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May 22, 2012 2:52 pm

Nadarkhani and the Iranian Masters of Deception

avatar by Ben Cohen / JNS.org

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EU Foreign Affairs Head Catherine Ashton. Photo: wiki commons.

It’s been quite the month for the Iranian regime. Following a mid-April round of talks over its nuclear program with the European Union’s Foreign Policy chief, Catherine Ashton, the mullahs were basking in newly found credibility. The talks were “constructive and useful,” Ashton said, adding that any agreement would respect “Iran’s right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.”

Nobody doubts that the Iranians are shrewd negotiators. The diplomatic twists of the last few years prove that the regime has genuine expertise when it comes to using procedural wrangling as a delaying tactic. Leading up to the latest nuclear talks on May 23 in Baghdad, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it best: “It looks as though [the Iranians] see the talks as another opportunity to delay and deceive. Iran is very good in playing this kind of chess game.”

Away from the glare of the Baghdad parley, there is a different story percolating, one that hasn’t received anywhere near the kind of attention given to the nuclear talks, but which offers another telling illustration of how Iran’s leaders have become masters of deception.

The case concerns Youcef Nadarkhani, a 35 year-old pastor who abandoned Islam in order to embrace Christianity and who continues to face the prospect of execution. While Christians in general face growing persecution in Iran and other Muslim countries, special opprobrium is reserved for those who convert to the faith.

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Nadarkhani, who is a member of the evangelical Church of Iran, was first arrested in 2006 on apostasy charges related to his promotion of Christianity among Muslims—a practice that is guaranteed in free societies, on the grounds that prospective converts can make up their own minds about whether to accept or reject the tenets of a different religion. Then, in 2009, he protested that his children were being forced to study the Quran at school. Both he and his wife were charged with apostasy and imprisoned. His wife was subsequently released, but Nadarkhani still languishes in a prison cell.

During his trial, the judge told Nadarkhani that a death sentence could be avoided if he repented by giving up his Christian beliefs. “Repent means to return,” the pastor answered. “What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?” When the judge stated that Nadarkhani should return to Islam, “the religion of your ancestors,” Nadarkhani gave the simple, devastating reply of a prisoner of conscience: “I cannot.”

In late 2011, there was a burst of energy around Nadarkhani’s case. Shocked by the execution announcement, western leaders urged the Iranians to respect his rights to freedom of worship. “Pastor Nadarkhani has done nothing more than maintain his devout faith, which is a universal right for all people,” declared a White House statement.

Nadarkhani’s brief sojourn in the spotlight probably secured a delay in his execution. However, that should not lead us to conclude that the Iranians panicked. They are far more methodical than that. There are mixed signals emerging over Nadarkhani’s fate, and as with the nuclear showdown, those are exactly the signals they want to send.

On the positive side, Nadarkhani remains alive and in occasional contact with the outside world. Last week, a letter widely thought to have been written by Nadarkhani was released by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a rights organization that has campaigned tirelessly on the pastor’s behalf. “From time to time I am informed about the news, which is spreading in the media, about my current situation…or campaigns and human rights activities which are going on against the charges which are applied to me,” Nadarkhani stated. These words suggest that Nadarkhani’s state of mind is positive, something that will come as a relief to his supporters and bolster the campaign for his release.

But on the negative side, at the beginning of May, the Iranians announced that Nadarkhani’s lawyer, Mohammed Ali Dadkhah, a man who was a critical source of news about the pastor’s condition, had himself been sentenced to nine years in prison. The regime banned Dadkhah from teaching law or representing clients for a further 10 years.

Dadkhah was one of the founders of Iran’s Defenders of Human Rights Center (DHRC)—a legal project presided over by the Nobel Prize-winning lawyer, Shirin Ebadi. In that capacity, Dadkhah has defended some of Iran’s leading dissidents, including Ebrahim Yazdi, Iran’s oldest political prisoner.

Prior to imprisoning Dadkhah, the Iranians demanded that he confess on television to a pile of fabricated charges, among them that foreign governments fund the DHRC. This kind of behavior is standard practice among totalitarian regimes; dictators from Stalin to Saddam Hussein favored public confessions as a means of defeating existing opponents and intimidating potential adversaries into silence.

With Dadkhah in jail, there is, sadly, another reason to doubt whether Nadarkhani and other prisoners of conscience will win their freedom. As with the nuclear program, the Iranian strategy for dealing with dissidents involves the display of tantalizing glimmers of light, only for darkness to come crashing down moments later. In the case of the nukes, the goal is to keep a nervous outside world from making the dramatic decision to allow a pre-emptive strike.

In the case of the prisoners, the goal is to sap their spirit. “All that we know who lie in goal/Is that the wall is strong/And that each day is like a year/A year whose days are long,” wrote Oscar Wilde in The Ballad of Reading Gaol, sentiments no doubt experienced by Pastor Nadarkhani.

Precisely because of that, Nadarkhani is under few illusions about the true nature of his captors. One wonders what it will take to break the spell on the part of Catherine Ashton.

