Currently Browsing

Author Archive

  • 4 March 2010
  • Posted By Nayda Lakelieh
  • 5 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

It’s the Economy, Ahmagh

Time reports that the Iranian economy is in a dire state, more than Tehran would like to reveal. The Iranian government has even stopped reporting economic statistics, as financial anxiety is encroaching upon the Islamic Republic’s stability.

Although the Iranian government has ceased official economic reports, unofficial sources still report the growing labor problems; one report states that a privately owned industrial-parts company in Isfahan has not paid 200 of its employees for the past 7 months. Additional problems were reported in an Isafahani steel plant, where workers started a hunger strike to protest vast discrepancies in their pay. In Shiraz, Gorgan, and cities all over Iran, more reports assert that workers  have gone unpaid for months, with some employers even failing to pay state insurance, letting working conditions steadily diminish. Still, there is no official recognition of the growing economic problems.

An Iranian journalist explains “they have manipulated the definition of who is jobless so they can keep the figure close to 10%. But now every family has one jobless person in their home.”

“They cannot believe all those optimistic figures given by the government. The government says that inflation was less than 30%, but they go to the grocery store and find everything is double and triple the price that it was four years ago.”

The official figures fall short of Iran’s targeted economic development plan, while unemployment is predicted to be over 24%. Ahmadinejad was elected on the campaign platform of economic success, yet has failed to deliver upon his promise.  Iranian media continues to depict a thriving economy, while ordinary Iranians feel the brunt of inflation, adding yet another shaky ingredient to the Islamic Republic’s future.

  • 3 March 2010
  • Posted By Nayda Lakelieh
  • 3 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

A Death Sentence for Throwing Rocks

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran confirms that twenty-year-old Mohammad Amin Valian, a student at Iran’s Damghan University, has lost his case in Iranian appeals court; Iran’s judiciary upheld Valian’s death sentence in connection with the December 27th Ashura protests. Valian is among 11 others who were charged with “moharebeh”, or waging war against God, the most serious offense one can be charged with in Iran.

These rulings continue to demonstrate the international community’s failure to bring about any real change in Iran’s human rights record. Even after the United Nation’s Human Rights Council’s examination of Iran in February, there still seems to be little progress towards holding the Iranian government accountable for its actions.

“We see a direct relationship between the failure of the international community, particularly the UN Human Rights Council, to hold Iran accountable…,” stated Aaron Rhodes, a spokesperson for the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

“Iran has received a clear message:  Your atrocities will neither  arouse any serious response from the Human Rights Council, nor block your bid for membership in the Human Rights Council,” he said.

Valian testified in court that he threw rocks at security forces and plainclothes militiamen, but further added that these rocks did not actually strike anyone.  Although the student was politically active, and participated in several demonstrations, he was not a political leader. The International Campaign for Human Rights further reports that more than 100 Iranian students are in detention for their political activity.

  • 2 March 2010
  • Posted By Nayda Lakelieh
  • 2 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Esteemed Film Maker Jafar Panahai Arrested

Radio Zamaneh reports (via Payvand.com) The Creator of revered films “The White Balloon” and “The Circle”, Jafar Panahi, was arrested in his home.

The director’s home was raided and security forces detained members of his family along with fifteen other guests; many of the guests were also prominent members of the film industry. The raid took over five hours and security forces confiscated various documents from Panahi’s residential home. Panahi is an outspoken supporter of the oppositional Green Movement and was previously arrested in September at a Behest-e-Zahra commemoration ceremony for post-election victims. The director was then prohibited from leaving the country and in effect banned from attending a panel discussion in the Berlin film festival.

Since late June, the Iranian government has been cracking down on members of the media, and the film industry has been no exception .  While the Iranian government has recently released a small number of journalists, perhaps to show good-will prior to the upcoming Iranian New Year, more and more reformist outlets are being shut down. Al Jareeza reports that reformist papers Etemaad and Iran Dokht, run by members of opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi’s family,  have joined the ranks of barred newspapers.

The press watchdog banned Etemad and referred the case to the judiciary for repeated and persistent violations,” ISNA News Agency said on Monday without giving the newspaper’s alleged offences.

Ghanbar Naderi, a journalist for the Iran Daily, an official government newspaper, told Al Jazeera that journalists have to censor much of what they write, irrespective of their political background.

