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  • 14 December 2009
  • Posted By Lloyd Chebaclo
  • 4 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Iranian Youth

The Case of Salar

Salar Sohrabi is a 14-year-old boy who lives in Iran. He suffers from a severe form of Scoliosis, a progressive spinal deformity that requires immediate surgery, and Marfan Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder. Doctors and medical facilities in Iran are refusing to perform the necessary, life-saving surgery on Salar because of “their inability to handle possible complications he might face,” according to HelpSalar.com. Born in the town of Karaj, Iran, Salar was diagnosed with Scoliosis at the age of five, making his young life difficult. While he has not been one to complain about his condition, his mother could “feel his sadness in his heart.”

HelpSalar.com:

“She noticed Salar often had been teased at school due to his physical appearance. Which added to their suffering even more. Salar’s only complaint was having severe back pain, which is a result of this type of illness.

Recently Salar’s mom took a leave of absence after 20 years of service to spend more time with him. She almost spends her entire $600 monthly salary on physical therapy, medical tests, and doctor’s visits etc. for Salar.”

Salar’s life has been surrounded by extremely painful events. In addition to the loss of his father, Salar was six years old when his paternal grandfather died. Subsequently, Salar also lost his maternal grandmother. Those two individuals were the closest supporters he had. Obviously, these losses have been very devastating events in his young life, but there is something that keeps Salar’s hope alive and whatever this thing might be, we are asking those of you who have been touched by his story to make his hope a reality.

Like any other kid of his age, Salar wants to be able to play his favorite sport, basketball, and hopefully someday become an Electronic Engineer. Please see how you can help…”

Salar’s family has been able to raise the funds necessary for him to receive treatment at Stanford Medical Center, thanks to generous private donations.  Stanford already has agreed to treat Salar in January 2010 at a significantly lower cost than the expensive procedure requires. Salar and his mother’s visas have, however, been denied.

Their nonimmigrant visas were denied because “the applicant did not demonstrate strong ties outside the United States and was not able to demonstrate that his/her intended activities in the U.S. would be consistent with the visa status.”

According to Dr. Ivan Cheng of the Stanford Medical Center upon reviewing Salar’s medical file:

“He is at very high risk for further curve progression and further deterioration of his lung function.  Ultimately, he will probably have a significantly shorter lifespan without surgery.”

It’s sad that this young boy’s family managed to beat the odds and get everything lined up for this critical operation, only to have his visa request denied. The State Department should take another look at this case.

  • 11 December 2009
  • Posted By Lloyd Chebaclo
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in DC, Nuclear file, Sanctions

Gates: Iran Could Face “Significant Additional Sanctions”

With President Obama’s year-end deadline approaching for Iran to resume nuclear negotiations, the administration is seriously considering applying sanctions on Iran.

“I think that you are going to see some significant additional sanctions imposed by the international community, assuming that the Iranians don’t change course,” Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said Friday at a talk with U.S. soldiers in northern Iraq.

Politico reported today that in a taped interview with Al Jazeera English, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the “time has come” for the world to condemn Iran’s nuclear program.

Politco:

Clinton did not say, when asked, whether the United States would support an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear sites, but she did express disappointment at Iran’s diplomacy.

‘What we have tried to do is engage in diplomacy in a very vigorous way in order to reassure the international community, including all states, that Iran’s nuclear program was for peaceful purposes,’ she said. ‘Unfortunately, we haven’t had the kind of response we were hoping for from the Iranians.’

‘I think the international community really still wants to engage with Iran, but people are going to now turn to other routes like more pressure, like sanctions to try to change their mind and their behavior,’ she said.

Amnesty’s New Report Calls for Human Rights Abuses in Iran to be “fully investigated”

The December 2009 Amnesty Report, Iran: Election Contested, Repression Compounded, moves to bring the abysmal human rights situation in Iran back to the  fore of the international community.

Human rights violations in Iran are now as bad as at any time in the past 20 years, Amnesty International has said in a new report on the aftermath of last June’s presidential election.

“The Iranian leadership must ensure that the many allegations of torture, including rape, unlawful killings and other abuses are fully and independently investigated,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme. […]

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said: “The authorities must show that they have turned the page on the abuses committed this summer. They must now ensure that the policing of protests conforms fully to international standards on law enforcement, and keep the Basij and other strong arm forces off the street.”

“Anyone who is arrested or detained must be protected from torture or other ill-treatment, prisoners of conscience must be released and those convicted after unfair trials – including the ‘show trials’ which made a mockery of justice – must have their cases reviewed, or be released.  All death sentences should be commuted, and others not yet tried must receive fair trials.”

