Thursday, 31 August 2006

More on Jahanbegloo

...The Globe and Mail had a front-page article on Jahanbegloo's release today, speculating on the reasons for his release and debunking Iran's case against him.

Several reasons have been cited for his release, reportedly on bail (the Canadian government would not confirm that yesterday). Those reasons include pressure from the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, diligent work by Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs and a purported confession from Mr. Jahanbegloo. The UN Security Council's deadline for Iran to suspend its nuclear program is today; Iran was not expected to comply. It may have seen the release as a helpful diversion.

But nothing obscures the fact that Mr. Jahanbegloo was treated as a threat to national security for trying to build a simple academic centre to which he could invite speakers from the West. These speakers were not demagogues urging Iranians to overthrow the Islamic government. They were philosophers and historians esteemed in the upper reaches of academia, but virtually unknown by the general public -- people such as Leszek Kolakowski, a historian of philosophy from Poland. Mr. Jahanbegloo was deemed a dangerous man because he acted as if intellectual inquiry had a secure place in Iran.

Consider Iran's accusations. At first it said Mr. Jahanbegloo was a spy for the United States. Then it said he was in league with U.S. attempts to bring about regime change. (No formal charges were ever laid.)

"One could say that Ramin's commitment to a civil society through a dialogue of civilizations is part of what one may call a Velvet Revolution," his friend Mohamad Tavakoli, who teaches at the University of Toronto, said yesterday. "But the way the Iranian government and the conservative media have been presenting it, it's a new American-style coup."

For instance, he said, part of the case against Mr. Jahanbegloo is that he had a Woodrow Wilson fellowship, which Prof. Tavakoli described as "every academic's dream" -- and enough for Iranian authorities to deem him in league with the United States. "This is silly," Prof. Tavakoli said. "They take a fact that has some sort of reality and turn it around and bastardize it.'"

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