Omid Memarian

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Addicted to Confessions

Just a few days after Haleh Esfandiari, in solitary confinement for three months without any contact with her attorney or family, appeared gaunt and frail on television, analyzing “velvet revolutions,” in an interview published in Rooz, Shirin Ebadi told me that when Ms. Esfandiari called her mother on the telephone the next day, she told her she was tired and didn’t know what else to do. Esfandiari told her 93-year old mother: “Get me out of here.”

This is precisely what is left of three months of continual accusations by Kayhan Newspaper and websites close to the Government, security organizations’ propaganda, and the devastating silence of the Judiciary. A pattern which has been repeated numerous times and now even many conservatives don’t believe it either. But a limited will amongst the security organizations insists on this tired method in such a way that one would think more than their belief in its effectiveness, they are addicted to it.

This chronic addiction to receiving confessions concentrates more on putting pressure on prisoners as opposed to relying on facts and strengthening investigative methods for gathering information, thereby forcing citizens to pay the price through imprisonment, torture, or deprivation of a normal life through months of solitary confinement. All of this is to force the prisoners to say what intelligence organizations and their related media would like to hear.

Such a television broadcast was prepared for two types of audience. Contrary to some people’s belief that it was prepared for a public audience, this program was prepared to issue warnings to academics, university students, and civil and political society. To those who designed the confessions scenario, images of the demise of such prominent scholars will teach others to toe the line. The message is that when the government can do this to those who have stellar backgrounds, education, and international recognition, local activists will not have a prayer. (Though in reality, similar acts have thus far had reverse effects and have not been able to stop any original social movements.)

The other audience is foreign countries who support efforts to overthrow the Iranian Government, letting them know that the Government is alert. This is notwithstanding the degree to which those prisoners of security organizations have or have not been in touch with those countries or whether or not they have been after those objectives. For example, in the case of the current prisoners, there has never been any evidence leading to their involvement in such projects.

The important point is that if intelligence organizations had even one witness—and I stress just one witness—to corroborate these accusations of illegal activities by the prisoners, they would never engage in taking the prisoners out of their solitary cells into the well-decorated office of the Evin Prison Warden or another room specifically decorated for this purpose, to make statements against themselves. They would have quickly conducted the trials with the one witness, finding them guilty and sentencing them. Everyone knows that under normal conditions devoid of physical and psychological pressures, reasonable individuals would never provide statements against themselves, their colleagues, and their years of reputable activities.

Therefore, with Ms. Ebadi’s report of Haleh Esfandiari’s telephone conversation with her mother in which she has said “Get me out of here,” the truth is coming out a lot sooner than expected. Obviously, security organizations would use the confessions mechanism to cover their own weaknesses and mistakes in the arrests of these individuals, using the most inhumane way to prove that they were not mistaken, because the suspects are confessing the truth. But the truth has been known for years.

The point is that while security organizations and their related media (such as Kayhan and friends) are accusing anyone from university students to labor representatives to social activists and those who participate in peaceful gatherings of “activities against national security,” the continuation of such Stalinistic methods portrays the Iranian regime as a horrible and fearsome state. No enemy of the Iranian Government is capable of doing a better job in this portrayal, and this is the worst of all activities against the country’s national security.

Such uncalculated and costly actions distort the country’s image outside its borders, display the Islamic Republic as a totalitarian regime, invoke a flood of human rights violations resolutions against the country, and inflict political, economic, and cultural costs to our national interests.

Last, unfortunately, individuals such as Esfandiari, Tajbakhsh, and Jahanbegloo among others, who have served as positive messengers of changes within the Iranian society, are now facing these immense pressures. These individuals have continually strived to weaken the position of American proponents of war, and have insisted that Iranian society is strong enough to create change from within, as opposed to through foreign intervention.

These individuals have never acted as political opposition, and have never harbored anger against the Iranian Government, traveling to Iran with optimism, and now pay heavily for their optimism about Iran’s political equilibrium. It is not strange then, that these days voices which previously accused the Iranian Government of brutality and violations of human rights, prescribing military intervention as the only alternative for “changing the behavior of Tehran rulers,” have found new resolve.

Perhaps this is why over the past few days the wiser moderate conservatives inside the Islamic Republic have expressed their protest and dismay against such actions.


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