An Iranian scientist speaks

Tomorrow’s edition of Nature carries an interview with Iranian biomedical scientist Mostafa Moin, who was a candidate in his country’s 2005 presidential election, and a government minister for higher education and science.

In the interview Moin says that science in Iran has stagnated under the administration of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Political pressure has been exerted on scientific forums and centres, and academic freedom restricted. Iran is suffering a brain drain, and the management of scientific institutes has been stuffed with military and security service personnel.

When asked what the international scientific community can do to help colleagues in Iran, Moin replies that it can contribute through legitimate criticism of the government’s treatment of students, academics and scientists, and the people of Iran as a whole. Meddling in Iran’s internal affairs? Not as far as Moin is concerned.

“I would like to say to my scientific colleagues, wherever they are, that while Iran, an ancient civilization, has its own cultural background and national interests, the nation and its academics wish to be productive and constructive members of the international community.”

How this would sit with renewed and/or extended sanctions, boycotts and so on is not clear, but what is evident is that Moin is calling for international action gainst the regime in Tehran.

As for the nuclear question…

“Iran’s nuclear issue has become both a political problem and an issue used for domestic political ends, resulting in an artificially tense atmosphere at the international level. But a government that derives its authority from a democratic election is better placed to also build trust at the international level – with a view to exploiting nuclear energy legally and peacefully, to both support the national interest and strengthen international cooperation.”

National reconciliation is impossible in the current context…

“There can be no grounds for a national reconciliation in an atmosphere of public distrust… [I]t seems inevitable that Iran must move towards a political system based on democracy, justice and moderation.”

On previous US support for regime change in Iran…

“During its long history, the Iranian nation’s self-esteem and generosity means it has not needed or sought outside help. Moreover, history has taught the Iranian people to be suspicious of foreign interference — by the major powers in particular — in its internal affairs. So far, the positions and approach taken by Obama, a politician and academic, have been much more realistic and sober than those of his predecessor, and can be considered as a start towards bigger practical steps.”

Tomorrow there will be a demonstration outside the Iranian Embassy in London to mark the tenth anniversary of the Iranian students’ protests of July 1999. Known as the Kuye Daneshgah Disaster (in Farsi: فاجعه کوی دانشگاه), a number of demonstrators were killed by security forces, and hundreds injured. Following the riots, more than 70 students disappeared, and five students named by Human Rights Watch remain unaccounted for.

Protests in July 2009 from the rooftops of Tehran…

Tomorrow’s demonstration at the Iranian embassy, which is located at 16 Prince’s Gate, London SW7, will begin at 17:30. If you are in the area, please come along and show your solidarity with the people of Iran. Wear green.

Zende bad Iran!