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He eventually moved to Los Angeles but shunned the Iranian exile community, which distrusted him because of his family background. For several years he worked at ordinary jobs. He got married, had a child, and tried to lead a normal life. In 2004, he became a U.S. citizen.
But Iran was always close to his heart.
Even as a 16-year-old, Ahmad Rezai rebelled against the repression of the regime his own father represented. As a young “inspector” within the Bassij corp, he would visit jails around the country, and quietly work to get political prisoners released.
On January 28, 2007, after reconciling with his father, Ahmad returned to Iran with his South Korean wife and their three-year-old daughter, with the understanding that his past “sins” would be forgiven and he could help his father build a political base after his first failed run for president in 2005.
But as soon as they arrived at the Tehran airport, regime agents confiscated his passports and accused him of being a U.S. spy. His wife and child were allowed to leave after ten days, but the younger Rezai was subjected to fourteen months of hell.
Regime intelligence agents interned him in a Tehran hospital to conduct extensive body scans looking for a “CIA chip,” and ultimately subjected him to several rounds of brutal electro-shocks, hoping to break his will. These sessions were video-taped by his father’s security guards, to make sure the regime doctors didn’t kill him outright.
An intelligence officer named Akbar Baghari accompanied the entire Rezai family on the Haj to Mecca in March 2007. He insisted that Ahmad marry a Muslim woman, and began presenting young women to him as potential brides. “I told these young women, ‘I am already married. This is who I am, I am not going to be your husband. I am under pressure,’” Ahmad told me later.
Baghari made clear that if he refused to take an Iranian Muslim wife, he would be jailed or killed, so in May 2007 the younger Rezai agreed to a white marriage with the daughter of an IRGC general, all the while he kept trying to get his passport back so he could leave Iran to rejoin his wife and child back in California.
Ultimately, Gen. Rezai wrote a report detailing the torture Ahmad had been subjected to and threatened to circulate it throughout the IRGC officer corps if the regime did not agree to allow his son to leave the country, and so on May 2, 2008, he was finally allowed to leave Iran to return to the United States.
When his father declared his candidacy for president in early 2009, Ahmad again sought to return to Iran, thinking to assist his campaign.
After a failed effort in February 2009, he flew to Tehran from Dubai in April 2009 where armed intelligence agents were waiting to arrest him on the other side of the immigration line. Ahmad called his father, who dispatched armed guards to the airport, where they engaged in a Mexican stand-off with the MOIS goons until Ahmad abandoned his attempt to enter Iran and got on the next flight back to Dubai.
As Ahmad said in his initial interview with me in 1998, he represents 30 million young Iranians who are fed up with the violence and repression of this regime. That is why he was so dangerous then, and why he continued to be considered a threat to the regime today.
The regime was all the more determined to crush him after he reconciled with his father and joined his effort to reform the regime from within, an effort that is rejected by many Iranian opposition activists who believe that reform is impossible.
For those who think the Iranian regime is a government like any other, contemplate this: On the eve of a planned trip to Washington, DC in April 2010, where he was scheduled to brief Congressional staff on political developments inside Iran, Ahmad was brutally attacked and beaten almost to death by Armenian gang members while playing pick-up basketball at a 24-hour gym in Glendale, CA.
Although the police treated it as gang-related activity, his father phoned him from Tehran and warned him to stay away from public places, convinced that the attack on his son was the work of regime agents.
Many questions remain surrounding Ahmad’s death.
- Who were the two Quds force goons who apparently shadowed him back from Tehran?
- When exactly was he murdered, and how? Some sources say he was drugged and suffocated three days before he was found; others say he was electrocuted.
- What was he doing in the Gloria Hotel to begin with, when his family maintained a residence in Dubai where he normally stayed when visiting there?
- What action has the U.S. government taken to ensure that the murder of an American citizen is properly investigated by the Dubai authorities?
Ahmad’s widow asked me what she should say to their seven-year old daughter. Here is what I told her: “Tell her that her dad was a hero, and that he was killed because he wanted people in Iran to enjoy the same freedoms that you enjoy here in America.”
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