It is at least twelve years that I have known Ramin Jahanbegloo as a friend and a mentor. Dr. Ramin Jahanbegloo was arrested at the airport by the Iranian intelligence agents and was taken to Evin Prison about a week ago.
On May 1, Monday morning, an email alerted me to his arrest. I called another friend and mentor in Iran, who confirmed that "Ramin has been missing for quite a few days." I acted upon verifying the reason of his arrest and his whereabouts by contacting friends and colleagues through two major venues that I had access to, and indeed the outpour of support and brain-storming as to what has to be done started immediately.
During the mid-1990s Dr. Ramin Jahanbegloo conducted enormous philosophical activities in the Centre for Research of Philosophy and organized many seminars in the Farzan-rooz Publishers. He inspired most of the young university students in the era that became precursory to Khatami’s election as president to exercise public debate about fundamental philosophical issues in the realm of public: how can we engage in political debate in a rational way? Is non-violent political debate viable? Is there a public space for such a debate? Can we conduct political debate in such a manner in a society where public space for such exercises is either non-existent or is in its infancy? Where should we start? How should we start?
As he received his doctoral degree on Gandhi and non-violence in philosophy from the Sorbone University of Paris, Dr. Jahanbegloo immigrated to Canada. He became an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto’s Political Science Department. From 1997 onwards, for three years, he was moving back and forth between the Iranian student community at the University of Toronto, teaching political philosophy at the University of Toronto, and conducting lectures and talks in Iran. In Toronto, Dr. Jahanbegloo became a prominent community builder where he created Agora, a venue for public debate of issues that concerned Iranians, which inspired others to create the Iranian Association at the University of Toronto. By the spring of 2001, he was a major organizing force in holding the Centre for Iranian Research and Analysis Conference at the University of Toronto, where about 200 Iranian studies scholars from around the world gathered and participated in over thirty-five workshops. He gave the Iranians in Toronto a new sense of community whose fruits have now come to be born in one of the most vibrant Iranian Diaspora centres in North America that is pluralist, proud, and participatory.
During the last two years of Khatami’s presidency, Dr. Jahanbegloo returned to Iran and resumed his intellectual and research work. He did not lose touch with the Iranians in Toronto, however. In fact, he inspired all of us by his insistence on promoting academic and scholarly research in humanities and social sciences. Perhaps, such an aspiration to a methodology in the study of political science and history in Iran is rather problematic for those who often lose sight of the necessity for rational debate. He continued to provide young Iranian students by offering them different horizons for further deliberation. For instance, he invited the then Harvard Scholar and renowned Canadian political philosopher, Michael Ignatief to Iran in the summer of 2005 (around the time of the Presidential Election).
Dr. Ramin Jahanbegloo's arrest has been the most confusing development of the past five days for me, as a researcher and tutor of Persian studies. As Ramin himself used to say "you realize that you are learning something when you are caught off-guard by the most unexpected in your area of study." I wish his arrest would never cause me to open a new chapter in my study of post-revolutionary Iran, but indeed it has now become something more than that: a cause.
Now, through this post, I inform the readers of Free Thoughts on Iran that Dr. Jahanbegloo's arrest is a cause of concern and his release should become the goal of all who are concerned with the promotion of civil society, open public space for free political debate, and last but not least a space safe enough to conduct such debates in a non-violent manner. Dr. Jahanbegloo has taught, lived, and acted in a non-violent manner, and those who would like to rally for his release should remember one fact: He did all this without Media-Mongering and without recourse to Sensationalism.
Here, I join all those who are already active to do something to secure the immediate release of Dr. Jahanbegloo, and invite those who have not joined the rest of us yet, to join us. Also, I would like to ask all those who are willing to join the cause and care for Dr. Jahanbegloo not just as a scholar, intellectual, teacher, and a friend, but as a person who deserves due process, just representation, and freedom from arbitrary confinement, to join the cause in a non-sensationalist manner.
In this post, I tried to outline briefly the contributions of Dr. Jahanbegloo as a Canadian and as an Iranian to the respective Iranian community of Toronto, and his own compatriots back home.
We still do not know exactly why he was arrested. Hence, please do not spread false speculations and do not speculate about the charges until they have been officially announced by the respective judicial and intelligence authorities, or any other authority of the Iranian government. We certainly should wish to ensure that those who have Dr. Jahanbegloo in custody are not given any pretext more than what they have already chosen to have.
If you have any suggestions and proposals for the possible course(s) of action, that must be taken, please use this forum to debate and promote them.