Bahman Kalbasi does a hit-piece on the Iran Democracy Fund for the BBC. The Obama administration killed programs supported by the fund without explanation, including the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, an apolitical human-rights group that studiously avoids partisan politics. The timing of Obama’s cut-off is tragic since the group was compiling the names of those detained in this summer’s post-election violence in Iran.
Kalbasi appears at best negligent and at worst dishonest. A few problems:
(1) He links the Center to a program in Dubai in 2005, but the Iran Democracy Fund didn’t fund the 2005 conference and, indeed, the fund hadn’t yet been created.
(2) Kalbasi fails to differentiate between supporters of the Islamic Republic and those seeking democracy. Reform and democracy are not the same thing.
(3) There tends to be a wide divergence between what democracy activists will say inside an authoritarian regime and outside it, as well as publicly and privately.
(4) Kalbasi accepts the argument that support for civil society creates an excuse for the regime to tar opponents but the regime targeted democrats and dissidents long before 2006. Indeed, the regime has arrested Iranians who attended conferences in Berlin in the late 1990s.
(5) The regime now targets those who engage in any dialogue with Western scholars. By the same logic, does Kalbasi and the BBC believe that civil society activists should cease all dialogue in order to stop offending Islamic Republic hardliners?