Heshmat Tabarzadi, a prominent Iranian prisoner of conscience jailed for leading protests against the regime, has smuggled a letter for President Obama to human rights activist Manda Ervin of the Alliance of Iranian Women, who published it with the Foundation for Democracy in Iran (www.iran.org).
In the letter, Tabarzadi revealed that he is being held in a cell with American pastor Saeed Abedini in Rajai-Shahr prison outside Karaj, in the Tehran suburbs. Abedini was jailed three years ago for sharing his Christian faith.
Chastising the American president about his failure to intercede on Abedini’s behalf, Tabarzadi writes: “I heard that you met with his wife and children, and that his son, little Jacob, asked you to help release his father for his birthday. But we have not heard you demand the release of the hostage Abedini from the tyrant Khamenei.”
Jacob turned six on St. Patrick’s day without a word from the White House on his father’s behalf, despite Obama having told Jacob’s mother recently that he would do everything in his power to secure her husband’s release.
The Iranian regime accused the dissident Tabarzadi of being one of the ring-leaders behind the student uprising of July 1999, and initially sentenced him to nine years in prison. Tabarzadi was released before the end of his sentence, after spending two years in solitary confinement in Evin Prison in Tehran, on condition he refrain from public statements.
He broke his silence after the mass demonstrations against the regime in 2009, and was arrested again on December 27, 2009 after writing a column for the Wall Street Journal urging Western leaders to make the names of Iranian dissidents household words.
For his audacity, the regime sentenced him to another eight years in jail.
The dissident’s letter, which Mrs. Ervin translated and sent by registered mail to the White House, called on President Obama to maintain sanctions on Iran and to help the pro-freedom movement. “A large majority of the Iranian people are opposed to the Islamic regime,” said Ervin, who has testified before Congressional committees on human rights issues and the oppression of women in Iran.
So far, the White House has not responded to the letter.
“You claim that the only choice that you have is either to make a deal with Khamenei — which I believe means surrender — or war,” Tabarzadi wrote. “Mr. President; we Iranian people submit to you and the people of the world that there is another way. Please sanction and weaken the illegal regime of Khamenei, and empower the people to overthrow this tyranny.”
The courage of jailed Iranians such as Tabarzadi shows that the pro-freedom movement in Iran is alive and well, and is not fooled by the sham nuclear negotiations underway with the West.
Ken Timmerman is author of Dark Forces: the Truth about What Happened in Benghazi and the President of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran, which published Tabarzadi’s letter.