A Tehran hanging

Majid Jamali Fashi was convicted and hanged for the August 2010 killing of a nuclear scientist.


    Majid Jamali Fashi was 24 years old when he was hanged in Evin prison here in Tehran on Monday.

    The Iranians say he was a spy working for and trained by the Israeli spy agency Mossad. He was convicted for the August 2010 killing of a nuclear scientist. 

    As the news broke on Monday I watched the Iranian Press TV to try and gauge reaction to the hanging. But beyond the news, there was nothing. It seemed the hanging of a spy was not worth much analysis.

    I can't quarrel with another news channels editorial, it's not my place. But I did wonder what Iranians made of the affair. 

    It didn't take long to find out.

    In one of the many coffee shops that dot this city I sat and nursed a cup of tea and opened up one of the surprisingly many English-language newspapers. 

    Now, this coffee shop isn't really a place where the residents of Tehran come. For a start, it's in the lobby of my hotel. Secondly it is priced, shall we say, internationally. 

    But, as in hotels all over the world, it was full of travellers and businessmen and women, many looking for a way to pass the time.

    As I flicked the pages of the paper a man came and sat down next to me. In a very polite manner he asked me if was well and we made small talk. 

    We talked of horrendous Tehran traffic. He was a small-time trader meeting a client in the hotel.

    I told him I was an Al Jazeera reporter and he laughed heartily and said "Don't quote me!". I said I wouldn't name him if I could ask him a couple of questions. He agreed. Let's for now call him Amir. 

    I asked him what he thought of Fashi's hanging.

    His English was excellent, and his first words made me smile. "This, this is what you want to ask me? You know I don't want to wind up in prison!" 

    I stuttered and began to apologise. He laughed. "Don't worry, I'm joking with you. For us the murder of Iranian scientists is an important issue. These are men of science, not gangsters and thugs who live on the street. Take a look around you. For over 30 years we have been squeezed by sanctions, we have borne the brunt of the anger of America. And for what? We haven't invaded anyone, never been the aggressor. Despite this we have survived. We are a proud people. Come to us with honesty in your heart, and we will listen."

    For a few minutes more Amir spoke of how Iran was misunderstood, and like a kindly but strict uncle he gave me a history lesson on Persian culture that seemed to start somewhere around 5,000 BC and ended about 20 minutes before he started to speak to me. 

    I admired his passion. I asked him if he thought that Fashi was guilty. 

    "Of course. He confessed. And why would Israel not want to kill our scientists? They want to fight with us, to bomb us. So they make these lies and actions to persuade the world we are the enemy."

    And this is what struck me the most. No question of the evidence against the man or how it was obtained. Of all the reporting I have seen on Fashi's death in Iran, it goes back to the same thing - that this was all part of a grand plan by Israel to make war on Iran.

    For the hawkish Israeli elements that's certainly the case. They want the world to think they are making a nuclear weapon. Indeed there have been editorials in right-wing newspapers going further, saying if Israel is targeting Iranian scientists, it's justified.

    It's a hardline opinion for sure. 

    This despite evidence, much of it originating in America, that suggests Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapons programme. 

    Amir is perhaps typical of many Iranians. Weary, prone to believing the wilder theories that abound over Israeli intentions towards Iran. I put that to him.

    "Of course I believe it was Israel, of course I believe Israel wants to destroy us. Why wouldn't I? It's common knowledge the West has viruses in our computer systems. Our scientists are dying in the street. The evidence is there for all to see."

    With so much of the interaction between the West and Iran conducted in "dark" operations, behind closed doors, and with cryptic messages delivered in the global media, it's hard to fault Amir's opinions and views. 

    Opinions and views that will only get more entrenched unless real and substantive talks take place. Which seem unlikely with the looming threat of Israeli aggression and with more sanctions threatened.  



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