“The press law in this country is very tough and unforgiving, it doesn’t make any difference if you are a reformist or a conservative media outlet,” he said.

Many are anticipating further government crackdowns during the new year Chaharshanbeh Souri events, as opposition groups are starting to mobilize and calling for nightly protests.

  • 24 February 2010
  • Posted By Nayda Lakelieh
  • 4 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Human Rights in Iran, Legislative Agenda, Sanctions

Drop Broadband, Not Bombs

Although plenty of Washington policymakers say the US should “support the green opposition in Iran,” how to do so remains a puzzle.

One proposal in today’s Guardian has caught some attention: provide Iranians with high speed internet access.

One of the pillars of [Iran’s] repressive policy has been media propaganda depicting protesters as vandals and stooges of foreign powers. In pursuing this policy, the government actively curtails alternative sources of information in the country (especially the BBC and VOA broadcasts in Persian), thoroughly filters sensitive websites used by protesters to communicate (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter etc) and reduces internet speed to just about nil to render video streaming or uploading impossible. It has even moved to ban Gmail.

Thus, one answer could be to beam high-speed Internet into Iran via satellites:

The technology to overcome this already exists. Households and businesses in areas with poor infrastructure connect to the internet through satellites. A Japanese satellite, Kizuna, was launched in 2008 to provide mountainous areas of Japan and other parts of East Asia with the world’s highest-speed internet connection using 45cm aperture antennas (the same size as existing communications satellite antennas widely used in Iran). The Japanese intend to expand this project into an international one.

A number of satellites currently covering Iran’s territory can be used to provide internet access. Indeed, the US army, through private subcontractors, successfully provides its troops in Iraq and Afghanistan (where infrastructure is poor or inexistent) with near-high-speed satellite access.

One problem, though, is that US sanctions are actually contributing to the Iranian government’s ability to censor information in Iran by impeding the legal distribution of anti-filter software to Iranians and even outlawing downloads of popular networking software such as ‘Google Talk’.

Foreign companies have blocked almost all access to online shopping and financial transactions from Iran. If anyone in Iran buys software from abroad using a foreign account, their internet address will reveal their location and the bank account will be frozen.

Websites selling internet domains and hosting services will not provide services to Iranians and internet phone company Skype, which would provide Iranian dissidents with a safe means of communication via its messenger, does not allow Iranian internet addresses or let Iranians buy credit.

Even a large open source software resource recently changed its rules to stop Iranians from using it.

Access to high speed Internet in Iran is currently subjected to the whim of the ruling elite.   By providing broadband internet access for common Iranians, and giving them a more active, less censored voice, the United States will be able to support the Green Movement, without ever being directly involved within Iran’s domestic affairs.

Would Ahmadinejad Welcome an Attack on Iran?

“Bomb Iran!” Few words cause more apprehension among Iranians and Iranian Americans than those two put together. Yet attacking Iran is always among the list of suggestions for how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program.

Whether Iran is pursuing peaceful nuclear energy or a weapon is, however, actually becoming irrelevant.  The international community is rallying around the most recent IAEA report, which criticized Iran’s lack of cooperation with the Agency, to lambaste Iran’s continuing nuclear work.

This is exactly what Ahmadinejad was hoping for.

The world’s breathless reporting on Iran’s nuclear program takes the focus off of human rights abuses and the domestic unrest, and ratchets up the possibility of a future confrontation.  And Ahmadinejad is never happier than when he’s in a clash of civilizations with the West.

A recent war game conducted at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy demonstrated that an Israeli-US pre-emptive strike against Iran’s nuclear sites could delay an Iranian bomb for a few years. That said, according to one participant:

There would be almost no incentive for Iran not to respond with force…It was interesting to see how useful it was for Tehran to push the limits. The Tehran regime was also able to crush its domestic political opposition.”

One has to wonder why Iran recently made the decision to move nearly all of its stockpile of enriched uranium to an above-ground facility with wholly inadequate defense against an airstrike.  Could it be that Tehran would actually invite an Israeli attack?

A former Deputy Director General of the IAEA thinks so:

Very recent signals from Tehran indicates that the Ahmadine-jad faction – it seems with the blessing of the Supreme Leader – would welcome a limited Israeli attack on a nuclear facility – for sheer internal political reasons, in order to strengthen the govern-ment and to silence the opposition.

