Sunday, May 07, 2006

Jahanbegloo Charged with “Espionage” for Researching in US

Vahid Sabetian, Rooz Online:
Jahanbegloo’s arrest, which human rights organizations around the world have already condemned, has raised further alarms with news that he had been transferred to a hospital. Earlier, Iran’s minister of intelligence Mohseni Ejeyi had said that Jahanbegloo was in the hands of the ministry of intelligence in order to complete the investigations regarding the charges against him, which have been outlined as relations with foreigners.

Jahanbegloo is being kept at ward 209 of Evin and according to Farda news site that is close to right wing elements of the Islamic regime, he has already provided tens of pages of confessions. Human Rights Watch organization has said in its statement that in view other similar cases, it is likely that he has been subjected to torture and forced to provide fake confessions. Just a few months earlier Human Rights Watch had accused Ejeyi of repeatedly violating human rights. The Canadian government, where Jahanbegloo has lived and taught (at Trinity College, University of Toronto) is reportedly following the issue through diplomatic channels. READ MORE

Fars news agency which has close links to the elements inside Iran’s judiciary, and is usually the source to which such news leaks are provided, has written that Jahanbegloo had a contract with the US government. It also reported that on November 6, 2001, Jahanbegloo participated in a conference organized by Washington DC’s Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars as the official representative of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). This National Endowment is an organization with many projects on democracy and development and works with scholars from all over the world who have to compete intensely to gain a position at it. Like many similar organizations, the budget of this institution is provided by section of the US government.

Fars news agency concludes that since the budget of the center was provided by US Congress and that Jahanbegloo worked there, he must be employed by the US government. Those join the center are provided opportunity to participate in various academic meetings as scholars where the participants discuss their research and findings. Information about scholars who work with such scholarly centers is readily available online. So anybody with a PC can acquire about which scholar has participated in which seminars and has discussed which issues. What is interesting is that Mr. Jahanbegloo participated in the mentioned conference in 2001, and so this fact had been available since then and he had traveled to Iran repeatedly after that, but never been arrested or questioned.

From news that has been published on Jahanbegloo’s arrest, in the course of his interrogations he had mentioned his affiliations with different organization including the NED. As a prominent Iranian scholar, Jahanbegloo has been regularly publishing his views in journals and a list of his meetings with re-known philosophers and other intellectuals around the world are available online, one can conclude that because Iran’s ministry of intelligence unfamiliarity with these issues, it interprets such communications as relations with the US government. From their perspective, anybody who works for any state college or university is in fact an employee of the US government. In the past, similar ignorance of the investigators and interrogators of Iran’s judiciary had become the subject of jokes in Iran.

Just two years ago, Dariush Zahedi, a professional at the University of California was arrested on his entry into Iran by agents of the ministry of intelligence and other parallel intelligence bodies. He too was accused of espionage and spent 3 months in solitary confinement. He was released due to heavy pressure of the Majlis (Parliament) of the time which comprised reformist minded representatives.

Jahanbegloo has been an advocate of reforms for Iran. Saeed Rahnama, his friend himself a professor at York University told Canadian newspaper the Globe and Mail that he saw a contradiction in his desire for change and reform in Iran. But he had advocated gradual reforms and change in the country. In any case, this moderate professor of Toronto University is now a victim of a system that he thought was moderate and remains in custody on charges of espionage. Rahnama says that such accusations against him are completely baseless and only indicate the ruthlessness of the regime in Tehran.

The Canadian foreign minister last Thursday said that his ministry was trying to provide consular assistance to Jahanbegloo. Rahnama hopes that with the pressure and intervention of the Canadian government, what happened to Zahra Kazemi, another Iranian-Canadian journalist who was killed in prison, would not be repeated. According to Rahnama, Jahanbegloo never formally criticized the Islamic Republic and never did anything against it, while remaining an honest moderate.

Jahanbegloo’s last book in English is, "Iran Between Tradition and Modernity" which was published in 2004. He holds a PhD in Philosophy from France’s Sorbonne University and post-doctorate degree from Harvard’s center for Middle Eastern Studies. In was a scholar between 1997 and 1998 at the University of Toronto.

John Terri, the Canadian attorney who represented Zahra Kazemi’s case has ardently called on the Canadian government to follow up Jahanbegloo’s case with Tehran through diplomatic channels. The Canadian government needs to defend Jahanbegloo’s rights under international law,” he has said. He has expressed his doubt that Canadian officials will be given access to the imprisoned scholar, just as they were denied such access to Zahra Kazemi.

In view of the concerns about Jahanbegloo and the statements of Iran’s judiciary in similar cases, it is feared that this is just the beginning of more similar events by Iranian officials. Events that have proved again and again to be futile and meaningless.