Friends of jailed Iranian urge Irish Government to raise issue (Source: Irish Times)

By , November 29, 2009 6:26 am

The Irish Times has published a piece on appeals by Kian’s friends in Ireland – Chandana Mathur and Dermot Dix – to the Irish Government to help free him:

“IRELAND-BASED friends of an Iranian-American academic who faces fresh charges of spying on top of a 15-year sentence he received last month have appealed to the Irish Government to raise the issue with Tehran.

Kian Tajbakhsh (47) was arrested during the crackdown that followed Iran’s disputed presidential election in June. He was among more than 100 people tried in connection with protests sparked by the controversial ballot, which returned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power.

His family has denied that Mr Tajbakhsh was involved in the demonstrations.

The US-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said that earlier this week, Mr Tajbakhsh was told of the new charges when he was brought before a special court believed to have been set up by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to prosecute opposition figures…

The concerns of his family and friends were heightened by the case of a Kurdish activist who had been serving a 10-year sentence but was executed earlier this month after a prosecutor revisited the case and demanded a harsher penalty.

“It is our fear that something similar might happen to Kian,” said Chandana Mathur, an anthropologist at NUI Maynooth and friend of Mr Tajbakhsh. “The story just gets uglier and uglier by the day. It is breathtaking and very frightening.”

Ms Mathur’s husband, Dermot Dix, who is headmaster of Headfort School in Kells, Co Meath, called on the Irish Government to intervene. “I would like to urge the Irish Government to take a stand for human rights in Iran and speak out in defence of an innocent man,” he said.

“Ireland is justly proud of its history of neutrality; surely this is a chance to use our neutral status to reach out to the Iranian regime in order to prevent a gross injustice?

“The EU is Iran’s biggest trading partner and Ireland also has the opportunity in the context of EU membership to reach out to Iran to demand justice.”

[Full article]

U.S. White House statement on new charges against Kian Tajbakhsh (Source: The White House)

By , November 27, 2009 5:18 pm

The United States White House has issued a second statement on Kian’s case via its Press Secretary:

“The United States is deeply concerned about reports of additional charges facing Kian Tajbakhsh, an Iranian-American scholar who has been detained in Iran without access to an independent lawyer since July 9, 2009. The charges against Mr. Tajbakhsh are baseless, and his original sentence on October 20 was an outrage. The Iranian government cannot earn the respect of the international community when it violates universal rights, and continues to imprison innocent people. We call on the Islamic Republic of Iran to release Mr. Tajbakhsh, and to respect the human rights of those within its borders.”

New spy charge against jailed Iranian-American (Source: Associated Press)

The AP has published the following piece about the latest disturbing developments in Kian’s case:

“CAIRO — Iran brought new espionage charges against an Iranian-American scholar who was already convicted of spying and sentenced to 15 years in prison in the country’s crackdown following June’s disputed presidential election, a human rights group said Thursday.

The new charges raise the possibility of a harsher penalty against Kian Tajbakhsh, a 47-year-old scholar who was in Iran working on a book when he was arrested at his home nearly five months ago amid security forces’ postelection sweep against the opposition.

Tajbakhsh was among more than 100 people — most of them opposition activists and protesters — brought before a court in a mass trial criticized by the opposition and rights groups as a show trial.

He was sentenced by a branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Court last month to 15 years in prison after being convicted of espionage and endangering state security. It is the harshest prison term handed down so far by the court. His family has denied the charges against Tajbakhsh.

Earlier this week, Tajbakhsh was brought before another branch of the Revolutionary Court that the elite Revolutionary Guard military corps has used to pursue dissidents, and he was charged with additional counts of espionage, the New York-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said in a statement.

The charges had been brought by the Guard, a member of Tajbakhsh’s family said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation. The Guard has spearheaded the crackdown against pro-reform politicians, activists and protesters, accusing them of plotting a Western-backed “velvet revolution” against Iran’s clerical-led Islamic Republic.

