One of the key characters in Seeker of Horizons is Moshe’s late father, Ali Abbasi. Abbasi was an Iranian writer, intellectual and journalist. His activism against the Islamic Regime resulted in imprisonment at Evin Prison in Tehran in 1986. There, he endured interrogation and torture which resulted in physical damage, including partial blindness and deafness. It also afflicted him with Severe Post-Traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD) that remained with him all his life, causing him and his family much consternation.
Released in 1987, Abbasi and his family, 4 children at the time, now 6, fled Iran to Turkey where they remained for two years as refugees. Without any means, they endured severe conditions. Despite this, Abbasi initiated a major undertaking there, which resulted in a significant coup for Iranian refugees. The Gallery tab contains some historical documents and pictures that relate to this episode, which are also discussed in the novel.
As the Islamic Regime consolidated power during the 1980’s, thousands of Iranians fled to Turkey. The regime engaged in a clandestine arrangement with the Turkish government to quietly repatriate them. The Turkish government was given lists of refugees the Iranians wanted returned in exchange for handsome financial compensation. Turkish officials carried this out by convincing the refugees that they were being given amnesty in Europe, boarding them onto buses on this premise and lie, and sending them back to Iran instead. Back in Iran, the men would be taken to prison, interrogated, tortured and often executed. The women and children were left forlorn, deprived of their fathers and husbands.
After a few suspicious incidents at the make-shift camp the family was staying in, Abbasi began to investigate. Given his high profile as a journalist and his fluency in Turkish, English and French, he was able to enlist local help and slowly uncover the secret arrangement. Outraged but also motivated, he began reaching out to all of his contacts and local media. He nabbed the ear of a major Turkish newspaper, which published an article on the scandal with a picture of Abbasi and his family. The article threw the doors wide open on the scandal and news spread rapidly, in Turkey and beyond. At one point, Abbasi took a razor to his wrist while cameras and his family looked on, vowing to kill himself if the Turkish government did not cease its shameful actions. The pressure mounted from various governments, organizations, media outlets and prominent individuals until the operation was finally ceased.
Many Iranians in Turkey were subsequently granted safe passage to other countries who had now stepped forward to provide amnesty to them. Abbasi and his family had their choice of countries to settle in, ultimately choosing Canada. His courageous actions saved many lives and garnered attention for an important political and humanitarian cause. He is a hero in the very sense of the word.
The sum of his life experiences weighed heavily on him. In later years, he suffered from many physical ailments and mental illnesses, which resulted in severe self-destructive habits and abusive behaviour towards his family. At his core, however, Ali Abbasi was a good man who fought for truth, justice and a better life for his family and countrymen, and paid the ultimate price.
May he rest in peace.