Karen Lugo

The murder of 30-year-old medical student Gelareh Bagherzadeh near her Houston home last week was surely meant to convey a message. This was no case of mistaken identity or random violence; what must be known about this remarkable young woman is that while she feared for her life she still spoke at every opportunity for freedom and women’s rights in Iran. Indeed, for Islamists there was reason to make an example of her and to send a message that – even in America – those who summon the courage to speak boldly against Islamism will be silenced.

It now is up to Americans to accept responsibility for making our own inspiring example of the courageous Gelareh Bagherzadeh. We have the power to profile this young woman of conviction as the leader that she was. But we have to know what her life meant and we have to honor the risks she took to stand for the freedoms we say we hold dear. If her killers intended that she would be silenced, it is now our duty to make sure she will not be, even in death.

Gelareh’s friends report that she had converted from Islam to Christianity and that she said “that her rights counted for nothing in Iran" and that "now in the U.S., she was going to speak for every cause she believed in." One friend at her funeral called her "a real fighter" and said that "she was a strong Persian woman who would stand up for her rights. She never gave up her right to speak, to demand freedom for our nation (Iran)."

Ms. Bagherzadeh was called an organizing member of SabzHouston, a group formed to protest the results of the 2009 elections in Iran. It is not possible to know if Gelareh was present at a well-supported September 2009 protest in front of Al-Hadi Mosque in Houston where the protestors charged that the former imam, Biria, had departed for Iran to become a senior advisor to Ahmadinejad. But, it is clear from the video that the protest sent a powerful message.

Karen Lugo

Karen Lugo is the Founder of the Libertas-West Project and a co-director of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence.