On June 18, 2014, Iranian academic Sadegh Zibakalam was sentenced to 18 months in prison on charges of disseminating anti-regime propaganda, publishing lies, and insulting senior judiciary officials.
Zibakalam, a political analyst and lecturer at Tehran University, had criticized the Iranian regime's nuclear policy and its attitude towards Israel. In a January 2014 open letter to Hossein Shariatmadari, editor of the Kayhan daily and associate of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, he stated that the nuclear program was not beneficial to the country's economy and growth, and called on the regime to divert economic resources from it to be put towards dealing with the country's serious problems – first and foremost its economy, education, and the environment.
In May 2014, Zibakalam criticized the regime's strict censorship policy regarding its nuclear issue, and said that the West's opposition to Iran's nuclear program was the result of the Iranian regime's calls to destroy Israel – and not, as the regime claims, from the West's desire to prevent Iran from advancing technologically.
Earlier in 2014, Zibakalam called on Iranian President Hassan Rohani to keep his campaign promise to free political prisoners, first among them Green Movement leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. In February 2014, Zibakalam said that he, in contrast with the regime's position, officially recognized the State of Israel. In October 2013, he even harshly criticized the regime's enmity towards the U.S., hinting that Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) opposes contacts with the U.S. because it derives economic benefit from the hostility towards it.
The following are the main points of Sadegh Zibakalam's criticism of the Iranian regime:
Sadegh Zibakalam (image: Facebook.com/SadeghZibakalam)
Zibakalam In Open Letter To Shariatmadari: "How Does [Iran's] Nuclear [Program] Help Our Advancement And Economic Development?"
In his January 28, 2014 open letter to Kayhan editor Hossein Shariatmadari, Zibakalam wrote: "As you know, last week I wrote a letter to [Majlis member] Hamid Rasai. I asked him and those who, like him, oppose the Geneva agreement: What economic benefit is the state reaping from its nuclear activity, and how does [this activity] contribute to the country's growth and development?...
"Does it make sense for the state to invest all its resources in its nuclear program, when the level of medical care and education in it is comparable to that of an undeveloped African country? When its environment is becoming a huge garbage dump, and is regularly being destroyed? When its groundwater level has fallen by dozens of meters because of neglect and lack of funds, and for this reason we are facing serious water shortage? When 5.6 million people are unemployed? And when we have 1,001 more problems?
"Mr. Shariatmadari, [even if] we assume that I am a Nasibi [derogatory term for a Shi'ite-hating Sunni], materialistic, a Babi [follower of the Babi faith, which split off from the Shi'a in the 19th century in Persia], an atheist, [or] one of the other kinds of infidels and soldiers of Satan – may God abandon them and may your path and the path of all others who agree with the nuclear [program] in both worlds succeed – the main question remains: How does the nuclear [program] help our advancement, growth, and economic development?"
Zibakalam At Academic Conference: "Iran Has Clearly Announced That It Wants To Destroy Israel; Not One Of The Other Countries With A Nuclear Program Has Ever Announced That It Wants To Destroy Another Country"
In a May 16, 2014 speech to students at an academic conference in Khorasan, in northern Iran, Zibakalam discussed the issues of Iran's nuclear program and Israel, saying: "The biggest problem is created when the nuclear [issue] becomes a tool for opposing the West and America, instead of serving our national interests, which have never considered or discussed...?
"In the past eight years, it has been impossible to express even the smallest criticism of the conservatives' nuclear policy. No newspaper was able to publish an article or editorial on the nuclear issue. But today, [Iranians] easily criticize the nuclear policy [of Hassan Rohani as too dovish], and write articles [against it]; recently, there was even a conference opposing [it]... How can you, who day and night criticize the Geneva agreement and see it as a great betrayal, [complain] about the closing of the public space [to criticism of the agreement]? It was you and your ilk who held the mouths of the people shut, and would not let them speak...
"On the nuclear issue, some extremists and irresponsible people declare that they recognize only opposition to the arrogance [i.e. the U.S.] and the call of 'Death to America.' If it has been decided that [only] those who are worried [about Rohani's nuclear policy] should speak, well, we too are worried, and we too must speak...
"Other countries use nuclear knowhow too. Why is there no [international] opposition to these countries? Why has this problem become [the source] of so much trouble for Iran? The conservatives' answer is that the West does not want Iran to enjoy an industrial and economic revolution. [However,] every country capable of enriching uranium to 3% is also capable, when it so desires, of manufacturing uranium enriched to 80%, which can be used for a nuclear bomb. Thus, the claim that the Westerners do not want Iran to advance [technologically] is [anchored in] an illusion. Iran has not made any new advances in its nuclear [program]. At Natanz and Fordo, we are [now] carrying out activity that some British scientist carried out years ago.
"If the problem has nothing to do with Iran's progress and Iran's economy, what is it connected to? Why does Iran's potential capability to enrich uranium constitute a problem? [The answer is that] Iran has announced clearly that it wants to destroy Israel. Not one of the other countries with a nuclear program has ever announced that it wants to destroy another country. I do not know who gave [the job of] destroying Israel to Iran. Did the U.N. give this mission to Iran?"