In October 2019, Iranian dissident Ruhollah Zam was running a widely followed news site based in France, accompanied by his family and benefitting from refugee status along with security in his nation of exile.
However just over a year later on, on December 12, 2020, Zam was hanged in Iran, an execution that prompted global condemnation.
How had Zam gone from the relative convenience of his life in France to meeting his death aged just 42 at the hands of the hangman in his house country, whose leaders he had targeted in his work?
His daddy Mohammad Ali Zam is a cleric still based in Iran and was, at one time, a senior figure in Iranian cultural organizations.
So fervent was his support of the 1979 Islamic Transformation that ousted the Shah that he named his son after its creator, Ruhollah Khomeini.
Colleagues and friends of Ruhollah Zam in France informed AFP that he had made the mistake of being tempted into a journey to Iraq in October 2019, defying their warnings of danger and falling into a trap set to exploit his own character.
” He played a dangerous video game by going to Iraq and he lost,” said Mahtab Ghorbani, a Paris-based Iranian author and a refugee who dealt with Zam.
” He was dragged into a dirty psychological game designed by this routine.”
Iranian dissident Ruhollah Zam’s execution in December 2020 provoked worldwide condemnation MIZAN NEWS/ ALI SHIRBAND
Local in France for nearly half a decade, Ruhollah Zam had actually brought in as much as 2 million followers to his Telegram channel Amadnews, motivating individuals to turn out in demonstrations during the winter season of 2017-2018 and also releasing in some cases astonishing claims about the Iranian management.
As the fortunate child of a prominent daddy, Zam delighted in good contacts in Tehran which he kept even after leaving the country following the 2009 protests over disputed elections.
He first went to Malaysia and Turkey, and then France.
” When there were turf wars between people in power, they relied on Zam,” stated Maziyar, a friend and fellow Iranian refugee, who worked on Amadnews and asked that his complete name not be released.
” He delivered details without limits, he had no red line, he respected neither the president, nor the supreme leader, nobody. He even made fun of his own dad.”
But the success of Amadnews and Zam’s own growing radicalism showed their undoing as Telegram suspended the represent prompting fans to utilize Bomb versus authorities.
UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said there were “severe issues” that Zam’s capture outside of Iran “could total up to an abduction” AFP/ Fabrice COFFRINI
Zam’s impact seemed waning. Even buddies started to question if he was pushing too difficult for the topple of the Iranian program.
” Ruhollah ended up being truly well known. He promoted the overthrow of the routine and perhaps he started to think of himself as a leader,” stated Hassan Fereshtyan, a Paris-based lawyer who helped Zam.
” Bit by bit, he lost his friends,” he said.
” He was alone and isolated, and part of the Iranian opposition in exile did not trust him,” included Ghorbani.
He was likewise getting an increasing variety of threats, which prompted French cops to provide him defense.
His friends said this was a dark time for Zam, a hugely ambitious male who feared that the media existence he had actually developed so quick was now rapidly losing influence.
” He remained in the position where he could make bad decisions and succumb to the trap,” said Maziyar.
Associates and friends of Ruhollah Zam state the Iranian dissident, based in France, made the error of being tempted into a journey to Iraq MIZAN NEWS/ ALI SHIRBAND
In mid-October 2019, he appeared at Fereshtyan’s Paris workplace and informed the astonished attorney that he was going to travel to Iraq to carry out an interview with Ayatollah Ali Sistani, one of the most influential figures in Shia Islam.
This interview was supposed to release a brand-new tv channel suggested by a specific claiming to be an Iranian businessman.
His associates instantly sensed the risk, provided the security influence Iran has in Iraq, a majority Shiite nation, following the 2003 US invasion.
” I yelled, I informed him: ‘If you go, it’s the end, you will never return to France!'” stated Fereshtyan.
And despite the fact that Zam provided no indication of when he planned to go, he took the plane to Amman and then onwards to Baghdad the next day.
” Everyone encouraged him versus leaving, even his bodyguard, but he just responded that he was tired of waiting,” included Maziyar.
” And he went. Unfortunately.”
Zam telephoned his partner from Amman airport but he appears to have been apprehended as soon as he arrived in Baghdad.
He was later blindfolded, took into an automobile and driven to the Iranian border in video later seen on Iranian state TELEVISION.
His detention inside Iran saw him in July 2020 give an interview to state TELEVISION, a method utilized on prisoners in Iran that activists regard as a forced confession extracted by torture.
Being in a deep armchair, he was talked to on the program “Without Compliments” by Ali Rezvani, officially a reporter for state broadcaster IRIB but who campaigners say is actually an interrogator for the Revolutionary Guards.
Zam was founded guilty of charges including “sowing corruption” and spying for foreign intelligence consisting of France and Israel, accusations emphatically rejected by him and his advocates.
His execution on December 12 came simply 4 days after the verification of the supreme court’s decision was announced, a rush that is unusual.
His father wrote on his Instagram account that he was permitted to satisfy his kid a day prior to the execution, about which he said Ruhollah had been kept in the dark.
His daughter Niaz composed on social media that her daddy had actually contacted WhatsApp– inexplicably from a +44 UK number– hours before his execution
“I knew that was it, and the hardest thing was that I understood and I might not do anything about it!” she wrote.
Still in grief, the household decreased ask for interviews from AFP through their lawyer.
The United States and Europe revealed outrage at the execution while UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet stated there were “major concerns” that Zam’s capture beyond Iran “could total up to a kidnapping”.
But Iranian President Hassan Rouhani stated he did not believe the killing would harm relations between Iran and Europe, noting that capital punishment becomes part of Iranian law.
And for dissidents based in France, the execution was a warning that their security can not be guaranteed even while outside the country.
“With this execution, they wanted to send out a message to the loyalists of the routine not to take another path,” said Ghorbani. “And also to show opponents beyond Iran their power and sow panic among them.”