• 5 September 2009
  • Posted By Matthew Negreanu
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Caspian Makan, fiancé of Neda Agha Soltan in Evin

According to Amnesty International:

Caspian Makan, the fiancé of Neda Agha Soltan, a young woman killed in the recent protests in Iran, has been held in detention since 26 June, after he made a statement linking her murder to the pro-government Basij militia. Currently held in Evin Prison in Tehran, Caspian Makan is reported to have told his family that if he signs a “confession” saying that the People’s Mojahedeen Organization of Iran (PMOI-[MKO]), a political body banned in Iran since 1981, killed her, then he may be released. Amnesty International said it fears he may be forced to sign such a “confession” under torture or other ill-treatment, given the pattern of human rights violations in Iran following the election. The organization said that he may be a prisoner of conscience, held for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.

Neda Agha Soltan, 27, was killed on 20 June in Tehran. She was shot as she and three companions, including Caspian Makan, were leaving one of many demonstrations that took place following Iran’s disputed presidential election on 12 June. While other demonstrators were trying to help her, a man with a mobile phone camera filmed her dying moments. The video footage was widely circulated on the internet and became a symbol of the unrest that developed in Iran. In an interview with BBC Persian TV on 22 June, Caspian Makan said that “Eyewitnesses and video footage […] clearly show that probably Basij paramilitaries […] deliberately targeted her”. It later emerged that a member of the Basij militia, a state security body under the command of the Revolutionary Guard, incriminated himself by exclaiming after her shooting that he did not mean to kill her. Caspian Makan was arrested at his home in Tehran four days later. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is reported to have described Neda Agha Soltan’s death as “suspicious”. On 29 June he wrote to the Head of the Judiciary requesting that an investigation be undertaken into it. However, in the days following her killing, a number of government officials made statements denying that the state security forces were involved in her death and, in some cases, blamed others. Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, a representative of the Supreme Leader, stated in Friday prayers at Tehran University on 26 June that the evidence showed that the protesters themselves killed her and did so as a way of making “propaganda” against the system. The authorities have since intimidated Iranians who have spoken out about the killing. Chief of Police, Brigadier General Ahmadi-Moghaddam, is reported to have told a press conference on 30 June that the Iranian police and Ministry of Intelligence had issued an international arrest warrant via Interpol for the arrest of Dr Arash Hejazi, a doctor who tried to save Neda Agha Soltan’s life at the scene and who spoke publicly about what he witnessed to international news media. The warrant accused Dr Arash Hejazi of spreading misinformation about the killing and thereby “poisoning the international atmosphere” against the Iranian government. Dr Arash Hejazi, as well as the TV journalist who interviewed Caspian Makan, have both left Iran, fearing for their safety.

The Iranian authorities are reported to have harassed and intimidated Neda Agha Soltan’s family and other mourners after her death. Before burying her in Behesht-e Zahra Cemetery, in a section apparently set aside by the authorities for those killed in the unrest, her family were said to have been told by the authorities to ensure that no mourners other than family members attend the burial. They were threatened with unspecified punishment if they did not comply. The authorities were also reported to have issued a ban on collective prayers for Neda Agha Soltan in mosques. When Agha Soltan’s family and other mourners tried to hold a commemoration service for her at Niloufar mosque in Abbas Abad, they were interrupted after 10 minutes by about 20 Basij paramilitaries, who entered the mosque and dispersed the attendees. Amnesty International has called on the Iranian authorities to take immediate steps to protect Caspian Makan from torture or other ill-treatment while in detention and, in particular, to ensure that he is not forced to sign any “confessions” under such treatment. The organization has urged that Caspian Makan be given immediate access to his lawyer, family and any medical treatment he may need. It has also called for his immediate and unconditional release unless he is to be charged with a recognizable criminal offence.

Posted By Matthew Negreanu

    2 Responses to “Caspian Makan, fiancé of Neda Agha Soltan in Evin”

  1. Jason says:

    Out of curiosity, when was the last time that such urgings ever actually were heeded? Maybe I’m missing the perspective, but it seems such urgings can be ignored or laughed off at leisure.

  2. Wylde Otse says:

    Caspian Makan needs to be released from prison. I call on people of good conscience to ask the Iranian Government to do so without any furthur harm to him.

    A memorial to Neda Agha-soltan is on FEASTOFDRAGONS.blogspot.com….several posts down.

    Wylde Otse

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7,350 signatures

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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