Abdolreza Tajik an Iranian journalist was stopped on February 17, 2009, while on his way to Spain, to participate as a presenter in a conference. At the airport he was stopped, banned from travel and his passport was confiscated. Due to this travel ban, he was unable to participate as a speaker in another seminar scheduled for 5-6 March, 2009, in Bologna, Italy, titled: “Iranian Development.” Mr. Tajik delivered his speech to participants at this seminar via video. The following is text of Mr. Tajik’s speech:
Dear conveners of the international Seminar in Bologna,
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
First I would like to thank the organizers of this event “The Strength” for inviting me to participate in this seminar.
Unfortunately I am not able to be present and among you for this occasion. My passport was confiscated on February 27, 2009 while I was traveling to Spain to attend another conference. As a result I was not able to travel to Spain and the travel ban imposed on me, is still in place today. The security officer, who stopped me at the International Imam Khomeini Airport, introduced himself as affiliated with the office of the President. He did not present me with any reason for the travel ban. My passport was confiscated and I was prevented from travel, despite the fact that I had made it through passport control check point, and had received an exit stamp on my passport, and I was about to board the plane. Of course this is not the first time that social, political, cultural and human rights activists exiting the country face such problems. Being banned from travel is not the only problem that we face in Iran.
The cost of living and inflation rates are examples of some of the major problems of the people of Iran, especially the youth. There other concerns besides the concerns of daily living. The people of Iran witness difficulties in their daily lives, their careers, studies and their thoughts are under threat. At Universities, professors are dismissed from their positions under various pretexts. University professors are forced to limit the scope of their research because they are fearful of reprisals by university officials. The increasing insecurity among University faculty has diminished the quality of higher education in Iran. In the educational system in Iran, the student is forced to submit to power. Objections raised by university students have been followed by their dismissal from the university. Today tens of university students are in prison for the mere act of criticizing the government or for simply expressing their opinions. Students who voice criticisms and dissent are denied the opportunity to continue with their studies at higher levels.
In the field of law, the pressures imposed on lawyers have resulted in a feeling of professional insecurity, reduced quality in the legal service provided, and reduced quality of the court system.
Likewise after the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad we have witnessed increasing censorship in the cultural fields, including in publications, in the press, in films, etc. The courts have shut down many publications because they have expressed criticism of the status quo or expressed opinions. For this reason, the independent press has not enjoyed a long life under this administration. The press has to receive permits from the government in order to publish. Those with a critical voice and perspective do not have the luxury of receiving permits from the governments for publishing papers. Journalists too have either lost their jobs or ended up in prison, because they have expressed critical view points. The paper that I worked for, had its operating permit revoked, because it printed a statement by a student group about the events in Gaza.
At the social level, we are witness to the weakening of the civil rights of citizens, mostly young Iranians. Police arrest women for “bad hejab” or Islamic dress and for mere exposure of their hair.
The economic policies of the government have created a crisis in society. Monetary control or lack thereof, monetary corruption, has promoted the development of an uncontrolled financial network. In such an environment, the government has opposed the creation and strengthening of civil society institutions. The offices of the Defenders of Human Rights Center, which is an Iranian human rights NGO, was shut down on December 21, 2008, while it was holding a celebration on the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Discrimination between citizens and refusal to accept equality in society, including ethnic and gender equality, through the adoption of legislation and the approach of lawmakers and officials is easily observable. Political parties which are critical of the current situation are not allowed to operate. The ruling religious clerics, feel they are entitled to rule. The concept of equality between citizens within the framework of the law is not acceptable by these ruling clerics and they demand that the people obey only one group and adhere to one single definition and interpretation of Islam. These ruling clerics are not able to understand the needs of today’s Iranian society, especially as they relate to political, cultural, and economic needs.
The growth of defense technology and increased militarization, given the inappropriate policies of other countries with respect to Iran, has intensified.
The threat of war against Iran has threatened the human security of Iranians. Under such circumstances, living conditions for the middle class have become unbearable. Those with technical expertise and skills are seeking to leave the country. The solidarity of society, given the increase in violence, has declined.
Still, I am hopeful about the future of my country. The recent political, economic, cultural and social developments in Iran point to a healthy movement that promises to build the future of our country. Iran has entered a new period of transformation, reconstruction and democracy. We are on the forefront of experiencing a quiet demand for “minimal nationalist democracy”.
Thank you for your patience. I am very happy to have been able to speak with you via video