Friday, July 10, 2009

U.S. Citizen in Tehran Arrested

Friday, Jul. 10, 2009
By Robin Wright
Iran's political upheaval has claimed its first American, with the arrest on July 9 of Kian Tajbakhsh, an Iranian American living in Tehran, according to an Iranian human-rights group and family friends.

As part of the latest security sweep designed to end nationwide protests against the disputed June 12 presidential election, Tajbakhsh was picked up from his home late Thursday following a day of renewed demonstrations, according to Hadi Ghaemi of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. His computer equipment was confiscated and his home ransacked, Ghaemi said.
Tajbakhsh, 47, was not involved in the protests, the sources said, but the Columbia University graduate had been among four dual citizens arrested in 2007 on charges of trying to foment a "velvet revolution" against the Islamic regime. He spent four months in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison before his release. Tajbakhsh, an urban-planning expert, taught urban policy at the New School for Social Research in New York City from 1994 until 2001. Before his arrest in 2007, he had served as an adviser to the Iranian Ministry of Health and been a consultant for George Soros' Open Society Institute.

The regime has repeatedly charged that the recent unrest is a plot by foreign powers, particularly Britain, to orchestrate an uprising against the theocracy. On the eve of the pivotal vote, Supreme Leader Ayatullah Ali Khamenei expressed concern about a "soft" or "velvet" revolution, the term originally used to describe the 1989 overthrow of the communist regime in Czechoslovakia. (See the top 10 players in Iran's power struggle.)

The head of the country's Revolutionary Guards political division also charged that supporters of opposition presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi were part of the plot. "Any kind of velvet revolution will not be successful in Iran," he warned in a comment on the website of the Guards, the élite wing of Iran's military created to protect the revolution.

The detention is being widely condemned. In Washington, Haleh Esfandiari, who also was detained in Iran in 2007, said the regime's "paranoia regarding a so-called velvet revolution planned from the outside and assisted from the inside has gotten out of control."

Esfandiari, director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said Iran's Intelligence Ministry "keeps trying to prove the unprovable." Esfandiari was released after a show of public pressure by then Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as well as a letter to Khamenei from former Congressman Lee Hamilton, the president of the Wilson Center and co-chair of both the Iraq Study Group and the 9/11 Commission. (See pictures of Iran's presidential election and its turbulent aftermath.)

After his release from prison, Tajbakhsh opted to stay and work in Iran, where his family lives, and deliberately avoided politics, friends say. "Kian knew his activities were being closely monitored by the government ever since his release from prison in 2007, so he was very careful not to give them any pretext to re-arrest him," said Karim Sadjadpour, a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington and a close friend who has talked with his family.

The regime may be trying to implicate the U.S. in the unrest, analysts say. "What's significant is the fact that he was taken by the Revolutionary Guards and that he is, as far as we know, the first U.S. citizen to be detained. I think it's very plausible that Iran's hard-liners are trying to draw the United States into this," Sadjadpour said.

1 comment:

  1. well, iranians are smarter than Obama. they know how to bargain...Obama released 5 Quds operators for an exchange for Saberi.

    Mullahs already have figured out how weak Obama is.

    Brace yourself America.