Search icon


26th Apr 2018

Ayatollah Khomeini sanctioned an assassination attempt on Shappi Khorsandi’s father

The Iranian born comedian fled the country with her family after the revolution in 1979

Oli Dugmore

The Iranian born comedian fled the country with her family after the revolution in 1979

Shappi Khorsandi was born in Tehran but fled from Iran to Britain as a child, after the revolution, only for Ayatollah Khomeini to sanction an assassination attempt on her father’s life.

His crime was writing a satirical poem. Appearing on Unfiltered with James O’Brien, Khorsandi explained how her dad was a respected journalist and satirist. “When dictators come, they go for the artists,” she said.

Living in London, her mother would answer the phone to death threats.

“My dad’s situation was not unique. We heard of other people who had been assassinated. It really hit home, it really changed our lives in 1984 when Scotland Yard came to our house and told us that there was a plot to assassinate my dad and we had to go away that day, that minute.

“It was this dark cloud over our heads and it’s happened, because we heard that they were doing this now. They were exporting terrorism. I think that day changed all four of us. I was terrified.

“I did a show about it in 2006, and when I look back on that show I hadn’t processed it even then. It’s only now when I look back and just think all the behaviours that we have within our family were all so much of it attached to the fact that we lived in terror, because that’s the job of terrorists, right? They terrify you. Killing you is just the tip of the iceberg.”

“I went to The Hague where I got transcripts of the trial where my dad’s would-be assassins were brought up by a witness, because the reason my dad wasn’t assassinated was there was an informant who then exiled himself to Dusseldorf, but saved my dad’s life.

“Some years later there was another bigger assassination in a cafe called Mykonos in Germany where six Kurdish dissidents were assassinated, so it’s in their trial that this same witness said, ‘Yes, I was privy to this attack as was I to the one of Hadi Khorsandi in 1984.’

“My dad’s death order was signed by the Ayatollah himself, and the codename to trigger the attack on my dad was ‘Let the celebrations begin.’

“I look back on it, my dad kept so much away from us about all this, and I sort of forgive my dad for a lot of his craziness.”