Thursday, January 12, 2012

Scientists must speak up against assassinations of scientists

by Salman Hameed

Actually everyone must speak up against assassinations. But the news that another Iranian physicist has been assassinated is deeply troubling. I'm not in favor of nuclear weapons and there should every effort to eliminate them. But targeted killings of scientists associated with a nuclear program? How should we think about it?

First of all, this is illegal. This is extrajudicial killing and should have no place in a civilized world. While Iran doesn't have a nuclear weapon, the killing is most likely associated with a country that already has one (Israel or the US). So a moral argument to preserve world peace in this case is already out the window.

Second, should scientists speak up against it? Yes. When scientists are persecuted anywhere in the country, journals like Nature and Science write editorials about it. The same is true when scientists have been fired from their jobs or, in the recent case of Turkey, when the Turkish government decided to exert undue influence on its Academy of Science. Shouldn't there be an outrage when a physicist is assassinated because of his association with a uranium enrichment program (which by in itself is not illegal)? We haven't seen it so far. This is not the first assassination of an Iranian scientist either:
The scientist, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, was a department supervisor at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant, a participant in what Western leaders believe is Iran’s halting but determined progress toward a nuclear weapon. He was at least the fifth scientist with nuclear connections to be killed since 2007; a sixth scientist, Fereydoon Abbasi, survived a 2010 attack and was put in charge of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization.
We have to stand-up and condemn these assassinations. The world is becoming a tricky place. I have written about ethical and legal problems with the drone program and the fact that these issues are not getting as much attention as they should. This assassination precedence directly affects scientists. I hope we will all speak up against it! 


Gary said...

Absolutely agree. The Key word you used is "civilised". No civilised nation would do this. A nation possessing nuclear weapons is anything but civilised. The nation behind this has the only significant nuclear arsenal in the region. "Blind Freddy" could follow the logic from here.

Gary said...

Salman this might interest you. It is from the Ted Talks series. The speaker, Malcolm Gladwell is talking about the Norden bombsight used by the allies in WWII. Towards the end he talks about the use of drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan and questions their effectiveness. He also has a comment on the bombing of Hiroshima which ties into the nuclear debate.

Salman Hameed said...

Thanks Gary for the link. I will check it out.