Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Iran - The case of Ramin Jahanbegloo

The prominent Iranian scholar and democratic intellectual Ramin Jahanbegloo has been arrested. Below are a series of reports passed along by Norman Geras (on Normblog), followed by the letter of protest to the Iranian government sent jointly by by the Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) and the Committee on Academic and Intellectual Freedom of the International Society for Iranian Studies (ISIS)..

--Jeff Weintraub
Norman Geras (Normblog)

May 02, 2006
Ramin Jahanbegloo

I'm unable to find anything on this on the internet but I'm told that Ramin Jahanbegloo has been arrested by the Iranian intelligence services. Jahanbegloo is a liberal intellectual who has invited western intellectuals to Iran. Michael Ignatieff mentions him here:

I was invited not by the mullah-dominated universities but by the Cultural Research Bureau, an independent center in Tehran that publishes books and runs its own gift shop, gallery and lecture hall. My Iranian host, Ramin Jahanbegloo, works in a tiny shared office at the bureau, inviting foreign guests and building up a small circle of free-minded students whom he lectures on European thought. He and I had never met, but he has published a book of conversations he had as a student with Isaiah Berlin, the Oxford philosopher of liberalism, and I have written a biography of Berlin. We are Berliners.
There is a picture of Jahanbegloo here (scroll down). These two links refer to the arrest (so I'm told).
May 03, 2006
Ramin Jahanbegloo 2

Here's more on his arrest:

Tehran - The detention of one of Iran's top scholars late last week has raised concerns here about arbitrary arrests.

Friends and relatives of Ramin Jahanbegloo say he was arrested at the airport soon after he and his family returned from an extended visit to India.

His wife has refused to comment for fear that publicity may complicate matters. "I cannot say anything," she said Tuesday when contacted by telephone.

Jahanbegloo, who has doctorates in philosophy and political science from Harvard and the Sorbonne in Paris, has written and edited more than a dozen books, mostly on philosophy, in English, French and Persian. He has also written articles about Iran in newspapers and magazines abroad.

In one article he wrote for the Spanish newspaper El Pais this year, Jahanbegloo challenged Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's contention that the Holocaust was a myth. In another recent article published on the Internet, he called on Iran and the West to exercise caution in the escalating war of words over Tehran's nuclear activities.

Iranian authorities have not given any details about the arrest of Jahanbegloo, who also holds Canadian citizenship.

Read the rest. Also here and here. (Thanks: AA / M.)
May 04, 2006
Ramin Jahanbegloo 3

A little more information is becoming available on the arrest of Ramin Jahanbegloo:

Deputy Tehran Prosecutor Mahmoud Salarkia told the ISNA students news agency Jahanbegloo was being held in the capital's notorious Evin prison, where most of Iran's jailed political dissidents are held.

Charges against Jahanbegloo, who also holds Canadian citizenship, "will be announced after the interrogations," an unnamed judiciary official told the Etemad-e Melli newspaper.
His arrest was lamented at a gathering at the Association of Iranian Journalists on Wednesday.

"It has not been announced why (Jahanbegloo was arrested) but we hope the day will come when no-one is held... before being tried by an open court," said liberal cleric Mohsen Kadivar, who himself was jailed in the past for outspoken criticism of Iran's political leaders.

Mohsen Kadivar is also quoted in this report:
"[T]hey don't even announce that he's been arrested. This is the height of insecurity and lawlessness."
A statement on behalf of HRW:
The U.S.-based rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) today condemned Jahanbegloo's arrest.

In an interview with RFE/RL, HRW spokesman Hadi Ghaemi said from New York that the detention is a bad sign for academic freedoms in Iran.

"We are seriously worried about the situation and conditions of Dr. Ramin Jahanbegloo," Ghaemi said. "According to reports, Dr. Jahanbegloo was arrested on [April 28 or April 29] in Tehran's airport without any legal reason or explanation."

May 05, 2006
Ramin Jahanbegloo 4

An informative article on his arrest in the Toronto Star. (Thanks: PH.)

May 06, 2006
Ramin Jahanbegloo 5

There is now a blog carrying updates on the arrest of Ramin Jahanbegloo in Iran. (Thanks: M.)

