Liberal as in Liberty and Freedom. Iranian as in Cyrus and Ferdowsi.
Targeted Arrests: Scare Tactic
Why should Iran's government arrest people who have apparently been trying to portray a good image of Iran abroad? Ms. Esfandiary, for instance, the director of the Middle East program at the Woodraw Wilson Center
had been regularly analyzing the political situation in Iran and its elections as if they are happening in a perfectly democratic setting. In the most recent example of such an analysis, Iran After the June 2005 Presidential Elections
, there is hardly any mention of voting fraud, undemocratic laws and institutions, and the extremely limited choice, which essentially undermine any analysis of the elections and their implications for the demographics and the wants and needs of the electorate that presupposes a democratic setting. In brief, her activities could be seen as a vindication of the Islamic Republic. So, why is she prevented to leave Iran
after a regular family visit, interrogated long hours for weeks, and finally detained on clearly bogus and selective charges? (In fact there are yet no charges, just hints at what they entail.)
The reason is simple once we look at the Islamic Republic as what it is: a tyranny whose first and foremost objective is to prolong its existence and the reasons behind it. Of course, Ms. Esfandiari has not been active in anything that would resemble a plan for toppling Iran's theocracy. The words freedom
and their derivatives do not even appear in the Wilson Center Mission Statement
. But she is a known figure in a known institute concerned with Iran's politics. As such, she must have contacts with other scholars, including those who could be considered liberal and/or active in institutions
with an agenda for democratic government and human rights in Iran. Her arrest is a scare tactic. It is even more effective once her background and her line of thinking is taken into account.
There are a few million Iranians living outside the country for various reasons. Almost all of them still have family and close friends in Iran whom they would like to visit. This diaspora could be very effective in ending the tyranny in Iran in various ways. So, it pays greatly to scare them off.
But now what? What should we do? Apart from the calls and the campaign to release these innocent men and women, an important thing for the Iranians abroad is to show that they are not scared, and for those who care for freedoms to bolster their calls. This does not mean engaging in silly and plainly dangerous activities. All it needs to show is that such scare tactics will not work. If this advanced assault on our front is not withheld the international pressures by the Iranian diaspora on the government of Iran to behave will be subdued and their effectiveness eroded. Then, we could expect an even worse situation inside Iran for those we love and care about.
Labels: freedom, human_rights, iran