Mohsen Sazegara

Mohsen Sazegara

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Mohsen Sazegara is an Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

ian journalist
Journalist
A journalist collects and distributes news and other information. A journalist's work is referred to as journalism.A reporter is a type of journalist who researchs, writes, and reports on information to be presented in mass media, including print media , electronic media , and digital media A...

 and pro-democracy political activist. Dr. Sazegara held several high ranking positions in the Government of Mir-Hossein Mousavi
Mir-Hossein Mousavi
Mir-Hossein Mousavi Khameneh is an Iranian reformist politician, artist and architect who served as the seventy-ninth and last Prime Minister of Iran from 1981 to 1989. He was a Reformist candidate for the 2009 presidential election and eventually the leader of the opposition in the post-election...

, such as deputy prime minister, minister of industry, deputy chairman of the budget and planning department, and many more before becoming disillusioned with the government in 1989 and pushing for reforms. He applied to become a candidate for President of Iran
President of Iran
The President of Iran is the highest popularly elected official in, and the head of government of the Islamic Republic of Iran; although subordinate to the Supreme Leader of Iran, who functions as the country's head of state...

 in the 2001 election but was declined.

His reformist policies clashed with the Supreme Leader
Supreme leader
A supreme leader typically refers to a figure in the highest leadership position of an entity, group, organization, or state, who exercises strong or all-powerful authority over it. In religion, the supreme leader or supreme leaders is God or Gods...

, Ayatollah Khamenei, eventually resulting in his arrest in early-2003. Following his release in August 2003, he moved to the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 for medical attention. He currently resides in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

.

Early career


In the late-1970s, Sazegara was an undergraduate student at both Sharif University of Technology
Sharif University of Technology
Sharif University of Technology is a university of higher education in technology, engineering and physical sciences in Tehran. Sharif University of Technology is one of the most prestigious universities in the country, and is considered Iran's MIT...

 in Iran and the Illinois Institute of Technology
Illinois Institute of Technology
Illinois Institute of Technology, commonly called Illinois Tech or IIT, is a private Ph.D.-granting university located in Chicago, Illinois, with programs in engineering, science, psychology, architecture, business, communications, industrial technology, information technology, design, and law...

, when he was a leader of the student movement against the Shah
Shah
Shāh is the title of the ruler of certain Southwest Asian and Central Asian countries, especially Persia , and derives from the Persian word shah, meaning "king".-History:...

. During the 1979 revolution, he returned to Iran and served as a founder of the Revolutionary Guard Corps and the managing director of the National Radio of Iran (1979–1981). During the 1980s, Sazegara served as political deputy in the prime minister's office, deputy minister of heavy industries, chairman of the Industrial Development and Renovation Organization of Iran, and vice minister of planning and budget.

As the decade progressed, Sazegara began to become disillusioned with the Islamic Republic government. Following the end of the Iran-Iraq war
Iran-Iraq War
The Iran–Iraq War was an armed conflict between the armed forces of Iraq and Iran, lasting from September 1980 to August 1988, making it the longest conventional war of the twentieth century...

 in 1988 and the death of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989, he turned down further government posts, saying that his refusal was in order to continue his study of history
History
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

.

Studies and reform


Sazegara earned his master's degree in history at Shahid Beheshti University
Shahid Beheshti University
Shahid Beheshti University was formerly The National University of Iran . The university's name was changed during the cultural revolution in Iranian universities, 1980-82. It is located in Evin District and extends into Velenjak District in northwestern Tehran, Iran, on a main campus of...

 in Iran, and went on to complete his doctoral thesis on religious intellectuals and the Islamic revolution at the University of London
University of London
-20th century:Shortly after 6 Burlington Gardens was vacated, the University went through a period of rapid expansion. Bedford College, Royal Holloway and the London School of Economics all joined in 1900, Regent's Park College, which had affiliated in 1841 became an official divinity school of the...

 1996. After the 1997 election of reformist President Mohammad Khatami
Mohammad Khatami
Sayyid Mohammad Khātamī is an Iranian scholar, philosopher, Shiite theologian and Reformist politician. He served as the fifth President of Iran from August 2, 1997 to August 3, 2005. He also served as Iran's Minister of Culture in both the 1980s and 1990s...

, Sazegara published several reformist newspapers including Jamee, Toos, and Golestan-e-Iran, all of which were closed by the hard-line regime.

Realizing that reform would be impossible within the current Iranian Constitution, he launched a campaign to hold a referendum on the constitution. His slogan for amendment of the constitution gained strong support among many students. In 2001, Dr. Sazegara became a presidential candidate; however, his candidacy was refused by the Guardian Council
Guardian Council
The Guardian Council of the Constitution , also known as the Guardian Council or Council of Guardians, is an appointed and constitutionally-mandated 12-member council that wields considerable power and influence in the Islamic Republic of Iran....

