Assassins of the Turquoise Palaceby Roya Hakakian
On the evening of September 17, 1992, eight leading members of the Iranian and Kurdish opposition had gathered at a little-known restaurant in Berlin when two darkly-clad men burst through the entrance. Within moments, the roar of a machine gun filled the air. Two rounds of fire and four single shots later, four of the men were dead. One of the survivors of that
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On the evening of September 17, 1992, eight leading members of the Iranian and Kurdish opposition had gathered at a little-known restaurant in Berlin when two darkly-clad men burst through the entrance. Within moments, the roar of a machine gun filled the air. Two rounds of fire and four single shots later, four of the men were dead. One of the survivors of that shooting, along with the widow of one of the victims and a handful of reporters, attorneys, and fellow exiles, began a crusade that would not only pit them against Tehran but against some of the greatest powers in Germany. When an undeterred federal prosecutor, and an endlessly patient chief judge, took over the case, a historic verdict followed which shook both Europe and Iran, and achieved something few could have predictedjustice. Roya Hakakian’s The Assassins of the Turquoise Palace is an incredible book of history and reportage, and an unforgettable narrative of heroism and justice.
Riveting account of a multiple murder and trial that led to a paradigm shift in Europe's relations with post-revolutionary Iran.
On September 17, 1992, heavily armed assassins burst into a restaurant in a quiet immigrant enclave in Berlin, rudely interrupting a dinner honoring Sadegh Sharafkandi, a leader of a dissident Iranian-Kurdish political organization. Opening fire with automatic weapons and following with a series of single shots, they murdered Sharafkandi and three other Iranian and Kurdish activists. Although the chief assassin was never caught, three of his accomplices, one Iranian and two Lebanese men with connections to Hezbollah, were quickly taken into custody. The ensuing five-year trial, where the crimes of the Stasi were tried after Germany's reunification, were presided over by the same meticulously fair Judge Frithjof Kubsch who had overseen the sensitive Stasi trials. Hakakian (Journey from the Land of No:A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran, 2004) deploys all of her talents as a former producer at60 Minutesand a poet in her native Farsi to tell the human and political story behind the news. She closely follows the surviving family and friends of victim Noori Dekhordi, who immediately suspected that the orders for the assassinations came directly from the Iranian regime's top officials. Hakakian's novelistic narrative details the intrigues in the Iranian diaspora as the prosecution unearthed threads leading from Tehran to hundreds of murders and a plot to kill hundreds more around Europe in the 1980s and '90s. These findings caught the German government between Tehran's vengeful mullahs, whose interests it had represented in Europe in exchange for contracts with German businesses like Siemens, and the hundreds of thousands of Iranian dissidents who had settled in Germany since the revolution. Even knowing that relations between Iran and Europe would never be the same won't prepare the reader for the surprising—even shocking—twists the trial took.
A nonfiction political thriller of a very high order.
Named a New York Times Notable Book of 2011 and Best Nonfiction of 2011 by Kirkus Reviews
"[Assassins of the Turquoise Palace] is a painstaking and riveting accounta true story that reads like an international thriller."The Daily Beast/ Newsweek, “Ten Books That You Might Have Missed But Shouldn’t”
“[A] riveting account of a multiple murder and trial that led to a paradigm shift in Europe’s relations with post-revolutionary Iran . Hakakian deploys all of her talents as a former producer at 60 Minutes and a poet in her native Farsi to tell the human and political story behind the news A nonfiction political thriller of the highest order.” Kirkus Reviews, (starred review)
“Even as they continue to breach every known international law, all the while protesting at interventions in their 'internal affairs,' the theocrats in Tehran stand convicted of mounting murderous interventions in the affairs of others. Roya Hakakian's beautiful book mercilessly exposes just one of these crimes, and stands as tribute to the courageous dissidents and lawyers who managed one of that rarest of human achievements; an authentic victory for truth and justice.” Christopher Hitchens
“Assassins of the Turquoise Palace throws light on the rivalries and fears within Iran’s vast exile community carefully researched and vividly written In addition to being a lively account of an extraordinary trial, [it] can be read as an unsettling reminder of the dangers of excessive zeal.” New York Times Book Review
[An] admirable look at the September 17, 1992, terror killing of four Kurdish exiles who were holding a meeting in a small restaurant in Berlin [Hakakian] does a worthy job of presenting the facts through the eyes of the men who survived the shooting and the German authorities who prosecuted the case the focus on Middle East politics should give this broad appeal.” Publishers Weekly
"'I feel myself as a translator,' she said, adding that as a Jew in Iran and now as an Iranian in America, she has always hovered on the periphery. 'My job is to tell what gets lost in the narrative about Iranwhich is not the nuclear story, not the wiping-Israel-off-the-map story, not the ones that are in the headlines, but the stories that are sort of insider accounts, the stories that have deeply shaped us,' she said. 'There are these overlapping spaces that I do inhabit, and I stand there, trying to pass information from one sphere to the other.'" from Roya Hakakian's Washington Post profile
“This is a brilliant, riveting book, with all the elements of a great thrillera horrific crime, sociopathic villains, international intrigue, personal betrayals, a noble prosecutor and an honorable judge. And it is all too real: with remarkably comprehensive reporting and brisk, smart writing, Roya Hakakian has told a great story but, more important, she has made plain the lethal immorality at the heart of Iran's regime” Joe Klein, Time Magazine
“[A] political thriller thoroughly researched, dramatically told account Reader’s will find everything they could ask for -and more discussed in riveting detail [a] fine book.” Washington Independent Book Review
“Insightful and detailed [The Assassins of the Turquoise Palace] is not limited to a historical account It is a rumination on the Islamic Republic’s culture of terror, and as such it delves into the personal lives of the victims [and] their broken families [A] captivating narrative.” PBS
“Roya Hakakian is something rare: a poet turned investigative reporter. The outcome of this unusual fusion is a work of journalistic revelation, written so fluidly and gorgeously, it is a masterpiece.”Lesley Stahl, 60 Minutes
“As the world contemplates the pressing predicament of Iran, Roya Hakakian offers one possible solution through a riveting tale that is most timely and profoundly urgent. This superb true story is much more than an international In Cold Blood it is a stunning parable of the central struggle of our times between totalitarianism and the rule of law.”R. James Woolsey, CIA Director 1992-1994
“Gripping ” New Haven Register
“Hakakian’s meticulously documented account of the Mykonos incident is a powerful rejoinder, as well as a lesson in ruthlessness and conscience . . . Hakakian’s narrative shines.” Jewish Ideas Daily
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Read an Excerpt
After nearly an hour prowling Prager Street, surveying the restaurant in its cul-de-sac, two hulking, bearded figures rolled their collars up to their eyes and burst inside. A third man stood guard at the entrance. It was 10:47 PM.
