Perspectives on the Arrests of Iran-Americans in Tehran

The current arrest of five Iranian-Americans in Tehran on charges of promoting “velvet revolution” has once again raised the issue of Iranians in Diaspora to the forefront of headline news. What has been considered a lingering dilemma between the two governments for nearly thirty years has now spilled over to impact the ordinary citizens of both nations at a much-heightened level. In the meantime, the Iranian-Americans, who could otherwise serve as the bridge of mutual understanding between the West and the East, find themselves in a dichotomy of feeling between a rock and place in that they are subjected to xenophobic mistreatment from both sides.

Specifically, the arrest, detentions and interrogations of Americans of Iranian heritage while visiting their motherland Iran, are as deplorable as the ill treatment by some zealot inspection officers of returning travelers at the U.S. airports. One might accept the reality of the ill-treatments in Iran, due in part to the political predicaments there; nonetheless, lengthy, albeit temporary airport detention of Iranian-Americans anywhere runs counter to the fundamentals of human rights and hospitality of expatriates, for which the Community in Diaspora has held Iran in high esteem for. Such treatments, regardless of where they take place, are affront to the rule of law and common human decency. Due process and the internationally accepted Habeas Corpus for an objective, transparent and expeditious legal proceedings if warranted under the code of law, is the minimum required of a credible government.

The Iranian-Americans have made significant progress in all aspects of life, thereby contributing immensely toward the American ideals and quality of life for ALL during the past three decades. They have embraced the many positive and core values of the American life. They have truly embraced and assimilated in the American life and culture. And most importantly, they have taken oath of allegiance to the United States Constitution. The Iranian-Americans have been peace-loving and law-abiding model citizens in the United States. Their achievements have been garnered despite the fact that there has existed antagonism between the two countries, hovering above them for decades. By the same token, they have instilled in their children the many noble aspects of the historically rich culture of the motherland, Iran.

Upon a closer assessment of the Iranian-Americans, their multifaceted contributions in the advancement of science, medicine, technology, business, academe, art, etc. to the U.S. and to humanity as a whole is well established. Such paramount achievements have occurred as the community has endured challenges; notwithstanding, they have managed to overcome these barriers and live productive lives.

The Iranian-Americans, therefore, find it meritorious to support an independent forum for free, open and informed dialogue between the people in Iran and the U.S. It is envisaged that such dialogue will proactively promote harmony and tranquility against such tumultuous backdrop for our community of nearly a million in the U.S.

One cannot necessarily argue with the right of a sovereign government to bring specific charges, based on solid evidence, against an alleged individual if that evidence has been obtained without coercion, intimidation, political pressure, and physical and psychological torture. Neither can one argue with the in-depth questioning of Iranian-Americans leaving or arriving in the United States by the Immigration, Border and Customs agents.

Iran, in lieu of its long history several millennia in the making, has struggled for modernization in the last 200 years with limited success. The covert or at times overt hegemonic intervention of western foreign governments has been by and large responsible for such setbacks. The Iranian people, in quest for sovereignty, cultural reforms and individual rights, are being stymied by an ineffective internal administration on the one hand, and by torpedoing external meddling forces, on the other. This has in turn been detrimental to the aspiration of Iranian people to achieve homegrown democratic reforms anchored on justice, security, peace and equity. As the apprehension from foreigners grows stronger, the fear mongers in positions of power exploit it to their own ulterior motives from all sides. The political schizophrenia in Iran has now spilled over to tarnish Iranian-Americans who travel to Iran. Great many summer vacation plans have been canceled due to the recent events in Iran. This does produce psychological ramifications as well as economic impact for a country whose official inflation rate runs at 17%. Yet, the majority of the Iranians hold favorable views toward Americans.

The Iranian-Americans believe the best way to reach a reciprocal trust between the two nations, is to treat the respective citizens with respect and admirations. Citizens of both countries should be allowed to travel freely and peacefully and with no harassment and intimidation inflicted upon them in either Iran or the U.S.

The Voice of Iranian-Americans advocates for a civil resolution of the existing tensions. Initial steps are being taken by the U.S. in formulating a special visa category for parents to enable them to travel frequently with fewer restrictions to the U.S. to visit their children, who have been forced to cancel their summer vacations in Iran. The Voice of Iranian-Americans has been working closely with community leaders to encourage civic participation and interaction among Iranian-Americans in the community.

The Voice of Iranian-Americans believes citizens of both Iran and the U.S. should be spared from any political and psychological intimidation and that both governments should benefit immeasurably when their citizens act as ambassadors for peace and reconciliation.

The co-authors James Irani & David Rahni are an attorney and a University Professor, respectively; they are among the founding directors of
The Voice of Iranian-Americans (VIA)
(A Not-for-Profit U.S. Organization)
1170 Broadway, Suite 510
New York, New York 10001
Tel: (212) 683-7700
Fax: (212) 725-1772

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