As Iran's election crisis continues, hundreds if not thousands of prisoners remain in Iran's notorious Evin prison. Few of them have faces known to the outside world. Some of them may have protested in the streets. Others were in Mir Hussein Moussavi's inner circle. Still others had nothing to do with either the protests or the opposition. We know very little about all of these prisoners. We may not even know their names.
Let me introduce you to one of them. His name is Bijan Khajehpour.
Bijan is one of the many prisoners who neither participated in the protests nor had any involvement with the opposition. In fact, he wasn't involved in party politics in any way. He is a self-made man, who built a solid reputation as one of the country's leading economic and political analysts as the founder and CEO of Iran's leading business consultancy, Atieh Bahar Consulting.
While the outside world knows Bijan best as a top-notch consultant drawing the attention of multinational and local firms to investment opportunities in the country, his many friends and closest colleagues will tell you about his humanitarian side. They will tell you that Bijan is the person they would go to whenever they need something and that he listens to problems patiently and offers the optimistic, uplifting outlook that has become his trademark, even if he has dozens of deadlines and other obligations to meet. Whatever the problem -- from low-income workers needing money to arrange a dowry for their daughters' wedding to reputable Iranian expat scholars looking to set up a free course on management in Tehran -- Bijan is the person everyone turns to. He plays a key role in enhancing the quality of education among school children in Iran as the executive director of a non-profit humanitarian organization that provides these youth with educational opportunities, particularly in information and Internet technology.
Bijan was also a dedicated environmentalist. Years ago, when I noticed that Bijan was a vegetarian, I asked him about it. He explained to me that during his university years he had once roughly calculated the amount of energy it would take if everyone in the world consumed meat, and had quickly realized that the global environment simply could not handle it, so he stopped eating meat.
A few days after the contentious presidential elections in Iran, Bijan took a short business trip to Austria and the U.K., where he spoke at chambers of commerce, advising companies to continue seeking business In Iran.
For some, such actions were apparently a crime so heinous that Bijan was arrested when he arrived at Tehran's airport on June 27. He was taken away by unidentified men to an undisclosed location without notice. To this day, his family does not know where he is, or on what grounds he was arrested. He wasn't even in the country when the post-election turmoil started.
A diabetic in dire need of his medicine and a strict diet, Bijan's health is now in danger. Undoubtedly, his wife and two school-age daughters fear for him more and more with every passing day.
With his German education and work experience as a management consultant in Europe, Bijan could have chosen a very comfortable life in the West. He chose instead to return to his country of birth to help improve it through his work in the private and not-for-profit sectors. An incurable optimist, he refused to believe that change could not come to Iran. But rather than seeking change through political means, Bijan stayed above politics and sought to improve the economic quality of life of ordinary Iranians through business opportunities and innovative management solutions.
For some, Bijan's choice of working in Iran made him suspect. His hopeful outlook on Iran's future didn't always mesh with political correctness in the West. But neither did it, evidently, win him any friends within the Iranian government.
As he lingers on in jail, not knowing his crime or whether he ever will be given an opportunity to defend himself, his wife and children in Tehran are anxiously waiting, hoping that news of their beloved Bijan will reach them.
They fear that Bijan won't get access to the medicine he needs, that he won't come be coming home any time soon. And they fear the world will forget about him because they never knew his face and never heard his story.