A Book Review; Assassins of the Turquoise Palace
By: Cklara Moradian
February 9, 2012
Ms. Roya Hakakian is one of those authors whose work leaves a lasting impression on her readers. Her sensitivity to the complexities of life, her poetic writing style, and impeccable investigative journalism makes her work unforgettable. Few authors are able to bring atrocities to light without wallowing in the darkness. She gives us hope while asking us to face the unpleasant realities of our world.
Ms. Hakakian’s most recent book is titled Assassins of the Turquoise Palace, published through Grove/Atlantic in 2011. This book is the non-fiction account of the 1992 Mykonos restaurant assassinations in Berlin. Four Kurdish and Iranian opposition leaders were brutally assassinated as part of a terror campaign carried out by the Islamic Republic of Iran to silence political dissidents in diasporas. The assassinations led to the Mykonos trial, which is considered one of the most significant international court cases in European judicial history. The German court implicated the highest officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran as responsible for ordering the assassinations which led to a diplomatic crisis between the two countries. Rather than writing a political book, Ms. Hakakian chronicles the aftermath of the assassinations through the lens of those closest to the case.
The story will take us through a roller-coaster, an A through Z of emotions, while simultaneously keeping us on edge with sharp analysis, poignant observations, and fascinating details. This is investigative journalism at its best!
Is this book about International politics, assassinations, and court proceedings? Yes. But it’s so much more than that. It is an account of a tragedy and the complicated aftermath. But most importantly, it’s about human resilience. It’s a story about the triumph of justice over horrendous acts of violence. Extrajudicial assassinations are rarely prosecuted and impunity reigns these terrains. This story is one of those bright spots in history brought to life by an authentic voice.
The narrator has no other agenda than to paint a vivid picture of the events and the various realities embodied by those closely involved.
The perpetrators’ objective was to silence dissidents through a campaign of fear, intimidation, and terror. Through this account, Ms. Hakakian has been able to give voice to those silenced and hope to the survivors.
One can imagine that many expatriates feel comforted to see the history of their struggles so vividly recorded. At the same time Ms. Hakakian fully appreciates the seriousness of bearing witness. She gracefully but responsibly recounts intimate details of those affected without compromising the truth.
Ms. Hakakian writes in a beautiful and compassionate tone but it is not a sentimental or romantic one. She does not take the easy way out. Readers will be amazed by her ability to present so much information without butchering the complexity of the situation.
There is never a dull moment, never an irrelevant detail, or trite dialogue. Characters are not reduced to one dimensional caricatures or flat stereotypes. Most of our lives we are swimming in the grey but often non-fiction books of this kind reduce life down to the either/or, the black/whites, the good/bads etc. She does not insult the intelligence of her readers by spelling out a list of super villains or altruistic heroes. Instead she allows us to make up our own minds. It speaks to her skill as a journalist and a writer that one feels personally invested in the outcome of events so far removed from our day to day lives.
Readers who know little to nothing about Iran or international affairs should NOT be afraid to read this book. Ms. Hakakian writes with eloquent clarity. We are able to peek into the internal states of the characters and visualize the physical locations of the events without becoming disoriented. By defining each new term, providing a time-line of events, and a comprehensive character list, readers are equipped to navigate the foreign lands, names, and subjects.
That said, even the self-proclaimed Iran experts will be in awe. The author must have poured months and even years into researching this book. She has referenced archives, interviews, magazine articles, film footage, witness testimonies, and official court documents. She has unearthed and exposed secrets. It’s a remarkable accomplishment and that is why the reader cannot question her authority on the subject.
Ultimately this is also an exciting thriller. The book moves as if already on film; Images are sharp, descriptive, imaginative, and colorful.
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