Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Way of Life

Every Monday, for 15 minutes, a young man speaks to his mother through prison glass. She is Sakine Mohammedie Ashtiani, and since 2006 she has been tormented by the government of Iran for “adultery.”

Ashtiani was originally condemned to 99 lashes, a sentence which was carried out in front of her 17-year-old son. Now, after re-examining her case, Iranian authorities have decided she should also be stoned to death.

To be clear, these maniacs want to throw rocks at this woman’s head until her brains are dashed out.

Treating people like this is evil. Regimes that do such things must be exposed, rattled and, at times, replaced. And in countries fortunate enough not to be subject to such brutality, we ought to recalibrate our priorities from cozy concerns like reality shows and “climate change” to the plight of our fellow human beings.

This struggle is cultural, psychological, military, and economic. Most of all, it is a test of wills. Do we have the strength to call evil by its name and resist, or will we fumble about and find reasons not to until it’s too late? Iran is only the most prominent and dangerous among the entities that oppose us, and Ashtiani’s story is one of heartbreaking thousands, chronicled by Amnesty International and others.

An opportunity existed, after the uprising that followed Iran’s stolen elections last year, for good people of the world to show their support. There was one guy in particular who could have made a difference with a single speech. Unfortunately, Barack Obama demurred.

To understand the value that a few words from the American president can have to folks who are under repression, consider former Soviet political prisoner Natan Sharansky’s reaction to Ronald Reagan’s 1987 “Tear down this wall” address in Berlin: “That was the moment that really marked the end for them, and the beginning for us.”

On an individual basis, Western nations, including the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, have been hopeless at protecting their citizens when they are imprisoned or unjustly treated in basket-case countries. The closest thing to a victory on this front came when Bill Clinton flew to North Korea last August to rescue two American women from the clutches of Kim Jong-il. The former president even posed for a forced photo-op in a room so hideously decorated that sanctions should be suspended until the regime has time to buy something tasteful.

So if free nations cannot protect their own people abroad, what can they possibly do for Ashtiani? And what could anyone reading this column do to help her? Perhaps, provide profile for her cause.

I’d like to see her on more t-shirts than Che Guevara. If a fraction of the energy evinced by those who showed up at the G20 in Toronto to protest the evils of “globalization” (or whatever) were instead directed toward, say, not hitting women with rocks until they die, we’d be getting somewhere. Or, if the zeal of feminists who demand the freedom to abort a child right up until he goes to his first hockey practice were pointed toward sparing their sisters from state-sanctioned death by blunt-force trauma, their help would be invaluable.

We enjoy a way of life in this part of the world. We owe our support to those who do not.

Theo Caldwell is the author of Finn the half-Great.