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Why Rafsanjani is so important for the Greens

Six months ago in Mashad, Iran, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani delivered a speech to a group of Iranian student activists saying: “If people want us, we will govern; and if they don’t, we will have to go.”

This might have seemed like nothing new, but it wasn’t coming from just anyone — it was said by Hashemi Rafsanjani,  Iranian cleric and a two-term Iranian president.  Still to this day known as one of the most powerful individuals in Iranian politics, Rafsanjani leads the body that has the power to unseat the Supreme Leader.

This one statement, coming from Rafsanjani, cracked the entire foundation of Velayat- e- Faghih — the rule of God’s representative over man and country.

Just a few days ago, Rafsanjani reiterated his statement when delivering a speech at the anniversary of a religious ceremony in Tehran. After welcoming his guests, Rafsanjani started speaking about the will of the people and how people are in charge of their own destiny. He said God will not take anyone to Heaven by force who doesn’t want to go himself; each person has the right to choose for him or herself the path he/she will take.

“We have to find the path of God ourselves with our own will. Our own will and that is what is important.”

These subtle political messages are common among Iranian clergies, and they regularly communicate with each other through speeches at different sermons, which can be extremely frustrating to an outsider. Rafsanjani later said:

“The path of good vs. evil has existed since the beginning of time and will continue to be around until the end of time. Humans have been and must continue to be responsible and free to choose their own path in this world.”

No wonder the hard-line conservatives have been severely attacking Rafsanjani lately. He has been around even before the Iranian revolution and has actively been one of the main pillars of the Islamic Republic establishment since its inception. At this point in time, though, he is coming to realize the incompatibility of the current establishment with the new Iranian generation and the democratic world.

He is aware that significant reforms will be needed in order for modern Iran to survive, which is exactly what the Green Movement has been saying for the past year. If the system does not bend with the demands of its people, then it will be just like what Rafsanjani said, but perhaps much harsher.

  • 7 May 2010
  • Posted By Layla Armeen
  • 2 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Who is Mousavi Challenging in His New Statement?

Mir Hossein Mousavi issued a statement just a few days ago calling for the implementation of each and every article of the Iranian constitution. According to Mousavi, the full implementation of the law is the only peaceful solution to the existing crisis in Iran, and he commits to this path forward.  His English translated statement can be found on his Facebook page. Mousavi’s official site – Kalameh – provides the full text in Persian.

Every single ignored or abandoned article of the constitution should be implemented

Mir Hossein Mousavi stressed that the full implementation of the constitution without any personal interpretations against the clear rulings of the constitution is the only solution for achieving national unity and reinstating the rights of all ethnics groups and said: “Every single ignored or abandoned article of the constitution should be implemented and if there is any issue in this matter that should be put to a referendum.”

Which abandoned articles of the Iranian constitution is Mousavi referring to, and what are the road blocks that he sees in this proposed path forward?

He is most likely challenging the full – unquestioned -authority of the Supreme Leader which even under the existing Iranian constitution is supposed to be monitored by the Khobregan Council; a council that because of the nature of its appointment by the bodies under the control of the Supreme Leader himself is unable to make a sound judgment in questioning the Leader himself.

Mousavi almost never talks about Ayatollah Ali Khamenei directly. The two have a history of a ferocious political fighting in the early days of the Iranian revolution, and it appears that neither of them is ready to move away from that history.

After the death of Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the revolution, the Iranian constitution was amended and voted on. That was when the Absolute Guardianship of the Islamic Jurisprudence – Velayat e Motlagheye Faghih – was inserted into the Islamic Republic’s constitution. Almost overnight, Khamenei, a Hojatoleslam back then and  a man who was a subordinate of Mousavi in government was elevated to a position of an Ayatollah, and became the sole absolute power in the Islamic Republic. Thereafter, Mousavi disappeared from the political arena for twenty years.

Although the principle of Velayat Faghih is enshrined in the constitution, there also exist other chapters and articles that are supposed to monitor its performance.  But these articles are never enforced.

Being absent from the political arena in Iran, Mir Hossein Mousavi, “felt a sense of danger” as he called it, and re-entered politics to challenge the existing absolute authority. As opposed to American political culture — which can be much more direct or blunt —  the Iranian way of conducting politics is hidden beneath loads of sarcasm, metaphor, poetry, and peculiar Persian literature, which is another reason why it is so difficult for foreign governments to understand the Iranian side of the story.

