Category: Statements by family and friends

Message of thanks from Kian

By , January 31, 2016 3:55 am

Dear Friends,
I would like to thank all those family members and friends – official and unofficial – who expended great effort over the course of many years to help resolve my case, finally allowing us to leave Iran for the US.

I would like to thank the US and Swiss governments for their tremendous diplomatic efforts and support.

In particular, I would like to thank my friend Pamela Kilpadi, who launched a formidable campaign in my defense and worked persistently year after year to coordinate and facilitate various efforts on my behalf.

My oldest friend, Andrew Parker, did not hesitate to offer help at critical moments.

President Lee Bollinger of Columbia University has been a source of steadfast support, as have colleagues at Columbia and The New School.

I look forward to getting back to work in academia and rebuilding a life in the US.


The family requests that all media respect their privacy during this time of private reunion and celebration.

Kian and family in the USA

Kian and family in Phoenix, Arizona (Jan. 30)

Departure from Iran!

By , January 29, 2016 3:28 am

We are thrilled to report that Kian, his wife Bahar and daughter Hasti received their travel papers in the days leading up to January 16th, and were able to leave Iran on January 28th!


Kian and Hasti on the plane


Further Extension of Temporary Release Approved, Freedom to Travel Requested

By , April 23, 2010 3:15 am

Kian’s request for a further extention of his temporary release has been approved, allowing him to remain at home. He and his family are well, and are free to travel within the country. While he is currently unable to leave Iran, Kian is optimistic that his request to travel internationally will receive a positive reply. He sincerely hopes to be able to assume his academic post at Columbia University as soon as possible.

Many thanks again for the kind wishes and support.

Temporary Freedom Extended!

By , April 3, 2010 5:59 am

Kian and his family are pleased to report the approval of their appeal to extend the period of his release.

They sincerely hope to be able to remain together, while further legal procedures are underway in an attempt to resolve his case.

Thank you again for your wishes and support.

Kian temporarily freed for Persian New Year (Nowruz) celebrations!

By , March 14, 2010 6:59 pm

At around 9pm Tehran time on Saturday, March 13, Iranian officials freed Kian from the Evin prison complex and permitted him to go home for a 15-day leave to celebrate the occasion of Nowruz, the Persian New Year, with his family.

Kian would like to take this opportunity to extend his heartfelt thanks and appreciation to all his supporters and warm greetings to his many relatives and friends around the world. He asks members of the media to kindly respect his privacy as he enjoys a precious reunion with his loving family and some long-awaited rest and respite from this 8-month-long ordeal.

If you wish to send Nowruz greetings to Kian, please click here.

Links to related reports:
Associated Press –  Iran Press TV –  France24Chronicle of Higher EducationNew York TimesAssociated Press (March 16th)

Kian’s birthday (Source: Family and Friends)

By , January 25, 2010 6:07 am

If you would like to send Kian a wish on his birthday or sign the online petition calling for his release, please do so here.

“Family and friends of Kian Tajbakhsh extend their love and best wishes to Kian on his birthday.”

Interview with mother of Iranian-American in Evin prison (Source: BBC World); Jailed Iranian-American Faces 15 Years in Iran Prison (Source: NPR); U.S. Will Not Ignore Iran Protests (Source: CNN)

By , December 20, 2009 7:28 am

BBC, NPR and CNN have featured Kian’s case as his independent lawyer Masoud Shafie confirms the lack of evidence against him and further reports of human rights violations and mass protests in Iran continue to emerge:

The BBC World Service’s “The World Today” program broadcast this BBC interview with Kian’s mother Farideh Gueramy.

National Public Radio aired this NPR profile of Kian on its Weekend Edition Saturday program and posted this blog entry and this story update (also a ‘related’ story on the program explored a recent attack by the Iranian ‘cyber army’ on Twitter’s electronic social network).

While speaking on CNN’s “Amanpour” program, award-winning artist and filmmaker Shirin Neshat reminded the show’s participants and viewers about Kian’s plight.
CNN also posted a print summary and transcript of the show:

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, U.S. President Barack Obama accepts the Nobel Peace Prize, and he says America is bearing witness to the global struggle for rights and justice, including inside Iran. But are those words enough? …

The government’s efforts to stop images of those demonstrations from reaching the rest of the world failed, as you can see from these pictures that emerged via the Internet. Authorities also tried to prevent foreign news organizations from covering the protests, sending SMS messages to their cell phones, telling them that they could not be on the streets for several days this week, but the world still watches.

During his Nobel lecture in Norway, President Obama raised the plight of the protestors, even as he walked the fine line of trying to engage with the very government that is cracking down on them.

And joining me now, the Wall Street Journal’s Farnaz Fassihi. She’s been tracking evidence of Iranian authorities trying to intimidate Iranians even abroad, and John Limbert, the deputy assistant secretary for Iran at the U.S. State Department, and Iranian artist, Shirin Neshat, who won the Silver Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival for her film “Women without Men” and who’s become a voice of protest outside Iran…

AMANPOUR: So the president clearly there said, “They have us on their side.” What does that mean, John Limbert, if the United States is declaring that it’s on the side of the people there?

LIMBERT: It’s very clear, Christiane. We will not sit silently. We will not ignore what happens on the streets of Tehran. And we believe, as we have always believed, that the Iranian people deserve decent treatment from their government.

AMANPOUR: And you say you won’t sit silently, but at the same time, obviously, there are diplomatic negotiations that have go on, most particularly over the nuclear clock. There’s the possibility of sanctions going on. How do you walk that line of engagement and being on the side of the legitimate aspirations of the people?

