By Taqi Rahmani
Zhinous Sobhani has been arrested. Those who believe in their own humanity don’t oppress the weak. But in the calculus of power there is no such consideration. To oppress the weak, to create diversions and to make excuses are tools of those in power, who believe that by such means they can remain in power.
Zhinous Sobhani worked in the office of the Center for Defenders of Human Rights. The present author met Sobhani when I visited the office of the Center for Defenders [of Human Rights]. She was a refined and elegant lady who carried out her duties in an excellent manner.
It has been announced that Zhinous Sobhani has been arrested and that she is a Baha’i. But what is the real political scenario? Before exploring the political games that are being played, allow me to make several points.
In accordance with all civil laws and the nation’s Constitution, anyone born in Iran is an Iranian. According to the same law, every Iranian has the right to receive education, work, own property, etc.
Zhinous Sobhani was born after the revolution. She was born into a Baha’i family. The Islamic Republic’s laws do not state that a Baha’i family is not Iranian. Many Iranians are born in a Muslim family and retain that religion. The present laws of the Islamic Republic provide Zhinous Sobhani with certain rights whose violation, in truth, constitutes a violation of the laws of the land.
From another angle, she is a lady in need of work to support herself and was hired as a secretary at the Center for Defenders [of Human Rights]. No provision has been made in the constitution of the Center and its employment guidelines to inquire about the applicant’s religious beliefs and or ask about his or her ideology. Nor did she have a role in the Center’s strategic development and positions. …
Even if we were to suppose that she had promoted her religion, she did not commit a crime, despite the fact that the autocrats and those in power view such acts as a felony.
One must ask: Has Ms. Sobhani truly committed a crime? She was just an employee at the Center for Defenders [of Human Rights] and performed clerical work there. If that is a crime, then it must clearly be announced that no Baha’i in Iran has the right to work – something which of a certainty is an impossibility. Such an act cannot be carried out by legal proceedings or governmental action, because there cannot be second- or third- or tenth-class citizens. Even those citizens must have the right to work and possess sufficient liberty to pursuit an unhindered life. In other words, both the powerful and also lowly people like me have the right to exist and prosper.
Therefore, Mrs. Sobhani’s arrest on the charge of working in the Center for Defenders of Human Rights means that the authorities do not recognize her right to earn a living as a citizen, which deprives her of her right to citizenship guaranteed by the laws.
Why was Zhinous Sobhani arrested for promoting her beliefs, or working at the Center for Defenders of Human Rights – a Center which has been shut anyway, though no authority is willing to admit it except the secretary of the spokesperson for the Judiciary, who remarked that the Center did not have a license?
It is one of the wonders of our time that a spokesperson who is always before television cameras and constantly gives interviews about all judicial cases refuses to announce this closure of one office. Perhaps he knows all too well that it is a lie, and therefore lets his secretary announce it.
At any rate, the problem with the Center appears to be Mrs. [Shirin] Ebadi. That is, in order to pressure the Center for Defenders of Human Rights, they must force Mrs. Ebadi to retreat. The conditions of this time do not allow the regime to arrest Mrs. Ebadi. Therefore, to pressure and intimidate her, they arrest Zhinous Sobhani, knowing that Ban-Ki Moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, will not intercede in Mrs. Sobhani’s case. That is, the regime arrests one of its citizens in order to indirectly pressure another citizen. Zhinous Sobhani must be used as a pawn in a scenario to pressure Mrs. Ebadi and the Center for Defenders of Human Rights into abandoning their main goal, which is the lifting of the illegal ban on the Center.
Even if – an extremely unlikely event – Zhinous Sobhani has committed a crime, it has no bearing on the Center. Being an employee of the Center is not a crime. If she has committed a crime, then it must be proven in a just court, with an attorney and a sitting jury; and not by sending her to solitary confinement and forcing her into confessing to false accusations.
On the other hand, what has the Center for Defenders of Human Rights done to invite so much pressure? Is defending citizenship rights, opposing war and sanctions, and defending the rights of individuals irrespective of their religious or ideological beliefs a crime?
The forced closing of the office of the Center for Defenders of Human Rights is illegal and Zhinous Sobhani is a victim of pressure tactics against the Center. The arrest of any member or employee of the Center is intended to exert pressure on its chief, Mrs. Ebadi. All advocates of human rights and freedom-seeking organizations must condemn such acts.
These condemnations are consequential — they strengthen the sense of fraternity among Iranians and their belief in and respect for citizenship rights. The very existence of the government-people relationship resides in respecting the right of citizenship of all Iranians.
How good it would be if we Muslims supported the rights of all people in accordance with our Qur’anic traditions, and aligned with the example and the deeds of Ayatollah Taleqani! God has created all people and invited all to believe in the oneness of God and in justice. We must show oneness and justice through our deeds, not mere words.
Return the rights of citizenship to Zhinous Sobhani!
[Posted on Wednesday, 1/28/2009 at http://www.roozonline.com/archives/2009/02/post_11281.php. Translation by Iran Press Watch.]