5 January 1955 |
|Occupation||Journalist & Activist|
Mohsen Sazegara (Persian: محسن سازگارا) is an Iranian journalist and pro-democracy political activist. Dr. Sazegara held several high-ranking positions in the Government of Mir-Hossein Mousavi, such as deputy prime minister, minister of industry, deputy chairman of the budget and planning department, and many more before becoming disillusioned with the government in 1989 and pushing for reforms. He applied to become a candidate for President of Iran in the 2001 election but was declined.
His reformist policies clashed with the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, eventually resulting in his arrest in early 2003. Following his release in August 2003, he moved to the United Kingdom for medical attention. He currently resides in the United States.
In the late-1970s, Sazegara was an undergraduate student at both Sharif University of Technology in Iran and the Illinois Institute of Technology, during which time he was a leader of the student movement against the Shah. During the 1979 revolution, he returned to Iran and served as a founder of the Revolutionary Guard Corps and the managing director of the National Radio of Iran (1979–1981). In the 1980s, Sazegara served as political deputy in the prime minister's office, deputy minister of heavy industries, chairman of the Industrial Development and Renovation Organization of Iran, and vice minister of planning and budget.
Sazegara became disillusioned with the Islamic Republic government. Following the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988 and the death of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989, he turned down further government posts, saying that his refusal was in order to continue his study of history.
Studies and reform
Sazegara earned his master's degree in history at Shahid Beheshti University in Iran, and went on to complete his doctoral thesis on religious intellectuals and the Islamic revolution at the University of London 1996. After the 1997 election of reformist President Mohammad Khatami, Sazegara published several reformist newspapers including Jamee, Toos, and Golestan-e-Iran, all of which were closed by the hard-line regime.
Believing that reform would be impossible with the current Iranian Constitution, he launched a campaign to hold a referendum on the constitution. His drive to amend the constitution gained strong support among many students. In 2001, Dr. Sazegara became a presidential candidate; however, his candidacy was refused by the Guardian Council, reportedly because his opinions were "not congruent with the wishes of the Guardian Council and the Supreme Leader."
On Tuesday, February 18, 2003, Sazegara was arrested by the Ministry of Intelligence, and held for five days, during which he protested by hunger strike. His arrest was protested by the journalism associations the World Association of Newspapers and the World Editors Forum, which together represent over 18,000 publications in 100 countries. Amnesty International named him a prisoner of conscience and called for his immediate release.
Later that same year, he was arrested again on June 15, this time with his eldest son Vahid Sazegara, on the order of Tehran's Public Prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi. Vahid Sazegara was released July 9, but Mohsen Sazegara went on to spend 114 days in custody and 79 days on a hunger strike, during which he lost almost 50 pounds of his body weight. This was especially troubling, since Sazegara suffers from severe heart problems, having had two heart operations within the previous few years. After his release from Evin Prison, he left Iran to seek medical attention in the United Kingdom. 
In the United Kingdom he called for a referendum and launched an Internet petition, on which he gained the signatures of over 35,000 people. His continued calls for reform in Iran have led the regime to sentence him in absentia to seven years in prison, without clear charges.
In March 2005, he left the UK to attend to a job opportunity in the United States at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy as a visiting scholar. Following a six-month term, he left the Washington Institute for Near East Policy for Yale University's Center for International and Area Studies. By the end of the educational year he left Yale University to work at Harvard University as a researcher on Iran. As of February 2010, Sazegara has been "preaching" a "message of nonviolent action on a nightly basis," through videos calling on Iranian dissidents to avoid fragmentation and unite behind former presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi.
Sazegara is a devout Muslim, and advocates for a separation of religion and state in Iran.
Notes and references
- The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (2005-03-30). "Iranian Dissident And Political Activist Mohsen Sazegara Joins The Washington Institute As A Visiting Fellow." (PDF). Press Release. Retrieved 2006-11-06.
- Sazegara, Mohsen (2005-04-11). "Iran's Road to Democracy." (PDF). openDemocracy Ltd. Retrieved 2006-11-06.
- "Access Denied: Iran's Exclusionary Elections." (PDF). Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 2006-11-06.
- "Mohsen Sazegara Freed and Hospitalized." Iran Press Service. 2003-02-23. Retrieved 2006-11-06.
- "Outspoken Dissident Mohsen Sazegara Arrested." sazegara.net 2003-02-18. Retrieved 2006-11-06.
- Hong, S. H. & Anderson, G. B. (2003-02-21). "To Express Concern at the Arrest of Journalist Mohamed Mohsen Sazegara." World Association of Newspapers. Retrieved 2006-11-06.
- "Further Information on UA 173/03 (MDE 13/014/2003, 18 June 2003) and follow-up (MDE 13/020/2003, 11 July 2003) - Prisoner of conscience/ Incommunicado detention/ Fear of torture or ill-treatment/ Medical concern". Amnesty International. 2 September 2003. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
- "Mohsen Sazegara Released." Iran Press Service. 2003-10-07. Retrieved 2006-11-06.
- "Mohsen Sazegara arrested after publishing an article on his website calling for "a profound change of the constitution" at risk of torture or ill-treatment." Amnesty International. 2003-09-02. Retrieved 2006-11-06.
- "Iran: Further Information on Prisoners of conscience /Incommunicado detention/ fear of torture or ill-treatment." 2003-09-11. Amnesty International. Retrieved 2006-11-06. Archived November 5, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
- "Iranian Sentenced in Absentia Laments State of Judiciary" (2005-08-24). The Washington Post. Page A12.
- Beehner, Lionel (2006-10-20). "Sazegara: Strong Talk and Sanctions May Resolve Stalemate with Iran." Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved 2006-11-06.
- "Khomeini ally now leads Iran dissidents" by Iason Athanasiadis, The Washington Times, August 17, 2009, Retrieved 2009-8-20
- Bush Institute
- Bush Institute announcement
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