LIMBERT: No, of course. That’s — that’s a good question. I think, Christiane, our diplomacy is good enough that we can do both, that we can make clear statements of support for the aspirations of the Iranian people for decent treatment from their government. At the same time, we can certainly talk with the government and the authorities there about things like the nuclear issue or Iraq or Afghanistan or — or other issues. And we have clearly offered to do so, and we are determined to do so in an atmosphere of mutual respect.

AMANPOUR: Let me turn to Shirin Neshat, not only an acclaimed artist, but also now a public voice for those protestors who are inside Iran. Do you believe that the world is paying sufficient attention and their human rights and legitimate aspirations are being embraced by the West?

SHIRIN NESHAT, FILMMAKER AND ARTIST: Christiane, let me tell you how it looks on our side. I feel that the students in Iran, the people of Iran, and the people of Iran outside of Iran are setting a great example of people who are truly fighting for democracy. And this creates a sense of hope for the rest of the region, the entire world, but we don’t feel that we have the sufficient support or the protection that is necessary.

And I think many Iranians inside and outside feel that they’ve been betrayed, particularly…


NESHAT: … with this emphasis on the nuclear weapon issue. It has distracted the world from paying attention to the atrocity that is taking place today in Iran. All of us are at risk, and we’re particularly — a lot of us are American citizens, as well, several in prison. We don’t see much support on this government showing direct action to help them out. And — and I think this is really a disappointment on Iranian side.

AMANPOUR: Let me press you, Mr. Limbert. Shirin raises the issue of Americans who are currently in jail in Iran. What is the government doing? And do you have any indication that they’re going to be — they’re going to be released, for instance, the three hikers?

LIMBERT: Well, I would like to see them released as soon as possible. We all would like them to be. This has — this has been very unfortunate. Our hearts go out to these innocent people who clearly wandered across an unmarked border and have been in custody for much — for much too long. We are pursuing all available avenues.

I should note that — that our protecting power in Tehran, the — represented by the Swiss embassy, has been able to visit these people. We are pressing for more visits. We are pressing for better treatment. And, of course, we are pressing for release as soon as possible…

NESHAT: …I think that, particularly these last few days, as the anniversary of the student movement comes, we realize that Iranian people have been fighting for democracy and freedom for over 150 years. And — and — and also, the women of Iran have been also fighting for idea of democracy and equality. So how odd that this struggle continues today with such similarity and force.

And I — can I just make one second comment that the issue of the American passport does not only belong to the American-born, but the Iranian-born, who are also holding American citizenship, including Kian Tajbakhsh. So when I referred to the help and protection, it’s only not for those people who are born in this country, but those who are, you know, currently the citizen of United States…

Interview: Imprisoned Iranian-American’s Mother Describes His Postelection Plight (Source: RFE/RL)

By , December 14, 2009 4:17 pm

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari has published an interview with Kian’s mother, which also aired in Persian on Radio Farda. BBC Persian and Voice of America have broadcast similar interviews in recent days with both Kian’s mother and his lawyer, Masoud Safie:

“Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh was arrested and put on trial in the course of the crackdown that followed mass protests over the results of Iran’s June presidential election…

RFE/RL: When was the last time you were able to visit your son, Kian Tajbakhsh, in prison?

Farideh Gerami: I visited my son at Evin prison on Thursday [December 10], along with his wife and daughter Hasti, who is about two [years] old.

RFE/RL: How is your son doing in prison and what conditions is he dealing with? He was among those arrested shortly after the disputed June 12 vote.

Gerami: [Kian Tajbaksh] was arrested three [weeks] after the election; it’s been five months that he’s being held in solitary confinement at Evin prison.

Spending five months in solitary confinement is extremely difficult. Psychologically he is strong because he is innocent and he hasn’t done anything wrong and he’s confident that his situation will be [resolved]; his case is transparent.

But physically he’s lost weight, and as a mother I can see that he’s [aged]. I feel he’s under pressure.

Of course, in order to comfort us, he always tells us that he’s doing fine, that we shouldn’t worry. But I’m really worried about him. You can imagine what happens when you hold anyone in solitary confinement for five months.

RFE/RL: What is your reaction to the 15-year prison sentence your son received after being charged with “soft overthrow” and similar charges. It’s one of the heaviest prison sentences issued for those arrested in the postelection crackdown.

Gerami: First of all, I have to say that when I returned to Iran two months ago [from New York] it was the birthday of my granddaughter, who is Kian’s only child. We all thought — we strongly believed — that my son would be released for the birthday of his daughter. Not only wasn’t he released, but the week after they issued the 15-year prison sentence not only us, I mean the family, but also [Kian] himself, we’re all astonished, we’re shocked, we don’t understand why such a sentence has been handed down.

He’s a scholar, he didn’t participate and wasn’t involved in the postelection events. He was under the watch of the Intelligence Ministry; all his actions were being monitored by the Intelligence Ministry. I would call him from New York and tell him not to go out, don’t take part in the unrest. He would tell me: “Mother, be sure, we’re fine, there isn’t any problem. My case is transparent and I’m being monitored.’

All the officials knew that he didn’t leave his house [during the postelection unrest]. Even if he had to go out to visit some friends, he would make sure to change his route to avoid [antigovernment] demonstrations. Therefore, when the sentence was issued we were all astonished; he was stunned. When [the authorities] informed him about the 15-year prison sentence, he was about to go crazy. He couldn’t believe something like this would happen.

