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The Unresolved Murder Of A Popular Iranian Performer

Iranian performer and pop star Fereydoun Farrokhzad, undated.

Twenty-five years after the gruesome murder of Fereydoun Farrokhzad, a famous Iranian singer and performer, his fans and friends are still seeking answers.

Farrokhzad’s body was found with multiple stab wounds on August 6, 1992, in his apartment in the German city of Bonn.

Farrokhzad had an unusual career. He earned a Ph.D. in political science from Munich University in West Germany, wrote his thesis on the impact of Karl Marx ideas on the state and church in the German Democratic Republic -- the so-called East Germany -- but ended up becoming a hugely popular singer and performer in Iran during the Pahlavi era.

But Farrokhzad never lost his interest in politics, and occasionally made political statements at his shows.

People who knew him at the time believe that he was a true patriot. His attitude towards the Pahlavi regime is not clear, but he was not known as an opponent. Even if he was a critic, he could not have expressed his views openly.

On a few occasions, he made statements at his shows that were critical of the United States, for the Vietnam War and for dropping the nuclear bomb on Japan. But these were the days that being left of center was fashionable, especially among younger people.

Fereydoun with his sister, prominent Iranian poet Forough Farrokhzad/ File photo
Fereydoun with his sister, prominent Iranian poet Forough Farrokhzad/ File photo

Several years later, he said in an interview that he had leftist tendencies and favored the German Social Democratic party led by Willy Brandt and Helmut Schmidt.

After the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the seizure of power by the ayatollahs, Farrokhzad was arrested several times, and ultimately he was forced to leave the country and return to Germany.

In exile, Farrokhzad continued his performances as a singer for Iranians living abroad. But now, his shows were significantly different.

He no longer needed to withhold his critical views or censor himself. So, between his songs, he started to give long political speeches on stage, criticizing and even ridiculing Islam and the mullahs, including Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic.

Farrokhzad paid for this with his life. On August 6, 1992, at 11:30 p.m., his body was found by police in Bonn apartment with a long kitchen knife in his mouth and another in his right shoulder.

German authorities were never able to resolve the mystery surrounding his brutal murder, but Iranian dissidents believe the regime in Tehran was responsible.

Iranian performer and pop star Feraydoun Farrokhzad, undated.
Iranian performer and pop star Feraydoun Farrokhzad, undated.

On the same day the year before, the last prime minister of Mohammad Reza Shah’s government, Shapour Bakhtiar, was killed in his house in Paris by three individuals with a kitchen knife. One of them was later arrested and confessed he had received orders from the Iranian government.

Mirza Agha Asgari, an Iranian author living in Germany, told Radio Farda that he tried to reopen the case but German authorities told him that only Farrokhzad’s family could submit such a request.

Farrokhzad was divorced and had only one sister, named Pooran, living in Iran who could never take on the political establishment. Pooran died in December 2016. His other sister, prominent Iranian poet, Forough had died before the revolution.

Farrokhzad singing one of his popular songs, Salam, on Iranian TV in 1970’s.

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    Mohammadreza Kazemi

    Mohammadreza Kazemi is an Iranian journalist and a former colleague at Radio Farda, who still occasionally contributes. He currently lives in the United States.