I was doing my university studies ages ago in Strasbourg, France, when the Islamic Revolution succeeded in Iran. Most of my Iranian friends who were studying in France have been, to various degrees, influenced by this very important social and political change. Political divisions among them were very visible, especially after Imam Khomeini's accession to power.
Among all the Iranian friends I had, a tiny young girl was the most intelligent and studious, but she also had a very pronounced political attitude. She was against any kind of new dictatorship, and she spoke plainly to denounce anti-democratic issues in Iran. Her name was Fariba. I left Strasbourg University after my master's degree to go to Paris, and I lost all contacts with some of my friends back in Alsace: Fariba was one of them.
Decades later, I came across an interesting article about Iran, that was written in French, and the author was Fariba Adelkhah. When I searched for the name, it appeared that the proficient academician was in fact the long lost friend of my youth – Fariba herself, who had turned into a very reputable academic.
Fariba Adelkhah is a social anthropologist in the famous Ecole des Hautes Etudes Sociales in Paris. She is a research director at the Centre des Recherches Internationales (CERI), having written authoritative books on Iran and Afghanistan. She holds dual nationality – French and Iranian – and travels frequently back to her hometown, Tehran, where she owns an apartment.
It became evident a few weeks ago that something was wrong with her since she went to Iran. No news had been received, and while she was expected to come back to Paris on June 25, she did not show up. Upon further investigation, it became apparent that the Intelligence Service representatives of the Pasdaran, the Revolutionary Guards, arrested her at her house. Her arrest was made official (if this can be called official), after almost three weeks. French diplomats had tried to get in contact with her in vain because the Islamic Republic of Iran does not accept dual citizenship; thus, Fariba is considered a full-fledged Iranian citizen.
Her family lives in Iran, and she has consistently refused to become a declared opponent of the regime, while denouncing through her analyses the gradual inability of the regime to offer perspectives to Iranian people.
According to well-informed sources, she is imprisoned in the infamous Evin prison in Tehran in isolation.
President Macron has intervened personally to allow French diplomats to contact Fariba, which up to now has been denied. The Pasdaran, a parallel army and state administration within the state, do not answer to the government or to the presidency, but only to Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Guide. They are organized in the purest style of the SS in the Third Reich; most state-owned economic institutions are run by the Pasdaran.
It is more than probable that Iranian authorities did not take the initiative to arrest Fariba, but the Pasdaran, wanting to "punish" France for not having stood up strongly enough against President Donald Trump's administration, wanted to show their discontent.
Imprisoning a reputable academician on the grounds of "spying" is disgraceful, at best. This kind of arbitrary arrest will not do any good to the very frail reputation of the Islamic Republic abroad. On the other hand, the Fariba I have known had enough force of character for at least three people and will not be intimidated by such repression. Still, she is now 60 and needs medical care, which was the reason for her (missed) return to France. We know that since the arrest of another French researcher in Iran, Clothilde Reiss, who was detained for almost a year back in 2010, incarceration conditions are extremely harsh and inhumane.
This type of Mafia-like international politics that consists of kidnapping one's citizens to pressure a relevant country is becoming unfortunately common. No democratic country is really equipped to deal with such horrendous situations. Arresting an academic on political grounds, for "espionage" is an infamy, anywhere in the world. Any democratic country should, in that sense, take Iran as an example of "what not to do" and draw a red line there.
Remembering Montesquieu and his "Persian Letters" will not help the French to ask for Fariba's liberation. Perhaps a better and stronger stance is needed urgently to get tangible results.