Omid Memarian

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Serial Arrests in Iran!

What is the message in the arrests of several Iranian-American researchers over the past few weeks? Who is sending this message to whom, are what are its effects? What has transpired since the arrests of Dr. Haleh Esfandiari, Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh, and Ali Shakeri?

All three individuals are some of the most reputable among their colleagues. Dr. Esfandiari is one of the analysts with the most realistic views on Iranian developments. Articles published by her, and views of those she invited to present at Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, all promote an outlook opposed to the radical ones present in Washington, the most important aspects of which state that inside Iran there are people who are sensitive to their destiny, and who try to build a better future for themselves, and that no one can rule above these people’s will.

Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh, a university professor, researcher and consultant to several international organizations and to some entities inside Iran, is described as one of the most prominent professionals in the area of civic sociology, among other areas. Dr. Ali Shakeri is an individual who is known for his anti-war views by many.

These scholars live outside Iran due to their professional activities, and they are regarded with pride among the Iranian community outside Iran. Now they are imprisoned, facing various security-related charges in Iran. Kayhan, a conservative newspaper in Tehran, claims to have made “discoveries” about these individuals’ professional lives—discoveries not attained through ingenuity, but through the simple ways such information can be collected about individuals. This basic and quite public data, embellished with suspicions of overthrowing the government and spiced with incorrect and untrue accusations, display how empty those claims are and how innocent the imprisoned individuals are. By virtue of their very public academic and research activities, these individuals lead a rather transparent life, with their activities reflected and displayed on the websites and reports of their affiliated organizations, rendering the list of accusations against them as “inventions” rather than charges. Dr. Esfandiari’s husband provided a detailed reply to Kayhan’s accusations against his wife, though Kayhan refused to publish his letter.

Such lies and fabrications are standard tactics used to create fear among Iranians living outside Iran, and to discourage and warn those contemplating utilizing these individuals in the future. Such tactics usually backfire and achieve opposite results.

This is not the first time Iranian security groups, operating through Kayhan, are tackling such projects. Over the past years there have been several similar incidents, and it is not difficult to predict the final outcome. It is easy to expect that as this report is written, some of the wiser members of the conservative force in Iran are advising their more radical members against such rushed and ill-fated actions, just as the radicals in charge of the prisoners are promising their prisoners that a simple confession will enable them to go home.

Therefore the arrests, espionage charges, leaking interrogation questions in radical newspapers, issuing directives to prevent newspapers to report on the cases, denying the prisoners the right to access lawyers or to see their families, continuous lies, creating fear among certain sections of the society, revealing the names of numerous individuals who will be the next subjects of these security projects, or creating fear and putting pressure on the prisoners to give forced confessions, and eventually freeing them without a trial (and in case of a trial, a closed-door one) through posting astronomical bails, are all old and repetitive stories which lead neither to acquisition of any viable intelligence, nor any other gains.

Any Iranian citizen would like to see his security organizations managed by the most competent individuals, proficient and intelligent, and capable of safeguarding national security in the least costly way through enlisting assistance of the largest number of citizens in an atmosphere of trust and satisfaction. But even in the most optimistic evaluation the security forces have missed the mark so many times over the past few years, that one never ceases to wonder why individuals who are incapable of managing the smallest issues have been appointed to such important posts, portraying Iran in a way which supports the pro-war faction in the US who continually criticize Iran for its violations of human rights, showing Iranian regime as an oppressive state.

The question is how can hurting citizens who serve as ambassadors of peace and friendship, and who consistently defend Iran vis a vis “anti-Iranian” points of view, be fruitful? Naturally, people who live and work outside Iran have extensive interactions with organizations and entities in the societies in which they are active. Iranian Government may be able to have a say about the personal and professional lives of those living within its borders, but they cannot do the same with its citizens outside of Iran. Such simplistic approach in confronting Iranian elite who live and work abroad, people such as Ramin Jahanbegloo among others, will have two outcomes none of which is desirable.

First, those Iranian researches and academics who live all over the world, and who love Iran and try to bring resources and opportunities available abroad into Iran, become pessimistic and conclude that to love Iran and to work for this love will face them with imprisonment and endangerment of their personal lives. This will perpetuate Iran’s massive isolation of the past several years in various areas, exacerbating the current situation through closing its few outlets.

Such arrests also demonstrate a poor picture of the existing intelligence and judicial systems in Iran. This picture neither promotes pride for those who support it, nor does it add to the regime’s credibility. This picture creates the question that when security and judicial authorities approach Iran’s most reputable and well-meaning elite with such venom, how do are they treating the ordinary Iranian citizens who don’t enjoy the same fame and international attention?

What happened with Hossein Moussavian’s recent arrest, the significant charges made against him by pro-government radicals, and his eventual release within just a week, show that such fabrications are not mere intelligence errors, but are political maneuvers of groups inside the Iranian regime. In view of what was described above, these political maneuvers are not in the best interest of Iranian people, Iran, and even the regime. At a time when Iranian regime should be using all its resources to reduce and eliminate the increasing threats against the country, such arrests and actions are nothing short of committing suicide for the fear of death.


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