Following recent news reports that more than 200 innocent Iranian protesters were killed by the Iranian regime’s security apparatus during the latest protests for freedom throughout Iran, many have been shocked to also learn that the regime has refused to return the bodies unless their families pay for the bullets used by the regime’s thugs to kill them.

While many Americans may view this demand as an especially depraved and sadistic evil, it is a rather proud, 40-year tradition of Iran’s radical Islamic regime. It comes as no surprise to my family or to the thousands of other Iranian families who first faced this injustice in the early 1980s.

Yet this evil act should serve as a final wake-up call for all freedom-loving individuals that this regime cannot be negotiated with and must be removed from power as it threatens all of civilized humanity.

My family’s nightmare began on July 31, 1980, when our relative, Ebrahim Berookhim, a 30-year-old businessman, was executed by the regime’s thugs at Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison for the crime of being a wealthy Jew.

Berookhim was the third Jew in the country to be officially executed by the regime.

My father, who was Berookhim’s friend and relative by marriage, heard the news of his execution from a co-worker. Without hesitation, he and another man from the Jewish community in Tehran risked their lives by going to the prison morgue to retrieve Berookhim’s body; most of his family members had already fled Iran and they wanted to give this young man a kosher burial.

This was exceedingly dangerous, my father told me, because the authorities would interrogate those who came to retrieve the bodies of those executed regarding the nature of their relationship with “the infidel,” and demand to see their identification. The regime’s thugs could “create all sorts of future problems for you,” he said.

When my father and this other man arrived at the prison morgue, the regime’s thugs at first refused to release the body and insisted that the “Jew infidel” be buried in a mass grave with the other executed political prisoners. Eventually, after much “negotiation” with those in charge of the morgue, they agreed to release Berookhim’s body, but only on the condition that a substantial cash payment was made to “cover the cost of the bullet used in his execution.”

With no cash on hand and with limited time, the man who had accompanied my father to the morgue somehow, and with great difficulty according to my father, was able to collect the money required from Jewish businesses and individuals in Tehran. Eventually, they paid the money and were given the bloody, still warm body.

“Berookhim’s body was still warm while he lay in the mortuary at the Jewish cemetery in Tehran,” my father recalled. “It had been desecrated with markers, and the soles of his feet showed signs that he had been tortured with steel wiring.”

You could tell he had been shot at point-blank range, my father said, “because the opening was a half an inch in diameter on the front of his body, near his heart, and the hole on his back side was two or three inches wide.”

This young Jew’s killing, like the execution of Habib Elghanian, the Jewish community leader who was executed by the regime in May 1979, was primarily designed by the regime’s strongmen to frighten the Jews of the country into fleeing Iran.

Their objective was to confiscate the Jews’ wealth, their businesses, assets and homes. It worked—thousands of Jewish families, including my own, abruptly fled Iran after hearing the news of the random execution of a Jewish man who had zero political ties with the shah’s regime and who had committed no crime. Berookhim’s execution, and the executions of thousands of other innocent Iranians of various faiths by this radical regime, made many Iranians realize they were now being ruled by a criminal entity capable of utterly destroying their lives at the drop of a hat.

While Berookhim’s execution was painful for our entire family, my father still has regular nightmares about it. He only began telling me of this tragedy roughly nine years ago, following my unceasing demands for information about the incident. Shortly thereafter I discovered that the regime’s demand for money “to cover the cost of the bullet” used to kill Berookhim was not unique to our family, but was common practice.

One older Iranian Muslim friend of mine here in Southern California informed me that his relative had been executed by the regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in 1983 for being an “enemy of the state.” His affluent family was forced by to pay the equivalent of $20,000 cash for the bullet used to execute their loved to secure the release of the body.

The painful stories of bereaved Iranian families having to pay the regime’s thugs this horrendous extortion fee “for the bullet” are too many to count. We as Americans and individuals who cherish life and liberty have a duty to not only speak out against these truly demonic actions by the Iranian regime, but to demand that our elected officials in the West isolate this evil radical Islamic entity in Iran from the international community.

How can European leaders, American elected officials or leaders from any other real democracy on this planet even consider trade deals or any sort of diplomacy with the murderous criminals of this regime in Iran that slaughters its own population to remain in power and extorts money from the families of those they have killed?

The time has come for the world to wake up and support the people of Iran in any way possible in their efforts to overthrow this evil regime that has held them hostage and terrorized them for four decades. The Iranian regime demanding that the families of those it has murdered in cold blood “pay for the bullets” used to kill their loved ones must be a final wake-up call to all of humanity that the time has come for the world to help push for the permanent removal of this murderous regime.

Karmel Melamed is an award-winning and internationally published journalist based in Southern California.

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