Tajbakhsh, a social scientist and urban planner, was the only American detained in the crackdown that crushed giant street protests by hundreds of thousands of people after the June 12 election. The opposition claims the vote was rigged in favor of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had called for his release. Initially, Tajbakhsh’s lawyer said he was sentenced to “at least 12 years” in the initial conviction, but it has since been confirmed to be 15 years…”

[Full article]

New Charges of Espionage Filed Against Iranian-American Sociologist (Source: International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran)

By , November 26, 2009 5:44 am

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has expressed serious concerns about new charges introduced by Revolutionary Guards commanders in the prosecution of Kian Tajbakhsh:

“It appears the Revolutionary Guards are seeking to justify their severe repression since the June elections by ratcheting up baseless espionage charges against Tajbakhsh in order to demonstrate foreign involvement and make him a scapegoat,” said Aaron Rhodes, a Campaign spokesperson.

Earlier this week, Tajbakhsh was brought in front of the Third Branch of the Security Court, which is a new court created and controlled apparently by the Revolutionary Guards to prosecute dissidents. He was charged with new allegations of spying based on emails he wrote to Middle East specialists on the Gulf 2000 list, which includes hundreds of experts, diplomats, and journalists. According to information received by the Campaign, high ranking Revolutionary Guards commanders initiated the new charges against Tajbakhsh. He is currently held in solitary confinement in Evin prison and denied release on bail.

Tajbakhsh has been already sentenced to 15 years in prison by a lower court, which charged him with multiple counts, including “acting against national security, by membership in the internet network related to Gary Sick, a CIA agent, and other foreign elements with the purpose of urging people to riot in presidential elections; spying and connections with foreign elements against the sacred system of the Islamic Republic; accepting a consultancy position with the Soros Foundation aimed at the soft overthrow of the Islamic Republic of Iran; propaganda activities against the sacred system of the Islamic Republic by participation in illegal assemblies and causing doubt and giving impression of fraud and cheating in election results; and causing lack of public trust towards the official national organs and the ruling system by instigating rioting, mayhem, fear and terror within the society.” No evidence was presented in Tajbakhsh’s trial to support these grave charges.

“If an innocent man’s freedom and well-being were not at stake, the espionage charges based on participation in Gulf 2000 would be nothing more than ludicrous attempts to smear a noted scholar who has assiduously steered clear of political entanglements,” Rhodes said.

The Campaign fears for the health and safety of Tajbakhsh in view of recent judicial proceedings in dissidents’ cases that have contravened Iranian law.

On 11 November, Ehsan Fattahian, a Kurdish activist, was executed even though a lower court had sentenced him to 10 years in prison. The appeals court added the charge of Moharebeh, or “enmity towards God,” and issued the death sentence for Fattahian. Iranian law explicitly forbids appeals courts from increasing a lower court’s sentence. New charges against Tajbakhsh signal that a similar extrajudicial process maybe underway.

Tajbakhsh has been denied access to an independent lawyer and the authorities have restricted his legal representation to a court appointed lawyer, Houshang Azhari.

The Campaign called on the Iranian judiciary to immediately release Tajbakhsh and all other dissidents and activists who have been unfairly persecuted and prosecuted. The Campaign also expressed serious concerns that the Revolutionary Guards appear to be taking over judicial organs and manipulating them to permit extrajudicial detentions and sentences.”

[Link to report]


اتهامات جدید جاسوسی علیه کیان تاجبخش؛ جامعه شناس ایرانی – امریکایی

5 آذر ماه 1388- کمپین بین المللی حقوق بشر در ایران در باره اتهامات جدیدی که فرماندهان سپاه پاسدارن علیه کیان تاجبخش؛ جامعه شناس ایرانی – امریکایی وارد کرده اند، ابراز نگرانی جدی کرد.

