Hossein Abedini, the Iranian dissident who has survived multiple attempts on his life, believes Tehran is becoming more desperate – and brutal
Hossein Abedini has spent four decades speaking out against Tehran’s human rights abuses. Constant threats to his life are the price he has to pay for this, he says

Hossein Abedini, an Iranian dissident, was in the back of a car returning to his Westminster office following meetings in parliament earlier this month when he received his latest call from counter-terrorism police.
The officer from Scotland Yard’s new hostile state threat unit was checking in to make sure he was taking all the necessary security precautions. Was he using licensed taxi companies? Did he have an alarm system?
Don’t open the door to anyone, he was told.
The threat to Abedini’s life was regarded as so serious that the same unit had called him a couple of weeks earlier, in January. Detectives also visited him in his north London home just before Christmas.
Abedini was not the only Iranian dissident living in London to receive such a visit. Officers went to see others, who, like him, had fled the regime, to warn them of an increased risk of violence and kidnapping given spiralling events in the Middle East.

Potential targets were told that Tehran was using criminal proxies such as gangs in assassination attempts, death threats and other intimidation tactics. There were fears in MI5 and the police that Iran, emboldened by conflict sparked by the October 7 terror attack by Hamas, could ramp up its activity in the UK. Similar to Abedini, others were told to mix up their daily routine and warned not to travel to Iran’s neighbouring countries because of the risk of kidnap.
Abedini, who has been based in London for 15 years, says he refuses to live in fear. He says the Iranian regime “only gets more emboldened when you show weakness”
Abedini, who has been based in London for 15 years, says he refuses to live in fear. He says the Iranian regime “only gets more emboldened when you show weakness”.

Last year the same agencies accused Tehran of more than a dozen assassination and kidnap plots in Britain against dissidents and media organisations during a two-year period. It is not just Tehran that has operatives in the UK. The Chinese government is suspected of using westerners to try to entrap Hongkongers living in London as part of a wider campaign of intimidation and spying. Beijing has spies targeting officials in sensitive positions in politics, defence and business. Although Russia’s spying capabilities have diminished since the Salisbury poisonings, Moscow is thought to be adjusting its tradecraft and trying to build up its network of spies. Some Russian dissidents believe there is no point having bodyguards in London because if Vladimir Putin wanted to kill them, he could.
Abedini, who turns 65 in August, has spent four decades trying to expose the Iranian regime’s brutal practices and human rights abuses. He has lived in London for the last 15 years, having studied mechanical engineering at King’s College in the capital decades earlier. “I have spent sometimes 24 hours a day working for the causes of the resistance. I’ve dedicated my life to human rights and democracy. I am most probably one of their (Iran’s) top priorities,” he says, matter-of-factly. He takes the police advice seriously, adding: “When you are facing such a dreadful, vicious regime, you always have to be ready.
“Of course, I’m cautious, but I am not afraid because I know this regime only gets more emboldened when you show weakness. It doesn’t have mercy on anyone. I know this is the price for freedom.”
On his mind when we meet in parliament is Alejo Vidal-Quadras, a Spanish politician who was shot in the face by a motorbike passenger in broad daylight in a wealthy neighbourhood of central Madrid on November 9 last year. As a “staunch supporter” of Iran’s opposition movement and the campaign for human rights in Iran for more than 25 years, Vidal-Quadras accused Iran of being behind his attempted murder.
Hossein Abedini at an Iranian community centre in North London with a book listing more than 20,000 people killed by the Iranian state. He is pointing to a picture of himself with a friend who was murdered
Hossein Abedini at an Iranian community centre in North London with a book listing more than 20,000 people killed by the Iranian state. He is pointing to a picture of himself with a friend who was murdered.

Abedini is a kind, softly spoken man who I first met several years ago. At our latest meeting he brings with him a beautifully decorated box of nougat, filled with pistachios and almonds, and made in Iran. He bought the gift in London because he has not dared go back to Iran since 1979, the year of the revolution which shook the world and led to the overthrow of the Pahlavi dynasty. It was also the year that he last saw his mother, father, and seven of his siblings (one of his brothers has made it to London briefly since). Abedini was born into a progressive family and like him, his father was opposed to Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, who was eventually forced to flee the country. Abedini, who had a diploma in mathematics, was taking part in protests in September 1978 when the Shah massacred up to 3,000 Iranian protesters calling for the fall of his regime. The year after the bloodbath, which became known as Black Friday, Abedini left the country having been told he could continue his studies in London.
Not long after he was told that one of his brothers, just 15 and still at school, had been arrested after being accused of being part of the resistance. He spent eight years in the notorious Evin prison, northwest of the Iranian capital Tehran, where Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British citizen, was detained on suspicion of espionage charges. Another of his brothers was also imprisoned after writing for a progressive newspaper that was later shut down.
• Iran targets relatives and colleagues of London journalists

Abedini has rarely called home since because it is too dangerous for his family to be connected with him. His father, a former businessman, died from a heart attack a decade ago after coming under pressure from the regime because of Abedini’s work and that of his brothers. “The Ministry of Intelligence put enormous pressure on him, asking questions about where I was and he told them we weren’t in touch. It meant we couldn’t speak for their own safety,” he says. His mother, who was in ill health, died shortly afterwards.
Ever since he left the country alone in 1979, Abedini has made it his life’s mission to fight for a better future for Iran. He is now deputy director of the London office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, a broad coalition of democratic Iranian organisations, groups and personalities, founded in Tehran in 1981.
Abedini, left, appears in the book alongside Ali Akbar Qorbani, who was killed by Iranian operatives in Istanbul
Abedini, left, appears in the book alongside Ali Akbar Qorbani, who was killed by Iranian operatives in Istanbul

It considers itself a parliament-in-exile and has more than 450 members, including representatives of ethnic and religious minorities such as the Kurds and Armenians. It has chosen a woman, Maryam Rajavi, as its president-elect for the transitional period after the fall of the clerical regime. One of her sisters, Narges, was killed by the Shah’s secret police in 1975. Her other sister, Massoumeh, an industrial engineering student, was arrested by the clerical regime in 1982. Pregnant at the time, she was ultimately hanged after being subjected to brutal torture. Massoumeh’s husband was also executed.
Abedini believes the UK could do more to stand up to the Iranian regime, such as identifying and expelling its agents from this country and recognising the right of resistance units affiliated with the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran, once designated as a terrorist organisation by the US and UK, to stand up against Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
His journey to this point has been a long one, although he shows no sign of a man who once spent more than 50 days in a coma and was brought back from the brink of death.
Describing a scene that could have come straight from an espionage TV series such as Homeland or The Bureau, he told how in March 1990 he had travelled to Istanbul to try to help prevent the extradition of Iranian refugees who had crossed the border through the mountains. Iran was trying to get them back. As he was on the motorway on the way to Istanbul airport and sitting in the back of a car, there was an ambush. One car crashed into the vehicle he was travelling in, another closed the road ahead, and a third blocked the rear. “I knew we were being watched by Iranian agents but I never thought they would attack in broad daylight. These were professional terrorists who wanted to make sure they either kidnapped or killed us,” he says.
They were trapped. A gun-wielding bearded member of the assassination squad ran towards Abedini. Realising he had seconds to save himself, he opened the car door and ran at him with his briefcase. “He thought I might be armed and started shooting. One of the bullets hit my chest very close to my heart. Another hit me in the abdomen. I fell down. I could see people shooting from the rear car,” he adds. The police later told him the men in that car had a machine gun.

At that point the bearded man prepared to take the final shot — into Abedini’s head. “He came toward me and pointed at my head to fire the final shot to make sure I was dead. I thought everything was over,” he says. But the bullet jammed in the muzzle of the gun and failed to fire. Believing Abedini was close to death anyway, the men fled. Abedini was taken to hospital and placed in a coma.
Later a hit team called the hospital claiming they were from a special branch of the police and wanted to interview Abedini. However, their plan was foiled when the real police asked to speak to Abedini and they realised the initial callers were sent by the Iranian regime.
Despite the grave risk to his life, Abedini was undeterred and delivered a press conference from his hospital bed, linked up to tubes and needing an oxygen mask, to condemn the regime.
The book listing those targeted by the Iranian regime. Many have been hunted down in exile after fleeing Iran
The book listing those targeted by the Iranian regime. Many have been hunted down in exile after fleeing Iran.

Back then, in the 1990s, Abedini said the regime was going through a serious crisis. Now, however, he believes the situation is much worse as public dissent has been boiling over. “That is why the regime is more vicious than ever,” he said, blaming Iran for deploying its proxies across the Middle East to unleash mayhem. He said he was sure it was directly behind the Houthis attacks on shipping in the Red Sea.
As we spoke, Iranians were preparing to vote in the March 1 parliamentary election, seen as a litmus test of the clerical establishment’s popularity amid growing discontent over economic, political and social strains.
Iran’s clerical rulers were seeking a big turnout to shore up their legitimacy, which was damaged after months of mass protests ignited by the death in custody of a young woman in 2022.
Abedini is certain the regime is in its “final phase” and the Iranian people are “determined to put an end to this brutal religious dictatorship”.

“Iran will find its right place in the Middle East and will no longer be the epicentre of chaos with all these horrendous executions,” he says. “The Mullahs belong to the past with their medieval regime. Now that the whole world is coming to this realisation, they are doomed to be overthrown.”
Hossein Abedini
Born August 1959, Tehran
Education Studied Mechanical engineering at King’s College, London
Career Started off as a researcher in human rights and for the past 40 years has spent his time campaigning for a better and democratic future for Iran. He is currently deputy director of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in the UK.

Source » iranprobe