tehran’s agents had extracted Ghorbani’s nails and severed his limbs. Later, on January 29, 1993, Turkish authorities found Ghorbani’s chopped corpse in a marsh.

On February 11, 2021, Turkish security forces detained an Iranian diplomat in Istanbul for being involved in the murder Iranian dissident Massoud Molavi Vardanjani on November 14, 2019. Mohammad Reza Nader-Zadeh, 43, was a staff member of Iran’s consulate in Istanbul who had forged travel documents for the terror mastermind Ali Esfanjani, an MOIS agent.

Iran’s diplomatic representatives in Ankara and Istanbul were also behind the assassination of Saeed Karimian, owner of a Persian-language TV station, in addition to the abduction of another dissident, Habib Chaab, in 2019 and 2020.

Turkey is not the only country where the Iranian regime is involved in terrorist plots through its diplomatic facilities. Recently, the regime’s third counselor in Vienna Assadollah Assadi was convicted to 20 years in prison for orchestrating a bomb plot against the NCRI’s Free Iran 2018 gathering in Paris. A court in Belgium also sentenced Assadi’s three accomplices to 15-18 years in prison.

The Iranian regime also runs an vast network of spies and agents for espionage, terror attacks, and spreading false propaganda against the MEK. In December 2018, Albanian authorities expelled Iran’s Ambassador Gholam Hossein Mohammadnia and his first deputy for their role in a bomb plot against an MEK gathering.

Furthermore, a former MOIS agent Hadi Sani-Khani has recently written a letter to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, exposing details about the regime’s disinformation campaign and terror attempts against the MEK and the NCRI, particularly Maryam Rajavi.

This further highlights what the Iranian Resistance has been warning about throughout the decades, especially in the past few years: Iran’s embassies are a real security threat to every nation. 

This is not a regime that is bound to diplomatic and international values and norms. Terrorism and murder are part and parcel of its foreign policy. The regime is using its diplomatic facilities and officials to establish spy networks, plot terror attacks, and influence public opinion in every country where it is. And every government that is welcoming so-called Iranian diplomats in its country is putting the lives of its citizens in danger.  

In this respect, the world must stop the Iranian regime’s misuse of diplomatic privileges by closing its embassies. Governments must treat the regime’s foreign ministry and its ever-smiling foreign minister, Javad Zarif, as what they are: a conduit for furthering the regime’s terrorist goals. Diplomatic interests cannot justify turning a blind eye on the mullahs’ malign behavior and breaching international norms.