Businessman’s imprisonment strengthens ideals

By Freedom New Mexico

If anybody has a right to have developed a bitter attitude toward the Iranian regime and perhaps even to have decided there’s just no talking to those people, it would be Ali Shakeri.

Shakeri is the Iranian-American businessman who was snatched out of the Tehran airport more than four months ago and imprisoned by the Iranian regime.

He was in prison 140 days, 114 of that in solitary confinement, with “no newspapers, no TV, no human contact, nothing,” he said.

This imprisonment was baffling to many because Shakeri has few interests resembling a political affiliation — the closest being his involvement with the Center for Citizen Peace Building. That small University of California-Irvine organization simply advocates dialogue and discussion rather than confrontation and sanctions in areas where conflict threatens.

He was not in Iran to advocate, organize or argue, but to visit his ailing mother, who subsequently died while he was in prison.

But solitary confinement did not harden his heart.

“Loneliness was the most difficult aspect of solitary confinement for me,” he said. “So I used the time to take a journey through myself. As a result, I became even more convinced of the need for peace and dialogue. Nobody gains from revenge.”

Shakeri believes he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, a time when potential hostility between the United States and Iran was at a high point over the issue of Iranian nuclear development. He thinks it was difficult for the Iranian government to believe a person like him was really just devoted to peace through dialogue, that there must have been a hidden agenda.

“But I believe I persuaded them that I was not and am not a threat to their national security.”

The detaining of Shakeri and several other Americans may also have been intended as a signal to Iranians that any hope for the kind of moderating reform that seemed possible under previous administrations was now out of the question. But Shakeri doesn’t believe the hardliners will be in control forever.

Ali Shakeri endured injustice no human being should have to endure, but came through it with his convictions intact — perhaps even reinforced. It is possible to look out on the world and decide that dialogue and peace are beyond the reach of human possibility. If nobody stands up for them, they probably will be, but Shakeri has decided not to give in to cynicism.