I knew nothing of Seyed Khalil, his music, his Sufism, his forlorn death and the failure to fully account for it until I met a long-exiled Iranian dissident in Western Europe almost two years ago. I had spent a good deal of time with Turkish and Kurdish Alevis in Germany who also exulted in their music of protest and praise of God’s creation, but the emotion of Seyed Khalil and those who loved – and still love – him was different. My Iranian interlocutor, who must remain unnamed for his own safety, said to me, “sooner or later, the people of Iran will return to their authentic roots, and the clerical murderers will face justice.” These words seemed, at the time, impossibly defiant. Today, it appears the moment is close when the secret of Seyed Khalil’s death, and those of others killed at home and on foreign soil by Iranian agents, will be fully revealed. It is, sadly, a Sufi riddle more immediately relevant than many others.
Stephen Schwartz is a frequent contributor.