Ramin Jahanbegloo

by Henry Farrell on May 14, 2006

Political theorist Ramin Jahanbegloo has been “imprisoned”:http://chronicle.com/temp/email2.php?id=9bVxyf6q2gcwXpjpdQTthyqxvXgD5Dx5 in the Tehin prison in Tehran as a purported American agent engaged in “cultural activities against Iran.” Tehin is a notorious center of torture, but as far as we know he is still physically unharmed. I missed being a colleague of his by a few months; he left the University of Toronto the year before I arrived. My friend Melissa Williams is organizing a “letter writing campaign”:http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/polsci/ramin/letters.htm to the Iranian authorities; she asks that writers

bq. be careful to adopt a respectful tone and avoid political condemnation. Bear in mind that our purpose is to secure Ramin’s safe release, not to make statements of principle, however valid.

While I appreciate that the Iranian government can arouse some pretty strong feelings, I’ll second Melissa’s cautionary note – but I would also urge CT readers to consider writing to their local Iranian embassies or representations. I’ll be writing further posts as more information emerges.

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Oh by the Way § Unqualified Offerings
05.14.06 at 10:06 pm



David 05.14.06 at 11:39 am

If they’re imprisoning him as a purported agent of America, doesn’t it seem like a letter-writing campaign from Americans (or, more broadly, Westerners) might be a little bit counterproductive?


Henry 05.14.06 at 12:01 pm

Melissa discusses this in the linked-to site. If the letters are from US government agents, politicians etc, then yes, you’re right. If they’re from academics (including US academics), not so much.


Kelly 05.14.06 at 1:32 pm

Sadly Dan, I suspect it might be the later. :/ (I apparently woke up with ‘bitter’ in my coffee today, don’t mind me… nightmares about moving to Albany – no offense, Jon.)


josh 05.14.06 at 2:11 pm

Whether Jahanbegloo has been harmed or not is an open question; he has been sent to hospital several times, though supposedly because of ‘low blood sugar’ or some such. But there are reports in the hardline Iranian press that he’s produced reams of confessions — which its hard to imagine being produced voluntarilly.
Also, there’s some doubt whether Iranian officials would regard American academics as truly independent; some commentary on Jahanbegloo’s arrest have suggested that his academic colleagues are among those considered to be his US government ‘contacts’ — since many of them teach at universities that receive US government funding, they must work for the US government.
This last bit is taken from one of the articles collected on a weblog that’s been set up to collect information on Jahanbegloo’s case:
Oh, and as for Dan’s question: it may be that non-Americans who protest at the treatment of prisoners in Gitmo aren’t worried that doing so in less than respectful tones will confirm the US’s conviction that the prisoners are guilty, or lead the US to kill the prisoners, or treat them decidedly worse; whereas these are real concerns here. So I’d suggest that Dan’s explanation #2 is the most plausible.


Kevin Donoghue 05.14.06 at 5:17 pm

Lord Goldsmith: “The historic tradition of the United States as a beacon of freedom, liberty and of justice deserves the removal of this symbol [Guantanamo].”

Now, that may not be polite enough for Dan Simon, but I’m not convinced that the Mullahs would be offended by the suggestion that they have a tradition as a beacon of freedom, liberty and justice (unless they detected a note of sarcasm).


Zephania 05.15.06 at 4:24 am

Any chance that he is an agent?


Chris 05.15.06 at 5:18 am

I’m confused.
I’ve been learning on this blog that Iran is a great place and that’s why we shouldn’t interfere in their peaceful transition to a nuclear power…now it turns out different?
Wow – how could I have been so wrong?


Steve 05.15.06 at 7:40 am

Welcome to the real reality-based community. What you have learned is that the ‘reality-based community’ are in fact a bunch of idiots.



Jason Kuznicki 05.15.06 at 8:55 am

I’m confused.
I’ve been learning on this blog that Iran is a great place and that’s why we shouldn’t interfere in their peaceful transition to a nuclear power…now it turns out different?
Wow – how could I have been so wrong?

