Iranian-American author, journalist and poet Roya Hakakian discussed Iran’s campaign against the country’s political opposition at home and abroad with an audience of nearly 150 people at the University of Central Florida on Tuesday. She also made other presentations on and off campus.
The event, organized by the UCF Global Perspectives Office, was a feature of two 2011-2012 programming themes, “People Power, Politics and Global Change” and “Covering Crises from the Frontlines.”
Hakakian began the conversation by drawing from her new book, “Assassins of the Turquoise Palace,” which chronicles an event she describes as state-sponsored terrorism.
She recounted the details of a 1992 killing of several exiled Iranian opposition leaders at a meeting in a Berlin restaurant. These individuals, she explained, were targets of a fatwa issued by the Iranian clergy as a punishment for speaking out against the regime.
Thanks to a prominent trial and confirmation that Iran was in fact behind the plot, all members of the European Union pulled their ambassadors from Iran for six months in 1997, she said. Hakakian explained that this was a show of solidarity against the Iranian government’s assassinations, which eventually led to a promise by Iran that it would refrain from such behavior.
Hakakian read several excerpts from her book to help convey the story, and explained that she wrote the book not only because the real-life characters are so powerful, but also because the story resonates with America’s struggle to fight terrorism.
She argued that by prosecuting the assassinators fully and taking a stand against the government that sponsored them, Germany and the European Union brought about a peaceful result they never would have achieved with violence. This is something we can all learn from today, she said.
When asked about her opinions on American-sponsored assassinations, such as the killing of American-born cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki in Yemen last week, Hakakian explained that the cases are different because the exiled Iranians were committed to non-violence. Some of them, she said, were even apolitical; one was a comedian and another a musician, whereas Al-Awlaki was a known terrorist.
Hakakian also noted that America’s actions are less important in deciding Iran’s fate than those of Iranians. Iranians, she said, need to figure out how to condemn their religious and political leaders without abandoning their religion or political system. Overcoming the country’s theocracy, she said, is the next major step toward Iranian democracy.
In addition to the Global Perspectives Office, sponsors and partners of Hakakian’s presentation included the UCF Global Peace and Security Studies Program, the Sibille H. Pritchard Global Peace Fellowship Program, Lawrence J. Chastang and the Chastang Foundation, the Orlando Area Committee on Foreign Relations, LarsonAllen LLP, the UCF Al Ghazali Islamic Studies Program, the UCF Terrorism Studies Program, the UCF Human Trafficking Awareness Program, the UCF Diplomacy Program, the UCF Middle Eastern Studies Program, the UCF Political Science Department, the UCF International Services Center, the UCF Book Festival 2012 in association with the Morgridge International Reading Center, UCF LIFE and the Global Connections Foundation.
For a full list of upcoming events or to learn more about the Global Perspectives Office, visit http://ucfglobalperspectives.org.