This week Sen. Biden put his foot in his mouth by predicting to private donors — he did not know he was being recorded — that the United States would face “an international crisis, a generated crisis,” should Sen. Obama be elected to the White House. “And he’s going to need help,” Sen. Biden continued, because “it’s not going to be apparent initially; it’s not going to be apparent that we’re right.”
These remarkable comments have been covered extensively by many journalists over the past few days. What has not been covered, however, is that we are undergoing an international crisis at this very moment. The Islamic Republic of Iran has, yet again, kidnapped and imprisoned an American citizen for no crime other than her citizenship.
Esha Momeni is a young Iranian-American woman and a graduate student at California State University-Northridge. She is a member of Change for Equality’s California chapter, an Iranian women’s organization which focuses on women’s rights, or lack thereof, in Iran.
Esha, who was born in Los Angeles and grew up in California, traveled back to Iran a few months ago to complete her thesis research project. On October 15, just a little over a week ago, Esha was arrested by Iranian security officials for “unlawfully passing another vehicle while driving,” and thrown into the notorious and brutal detention system known as Evin prison — a series of damp, dark cells with dungeon-like conditions, reserved not merely for legitimate criminals, but for Iranian dissidents and political prisoners. Evin is managed by Iran’s infamously deviant Intelligence Ministry.
Anyone who has survived Evin’s penitentiary system, like my friend Amir Abbas Fakhravar, can attest that the routine beatings and solitary confinement are hard to endure. The regime gives its political prisoners a treatment known as “white torture,” a strenuous process whereby prisoners are dressed in white, in an all-white room, with bright, white lights for days, weeks, and months. The all-white surroundings eventually erode the prisoner’s capacity to determine colors and burn a searing whiteness into the prisoner’s mind and consciousness for weeks, even after the torture has ended.
For young women like Esha Momeni, Evin’s interrogators have been known to be particularly evil, participating in practices that would be best left unsaid right now.
We would be fooling ourselves if we thought the Iranian mullahs imprisoned Esha for passing a car on the right. Melissa Wall, Esha’s journalism professor, described her student as “an exceptionally bright person, very creative and artistic,” but added that Iran imprisoned Esha for her research on Iranian women’s rights, saying, “I’m confident that they [the mullahs] have nothing to fear from Esha’s research project. . . . It is simply an academic exercise. . . . She is a videographer who was simply interviewing Iranian women. She has broken no laws, has not done anything wrong.”
We should not be surprised at Iran’s behavior, either. This is just what Iran does. They capture Americans because they can and because they want to. They’ve been doing this for decades.
It was just last year that the Islamic regime in Tehran kidnapped four American citizens: Haleh Esfandiari, a director at the Woodrow Wilson International Center; Parnaz Azima, a journalist at the U.S.-funded Radio Farda; Kian Tajbakhsh of the Open Society Institute; and Ali Shakeri, who helped found the Center for Citizen Peacebuilding.
They were all eventually released and were thankfully not brutalized during their detainment. We can only hope that Esha is being afforded the same treatment, but relying on the Iranian regime’s goodwill is not a safe or sufficient policy. Our fellow citizens deserve more.
Why is this not a national story? CNN has reported it, but only on its website. I have seen nothing on television. Amnesty International made a statement, but that’s about it. The State Department has had little to say about this, other than State Department spokesman Robert Wood announcing, “We’re seeking additional information about this case. . . . We stand with all those in Iran who are working for universal human rights and justice in their countries.”
One must be careful with issues like this. Iranian officials, for example, have “promised” Esha’s family that she would be released if the news of her arrest was not made public. But enough time has passed, now, to label this Iranian promise a lie. The jig is up, the capture has been made public, and Esha’s friends and family are now trying to pressure the State Department to get their friend and daughter back to the United States as fast as possible. “While Esha’s friends and colleagues were insistent about announcing the news of her arrest immediately, based on requests from her family this news was announced with delay,” Change for Equality said on its website.
Sure, there are big news stories to cover. But how is this not atop the list? That this episode of international kidnapping and blackmail is not on our television screens is an outrage and exposes a window into the world that we will inherit should we continue to turn a blind eye toward our enemies overseas. The Iranian regime enriches uranium, thumbs its nose at the EU-3, blows up U.S. forces in Iraq, arms insurgencies and insurrections across the world, supports jihadist organizations from one corner of the planet to the other, and, as we see with young Esha Momeni, continues to treat American citizens as subhuman bargaining chips through kidnapping, assassination, fatwas, imprisonment, detention, and torture.
We deserve to know when a foreign adversarial state kidnaps and mistreats our countrymen and women, for the mere purposes of solidarity. We deserve political leadership that takes a strong stance against Iran — something we’ve never had — and makes it clear to the mullahs that enough is enough.
While this unjustified capture of an American citizen should not be politicized, we cannot ignore reality: in less than two weeks we will elect a new leader and have a right to know, as free-voting citizens, what Sen. McCain and Sen. Obama would do to protect American citizens around the world from Iranian mischief and thuggery.
Americans should get on the phone and call their local papers, their local media people, and their district politicians and demand to know why there is not a nationwide movement to free fellow citizen Esha Momeni from Iran’s twisted prison system. In such a partisan climate, this is surely something we can come together and agree on.
For those who wish to sign a statement demanding Esha’s release, go to this website and send a letter to the theocratic Iranian regime — which is hopefully not with us for much longer.