A long-time activist for freedom in Iran has died this month at the age of 90. Fatemeh Karimi, or Mother Farzanesa as she is better known, passed away in hospital in Cologne, Germany, on December 13 after suffering a brain stroke that put her in a three-day-long coma.
Karimi, born to a religious and political family in Tehran in February 1930, has struggled against the twin dictatorships of the mullahs and the Shah for 50 years, wanting to see a Free Iran in her lifetime.
Karimi, a teacher, and her husband, Mahmoud Farzanesa, initially supported the Freedom Movement in the 1950s until its violent shutdown by the Shah’s police. Shortly after, Karimi supported the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), which sprung up out of the ashes of the Freedom Movement, and continued to support them through the 1979 Revolution until her death.
In 1977, her son, Majid, was arrested by SAVAK, the Shah’s secret police, at which point Karimi joined the families of political prisoners in exposing the Shah’s violence and visiting political prisoners, all in an effort to free political prisoners.
Throughout the anti-monarchic revolution, Karimi was an active participant, even taking part in the September 8, 1978 demonstration, which the Shah’s forces turned from protest to massacre.
On January 20, 1979, just days after the Shah fled, Karimi was at Qasr Prison in Tehran to welcome the last of the Shah’s political prisoners as they were freed. This group included MEK leader Massoud Rajavi.
Soon after, Karimi began to work directly with the MEK, becoming the head of the group’s office of workers’ affairs. She also helped Rajavi in his (ultimately sabotaged) run for President in 1980, joined the Association of Moslem Mothers, and participated in the famous June 20, 1981 demonstration, only escaping imprisonment by the revolutionary guards by saying that she’d just been walking past.
Sadly, she has lost several relatives, including three children to the fight for freedom in Iran. Her daughter Mahshid was killed in an attack by the regime on the MEK headquarters on February 8, 1982. The aforementioned Majid was executed in June 1982. A second son, Alireza, died in the 1988 Eternal Light Operation.
Karimi said: “The Mojahed publication was printed in our house. This was an honour for us. My husband was arrested because of this in November 1981. He suffered myocardial infarction after undergoing much physical and psychological torture in prison after Mahshid and Mohammad were killed on February 8, 1982, and their seven-month-old infant was taken away by guards, and after Majid got killed.”
During her exile, Karimi never complained, but always actively participated and relied on her faith in Iran’s freedom to keep her going.