by Julie Jigsawnovich
New York–Last night, on Iran University Student Day, the New York Chapter of Where Is My Vote presented a conversation with Columbia Professor Hamid Dabashi, Former Iranian Student Activist Ahmed Batebi and American Student Activist Elizabeth Joynes on the campus of New York University.
Batebi was placed in solitary confinement for over a year and condemned to death by the Islamic Republic government for taking part in demonstrations during the Summer 1999 Student Uprising. A photograph of Batebi holding up the bloody shirt of a fellow protester who was assaulted by security forces was published on the cover of The Economist magazine. This photo became an icon of the new Iran. Batebi suffered a brain hemorrhage while in custody, and was temporarily allowed to leave prison. He then managed to escape and flee from the Islamic Republic.
During last night’s panel discussion, Batebi said that at an earlier time, Iranian Intelligence, Revolutionary Guards, and Judiciary were arresting people and trying people independently–they had no contact with each other. But now each has clearly defined their work regarding domestic security and outside threats. Batebi continued, saying that part of the Intelligence service refused to work with Ahmadinejad. The Revolutionary Guards fired (not sure whether he said 1,200 or 12,000) employees in the Intelligence service, and the Revolutionary Guards created an intelligence service within the Revolutionary Guards. Batebi said that under Khatami, some Intelligence people were fired due to murders–but these people were then hired by the Revolutionary Guards. He said the RG learned in Russia how to put down demonstrations. And he said the way the security apparatus is operating now is unpredictable, and is very dangerous.
Batebi discussed some Islamic Republic laws that he believes should be changed–such as the law that a woman’s testimony in court is only worth half that of a man’s, and a law that results in hands being cut off. He said that we need to put pressure on the Iranian government to change laws.
Baebi said that the Revolutionary Guards control the Iranian economy, control the infrastructure, and own hundreds of companies inside and outside Iran. He said we should try to suffocate the economic aspect of their power, and that we have to use sanctions against the coup government. Batebi continued, stating that we need to identify the economic branches of the coup government around the world, and suffocate them. That intelligent sanctions could be put in place which target the Revolutionary Guards specifically, not the Iranian population in general.
Professor Dabashi strongly disagreed, stating that he categorically opposes sanctions. He said that sanctions would be a precusor for military strikes on Iran, as they had been in Iraq. And he pointed out that the Revolutionary Guards would benefit from increased sanctions politically and also economically, since, Dabashi said, the Revolutionary Guards profit from black market trade.
Batebi countered that Iran and Iraq are not comparable, and that Iran already blames the West.
During Q and A, Sadra Shahab, an administrator of the New York Chapter of Where Is My Vote, stated that WIMV NY opposes sanctions–and another WIMV NY member confirmed this.
Dabashi seemed somewhat surprised and very disappointed by Batebi’s support of any kind of sanctions, but after trying a bit more to persuade Batebi, Dabashi graciously said that they agree to disagree, and perhaps they are there for each other regarding blind spots.
Julie Jigsawnovich is a writer, artist and musician living in New York City. She is currently studying Persian and hopes to one day be able to read poetry in Persian script. Contact Julie at: jigsawnovich1 (at) gmail (dot) com