Amir Hekmati: Moral Courage to Burn

Hekmati,Amir

Some background from CNN:

 [Amir] Hekmati joined the Marines in 2001 out of high school. He finished his service four years later as a decorated combat veteran with tours in Iraq.

Afterward, he translated Arabic as a contractor and helped train troops in cultural sensitivity.

Hekmati’s family said he had gone to Iran to visit his grandmother but was arrested in August 2011, accused by Iran’s Intelligence Ministry of working as a CIA agent.

No doubt under severe psychological. and perhaps physical, duress

In December 2011, Hekmati appeared on Iranian state television maintaining that he had been sent to Iran by the CIA.

You’d have to be pretty heartless to blame someone in his situation for saying what he’s told to say. Since then, however, Hekmati has mined a vein of courage even deeper than that required just to survive in such a situation. Recently a letter he wrote was smuggled out of Iran and passed to Secretary of State John Kerry. It was apparently spurred because, CNN reports, “Iranian intelligence told his court-appointed lawyer that he could be released in exchange for two Iranians being held abroad.”

In the letter, as reproduced by CNN, he responds: “This is part of a propaganda and hostage taking effort by Iranian intelligence to secure the release of Iranians abroad being held on security-related charges.” Hekmati elaborates.

“For over 2 years I have been held on false charges based solely on confessions obtained by force, threats, miserable prison conditions, and prolonged periods of solitary confinement. … I had nothing to do with their arrest, committed no crime, and see no reason why the U.S. Government should entertain such a ridiculous proposition.”

By which he means the ransom. Hekmati adds:

“I do not wish to set a precedent for others that may be unlawfully (obtained) for political gain in the future. While my family and I have suffered greatly I will accept nothing but my unconditional release.”

Whither Moral Courage? asked author Salman Rushdie in a New York Times op-ed earlier this year. “We find it easier, in these confused times, to admire physical bravery than moral courage,” he wrote. “We no longer easily agree on what it means to be good, or principled, or brave.”

Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor, especially when it comes to keeping our families from harm. But I think we can all agree that by putting his body and soul on the line with a view towards helping to keep others from suffering as he has, Amir Hekmati demonstrates moral courage to burn.