November 13, 2009
As Arash Hejazi sat in an Oxford coffee bar, members of Iran’s Basij militia in Tehran were demanding his extradition outside the British Embassy.
The previous day the Iranian regime had sent an Oxford college a letter of protest over a scholarship given to honour Neda Soltan, the student killed during a huge demonstration against electoral fraud in Tehran in June. The letter also suggested that Dr Hejazi was responsible for her murder.
For Dr Hejazi, who had tried to save Ms Soltan’s life, that was the final straw. He decided that it was time to speak out. It was time to reveal how the regime has sought to vilify, punish and silence him ever since he told the world, immediately after Ms Soltan’s death, how she had been shot by a government henchman for peacefully protesting against President Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election.
Dr Hejazi is now living in exile in Britain, jobless and fearful, while back in Tehran the regime blackens his name and hounds his friends, family and colleagues. “I told the truth. I just did what I had to do, but there were dire consequences,” he told The Times. In short, a quirk of fate — that he happened to be standing near Ms Soltan the moment that she was shot — has turned his entire life upside down and made him “another victim of tyranny”.