Saturday, June 30, 2007

Scholars React to Iran's Continuing Oppression

Earlier this month, AltTulsa noted the Iranian campaign against several Iranian-American scholars, including Dr. Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.

On a recent trip to Iran, Dr. Esfandiari was harassed and arrested by Iranian officials, who accused her of being a spy. The charges are an transparent attempt to interfere with her promotion of human rights in Iran. In recent months, Iranian government officials have cracked down on Iranian women's rights activists, student and teacher organizations, labor unions, and others working for a civil society in Iran.

We know this in part from an open letter on Dr. Esfandiari's case published in the June 28 issue of The New York Review of Books. According to the scholars,

scores of women's rights activists have been harassed, physically attacked, and detained for no greater crime than demonstrating peacefully and circulating petitions calling for the elimination of discriminatory laws and practices.

Semi-official verbal attacks on Dr. Esfandiari have been "tinged with invidious anti-Semantic rhetoric and conspiratorial worldviews," the scholars reported.

The scholars, who include a number of prominent U.S. writers and professors, call on the Iranian government to release Dr. Esfandiari and for international organizations and professional associations to protest her continued detention.

We doubt this declaration will have much effect on the Iranians. Yet it might in its own small way add to the international pressure on Iran to liberalize its policies and allow a measure of political freedom.

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