Just think about it
Iran's irrational judicial system
By Babak Yektafar
July 20, 2000
"I wouldn't want to belong to a club that would have me as a member,"
Groucho Marx once said. This type of self-mockery along with playing multiple
personalities was the hallmark of the Marx Brothers comedy team. The Marx
Brothers are long gone, but I am glad to see that their comic spirit is
alive and well in the city of Shiraz, in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
This spirit manifested itself recently in the controversial trial of
13 Jewish Iranians, accused of spying for the state of Israel, where the
prosecutor of the case was also the Judge. True, I am not an expert in
Islamic law. But I do consider myself a rational man and as such felt comfortable
with the idea that the whole point of a justice system was to allow an
impartial arbitrator with no connections to either side of a dispute to
sit in judgement of the opposing views in a given case.
Well, this recent trial blew that idea into oblivion.
Of course I am not suggesting that the trial and its outcome was unjust,
since I was not involved with the proceedings. But in light of this novel
approach to justice, I would like to make a radical suggestion. If there
are no problems (ethical or otherwise) with having the same individual
act as both prosecutor and judge, then why not consolidate and have the
individual act as the defense attorney as well?
Just think about it. Think of the amount of time and money that can
be saved by all sides when dealing with only one individual, and the amount
of grief that can be spared when that individual will have only himself
to deal with. He will be constantly ahead of himself since he will have
access to all the information obtained by the opposing side. There will
be no "surprise" witnesses and no delaying tactics. He can occasionally
object to himself and over-rule himself with no hard feelings. And he can
bring the trial to a speedy conclusion by negotiating a settlement with
himself. Now tell me if that would not have made a great Marx Brothers
The fate of the 10 convicted Iranian Jews is no laughing matter. Nor
is the fate of all other Iranians who go through the same suspect judicial
system. Great many voices have been raised in protest of this trial, and
some unfairly, I must add. Unfair because the critics assume that there
are no spies in this world and that they could not be Jewish or spy for
Israel. They act as if the government of Iran has no right to try anyone
on such charges or could not possibly have any national security concerns
to conduct the trial behind closed doors.
Ambassador Richard Halbrook, the US representative to the United Nations
called the proceedings a "kangaroo court" which does not sound
complimentary unless you happen to be an Aussie or a Kangaroo. I wonder
if Ambassador Halbrook and others critical of this trial would react the
same way if the accused were Muslim Iranians.
Sadly, the worst impact of this controversial trial may be the hastening
of immigration by Jewish and other minorities in Iran, a move that the
nation can ill afford at a time when President Khatami's government is
attempting to lure expatriates back to the country. As any historian can
attest to this fact, there existed an Iran (Pars) before there was Islam
and it was the contribution of all Persians regardless of race, color or
religion that enriched the culturally diverse landscape of Iran and made
it the unique nation that it became. Unfortunately bias against non-Muslim
Iranians was encouraged the day that powers to be incorporated the word
"Islamic" in the official title of the country.
Here is another radical suggestion for President Khatami and all others
who want to promote social justice in Iran. Think about taking the word
"Islamic" out of the official title and make non-Muslim Iranians
feel that they do belong to the country of their ancestors and the country
of their birth. The omission of the word "Islamic" is not going
to make the country un-Islamic.
When we hear of Israel, we know that we are talking about a country
where Judaism is the official religion. No one will mistake the Kingdom
of Saudi Arabia of being anything but an Islamic country. People who believe
in Islam will continue doing so, as will the followers of other religious
faiths. But what will help us move ahead as an integrated society with
the good of the nation as our main goal, is our national identity.
As the host of the popular TV game show in the 1950's, You Bet Your
Life, Groucho Marx asked a female contestant if she was married. "Yes
I am," she replied. "Any children?" Groucho followed up.
"Yes," she said, "Eleven children." Groucho's famous
thick eyebrows moved up and he stared into the camera. "My dear woman,
I like a good cigar too, but I do take it out of my mouth once in a while."
It may be time for the powers to be to step back, take the cigar out of
their mouth and think of how they can keep this nation of multi-religious,
multi-cultural and ideologically varied individuals as a flourishing union.
Babak Yektafar produces a national public affairs TV show in the
U.S. He was also the talk show host on Radio Velayat in Fairfax, Virginia
for several years.