Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Don't squeeze the hostages...

You know Dinah has been getting all exercised over the MSM labelling of the US citizens held hostage in Iran as "soft hostages" The only thing more disturbing IHO is the "soft approach" the US government has taken with regard to their seizure.

Yesterday, Iran
finally acknowledged the detention of Dr Haleh Esfandiari for "crimes against national security." A charge that could carry the death sentence.

Information about what could have led to her detention continues to be thin on the ground but I did find this over at

Human Rights Watch, which fears that the 67-year-old scholar may have been subjected to coercive interrogation. The human rights group also points out that Esfandiari's arrest took place during a particularly onerous week in Iran, one that saw "escalated repressive campaigns against Iranian women's right activists and student leaders".

But it isn't just the last week. In a climate that the writer Praful Bidwal aptly describes as having grown "palpably more unfree, tense, apprehensive and insecure" in the last year, the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has announced a purge of liberal and secular professors from Iran's universities, harassed and banned several student organisations, shut down scores of newspapers and magazines and clamped down on the country's women's rights movement, which has been gaining momentum in recent months.

This last front may be pivotal to understanding why Tehran has targeted Esfandiari, who is a former Deputy Secretary General of the Women's Organization of Iran and the author of Reconstructed Lives: Women and Iran's Islamic Revolution (1997).

Another possible reason for her arrest is alluded to in a Wilson Center statement, which says that the questioning to which Esfandiari has been subjected has "focused almost entirely on the activities and programs of the Middle East Program at the Wilson Center. Repeatedly during the interrogation, Dr Esfandiari was pressured to make a false confession or to falsely implicate the Wilson Center in activities in which it had no part."

The US State Department has made $75m available for "democracy promotion" in Iran, and Tehran clearly believes that the center is involved in such activities.

The kicker:

As the Iranian dissident Akbar Ganji argues, those funds only "make the work of the pro-democracy movement more difficult. The government of Iran describes all of its opponents as agents of the United States [and] claims they are on the payroll of the Bush administration." And that's precisely what's happened to Esfandiari.

The real kicker:

You know something's not right when
Glamor.com in a freaking MOTHER's DAY piece is the only major media outlet banging the drum for Dr. Esfandiari's release.

Free Haleh and take part in their letter writing campaign...