Amnesty:

The level of investigations that the government has held so far generally appear to have been intended more to conceal than to expose the truth.

Iranian authorities have established two bodies to investigate the post-election crisis, including the treatment of detainees – a parliamentary committee and a three-person judicial committee.

Full details of the mandate and powers of both bodies have not been disclosed, and the parliamentary committee’s findings have not been made public.

Manfred Nowak, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions have requested entry into Iran and are waiting to hear back from authorities.

“The onus is on the authorities to address the widespread human rights violations that occurred during the unrest in an open, transparent and accountable manner,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

Official figures say 36 people were killed in post-election violence. The opposition puts the figure at over 70.

At least 4,000 people were arrested across Iran after the elections. At the time of writing of the report, up to 200 remain in jail, some arrested after the initial unrest died down.

The report comes as massive new protests come up against more violent responses from the IRGC and government authorites in Iran days after the National Student Day resurgence among the opposition, nearly six months after the disputed June elections.

Green Movement and Iranian Government Clash Flares Up

While Iranian authorities continue their campaign against the growing opposition, the Green Movement does not appear to be letting up, even as some of its leaders’ efforts were thwarted from participating. Yesterday’s National Student Day protests were preempted by arrests of student activists from universities across Iran as reported by the International Campaign for Human Rights. Nevertheless, tens of thousands protested in solidarity with the Green Movement against the current Iranian government in “the biggest anti-government rallies in months.” Mir Hussein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, widely regarded as the movement’s leaders, were feared to be under house arrest.

According to AP:

Plainclothes men on motorcycles — likely Basijis — also harassed the opposition’s leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi, at his Tehran office on Tuesday. Up to 30 men on motorcycles, some in masks, blocked Mousavi as he tried to drive out of his office garage and chanted slogans against him, two opposition Web sites said, citing witnesses.

Mousavi got out of his car and shouted at them, ”You’re agents, you’ve been tasked with threatening me, beating me, killing me,” before his aides hustled him back inside, the Gooya News Web site reported. The men left several hours later and Mousavi was able to leave.

“When Mousavi’s wife Zahra Rahnavard arrived at Tehran University’s art faculty, where she is a professor, female Basij members tried to stop her and attacked her and her entourage with pepper spray, opposition Web sites reported, citing witnesses.

Protesters took some of the boldest actions yet in their demonstrations against the ruling clerics, breaking “the biggest taboo in Iran—burning pictures of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and chanting slogans against him.”

The New York Times reports further symbolic breaks from the current government as protesters “carried an Iranian flag from which the signature emblem of ‘Allah’– added after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution— had been removed.” Iranian authorities stepped up their threats against demonstrators while attempting to barricade universities to contain protests. Iran’s top prosecutor, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi, warned on Tuesday that the judiciary will be harsher than in the past:

“So far, we have shown restraint. From today no leniency will be applied,” Ejehi said, according to the official IRNA news agency.

Tehran’s police chief, Gen. Azizullah Rajabzadeh, announced that 204 protesters, including 39 women, were arrested in the capital during Monday’s demonstrations. They were detained for ”violating public order,” including setting fire to vehicles and chanting slogans, he said, according to the state news agency IRNA.

Large demonstrations are expected to occur on December 12th, the 6-month anniversary of the disputed June 12th elections. Hadi Ghaemi of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran is spreading the word about the Global Day of Arts in Support of Iran’s Civil Rights Movement on December 12th, when activists and artists will come together under the banner of ArtsUnited4Iran. Sponsors of associated worldwide events will include Reporters without Borders, Human Rights Watch, the Nobel Women’s Initiative, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, ARTICLE 19, and Front Line. More detailed information can be found at United4Iran:

Iran experts and activists speaking out in support of the civil rights movement in Iran include Hamid Dabashi, Columbia University Professor and CNN commentator; Hadi Ghaemi, Director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran; Firuzeh Mahmoudi, United4Iran’s International Coordinator; Omid Memarian, Iran expert for Human Rights Watch; and Reza Moini, Iran expert for Reporters without Borders (RSF).

Following the UN General Assembly’s resolution on the situation of human rights in Iran on November 20, 2009, members of the international community are calling on the Iranian government to:

  • Respect Freedom of Assembly, Expression, and Press,
  • Free all Prisoners of Conscience,
  • End Rape and Torture in Prisons,
  • Hold Those Responsible for Committing Human Rights Crimes Accountable.
  • Student Day Protests Met With Violence

    Today protesters demonstrated against the Iranian government on what marks National Student Day, which commemorates the death of three students protesting the Shah in 1953.  The Green Movement took to the streets en masse once again and faced a violent response from authorities. There have been reports of police and the Basij striking protesters with batons, the use of stun guns and tear gas on the crowds, and as yet unconfirmed reports of gunfire used for dispersal heard in police clashes. Telecommunications have been severely diminished in the country as authorities have cut down internet services and network signals in Iran as well as banned international news coverage of the demonstrations taking place today. Raw footage of the events can be seen via YouTube.

    • 4 December 2009
    • Posted By Lloyd Chebaclo
    • 2 Comments
    • Events in Iran, Iranian Youth

    America Held Hostage (video)

    In the BBC documentary, “America Held Hostage”, Bahman Kalbasi tells the story of the Iran Hostage Crisis with accounts by American officials held at the American embassy for the 444 day ordeal.

    The documentary features footage from November 4, 1979 when students mobbed the embassy in about an hour’s time, by the account of former NIAC Advisory Board member and current Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran, John Limbert.

    Out of the fourteen months he was held, Limbert spent nine in solitary confinement. Recounting some of his tense experience, he said

    The most frightening was one night he just dragged us all out of where we were, middle of the night and lined us up against the wall and started cocking their weapons as though they were going to execute us.

    Another hostage, Bill Daugherty, then CIA, recalls the frantic shredding of documents as the embassy was being stormed. He nervously offered an alibi, feigning ignorance as a recent foreign service hire, not knowing the hostage-takers had already infiltrated the safe of L. Bruce Laingen, senior American official at the embassy, which contained  a cable outing him as CIA. One young student, about 19 or 20, had an Uzi pointed at his stomach with the safety off.  Daugherty recalls, almost comically:

    “…I thought, ‘all this kid had to do was sneeze’…”

    Laingen spoke of his anger and frustration over the 444 days of the hostage crisis. He said at one point to the hostage takers that they had no right morally and legally to take these actions, especially to visitors to Iran. In response he was told: “You have no rights to complain. You took a whole country hostage in 1953.”

    President Jimmy Carter had stopped all imports from Iran, froze Iranian assets, and tried all diplomatic channels to no avail; his administration was made to look impotent as the hostages remained captive. Their final release came the day Ronald Reagan became President to the great relief of the hostages and their families. It was to be the beginning of Iran’s isolation.

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WugWIyNd8Dw]

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BV38GLSASTA]

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYZZtZV8Xp8]

    Iranian Government Targets Opposition Worldwide

    The Wall Street Journal reported today on an extremely troubling development in the Iranian government’s efforts to silence its critics in the continued aftermath of the disputed June elections–the regime is reportedly attempting to extend its crackdown beyond Iran’s borders to the Iranian diaspora abroad.

    “Interviews with roughly 90 ordinary Iranians abroad — college students, housewives, doctors, lawyers, businesspeople — in New York, London, Dubai, Sweden, Los Angeles and other places indicate that people who criticize Iran’s regime online or in public demonstrations are facing threats intended to silence them.”

    “Although it wasn’t possible to independently verify their claims, interviewees provided consistently similar descriptions of harassment techniques world-wide.”

    In one case, a young Iranian-American engineering student received an email threatening his family should he continue to criticize the Iranian government. He dismissed the threat as a joke until his father was arrested at his home in Tehran and told his son could “no longer safely return to Iran.

    Other interviewees said they were questioned at airports, scrutinized at passport control in Iran about their foreign ties, forced to log in to their Facebook accounts, and some had their passports confiscated for their criticisms of the Iranian government’s handling of this summer’s elections.

    This shameful campaign is further evidence that the Iranian government is mindful of lessons learned from the Shah’s upheaval:

    “During Iran’s historic 1979 Islamic revolution, Iranians abroad played an instrumental role in transforming the movement from a fringe idea led by a frail cleric, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, into a global force that eventually toppled the monarchy of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Iranians abroad flocked to Mr. Khomeini’s side, lending his movement language skills, money and, ultimately, global legitimacy.”

    “In the current crisis, Iran is eager to prevent a similar scenario.”

    • 2 December 2009
    • Posted By Lloyd Chebaclo
    • 0 Comments
    • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

    Iran whistleblower poisoned

    AP reports today that prosecutors say 26-year-old Dr. Ramin Pourandarjani, a doctor at the Kahrizak detention facility in Iran, died of an overdose of Propranolol, a drug used to treat hypertension, found in his salad through forensic tests. The suspicious circumstances surrounding Pourandarjani’s death prompted further investigation and calls to action by human rights groups, amid speculation by opposition groups that he was killed because of his knowledge of torture and abuses in the Kahrizak prison, which was closed in July. He had testified before a parliamentary committee and reportedly said that “one young protestor he treated died from heavy torture.”

    AP:

    “Investigators are still trying to determine whether his death was a suicide or murder, Tehran’s public prosecutor Abbas Dowlatabadi said, according to the state news agency IRNA.”

    Our readers will recall conflicting accounts of what transpired, including first  that Pourandarjani’s father was called by authorities who told him his son was injured in a car accident, requiring his consent for a surgery. His father arrived only to find his son dead. Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam, Iran’s top police commander called the death a suicide, citing a note found by the body. Pourandarjani’s father maintains that his son was in good spirits, his voice was “full of hope,” that he had been making plans with friends when he spoke to his son the night before his death.

    Investigators questioned the restaurant delivery man but he is not under arrest, Dowlatabadi said. The delivery man said he gave the salad directly to Pourandarjani, describing how the doctor took it from him at the door of his room, then closed the door behind him. […]

    The doctor’s father, Reza-Qoli Pourandarjani, told The Associated Press last month that he didn’t believe any of the causes given so far by the government in his son’s death. But he didn’t go as far as accusing authorities of killing his son.

    • 2 December 2009
    • Posted By Lloyd Chebaclo
    • 0 Comments
    • Diplomacy, Events in Iran

    Iran Frees Five British Sailors

    British authorities reported today that Iran has freed the five sailors, Oliver Smith, Sam Usher, Luke Porter, Oliver Young, and David Bloomer, who were detained last week when their racing yacht allegedly strayed into Iranian waters. The sailors were en route to Dubai from Bahrain on their 60-foot yacht, Kingdom of Bahrain, when it was taken in by the Iranian navy.

    British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said that this was “a purely consular case” and added:

    “I think that this is just a straightforward matter. It is not a political matter. I do not believe there is any wider significance… it shows that diplomacy can work.”

    The Revolutionary Guard said in its statement:

    “After carrying out an investigation and interrogation of the five British sailors, it became clear that their illegal entry was a mistake.”

    While Iranian authorities had warned earlier that the sailors would face “serious action” if they were found to have “evil intent,” Miliband said that the authorities dealt with the incident in a “professional way” and that, to his knowledge, the sailors were treated well.

    • 25 November 2009
    • Posted By Lloyd Chebaclo
    • 0 Comments
    • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

    Human Rights Organizations Call for Investigation into Mysterious Death of Physician in Iran

    The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reported today that along with Amnesty International and Physicians for Human Rights, it sent a letter to Iranian authorities demanding an investigation into the death of Dr. Ramin Pourandarjani, a 26-year-old physician at the Kahrizak detention center, “who reportedly witnessed grave human rights violations there.”

    Iranhumanrights.org:

    “Scores of protestors were detained and held at Kahrizak, where they were allegedly tortured and ill treated.  At least four detainees died in the facility. Iranian authorities have promised to investigate the ill treatment of detainees at Kahrizak but to date, no public announcements about the prosecution of those responsible have been made.”

    Pourandarjani had been working at Kahrizak once a week as part of his military service, treating detainees who had been tortured. Some reportedly died of their abuses in the facility. Before his death, Dr. Pourandarjani “reportedly received threats to prevent him from revealing the abuses he had witnessed at Kahrizak.” He was also said to “have been forced to certify that one detainee had died of meningitis.”  (Our readers will remember that detainee was Mohsen Roholamini, the son of an aid to the conservative presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaei. Parleman news reported in August that the coroner’s office of Tehran announced that he did not die from meningitis, leading to the conclusion that he had been killed in Kahrizak.)

    Amnesty and ICHRI describe the suspicious circumstances behind the doctor’s death:

    “Dr. Ramin Pourandarjani’s body was discovered in a room at Tehran police headquarters on 10 November. While the Chief of Police, General Esmaeil Ahmadi-Moqaddam, has said that Dr. Pourandarjani, committed suicide and that a letter found near his body suggested that he had been depressed, officials had initially said he had suffered a heart attack in his sleep and later that he had died of poisoning. Dr. Pourandarjani’s father, Reza-Qoli Pourandarjani, said he had spoken to his son the night before his death and that he did not appear to be depressed. He told the Associated Press that he had initially been informed by the authorities that his son had broken his leg in an accident and that his [the father’s] consent was needed for surgery. However after travelling to Tehran from his home in Tabriz, Reza-Qoli Pourandrarjani discovered that his son was dead.”

    Sign the Petition

     

    7,349 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.

    Sincerely,

    [signature]

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