Det pågår en indre kamp i Iran, som er kanskje vel så viktig som den ytre mellom regimet og Vesten. Det er landets fremste dissidenter som skal bringes til taushet.

Selv en Nobels fredspris betyr ikke stort hvis myndighetene vil ha deg vekk. Shirin Ebadi har fått beskjed om å stenge sitt menneskerettssenter, eller havne i fengsel.

Shirin Ebadi, the lawyer who won the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize, has been threatened with arrest unless she closes the Center for Defense of Human Rights in Tehran. The center provides free legal representation to journalists, students, and dissidents who face prosecution for peaceful assembly and criticizing the government. Ebadi and the center’s lawyers have represented Iran’s leading dissident, Akbar Ganji. Most recently, Ebadi has been defending women who say they were beaten and detained by the police for demonstrating for women’s rights in June. (nytimes/iht 15/89

På denne bakgrunn blir også den uforståelige fengslingen av den fremragende humanisten og akademikeren Ramin Jahanbegloo klarere: Regimet vil kvitte seg med alle som kan tale på vegne av det annet Iran, og som potensielt kan true regimet.

Det er illevarslende at regimet har uttalt at det sitter på en video der Jahanbegloo «tilstår». Helt siden revolusjonen har man brukt slike tilståelser, som er frembrakt under trusler og/eller tortur. Av typen: Hvis du tilstår skal vi skåne din familie.

Ifølge regimet skal Jahanbegloo ha innrømmet at han står i ledtog med utenlandske krefter for å få til en «fløyelsrevolusjon» i Iran av samme type som veltet kommunismen både i 1989 og i senere år i Ukraina. Det sier noe om hva myndighetene frykter.

According to the newspaper Resalat, Jahanbegloo allegedly said he was working with an ambassador in Europe and had been in touch with individuals in Canada regarding an Iranian «velvet revolution» (the term comes from the non-violent overthrow of the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia in 1989). That echoes statements made early this month by Iran’s minister of intelligence, Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei, who said Jahanbegloo is part of a U.S. plan to back a «soft revolution» in Iran. But the news of a possible confession comes amidst mounting international criticism of Jahanbegloo’s treatment (last week, the Council of the European Union issued a statement that said it was «alarmed» at Jahanbegloo’s ongoing detention, and called for him to be allowed «immediate access to legal counsel»).

Det er noe med det moralske motet og dannelsen til iranske dissidenter som minner om de sovjetiske. Det var også en voldsom åndskamp. At folk som Sakharov og Solzjenitsyn eksisterte hadde mye å si, som påminnelse om at det fantes et Russland med samvittighet.

Jahanbegloo fylte en slik rolle i sitt kultursenter, det eneste ikke-statlige i sitt slag. Tilfellet ville at jeg kom til å lese en artikkel Michael Ignatieff skrev etter et besøk i Iran mellom de to presidentomgangene i fjor. Hvem hadde inviterte ham?

I was invited not by the mullah-dominated universities but by the Cultural Research Bureau, an independent center in Tehran that publishes books and runs its own gift shop, gallery and lecture hall. My Iranian host, Ramin Jahanbegloo, works in a tiny shared office at the bureau, inviting foreign guests and building up a small circle of free-minded students whom he lectures on European thought. He and I had never met, but he has published a book of conversations he had as a student with Isaiah Berlin, the Oxford philosopher of liberalism, and I have written a biography of Berlin. We are Berliners.

Jahanbegloo sitter i det beryktede Evin-fengslet. Han nyter stor anseelse, og mange slåss for hans sak. Også iranske dissidenter i eksil. Akbar Ganji, som er den mest kjente iranske dissidenten, og som nesten sultet seg ihjel i fengsel, var nylig i London, der han deltok i en sympati-sultestreik for Jahabegloo. Han kritiserer at Vesten kun er opptatt av de kjente navnene, men glemmer at det finnes tusenvis slike skjebner i Iran.