, reportedly because his opinions were "not congruent with the wishes of the Guardian Council and the Supreme Leader."

Arrest


On Tuesday, February 18, 2003, Sazegara was arrested by the Ministry of Intelligence
Ministry of Intelligence (Iran)
The Ministry of Intelligence and National Security of the Islamic Republic of Iran is the secret police and primary intelligence agency of the Islamic Republic of Iran...

, and held for five days, during which he protested by hunger strike
Hunger strike
A hunger strike is a method of non-violent resistance or pressure in which participants fast as an act of political protest, or to provoke feelings of guilt in others, usually with the objective to achieve a specific goal, such as a policy change. Most hunger strikers will take liquids but not...

. His arrest was protested by the journalism associations the World Association of Newspapers
World Association of Newspapers
The World Association of Newspapers is a non-profit, non-governmental organization made up of 76 national newspaper associations, 12 news agencies, 10 regional press organisations and individual newspaper executives in 100 countries...

 and the World Editors Forum, which together represent over 18,000 publications in 100 countries.

Later that same year, he was arrested again on June 15, this time with his eldest son Vahid Sazegara, on the order of Tehran
Tehran
Tehran , sometimes spelled Teheran, is the capital of Iran and Tehran Province. With an estimated population of 8,429,807; it is also Iran's largest urban area and city, one of the largest cities in Western Asia, and is the world's 19th largest city.In the 20th century, Tehran was subject to...

's Public Prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi
Saeed Mortazavi
Saeed Murtazavi is a controversial Iranian jurist and former prosecutor of the Islamic Revolutionary Court, and Prosecutor General of Tehran, a position he has held from 2003 to 2009. He has been called as "butcher of the press" and "torturer of Tehran" by some observers...

. Vahid Sazegara was released July 9, but Mohsen Sazegara went on to spend 114 days in custody and 79 days on a hunger strike, during which he lost almost 50 pounds of his body weight. This was especially troubling, since Sazegara suffers from severe heart problems, having had two heart operations within the previous few years. After his release from Evin Prison
Evin Prison
Evin House of Detention is a prison in Iran, located in Evin, northwestern Tehran. It is noted for its political prisoners' wing, where prisoners have been held both before and after the 1979 Iranian Revolution...

, he left Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

 to seek medical attention in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

.

Continued activism


In the United Kingdom he called for a referendum
Referendum
A referendum is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. This may result in the adoption of a new constitution, a constitutional amendment, a law, the recall of an elected official or simply a specific government policy. It is a form of...

 and launched an Internet petition, on which he gained the signatures of over 35,000 people. His continued calls for reform in Iran have led the regime to sentence him in absentia
In absentia
In absentia is Latin for "in the absence". In legal use, it usually means a trial at which the defendant is not physically present. The phrase is not ordinarily a mere observation, but suggests recognition of violation to a defendant's right to be present in court proceedings in a criminal trial.In...

 to seven years in prison, without clear charges.

In March 2005, he left the UK to attend to a job opportunity in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Washington Institute for Near East Policy
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy is a think tank based in Washington, D.C. focused on United States foreign policy in the Middle East. It was established by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in 1985...

 as a visiting scholar. Following a six-month term, he left the Washington Institute for Near East Policy for Yale University
Yale University
Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...

's Center for International and Area Studies. By the end of the educational year he left Yale University to work at Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 as a researcher on Iran. As of February 2010, Sazegara has been "preaching" a "message of nonviolent action on a nightly basis," through videos calling on Iranian dissidents to avoid fragmentation and unite behind former presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi.

He is, currently, a visiting fellow at the George W. Bush Institute at Southern Methodist University
Southern Methodist University
Southern Methodist University is a private university in Dallas, Texas, United States. Founded in 1911 by the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, SMU operates campuses in Dallas, Plano, and Taos, New Mexico. SMU is owned by the South Central Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church...

 in Dallas, Texas
Dallas, Texas
Dallas is the third-largest city in Texas and the ninth-largest in the United States. The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is the largest metropolitan area in the South and fourth-largest metropolitan area in the United States...

.

See also

  • Mehdi Khalaji
    Mehdi Khalaji
    Mehdi Khalaji is an Iranian-American writer, scholar of Islamic studies and political analyst. He has been researching at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy since 2005, and is now a senior research fellow focusing on the politics of Iran and Shiite groups in the Middle East...

  • BBC Radio 4: Taking a Stand BBC journalist Fergal Keane interviews Mohsen Sazegara about his life in a radio programme first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on December 14, 2010.

External links