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Mohsen Sazegara

Mohsen Sazegara (محسن سازگارا) is an Iranian journalist and political activist. Dr. Sazegara held several high ranking positions during the early years of the Islamic Revolution, such as deputy prime minister in political affairs, deputy minister for heavy industry, deputy chairman of the budget and planning department and many more before becoming disillusioned with the government in 1989 and pushing for reforms. He applied to become a candidate for President of Iran in the 2001 election and was refused.

His reformist policies clashed with the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, eventually resulting in his arrest in early-2003. Following his release in August 2003, he moved to the United Kingdom for medical attention. He currently resides in the United States.

Early career

In the late-1970s, Sazegara was an undergraduate student at both Sharif University of Technology in Iran and the Illinois Institute of Technology, when he was a leader of the student movement against the shah. During the 1979 revolution, he returned to Iran with Ayatollah Khomeini where he served as a founder of the Revolutionary Guard Corps and the managing director of the National Radio of Iran (1979–1981). During the 1980s, Sazegara served as political deputy in the prime minister's office, deputy minister of heavy industries, chairman of the Industrial Development and Renovation Organization of Iran, and vice minister of planning and budget.

As the decade progressed, Sazegara began to become disillusioned with the government. Following the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988 and the death of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989, Sazegara refused further government posts saying that his refusal was in order to continue his study of history.

Studies and reform

Sazegara earned his master's degree in history at Shahid Beheshti University in Iran, and went on to complete his doctoral thesis on religious intellectuals and the Islamic revolution at the University of London 1996. After the 1997 election of reformist President Mohammad Khatami, Sazegara published several reformist newspapers including Jamee, Toos, and Golestan-e-Iran, all of which were closed by the hard-line regime.

Realizing that reform would be impossible within the current Iranian Constitution, he launched a campaign to hold a referendum on the constitution. His slogan for amendment of the constitution gained strong support among many students. In 2001, Dr. Sazegara became a presidential candidate; however, his candidacy was refused by the Guardian Council, reportedly because his opinions were "not congruent with the wishes of the Guardian Council and the Supreme Leader".

Arrest

On Tuesday, February 18, 2003, Sazegara was arrested by the Ministry of Intelligence, and held for five days, during which he protested by hunger strike. His arrest was protested by the journalism associations the World Association of Newspapers and the World Editors Forum, which together represent over 18,000 publications in 100 countries.

Later that same year, he was arrested again on June 15, this time with his eldest son Vahid Sazegara, on the order of Tehran's Public Prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi. Vahid Sazegara was released July 9, but Mohsen Sazegara went on to spend 114 days in custody and 79 days on a hunger strike, during which he lost almost 50 pounds of his body weight. This was especially troubling, since Sazegara suffers from severe heart problems, having had two heart operations within the previous few years. After his release from Evin Prison, he left Iran to seek medical attention in the United Kingdom.

Continued activism

In the United Kingdom he called for a referendum and launched an Internet petition, on which he gained the signatures of over 35,000 people. His continued calls for reform in Iran have led the regime to sentence him in absentia to seven years in prison, without clear charges.

In March 2005, he left the UK to attend to a job opportunity in the United States at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy as a visiting scholar. Following a six month term, he left the Washington Institute for Near East Policy for Yale University's Center for International and Area Studies. By the end of the educational year he left Yale University to work at Harvard University as a researcher on Iran.

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