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Khatami Served with Summons, Faces Law Suit: The Crimes of the “Reformer”

Former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami, on a controversial speaking tour through some of the nation’s most prestigious universities, has been served with a summons and faces a law suit for his role in the detention and imprisonment of Iranian Jews during the 1990s. As reported by PR Newswire,

On Friday [September 6] evening copies of the complaint and summons were served on Khatami at a reception in Arlington, Virginia hosted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Khatami has twenty days to file an answer denying the allegations or default the case.

This blog previously discussed the challenge Khatami faced at Harvard when a questioner confronted him with the arrest, rape and murder of Canadian-Iranian journalist Zahra Kazemi. This new revelation of Khatami’s role in persecuting Iran’s Jews only confirms the fraudulent character of his call for dialogue. Such make-believe dialogue is only the “human face” of the tyranny of the Iranian regime, a propaganda decoy designed to distract attention from the really-existing oppression, the character of which Khatami helped forge. Celebrating him at prestigious American venues and indeed the misguided decision to invite him are an embarrassment, especially in the context of the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

The imprisoned Jews were caught trying to leave the Islamic Republic. Of course millions of Iranians have fled their homeland since the 1979 revolution. Such flight is however punishable, although Khatami endorsed a policy to single out Jews for particularly harsh punishment.

In normal circumstances when Muslim citizens are arrested attempting to leave without official permission, the established punishment is a small fine or a short jail term. However, in the instances where Jewish citizens have been similarly arrested, the Islamic government has instituted much harsher penalties. The Plaintiffs allege that Khatami has singled out the Jewish community and authorized the policy of secretly imprisoning the Jews indefinitely.

If there is a logic between oppression in Iran and the “dialogue of civilizations,” it might be that the dialogue, limited as it is, is conceived of solely as a foreign policy agenda, between civilizations. It is the masquerade of civility that Khatami can sport overseas: but there is no room for dialogue domestically, where it is assumed that a single monolithic civilization prevails, and individuals therefore need no rights.

This is why the visit defended by Harvard and the State Department elicited considerable hostility—not only from Americans, such as the erstwhile victims of the 1979 hostage taking (discussed earlier in this space), but also from Iranian victims of regime torture. (It makes little sense for those Americans who criticize Guantanamo to welcome Khatami, given his track record).

Testimony was presented in Washington from former political prisoners in Iran and their relatives. As reported by

Nasrine Mohammadi, sister of political prisoners Akbar and Manoucher Mohammadi, described how her father received a phone call from the prison where her brothers had been jailed for helping to lead a massive student protest in July 1999.

“The man from the prison said, ‘the more we torture them, the less they respond. They are like stones,'” she recalled.

This was some two years into the Khatami presidency. While the western public may focus on the threat of Iranian nuclear armament, it is a terrible mistake to ignore the extent of domestic oppression, the religious tyranny, and the absence of human rights.

Minou Khomeili, who heads a nonprofit organization in Canada that provides aid to Iranian refugees, said she personally witnessed the rape and murder of a 14-year old girl by Iranian regime prison officials. “I will never forget the way [prison officials] washed the blood off their hands after they killed that girl,” she said.

“If Iran were a democratic country, Khatami would have been arrested for these crimes,” she added.

Which is why we look forward to a genuinely democratic Iran.

Perhaps the law suit will lead to his arrest in the US, although that outcome is as unlikely as it would be appropriate. The more we learn, however, the uglier his track record turns out to be. He is quite a poster boy for free speech and international understanding. Perhaps he can move on to a position at the United Nations.

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