I parentes bemerket kan man spørre om norske medier en gang bryr seg om de kjente navnene…

Last weekend, in London, the United States and in Iran itself, those who best understand his plight — his fellow Iranians — staged hunger strikes in support of Jahanbegloo and Iran’s many other political prisoners. The Iranians in exile were joined by Iran’s most prominent dissident and champion of democracy, Akbar Ganji, who was released from Tehran’s infamous Evin prison this March — after six years of detention and lengthy hunger strikes that left him emaciated and near death.

Ganji is a journalist who was jailed for criticizing the Islamic dictatorship that rules Iran. He continued to write in prison, smuggling out long letters that were full of political philosophy, poetry, humour and occasionally bitter sarcasm. «Zahra Kazemi is the only murder victim in the world without a murderer,» he wrote, a reference to the Iranian government’s claim that the Canadian photojournalist, who was raped, tortured and beaten to death, had died in an accident.

In an exclusive interview with Maclean’s, Ganji explained that he refused to let his own bitterness corrode his spirit during his long imprisonment. «I tried to take advantage of the situation in the way that my thoughts developed,» he said. «I learned not to do what the regime would do to me. We should forgive our enemies.»

This does not mean that Ganji is closer to accepting the Iranian dictatorship. He argues for a boycott of presidential elections, which do nothing to change the fact that ultimate power is held by the supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Ganji also opposes political violence. He believes Iran’s theocracy will be brought down by civil disobedience. «When a regime closes the door to all reforms, a revolution is inevitable,» he said.

Ganji conducted the interview sitting cross-legged on a busy London sidewalk, surrounded by fellow hunger strikers. Even four months after his release, he is frail and gaunt. But he smiles often and laughs easily. The Iranian government permitted him to leave the country, but he intends to return. He expects to be jailed again when he does.

Ganji said he has met Ramin Jahanbegloo and has spoken out many times in his defence. But when «the entire Iranian nation is in a prison,» he cautioned against focusing too much on one man. «There are so many other people who are still in prison,» Ganji said. «Why is the issue only Jahanbegloo? There have been 27 years and thousands and thousands of Iranian political prisoners jailed and executed. Why is that not important to you? Is it because he has dual nationality?»

– Hele Iran er i fengsel. Det er sterke ord. Ganji har nesten helgen-trekk.

Det er et drama i den iranske opposisjonen som sjelden kommer frem. Utenlandske korrespondenter snur hodet vekk, og later som om systemet er legitimt.

Hamidreza Zarifinia, who was first jailed following a non-violent student uprising in 1999 and again in 2004, said he often attended Jahanbegloo’s university lectures in Tehran. He said young Iranians would crowd into the lecture theatres to hear him speak. «What he was trying to do, by teaching modernism and post-modernism, was to give people ideas about the separation of religious and secular society,» Zarifinia said. Perhaps this is what the ayatollahs felt was so threatening. But according to Arash Sahami, 27, who left Iran as a child and has returned undercover as a journalist, Jahanbegloo’s offence was much more straightforward: «Any freethinker in a fascist Islamic society is a direct threat to its very existence.»

In Tehran, some 100 people protested in support of Jahanbegloo and other prisoners — a remarkably brave stand. Similar protests apparently took place in Shiraz and Esfahan. But none of the Iranians in London expected these events to be reported. The only newspapers permitted in Iran are those that parrot the government line. And too many foreign journalists have learned not to antagonize the regime if they don’t want to be kicked out of the country. Ewen MacAskill and Simon Tisdall, writers for the British newspaper the Guardian, recently reported from Tehran on Ahmadinejad’s alleged popularity. A headline in the online edition trumpeted the president’s «70 per cent approval rating» — based on one Iranian professor’s guess. «Who did they talk to?» asked Maryam Bahmani, another student who fled Iran. «Ahmadinejad’s wife?»

Ramin Jahanbegloo: An ominous ‘confession’