Monday, September 3, 2007

Haleh Esfandiari allowed to leave Iran: Kian Tajbakhsh, Ali Shakeri still in Evin Prison

Robin Wright of the Washington Post reports that Dr. Haleh Esfandiari, Director of Middle East Studies at the Woodrow Wilson Institute in Washington, D.C., was permitted to leave Tehran this morning. Farida Farhi previously discussed this case here. Esfandiari is to meet her husband, Professor Shaul Bakhash, in Vienna today.

The related cases of other Iranian-U.S. dual nationals (Iran does not recognize dual nationality) have not been resolved. Wright reports:

New York-based social scientist Kian Tajbakhsh and California businessman Ali Shakeri are in solitary confinement in Evin Prison. Both were picked up in the same three-day period in early May when Esfandiari was arrested.

Parnaz Azima, a correspondent for U.S.-funded Radio Farda, is out on bail of more than $600,000. . . .

According to the New York Times on August 23, a judge told Kian Tajbakhsh's wife, Bahar Malek, that he would be released in 10 to 15 days (between September 2 and 7) so that he could spend the last month of his wife's pregnancy with her. But such promises have not been honored in the past.

The Government of Iran created a special section of the Intelligence Ministry to suppress efforts at a "soft revolution" funded by the U.S. At the administration's request, Congress appropriated $75 million for "democratization" efforts in Iran, which Tehran of course sees as a complement to the administration's push for regime change. When the intelligence ministry could not find any programs in Iran actually supported by this money (Iranian spies are apparently unaware of how ineffectively and slowly money for such programs is disbursed), they arrested a number of Iranian-Americans, including Esfandiari and Tajbakhsh, who have been openly and legally carrying out activities in Iran with the knowledge and consent of the government for years.

Whatever may or may not be happening in the confrontation between the Ahmadinejad and Bush governments, these people have nothing to do with it, except that they have been working to promote engagement between the two countries for years. We need such people with us now more than ever. Let's hope that the Iranian government will cease treating these innocent people as hostages to its official relations with the U.S.


Nell said...

Would it kill Robin Wright to make any reference to the five Iranian diplomats kidnaped by the U.S. military in Irbil in January and held incommunicado and with no charges (and quite possibly "off the books," without access even to the Red Cross) ever since?

Iran's actions wrt Esfandiarih and the others are wrong; they are human rights violations. But the U.S. actions are far more heinous. Imagine the outcry here if Esfandiareh had been held absolutely incommunicado and in a secret location for the last seven months. There would be constant references to Iranian torture.

Yet Wright (and most other reporters covering the story of the Iranian-Americans held in Iran) blanks out a highly relevant bit of context -- the U.S. detention of the Iranians.

Barnett R. Rubin said...

I didn't mention the Irbil detainees because it is not productive to link the two, and both the US and Iran deny any linkage. The Pasdaran confiscated Haleh's passport at knifepoint before the Irbil incident. Later the two became linked in negoitations. The Irbil detainees have had visits from Iranian officials. The next step (short of release, since they should be released) should be family visits. I have discussed all of this with several Iranian officials in several countries, and they all say that the reasons I gave in the post, not the Irbil incident, are why these people were detained. Nonetheless, progress on the Irbil detainees would help with these cases now.

Anonymous said...

Let me see if I have this right: Had an Iranian-American scholar received funds (or worked for an Iranian think tank that received funds) from the Iranian government intended to change the US regime, she would be sent to Gitmo right quick, with no questions asked.
However, the same isn't supposed to happen in Iran? Why not?

In fact, contrary to all this talk about "academic freedom" etc, under US law it would be illegal under for an American scholar to receive funds from an Iranian NGO work for an Iranian academic organization - so why should the same sort of Iranian laws not apply to Iranians inside Iran too?

Nell said...

The Irbil detainees have had visits from Iranian officials. The next step (short of release, since they should be released) should be family visits. I have discussed all of this with several Iranian officials in several countries

Good news. Has there been any reporting of this fact at all in the U.S., Iranian, or international press? Had you posted about it before this?

"Not productive" to link the cases? Productive for who or what? And why should that be a concern for a news reporter? I criticized Robin Wright and other journalists, not you.

To U.S. citizens, the indefinite, lawless detention by force of Iranians by our government is relevant context for any news coverage of indefinite, figleaf-lawful detention of dual U.S.-Iranian citizens by Iran.

You seem to have taken my comments to mean that I think the detentions of Esfandiari et al. were caused by (or justified by) the U.S. detention of the Iranians from Irbil. I neither said nor implied that. I'm criticizing news coverage that completely blots out actions by our own government while giving full attention to similar abuses by others.

Nonetheless, progress on the Irbil detainees would help with these cases now.

But they're not linked. Got it.

Anonymous said...

All this talk about Freedom.

What hogwash.

It is this simple.

Read it again and again.

You have the freedom to obey the laws of our great nation. However onerous they may be.

Anonymous said...

All this talk about Freedom.

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