Iran’s Harshest Sentence for an Innocent Scholar

Tumblr_krxiuu6CJe1qa1cnpHaleh Esfandiari in the NYRB Blog:

For me Iran’s sentencing this week of Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh to at least twelve years in prison—the harshest sentence so far passed down by the revolutionary court—is particularly fraught. In 2007, he and I were fellow prisoners in Tehran’s Evin Prison. He was held in the men’s section and I in the women’s section of Ward 209, reserved for political prisoners held by Iran’s Intelligence Ministry. We had been arrested within a day of each other, and we shared, in separate interrogation rooms, the same interrogators. He began to send me books; thanks to him I was able to escape the confines of my prison cell by reading the novels of Dostoevsky and Graham Greene.

Now, on October 20, Kian has been convicted, on the kind of fantastical charges beloved of Iran’s revolutionary courts—everything from plotting a “velvet revolution” in Iran to espionage and undermining the credibility of the Islamic Republic. He was even charged with endangering the security of the state by belonging to a public email list, Gulf2000 (which posts news and commentary on the Middle East), run by Columbia University professor Gary Sick, who is falsely identified in the indictment as a CIA operative.