ارون رودز سخنکوی کمپین در باره اتهامات جدید علیه تاحبخش گفت:” بنظر می رسد که سپاه پاسداران دنبال راهی است که سرکوب شدیدی را که از خرداد ماه شروع کرده با به راه انداختن اتهامات بی اساس جاسوسی علیه تاحبخش توجیه کند تا به این ترتیب مداخله خارجی ها را به نمایش بگذارد و تاجبخش را سپر کند.”

اوایل این هفته، تابحبخش به شعبه سه بازپرسی امنیت برده شد که یک دادگاه جدیدی است و ظاهرا سپاه پاسداران از آن برای محاکمه افراد دگراندیش استفاده می کند. تاجبخش با اتهامات جدید جاسوسی بر اساس ایمیل هایی که او به متخصصین خاورمیانه در ایمیل لیست گلف 2000 می فرستاده، روبرو شده است که صدها متخصص و روزنامه نگار از اقصی نقاط جهان در این ایمیل لیست هستند. بر اساس اطلاعات رسیده به کمپین بین المللی حقوق بشر در ایران، فرماندهان عالی رتبه سپاه پاسداران این اتهامات جدید را علیه تاجبخش به جریان انداخته اند. تاجبخش در حال حاضر در سلول انفرادی در زندان اوین است و از آزادی او به قید وثیقه خودداری می شود.

کیان تاجبخش توسط دادگاه بدوی به اتهامات متعددی به 15 سال زندان محکوم شده است. این اتهامات عبارتند از “اقدام علیه امنیت ملی با عضویت در شبکه اینترنتی مرتبط به گری سیک؛ عامل سیا، و سایر عوامل خارجی با هدف تحریک مردم به شورش در انتخابات، جاسوسی و ارتباط با عوامل خارجی علیه نظام مقدس جمهوری اسلامی ایران، پذیرش پست مشاوره در بنیاد سورس با هدف به راه انداختن انقلاب مخملین برای براندازی جمهوری اسلامی ایران، فعالیت های تبلیغی علیه نظام مقدس جمهوری اسلامی ایران با شرکت در تجمعات غیر قانونی و عامل ایجاد شک و شبهه و تصور تقلب در انتخابات، و باعث از بین رفتن اعتماد عمومی نسبت به نهادهای رسمی ملی و نظام حاکم با به راه انداخت شورش، جار و جنجال و ترس و وحشت در جامعه.” در دادگاه هیچ مستندی که این اتهامات را ثابت کند ارائه نشده است.

ارون رودز در مورد این اتهامات گفت :”اگر سلامتی و آزادی یک انسان بی گناه در معرض خطر نبود، اتهام جاسوسی بر اساس مشارکت در بحث ایمیل گلف 2000 چیزی بیش از تلاش های مضحک برای تخریب یک متفکری نیست که از فعالیت سیاسی پرهیز کرده است.”

کمپین بین المللی حقوق بشر در ایران بخاطر دادرسی های اخیر در پرونده دگراندیشان که قانون کشور را در آنها نقض می کنند، نگران سلامتی و امنیت جانی تاجبخش است.

در روز 20 آبان ماه احسان فتاحی؛ فعال کرد علیرغم اینکه دادگاه بدوی او را به 10 سال زندان محکوم کرده بود، به دار آویخته شد. دادگاه تجدید نظر اتهام محاربه را به اتهامات او اضافه کرد و حکم اعدام برای فتاحیان صادر کرد. قانون در ایران به صراحت دادگاه های تجدید نظر را از افزایش احکام دادگاه های بدوی منع کرده است. اتهامات جدید علیه تاجبخش نشانه یک روند فراقانونی است که احتمالا به جریان افتاده است.

کیان تاجبخش از دسترسی به وکیل مستقل محروم است و مسئولین، هوشنگ ازهاری؛ وکیل تسخیری را به او تحمیل کرده اند.

