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    15 February 2005

    On political philosophy . . .

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    This is an essay with respect this op-ed piece from the February 8th, 2005 NYT.

    Shirin Ebadi and Hadi Ghaemi’s argument in the February 8th, 2005 New York Times op-ed piece is that in order to promote human rights abroad, and particularly in Iran, one should promote the grassroots organizations that already exist within the state, and if this state is attacked for the cause of human rights then the attacker would actually be snuffing-out support for reform, while devastating the state. Ebadi and Ghaemi start out by noting that human rights are not Iran’s strong point. There is plenty of discouraging news that comes out of Iran and more generally the entire Middle East region, such as censorship, harassment, torture and terrorism. But there are also voices from within Iran and even from within Iran’s government that realize the disrespect for human rights and other infringements, as well as the need to subdue these abuses.

    They then correctly claim that the current American policy in the Middle East tends to take the theme of improving respect for human rights, while forgetting the grassroots organizations that share that theme from within Iran. Ebadi and Ghaemi note that there is discourse within Iran regarding human rights and reform. At this point in their case they cite the Iraqi invasion of Iran in 1980 and the subsequent reaction by the Iranian government on dissident citizens, and note that aggression from abroad would do nothing but damage the human rights situation within Iran. They also imply that the American Government may have some ulterior motive for an invasion of Iran.

    Their argument is then wrapped-up by assuring that respect for human rights can only bloom from within, and concluding that if the United States government means what it says, then it should promote and support current organizations at the grassroots level already within Iran. As well as demanding that Iran adheres to the international laws that Iran has endorsed and sworn to follow.

    I believe that if Martin Luther King, Jr. were able to join into this discussion, he would accept the argument put forth by Ebadi and Ghaemi. He would see the lack of respect for human rights in Iran as an equal to the segregation of 19th and 20th century America. King, Ebadi and Ghaemi would agree that “[a]ny law that degrades human personality is unjust.” (King 1963 p.23 CP). The three would also agree that if in the presence of a law that is unjust, a certain action must be taken, in King’s case a nonviolent campaign. At this point it seems to me that the Iranians are in the second stage of their campaign, negotiation. It is clear that Ebadi and Ghaemi have collected there facts are well prepared for this stage of their mission.

    I would suppose at this point King may ask several questions of Ebadi and Ghaemi. First he would ask when the rate of progress is deemed ineffective, that is, when should they (Ebadi and Ghaemi) leave their negotiations, lobbying and in other words politics to pursue change via direct action. King may then follow-up by asking if they believed their nonviolent campaign could be successful in a totalitarian state, that is, a state with no private voice and few rights. From here the discussion would likely deviate to questions involving whether they could increase capacity to do more from within and if in a state of desperation or a frustrating stall in progress, would a move to violent direct action be appropriate. In this case I think King would consider taking the negotiations to another level or stepping up the campaign towards direct action, because the winds seem to be blowing toward a military intervention on behalf of Iran whether it’s over nuclear weapons or human rights.

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