Ben Cohen is the Shillman Analyst for JointMedia News Service. His writings on Jewish affairs and Middle Eastern politics have been published in Commentary, the New York Post, Ha’aretz, Jewish Ideas Daily and many other publications.

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  • Everytime I read about the Iranian nuclear programme I get so angry and disappointed with the Obama administration for constantly reprimanding Israel for wanting to prevent another holocast.I can’t believe that I supported such a spineless, anti-israeli political party (Democratic Party)at the political elections in 2008. They clearly do not give a rat’s behind about Israel and the dangers they face from Iran who continues to proclaim that it will destroy israel…. And for what? Because Israel is more progressive,more tolerant of other religions,technologically superior and more blessed than they are. The Iranians are no fools. They are going to take the mickey out of these so called intelectuals (i.e. the negotiators) until they have developed a nuclear weapon. God help us all when they do.

  • dr.music

    When China wants to bomb any part of Pakistan… India will allow it’s air-space to be used…. it’s common sense and why not ? It’s either nuclear weapons or islam. We have to choose. Without nuclear weapons islam will never be wiped out …and by wiped out i mean WIPED OUT !!! Only AFTER islam is WIPED OUT can we even think of a nuclear weapon free world. Look around you at these monkeys … can’t you see where they are taking us as a species ? islam is leading the planet to a non- stop blood bath …slowly and surely …and without nuclear weapons islam’s march will never be stopped.
    Someone has to start bombing the monkeys sometime …. i have a feeling that China will be the first to bite back on islam’s arse. …. then free for all….. we live in interesting times…. our generation will see the death of islam….but how it will happen will be worth watching. Intelligence has a way of waking up and crushing the moronic , however vicious and barbaric. The thing to actually wonder is how Mecca and Medina will be pulverised. How will we do it ? And which year? That will be the exact beginning of a new era of peace.
    i have a feeling somewhere around some table some people in high and right places are looking at this solution. And i have a feeling they compromise a lot of different people from all over the globe. Intelligence is Good. Intelligence is Cool. islam is neither. Hence islam will literally dissolve. Without mecca and medina there is no islam. Period.
    After islam is Irradicated we can think about nuclear disarmamment and all things peacefull and noble. Till then we have to wait . We have to. There is no option. Muslims want us all dead and we want to live…. got any brighter ideas?
    Cheers !!

  • dr.music

    Everytime and everyday when a muslim bangs his head on the floor he medically retards himself.
    Islam is bad for mental health. This is a medical fact.
    All the muslims with scars on their foreheads are self-retarded or islamly-retarded.
    islam is Haram.
    repeat 5 times a day.
    don’t bang your head on the hard ground and retard yourself like all those idiotic muslims …just think …islam is haram ….5 times a day .

    islam corrupts the human mind against women and children and force feeds hate to cult members. Islam the cult was started by a deranged fanatic to mass produce more and more deranged fanatics by banging their craniums on solid ground and damaging their brains 5 times a day.
    All muslims are fanatics and if you think they aren’t fanatical right now they will be worse soon because in islam logic is blasphemy.
    mecca is the turd on which muslims are breeding like dirty flies. It’s time we took off the turd and vaporised it . Good hygiene for our planet . Let’s Turd-free our planet for the sake of our children. There’ll be a stink but someone’s got to do it .

    Islam is a big drain on our planet.
    Because of islam we are spending trillions of dollars just to keep muslims in check.
    islam was started by a mad man to generate more and more mad men.
    islam is a cult on steroids that is now totally berserk because of politically correct idiotic policies.
    iran should be made to level mecca and medina. Then party time.
    It is time to get rid of islam by simply bombing mecca and medina.
    Muslims believe that some kind of allah shield is over mecca and medina….so once a few ICBMs go thru they’ll all wake up en masse and realise they were all taken for a ride for 1400 years.
    Muslims have to start burning the stupid dirty koran themselves. but for that to happen mecca and medina have to be levelled.
    A cult can’t last without it’s headquarters.

  • dr.music

    Islam is the cancer, Meccaobliteration is the cure.

    As it is today the term “muslim” in the free world is a spittoon and an insult. When will the murderous koran be openly discussed and rubbished on the world stage? We are waiting for the day . China and France will start the discussion. Watch.
    Islam is HARAM. Somebody please make a bumper sticker in dirty Arabic , lovely English , romantic French and ancient hindi.
    SOMEBODY PLEASE MAKE A BUMPER STICKER SAYING… islam IS HARAM.
    IN DIRTY ARABIC, LOVELY ENGLISH , ROMANTIC FRENCH, ANCIENT HINDI AND WHICHEVER LANGUAGE MUSLIMS HAVE FESTERED INTO.
    IT’S A GOOD START. EVEN i= H WILL BE A BEGINNING.

