• 28 July 2009
  • Posted By Sanaz Tofighrad
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

“What Happens To Unannounced Detainees?”

Feresheh Ghazi, an Iranian journalist and human rights activist, reports on the situation of the detainees and their families, many of whom are still desperately trying to get information about their loved ones.  The authorities have claimed that most of the detainees have or will soon be released but there are still many individuals who are missing:

Despite the announcement by judiciary and Tehran police authorities that most of those who were detainees after the June 12 election protests across Iran have been released, family members of many prisoners still have no news of their children despite intense jockeying between the Revolutionary courts and the infamous Evin prison in Tehran. At the same time, over the past few days a group of individuals who had been released on large bails, were re-arrested and put behind bars. Military agents broke into the houses of these individuals at night and dragged them out of bed and took them away. As a response to the complaints of the household members, they simply said that the individuals were taken to prison to “complete” their files.

Families in Front of the Revolutionary Court and Evin Prison

A Rooz reporter writes that family members of those had been recently detained either at peaceful demonstrations or by plainclothesmen who broke into their houses between 7 and 11pm gathered in front of Evin prison to perhaps hear something about their loved ones behind the prison bars. And while these family members have been repeatedly subjected to insults, humiliation and accusations, they continue to show up diligently across Evin prison to learn something about their missing family members and see the name of their children on the prison list. The practice is that both Evin prison and the Revolutionary Court in Tehran post the list of all the prisoners each is holding on the wall of their building, prompting family members to rush to the scene to see if they can find the name of their missing members on the list.

Detainees Who Are Lost

Some of these family members talk of a short telephone conversation with their missing member, while there are many members who still till today have absolutely no news about the whereabouts of their loved ones as their names have not been listed on the Evin or Revolutionary Court lists. The mother of one of the prisoners tells Rooz, “I have no news of my son since June 15th and nobody responds to my queries or takes responsibility for his absence. This very concerned mother is worried about the fate of her 22 year old son and cries relentlessly, uttering a few words or short sentences in between. She said, ‘They threaten us that if we make a hue and cry they would arrest us as well, while they have been insulting me for days and forcefully push us to go home, while all I want is some news regarding my son,’”
Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi have created a joint committee to follow up on the situation with the detainees and those who are reported to be missing and have asked the public to stay in touch with this committee. According to Etemad Melli newspaper’s website until last Wednesday, some 130 individuals had contacted this committee of which 46 said they had someone missing in the family and had not heard any news form anyone regarding them.

Under 18-year old Prisoners

At the same time, while officials have said that all detainees below the age of 18 had been released, reporters point to witnesses who say otherwise. Individuals have gone to the Revolutionary Court asking for news about their 16 or 17 year old children. The father of one missing child said he had no news regarding his 17 year old daughter. He expressed strong anger for official disregard to his queries and said, “Some of my daughter’s friends said they had seen my daughter’s arrest at Tehran’s Baharestan square, but her name is not on Evin’s list or any other list and no one responds to our inquiries.”

The Transfer of 60 Prisoners to the General Ward

Last Monday Revolutionary Court authorities told families with prisoners that 60 detainees had been transferred to the General Prison Ward (where regular criminals as opposed to political prisoners are kept).The families strongly protested this announcement because they said their detained family members had not committed any crime and so must not be in the same rooms or wards where regular convicts are held. These 60 prisoners were arrested during the first two days of the post June 12 election demonstrations and had completed their interrogations, but are still kept behind bars.

Brutal Treatment of Detainees

The manner in which detainees are held and treated has been a serious concern not only for the family members of the detainees but also for the public in general. Most of those who have been released from prison have said that they were physically violently treated while in detention and had received electronic shocks and beatings with batons. They said they were tortured to forcefully “confess” that they had received orders from Mir Hossein Mousavi’s election headquarters or from outside the country to create riots. One former detainee told Farda Persian language radio station said, “detainees who had just been brought to prison directly from the streets were taken out into the hot sunshine and burning asphalt. They clearly displayed the signs of having been violently beaten. They would plead for water. And while there were water tabs within 30 feet, nobody allowed them to have any. They would not allow us to go to the restrooms.” According to this former prisoner, detainees who suffered from burn injuries in particular were put on asphalt surfaces. One young detainee swore that that the Basijees from his own neighborhood took him and threw him into a hot soup pot. He suffered from serious burns and had no skin left on him.

Return of Body Corpses

This news is published at a time when bodies of a number of dead individuals were returned to their family members in the last few days. These family members, who knew nothing about the whereabouts or condition of their missing family members for weeks, buried their loved ones in Behesht Zahra cemetery outside Tehran. Prior to receiving the dead bodies of their children, these family members were concerned precisely about such a possibility, i.e. the death of their beloved ones and their torture, things they openly expressed to Revolutionary Court officials during their visits. In response, officials would treat them harshly and said that legally they were not bound to respond to their enquiries or concerns. While officials in Iran say about 500 individuals had been arrested in the recent post-election turmoil, human rights groups put the figure at 2,000.

Posted By Sanaz Tofighrad

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Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.



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