کمپین بین المللی حقوق بشر در ایران از قوه قضائیه می خواهد که فورا تاحبخش و همه دگراندیشان و فعالانی را که ناعادلانه تحت آزار و اذیت و محاکمه هستند، آزاد کند. کمپین بین المللی حقوق بشر همچنین از اینکه سپاه پاسداران نهادهای قضایی را غصب می کند و آنها را

Iran hopes President Obama can deliver on his promises (Source: The Hindu)

By , November 17, 2009 5:44 am

In an interview with Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki during a two-day visit to Delhi in which he said an agreement on the U.S.-led proposal for the exchange of nuclear fuel is possible, Siddharth Varadarajan of The Hindu newspaper raised the issue of Kian’s case:

Varadarajan: Do you feel President Obama is sincere when he says he wants to build new relations with Iran? Do you feel he represents a change from George W. Bush?

Mottaki: We consider the new administration different from the earlier one, which was a total warmonger administration that sullied the reputation of the U.S. The failure of the Bush policies has been confirmed by the American people, who showed this with their votes in the presidential election. Today, everyone around the world knows Obama is a chance for the U.S. And the experts there should not allow this opportunity to lead to failure. We want to believe what President Obama is saying. We hope he can operationalise what he says. To the extent to which President Obama is serious in his approach, Iran is ready to help…

Varadarajan: Among well-wishers of Iran in India, there is concern about the recent secret trial of the Iranian scholar, Kian Tajbakhsh, for his alleged involvement in the post-election protests. Now he has been sentenced to 12-15 years. We hope his case can be reviewed because he is a scholar and not someone involved in subversion.

Mottaki: All judicial verdicts can be reviewed and the opportunity of appeal is there for him. I am not aware of the details of his case. But our great effort is to see that those entering court can use all their rights, including appeal or using the capacity and potentiality of pardon.”

[Full Interview]

Call for Letters (Source: Scholars at Risk Network)

By , November 16, 2009 9:53 am

The Scholars at Risk Network, an international network of universities and colleges promoting academic freedom and defending the human rights of scholars and their communities worldwide, has issued a letter-writing appeal for Kian’s release:

“SAR is gravely concerned about reports indicating that Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh, a respected international scholar and researcher, has been arrested, convicted and sentenced to over 12 years in prison… Dr. Tajbakhsh’s arrest, conviction and holding in solitary confinement raise grave concerns for his well-bring. The suddenness of Dr. Tajbakhsh’s arrest and the lack of any clear basis for his detention and conviction raise grave concerns about the ability of internationally recognized scholars and intellectuals to safely visit Iran…

Scholars at Risk therefore joins with the many national and international academic associations, scholarly societies, human rights organizations and individual scholars that respectfully urge the Iranian government to examine the circumstances of Dr. Tajbakhsh’s arrest and conviction.”

[Full appeal]

International PEN marks Day of the Imprisoned Writer (Source: RFE/RL)

In an interview with Radio Free Europe, Sara Wyatt, the director of the writers in prison committee at the worldwide association of writers International PEN, speaks about Kian’s case on the occasion of the Day of the Imprisoned Writer:

“The rights and prison committee of International PEN will be 50 years old next year, and I would say that during most of this time PEN has been concerned about writers in Iran, be it those detained under the Shah or post revolution…

And today there are at least eight writers and journalists in prison and many more are on trial or on bail, others have been conditionally released on health and humanitarian grounds. Sometimes they’ve been in this state of limbo for many, many years with the threat of being re-imprisoned if they once again speak out or commit the original so-called crimes…

One of the five cases that we’re looking at this year is that of Maziar Bahari, an Iranian writer who was among the 100 who were arrested in June this year for their involvement in the demonstrations, protesting the outcome of the presidential election. He’s relatively lucky because he was actually freed last month on an enormous bail of 300,000 pounds and has been allowed to leave the country pending trial to be present at the birth of his child.

But others have not been so lucky; and there have been a series of unfair trials in recent weeks, some of which have resulted in huge sentences, among them is the Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, who got 12 years in prison. We’re deeply concerned about that.”