We’re very, very concerned and I know for sure that my son is innocent; he knows he’s innocent, he hasn’t done anything [wrong]. He and his family were supposed to come to New York in early September and he was supposed to work at Columbia University, from which he graduated, and now we’re unfortunately stuck in this issue.

Political Case

RFE/RL: What do you think is the reason behind this heavy sentence? Kian Tajbakhsh was also jailed in [2007]. Why do you think he has faced so much pressure?

Gerami: This is my opinion, and it might not be correct, but I think it’s a political decision because my son is Iranian-American. He has dual nationality and this is a political [case].

RFE/RL: What do you think the United States can do in his case, the U.S. and the international community?

Gerami: So far, human rights groups in the U.S. and elsewhere — his friends and colleagues at Columbia University — have done what they could. They have sent letters to the Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei]. They’ve sent letters to government officials. I myself have written to [Iranian President ] Mahmud Ahmadinejad and I was told that he received the letter.

[S]ome things have happened and I really hope that this issue will be resolved soon. My son’s case is now being reviewed by an appeals court. I really hope that the appeals court comes to the conclusion that the charges against him are baseless and he will be acquitted and allowed to come home as soon as possible.

I would just like to add that his daughter misses her father very much and is very impatient. We’re under a lot of pressure, a lot.”

[Link to article]
[Article in Persian]

Mother of Iranian-American scholar urges release (Source: Associated Press)

By , December 3, 2009 11:03 am

Kian’s mother pleads for her son’s release:

“WASHINGTON – The mother of an Iranian-American scholar facing espionage charges in Tehran is urging the Iranian government to release her son.

Speaking by phone from Tehran, Farideh Gueramy (FAH’-rih-day GUHR’-ah-mee) said Tuesday that the government has not clarified the legal grounds on which her son, Kian Tajbakhsh (KEE’-ahn TAZH’-bahdzh), has been charged. She says he is innocent.

“The problem is that we really don’t have any clear information,” Gueramy said.

Gueramy said that the family recently hired prominent Iranian lawyer, Masoud Shafie, to represent Tajbakhsh. Family members, including Tajbakhsh’s wife and two-year-old daughter, have been able to visit him about once a week in prison.

Tajbakhsh has already been sentenced to 15 years in prison on spying charges. But new espionage charges were brought this month raising the possibility of a harsher penalty.

Tajbakhsh was writing a book when he was arrested five months ago amid security forces’ crackdown following June’s disputed presidential election. He 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 ashow trial.

Last 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.

His family denies that he was involved in the postelection protests.

“He hasn’t done anything. He was at his home writing books,” Gueramy said. “I hope they realize that and let him go home to his two-year-old baby.”

[Link to article]

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]

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

By , November 27, 2009 5:15 pm

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]

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]

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)

By , November 16, 2009 9:43 am

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]

Jailed Iranian-American Is Said to Be in Solitary Confinement (Source: New York Times)

By , October 29, 2009 2:58 pm

The New York Times‘ Nazila Fathi spoke with family members for an update on Kian’s current situation:

“An Iranian-American scholar, Kian Tajbakhsh, who has been jailed in Iran since July and was sentenced last week to 15 years in prison, has been transferred back into solitary confinement, a family member said Wednesday.

He has been in the infamous Evin prison for months but, he told his wife, was moved early this month from solitary confinement to a “villa” on the prison grounds, living with four other high-profile inmates, according to the family member, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of complicating the case.

A few days ago Mr. Tajbakhsh was returned to solitary confinement, where prisoners often are forced to sleep on the floor.

Mr. Tajbakhsh, an urban planner with a doctorate from Columbia University, was arrested after protests broke out following the disputed June 12 presidential election.

The report of Mr. Tajbakhsh’s transfer came as the government appeared to continue its attempts to forestall protests scheduled for next Wednesday, the anniversary of the American Embassy takeover in Tehran. After arrests in the summer that stopped most large demonstrations, the opposition has been using occasions that the government supports to stage periodic rallies.

On Wednesday, state television reported that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s supreme leader, said questioning the results of the election was “the biggest crime.” It is unclear if that was anything more than a rhetorical flourish, but the timing suggests that it was a warning to protesters to stand down.

Last week, the wives and family members of a number of high-profile political detainees were arrested at a religious ceremony in Tehran, and 19 of them continue to be held, reformist Web sites have reported.

Mr. Tajbakhsh is one of more than 100 people being detained on election-related charges.

According to his family member, he told his wife that he was taken to solitary confinement on Sunday to do “some work.” In the past, prisoners have been kept in difficult conditions and asked to write confessions or to implicate fellow prisoners…”

[Full article]

The New Hostage Crisis (Source: Foreign Policy)

By , October 24, 2009 9:44 am

In a cover story for Foreign Policy magazine, Kian’s friend Karim Sadjadpour considers Kian’s detention and sentencing and questions “why Iran’s rulers imprison people they know are innocent”:

“My friend, the Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, was recently sentenced to 15 years in Tehran’s Evin prison. For those familiar with the ways of authoritarian regimes, the charges against him will ring familiar: espionage, cooperating with an enemy government, and endangering national security.

Since his arrest last July — he was accused of helping to plan the post-election uprisings — Kian’s family and friends have made countless appeals for clemency to the Iranian government, written letters to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pleading his innocence, and signed dozens of petitions. All to no avail.

I’ve come now to realize that the regime probably thinks we’re obtuse. Indeed, they know better than anyone that Kian is an innocent man. As the expression goes in Persian, “da’va sar-e een neest,” i.e. that’s not what this fight is about.

Allow me to explain.

