February 8th marks the anniversary of a fate-making event in the history of the Iranian people's quest for freedom.
On February 8, 1982, Khomeini's Revolutionary Guards surrounded and destroyed the headquarters and killed some of the most prominent leading figures of the PMOI. Khomeini –still alive in those days-- thought that by dealing such a heavy blow to the opposition, he could put up a show of force, demoralize the staunch supporters of the movement and break their resistance in prisons and outside.
It was an unequal battle between thousands of heavily armed guards vs. 20 freedom fighters. He thought victory is certain. However, the champions of freedom did not surrender and fought to the last breath, creating an epical scene that strengthened the movement even further.
The women involved in this battle left a brilliant legacy in the history of the Iranian people's struggle for freedom and democracy. Brave women who did not surrender and resisted and fought courageously to the last breath to herald a new world for their fellow compatriots. Today, their resolve and courage has been multiplied in the ranks of the pioneering women in the PMOI who lead the Resistance movement.
The shiniest image in this episode belonged to Ashraf Rajavi.
Born in 1951 in Zanjan, she received her Bachelors of Science in Physics from Tehran University. But Ashraf's heart bled for the deprived people who suffered in a country that sits on a sea of oil. Despite having the opportunity to lead a good life, she chose to help the underprivileged and travelled long distances to various cities and villages to learn about their problems and help them find solutions.
In this process, she got to know the PMOI, the newly formed underground anti-Shah organization, and joined it in 1971. She got arrested twice from 1972-1974 and in 1976 and endured savage tortures as a result of which she lost hearing in one ear. She was sentenced to life in prison the last time she was arrested but she was freed with the last group of political prisoners on January 20, 1979, before the Iranian Revolution that toppled the Shah in the same year on February 11.
After freedom, she resumed her activities as the most experienced female member of the organization. Her task was monumental considering the throngs of young women and girls who wanted to join the movement after the revolution, especially that she was their role model.
In the first round of parliamentary elections after the Shah's fall, Ashraf was nominated as the most prominent PMOI woman in the list of PMOI candidates for Tehran.
After the beginning of the Resistance on June 20, 1981, when the PMOI decided to send their leader abroad to be the voice of the movement, Ashraf stayed behind as his representative. So, on February 8, 1982, she and her infant son were at the PMOI's central headquarters. When the attack began, she put her son in the bathroom to keep him safe from the shootings and smoke, and went back to defend her comrades.
All of them fought to the last breath and proudly gave their lives.
Later on, the Revolutionary Guards took the bodies of these brave men and women to the Evin Prison. They laid the bodies in the yard covered with snow and took young prisoners to see their slain leaders to break their resistance but their plans were foiled when prisoners paid their tributes and chanted "Death to Khomeini, Long live Rajavi."
After February 8, 1982, Ashraf's life and death became the tradition of a generation of PMOI women in Iran who lead the Iranian Resistance today.
Other women in this epic milestone:
Born in 1960 in Tehran, Azar was one of the daughters of the famous and popular Rezaii family who had lost four of their children in the struggle against the Shah's regime. So, she had been involved in the struggle since very young age and even imprisoned at age 14.
After the fall of the Shah, she joined the PMOI and worked with the students' department.
Azar was married to Moussa Khiabani, deputy to the PMOI leader. She was slain with her unborn fetus at the time of the attack on February 8.
Born in 1958 in Tehran, she got to learn about the Shah's oppression in very young age. In 1978, she entered Tehran University to study Laboratory Sciences. As a student, she actively participated in all the anti-government demonstrations of those days.
After the Shah was toppled, Mahshid joined the PMOI. She was always very energetic and loved what she did for her people's freedom.
On February 8, 1982, she and her husband and their infant daughter were in the house when the attack began. Mahshid and her husband fought and died courageously in this unequal battle.
She was a university student when she joined the PMOI after the 1979 Revolution. Mahnaz was a serious and hard-working advocate of freedom in her university and enjoyed much respect among her friends.
Sorayya was born in 1959 in Isfahan and finished her high school there. Then she joined supporters of the PMOI in that city. After a while she moved to Tehran where she worked with the Mothers' Society supporting the PMOI. (Mothers were referred to free thinking middle-age women whose sons and daughters were involved with the PMOI or were slain as PMOI members but themselves were also willing to do support the cause by whatever means they were capable of. Because of age difference, however, they were referred to as mothers.)
Sorayya had a one-year-old daughter whom she put in a safe place, before being killed along with her husband in the clashes on February 8, 1982.
Fatemeh was born in 1955 in Tehran. She lost her father when she was very young and their family experienced much hardship but with her own hard work, she managed to finish her high school education and gain admission to one of Tehran's best universities, the Poly Technique, where she got acquainted with PMOI supporters and began her anti-government activities.
After the Revolution, she joined the organization and got actively involved in organizing the PMOI sympathizers in the capital.
Fatemeh had two young children when she fought and died on February 8, 1982.
Tahmineh was born in 1955, in Gorgan, northern Iran. She studied chemistry at Ferdowsi University of Mashhad. She joined PMOI supporters in her university in 1973 and began her activities in support of the anti-shah movement.
She had a nice voice, so she used to be the moderator and announcer in many gatherings of the organization. She and her husband both died in the February 8 attack on the PMOI house and left a child behind.
Nahid was born in 1952 in the city of Qouchan, northeast of Iran. After finishing high school, she went to Mashshad to continue her education. Then she got a job as a teacher and started teaching in a school on the outskirts of her hometown, Qouchan.
During the revolution, she was very active in organizing the women and girls in her city. After the victory of the revolution, she worked with different departments including the teachers, the students and the mothers associations.
Nahid was dismissed from her teaching job when the new government of the mullahs started purging women from work places. She subsequently moved to Tehran and became more actively involved with the PMOI. Finally, she was slain in the February 8th attack in 1982.
As explained above, young prisoners in Evin were taken to see the PMOI leaders slain on February 8, 1982. The regime supposed that especially the young and inexperienced would be terrified but this was a bad miscalculation. They paid respect to the bodies and loudly chanted slogans against the regime in the prison yard. Below are brief introductions to two of these prisoners:
Jila was only 17 years old and had not even finished high school. She was a smart young teenager who wished to see her country free and flourishing, so she joined the PMOI. She was very much against the mullahs and their oppression, so she was among the resistant prisoners despite her young age. They had flogged her badly and sentenced her to death to force her cooperate with the regime and go on TV and "repent", but she refused to do so and finally paid a courageous tribute to the bodies of Ashraf Rajavi and Moussa Khiabani, for which she was executed on February 9, 1982.
Soghra was born in October 1963 in Tehran to a lower middle-class family. She was only 14 when the Iranian Revolution took place but she participated in all the demonstrations along with her sister and brothers.
She was a good student in high school and studied economy but had to quit school and go underground when her elder brother was sought by the regime for his support for the PMOI.
She was arrested in December 1981 along with her mother (Arasteh Qolivand) and taken to the infamous 209th ward in Evin.
Soghra was among dozens of prisoners in Evin who foiled the mullahs' plot by crying out slogans against the regime and in support of the PMOI.
Soghra was readily sent before the firing squad on February 8, 1982.