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Sam Sedaei

Sam Sedaei

Posted March 26, 2009 | 09:28 AM (EST)

Why Is President Obama Not Protecting American Citizens Abroad?


I am a big supporter of President Obama. I think that his election was not only historic because he is half black, but also because he is the first Democratic president who has been successful in gaining the public trust when it comes to national security without having to appear defensive. He regularly reminds us that his most important task as president is "to keep the American people safe."

But if he wants to keep us safe, should he not use the power of his office and the United States' leverage to protect American citizens not just here, but all throughout the world?

Roxana Saberi, an American citizen and journalist and former Ms. North Dakota has been held in Evin, Iran's most infamous and notorious Guantanamo-style prison in northern Tehran without a charge since January 31, 2009. Roxana has worked for the National Public Radio, BBC, ABC and a number of other international outlets.

When Secretary Clinton spoke up about Roxana and demanded her release, Iranian prosecutor's office announced that her interrogation has concluded and she'd be released shortly. With the end of the month approaching, Roxana continues to remain in jail. This shows that the weight of the office of the Secretary of State is not sufficient to get Tehran to end Roxana's open-ended detainment.

Reuters is reporting this afternoon that Roxana's father is saying that Roxana has become suicidal and threatened to go on a hunger strike.

On the eve of the Persian New Year, President Obama sent best wishes to the people of Iran. He managed to make references to Iran's nuclear program (to which Iran has complete rights under the Nonproliferation Treaty) and kept silent on Iran's real human rights crimes and Roxana's situation.

This kind of behavior has become quite typical of the American government, and frankly, it needs to stop. No sane person thinks war between the two countries is a good idea. Diplomacy is without a question the best method of making any kind of partner out of Iran. But the United States' obsession with Iran's nuclear program and silence on human rights crimes is costing America's image and popularity dearly among indigenous citizens.

How could President Obama speak up for humane treatment of foreign detainees at Guantanamo, but keep silent on the torture and mistreatment of Americans in Iran's Guantanamo?

President Obama has the responsibility as our elected leader to use the full weight of his office to demand justice and fair treatment for U.S. citizens throughout the world. Doing otherwise will set the precedent that American citizens and journalists are no longer safe anywhere outside of the borders of this country. That precedent cannot and should not be set.

President Obama: It's time to speak up about Roxana.


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(Follow Sam on Twitter; username: samsedaei)