To War Criminals Who Believe They Have Impunity, Think Again

As the Russian army leaves a trail of atrocity in Ukraine, a trial held here this month offers a powerful template for prosecuting war crimes. The Swedish case—involving a former Iranian official accused of participation in the mass murder of political prisoners in the late 1980s—is based on the principle of universal jurisdiction. According to this doctrine, the national courts of any state that has adopted this principle may prosecute someone suspected of grave crimes, no matter where they occurred and irrespective of the nationality of the suspect.

The Refugee’s Internal Exile

The archive was, in fact, a repository of headstones photographed for the faraway relatives who can no longer visit their dead. The details of the image were scant, and yet, with eyes blurred by tears, I studied them. Dried leaves and dead grass lined the edges of the slab—cracked in some places, chipped in others. More than fifty years since it was first laid, this stone had endured, the last trace of the Hakakians in the land that had rejected them.

The attack at a Texas synagogue …

This past Saturday, as I watched images of FBI agents pacing the perimeter of the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Tex., after a terrifying hostage standoff, I felt strangely glad that my father wasn’t alive to witness the scene. At the end of his life, he took great comfort in thinking he had delivered his […]

9/11 brought forth my immigrant father’s love of America

The most patriotic act I have ever witnessed anyone perform was what my father did on 9/11. He was watching the morning news, as was his routine — despite his poor vision, hearing and understanding of English, the last of which he remedied somewhat through his keen observations and vast store of knowledge. When he […]

Watching 9/11 taught me, a refugee, the visceral lessons of Americanness

On Sept. 11, 2001, I watched through tears as ash fell over the city that had so unceremoniously taken me in as a refugee 15 years earlier. Like all Americans, I was mourning the dead, the pierced skyline, the bereft mood of a people whom I had never seen bereft. But I was also mourning […]

Iran’s Killers in Our Midst

The two people who knocked on our door in late August 2019 stuck out in the neighborhood like sore thumbs. In rural Connecticut, where tank tops and flip-flops are the vogue, no one shows up at someone’s door on a summer afternoon dressed in the gray suit and black leather shoes of a federal employee. […]

A U.N. farce has tragic implications for feminist activists in Iran

Last week, the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council elected Iran to its Commission on the Status of Women. The commission defines itself as “the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.” Beginning next year, for four years, this entity will include one of the […]

What does community mean in the 21st century?

Community certainly doesn’t mean what is used to mean. As our world becomes more globalized, communities that define themselves based on geographical, tribal or racial kinship will run the risk of falling prey to dangerous ideologies. As democracies lose momentum, these same communities may resort to authoritarian forces in the interest of “survival,” which means that […]

Unveiling Iran

On December 27, 2017, a thirty-two-year-old woman climbed atop a utility box on a busy Tehran block called the Revolution Street. People usually do not clamber on street furniture in Tehran, but this particular sight was odder still for its being a woman with a stick in her hand. Perfectly focused on her task, once she found […]

Why Iran’s execution of Ruhollah Zam should be seen as a warning in the West

On 12 December 2020 an execution took place in Iran that was like no other, even for a country that has the second highest known number of state-sponsored executions in the world. Everything about it – who the victim was and how and why he was apprehended, tried and hanged – holds critical insights for foreign policymakers in the US, […]