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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Barack Obama should listen to Kianoosh Sanjari

Last week, President Obama sent a fawning message to the Iranian leadership, in which he referred to the 'Islamic Republic of Iran,' and offered Iran 'respect' and a 'place among the nations of the world.' For the last month, Roger Cohen has been writing a series of article in the New York Times in which he claims that the Iranian regime is 'practical' and would not start a nuclear war. Maybe the two of them should both talk to Kianoosh Sanjari (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).
Mr. Sanjari was first arrested at 17 for joining a procession commemorating the first anniversary of the violently suppressed 1999 student protests at Tehran University. Over the next seven years he was arrested nine times, imprisoned six, flipped between "official" and secret prisons, surveilled and harassed by the secret police, subjected to endless interrogations, held both in overcrowded cells and incommunicado in solitary confinement (for a total of nine months), beaten while blindfolded and subjected to extreme sensory deprivation.

"When you express your dissatisfaction in a civil way and you're faced with physical violence and cruelty, you realize the baseness of the equation," Mr. Sanjari tells me, explaining the impulses that animated his dissent. "The moment you go to prison is when you realize you are in the right. And when you see what nefarious people the regime has to break you is when you feel the need to fight back."

Between prison terms Mr. Sanjari headed the Association of Political Prisoners, which follows more than 500 known cases in Iran. About Mirsayafi, he says that when his fellow blogger "found out that he had been summoned to court and that he may end up with a prison sentence, he wrote an email to friends. He said he felt powerless to withstand what torture he would have to face in prison. He also told a mutual friend that he did not think he would survive the imprisonment. He was well aware of the fact that they wanted to do away with him."

Mirsayafi's forebodings proved well-justified. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that he was taken to the prison hospital shortly before his death with an irregular pulse. "The doctor told [the prison authorities] how to treat him, asked him to send him to a city hospital," Mirsayafi's lawyer told RFE/RL's Radio Farda. "But they ignored the doctor and said [Mirsayafi] was faking his illness. The doctor said, 'his heartbeat is 40 per minute, you can't fake that.' But they sent the doctor out of the room." Prison authorities ruled the death a suicide; Mirsayafi was only 25.
Sanjari is now 26 and is awaiting a grant of asylum to allow him to live in the United States. Mirsayafi was Omid-Reza Mirsayafi, an Iranian blogger who was tortured to death in Tehran's Evin prison last Wednesday.

Stephens calls Mirsayafi's death
The most telling indicator of what we can expect from Mr. Obama's overture is Mirsayafi's death, a fitting emblem of everything the Islamic Revolution stands for on its 30th anniversary.
If the United States will no longer stand up to Iran, who will? Israel may defend its own interests against Iran, but is in no position to act as the World's conscience in trying to bring about regime change in that country. Only the United States can do that.

Read the whole thing.

Betsy suggests that the West adopt Iranian dissidents much as we adopted Soviet dissidents in the 1970's and 1980's. It's a nice idea, but the West had something that the Soviets wanted and weren't getting in the '70's and '80's: Western technology (think about how the Jackson-Vanik amendment forced the Soviets to change their emigration policies by denying them most favored nation status). The Iranians seem to be getting whatever they want regardless of how they behave towards their own people and towards their neighbors. And President Obama seems intent on helping them to continue to do so.


At 8:57 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Obama did something for the Iranian mullahs that Reagan never did for the Soviets. Reagan called the Soviet Union an "evil empire." Obama says Iran's oppressive theocracy is a regime with which America can have a relationship based on "mutual respect." Imagine what message that sends to Iranian dissidents. In contrast, what Soviet dissidents heard made them believe America was on the side of those who wanted freedom in the Soviet state. Kianoosh Sanjari would say Obama placed America on the side of those who are destroying people seeking their freedom in Iran - which the Obamas and Roger Cohens of the world have no apparent interest in championing.


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