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Letter to Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan

By Shirin Saeidi

Dear Shahid Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan,

I am an Iranian student from abroad. As I was preparing for my PhD defence, and finalizing my plans to move back to Iran, news of your death reached me on January 11th. This is not the first time that we witness the killing of an Iranian scientist through Western and Israeli-led operations. Unfortunately, it has become rather common since Iran has remained resolute in its pursuit of nuclear energy despite objections by the United States and Israel. In the last two years, four other similar attacks against Iranian scientists were carried out in Tehran. You were the deputy director of Iran's Natanz uranium enrichment facility, with numerous publications in academic journals. You died when two riders on a motorbike drove by your car and placed onto it a magnetic bomb that resulted in the explosion of your vehicle.

Memorial for Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan at Tehran's Sharif University

Immediately after my mother informed me of your death over the phone, I started searching your name on the Internet. When I first saw your photo, I became paralyzed. I estimated that you were in your early thirties, and when I read further my guess was confirmed, you died at 32. I started thinking about the fact that I could have met you at some point in my career. You could have come to Cambridge or another university in the United Kingdom for your PhD. We may have met in the Iranian Society or Islamic Society here. We could have talked about Iranian politics, history and poetry. I am certain that I would have learned a lot from you. I would have probably contacted you for advice on my decision to teach in Iran. You may have introduced me to friends and colleagues. Or maybe we could have met in the United States during our undergraduate studies, and shared the experience of being Iranian students in the US.

In the past few days, I imagine these possible encounters and have been unable to focus on my upcoming defence. It is not so much your death that bothers me, for at heart I'm a Shi'i and embrace the concept of martyrdom. I also do not believe that Iran's road to scientific advancement will be halted because of this illegal intervention on behalf of the international system. Rather, I believe that the production of theories and knowledge grounded in local experience, in all realms of research was integral to the 1979 revolution. I am disappointed that many have not been able to recognize this characteristic of our state and society.

The reality is that you did not come to study abroad. You did not get your doctoral degree from Cambridge, Oxford or Harvard. You could have, as you certainly had the achievements for this option. Like many from our generation, you were dedicated to building local knowledge through innovative approaches created by us. You stayed in Iran, married in Iran, and lived in Iran. And your resistance was so intense, that martyrdom became your destiny. I congratulate you and your family today. Yet my heart is broken for it was by no accident that a young professor was selected for this killing. Your age is significant here as it sends a strong message to Iranian youth regarding our emergent desires for intellectual autonomy.

Your sister,
Shirin Saeidi

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