Ramin Jahanbegloo: Scholar's Arrest Might Signal New Wave of Repression in Iran, Friend and Colleague Says

Historians in the News

At a Tehran airport on April 27, Iranian police arrested Ramin Jahanbegloo, a French-educated scholar who directs the department of contemporary thought at the Cultural Research Bureau, a think tank in Tehran. Mr. Jahanbegloo is the author of books on Hegel, Mohandas K. Gandhi, and Isaiah Berlin; he has been a fellow at Harvard University and has taught at the University of Toronto.

No formal charges have been issued, but newspapers aligned with the Iranian regime have denounced Mr. Jahanbegloo as an American agent engaged in "cultural activities against Iran." He is reported to be in custody at Evin Prison, which has been notorious as a torture center.

On Wednesday, Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, a professor of history and Near- and Middle-Eastern civilizations at the University of Toronto, spoke with The Chronicle about Mr. Jahanbegloo's detention. Mr. Tavakoli-Targhi has been a friend of Mr. Jahanbegloo's since 1997, and he contributed a chapter to Mr. Jahanbegloo's edited volume Iran: Between Tradition and Modernity (Lexington Books, 2004).

Q. In his essays, Mr. Jahanbegloo often refers to a "fourth generation" of Iranian intellectuals. What does he mean by that term?

A. What he argues is that the postrevolutionary generation has been inaugurating a shift in Iran's intellectual orientation. There is a new focus on rights and on nonviolence. Whereas the "third generation," people who came of age in the 1960s and early 1970s -- they were all revolutionaries, enthused by revolution, by Lenin, Mao, Che Guevara. They had a collectivist imagination. ... Ramin was one of the earliest people who identified the shift away from a collectivist imagination. His interest is in dialogue, and a dialogue of civilizations. He has been a major theorist of this, and also a practitioner. He has invited some of the world's leading intellectuals to lecture in Tehran. He has wanted to create a vibrant and cosmopolitan community there.

Q. How did Mr. Jahanbegloo develop his interest in Gandhi?

A. He started to write about Gandhi when he was a graduate student at the Sorbonne. And his writing has been so significant here that the family of Gandhi knows about his contributions. Yesterday I had an e-mail from one of the daughters of Gandhi asking what she could do to help him. ... Gandhism and its relevance to contemporary Iran is a very important part of Ramin's work. And not only Gandhi, but I must say, also, Martin Luther King. He has used both of those figures as a way of rethinking politics, and moving away from a politics of violence and confrontation toward a politics of dialogue and tolerance. ...

Read entire article at Chronicle of Higher Education

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