But now Mousavi is back, and is challenging a twenty year old – undisputed – stronger-than-ever, absolute authority that appears to be more frustrated with its own inability to contain popular resentment.

Mousavi never refers to this personal authority by its name, but his subliminal messages appear more and more transparent as his movement progresses.

  • 26 March 2010
  • Posted By Layla Armeen
  • 4 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Reporting for Duty?

Hossein Yekta, a high ranking member of the Basij militia and a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war, said this week that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has already declared “war,” but “no one is reporting for duty.”

Raja News, one of the most hard line news agencies in Iran reported that Yekta tells student Basijis to get into war formation because the war has already started, and it started in the universities.

“There is only one person in the country that can declare war, and that is the Supreme Commander of All Armed Forces. Only two times has there been a declaration of war in the Islamic Republic. Once in the eve of September 22, 1980, and the other was just a while back when “Agha” declared war on a full scale cultural attack that was launched against us.”

A friend of mine once told me that there are three social phenomena that can each change an entire generation: revolution, war, and mass immigration.  Those who experience these events are bound to have radically different perspectives than the generation that follows them, which is precisely what happened in Iran.  The generation that brought about the revolution all of a sudden found itself in a war with Iraq a year after taking power, and that war along with the revolution itself produced a mass immigration effect.

Today, many of the hard-liners in the Islamic Republic are the ones who obviously didn’t emigrate out of the country. They participated in the revolution, and many of them fought in the Iran-Iraq war. A generation with noble deeds in mind that is finding it harder and harder every day to re-gain the respect that it once had in the society. This generation’s mindset is still in the revolutionary days of Iran.  But that doesn’t sit well with the young and vibrant generation – a Green generation – that now makes up the majority of the Iranian population.  This new generation has no memory of the revolution, nor of the eight-year war that devastated the country in so many different ways.

The hard-liners view national policy like it’s a battle on the front-lines; as it was when they were in Khoramshahr, Talaieyeh, Majnoon Shahr and other border cities in which they fought.  They were celebrated in the ’80s for their courage, but the war is over. It was over twenty years ago.

Iranians today are hearing the war rhetoric getting louder and louder after last year’s disputed presidential election. The hard-liners realize that the youth do not relate to their values, so they think they must be supported by foreign elements. That is the reason why the establishment refers to its domestic struggle as a war, a “soft war.”

I think about what my friend said, and I think about it a lot. I agree with him that the first decade of the Islamic Republic did change an entire generation of Iranians; but I also believe that they will have to reconcile with the changing times one way or another.  I believe the new generation – the Green generation – will shun this “war” ideology, regardless of how loudly the establishment trumpets it.

The signs are already there: “no one is reporting for duty.”

JARAS: Tajbakhsh to be Released from Prison

According to the Jaras website, the most prominent Iranian opposition website, Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh, top researcher and sociology professor from Columbia University will be released from prison for Norooz, most likely by the end of today.

Citing an unnamed source, Jaras is reporting that Dr. Tajbakhsh will be released by tonight or tomorrow. It appears that the Iranian government is releasing a large number of its political prisoners for Norooz, though the judiciary has set outrageous bail amounts for each detainee. It is reported that Dr. Tajbakhsh’s bail is set at $500,000 US.

Dr. Tajbakhsh, an Iranian American who holds dual citizenship, was arrested in the aftermath of June 2009 disputed election, and has been sentenced to five years in prison for his alleged political activities against the establishment. Following the great international outcry by a variety of human rights organizations, Tajbakhsh’s original sentencing of fifteen years was reconsidered by an appellate court and was later reduced to five years instead.

NIAC has repeatedly called for Tajbakhsh release, as well as for the release of all political prisoners in Iran.

Iranian Women Band Together, Caution Against Broad Sanctions

March 8th, International Women’s Day, was celebrated with even more passion this year in Tehran.

Zahra Rahnavard – the outspoken wife of the presidential election challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi –  issued a statement at a meeting with members of the women’s rights movement in Iran praising all the brave women of the Green Movement for their struggles during the past nine months.  She referred to the Green Movement as a very diverse network of ethnic groups, unions, students and of course women.

Rahnavard referred to the women’s movement in Iran as one of the most constructive approaches in shaping the future of freedom and democracy under the umbrella of the newly born Green Movement.  Representatives from Mothers for Peace – another organization formed after the disputed June 2009 elections that actively supports the Green Movement — joined Rahnavard in expressing alarm about the potential for the democratic movement to be derailed by punitive economic sanctions imposed by the west.

