Iran’s regime executed my Jewish relative 40 years ago

My father still wakes up in the middle of the night shouting loudly from nightmares about retrieving the bloody body of my relative, an innocent 30-year-old Jewish businessman who was executed by the Ayatollah Khomeini regime in Iran four decades ago.

Forty years ago this week, on July 31, 1980, my family was devastated and our lives were turned upside down when Ebrahim Berookhim was executed in Tehran by the Khomeini regime. Yet we are just one of the thousands of Iranian families who have suffered over the last four decades as this regime killed hundreds of thousands of innocents they deemed “enemies of the state.” What still continues to pain us is the hypocrisy of this regime which lectures America about social justice when they themselves have one of the worst human rights records in the world and the rest of the world that ignores the Ayatollah regimes’ crimes.

My relative, Ebrahim Berookhim had just returned from America after getting his business degree and had also completed his mandatory military service in the Iranian army. He had his whole future ahead of him in 1979, when at the start of the Islamic Revolution, he was abruptly arrested while working at the five-star Royal Gardens Hotel in Tehran that his affluent Jewish family owned. Falsely accused of being an American and Israeli spy, he was taken to the Khasr prison.

While the majority of his family members had fled Iran at the start of the revolution, Berookhim, his father Eshagh and his sister, Shaheen remained in Iran. After many months and paying a king’s ransom, Shaheen was able to bribe the prison officials to release her brother Ebrahim. Both friends and family urged the Berookhims to flee Iran but Ebrahim refused. “What have I done wrong for the authorities to arrest me again?” he told my father.

This mistake proved fatal. Ebrahim and his 82-year-old father, Eshagh were told by Iranian officials that their hotel would be returned if they presented their case to the authorities who had offices at the notorious Evin prison just north of Tehran. However in April 1980, during one of these voluntary visits, the Evin prison authorities arrested Ebrahim and his father Eshagh.

Over the next nearly four months, Shaheen worked tirelessly to free them. Then on July 31, 1980, the regime’s authorities announced on the radio that Ebrahim Berookhim had been executed at the prison. There had been no trial.

The news of Ebrahim Berookhim’s execution devastated Iran’s Jewish community and my family. The Iranian officials even refused at first to release his body for burial. They insisted that the “infidel Jew” be buried in a mass grave with the other executed political prisoners. However, after a substantial cash payment raised from the Iranian Jewish community was made to “cover the cost of the bullet used in his execution” his body was released.

“His body was still warm while he lay in the mortuary at the Jewish cemetery in Tehran,” my father recalled after being one of two men who retrieved Berookhim’s body. “It had been desecrated with markers, and the soles of his feet showed signs that he had been tortured with steel wiring.” After seeing this, and realizing that the new regime had no respect for law or human life, my family abruptly fled Iran.

In the 40 years since Berookhim’s execution, the Iranian regime has never apologized for killing this innocent man. He was not the only Jew the regime executed. The random execution of Jews in Iran first began in May 1979, when the Jewish community leader, Habib Elghanian was executed by firing squad on trumped-up charges of spying for Israel and America.

According to a 2004 report prepared by Frank Nikbakht, who heads the L.A.-based “Committee for Minority Rights in Iran,” at least 14 Jews have been murdered or assassinated by the regime’s agents, at least two Jews have died while in custody, and 11 Jews have been officially executed by the regime.

Jews have not been the only minority victims of this Iranian regime’s brutality. Over the last four decades, the Islamic Revolutionary Regime has persecuted Christians, Zoroastrians, Bahai’s, Sunni Ahwazi Arabs, artists, musicians, LGBT people, labor union activists and human rights protestors with the same brutal force.

A March 2020 report released by the United Nation’s special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran indicated the Ayatollah’s regime has failed to adhere to basic human rights norms in its arrest and imprisonment of Iranian citizens who have spoken out against the regime

In Iran today, the Ayatollah and their henchmen, who all have blood on their hands, appear often on state-run television to lecture America about failing to provide social justice. Iranian Americans who have lost loved ones because of Iran’s evil terror cannot countenance those elected U.S. officials or those in the media who ignore the Ayatollahs’ crimes against humanity.

It’s time for politicians on both sides of the aisle as well as the media to finally hold the Iranian regime accountable for the thousands of innocent people it has murdered, whose names we will never forget, including that of my relative Ebrahim Berookhim.

Karmel Melamed is a Los Angeles-based Iranian American journalist and activist for minorities’ rights in Iran.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

Iran’s regime executed my Jewish relative 40 years ago

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