As I stepped out of my apartment in Tehran on the morning of February 23, plainclothes agents of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps surrounded me and rammed me into a truck. This is a group that many in the US foreign policy elite say should be removed from the US terrorism sanctions list.
A few months ago, I admitted on these pages that the article I was writing “could land me in jail,” but said that “if that is the price” of telling the truth about Iran, “it will be worth it.” I have been arrested by the Islamic dictatorship in Iran four times before and have been detained by most of the “national security” agencies, but this time they took me to a prison I have never been to, where there is much higher security. There, the IRGC intelligence agency detained me for more than a week.
I still believe what I suffered was worth it to bring the real Iran to light, but am appalled that so many in the US are arguing for leniency to my captors.
Some proponents of this view argue that sanctions against the IRGC are merely represent and do little to hold the IRGC accountable. As someone who has recently been in its prisons, I can assure you that these sanctions are worth it. Other apologists said they were just political. They do not. Designating these criminals as terrorists not only limits their access to resources, but also sends a message that the world is watching, raising the risk of crime by the regime. The potential removal of the designation encouraged the IRGC to act with more brutality against the Iranians, knowing that international condemnation could soon have little impact.
Some also argue that there are differences between the Quds Force, the IRGC’s external branch, and its intelligence agencies, which conduct domestic operations. But the difference between the part that the IRGC oppresses foreigners and the part that oppresses us at home is semantics.
I have seen it with my own eyes. My fee? “Action against national security,” “propaganda against the ‘holy system’ of the Islamic Republic,” and contained four bottles of alcohol. This last accusation is true and the punishment for it is not light. If certified, I could be lashed out (perhaps publicly) 70 to 80 times. Last year, a man was executed for drinking. In total, I faced more than five years in prison. I’m out on bail right now, but I won’t be coming back for the hearing. I will not lend this system of “justice” or the legitimacy of it to which they do not deserve.
During my interrogations, my captors asked repeatedly about my articles in the Journal. How did I publish it? Who did I work with? They couldn’t believe the Iranians were speaking out. I am extremely grateful to the journalists of this newspaper who spoke out to help me while I was in prison.
This is the kind of journalistic ethics that I have written about in my work that is rarely covered by the West’s Iran. I did not see the New York Times say anything about my case or the plight of other Iranian prisoners of conscience. When the Iranians speak out against journalists trying to stop our movement by ignoring us, this is what we mean.
I was inspired by the Iranian response. For decades before, when the dictatorship jailed, disappeared, or murdered writers, activists, and other voices, the Iranian people were silent in fear. No more.
As I write this, Iranians across the country are taking to the streets in nationwide anti-drug protests. Many peaceful protesters were killed. As IRGC agents open fire on peaceful protesters, the Iranians are pushing back and resisting security forces. Protesters chanted “Fear not, we are all together!” and told the mode, “Fear, we’re all together!”
Iranians don’t just tell the truth about our house. We are also talking about what we ask of the free world. As the President of the United States considers removing my captors and murderers of peaceful protesters from the US sanctions list, let me be clear: This is not what the Iranians want. Democrats might say this is best for us, but we’re sick of being patronized. Sending our dictator and his regime billions of dollars is not in our best interest.
We are willing to live under the economic pressure of sanctions if it weakens the regime that holds us hostage and cuts off some of the resources used to imprison us, torture us and shoot us. us on the street. If these sanctions help us win the freedom we fight for and the secular democracy we deserve, the financial costs will be well worth it.
The regime says my work “acts against Iran’s national interests.” The only people who do that are the regime’s supporters – which sadly includes the US administration. For us freedom fighters, who have long looked to America for inspiration, we see little to see in the current leadership, but we believe that the American people good and interested in supporting others in the world who want freedom.
This is our message from within Iran: Do not enrich our torturers, do not surrender to our captors. You will sacrifice your own national security and sell out the Iranians at the same time. And when the mode turns off the internet during our protests and tries to kill us under cover of darkness, don’t be silent.
Mr. Ronaghi is an Iranian blogger and free speech activist.
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https://www.wsj.com/articles/iran-jailed-me-for-my-last-op-ed-arrested-dictatorship-tehran-irgc-crime-terror-security-prison-11652818067 Iran Jailed Me for My Last Op-Ed