Kian was first arrested in 2007. His crime was having previously worked as a consultant for the Open Society Institute (OSI), a U.S.-based NGO. Though his work was nonpolitical, focused on educational and developmental projects, and had received the explicit consent of the Iranian government, he was accused of trying to foment a “velvet revolution” on behalf of U.S. intelligence agencies.

While in solitary confinement in Evin, he was subjected to countless hours of interrogation. Had the authorities found any evidence for the above charges during all this, Kian certainly would not have been freed after four months.

He was permitted to leave the country after his release, but chose to remain in Tehran with his wife and newborn daughter. He reassured his worried family and friends that he was now an open book to the Iranian government and there could be no further rationale or pretext to detain him.

Over the last two years, he regularly met with his minder from the Ministry of Intelligence. Aware of the fact that the government was monitoring all of his activities and communications — including e-mail and telephone conversations — he kept a very low profile and exhibited great caution.

During this period, Kian and I regularly exchanged e-mails. He urged me to read his favorite book, Polish writer Czeslaw Milosz’s brilliant novel, The Captive Mind, which examines the moral and intellectual conflicts faced by men and women living under totalitarianism of the left or right.

On the 30th anniversary of the fall of the shah we debated the successes and failures of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and he told me he believed that the former outweigh the latter. Hardly the worldview of a subversive counterrevolutionary.

Even amid the massive popular uprisings following the tainted June 2009 presidential elections, Kian remained cautious and unmoved, steering way clear of any political activity and continuing to meet with his minder.

On June 14, two days after the election, he wrote me an email saying, “I’m keeping my head down … I have nothing to add to all the reports that are here.” In the same e-mail, Kian even expressed skepticism about the opposition’s accusations of electoral fraud, saying he had seen “little hard evidence.”

A few weeks later he was arrested, bafflingly, on charges of helping to plan the post-election unrest.

Given the government’s intimate familiarity with the benign nature of Kian’s activities and communications, it appeared he was simply needed as an unfortunate pawn in the regime’s campaign to portray indigenous popular protests as orchestrated by foreign powers. Though the unrest gradually subsided, we went from counting Kian’s detention in days to weeks to months.

Along with dozens of other prisoners, dressed in pajamas and sandals, he was forced to participate in humiliating show-trials that were broadcast on official state television. Hard-liners used Kian to attack their reformist opponents, inventing fantastic claims that he was the link between former President Mohammed Khatami and OSI founder George Soros.

Though his face looked visibly different, haggard, his two-year old daughter Hasti ran and kissed the television screen when she saw his image. His wife sobbed.

When our courageous mutual friend, Canadian-Iranian Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari, was finally released from Evin after four months, we thought it boded well for Kian. These hopes were dashed by Tuesday’s almost comically harsh sentence. 15 years!

The over-the-top severity of the sentence makes it eminently clear that this case really has little to do with Kian, and everything to do with Iran’s negotiating posture toward the United States. A disaffected contact in the Iranian foreign ministry — the vast majority of whom were thought to have voted for Mir Hossein Mousavi — bluntly confirmed my suspicions. “Eena daran bazi mikonan,” he told me. “These guys are just playing.”

While neighboring Dubai and Turkey have managed to build thriving economies by trading in goods and services, Iran, even 30 years after the revolution, remains in the business of trading in human beings. In addition to Kian, Iran is now holding at least five other American citizens against their will, including three young hikers — Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, and Josh Fattal (an outspoken Palestinian-rights activist) — detained in June along the Iran-Iraq border in Kurdistan.

What, if anything, Tehran seeks in return for these human subjects is unclear, and frankly it’s a difficult issue for Iran to broach, given that it undermines the accusations the regime has concocted. That said, the official line can often change abruptly, and for no apparent reason. After Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi was sentenced last year to eight years in prison (on preposterous charges of espionage), she was summarily released a few weeks later.

Until recently, it was accepted wisdom that the uptick in Tehran’s repression of its own citizenry and detention of U.S. nationals was merely a reaction to the hostile policies of the Bush administration. This thesis is being quickly disproven as the Obama administration’s hands-off approach to human rights in Iran proves equally unsuccessful in getting the regime to improve its practices.

Whether Republic or Democrat, U.S. officials are often puzzled by the detention of dual nationals, and unsure how to react to them. Do U.S. statements and/or diplomatic efforts help or hurt the cause of the detainees?

Based on the experience of several Iranian-Americans who have served time in Evin — including esteemed scholar Haleh Esfandiari, Saberi, and peace activist Ali Shakeri — we know that thoughtful public statements from U.S. officials coupled with behind-the scenes intervention were helpful to their cause.

But these are individual cases. What U.S. policy measures could help improve the overall human rights situation in Iran, and prevent further detentions from taking place in the future?

Broadly speaking, I support the argument — made mostly by the American left — that expanding and improving ties between Washington and Tehran would help mitigate the detention of innocents in Iran — whether Iranian or American.

I also agree with the counterargument, made mostly by the right, that Tehran’s hard-liners use continued enmity with the United States in order to blame Washington when, among other things, their population rises up, economic malaise worsens, or a terrorist attack happens in Baluchistan.

Unfortunately, the difficulty of potential engagement has increased significantly in recent months as any remaining moderates and pragmatists have essentially been purged from the Iranian government’s power structure. The color spectrum of the regime now ranges from pitch black to dark grey. And insofar as the continued detention of U.S. citizens in Tehran decreases the likelihood of a diplomatic breakthrough with Washington, the interests of at least some of these hard-liners will be served.

Sadly, languishing in Evin prison, my friend Kian understands this dynamic only too well.

