Saturday, May 20, 2006

Iran Imprisons Another Intellectual

Sunday's New York Times reports the arrest of a pro-democracy Iranian intellectual:

An Iranian philosopher and writer who also holds Canadian citizenship has been detained for three weeks without formal charges, raising concerns that his arrest could signal greater repression of intellectuals.

The scholar, Ramin Jahanbegloo, was arrested at the Tehran airport late last month as he headed to Brussels to attend a conference sponsored by the German Marshall Fund. He had just returned from a six-month teaching program in India.

Unfortunately, Mr. Jahanbegloo's arrest and imprisonment is anything but an isolated occurence:

The arrest coincided with a crackdown on student advocates. A court has issued a suspended five-year sentence for Abdullah Momeni, a student leader, and an 18-month sentence for Mehdi Aminzadeh, another leader. Each was accused of being part of the pro-democracy demonstrations in 2002 during which students demanded the release of Professor Hashem Aghajari, who received a death sentence after questioning the authority of high-ranking clerics.

However, he has been arrested by the Ministry of Information, unlike the others, who were arrested by the judiciary. His arrest was a shock since he was not involved in activism and had advocated dialogue and tolerance in his writings.

Mr. Momeni said the arrest of Mr. Jahanbegloo made sense only as an effort to frighten dissidents. "He was just a university professor and intellectual who advocated philosophical theories," he said. "He had no access to any classified information."

"It seems that the authorities want to intimidate freethinkers and professors," he added. "They do not want intellectuals to have the freedom to advocate secular and democratic theories which can lay the foundation for democracy."

(emphasis added-DD)

As the recent letter from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to President Bush makes clear, hatred and contempt for liberal democracy is a core belief of the Iranian regime. The crackdown on dissidents inside Iran is just one manifestation of this attitude. Once the Iranian regime brings its nuclear weapons program to fruition, it will begin in earnest to end the nascent process of democratic reform underway in the broader Middle East.


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