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Bernard-Henri Lévy Headshot

After Sakineh, Her Son

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Let's recapitulate.

The affair is enormous and really compels one to come back to it.

Sajjad, Sakineh's son, has been fighting for months to have his mother's innocence recognized and to spare her the death by stoning to which she has been condemned by the Iranian government.

On October 11th, he gave his nth interview, to German journalists, attempting once more to call public opinion the world over to witness the injustice to which his mother is being subjected.

Wary, and aware though not daring to believe it that his repeated pacific contacts with foreign journalists and his filial love may endanger him in turn, he took the precaution to conduct the meeting at the offices of the attorney Houtan Khian, a venu that is, even in Iran, in principle inviolable.

Halfway through the interview, Mina Ahadi, President of the International Committee Against Stoning, who was translating, long distance, by telephone, heard a scuffle shortly before the communication was cut off and understood that someone, either one individual or more, had broken into the room and was taking away the interviewers, the interviewee, and the attorney.

And how did we react to the announcement of this shakedown? Was anyone concerned about knowing where Sajjad and Houtan, from whom we have had no news since that day, had gone? No. No reaction, or scarcely any. In Europe and in the United States, everyone seemed to find such a thing, and the situation, perfectly normal. While the German government looked into where its two nationals were being held, no one worried about knowing where the two Iranians were, or even if they were still alive. And for the first time since the beginning of this affair, one can say that Sakineh and her loved ones are, strictly speaking, alone in the world.

Well of course, I do not pretend to have the magic formula of a response to this incredible brutality.

And no one knows how to reply to a State thus capable of defying, without bothering with the least beginning of an explanation, the most elementary laws of humanity and of governance.

But at least we can hope that the hundreds of thousands of men and women who signed petitions for Sakineh, on the La Règle du Jeu site or elsewhere, will remobilize, protest, shout their indignation, write to the authorities of their countries or even to the Iranian authorities. The channels exist, the messages will be delivered.

At least we can ask all those among us who, in these times of the All-Powerful Visible, have a bit of visibility and thus of power, to step up to the power-mike in the service of this martyred family? This is what Marco Ferri, known as The Falcon, did last Wednesday in Madrid when, at the beginning of the League of Champions football match between Réal Madrid and Milan AC, he charged into the stadium in front of the cameras, wearing a blue, Superman-style T-shirt with "Sakineh Free" printed on it. Is it too much to demand, for example, of the thousands of French students who are going to march again this week behind banderoles that read "My grandpa has taken my job" to plan as well on banderoles with the figure of a little bus ticket-taker who is their age, who could be their brother, and whose sole crime is that of having defended his mama?

And as for the government leaders (starting with Nicolas Sarkozy) who declared that the young woman was the "responsibility" of their respective countries, they cannot let it go at that either. It is unimaginable that they can be content with what, given the escalation of events by the Iranians, can from now on only amount to pitiful wishful thinking; it would be indecent for them not to make at least their words, if not their acts, correspond to the new situation created by this -- I repeat -- stupefying provocation.

Sajjad's arrest is worth at least a declaration from Bernard Kouchner or Hillary Clinton -- we're still waiting for it.

This gesture of taking the son hostage, the better to placidly kill the mother, this calm affirmation, in the face of the world, of a crime of filiation that extends an imaginary guilt to an entire family is well worth recalling a few ambassadors (to France, Spain, Italy, even to the United States). What are we waiting for?

This cynicism, this defiance, this manner (for it is equally a question of that) of testing our resistance calls for strong gestures indicating that the international community is not resigned to the fact that a State of this importance is behaving like a gangster State. Iran imports its gas? We know that the Bazaar, thus the regime, would explode if it came to lack the precious fuel, even for a week or two. Why not invite European exporters, even ours, to adopt a common position of firmness?

One thing is sure: we cannot do nothing, and, given that the Iranian government has launched this insane challenge, not to act on it would be a fault and a defeat of scarcely less insane proportions.

Sakineh is a woman among others, victim of the ordinary arbitrariness of a regime that is on its last legs.

Sajjad is one of those individuals "of no common importance" (in Sartre's words, citing Céline) whose destiny, we know, is often, lamentably, to be crushed by the great wheel of History.

Except that they have become, the one and the other, symbols, and these symbols themselves have become the stakes of a battle we cannot lose without taking the risk of arriving humiliated, and thus weakened, at the next encounter awaiting us with Iran.

We no longer have a choice.

We must demand, without delay, the liberation of Sajjad, Houtan Khian and Sakineh.