Shortly after President Obama’s speech in Cairo last June, Kian wrote, “Iranians might ponder Barack Obama’s challenge to Iran to articulate ‘not what it is against, but what future it wants to build.’ Each Iranian will wonder how much thought our rulers or our fellow countrymen have given to this critical question and why answers to it are so vague and so few.”

[Full article]

Iranian-American Stunned by Sentence (Source: New York Times)

By , October 22, 2009 9:34 am

Nazila Fathi spoke with Kian’s family about his circumstances in prison, general well-being and reaction to his sentencing:

“When Kian Tajbakhsh went before a judge in Tehran on Sunday he had several reasons to think he would be released. Instead, to his utter shock, he was given a 15-year prison term.

Since being detained in July, Mr. Tajbakhsh, an Iranian-American scholar, had been permitted two home visits, the last on Oct. 15, when he appeared hopeful that he would be released soon, a family member said. He said he had been transferred recently to a villa on the compound of the Evin prison, a sign of leniency that he thought suggested his release was imminent.

Mr. Tajbakhsh, an urban planner with a doctorate from Columbia University, was arrested in protests that rocked Iran after the election on June 12, in which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed an overwhelming victory.

Mr. Tajbakhsh told his wife about the sentence on Monday in a telephone call, said the family member, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of complicating Mr. Tajbakhsh’s case.

He was sentenced on charges of working as a consultant for the Open Society Institute, a democracy-building group, which the indictment identified as a C.I.A. satellite institution. He was also charged with belonging to the Gulf/2000 Project, an e-mail list of scholars, journalists, diplomats and businessmen with interests in the Persian Gulf region. He has the right to appeal.

But the harsh sentence surprised Mr. Tajbakhsh, the relative said. In the past two weeks he had been moved from solitary confinement to the villa, and the depression and insomnia that he had suffered while in prison had improved significantly. The family member said Mr. Tajbakhsh’s morale was noticeably higher in the recent visit than during his first one in late September, when he was still in solitary confinement and subjected to long hours of interrogation.

At that point, “he was in an awful state and said he had to take tranquilizers to sleep,” the family member said.

“But he was much happier this time and was excited that he had a shower and could sleep on a bed for the first time in months,” the relative said. “He was very hopeful.”

Mr. Tajbakhsh shares the villa with four other high-profile prisoners, among them a former vice president, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, and Abdullah Ramezanzadeh, who was the government spokesman under President Mohammad Khatami.

On Saturday the authorities released another person with dual citizenship, Maziar Bahari, a Newsweek reporter and an independent filmmaker. But some experts believe the government wanted Mr. Tajbakhsh as a bargaining chip.

“The prison term seems to be a message to the American administration, saying that we can keep him if we want to,” said Mohsen Sazegara, the director of the Washington-based Research Institute for Contemporary Iran and an opposition figure who was jailed in Iran in 2003. “They want to use him in negotiations with the American administration.”

[Link to article]

Kian sentenced by Revolutionary Court to “more than 12 years” in prison: Family and friends denounce unlawful sentence and demand Kian’s immediate release

By , October 20, 2009 12:19 pm

Family and friends of Iranian American detainee Kian Tajbakhsh are shocked and outraged by the news that he has been unjustly sentenced in an extra-judicial proceeding to more than 12 years in prison and are demanding his immediate release.

Kian has endured solitary confinement in an undisclosed location for nearly four months broken only by long hours of interrogations without access to his own lawyer and with only occasional brief, supervised contact with family members, who remain extremely concerned about his mental and physical well-being.

The baffling charges being lodged by the Revolutionary Court linking Kian together with high-ranking Iranian reformists purportedly plotting to overthrow the regime with American support are entirely baseless.

As an independent scholar Kian is neither a member of the Iranian reformist movement nor in contact with any foreign headquarters inside or outside Iran, and has had no involvement in pre- or post-election unrest.

Kian has been denied access to his own legal representation and the Swiss consulate, but was nevertheless convicted within the context of an extra-judicial show trial.

Therefore, attempts by Iran’s judiciary to block his release despite the efforts of senior Iranian officials to free him clearly violate not only Iran’s international legal obligations but also the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

دادگاه انقلاب کیان را به “بیش از 12 سال” زندان محکوم کرد
. خانواده و  دوستان  کیان این حکم غیر قانونی را  رد
میکنند و خواستار آزادی هر چه سریع تر او  هستند
خانواده و دوستان کیان تاجبخش از خبر محکومیت او نگرانند
و خواستار آزادی  فوری او هستند. کیان مدت چهار ماه است
که در زندان انفرادی و در محل نا معلومی به  سر میبرد. در
این مدت  انزوای او تنها  با بازجوئی های طولانی بدون
دسترسی به وکیل منتخب خودش  و ملاقات های کوتاه مدت با
خانواده اش زیر  نظر ماموران زندان  پاره میشود.  خانواده کیان
بسیار نگران وضعیت جسمی و روانی او هستند. اتهامات عجیب و
بی پایه ای  که دادگاه انقلابی به کیان نسبت داده او را
با مقامات بالای موج رفرمیست  ایران مربوط کرده و او را
مسول  شرکت در توطعه ای  با  همکاری امریکا برای بر اندازی
رژیم ایران میداند.  کیان یک دانشگاهی و محقق مستقل است.
او  هیچ رابطه ای با جریانات رفرمیستی در ایران و یا
مراکز خارجی در داخل یا خارج ایران  ندارد و هیچ گونه شرکتی
در جریانات  اعتراضی بعد از انتخابات در ایران نداشته است
کیان اجازه دسترسی به وکیل  منتخب خود و یا رابطه با
کنسولگری سوئیس در ایران را ندارد. با این حال در  دادگاهی
نمایشی و غیر قانونی محکوم شده است.    دخالت سیستم قضائی
برای  جلوگیری از آزادی او علارقم  کوشش های  مقامات
بالارتبه ایران نه تنها در تضاد با مسولیت های بین المللی ایران
است  بلکه   قانون اساسی جمهوری  اسلامی را نیز زیر پا