[Below is a letter to the Iranian government on Ramin Jahanbegloo's behalf, sent jointly by the Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) and the Committee on Academic and Intellectual Freedom of the International Society for Iranian Studies (ISIS). It was posted by Juan Cole, President of MESA, on his "Informed Comment" website. --Jeff Weintraub]

MESA/ISIS Letter on Behalf of Ramin Jahanbegloo

For more on this case see this article and

May 8, 2006

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran
c/o H.E. Javad Zarif
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations
Fax: 212-867-7086

Your Excellency:

We write to you on behalf of the Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) and the Committee on Academic and Intellectual Freedom of the International Society for Iranian Studies (ISIS) to protest in the strongest possible terms the recent arrest of Dr. Ramin Jahanbegloo, a prominent Iranian intellectual and political theorist. We urge you to use your good offices to determine the circumstances of his detention and to secure his immediate release.

The Middle East Studies Association of North America and the International Society for Iranian Studies are the preeminent international organizations in their respective fields. MESA, founded in 1966, and ISIS, founded in 1967, were established to promote scholarship and teaching on Iran, the Middle East, and North Africa. MESA publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has more than 2600 members worldwide; ISIS publishes the international journal of Iranian Studies and has more than 500 members worldwide. Both organizations are committed to ensuring academic freedom, the free exchange of ideas, and freedom of expression in all its forms, both within Iran and the Middle East and in connection with the study of Iran and the Middle East in North America and elsewhere.

According to information we have received Dr. Jahanbegloo was arrested at Tehran’s Mehrabad airport in late April. Officials from your government have stated that Dr. Jahanbegloo is currently undergoing “interrogations” and that he is suspected of crimes related to “security and spying”. Despite these statements, as of this date no official charges have been filed against Dr. Jahanbegloo. Officials have stated that charges against Dr. Jahanbegloo will only be filed after his interrogation. Given these facts we are concerned that officials of your government are in the process of coercing confessions from Dr. Jahanbegloo. We also have reason to believe that he has been allowed only limited access to his family, and as far as we know he has not had any access to legal counsel.

Dr. Jahanbegloo is a highly respected scholar and academic who is currently the head of the department of Contemporary Studies at Tehran’s Cultural Research Bureau, an important institution in your country that has gained international recognition for its important scholarly work in the area of Iranian history, culture, and politics. Dr. Jahanbegloo’s work as part of the Cultural Research Bureau has contributed to the high regard in which it is held by scholars both inside and outside of Iran. He has also studied and taught at major universities in Europe and North America, including the Sorbonne, Harvard University, and the University of Toronto. In his role as a public intellectual Dr. Jahanbegloo has also consistently advocated for the US and Europe to adopt a less confrontational approach in dealing with Iran. His published work includes over twenty books in Persian, French, and English on topics relating to European and Iranian intellectual history and political philosophy. Dr. Jahanbegloo’s writing reflects a thoughtful consideration of Iran’s encounter with modernity and the difficult and complex process by which modern Iranian intellectuals have sought to define universal values such as democracy and human rights in terms that are organic to Iranian tradition. Given the arbitrary and unusual nature of Dr. Jahanbegloo’s detention, we are compelled to conclude that his arrest is connected to his scholarly and intellectual pursuits.

We also feel compelled to remind you, Your Excellency, that the rights of individuals to freedom of thought, opinion, and speech are explicitly protected under the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran (Article 23), as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Articles 18, 19, 21), to which the Islamic Republic of Iran is also a state party. The arbitrary arrest of Dr. Jahanbegloo does further harm to the reputation of Iran as a country where scholarly research and inquiry are highly valued. Dr. Jahanbegloo’s arrest and detention can only be conceived as a direct attack on the principles of academic freedom and critical intellectual inquiry.

Your Excellency, we trust that you will appreciate the seriousness of this matter and will take the appropriate measures. We urge you to secure his immediate release.

Yours Respectfully,

Juan R.I. Cole
Janet Afary

posted by Juan @ 5/09/2006 04:20:00 PM