Mere speech against some injustice, against some regime of intolerance or hypocrisy, for some right, for some freedom is considered dangerous, radioactive and inimical by totaliarianian agendas. Such speech normally resulted in the state condemning and imprisoning the speaker and swiftly creating an apporpriate counter-narrative for the publics [Faiz is in prison because he is a hedonistic commie who hates Allah!]. Speech silenced, injustice obscured, the machinery hummed along barely noticing the press releases or annual reports issued by the good people at Amnesty or Human Rights Watch – the world rather inattentive.
And while such speech still results in imprisonment, those times of inattention are now largely over. The crackdown on bloggers and websites in Iran, Pakistan or China is motivated by the state’s panic at the rapid rate of dissemination of facts and stories the state would rather keep locked up in high-security prisons. The web coverage catapults not only international attention by goverments and organizations – all those letters received and laborious visits to consulates – but more significantly, national attention. That quickly created counter-narrative can’t bear any scrutiny and even state-owned press would rather report on the latest dam-building effort on the River than spin the news that is now on BBC.
Hence the importance of seemingly interminable efforts to spread the word about such injustices against those who dare to speak or act – or merely exist.
I noted earlier the case of Haleh Esfandiari. We can now add to that list Kian Tajbaksh and Ali Shakeri. These recent targetting of Iranian-Americans visiting Iran should be seen in the context of the well-documented and shameful history of the Iranian State demonstrating its might by imprisoning Iranian bloggers, journalists, and scholars – some of whom even get death sentences.
A brief word on what may be behind this recent spate of sabre-rattling by the Iranian state. You may have seen reports that the White House has signed off on plans to destabilize Iran. Even if you read that news – as I did – as deliberate disinformation designed to ratchet up pressure on the Iranians [remember Hersh said the same a while back and others recently], you still have to wonder what the WH hopes to accomplish here. I just hope, merely for the sake of innocents trapped in the middle, that resolutions come quickly.