Opinion Piece Questions Motives Behind Imprisonment of Physicians Who ‘Pioneered’ Treatment of HIV-Positive Iranians
If Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad holds a news conference during his visit to the United Nations General Assembly next week, he should be asked why two physicians who started a broad HIV/AIDS awareness campaign in Iran and "pioneered the treatment of Iranian victims of HIV/AIDS" have been imprisoned, Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Trudy Rubin writes in an opinion piece.
According to Rubin, Arash Alaei and his brother, Kamiar -- whom Rubin interviewed in spring 2007 -- started a grass-roots campaign in Iran to treat people living with HIV/AIDS and raise awareness about the epidemic. The brothers were jailed in Iran in late June and, according to Iranian news reports, have been charged with fomenting "a velvet revolution," Rubin writes, adding that the phrase is "shorthand for trying to organize civil society against the regime."
The "irony" of the charges, Rubin writes, is that the brothers were "hoping to increase scientific collaboration with U.S. medical experts in a way that avoids politics." Is "this what scares Iranian officials?" Rubin asks, adding that officials also might fear medical cooperation with the U.S. would threaten the population's fear of a U.S. attack. Ahmadinejad also might be concerned of public unrest before the country's 2009 presidential election, Rubin writes. "[N]one of this explains arresting the doctors Alaei," Rubin writes, concluding it "indicates a government that fears the best and the brightest of its own people" (Rubin, Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/17).