Kian Tajbakhsh, Iranian-American Academic, Gets 12 Years for Election Unrest (Source: Associated Press)

Media outlets around the world are reporting the shocking and disturbing news that Kian has been issued to a long prison sentence by a revolutionary court:

“TEHRAN, Iran — Iran ignored appeals by Hillary Rodham Clinton and even rock star Sting and sentenced an Iranian-American academic to 12 years in prison Tuesday for his alleged role in anti-government protests after the country’s disputed presidential election.

The sentence for Kian Tajbakhsh was the longest prison term yet in a mass trial of more than 100 opposition figures, activists and journalists in the postelection turmoil.

At the same time, Iran allowed another defendant to leave the country – Canadian-Iranian Maziar Bahari, a Newsweek journalist arrested in the same crackdown who had been freed on bail over the weekend.

Bahari joined his British wife, who is in the last days of her pregnancy, in London, Newsweek said on its Web site Tuesday. It was the first word that Bahari had left Iran…

Bahari’s release could be a concession by Iran to international pressure. But Tajbakhsh’s heavy sentence signaled that Tehran was sticking to a tough line overall on the political unrest. It came amid calls in Iran for the prosecution of the most senior opposition figure and suggestions that three American hikers, detained after accidentally crossing into Iran, could face charges.

Tajbakhsh, a social scientist and urban planner, was arrested by security forces at his Tehran home July 9 – 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.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Ian C. Kelly said Tajbakhsh should be released immediately, saying he poses no threat to the Iranian government or its national security.

Washington has repeatedly denounced his arrest. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton appealed in August for his release, and he was specially named in a call by the British rock star Sting to free all political prisoners in Iran.

“Family and friends of Iranian-American detainee Kian Tajbakhsh are shocked and outraged by the news,” said Pam Kilpadi, a friend of Tajbakhsh who is working on a book with him. She described the charges as “baffling.”

“As an independent scholar Kian is neither a member of the Iranian reformist movement nor in contact with any foreign headquarters inside or outside Iran, and has had no involvement in pre- or postelection unrest,” said Kilpadi, a doctoral researcher at Britain’s University of Bristol currently based in Cambridge, Mass.

Tajbakhsh’s lawyer, Houshang Azhari, told the official IRNA news agency that he would appeal the conviction on charges of “acting against national security.” He said the law prohibited him from divulging the full details of the sentence and would only say it was “more than 12 years.”

The appeal could open an avenue for freeing Tajbakhsh. An Iranian-American journalist who was arrested this year, Roxana Saberi, was convicted of espionage but freed on appeal in what was widely seen as a political decision to defuse tensions with Washington.

Tajbakhsh, 47, had been targeted by Iranian authorities before. In 2007, he was arrested on similar charges while working for the Open Society Institution, a pro-democracy organization run by American philanthropist George Soros – a figure Iran has often cited as part of the anti-government plot. He denied the charges and was released after four months in prison.

Afterward, Tajbakhsh left the Open Society Institution and remained with his family in Iran, working on a book.

Weeks after his arrest in July, Tajbakhsh appeared in the mass trial of opposition figures. Many of the defendants delivered courtroom confessions to a plot to topple the government – admissions that opposition groups said were forced from them.

At his turn to speak during an Aug. 25 court session, Tajbakhsh appeared to try to speak only vaguely about foreign interference in Iran, saying that “undeniably this was a goal of the U.S. and European countries to bring change inside Iran” – although he said he had no direct knowledge of any plot.

The court has issued convictions against a few Iranian opposition figures, sentencing them to five or six years – all far shorter than Tajbakhsh’s, although three others accused of belonging to what Iran considers terrorist groups were sentenced to death.

“It’s obviously completely politically motivated,” said Arien Mack, a psychology professor at The New School in New York City, where Tajbakhsh taught urban policy until 2001. She said that since his 2007 arrest, Tajbakhsh had focused on his academic work, avoiding politics.

“As far as I know, he did not even vote in the last election” in Iran, she said…”

[Full article]

Interview (Source: Foreign Policy)

By , October 16, 2009 7:21 am

In an interview with Foreign Policy magazine, Iranian American academic Haleh Esfandiari urged officials to continue exerting pressure to secure the release of Kian and other Iranian political prisoners:

“FP: Do you see any sea change among Iranian-American intellectuals regarding engaging with Iran?

HE: I’ll talk about myself because each of us has a different opinion on this issue. I still believe in engagement. But in Geneva two weeks ago and next week in Vienna, when [the Western powers and Iran] sit and talk, the human rights issues must also be on the table. They should not just focus on the nuclear issue. That’s what the Iranians would love to do. But no, they should also talk about the human rights issue, because it’s very important.

Look, we have three American hikers sitting in jail somewhere in Iran. You have an Iranian-American, Kian Tajbakhsh, sitting in jail… Plus, there are thousands of Iranian activists who are sitting in jail. Talk about them — talk about them all the time! What really helped me get out was this international pressure, day in and day out…”

[Full article]

U.S. Presses Tehran to Free Two Detainees (Source: Wall Street Journal)

By , October 9, 2009 10:52 am

The Wall Street Journal has published a half-page feature by Farnaz Fassihi highlighting the cases of Kian and Maziar:

“The United States is asking that Iran immediately release two jailed foreign nationals even as it pursues talks over Tehran’s nuclear program, according to people familiar with the negotiations.