[Full interview]

Cruel, Pointless Games (Source: New York Times)

The editors of the New York Times have called for the release of Kian and the three American hikers reportedly charged with espionage:

“…The hikers’ case is only the latest example of the Iranian government misusing and undermining its judiciary for political ends.

Scores of protesters and journalists were jailed after major demonstrations over June’s fraudulent presidential elections. Last month, an Iranian court convicted Kian Tajbakhsh, an Iranian-American scholar, of fomenting antigovernment unrest and sentenced him to [12 to] 15 years in prison…

Iran has a right to lock up legitimate criminals if they are tried fairly. But the spectacle of three Americans subjected to a show trial will make it even less likely that the world will give Iran the respect it insists it deserves — or even a serious hearing…”

[Full editorial]

In Evin Prison (Source: Huffington Post); Iran’s Harshest Sentence for an Innocent Scholar (Source: New York Review of Books); Iran Sentences Academic Linked to Protests (Source: National Public Radio)

Iranian American scholar Haleh Esfandiari, who served in Evin prison at the same time as Kian in 2007, has been featured recently speaking about Kian’s rearrest as she discusses her newly published book, My Prison, My Home: One Woman’s Story of Captivity in Iran:

In a review of My Prison, My Home, Claire Messud notes in Huffington Post

“…[Not losing one’s grip on reality] is the struggle for any prisoner in such a situation; but it is also the struggle for the Iranian people at large: How not to succumb to the regime’s view of the world? Theirs is a society of constant contradictions, of mirrors and masks, of both authority and a theater of authority, to which they must subscribe. They, too, are terrorized by prolonged uncertainty, never knowing the limits of what is allowed–can women show their hair in public this month without fear of arrest? Can weddings allow dancing in private homes this year, or will the morals police break down the door? Can the press question the regime this week, or will the newspapers be shut down? Can you demonstrate freely today, or might you be arrested, tortured, and killed? …”

On Kian’s arrest in he New York Review of Books blog :

“…The [show] trial has been a travesty of justice. The initial indictment was directed against everyone at once. There were only three sessions. Some of the accused were paraded before television cameras to make coerced confessions. (Kian made a statement too; he said that the US and Europe desired to bring about change in Iran, but that he had no knowledge of a plot). Kian did not even get to choose his own lawyer and had to make do with a government-appointed one, who said he will appeal.

The trial is further evidence that some of the most hard-line elements in the Intelligence Ministry and the Revolutionary Guards are now setting domestic policy. They have used the trial to attempt, yet again, to persuade an ever-skeptical Iranian public that the Islamic Republic is indeed in grave danger of a “soft overthrow” plotted by England and America, to settle scores with their political adversaries, and to rid themselves, once and for all, of the reformers and moderates in their midst. The irony is that Kian was within two weeks of leaving for the US to take up a long-standing invitation to teach at Columbia University…”

On National Public Radio :

“…I never believed that they would arrest [Kian] and charge him with the same accusations that they had leveled against him and against me in prison because I knew that Kian was keeping a low profile and he was not a member of the reformist movement. He was not part of any political activity or party. And he was just leading a very quiet life, translating books and writing books…”

Tehran faces winter of discontent (Source: Irish Times)

By , November 10, 2009 3:46 am

Patrick Smyth of the Irish Times has written a piece about Iran’s current turmoil which features Kian:

“…Using the opportunity presented by official anti-US commemorations of the 1979 seizure of hostages in the US embassy, tens of thousands of demonstrators on Wednesday took to the streets of Tehran and other cities in the biggest show of strength in two months…

The regime is ultra-sensitive to criticism of the election: only a couple of weeks ago state television reported supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as warning that questioning the results of the election was “the biggest crime”. An estimated 100 opposition supporters remain in jail, many of them prominent figures who supported, or were believed to have supported, reformist candidates in the June 12th presidential elections.

Many faced mass trials reminiscent of the Moscow show trials of the 1930s, complete with public confessions, some clearly given under duress.

