A young Iranian molecular scientist living in Texas was shot dead in her car on Sunday night at close range in what appeared to be an "execution-style" hit, though the motive remains unclear.
Sometime around midnight, according to the Daily Mail, Gelareh Bagherzadeh, a 30-year-old genetics student, was struck by a bullet that ripped through the passenger door window as she talked on the phone with her ex-boyfriend. According to police, an unknown assailant sneaked up to the passenger's side of the 30-year-old's car and shot her at point blank range in the head.
Bagherzadeh's car motor was still running when she was shot, and it subsequently smashed into a garage door just steps from her parents' home in an upscale community southwest of Houston, Texas. A neighbor heard the sound of the shattering glass and the running vehicle and called the police.
More details of the murder investigation are below, courtesy of KRIV-TV:
Texas Police are investigating whether Bagherzadeh was followed by her killer. They are unsure at this point if it was a random murder, a botched robbery, or a targeted killing.
Bagherzadeh was politically active, as she lobbied on behalf of Iranian women's civil rights and was a vocal proponent of regime change in Iran. She was a founding member of Sabz Houston, a local Iranian organization and took part in numerous anti-Iranian government demonstrations over the years.
During a series of protests against the Ahmadinejad government in 2010, Bagherzadeh appeared in an online video filmed by the Houston Chronicle. She refrained, however, from using her last name at that time for fear of persecution by the Iranian government.
A Houston police department spokesperson said authorities had not determined whether her protest background played a role in the murder. They are pursuing all leads, though the young Iranian activist was not known to have any enemies, and there did not appear to be a clear robbery motive.
The killing of a dissident Iranian scientist on U.S. soil has sparked some early speculation that there could be a political motive behind the murder. While the investigation is preliminary, the plot in October of last year that allegedly involved Iranian intelligence working with Mexican drug cartels to assassinate a Saudi Ambassador has made the outlandish seem possible when it comes to the Mullahs in Tehran.
Below is a Houston Chronicle piece on the Iranian protest movement that includes an interview with Gelareh Bagherzadeh, and includes the observation that Iranian expats are able to share information with those in their home country to foment dissent:
(H/T: Daily Mail)