Tahmineh Dehbozorgi fled a tyrannical regime that persecutes its political opponents. Now she faces threats for voicing her own political views.
George Washington University ’24 Law School student Tahmineh Dehbozorgi knows the dangers of a weaponized justice system. Earlier this week, she told me how, as a teenager, she and her family fled from one in Iran in 2015.
Dehbozorgi’s grandfather was among the first targets of the new regime after the fall of the Shah in 1979. He was thrown in prison, where he faced execution without trial. His crime: He worked as a public servant in the previous government before the Islamic Revolution.
The new Islamic regime also used guilt-by-association tactics to prosecute lawyers who represented its opponents. So when the news broke here that President Trump’s legal advisers would be indicted along with him, Dehbozorgi was alarmed. Earlier this month, she went on Fox and Friends to talk about why the government’s prosecution of Trump’s lawyers should bother everyone, regardless of which side you’re on.
As she later tweeted:
As a law student, seeing attorneys named as co-conspirators and threatened to have their licenses revoked only because they gave legal advice to former President Trump worries me. This is against the very nature of the American justice system I’ve long aspired to be a part of:
As a law student, seeing attorneys named as co-conspirators and threatened to have their licenses revoked only because they gave legal advice to former President Trump worries me. This is against the very nature of the American justice system I’ve long aspired to be a part of. pic.twitter.com/y4dxufXHGa
— Tahmineh Dehbozorgi (@DeTahmineh) August 16, 2023
As if to prove her point, left-wing “Law Twitter” swiftly reacted warning that she may not be able to pass the character fitness test for admission to the bar. The morning after she tweeted about her Fox appearance, prominent Maryland lawyer and DNC operative Robbie Leonard, tweeted:
If she’s in law school in Maryland, then please put me on her character committee interview.
This suggests that if it were up to him (which it’s not) Dehbozorgi wouldn’t pass her character and fitness exam—essential for bar admission in every US jurisdiction.
The Claremont Institute’s Jeremy Carl called him out on what was perceived as a threat:
This regime apparatchik harassing and threatening @DeTahmineh is a member of the Democratic National committee because of course he is.
The irony of Leonard attacking the moral fitness of a law student merely for expressing her views about a lawsuit wasn’t lost on First Amendment lawyer Ari Cohn:
Do you think C&F [Character and Fitness] is appropriately targeted at people who offer opinions in non-representational capacities that you disagree with? Because that’s a pretty strong indictment of the entire idea of C&F, and you should not be allowed to have anything to do with it.
Then came the ominous warnings from lawyer and professor Mark Zaid. Zaid has ties to the intelligence community and a history of threatening to use them against a random Twitter user, as reported in The Federalist.
After Dehbozorgi’s interview, he tweeted:
If she applies what she thinks she knows about attorney ethics to her upcoming ethics exam for bar licensure, she will be in for a surprise.
And not a good one.
To a third-year law student like Dehbozorgi, Zaid’s comments were intimidating. He practices in the DC area where she’ll be taking the bar exam after graduation.
She says those lawyers mischaracterized who she really is and why she was on Fox, just so they could attack her:
People were like, why did they bring a law student on to talk about a legal issue? But that was not the reason I was there. They weren’t paying attention to the fact that I was going on as an Iranian immigrant, as a dissident to talk about [two-tiered justice.] It just shows that they didn’t even watch the video. They just wanted to engage in ad hominem attacks without even listening to the substance of the interview.
In fact, Dehbozorgi wasn’t on Fox to weigh in for Trump or against him. She was there to talk about growing up in Iran where political opponents of the regime—and anyone anywhere near them—are put in jail:
I’m not saying who’s guilty, who’s innocent. That’s for the judges to decide.
The point I was making is, it’s very important to have that process there. The hallmark of democracy is a transparent justice system that is not weaponized to be used against political opponents. The judges cannot be politically intimidated by either side so they can give all parties due process.
That’s what makes America different from Iran, where there is no due process. Judges there are government employees that do the bidding of the regime. If you are a political opponent, someone who’s protested or even run for office against government-handpicked candidates, and if you ask for a recount, they put you in house arrest; they put you in prison. They put their attorneys in prison for representing them. That’s what happens in Iran.
And it happens, Dehbozorgi explains, because not long ago, people gave up their freedoms, little by little, to Iran’s Islamic Republic regime, in exchange for economic benefit:
Khomeini came in and promised free stuff—free bus rides, free school, free health care, free utilities—and enough people bought into that. The Islamic Republic centralized the economic system and took away people’s social freedoms to maintain control.
And it can happen in the United States, she worries, “if we’re not vigilant, if we’re not actively fighting to keep our system of transparent democratic checks and balances in place.” That’s the message Dehbozorgi brings to high school students through the Dissident Project, a group of immigrants from authoritarian regimes around the world that educates young audiences about how to preserve freedom in America, freedom that depends on due process of law.
There was no due process for Dehbozorgi’s grandfather. He sat in prison for months with other employees of the former government until her grandmother finally got him out. Many of his colleagues were killed by the regime without a trial. She says, “nobody, no party, should be using the justice system for their political gain.”DONATE
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.