Non-violence in a civil disobedience struggle is a major principle for Mothers for Peace. Violence has many faces, and we identify economic-sanctions as a vivid face of violence. Sanctions are a silent war against any nation that has risen up for democracy. Sanctions will exacerbate violence and crackdowns. Women and children are always the first group suffering from sanctions.

Rafsanjani: National Healer?

As one of the main pillars of power in the Islamic establishment, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani played a significant role in what became the Iranian Islamic Revolution in 1979.  Depending on one’s political affiliation, Rafsanjani to this day is still either highly respected or highly feared in the  internal political circles of Iran.

Rafsanjani 75, a pragmatist who deep inside believes in reforms to sustain the Islamic Republic, is the head of two very important institutions; the Assembly of Experts, which is an oversight and an electoral body to choose the Supreme Leader, and the Expediency Council that is the author of all macro policies in Iran. The Expediency Council is also a mediator for the legal disputes between the Guardian Council and the Parliament.

This past summer, it wasn’t long after the first bloody protests and after Ayatollah Khamenei issued his ultimatum to the protestors that Rafsanjani proposed his own solution to the crisis.  Eight months later today, he continues to reiterate his previous positions. He is moving forward to try to build a process for reconciling the reformists and hardliners in the hopes that they might pull the country out of the present crisis.

Hasan Rouhani, head of the Defense and National Security Commission within the Expediency Council, is now moving forward on a piece of legislation to decrease the Guardian Council’s role in the election process.  The proposal would create a new National Election Committee to oversee the election process, cutting the influence of the Supreme Leader and eliminating the role of the Guardian Council.

Although this legislation has to be approved by the Supreme Leader to become law, it is such a compelling idea that Khamenei might have to think twice about rejecting it.  If it does win approval, it just might be the momentum Rafsanjani is looking for to seek a national reconciliation.

  • 18 February 2010
  • Posted By Layla Armeen
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iranian Youth

“My Upbringing Taught Me to Have My Own Opinion.”

Narges Kalhor, an outspoken and eloquent Iranian film maker who also happens to be the daughter of a top adviser to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, made headlines last October by attending a human-rights film festival in Germany.  Following Iran’s controversial presidential election, many Iranian artists and film makers expressed support for the opposition “Green Movement,” and Kalhor was certainly no exception. However, her father’s position in the Iranian administration put even a brighter spotlight on her opposition stand against the Islamic Republic. She received political amnesty from Germany right after she obtained a tip that her life would be in danger if she returned to Iran.

In her yesterday interview with BBC Persian, Kalhor once again was not shy in revealing her deeply critical views on her own father and the Islamic establishment as a whole. Referring to the post election aftermath in Iran Kalhor said:

“They are taking away the very basic rights of any human being from us. We have always been objecting to the status quo in Iran, but the maximum extortion took place after the election. We had never reached a level [until now] that we felt we had to stand up and fight for our rights.”

Like Narges Kalhor, Iranians, no matter where they live, have deep cultural and social roots in Iran. This is the nature of their culture, and if they ever feel that their identity is being attacked they will regroup regardless of their differences. They have shown that repeatedly throughout history.

The “Islamic Republic” was very controversial from the beginning, both for its name and its brutality in the immediate aftermath of the revolution. And today, thirty years later, many Iranian citizens ask themselves if Islam — or any other religion/ideology for that matter — can be a pillar of guidance in Iranian modern governance. Kalhor says that she doesn’t have any problem with Islam. What any individual believes is strictly a personal matter, and one must not abuse a line of thought to implement his/her personal interests.

Many in Iran today are comparing the Islamic Republic’s behavior with that of the Shah. The Shah also believed that if his opponents left Iran then he would be safe to rule. That didn’t exactly happen. His opposition managed to regroup and get international attention abroad without worrying about the Shah’s repression, and they eventually succeeded in toppling his dynasty.

Kalhor also shared her view on the Iranian revolution and the ongoing reform movement in Iran. “The revolution was a mistake. Reform must have happened.” Kalhor identifies herself as a child of the revolution, and says today again in Iran we need reform “step by step” instead of another revolution.  “I personally prefer to take a path where no more blood is shed.”

