Features

Price + Freedom + Google + Elie Wiesel

October 30, 2019
Maziar Bahari
2 min read
Authorities have targeted child laborers as part of their efforts to “bring order” to urban areas
Authorities have targeted child laborers as part of their efforts to “bring order” to urban areas
Irranian Baha’i Pedram Roushan was part of the Google team behind the recent invention of the world's first quantum computer
Irranian Baha’i Pedram Roushan was part of the Google team behind the recent invention of the world's first quantum computer
Sepideh Gholian and other activists were recently released, but only after paying huge bail amounts
Sepideh Gholian and other activists were recently released, but only after paying huge bail amounts

After months of arrests and crackdowns, Iranian authorities recently released six labor activists, journalists and civil rights activists. It’s great news that Sepideh Gholian and her fellow activists are free to go home, but what they have had to pay for their freedom is shocking. These are ordinary workers and citizens who just want to live normal lives. Their average monthly income is less than $200 a month. So it has been very difficult for their families to pay as much as they have in bail — $135,000 in some cases.

Despite hardships in Iran, many Afghans cross the border in an effort to improve their lives. The children of these families work hard on the streets of Tehran and other cities only to be targeted by authorities, who, as part of their efforts to “bring order” to urban areas, scoop them off the street, put them into temporary camps and then often send them back to Afghanistan. This may offer a temporary illusion of “cleaner streets” but it’s not doing these poverty-stricken migrants any good, and the amount of money being spent could obviously be distributed to projects that actually benefit society.

Google’s announcement that it has created the world’s first quantum computer was a more positive story over the last week. Iranian Baha’i Pedram Roushan was on the team behind the innovation, and IranWire spoke to him about his life before Google, from a childhood facing discrimination in the northern city of Sari and attending the underground Baha’i university, to settling in the United States and working as a pizza delivery driver before achieving success as an AI scientist. His resilience and love of learning are inspiring — but also reminders of Iran’s decades-long record of suppressing talented, committed people and communities when it could actually turn to them to help strengthen the country.

On a more personal note, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum announced that it will confer its highest honor, the Elie Wiesel Award, on me in a ceremony in April 2020. It is a great honor and was quite unexpected. I’m sure that there are many brave people who fight against anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other kinds of prejudice every day and deserve this much more than me. But the award is a confirmation of the career path I started in 1994 when I made my first film about the Holocaust, and I have since tried to speak out against different forms of prejudice and violence. It’s been an honor to work with my colleagues at the museum. IranWire will soon launch a joint project with them. I’ll keep you posted.
 

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