A little while back, I wrote about the Iranian persecution of bloggers and opponents of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. There is so much evidence of this systematic assault on liberty that it was difficult to pick just one Exhibit A. I finally settled on the before and after pictures of Mohmmad Ali Abtahi, which showcased the effects of torture on a former vice president and leading cleric-blogger. The image of a formerly rotund, sanguine Abtahi transformed into that of a haggard immate seemed the easiest way to confirm allegations of mistreatment of political detainees.
No so fast, said Abtahi’s jailers. According to the New York Times, Ali Akbar Javanfekr, President Ahmadinejad’s adviser for press affairs, said that these pictures point not to torture but to self-improvement derived for deep contemplation. Javanfekr, apparently with a straight face, argued that “[i]t is only natural for a person who has gained an excessive amount of weight to come to his senses in prison that being overweight is not good for your mental or physical health.”
The Iranian authorities have truly outdone themselves this time. I dare you to come up with a more asinine excuse. Oh, and be sure to utter that fable against the backdrop of allegations of widespread detainee rape.
But again, maybe, just maybe, this laughable excuse will cause the United States to refocus attention on the crisis in Iran. (I had formerly hoped that the show trials would do just that.) While it's true that the advent of blogging in Iran has given a platform for those individuals abused by the regime, this has not lessened the importance of mainstream media coverage. An all-important interest-grabbing “hook” is needed to direct traffic to those blogs. Well, can you think of anything that gets more attention on newsstands than new weight-loss techniques?
Think of it, Cosmo can tout the new Abtahi diet (“Allow our skilled therapists distract you from Hunger!") or the Evin plan. I can see the infomercials for weigh-loss electrodes now. ("Apply directly to the testicles and see the pounds melt away!")
Come on Daily Show, you did an excellent job of interviewing Abtahi before his arrest. I think it only fair that you call attention to his miraculous new diet plan. The nation’s obesity problem will be a thing of the past -- all we need are a gag, some pliers, and a willingness to explore the human condition.
(Andrew Moshirnia is a second-year law student at Harvard Law School and a CMLP blogger. He plans to lose some pounds after the holidays through exercise, proper diet, and water boarding.)