It was an early Friday morning. I woke up with the sound of the radio in our living room and the worried voice of my father who was trying to get a hold on an important news through the statics that the Iranian regime was throwing in to block the opposition broadcast. I had never seen my parents that distraught and devastated.
After some time went by, I went in and asked what had happened. I was told that my aunt, Zahra Rajabi, 39, one of the leading women in the struggle against the Iranian regime was brutally assassinated in Istanbul, Turkey. Iranian agents had tracked down her whereabouts and broke into her apartment, and shortly after killed her and one of her bodyguards by gunshots. That was the 20th February 1996.
I did not know and could not understand why anyone would want to kill a member of my family. Questions started swirling in my head and then I was told... "She died fighting for the freedom of Iran and its people."
As a nine year old my perception of the word "freedom" changed that day. I realised that in my country Iran, and under the brutal government that we were living in, in order to have freedom, you had to fight and even pay the highest price that a human can, giving up one's life.
Zahra Rajabi was a member of the People's Mojahedin (PMOI), an Iranian opposition group that has been fighting for the freedom of Iran and Iranians for over three decades and has had its members threatened, tortured, humiliated and executed by the Iranian regime over the course of this period.
At the time of her assassination, Zahra was working for the rights of Iranian women and refugees in Turkey. She decided to rise against the mullahs' regime after realising what a lie the Islamic revolution of Iran really was and what a disaster was becoming of Iran and Iranians under the mullahs' fundamentalist interpretation of "Islam".
She lost two of her loved ones at the beginning of the revolution when her husband Mohammad and her 20 year old sister Afsaneh were executed by the Iranian regime. No doubt this contributed to her cause of fighting for freedom and justice and made her become one of the bravest women of her time.
Her assassination meant that living in Iran was no longer an option for my family, as we had to live in constant fear of our lives everyday. Despite our love and passion for Iran, thousands and thousands of families like mine were forced to leave their homeland and take refuge in other parts of the world in order to stay alive.
The loss of loved ones and the trauma that my family went through still haunts me and affects me every single day. I feel a strong sense of responsibility to be the voice of Zahra and many other martyrs who gave up their lives fighting for freedom against the barbaric regime of Iran.
The Iranian people have been suppressed for over 30 years under the current regime and there are thousands of prisoners whose voices have never been heard. The PMOI is the only opposition group, which echoes the stories and voices of the victims, political prisoners and martyrs of Iran on a global scale. They should be recognised and credited as a group which are active for the purpose of liberty, humanity and justice.
History has shown that yes dictators may rule, but they are always defeated at the end. The dark era of the mullahs' rule is coming to an end. But until that day the PMOI shall fight for what it believes in and with it, it will carry the voice of martyrs like Zahra and the hopes of millions of people for a completely free and democratic Iran.