IRAN DETAINS CANADIAN SCHOLAR
Iran detains Canadian scholar
Author arrested after challenging president's Holocaust denials
BY ALEXANDRA ZABJEK
Publication: Ottawa Citizen; Date: May 4, 2006;
Section: Front Page; Page: 1
A prominent Iranian-Canadian scholar is being detained in Iran after writing an article earlier this year in which he challenged Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's contention that the Holocaust was a myth.
Ramin Jahanbegloo was arrested at Tehran airport several days ago after he and his family returned from an extended visit to India, BBC News reported last night.
Foreign Affairs declined comment yesterday, and would not confirm news reports of Mr. Jahanbegloo's arrest.
However, news of the arrest is making its away through Canada's expatriate Iranian community.
Shahram Golestaneh, president of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran, is urging the Canadian government to take immediate action to secure Mr. Jahanbegloo's release.
"Quiet diplomacy won't work," he said yesterday, adding that Iranian authorities will respond only to direct pressure or threats.
"We don't want to have the same situation as it was with Zahra Kazemi. If we have to do something earlier rather than later, we should do it," he said. "If even one citizen is at stake, we should put all of our forces behind him to get his release."
Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi died in Iranian custody on July 11, 2003, almost three weeks after she was arrested for taking pictures outside a prison during a student protest in Tehran.
At first, Iran's official news agency reported that Ms. Kazemi had died in hospital, after suffering a stroke while she was being interrogated. But Mohammad Ali Abtahi, Iran's vice-president, conceded a few days later that Ms. Kazemi died as a result of being beaten.
In Tehran yesterday, a prominent dissident cleric said Mr. Jahanbegloo's arrest was "the height of lawlessness."
Mohsen Kadivar, who has spent time behind bars himself as a human rights activist, described Mr. Jahanbegloo as one of Iran's leading philosophical journalists.
"In a country fighting for respect of law and freedom of the press for more than 100 years, still we have a well-known figure who's arrested without a proper court order or an open trial, and they don't even announce that he's been arrested," said Mr. Kadivar.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said he had heard about the detention of a Canadian national from the Canadian ambassador, the Los Angeles Times reported yesterday. Mr. Asefi said the matter was under investigation.
Mr. Jahanbegloo's article on the Holocaust appeared in the Spanish newspaper El Pais. 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.
While Mr. Jahanbegloo's academic work was critical of the current Iranian regime, he appeared more interested in "reform than revolution," said Amir Hassanpour, a Middle Eastern studies professor at the University of Toronto.
Mr. Jahanbegloo advocated reforming Iranian politics through the development of civil society and legal reforms, said Mr. Hassanpour.
Mr. Jahanbegloo has written and edited several books on philosophy and political science. He worked as an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto from 1999 to 2001, after first arriving there in 1997 as a visiting scholar.
Born in Tehran, Mr. Jahanbegloo received his PhD from the Sorbonne before completing a post-doctorate degree at Harvard University, and then moving to Toronto.
He had published two books in English, including Conversations with Isaiah Berlin, which detailed his interviews with the the famed political philosopher. In 2001, he edited a collection of essays titled Iran: Between Tradition and Modernity.
Mr. Jahanbegloo, who holds Canadian citizenship, has also published extensively in French and Persian. He was most recently working at the Cultural Research Bureau, a non-governmental research organization in Tehran.
His arrest could make relations between Canada and Iran even
frostier. There has been little official contact between the two
countries since the death of Ms. Kazemi.
The Iranian government charged an Iranian security agent in Ms. Kazemi's death, but he was acquitted of "quasiintentional murder." In July 2004, Iran's judiciary said the head injuries that killed Ms. Kazemi were the result of an "accident."
But Canadians were shocked in March 2005 by the stunning revelations of Shahram Azam, a former staff physician in Iran's defence ministry. He said he examined Ms. Kazemi in hospital, four days after her arrest, and found obvious signs of torture, including evidence of a very brutal rape, a skull fracture, two broken fingers,
missing fingernails, a crushed big toe and a broken nose.
Mr. Azam left Iran in August 2004, saying he was seeking medical treatment in Finland. He later went to Sweden and got in touch with Ms. Kazemi's son, Stephan Hachemi. With the help of Canadian lawyers, Mr. Hachemi helped Mr. Azam and his family get to Canada. He was granted landed immigrant status as a refugee sponsored by the government of Canada.
In an article he wrote last year for the New York Times, Liberal MP Michael Ignatieff related how he was invited to lecture on human rights and democracy by the Cultural Research Bureau, an independent centre in Tehran that publishes books.
"My Iranian host, Ramin Jahanbegloo, works in a tiny shared office at the bureau, invited foreign guests and building up a small circle of freeminded students whom he lectures on European thought," wrote Mr. Ignatieff.
"Jahanbegloo says he thinks of himself as a bridge between Iran and (western) universities.
"He invites a steady stream of philosophers like Richard Rorty from Stanford and Agnes Heller from the New School in New York to give talks to students.
"He sees some signs that their ideas are gaining a toehold in Tehran." WITH FILES FROM CITIZEN NEWS SERVICES