“If I go outside and get killed, I don’t care, as long as I can help prevent the Iranian government from destroying other people like me.” – Ghollam A. Nikbin
Ghollam Arash Nikbin came to the United States in 1975 on a scholarship from the Shah of Iran. He learned to speak English at Columbia University and earned an M.B.A. from Long Island University in February 1979.
That same year saw the overthrow of the Iranian government by supporters of the Ayatollah Khomeini. Now American-educated, Mr. Nikbin knew he would not be welcomed by his homeland’s new fundamentalist regime and decided to remain in the United States, accepting a position with Merrill-Lynch in March 1979.
He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1991.
In 1993, he decided to return to his family in Iran, having not seen them in 18 years. He was married there in 1994. Near the end of his wedding celebration, someone observed (through a window) boys dancing with their mothers – a violation of Islamic law which resulted in the immediate arrest of all in attendance. Mr. Nikbin was sentenced to 40 lashes for this ‘crime’.
Little did he know his troubles were just beginning. The land of his birth was certainly no longer his home. Unable to accept the changes that had taken place since he left, he discussed with a friend the tenets of the Mormon faith (to which he had converted in 1982), not realizing the extent of this crime under Islamic law. A neighbor learned of the conversion, and reported it. When other neighbors informed him and his wife that the authorities were asking questions about him, the couple knew it was time for him to leave.
When he tried to return to the United States he was arrested at the airport. The penalty this time: death by decapitation.
But first, the Revolutionary Guard wanted to find out if more such hardened criminals might be in their midst, so he was imprisoned and subjected to various forms of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’, never knowing when they came for him if it was for more torture or finally his execution.
In November 1995 his family managed to bribe doctors to declare him insane at the time of his baptism, sparing him the death sentence but subjecting him to forced medication in a mental hospital. From there, it was back to prison to be re-educated – along with weekly ‘medication’. Finally in December 1998, the combination of serious illness and more bribes finally secured his release and eventual permission to seek treatment in the United States.
His wife and daughter, however, would not be granted permission to leave. They were the government’s insurance against him speaking out about his ordeal.
Thanks to the support of friends, his Church, and many others, most notably U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch and a foreign Embassy in Iran, the Nikbin family was finally reunited in the summer of 1999.
In a most appropriate irony, they arrived together in New York City on July 4th. His little girl, now 3 1/2 and understandably frightened by the fireworks display, asked what was happening. ”Those,” her father explained, “are the fires of freedom.”
After many years of struggle (both in court and with many serious health issues resulting from his beatings and forced medication) Mr. Nikbin, in a landmark ruling, was granted judgments in U.S. Federal Court against the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Republican Guard, and others. Never before has a sovereign state, as opposed to individuals or government agencies, been held accountable in this manner for torture. He has vowed to use any money he is able to collect to fight for the ouster of the oppressive regime in Iran. But to collect, he will have to have the judgment enforced outside of the United States. (See Letter from Dr. William F. Pepper).Ghollam Arash Nikbin E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
From The Salt Lake Tribune, Feb. 3, 2007
WASHINGTON – Iranian-born Ghollam Nikbin says he is nearing the justice he has longed for since he sued Iran and its former president in federal court three years ago, alleging he was tortured for converting to Mormonism.
In a federal court hearing Friday, Nikbin testified in graphic detail about the abuse he endured for several years in Iran for abandoning Islam. He and experts also testified about the lingering effects, which include almost nightly nightmares.
The hearing was a formality. Iran has not answered the claims, and Nikbin is assured victory. He is seeking about $40 million in damages. Whether he will collect remains uncertain, but Nikbin is optimistic.
“I’m going to get justice,” he told The Tribune after the hearing. “All the money is going to be spent for destroying the Islamic Republic of Iran” …
It is important to Mr. Nikbin that his relationship with The Mission for Establishment of Human Rights in Iran (MEHR Iran) and its president, Dr. Parvin, be clarified.
MEHR Iran took up Mr. Nikbin’s cause in the Summer of 2003, and held a press conference on September 2 of that year announcing Mr. Nikbin’s lawsuit. In December, 2003, MEHR Iran turned the matter over to the Center for Justice and Accountability, ending their relationship with Mr. Nikbin. (CJA withdrew in 2004.)
Not only did MEHR Iran and Dr. Parvin continue to represent themselves as sponsors of Mr. Nikbin, they also continued to invoke his name in fundraising efforts. In addition, less than one week before his agreed-upon appearance as an expert witness in Mr. Nikbin’s case, Dr. Parvin sent him a release to sign which would have given Dr. Parvin and MEHR Iran control over all mattters related to the lawsuit, presumably including disposition of any monies awarded to Mr. Nikbin.
While Mr. Nikbin remains grateful to Dr. Parvin for his expert testimony, he nonetheless wishes the public to know that he has no ties to MEHR Iran, nor has MEHR Iran made any contribution toward him or his cause since December 2003.
Mr. Nikbin has pledged that any proceeds he receives from the his Federal Court victory against the Islamic Republic of Iran we be used to fight for the establishment of an Iranian government that respects human rights.