October 17, 2007


Iran jails its conscience (Pepe Escobar, 10/18/07, Asia Times)

A man is being kept in solitary confinement in cell number 209 of sinister Evin prison in Tehran. His crime: he's Iran's top human rights activist. [...]

Before he was sent to prison [Emadeddin] Baghi wrote a letter to the head of the Iranian judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Shahroudi, detailing at length how he has been harassed by the system even before the rise of Iran's reformists, starting in the mid-1990s. [...]

At the end of his letter he asks the head of the judiciary what kind of rights protection the Islamic Republic is offering its citizens. That's the key point of his political position: if human rights violations are essentially government violations, only the government system can prevent them.

Baghi's immensely politeness masks an iron will. Asia Times Online interviewed him in Tehran in the summer of 2005 (see The humanist reformer). He has published 21 books, collections of articles and translations (seven either banned before publication or confiscated later). His NGO - which relies on the volunteer work of the best Iranian human rights lawyers - is not only concerned with improving dismal prison conditions in Iran but protecting the rights of all prisoners, not only political prisoners.

That Baghi's work can so irk the upper echelons of the Islamic Republic speaks volumes about a system that thrives on internal fear. It also spells out how much the Iran is in dire need of a new public relations strategy. Just when it may soon be on the receiving end of a devastating, preemptive war, and badly in need of international support, sending your best-known human rights activist to jail is not exactly a brilliant move.

Yup, it's just a PR problem. You bet....

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 17, 2007 11:24 AM
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