One of those most severely dealt with is the US-Iranian scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, a mild-mannered researcher on urban planning who was not involved in the street protests, and whose cause was taken up in this paper in August by his friends Chandana Mathur, an anthropologist in NUI Maynooth, and her husband Dermot Dix, headmaster of Headfort School in Kells.

On October 20th, the Revolutionary Court sentenced Tajbakhsh to 12-15 years in prison on charges of espionage, co-operation with an enemy government, acting against national security by participating in Gulf 2000 (an internet forum housed at Columbia University), and for once working for the Open Society Institute financed by George Soros.

In reality, it appears, Tajbakhsh’s real offence is holding a US passport. He has been held in the notorious Evin prison for four months, much of it in solitary confinement.

Tajbakhsh had previously been targeted by the Iranian government. Between May and October 2007, he was held in solitary confinement in Evin prison on similar charges. Amnesty International considers him a prisoner of conscience and has launched a letter-writing campaign calling for his release … and President Obama and the EU have appealed to the Iranian authorities for clemency.

The government is also under huge economic pressure, wrestling in parliament with a reform package that may inflame the public by cutting subsidies on food, fuel and electricity…”

[Full Article]

What’s behind Iran’s espionage charge against US hikers (Source: Christian Science Monitor)

By , November 9, 2009 3:36 am

An article about Iran’s announcement of plans to charge three detained American hikers with espionage mentions Kian’s case as well:

“Iran announced Monday that three American hikers – Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, and Josh Fattal – arrested July 31 amid post-election tensions had been charged with espionage…

According to Iranian law, the charges could result in the death penalty. But past precedent suggests that the decision by Iran’s hard-line judiciary could be a bid by some right-wing factions in Iran to block any chance of US-Iran reconciliation. It could also be used as a diplomatic card to gain concessions, or to exacerbate already tricky nuclear negotiations between Iran and the West…

Iran is also holding academic Kian Tajbakhsh, a dual US-Iran citizen, who was arrested shortly after the violence began and charged along with 140 senior reformist figures and activists with national security offenses aimed at toppling the regime. He was sentenced to 12 years in jail last month for activity related to the post-election protests.

Earlier this year dual US-Iranian citizen Roxana Saberi was arrested in Tehran, charged with espionage, and sentenced to eight years in prison. The sentence was reversed on appeal, and she was released to her parents in May, after more than three months in prison.

Analysts at the time said her arrest was a deliberate attempt by hard-line faction “spoilers” to derail President Barack Obama’s attempts at dialogue with Tehran.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took the unusual step of intervening in Saberi’s case, writing to the judiciary to be sure she was granted all her rights…”

[Full article]

Iran: The Revenge (Source: New York Review of Books)

By , November 5, 2009 9:31 am

An anonymous author has published an analysis of Iran’s post-election unrest and crackdown in the New York Review:

“…Iran’s summer of discontent started on June 12, when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won an election that his reformist opponents, Mir Hussein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi, declared to have been rigged, setting in motion a large, peaceful protest movement. While it had the support of two former presidents, Mohammad Khatami and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the movement was put down with immense brutality, although it remains, as continuing smaller demonstrations show, very much alive…

…The summer was punctuated by further protests, also savagely put down. As the regime’s leading personalities turned on one other, two events took place that might, one day, be regarded as milestones in the decline of the Islamic regime.

The first was the circulation of reports of murder, torture, and rape from behind the doors of Iran’s jails, atrocities that continue and have become a major scandal, managed with spectacular ineptness by the regime. The reports have discredited the Islamic Republic’s claims to righteousness and morality, and they have led many Iranians to compare Tehran’s most notorious detention center, at Kahrizak, between Tehran and Qom, with Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay.

