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Assassins of the Turquoise Palace

Part 1

Part 2

On Nov 10, FDD hosted as part of its Leading Writers series, a fascinating conversation with Iranian-American journalist and author Roya Hakakian about her highly acclaimed new book, Assassins of the Turquoise Palace, which looks at the 1992 “Mykonos assassinations” of Iranian opposition leaders in Berlin.

Leading Writers is an authors series about new books on national security and foreign policy. The near-capacity audience on Thursday included several members of the defense and intelligence community, Hill staff, members of the policy community and the media.

Weeks after the failed Iranian-backed plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., the discussion could not have been more timely.

A former producer at CBS 60 Minutes, Roya is also a founder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center. Her book, Assassins of the Turquoise Palace is a non-fiction account of the Mykonos restaurant assassinations on September 17, 1992 in Berlin. In this attack, members of the terror group Hezbollah, under orders from the Iranian regime, murdered four Kurdish and Iranian democratic activists, as part of an Iranian campaign to eliminate their domestic political opponents. European leadership, enticed by the promise of greater economic ties and other rewards from Iran, did not seek to prosecute the perpetrators and even attempted to cover up the atrocities.

The Leading Writers’ moderator, FDD Fellow Lee Smith engaged Roya about her extensive investigation into the Mykonos case, the striking parallels between those and recent Iranian assassination attempts, and the plight of Iranian minorities today.

Here are some highlights from the conversation:

[As an Iranian] one of the things that’s painful to watch about the conditions in Iran today is that a country that was known and cherished by its internal populace and community outside for its diversity is losing its edge. Minorities no longer feel at ease to reveal their own colors.

The regime wants to create a mother plan, a unified nation that’s seamless. The regime has a pan-Islamist dream. Within that dream, the existence of a Kurdish community is an inconvenience and goes against the fabric [the regime] is trying to make.

I’m hoping that my book enables us here the West to see 9/11 not as a starting point, but as a midway point. I believe that this attack of terrorism by religious fundamentalist groups didn’t begin on 9/11, and certainly wasn’t the first time that Americans were targeted, but rather [9/11] was as an incident that ought to be traced back to these assassinations that Iran was conducting against its own secular artists, singers, writers and opposition members long before.

I want us to see from this book that we’re all in it together and that 9/11 is part of the larger continuum of tragedies that begin with the assassination and eliminations of some of the greatest individuals in Iran’s contemporary history. … Up until 1997 – 18 years after the regime came to power - Iran lost something close to a couple hundred of its greatest intellectuals. Is there a country in the world where within a matter of a decade, you can lose some of your greatest members of your elite without suffering set back, culturally and intellectually. I doubt it.

More information on Roya Hakakian and recent press about her book:

Read Chapter 1 of Assassins of the Turquoise Palace

How Iran Kills Abroad,” by Roya Hakakian in The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 19, 2011

Charlie Rose interview with Roya, Oct. 12, 2011

NPR interview with Roya Hakakian, Oct. 8, 2011