God's Politics

God's Politics

Rose Marie Berger: The Tehran Two-Step

While the Iranian government plays a complicated game of international roulette regarding its nuclear power and weapons capacity, its role in stabilizing (or de-stabilizing Iraq), and its work to stem the flow of drugs through the Middle East, one thing – sadly – has remained consistent: human rights abuses.

Less than three weeks before the much touted U.S-Iran meetings on May 28, Iranian security forces have abducted and imprisoned Haleh Esfandiari, the 67-year-old director of the Middle East Program at the Washington, D.C.-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Dr. Esfandiari, who has lived in the U.S since 1980 and traveled to Iran to visit her 93-year-old mother, has been held for a week at Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison.


“Her arrest,” reported a London-based Iranian agency, “came amid increasing restrictions on Iranian rights groups, particularly women’s organizations, and other critics by the hard-line government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iranian authorities have stepped up their warnings that the U.S. aims to use internal critics to destabilize the Iranian government amid the mounting tensions between the two countries.” Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi, who has herself been imprisoned at Evin, has agreed to defend Esfandiari through Ebadi’s organization, the Human Rights Defenders Center.


“Gracefully she approached, in a dress of bright blue silk,” writes Iranian poet Simin Behbahani. “With an olive branch in her hand, and many tales of sorrows in her eyes. Running to her, I greeted her, and took her hand in mine: Pulses could still be felt in her veins; warm was still her body with life.” We pray for Haleh Esfandiari’s safety and the protection of her grace and dignity.

If Iran is going to make a place for itself – and its 70 million citizens, 60 percent of whom are under 30 – in the world, then it must reclaim and restore a vision of government and society that preferences human rights over state secrecy and diversity of opinion and thought over social control. Only then can human dignity be elevated and souls mature as God intended. +Sign the petition for Haleh Esfandiari’s release

Rose Marie Berger is an Associate Editor of Sojourners magazine.

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posted May 18, 2007 at 10:19 pm

hmmm – no comments here, but scads on Jerry Falwell’s demise. What, pray tell, my good American friends, might this reveal about our priorities?

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posted May 18, 2007 at 11:20 pm

“What, pray tell, my good American friends, might this reveal about our priorities?” Canucklehead One word: schadenfreude. Not to leave it at that, it sounds as if the current government of Iran may have fallen into the ruts left behind by the Shah and his CIA-trained and supported SAVAK.

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posted May 20, 2007 at 4:20 am

What I find truly interesting is that it is the aggressive US war machine that is giving the crazy Iranian President sort of a reason to allow his government to behave in paranoid ways. Now, I am not blaming the US for this crazy President… but in an interesting dialogue between Reza Aslan (author of “no God, but God” … a book I highly recommend, by the way) and Jon Stewart. His comment (Reza’s) was that Iran does have an kind of crazy President BUT it has many things going for it with much democracy flourishing at a grass roots level there (unlike Iraq has ever had). And now all of that grass roots effort (that maybe if left alone could have help flourish Iran into a new democracy) is being pushed out because of the threat of “national security” by Ahmadinejad solely on the basis of the US threatening to go to war. Now I by no means think Iran is squeaky clean, but it does have much more infrastruction going for it than Iraq did… I just found that point of view really intersting.Ultimately I just pray that Haleh is being treated better than I imagine and I pray for her release!

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posted May 20, 2007 at 6:14 pm

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posted May 21, 2007 at 7:56 pm

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29) This message thread has been visited by a God’s Politics Blog moderator for the purpose of removing inappropriate posts. Click here for a detailed explanation of the Beliefnet Rules of Conduct: which includes: Help us keep the conversation civil and respectful by reporting inappropriate posts to: 1

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