They darted through the main dining hall, past a lonely customer nursing a last drink. Through an archway, they entered the back room, where a party of eight sat around a rectangular table. The taller of the two intruders stationed himself behind one of the diners, facing the eldest among them --a bald, bespectacled man in a gray suit who was addressing everyone. No one was yet aware of their arrival. The speaker, suddenly meeting the intruder’s dark gaze upon himself, turned pale and froze in mid-speech. Another guest asked what was wrong with him. The answer came from the intruder:
“You sons of whores!”
He thrust his gloved hand into the sports bag that hung on his shoulder. Then, a click! .
A voice from the table shouted: “Comrades, it’s an assassi
The trail of his call faded in the roaring sound that followed. In the dimly-lit air, sparks of fire flashed at the intruder’s hip. Bullets, piercing the side of the bag, bombarded the guests. The shell casings rang on the floor --the men, collapsing, their chairs, falling, the wall behind them, cracking with each bullet. Blood sprayed what remained of a dinner of meat and rice, tracing the empty china like remnants of some crimson garnish, dotting the uneaten bread in their straw baskets, beading the petals of the plastic flowers in their stubby vases. One of the wounded men clutched the tablecloth as he fell, dragging it with him spilling the bottles. The print of his bleeding hand stained one end of the white fabric. Beer and water streaked the cloth and dampened the neon-blue layer beneath.
After two barrages --twenty six bullets-- the shooter paused to inspect the scene. The air was thick with the smell of gunpowder. Of the eight guests, everyone had stooped or fallen, except one. The elder guest was still in his chair, neck slumped on his shoulder, blood tinting his white shirt, blending with the busy pattern of his tie. Another victim was doubled over, breathing noisily, gasping for air, his face was smashed into a mug of beer. The golden liquid was slowly darkening.
The second shooter walked up to the table, tucked his bare hand under his belt, and drew out a gun. No one stirred. He aimed at the elder man, and fired three more bullets into his head. Then he turned to one of the bodies on the floor, a young, mustached man dressed in what, until moments before, had been a crisp white shirt. Pointing his gun at the back of the man’s head, he fired a single shot. Then he turned to the next body and aimed once more. But before he pulled the trigger, his accomplice motioned him to leave.
They bolted out of the restaurant. Their guard joined them at the door. At the intersection across the cul-de-sac, a sky-blue BMW was idling. They ran toward the car. The lead shooter reached it first. He grabbed the handles and swung both front and back passenger doors open. As he jammed himself beside the driver, he threw the bag behind him. The other two shoved themselves in the backseat, where a fourth man sat. A fifth man, their driver, stomped on the accelerator, nearly running over a pedestrian as he took off. Across the intersection, the engine of a black Mercedes roared, and it, too, took off and swerved onto a side street.
The breeze blew gently. A light drizzle fell softly. Suddenly, everything was as it had been on so many nights before. But lights had come on in the few windows overlooking the restaurant. A handful of neighbors had awakened. On the fourth floor balcony of the building next to the restaurant, a young woman clutched the railing, leaning downward. Her auburn hair flowed over the white uniform, her skin still warm from the bike ride home. She peered intently at the sidewalk below, looking for the source of the blast that had shaken the floor of her living room. She was a curious bystander then, soon a witness, one of several hundred, to detail her account of the tremor beneath her feet, the tremor that would ripple through and shake Germany, and all of Europe in the months to come.
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Meet the Author
With her memoir Journey from the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran Roya Hakakian paints a portrait of Iran never before experienced by readers.
- Woodbridge, Connecticut
- Date of Birth:
- October 19, 1966
- Place of Birth:
- Tehran, Iran
- B.A., 1990; M.A., 1992
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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"Assassins" reads like a literary thriller stretching from Berlin to Tehran to Beirut, a true page-turner. It's a fantastic work of historical non-fiction written with a poet's hand. All too obvious that the author, nay detective, left no stone unturned when conducting her research. An absolute must read when looking to make sense of current events - be it the Green Movement of 2009 in Iran or the current Arab Spring.
A well written nonfiction book about an assassination of Iranian opposition party exiles in Germany. Uplifting that Europe finally served the killers justice rather than putting financial and economic interests above it. Still very pertinent as regards today's Iranian leaders.