Families, colleagues and friends of the detainees have collected petitions signed by prominent figures and written letters to public officials as part of their far-reaching efforts to win the release of American-Iranian scholar Kian Tajbakhsh and Canadian-Iranian Newsweek journalist Maziar Bahari, who have been held captive by Iran for roughly three months.
The State Department says it pressed Iran on its human-rights record when representatives of the two countries sat at the negotiating table to discuss Iran’s nuclear program in Geneva last week. So far, Iran hasn’t taken any action.

The U.S. didn’t make the release of Mr. Tajbakhsh, 47 years old, and Mr. Bahari, 42, a condition for further negotiations on the nuclear matter. The U.S. used the opportunity of the face-to-face high-level meeting with Iran to appeal for their release on humanitarian grounds and as a measure of goodwill, the people familiar with the talks say.

Supporters of the two men hope the backdrop of the talks will aid their cause. “If Iran is trying to build trust with the rest of the world one good way to do it would be to release people like Maziar and Kian,” said Newsweek’s foreign editor Nisid Hajari.

The two men are the only foreign nationals arrested in relation to the recent unrest surrounding controversial presidential elections in June. Neither has a political affiliation in Iran.

Three young Americans have been detained since the end of July by Iran for illegally crossing the Iranian border during a hike in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq. Iran allowed a representative of the Swiss Embassy to meet with the hikers last week.
Mr. Tajbakhsh and Mr. Bahari were arrested soon after the elections, on different days but under similar circumstances. Intelligence officials raided their homes in the middle of the night, confiscated their computers, documents and passports. The two men were taken to the notorious Evin prison, to the ward controlled by the intelligence unit of the Revolutionary Guards. They have had no access to legal counsel, and haven’t been charged or sentenced, according to their families.

Prisoners who have been released on bail recently from the same ward say they were blindfolded most of the day, beaten, psychologically tortured and interrogated for up to 12 hours at a time, often in the middle of the night.

Mr. Tajbakhsh and Mr. Bahari looked visibly thinner and haggard when they appeared in televised mass trials in August next to prominent opposition figures. Each delivered a confession detailing how, in their respective roles as academic and journalist, they had unwittingly participated in a plot by the West for a so-called soft revolution against Iran’s regime.

The court appearance was the first time their families had seen them since the arrests. Families and colleagues dismiss the confessions and say they were coerced.

Mr. Tajbakhsh’s two-year-old daughter, Hasti, ran to the television and kissed the screen as it showed him mumbling his confession, and his wife sobbed, according to family members. Mr. Tajbakhsh and his family were planning to move this fall from Tehran to New York, where he was scheduled to start teaching at Columbia University.

In London, Mr. Bahari’s wife, Paola Gourley, is eight months pregnant with the couple’s first child. She says her husband’s hollow eyes in court shocked her.

“Understanding the reality of where he is and what he is going through was heartbreaking,” says Ms. Gourley, a British lawyer. Since his court appearance, she says she has suffered serious pregnancy complications threatening her life and the baby’s and has been hospitalized twice. She says doctors tell her the problems are related to too much stress.

Messrs. Bahari and Tajbakhsh have recently been allowed occasional brief phone calls and visits with their families supervised by a prison guard.

Mr. Tajbakhsh holds a Ph.D. in urban planning from Columbia University, and grew up in London and New York. In 2001, Mr. Tajbakhsh returned to Iran to research a project about Iran’s government institutions. Mr. Tajbakhsh met and married his wife Bahar and settled in Tehran. He was arrested and imprisoned for four months in 2007.

Mr. Bahari, who studied in Canada, divides his time between London and Tehran. He has been Newsweek’s Iran correspondent since 1998 and has made a series of award-winning documentary films. Mr. Bahari was a finalist for the prestigious Prince of Asturias Award for Concord in 2009, for his coverage of Iran.

[Full article]

Arien Mack, Professor of Psychology at The New School for Social Research, appeals for Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh’s release

By , October 6, 2009 12:13 am

Jonathan Fanton, former president of The New School and former president of The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, appeals for Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh’s release

Iran’s Turmoil Has Its Day in New York (Source: New York Times)

By , September 23, 2009 2:51 am

Jim Dwyer’s “About New York” column in The New York Times features Kian:

Say what you will for the United Nations and its General Assembly. The sidewalk diplomacy almost never disappoints, and the stakes are always high.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran is back in New York for the United Nations General Assembly. Thousands of members of the Iranian diaspora plan to demonstrate on Wednesday to protest the crushing of dissent in Tehran since June, when Mr. Ahmadinejad claimed to have been re-elected president in a landslide.

One prominent member of that diaspora will certainly not be present: Kian Tajbakhsh, a New Yorker and an Iranian-American scholar who was seized by the Iranian security forces in early July and has been confined since then without access to counsel. He has been accused of stirring up revolutionary sentiment and of being an instigator paid by sinister Western forces.

Mr. Tajbakhsh, 47, and his wife and their young daughter were planning to move to New York this fall for a visiting professorship in urban planning at Columbia University.

Instead, he remains in secret detention, surfacing only occasionally in a mass trial where the official narrative holds that all protests in Iran since June are the creations of the United States and its wealthy allies. Perhaps most remarkable to his friends is that Mr. Tajbakhsh, a secular scholar, is being tried alongside Islamist reformers.