The second event was a mass trial that told us much about the Islamic Republic’s diminishing ability to manipulate public opinion. This trial, of leading reformist politicians and journalists, and also of ordinary demonstrators, began on August 1. It has aimed to destroy the reform movement and convince the public that the reformists have cooperated with foreigners to launch a “color revolution” of the kind that ended other anti-Western regimes in such European countries as Serbia and Ukraine. The trial was widely seen as a failure. The reform movement is not dead, and the desires that animate it, for greater political freedom and personal autonomy, have not been extinguished. And to judge by copious anecdotal evidence and the blogs of people living in Iran, a very large number of Iranians do not believe the confessions they have heard from prisoners; they see the trial primarily as evidence for the Islamic Republic’s descent into tyranny…”

[Full article]

Social Science on Trial in Tehran (Source: Chronicle of Higher Education)

By , November 4, 2009 8:26 am

Professor Charles Kurzman has published the account “Reading Weber in Tehran” on the persecution of social scientists in Iran, particularly those who participate in and study civil society and the public sphere:

“An unlikely suspect was fingered at the recent show trials of Iranian dissidents: Max Weber, whose ideas on rational authority were blamed for fomenting a “velvet revolution” against the Islamic Republic. “Theories of the human sciences contain ideological weapons that can be converted into strategies and tactics and mustered against the country’s official ideology,” Saeed Hajjarian, a leading strategist in the Iranian reform movement, explained in his forced confession.

A political scientist by training, Hajjarian “admitted” that Weber’s notion of patrimonial government wasn’t applicable to Iran. The theory, Hajjarian declared, is relevant only in countries where “people are treated as subjects and deprived of all citizenship rights,” which is “completely incompatible with and unrelated to current conditions in Iran.”

Hajjarian’s coerced denunciation of Weber is ludicrous but unsurprising. Since the disputed presidential elections of June 12, the hard-line government in Tehran has started a broad campaign against social scientists. This crackdown is not altogether new. Over the past decade, one or two prominent social scientists have been arrested each year for supposedly plotting against the state. Those scholars were typically detained for several months and then released after making videotaped “confessions.” This year, however, after the surprisingly popular presidential campaign of Mir Hussein Moussavi, and widespread protests over the official results, the number of social scientists in Iranian prisons has multiplied. At least a dozen sociologists, political scientists, and economists were put on trial, and many more have been named in court as unindicted co-conspirators…

Khamenei portrayed professors as “commanders” on the front lines of “soft warfare”—the term that hard-liners in Iran use to describe Western efforts to sway and organize Iranian youth. Professors, he suggested, have a responsibility to teach their students to avoid Western influences, and limit their “specialized discussions” in the social sciences to “qualified persons within safe environments.” To do otherwise, Khamenei said, risked “damaging the social environment.”

Such rhetoric has fueled calls for a purge of the universities, with special scrutiny on the social sciences. “The human sciences should not be taught in the Western style in the country’s universities,” Ayatollah Mohammad Emami-Kashani, a senior member of Iran’s Assembly of Experts, declared in a nationally televised sermon in September.

Max Weber is not alone in being blamed for the unrest in Iran. Other social theorists, like Jürgen Habermas, John Keane, Talcott Parsons, Richard Rorty, and unspecified feminists and poststructuralists have also been accused of “threatening national security and shaking the pillars of economic development.”

What links this group of scholars, it appears, is their belief that an independent civil society, beyond the reach of the state, is necessary for the development of democracy and human rights. This view is particularly pronounced in Habermas’s concept of the public sphere: free spaces for the exchange of ideas among autonomous institutions and individuals. Where the public sphere is weak, society is vulnerable to domination by the state—a concern that Habermas borrowed from Weber…

Iranian social scientists are being harassed and imprisoned both for their participation in the public sphere and for their study of the public sphere. The Iranian government’s goal, it seems, is to undermine not only the institutions of civil society, but the very idea of it.”

[Full article]

Statement by President Barack Obama on Iran (Source: White House)

The United States president has issued a statement on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the seizure of U.S. hostages from the American Embassy in Tehran:

“Thirty years ago today, the American Embassy in Tehran was seized. The 444 days that began on November 4, 1979 deeply affected the lives of courageous Americans who were unjustly held hostage, and we owe these Americans and their families our gratitude for their extraordinary service and sacrifice.

