Sorry to have gone missing, but I’ve stopped blogging when I’m overseas, and I’m crashing on research for a book on Italian Jews nowadays. Yeah I know it’s yet another bad sign of paranoia, but still…as I contemplate how happy my mullah friends would be to host me in one of their gaols, I do try to take some precautions.
I returned in time to fast–perhaps undoing some of the effects of all that pizza and pasta–and to see that the Khamenei/Rouhani regime continues to persecute its real and imagined internal enemies. Two recent cases warrant our attention. The first is a long contemplative essay by a recent detainee, Ramin Jahanbegloo, an intellectual who had left Iran after becoming convinced he was at risk, but then went back to visit (FOOTNOTE: Yes, you’d think they would know better; it’s astonishing how many of the hostages and prisoners in Iran were grabbed when they came back for a visit, like the U.S. Marine. I keep wondering if some regime official told them it would be fine). He was arrested at the airport on his way out.
Jahanbegloo was ultimately ransomed out, and was aided by some diplomatic pressure (FOOTNOTE: It DOES work. Sometimes). All in all, he had a fairly easy time of it. No torture, no false announcement of impending execution. He cooperated with his captors and interrogators, videotaping and signing false confessions when ordered, not–at least on his own account–defying the regime. His defense was to tell the truth, that he wasn’t a serious threat to the regime, was not an enemy agent, was just…a philosopher.
He’s out, but he wonders if he wasn’t excessively cooperative. What will his kids say about his false confessions? His wife fought very hard for his release; what does she think?
So while the sadists at Evin prison did not torture him physically, they exposed weakness of which, let’s say generously, he is not proud.
On the other hand, there is a great man, Ayatollah Hossein Kazamani Boroujerdi, about whom I have written many times. The son of a famous ayatollah, Boroujerdi attracted a mass following when he advocated freedom of religion (and non-religion) and called for the traditional Shi’ite separation of mosque and state (FOOTNOTE: for those who deny the existence of “moderate Muslims,” his example suggests you should do more study and think more deeply). When the regime arrested him several years ago, his followers blocked the roads taken by the security forces in a desperate attempt to save the ayatollah.
Boroujerdi has been treated atrociously in Evin, and his family and supporters have been warning for many months that his health was failing. Now they are telling us that he has been transferred to a cell that is typically used for prisoners about to be executed.
I can well imagine the frustration of the hollow men atop the Iranian regime. They’ve had Boroujerdi arrested and tortured, they keep hoping that he’ll finally die. But he won’t — his will to live is extraordinary. And unlike Jahanbegloo, he’s remained defiant, and has even smuggled letters and, I am told, the manuscript of a devastating critique of the Islamic Republic, to the outside world.
I don’t think the Rouhani/Khamenei regime, which has killed substantially more Iranians than Ahmadinejad in his prime, is going to execute Boroujerdi, any more than I think they will take any formal action against the arrested Green leaders, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. I think the tyrants fear these men, who have inspired millions of Iranians to reject the regime and plan for its removal.
The “Western world’s” failure to openly support Boroujerdi is a deep black stain of dishonor and cowardice. If diplomats could call for Johanbegloo’s release–and Johanbegloo is a man of trivial significance in the internal turmoil that characterizes Iran today–they have umpteen million better reasons to denounce the maltreatment of Boroujerdi and demand his release.
But the West wants a deal with Iran and won’t do anything to annoy Rouhani and Khamenei. Nor will the misnamed journalists who waste miles of ink analyzing the negotiating tactics of a regime that wants us in precisely the same condition as Ayatollah Boroujerdi.
As Goldfinger said to James Bond when asked “do you expect me to talk?”
“No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.”
That’s what Rouhani and Khamenei are all about, and Boroujerdi’s case removes any doubt about their nature and their intent.
If I were a high official in the American government I would insist that we defend Boroujerdi, and if Obama, Biden, Rice, Kerry et al won’t do it, I’d quit in disgust.
UPDATE: President George W Bush publicly and vigorously defended Boroujerdi in 2007 and criticized the regime for persecuting him. I’m not aware of any such statement from the Obama Administration.