The official indictment against him is a haze of inference and inanity: He was raised outside Iran, in London and New York; his father was a member of the shah’s government; in prison, he had to be taught how to pray, apparently having a deficit of piety in his upbringing.

More: He worked as a consultant for the Open Society Institute, which is financed by the Soros Foundation, and which the Iranians purport is a C.I.A. satellite. He subscribes to a listserv run by Gary Sick, a Middle East scholar at Columbia who is described in the indictment as a C.I.A. agent. He discussed a book with another troublemaker.

Pictures released from the mass trial last month show Mr. Tajbakhsh reading statements that are supposed to implicate him and others in the uprisings.

Another Iranian-American scholar, Haleh Esfandiari, who was held two years ago in solitary confinement for 105 days, said that she learned from the interrogations that the Iranian security forces were gripped with paranoia about popular movements that have overthrown autocratic regimes elsewhere. In this worldview, Mr. Tajbakhsh’s Western education, dual citizenship in the United States and Iran and breadth of interests would make him an obvious conduit for subversion.

“What they are doing to him and the others is really shameful,” said Ms. Esfandiari, author of “My Prison, My Home.” “The good thing about Iran is that nobody — I mean nobody in the country — believes these confessions, and no one pays attention to these trials. Any intelligent person can conclude that he’s saying these things because he is forced to.”

During her confinement in 2007, Ms. Esfandiari got to know Mr. Tajbakhsh because he was being detained under the same circumstances, on the same vague charges of stirring up trouble. She was released in August that year. A few weeks later, Mr. Tajbakhsh was freed just before President Ahmadinejad arrived in New York for the General Assembly. Part of his schedule included a talk at Columbia.

In introducing Mr. Ahmadinejad, Columbia’s president, Lee C. Bollinger, noted that Mr. Tajbakhsh, a Columbia graduate, was still being held in house arrest.

“Let me say this for the record: I call on the president today to ensure that Kian will be free to travel out of Iran as he wishes,” Mr. Bollinger said. “Let me also report today that we are extending an offer to Kian to join our faculty.”

It would be nearly a year before Mr. Tajbakhsh was able to travel freely, so he was still in Tehran in June.

“No one expected there to be this historic popular uprising,” said Pamela Kilpadi, a colleague.

Now Mr. Tajbakhsh is back in prison, and President Ahmadinejad is back in New York.

“Academics and religious scholars,” he said during his 2007 visit, “are shining torches.”

This article was quickly translated and republished in Farsi with the heading “Ahmadinejad breaks promise to Kian” (not to rearrest him):

[Link to article]

U.S. scholar on trial in Iran (Source: The Washington Times)

By , September 7, 2009 8:31 pm

The Washington Times has published an article by Eli Lake highlighting Kian’s plight:

“Kian Tajbakhsh was supposed to be starting a prestigious professorship this month at Columbia University.

Instead, the Iranian-American urban planner is standing trial on allegations that he is one of the masterminds of the protests that followed Iran’s June 12 presidential elections.

Mr. Tajbakhsh, who served four months in an Iranian prison in 2007 on espionage charges, is not the most well-known American citizen arrested in recent years by Iran’s authorities, but he may be in the most jeopardy.

The government has accused him of fomenting a so-called “velvet revolution” — the sort of peaceful, mass political movement that ousted several Eastern European regimes two decades ago after the fall of the Berlin Wall and, more recently, governments in Serbia, Ukraine and Georgia.

“The circumstances surrounding Mr. Tajbakhsh’s current detention are particularly serious, given the severity of the ongoing power struggle within the Iranian regime,” said Pamela Kilpadi, a friend who has been working on a book with the professor.

“[Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad and the Revolutionary Guard appear to be pitted against the clerical judiciary establishment, with Kian an innocent victim caught in between,” she said…

In the case of Mr. Tajbakhsh, his friends say he had very little to do with politics in Iran. Indeed, in 2007, Iranian courts did not convict him of such activities after his first arrest.

“Since his release from prison in 2007, the Iranian government has been heavily monitoring all of Kian’s activities,” Mr. Sadjadpour said. “They know better than anyone that they’ve imprisoned an innocent man. Unfortunately, Kian is simply a pawn in the hard-liners’ game of painting indigenous popular protests as somehow orchestrated from the outside.”

Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, who was also jailed for four months in 2007, said the charges against Mr. Tajbakhsh are phony.

“I don’t understand why he was picked up,” she said. “He was not at all interested in this notion of the velvet revolution. This whole allegation and accusation is absurd. Having him do these confessions, nobody believes them. It’s just terrible.”

In her new book about her experience at Evin prison, “My Prison, My Home,” Ms. Esfandiari wrote that Mr. Tajbakhsh lent her English-language books — “Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene and “The Idiot” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky — while both were incarcerated in a special section for political prisoners.

“Getting those books from Kian was a godsend for me,” Ms. Esfandiari said.

For now, his friends and his future employer, Columbia University, are doing what they can to get Mr. Tajbakhsh freed. Kenneth Prewitt, vice president for global centers at Columbia, said the university made sure to call the urban planner’s mother in the United States and assure her that the professorship was still reserved for her son.

“Our interest in him is as an American scholar and not an activist,” Mr. Prewitt said. “There is no evidence that he has been engaged in political activity, and there is ample evidence that he has been engaged in serious academic work, which is the basis upon which we have offered him a professorship.”

[Full Article]

[Partial translation published by Iran’s official Asr Iran news agency]

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