Chris — You’re absolutely right. And any wrongdoing whatsoever by the Iranian regime means that we have full license (and in fact, a moral duty) to nuke them. After all, it worked SO well with South Africa and the U.S.S.R.


Chris 05.15.06 at 9:03 am

Jason – eh?


DC 05.15.06 at 9:18 am

Steve, honestly, why do you bother? I mean, I know in the grand scheme of things we’re all wasting our time here, but really, why?

And by the way, it automatically says your name at the bottom of your comment, so there’s no need to sign it again.


Uncle Kvetch 05.15.06 at 11:14 am

I assume the “Iran is a great place” thread is archived…could someone please send me a link? I must have been out of town.


Barry 05.15.06 at 12:48 pm

Chris, you’re confused. And since trying to unconfuse you would probably be impossible, I won’t try. Steve, it’s pretty clear from your post that ‘reality-based’ is not something that you’d understand, so please stand in the corner with Steve. Here’s a big, pointy hat to wear in that corner.

Uncle Kvetch, it’s archived in Steve’s imagination.


josh 05.15.06 at 1:13 pm

In response to 7: there is a chance, I suppose — but it seems very unlikely, from what I know of the man. And there’s no evidence. As I said, the basis for the charge seems to be Jahanbegloo’s attendance of conferences in the West, including ones sponsored for the National Endowment for Democracy — which is of course a US gov’t operation. But that really does seem to be it.
One might also note that there have been a number of cases where individuals have been detained in Iran as suspected foreign agents, and have proven to be innocent.
It’s also worthwhile to note that he’s been going to these conferences, and talking with these American academics and democracy-promotion people, for years; but he was only arrested after criticising Ahmadinejad for denying the Holocaust.
Meeting with foreign scholars and criticising Holocaust denial don’t seem to me to be much of a basis for being charged with espionage.
Oh, and Steve, Chris — way to go for using this as an occasion for trying to score cheap political points.


abb1 05.16.06 at 2:08 am

Any chance that he is an agent?

Why, in the ‘you’re either with us or against us’ paradigm he certainly is.


Zephania 05.17.06 at 4:05 am

Hi abb1

Usually, one pointless academic is much the same as another: what makes him so different?

What has he done to upset ’em?


abb1 05.17.06 at 7:14 am

Hi Zephania.
I have no idea.

What had Tariq Ramadan done to the American “’em” to have his visa revoked?


Renee Levant 05.18.06 at 11:55 pm

The discussion here is a good one.

The key here is that we must take this case seriously…AND we must take it IN CONTEXT.

If you believe Iran is an evil empire about to develop nuclear weapons and destroy the American way of life….then this action is seen in that context.

If you believe that the US is attempting to dominate the Middle East both militarily and ideological and conducting a war against all who support palestinian independence..well, then this action is seen in that context.

The attempt to make this simply and solely about this Iranian/ Canadiian citizen and scholar and his treatment outside of the broader issues is fallacious.

Regardless of whether one is on the left, right, center, undecided or on some periphery of these positions matters one should recognize that there is nothing simple or neutral here.

I am not neutral. *smile*

I wish there was as much outcry about the jailing and/or firing and/or deportation of Arab scholars in the US such as Sami Al-Arian as ther eis about this scholar. I see neither as more important.
As a US Citizen I am more concerned at the moment about how MY government is engaged in and supporting torture than what Iran may be doing. I am also more concerned about the torture of the entire population of the West Bank than just ONE Iranian (IF he is being tortured and assuming he is innocent… two assumptions which few American scholars really have the basis to assess either way!)

The issue of academic freedom **should be**politically neutral. In theory, whether the professor is right, left or center is not relevant to the issue. However, in the current situation the “right to academic freedom” in Iran and questions about the treatment of prisoners in Iran cannot be separated from current US tensions, US actions against Iran and other nations, US secret prisons and US attempts to eliinate SOME Arab and Islamic voices nationally and internationally and the so called “war against terror”.

The principled stance or support letter must include a condemnation of the SAME sort practices in the US and by the US government around the world.


Renee Levant


Zephania 05.19.06 at 5:19 am

Hi abb1

Freedom of speech and thought are incompatible with democracy. Perhaps he indulged in the former?

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