Since the University has signed numerous contracts with the repressive government of Iran in the past few years, recent revelations concerning that government's treatment of political dissidents should be of particular interest to the Harvard community. Political repression increases daily in Iran. More than 100,000 people currently are imprisoned in the country for political crimes, and, in the first four months of 1976 alone, the government executed more than 80 political prisoners. It is no wonder then that the Medical School cancelled its contract with the Iranian government partly as a result of its findings on repression and torture in Iran.
Among the political prisoners in Iran, one case in particular should serve to illustrate the current climate in a country with which Harvard holds more than $1.5 million in contracts.
Narmin Baraheni, a 21-year-old medical student at the University of Azarabadegan in Tabriz, Iran, was kidnapped last January by agents of the Iranian secret police (SAVAK) and carried off to the horrendous Comite prison. While awaiting "trial", she was subjected to several weeks of physical and psychological torture. Without ever holding a trial or making any specific charge against her, the SAVAK has sentenced her to seven years imprisonment.
Baraheni's activism as a member of the oppressed Azerbaijan nationality may have prompted her arrest. She is a dedicated folklorist among a minority group that has been deprived of the use of its language in written form by the government. But, she is also the niece of Reza Baraheni, Iranian poet and former political prisoner, who is now the most outspoken voice of opposition abroad. Since his release from prison in 1974, he has spoken and written about the Shah's repression while residing in the United States. This victimization of innocent members of his family can only be interpreted as an attempt by the Shah to silence any opposition abroad.
In pursuance of this goal, the Shah has dispatched his secret police to the United States and Europe. The Washington Post reported on October 26, 1976, that the Shah formed SAVAK and now conducts its activities with the complicity of the U.S. government:
The Iranian secret police force, SAVAK, was actually organized by the CIA in 1956. The ties between the two agencies have always been close. One intelligence source, whose reliability has been tested, (said) that SAVAK agents hound and harass Iranians in the United States, with the full knowledge and sometimes the assistance of the CIA.................Answerable only to the Shah of Iran, SAVAK has become one of the most feared secret police agencies in the world. It uses terror and torture to achieve its ends....(There is) documentary evidence that SAVAK agents...commit burglaries, forgeries and other crimes in behalf of the Shah. Dr. Richard Cottam, a political science professor at the University of Pittsburgh, (said) that a trusted State Department source had warned him that Iranian hit squads were on their way to the United States..........................."I was told by someone I completely trust," alleged the professor, "that SAVAK had made the decision to send assassination squads into Europe and the United States. The guess within the government is that any execution will be disguised as muggings. The obvious targets would be Iranian dissidents."
A mobilization of world opinion is needed to put an end to the atrocities of the Iranian government, win the release of innocent prisoners like Ms. Baraheni, and end the extension of Iranian terror to the U.S. and other parts of the world.
[Nasrin Pakizegi is a member of the Committee for Artistic and Intellectual Freedom in Iran.]