Politics & Policy

Of Pen and Sword

Iran's peculiar form of national security.

Despite being increasingly isolated in the international arena because of its support of terrorism, its ongoing effort to acquire nuclear weapons capability, and the repeated calls of its president for the destruction of the state of Israel, the Islamic regime in Iran has not lost sight of what it rightly considers to be the most imminent and present danger to its nefarious existence: its own people.

It is, in all likelihood, for this very reason that Iran’s security services, at the behest of the judiciary, arrested on April 27, the renowned Iranian writer and philosopher, Ramin Jahanbegloo. Returning from India, where he had been working on his latest work, Talking India, Jahanbegloo was charged with “spying” and with an “attempt against national security.” He was arrested at Tehran’s airport and sent to the infamous political prison, Evin, where he will join an unknown number of bloggers, student leaders, union activists, and prisoners of conscience. These prisoners are paying with their lives the exorbitant price of the political system that “Supreme Leader” Khamenei, as well as the “reformist” Khatami and the “pragmatist” Rafsanjani (both ex-presidents), has dubbed a “religious democracy,” which is meant to be a “social and political model” for the world.

A citizen of Canada and Iran–as was Ziba Kazemi, an Iranian-born Canadian photojournalist who was killed by torture at the hands of her interrogators in an Iranian jail–Dr. Jahanbegloo has spent his entire academic career deciphering the difficult transition between tradition and modernity. In this regard, there is to his credit an entire list of publications, in English, French, and Persian. To this, one can add Jahanbegloo’s in-depth interviews with such intellectual figures as George Steiner, Stuart Hampshire, Ashis Nandy, Daryush Shayegan, and Isaiah Berlin. In what has become a sad irony, Jahanbegloo had dedicated his doctorate work to Gandhi and the “sources of non-violence.”

In unison with various similar initiatives from international human-rights organizations in Europe and North America, a call has been initiated in France asking for the immediate release of Professor Jahanbegloo, as well as the release of all political prisoners in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Within hours, prominent French, German, Iranian, and U.S. intellectual and political figures joined the call by signing a petition, which is now online. Among the signatories are: Bernard Kouchner, founder of the humanitarian organization Médecins du Monde; Bernard-Henri Lévy, André Glucksmann, Pierre-André Taguieff, and Pascal Bruckner, all French philosophers and writers; Michael Ledeen and Michael Rubin, from the American Enterprise Institute; Laurent Murawiec, from the Hudson Institute; Paul Berman and Adam Gopnik, American writers and journalists; and Shahriar Ahy, Kambiz Roosta, Mashallah Adjoudani, Bagher Parham, Abdolsattar Doshooki, and Hossein Bagherzadeh, all Iranian political scientists, historians, and writers, as well as prominent figures of the Iranian opposition.

In the midst of the heated debate between the advocates of détente with what Glucksmann rightly calls a “nihilistic regime” in Tehran, and those who call for engaging the people of Iran, there is a question which the détente camp alone could, perhaps, answer: what kind of a “national security” is it which, on the one hand, impoverishes its own people in a deadly race to acquire bootlegged nuclear weapons while brandishing its ballistic and cruise missiles, and, on the other hand, brutally silences the writer whose pen rattles on tradition and modernity?

–Ramin Parham is an independent commentator based in Paris.

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