This event helped set the United States and Iran on a path of sustained suspicion, mistrust, and confrontation. I have made it clear that the United States of America wants to move beyond this past, and seeks a relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran based upon mutual interests and mutual respect…

…We have heard for thirty years what the Iranian government is against; the question, now, is what kind of future it is for. The American people have great respect for the people of Iran and their rich history. The world continues to bear witness to their powerful calls for justice, and their courageous pursuit of universal rights. It is time for the Iranian government to decide whether it wants to focus on the past, or whether it will make the choices that will open the door to greater opportunity, prosperity, and justice for its people.”

[Full statement]

International human rights organizations appeal for the release of Kian Tajbakhsh; Amnesty launches Urgent Action Appeal (Sources: Amnesty International; International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran; Human Rights Watch)

Leading international human rights organizations are urging Iranian authorities to overturn the unjust 15-year prison sentence imposed on Kian by an extra-judicial court presiding over show trial proceedings.

Amnesty International has launched an Urgent Action Appeal letter-writing campaign calling for Kian’s release. Please take a moment to participate!

Amnesty International‘s Middle East and North Africa Programme Director Malcolm Smart, for example, states in the report “Iran must overturn sentences issued by post-election ‘show trial’” that:

“The ‘show trial’ that has so far led to the imprisonment of Kian Tajbakhsh and a number of other reformist politicians and journalists, as well as the imposition of at least four death sentences, was grossly unfair and a travesty of justice…

The authorities should welcome the part that intellectuals can play towards developing the political and social life of their country, instead of locking them up on spurious charges… It appears that Kian Tajbakhsh has been targetted on account of his dual nationality and his academic work, and we consider him a prisoner of conscience.”

In their report “Iranian-American Scholar Prevented From Filing an Appeal ,” International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran spokesperson Hadi Ghaemi emphasizes that:

“The Iranian Judiciary is blatantly trampling over its own rules and regulations. In doing so, the authorities are confirming that Tajbakhsh’s detention, trial and conviction are patently politically motivated… By treating the law in this arbitrary manner, they are also demonstrating that the rule of law means nothing in Iran.”

In “Iran: Overturn Death Sentences; Other Unfair Convictions,Human Rights Watch Middle East and North Africa Director Sarah Leah Whitson states:

“Death sentences following unfair trials expose the mockery of Iran’s judicial system… Those responsible need to quash these verdicts and sentences, and ensure that everyone detained, or put on trial, has free and regular access to a lawyer of their choosing.”

In “Why is the Iranian government so afraid of Kian Tajbakhsh?” Amnesty’s Human Rights Now researcher Elise Auerbach concludes:

“By attempting to portray Kian Tajbakhsh as an existential threat to the Islamic Republic and inflicting such a disproportionately harsh punishment on him, the Iranian authorities seem to be going to preposterous lengths to draw in as many elements of society as possible into a continually sucking vortex of fear and oppression.”

Appeal to Iran’s Supreme Leader to release Kian Tajbakhsh (Source: American Sociological Association)

The prestigious American Sociological Association has written a letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader appealing for Kian’s release. The letter reads in part:

“Your Excellency:

We are writing on behalf of the nearly 15,000 members of the American Sociological Association (ASA), a scientific society of academic and professional sociologists, to request that the Iranian Judiciary rescind its 15-year prison sentence issued against Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh, an internationally respected sociologist colleague with dual national Iranian-American citizenship. We urge further that there be an immediate review of his case in accordance with international human rights provisions.

While he is in your custody, we urge you to use your good offices to guarantee his safety and freedom from mistreatment, and allow him to confer with legal counsel of his choosing. We urge you to determine the circumstances of his detention and to secure his immediate release…”

[Full ASA letter]

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