Friday, September 01, 2006

Another Big Mistake

We must tell Iranians that you should prepare your declarations, memorandums, petitions and praises since Issa Saharkhiz is on his way to prison! We must add another name to the list of those who have been arrested by the regime and have gained fame.

The recent court verdict against the well known reform journalist and political activist Issa Saharkhiz, who became famed in press circles for his opposition and defiance to the closing down of “Zan” (woman) newspaper, was forced to step down as Khatami’s director general of the public press in the Ministry of Culture. This was also the fate of others like Ahmad Bourghani, the deputy the same ministry who was a staunch defender of free press. Later, Ataollah Mohajerani, the minister who had appointed both Saharkhiz and Bourghani, resigned under pressure from the conservatives. All three respected journalists were later admired for their courage once they were no longer part of the government.

Saharkhiz, after leaving the Ministry of Culture, never lost touch with the press. He always took initiative and responsibility at every newspaper he wrote for. When the journals were shut down, it was a personal loss for him as well. Throughout this time, he was an honest critic of the reformists’ partial give and take vis-a -vis the conservatives; he remained a defender of honesty, integrity, and openness in both print and freedom of speech.

The Islamic Courts have now handed down a verdict which sentences him to four years imprisonment. This unjust verdict is illogical, uncivil and unethical. It is yet another sad display that the judiciary of the Islamic Republic has no respect for free speech even if it is an integral component of the constitution. In fact, a sad reality is that today, the verdicts of the courts are based upon political motivations rather than the law.

Those who worry that the Iranian regime creates false heroes should instead focus on this issue rather than criticizing the “heroes”. These same critics should defend the victims of the very courts which sentence them to unjust prison terms. A clear consequence of such arrests and prison terms are that yet again, a people’s servant like Saharkhiz gains stature in the eyes of world public opinion. This is what happened to others like Ganji, Zarafshan and many more.

Every society recognizes its servants in one way or another. Today the fate of our nation is to wait until a person is arrested in order to recognize and see their worth!