If an attack were to occur, it would do little to actually end the nuclear program in Iran. Rather, it would almost guarantee the end of a legitimate opposition movement inside Iran.

Continuing the nuclear program.  Crushing the Green Movement.  And being able to play the victim on a global stage?  That’s a dream come true for Ahmadinejad.

  • 19 February 2010
  • Posted By Nayda Lakelieh
  • 2 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Showing Repentance? 50 Prisoners Released from Evin Wednesday Night

Over the course of the past eight months, thousands of Iranians have been placed in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison; this round-up includes protesters of the fraudulent June elections, members of the media, and other political prisoners. Many of these recent detainees have been sentenced to unusually long prison sentencing, and others have even been condemned to death.   This is why it’s shocking that Radio Zamaneh reports (via payvand.com) that 50 Iranian political prisoners were released from Evin’s macabre confines on Wednesday night, albeit in most cases through temporary releases tacked with high bail amounts.

Shahabeddin Tabatabai, Islamic Iran Participation Front member and head of reformist youth in support of Mousavi and Khatami, was one of the high profile detainees which was temporarily released last night, according to Neday-e Sabz-e Azadi website.

Tabatabai, who has been sentenced to five years in prison, was released by the authorities for a period of five days on an 800-million-touman ($800,000) bail.

Member of Human Rights Reporters, Parisa Kakai, and student activist, Maziar Samii were also among the detainees released last night.

One must ponder- why the sudden unprecedented purge of prisoners? This could possibly stem from The Human Right Council’s Universal Periodic Review on Monday, in which Iran’s abysmal human rights record was put to light and Iran was chastised for their gross violation of basic human rights.

Iran’s High Council for Human Rights, Secretary General Mohammad Larijani, asserted on Monday that any allegations of human rights abuses were prompted by western critics seeking to exploit Iran’s human rights record for their own political means, rejecting all evidence that highlights Iran’s notorious human rights record. Iranian officials were uncooperative and rejected any sort of investigation surrounding Iran’s human rights record, and opposed many suggestions brought forth by the Human Rights Council.

However, Iran is expected to seek membership in the Human Rights Council in the upcoming May Council elections; thus, this could be one possible reason for the sudden release of prisoners on Wednesday night. The purge could also be an attempt to appease protesters, especially following the crackdown on the February 11th protests, and the chokehold Iran is imposing within its borders.  Or, perhaps Tehran really has taken to heart the suggestions brought forth by the council Monday, and is on the path to legitimately better their human rights record. The latter is far less plausible, and Iran feigning an improvement in its approach to basic human rights within its borders would be unsurprising, unlike the sudden release of prisoners.

  • 16 February 2010
  • Posted By Nayda Lakelieh
  • 16 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Persian Gulf, Sanctions, Uncategorized

Clinton: Iran’s shift towards Military dictatorship

The NY  times reports that Secretary of State Clinton  sparked more tension with Iran on Monday by suggesting Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards is shifting the nation towards a military dictatorship, as the IRGC is gaining more political, economic, and military power.

“We see that the government of Iran, the supreme leader, the president, the Parliament is being supplanted and that Iran is moving toward a military dictatorship,” Mrs. Clinton said.

Notably, Secretary Clinton impelled Iran’s political and religious leaders to stand-up against the IRGC, and “take back the authority which they should be exercising on behalf of the people”. This would be the closest any senior US administration official has come to encouraging political disturbance in the nation.

Iranian officials did not take the news lightly, and Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki promptly responded that the description of a military dictatorship could also be applied to America. Mottaki further accused the US of using “fake words” and “modern deceit” to mask Washington’s true intentions for the Gulf region.

“We are regretful that the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tries to conceal facts about the stance of the U.S. administration through fake words,” Press TV quoted [Mottaki] as saying.

Clinton’s comments possibly stem from Washington’s new strategy of characterizing the IRGC as responsible for the domestic unrest in Iran, eager to lodge animosity between ordinary Iranian citizens and the more entitled IRGC.  Sec. Clinton’s frank approach could also be an attempt to rally more Iran-ambivalent regional allies and to gain support for a new round of more targeted sanctions directed at the IRGC, as these carefully calculated statements came just across the Persian Gulf. Regardless of the motivation, Clinton’s sharp words definitely inflamed the Iranian government.