  • 15 February 2010
  • Posted By Layla Armeen
  • 3 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Karroubi Son Brutalized After Feb. 11 Arrest (updated)

Fatemeh Karroubi, the wife of Mehdi Karroubi who is one of Iran’s main opposition leaders, claims her youngest son was arrested, tortured and threatened with rape after the February 11 anti-government protests. In an open letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran — Mrs. Karroubi discusses the current political turmoil in Iran and pleads for due process and restoration of the rule of law in the country.

After giving a brief history of her and her husband’s key involvement during the revolution, Mrs. Karroubi describes the events of the Feb. 11 and what led to her son’s brutal treatment by the Basij and the anti-riot police. She claims that her son, Ali Karroubi 37, was arrested with no legal basis then beaten and humiliated in a nearby mosque.

They took him to the Amiral Momenin Mosque and he was beaten along with other detainees. He was recognized when they were registering the detainees by name. Then, after ten minutes, after the agents got the order from higher officials, he was separated from the other detainees and beaten severely. They used the Mosque as a place of torturing the children of the people of the country. Along with physical torture, Ali was subjected to verbal assault against his parents and was under severe psychological torture. When Ali protested the insult against his parents, the physical and psychological tortures were increased.

Once Ali Karroubi was ordered to be released by the higher ups, she said, the agent in charge expressed his regrets that they could not keep him for another 24 hours, or else “he would have delivered his dead body.”

At the end of her letter, she appeals to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and asks for his direct intervention in stopping these appalling acts of injustice by the current elements in power.  She despises the “lack of an independent judicial system” and demands the Supreme Leader to intervene before it is too late.

***

update: Jaras reports that Tehran’s District Attorney, Jafar Dolat-Abadi is denying Karroubi’s arrest.  “If he claims that he was arrested then he needs to show reason and provide proof to his place of detention.”

“Through systematic investigations within the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the Ministry of Intelligence and the Police it appears that no individual with this name was ever arrested,” Dolat-Abadi continued.

No word yet on how a person can convince the District Attorney they were arrested…

  • 12 February 2010
  • Posted By Layla Armeen
  • 3 Comments
  • Uncategorized

“Iranian Cyber Army” Hacks Opposition Websites

Several pro-opposition websites in Iran have been hacked today by the “Iranian Cyber Army”, widely believed to be associated with the Iranian government’s security apparatus.

Rah-e Sabz, the leading opposition website (also known as Jaras), cautioned its readers to ignore incoming e-mails from any organization claiming to be “Jaras” or “Rah-e Sabz” due to possible infiltration of personal data and e-mail addresses.

Also hacked were Kalemeh and Tahavolehsabz.  Similar to previous attacks by the “Cyber Army” against Twitter and the Chinese search engine Baidu, each site displays a banner stating “This Site Has Been Hacked by the Iranian Cyber Army”, and a logo–this time featuring the Iranian flag and an AK-47.

Rah-e Sabz has rerouted its site to http://www.rahesabz.org and http://www.rahesabz.info at this time.  The hacked website is at http://www.rahesabz.net.

  • 10 February 2010
  • Posted By Layla Armeen
  • 2 Comments
  • Iran Election 2009

Homafaran 2.0

“The nation will stun the world on the 22nd of Bahman.” Those were the exact words of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei giving a speech to the commanders, fighter-pilots, and personnel of the Air Force division of the Iranian Army on Sunday. What was more stunning to some was the ambiguity of support the Leader received from the Army, with parallels to the events of the last anti-authoritarian challenge in Iran.   

Exactly 31 years ago, a fairly large number of the Imperial Iranian Air Force, Homafaran, defected and lent their support to Ayatollah Khomeini in the revolutionary days of Iran. That was a significant build up to the movement that toppled the Pahlavi Dynasty only three days later on February 11, 1979; a day which many believe changed the political dynamics of the Middle-East forever.

The Iranian Army has a history of neutrality when it comes to internal disputes, and has repeatedly refused to pick up arms against its own citizens. That culture and attitude is still alive today. The Iranian Army, which includes its own ground, air, and naval forces, is the only military wing of the armed forces of Iran that has stayed out of the post-election battle for power. Every other armed group including the police, commanded by the notorious Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has contributed support to the brutal post-election crack down inside Iran. Taking into account the sensitivity of the political arena in Iran today, a lack of clear support for Ayatollah Khamenei, the “Supreme Commander of Armed Forces” of Iran, is an audacious move by all accounts.

Sign the Petition

 

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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.

Sincerely,

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