Just Another Ordinary Day in Tehran
You’re at an airport, waiting with your husband for your flight home. All of a sudden, officials come over and take him from you. The next thing you know, they tell you that your husband is a spy, and that you shouldn’t hold your breath to see him again. Do you come to terms with your fate and keep waiting? Or do you decide to fight this injustice as hard as you can?
Jailed For Not Spying
It might sound like the premise of an action-packed Hollywood film, but this is the amazing, sad and unfortunate story of what happened on the 5th of August to Cobra Parsajoo, wife of Hamid Babaei. Babaei was an Iranian grad student in Liege, Belgium, studying for a doctorate in finance and law. And she had a tough decision to make.
It started a few weeks before in July 2013: Iranian authorities approached Babaei with a request for him to spy upon other Iranians living in Belgium. He refused the “offer”, ensuring the people who contacted him that his lips were sealed, but that obviously wasn’t enough.
So, a few weeks later, after a family visit and waiting for a plane back from Tehran to his life, someone decided to deny him his life, and declared him a national security threat.
8 months in hell…and counting.
For the last eight months, the lives of Babaei and Parsajoo have turned into nightmares: Babaei first spend a month in solitary confinement before being transferred to Evin prison in September. On December 21st, after being denied representation by a lawyer of his choice and after a 10 minute trial, he was sentenced to 6 years in jail for “acting against national security by communicating with hostile governments”.
In the meantime, Parasajoo is managing a campaign to release him. Because of this, she is not allowed to travel and has been threatened repeatedly by the Iranian authorities for speaking publicly about Babaei’s case.
Babaei himself was pressured to make a televised confession against himself and Parsajoo which he has resisted until now… If he does break down, Parsajoo may find herself thrown in jail as well.
Iranian Expats, Beware.
It seems that you can decide to leave Iran but Iran can decide not to leave you, both metaphorically and literally.
So while Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is trying to set up a committee for the return of Iranians from abroad and while President Hassan Rouhani promises to improve the state of human rights in Iran, the regime that preceded them is still working based on a code: either you root for Iran or you become its enemy. If you don’t spy for the regime, you must be spying against it…simple, and very very sad.
Was Babaei brave or stupid to refuse the “offer”? I would like to think that he was brave
This story could happen to anyone. Well, anyone who is an Iranian living abroad and visiting home. Was Babaei brave or stupid to refuse the “offer”? I would like to think that he was brave although I’m ashamed to say that I contemplated choosing the easier path…