  • 3 February 2010
  • Posted By Nayda Lakelieh
  • 5 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Nuclear file

Iran’s Space Jam

Press TV reports that Iran has launched a rocket capable of putting a satellite into space, this time equipped with living organisms. The worms, two turtles, and  rat were monitored by video transmission aboard Kavoshgar-3, and were studied by scientists upon their return to earth.

“Projects that we inaugurated are mostly on the very edge of modern technology… each one of them call for a national celebration,” Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday, while addressing a gathering of scientists and state officials.

“Those individuals whose contributions have made all this possible deserve praise,” he added.

CNN further reports that the White House believes the launch of  Kavoshgar- 3 or Explorer 3 to be a “provocative act,” raising international concern. Spokesperson Bill Burton said that the US is still verifying that all accounts of the launch are accurate.

Although Ahmadinejad is describing the aerospace launch as a symbol of hope for the region, the morning launch has sprung much international animosity.

“Developing a space launch vehicle that could … put a satellite into orbit could possibly lead to development of a ballistic missile system,” State Department deputy spokesman Robert Wood said at the time. “So that’s a grave concern to us.”

The Pentagon called the plan “clearly a concern of ours.”, while President Obama added “that it’s not too late for Iran to do the right thing.”

  • 3 February 2010
  • Posted By Nayda Lakelieh
  • 4 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

Bartering Prisoners? Ahmadinejad hints at detained hikers’ release.

The Associated Press reports (via Washingtonpost.com)  Ahmadinejad has hinted at the possible release of three jailed US hikers… in exchange for Iranians currently serving time in US prisons.

“There are some talks under way to have an exchange, if it is possible,” he said. “Recently they (the U.S.) have sent messages, we answered to bring them (the Iranians), to bring these people (the hikers). We are hopeful that all prisoners to be released.”

No specific Iranian prisoners were mentioned by Ahmadinejad, but he had previously released a list of 11 Iranians believed to be detained in the US.  The list, released in December, includes a nuclear scientist that had disappeared in Saudi Arabia, an Iranian arrested in Canada on charges of trying to obtain nuclear technology, and a former Defense Ministry official who vanished in Turkey.

“I had said I would help in releasing them, but the attitude of some of U.S. officials damages the job,” said Ahmadinejad. “There are a large number of Iranians in prison in the U.S. They have abducted some of our citizens in other countries.”

Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, and Josh Fattal are all UC Berkeley graduates that were detained 6 months ago on accounts of “suspicious aims” while hiking in Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region. Their families state that the three accidentally crossed the border into Iran, but Ahmadinejad disputes this, stating that there were “indications they knew they were crossing into Iran.”

In late December, Iran’s foreign minister said that the three US detainees would be tried in court, but failed to mention any specific charge or when the trial would actually begin.

  • 1 February 2010
  • Posted By Nayda Lakelieh
  • 2 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Legislative Agenda, Nuclear file

Tehran dismisses another US sanction

Last Thursday the US senate passed a broad, indiscriminate sanctions bill that would restrict Iran’s importation of petroleum; predictably this move was promptly dismissed by authorities in Tehran. It is reported, (via www.presstv.com) that Ramin Mehman-Parast, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman told the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) that the US will not persuade Iran to give up any “legal rights” to its nuclear program, as Iran has adamantly claimed that the nuclear program is in line with Iran’s commitment to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

We have repeatedly said that the US sanctions imposed against our nation during the past 31 years … have resulted in nothing but our nations’ stronger determination to assert independence and achieve self-reliance,” [Mehman-Parast] said.

The Senate bill will require President Obama to punish foreign companies that export gasoline to Iran.

Additionally, Press TV also reports that senior Iranian lawmaker Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel gave a speech on Monday, stating that Tehran will stand firmly by its cause regardless if the US is trying to gain universal consensus for sanctions against Iran, conveying that Iran’s national response to the world powers is “Independence, freedom and the Islamic Republic.”

The Iranian nation conveys this message to arrogant and bullying powers that it will firmly support its independence, freedom and ideals,” said Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel on Monday in a speech on the occasion of the start of ceremonies marking the 31st anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.
“We will not bow to pressure [of bullying powers] concerning our legal right to peaceful nuclear technology”.

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]

Share this with your friends: