The family of a US citizen killed during an Iranian bombing campaign in Iraq’s Kurdistan region has filed a federal lawsuit against the government of Iran and its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Omar Mahmoudzadeh and at least 12 others were killed when Iran attacked Kurdish areas in neighboring Iraq with a barrage of ballistic missiles and drones on Sept. 28. The IRGC-claimed strikes targeted several Iranian Kurdish opposition groups that Tehran accused of fueling the protests over Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman who died in the custody of Iran’s so-called morality police.
The lawsuit filed Monday in the US District Court for the District of Columbia by Mahmoudzadeh’s wife and daughter seeks $300 million in punitive and $50 million in compensatory damages “for severe personal injuries and other irreparable harm” suffered as a result of Mahmoudzadeh’s extrajudicial killing and alleged acts of terrorism by Iran and its powerful Revolutionary Guards.
The suit is filed under the terrorism exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which allows US victims to sue designated state sponsors of terrorism. Iran has been on the State Department’s terrorism blacklist list since 1984, and the IRGC was labeled a foreign terrorist organization in 2019.
Tara Mahmoudzadeh described the lawsuit as an attempt to get some justice for her father’s death. “But no matter what happens, there will never be enough justice,” she said in an interview. “I would rather just have my father back.”
Born in the western Iranian city of Mahabad, Mahmoudzadeh spent several decades in Iran and Iraq before moving to the United States in 1995. After raising his family in northern Virginia, he returned to Iraq in 2018 to work as a volunteer with refugees in Koya, an Iraqi Kurdish town some 65 kilometers (40 miles) east of Erbil.
Mahmoudzadeh was a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), an exiled Iranian opposition group seeking greater autonomy for Iran’s Kurds, who comprise an estimated 10% of the Iranian population. At the time of Sept. 28 attack, Mahmoudzadeh was near KDPI’s headquarters in Koya.
More than 70 short-range ballistic missiles and drones were fired from Iranian territory in what the IRGC described as an attack on “bases operated by separatist terrorists.”
The 14-page complaint describes the wave of strikes as an “organized, tactical operation intended to target Kurdish, Iranian civilians and refugees.” The attack in Koya injured more than 50 people and left behind “mountains of concrete rubble that were once classrooms, hysterical children, [and] shambles of displaced furniture,” according to the complaint.
An aid worker discovered Mahmoudzadeh gravely injured and returned an hour later to find that he had succumbed to his injuries. Mahmoudzadeh’s family learned about his death through social media and received confirmation in a telephone call from the State Department the following morning.
Mahmoudzadeh is the first known US citizen to be killed in a ballistic missile and drone attack launched from Iranian territory, according to the family’s lawyer Ali Herischi.
At the time of his death, the US State Department confirmed only that an American citizen was killed in Iraq but declined to provide further information, citing privacy concerns.
State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel called the attack “an unjustified violation of Iraqi sovereignty and territorial integrity,” and national security adviser Jake Sullivan called the strikes an effort by Iran to “deflect blame from its internal problems.” Neither pledged accountability for Mahmoudzadeh’s killing.
Herischi believes the Biden administration downplayed the significance of Mahmoudzadeh’s death, possibly due to political sensitivities. Tensions between Tehran and Washington were already running high over Iran’s violent crackdown on the protests, its provision of armed drones to Russia and accelerating nuclear program.
“Regrettably, US officials remained silent in publicly holding Iran accountable,” Herischi told Al-Monitor. “It appears that the US has chosen to bury that issue.”
The Mahmoudzadeh family’s lawsuit is the latest action seeking to hold Iran accountable for harming Americans. A number of former prisoners, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, and their families have sued Iran for acts of terrorism, hostage-taking and torture. US victims have won court judgments against Iran, although compensation doled out through a fund set up for victims of state-sponsored terrorism is difficult to collect and can take years to pay out.
As with similar legal actions, Iran is not expected to respond in court to the lawsuit. Al-Monitor has reached out to the Iranian mission to the United Nations in New York for comment.
The Mahmoudzadeh family’s suit comes as street protests continue to challenge the four-decade rule of Iran’s clerical leadership. Since mid-September, rights groups estimate more than 500 people have been killed in the Iranian security forces’ crackdown on the demonstrations.
Tehran’s violent response to the peaceful protest movement has compounded the Mahmoudzadeh family’s grief.
“It’s hard for us to truly move on,” Tara Mahmoudzadeh said. “I feel like there will never be peace until we know that Iran will be free.”
Source » al-monitor