    i repeat….SOMEBODY PLEASE MAKE A BUMPER STICKER SAYING… islam IS HARAM.
    IN DIRTY ARABIC, LOVELY ENGLISH , ROMANTIC FRENCH, ANCIENT HINDI AND WHICHEVER LANGUAGE MUSLIMS HAVE FESTERED INTO.
    IT’S A GOOD START. EVEN i= H WILL BE A BEGINNING.
    Extinguish Islam.
    One of these days the Muslim masses will learn that their clerics, mullahs, and imams have fed them lies and then they will shake off the Islamic fantasies which they have been force fed all their lives.
    Islam is the enemy of reason. We can talk as much as we want here and there but in the end Islam must be defeated by force. There is no other way. As for Islam being a ‘civilizing power’, I fear you are mistaken. Islam held power through violence and intimidation and continues to use the same tactics today,. Islam is a discredited ideology that appeals to the simple minded, the uneducated, and the violent supremacists, who take comfort in its dogma of superiority.
    No matter how they try, muslims can’t change the fact that islam is an invention of Mohammad. He was a thief and his entire ideology is based on thievery and lies. There is no logic in islam, there is no intelligence in islam and there certainly is no peace in islam. Massive amounts of unearned money are being given to the basest of human beings who use it for the worst and most vile of purposes.
    Islam has contributed less than nothing to society, it has always been and will continue to be a curse on this planet.

    This is their “logic”, this is their “culture”.
    That opinion is not racism it is not intolerance, it is quite simply the truth.
    Mohammad and his successors have been leading their people through a Red Sea of blood for ages.
    One has to wonder if Muslims realize how funny they are!
    Like everything else from islam, their moon god faith is a lie – a total lie and fabrication. Like everything that muslims claim to have invented – like the number system with zero (by the way, invented by Hindus in India) – is a lie…. those muslims love Tqqaiyah in every form as it confuses the issue. islam is an evil paganistic religion based on a moon god and invented by a barbaric sand-dwelling pedophile, their so-called prophet, Mo. Yes, he loved little girls and loved “playing” with them so much that he f**ked little Aisha when she was just NINE years old….
    muslims have been lied to and hoodwinked by the mullahs, clerics and mosque leaders for over 1400 years now…. when will they wake up?
    ALL muslims are sociopaths, since only someone without a conscience would call themselves a muslim and identify with such an evil monster like muhammad: probably the vilest criminal known to man.
    Islam has nothing, absolutely nothing! Islam has stolen its theology, justifies rape, murder and treating women as commodities, tramples on human rights, and its man-made, plagiarized text, Al Qur’an, impertinently states that Muslims must fight until ‘..all religion is for Allah’; that means, to fight until all the world is subjugated to dirty dirty Islam and filthy filthy Shari’a law.

  • dr.music

    islam destroys any non-islamic culture it touches. muslims have no interest in further human progress or individual rights. They are perfectly comfortable being parasites on the achievements of western civilization. Their only industry is terrorism and genocide. Their only accomplishment is oppression. At least when Greeks and Romans conquered they brought with them a modicum of law, science, philosophy, and technology. islamic conquest brings only death and slavery.
    The west smashed the South American cultures because they believed in blood sacrifice. Just as the muslim-allah demands blood of the non-muslim. In the end islam is a cult a blood cult ..nothing less… a pure blood cult…. where killing and dying and human slavery and women in bondage is the order of the day since cult leader moha-mad was hallucinating verbal evil.
    2012 is the date of the beginning of the end of our world’s most evil invention begins to be smashed around the globe. islam is about to start dying officially for the record books. Sit back and watch. islam is a crime against humanity and the world is just beginning to see this fact and now the punishment is going to be severe and final. Till there are even 2 muslims left on our planet there will be blood. It’s a fact….blood always flows where the muslim goes. Time to take out the muslim from the equation. There is an inherent deficit of clear and objective understanding in free democratic societies like USA and India about the actual objectives of Islam and what it stands for. Even in a country like India where natives have faced the barbarism of Islamic persecution for centuries very few in the present generation understand the actual ‘objectives of Islam’. Denying and ignoring the facts will only lead to more bloodshed in the future as the course conductor rightly puts it that “They hate everything you stand for and will never coexist with you, unless you submit to dirty islam.” If we don’t do something now …our grand-children will not be grand….they’ll be finished.

  • markorman

    The goal is obvious; to stall and delay long enough for the Iranians to develop their nuclear capability beyond the point of no return. In the meantime, the “diplomats” can congratulate themselves on their success, and when the truth comes out, they can sigh and say we did the best we could. And of course Israel will be left holding the bag. And pardon me for being cynical, but why do I have this sick feeling that the Obama administration will stall till after the election, at which point they will decide it is too risky and dangerous to take decisive action at each decision point, leaving the Iranians with nuclear weapons, the U.S. with deterrence (everyone will just have to accept it, as they have done with Pakistan), and of course Israel again holding the bag. Make no mistake about it; the Holocaust can happen again, and the Israeli’s can depend on no one but themselves to prevent it.

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