German-Iranians face the death penalty: “The whole thing is a show trial”

The German-Iranian Jamshid Sharmahd faces the death penalty in Iran. His daughter accuses the federal government of not having achieved anything for him.

A woman with sunglasses, a man and another woman with a baseball cap take a selfie

Gazelle (right) has not spoken to her father Jamshid Sharmahd for a year and a half Photo: Photo: private

taz: Ms. Sharmahd, your father faces the death penalty in Iran. Did it surprise you that Friedrich Merz symbolically supported him with a political sponsorship?

Gazelle Sharmahd: That surprised me very positively. My father’s case is an extreme case, including kidnapping and a show trial in Iran and dual German-Iranian citizenship. I’m glad that someone has finally taken on a sponsorship and then someone with weight. That should have happened two years ago when they kidnapped him. But hopefully it’s not too late.

The trial against him is not related to the current protests. Her father is not only a journalist, as Merz described it
but also an activist and supporter of a return of the monarchy in Iran.

My father has political opinions like everyone else, but first and foremost he is a human being. He has been an activist and journalist for 16 years. He gave the people of Iran a voice, which is exactly what so many activists are doing now. He is not directly linked to the protests, but at the same time the protests are also a result of all the movements that have been going on in Iran and the Iranian diaspora for 43 years. In addition, many protesters, including my father, have been accused of “corruption on earth”. All this is nothing new.

Specifically, he is accused of being involved in planning an attack in 2008, which your father denies. But there is no question that he was active in the Kingdom Assembly of Iran group.

He has been associated with many activists, including the Kingdom Assembly of Iran, for which he founded an online platform in 2006. But the allegations against him are fabricated. My father is an engineer, journalist and activist. He is neither a terrorist nor a spy. He is also accused of being a spy for the CIA, FBI and Mossad. There are 50 charges, none of which are true. Allegations like these are one of the strategies used by the Islamic Republic to try to discredit activists.

The 41-year-old was born in Tehran, grew up in Hanover and now lives in the USA. She works in Los Angeles as a nurse in a cardiac intensive care unit.

How do you explain that there are reports, for example from the US think tank Jamestown Foundationthat the Kingdom Assembly actually claimed responsibility for the attack?

It’s horrible that the Jamestown Foundation should report something like this as fact and not propaganda. There are many sources from Iran, even from the state apparatus, who say that the attack didn’t happen at all, that it was an excuse to execute activists. They’re doing it again now. Now it’s said that a judge or a member of the Basij militia was killed by protesters, so let’s execute so-and-so. The problem is that there is no independent research in Iran.

So you are not only saying that your father had nothing to do with militant actions, but also that the Kingdom Assembly had nothing to do with the attacks?

I don’t think they are linked to any attacks. In Iran there are military attacks on people. What people do to defend themselves is their business. I’m not condemning that from here because I’m not in their situation, I’m not being shot at, I’m not being raped, imprisoned, executed.

Why do you think your father is a threat to the Islamic Republic?

For the reason that currently also Activists like Masih Alinejad, who was nearly killed last year, are a threat. The people of Iran need a mouthpiece. If you offer a platform where people remain anonymous, where their IP address is protected and where information about activists from Iran is published uncensored, that is a danger. At first they just wanted to hijack the website, then my father’s server was blown and attacks began, propaganda videos and in 2009 the first assassination attempt. Also, my father was against the influence of religion. He said religion belongs in your heart and in your home, but not in the state. Islam is one of the foundations of the Islamic Republic and it attacked that.

You publicly thanked Alinejad, who like you lives in US exile, for standing up for your father. He is a monarchist, Alinejad is not. What is the relationship between the different groups of the exile opposition?

My father never called himself a monarchist.

He’s for a king but not a monarchist?

In the kingdom that the Kingdom Assembly of Iran wants, the different regions of Iran enjoy sovereignty, for example Kurdistan or Balochistan. People can decide for themselves what language they speak and what culture they have. Parliament and king are to be elected. The king is not a dictator, but not just a symbol like in England. His role is that of an additional control body, similar to the president in America. One cannot lump all Iranian monarchists together.

Back to Alinejad and the opposition in exile.

Relations between the opposition groups were not good for a long time. Because the Islamic Republic has done one thing very well: inciting opposition against each other, monarchists against leftists and so on. That’s why I thanked Ms. Alinejad for simply saying: Nobody can be kidnapped, nobody can be terrorized. In the last four months, the relationship between the individual groups has changed. I see a lot of unity. We all want freedom. We want the people of Iran to choose what kind of government they have. I’ve never seen this unity before. That’s incredible. That’s why everyone is talking about a revolution. There’s something going on that can’t be stopped.

The protests have been going on for over four months, although street protests appear to have died down. How much longer do you give the regime?

The last revolution, the Islamic Revolution in 1979, lasted one to two years. There were also ebbs and flows. I hope this year will be the last year of the Islamic Republic. I have a good feeling. All we need is the tipping point, the moment when everyone, even those who are still hesitant, come onto the streets. Then that’s it.

The verdict against her father is likely to fall very soon. When did you last see him?

Here in LA in March 2020 before he left (and was presumably abducted to Iran, ed.). I haven’t been able to speak to him for a year and a half. My mother got to speak to him twice last year. But since the revolution there have only been voice messages, the last one in November.

What do you get from the process?

My father has no access to any human soul, no lawyers, no family, not even the German embassy. So I don’t have a neutral source. My channel of information is the media of the Islamic Republic and a lawyer for the regime. The whole thing is a show trial and has nothing whatsoever to do with a court. A theatre, not a court.

What is the federal government doing for your father?

We were told they were doing everything in their power. But what did that bring? He is in solitary confinement, is being tortured, has lost his teeth and has lost 20 kilos. I don’t understand why Germany isn’t doing more. A German citizen should be executed for founding a website? I expect what everyone expects from their government: to protect us from terrorists, from kidnapping, from torture, from execution.

What exactly are you asking for?

Put the Revolutionary Guards on the EU terror list and break off trade relations completely. Germany has the power to make a difference. Germany is Iran’s most important trading partner in Europe. But the most important thing is that we all push. My father’s case shows that the Islamic Republic knows no borders. They are perpetrating attacks in Paris, kidnapping people in America, supporting terrorist organizations and interfering in our politics. If we don’t stop this terror network, we are all in danger. My father was allowed to have contact with his family at all because we were loud, wrote petitions and letters, and reporters reported. We have the power. Even small steps would be progress. For example, that my father can talk to me before they murder him.

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