Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Iranian Dissident Censorship Lifted

Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian law professor and former judge, was the first Muslim woman to win the Nobel prize. George W. Bush said of her:
the demand for democracy is strong and broad as we saw when thousands gathered to welcome home Shirin Ebadi - The regime in Tehran must heed the democratic demands of the Iranian people, or lose its last claim to legitimacy.
Despite this, she had been prevented from publishing her book in the US because the US Treasury Department stupidly insisted that it was enemy literature. While she theoretically could have published it in the US, it was a criminal offense for any editors, publishers, printers, or anyone else to help her do it.
Ebadi was told she could not publish her memoirs in the United States because of regulations that prohibit "trading with the enemy." The Trading With The Enemy Act (TWTE), passed in 1917, allows the president to bar transactions during times of war or national emergency.

Though the law has been amended to exempt publishers, the Treasury Department continued to rule it illegal "to enhance the value of anything created in Iran without permission," including books.
Grrrrr... Grrrrrrrr... Stupid bureaucratic bullshit like this just gets me so mad I wanna spit, or even let loose with some horrible sarcasm!
At the same time Treasury was denying Ebadi the right to publish her book, the U.S. State Department -- which is reportedly in charge of "winning the hearts and minds" of people who live under repressive, authoritarian regimes -- was lauding her on its website as one of Iran's "Voices Struggling To Be Heard."

The website notes she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 "for her life-long campaign to protect vulnerable and persecuted groups within Iranian society." It also quotes the citation from the Norwegian Nobel Committee: "As a lawyer, judge, lecturer, writer and activist, she has spoken out clearly and strongly in her country, Iran and far beyond."
Ebadi and her allies filed suit against Treasury to knock down this ridiculous law. Money quote.
"Writers in Iran, Cuba and Sudan cannot publish freely in their own countries. It is a tragic and dangerous irony that Americans may not freely publish the works of those writers here, either"
At last, Treasury relented from its incredibly boneheaded position.
Last week, the Treasury Department abruptly reversed its interpretation of the TWTE Act and largely exempted writers, publishers, editors, translators and literary agents from rules on the publication of information materials -- including medical and scientific publications as well as books -- from countries subject to U.S. trade embargoes.

Edward Davis, whose law firm represents the publishing organisations as well as PEN, called the Treasury Department's decision "a very encouraging first step toward restoring the freedom of expression," but cautioned, "the government has not yet undone all the restrictions imposed."
Isn't this what the 1st Amendment is all about? Free expression without government oversight, threat, and oppression? Isn't this one of the freedoms we want to export to the entire Middle East?

But geeze, Treasury never struck me as a particularly intelligent organization. After all, the IRS is part of it. And the BATF was part of Treasury when they led the raid against the Branch Davidians in Waco. BATF was cut out and thrown into Justice after 2001, but the mindrot continues in Treasury. Apparently.

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