Daniel W. Drezner

When going to Brussels is a crime

I had the good fortune to attend the first-ever Brussels Forum last weekend. It turns out that at least one invitee was not so lucky, according to this e-mail from the Forum’s conveners: One of our invited guests to the Brussels Forum, Dr. Ramin Jahanbegloo, never made it to the event as he was detained ...

I had the good fortune to attend the first-ever Brussels Forum last weekend. It turns out that at least one invitee was not so lucky, according to this e-mail from the Forum’s conveners:

One of our invited guests to the Brussels Forum, Dr. Ramin Jahanbegloo, never made it to the event as he was detained by the Iranian authorities on the way to the airport to fly to Brussels. Dr. Jahanbegloo is a well-known Iranian intellectual and human rights advocate who currently heads the Cultural Research Bureau in Tehran. Over the weekend we decided not to make his arrest public in the hope that he would shortly be released by the authorities. This has since proven not to be the case. Ramin Jahanbegloo is a Sorbonne-educated expert on German philosophy. He has also been a post-doc in Middle Eastern studies at Harvard University and a Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy. Dr. Jahanbegloo is a valued member of our intellectual community and a symbol of the universality of democratic and human rights. He is a frequent contributor to the many debates about human rights and democratic freedom in both Europe and the Middle East. Among his many books are Conversations with Isaiah Berlin and (as editor) Iran: Between Tradition and Modernity. At the time of his arrest, he was working on a study of Ghandi and peaceful resistance. He holds a Canadian as well as an Iranian passport.

It would be safe to say that the Human Rights Watch release on the arrest provides little comfort:

?The arbitrary arrest of Ramin Jahanbegloo shows the perilous state of academic freedom and free speech in Iran today,? said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. ?This prominent scholar should be celebrated for his academic achievements, not interrogated in one of Iran?s most infamous prisons.? The authorities detained Jahanbegloo at Tehran Airport on or around Thursday, April 27. Officials refused to acknowledge his detention until Wednesday, May 3, when Tehran?s deputy prosecutor general, Mahmoud Salarkia, confirmed Jahanbegloo?s detention in an interview with the Iranian Students News Agency. Also on Wednesday, the Fars News Agency quoted the chief of prisons in Tehran Province, Sohrab Soleimani, as saying that Jahanbegloo is being held in Tehran?s Evin prison. Neither official gave any reason for Jahanbegloo?s arrest. An unnamed Judiciary official told the daily Etemad-e Melli that charges against Jahanbegloo ?will be announced after the interrogations.? ?Iran?s Judiciary is notorious for coercing confessions by means of torture and ill-treatment,? Stork said. ?We hold the Iranian government entirely responsible for Jahanbegloo?s well-being.?

Multiple press reports have Iranian authorities accusing Jahanbegloo of espionage. This makes perfect sense to me — if I were the Iranian regime, the last thing I’d want is to have a scholar in my midst with deep knowledge of Isaiah Berlin and Mohandas Gandhi. Needless to say, the Iranian blogosphere has been abuzz about the arrest, the first of a prominent intellectual since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s election. This post by Shahram Kholdi provides the a sense of the Farsi blogosphere:

[T]hrough this post, I inform the readers of Free Thoughts on Iran that Dr. Jahanbegloo’s arrest is a cause of concern and his release should become the goal of all who are concerned with the promotion of civil society, open public space for free political debate, and last but not least a space safe enough to conduct such debates in a non-violent manner. Dr. Jahanbegloo has taught, lived, and acted in a non-violent manner, and those who would like to rally for his release should remember one fact: He did all this without Media-Mongering and without recourse to Sensationalism. Here, I join all those who are already active to do something to secure the immediate release of Dr. Jahanbegloo, and invite those who have not joined the rest of us yet, to join us. Also, I would like to ask all those who are willing to join the cause and care for Dr. Jahanbegloo not just as a scholar, intellectual, teacher, and a friend, but as a person who deserves due process, just representation, and freedom from arbitrary confinement, to join the cause in a non-sensationalist manner.

Kholdi provides more info here. I am uncertain what useful non-governmental actions can be done with regard to Jahanbegloo’s case — but e-mailing Iran’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations might be a useful starting point. They even have a “human rights” category in their subject menu.

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