Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Reverence of Silence

Sometimes one is amazed at people who do not learn from the past. Especially people who, as soon as they ascend to power, act as if they are inventing the rules of governance; as if they would get to live in the safe confines of power forever. I am pointing this directly at Mr. Karimirad, Minister of Justice and the judiciary’s spokesperson.

My motivation for writing this is what Mr. Karimirad’s said about the incarcerated student leader Mousavi Khoini.

Everyone knows that, ever since Mr. Mousavi Khoini became a representative for the students’ demands, his behavior did not conform to the wishes of ruling elite. He could have exploited the opportunity given to him by the people of Tehran when they elected him to the Majlis (“Parliament”), serve for four years, do nothing and someday become a minister – maybe a minister with real functions, like the minister of finance, not like the minister of justice, a post whose relevance and function is a mystery even to those familiar with legal affairs. Mr. Asghari Zamani once characterized the function of the justice minister as the chief letter-writer for the judiciary, turning down an offer to become the justice minister.

Many, not just Mr. Karimirad, know how to keep their positions by not doing anything. But this is not a suitable option for someone like Amir Reza Khadem (former wrestling world champion and head of Iran’s Wrestling Federation) or Mousavi Khoini. People like Khadem and Khoini who want to change something do not usually end up with a good fate. For in some societies happy endings are only for those who keep silent and stay inactive. This is not something unknown to the young Mousavi Khoini. He and Fatemeh Haghighatjou (student activist and former member of parliament), staying loyal to their votes, were the real representatives of the students in the Sixth Majlis Haghigahtjou now wanders from university to university, but Khoini’s fault was perhaps larger. He was arrested at a protest that involved hundreds of people, in the middle of the street. They showed their power too. The pictures show.

And now it has been a hundred days since they have put the students’ representative in prison. They have kept his old father behind closed Evin doors in his clerical garb, not letting him visit his son. When the father was dying, they did not let the son leave the solitary to say goodbye to his father. When all of the administrative hassles were taken care of, everything was already over. Even then, he was let out for only an hour, with security officers escorting him, not even letting him meet his wife.

Mr. Khoini is the latest victim of the disposition that some have in ruling, especially towards the youth and students. Last week, when he was brought out of solitary for an hour to attend his father’s funeral, with all the chains and escorts – he shouted out to reporters and students, revealing that he was being kept in solitary and chained at nights there too. Videos show that even in Guantanamo – which the United States has created to intimidate the terrorists and for this reason is not adamant about keeping it secretive – such treatment is uncommon.

In response to the statement made by a prisoner who has not yet been charged or undergone any normal legal proceedings, who has no access to anyone, the judiciary’s spokesperson says, “If Mr. Khoini announces his claims at Tehran’s prosecutor office, they will be examined.” Speaking to parliamentary reporters in reference to Khoini’s accusations, Karimirad said, “This man has claims and must announce his claims at the prosecutor’s office so they get examined.”

It is said that a jurist once sat at his son’s lecture and was disturbed by his son’s irrelevant digressions. Calling on his son, he said, “son, you don’t know when to talk, do you not know when not to talk either?”