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2 More Executed in Iran

The NY Times reports that Mohammad-Ali Zamani and Arash Rahamipour were hanged before dawn for their suspected role in the April 2008 mosque bombing in Shiraz, Iran. The mosque bombing killed 13 people and left 200 others wounded. 9 others were also found guilty of “moharebeh”, or being enemies of God, as they were arrested in the midst of the December Ashura protests.

This is being viewed as an attempt to frighten protesters before the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Republic on February 11, where anti-government rallies are to be expected.

“Following the riots and anti revolutionary and foundation-breaking actions of last few months, especially on the day of Ashura, Tehran’s revolutionary court has sentenced 11 people to death,” the semiofficial ISNA news service reported.

Amnesty International further reports that Iran is second to China in rate of executions; President Ahmadinejad’s execution rate has nearly quadrupled, from 86 in 2005, the year he initially took office, up to 346 in 2008. Human rights groups additionally report that over 115 have been killed since the disputed June presidential elections and Ahmadinejad’s August inauguration.

Notably, Zamani and Rahamipour’s family members state that the two were arrested before the election, and were not involved in the post-election protests.

In an interview in October with the Rooz Online Web site, Mr. Rahmanipour’s lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, said that his client was actually arrested in late March or April. “He has nothing to do with the election or the post-election events,” Mr. Sotoudeh said at the time. “They tried to create fear when he was arrested and even arrested his pregnant sister.”

Adding to the confusion of Mr. Alizamani’s arrest, some Iranian news sites report that he was detained before the protests. Regardless of the causes of arrest, the executions are seemingly intended as defense; the Iranian governments is apparently gearing itself for another round of opposition come February 11th.

  • 27 January 2010
  • Posted By Nayda Lakelieh
  • 6 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Nuclear file

Israeli Def Min: Failure of Peace Process Greater Threat Than Iranian Nukes

Time and time again, Iran’s nuclear program is cited as the greatest threat to Israeli security, a theme that Prime Minister Netanyahu has continually evoked since starting office last March. On Tuesday, though, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak broke away from this trend, suggesting that the domestic Palestinian-Israeli conflict poses as a much greater threat than any Iranian nuclear program, as reported by Ha’aretz .

The lack of a solution to the problem of border demarcation within the historic Land of Israel – and not an Iranian bomb – is the most serious threat to Israel’s future,” Barak told a Tel Aviv conference.

Additional sources further report Barak’s warning that unless Israel helps create a Palestinian state, it could end up losing its Jewish character or becoming undemocratic, affirming  that the peaces-deadlock is the most imminent threat.

“It must be understood that if between the Jordan [River] and the [Mediterranean Sea] there is only one political entity called ‘Israel’, it will by necessity either be not Jewish or not democratic, and we will turn into an apartheid state.”

Mr. Barak’s defiance of Prime Minister Netanyahu comes amid growing frustration and increasing desire to restart peace talks, with the Obama Administration weighing in strongly in favor of new negotiations.

  • 26 January 2010
  • Posted By Nayda Lakelieh
  • 5 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

That’s Mr. Supreme Leader to You?

Following the news of Mehdi Karroubi ‘recognizing’ Ahmadinejad as head of government, many are quick to label him as a traitor, or wonder why the sudden softened stance from Karroubi. Although both Khatami and Karroubi dropped their demand for a new presidential election, the reformists still maintain that the presidential election was fraudulent. According to The New York Times, Karroubi’s equally controversial and ambiguous statements have created quite a frenzy.

Mr. Karroubi’s son, Hussein Karroubi, contacted Saham News, a news service affiliated with the reform movement, to clarify that his father had not backed off any of his charges of fraud, or of protesters’ being raped and sodomized by prison staff members.

I stand firmly by the belief that cheating took place in the election and the results were doubtful, and I believe the vote count was completely rigged,” the younger Mr. Karroubi said, quoting his father, in an interview with Saham News. “However, since Mr. Khamenei endorsed Mr. Ahmadinejad, for this very reason I consider him the president of the current government of this system.” He referred to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

What is most interesting about Karroubi’s statements is the fact that he clearly defines Ahmadinejad’s legitimacy as coming from the Supreme Leader, and not the people of Iran; Karroubi continually upholds the belief that the results of the June presidential elections were fraudulent and rigged. Beyond that, referral to Supreme Leader Khamenei as “Mr.” Khamenei, rather than the more proper title of  “Ayatollah Khamenei” or “Supreme Leader Khamenei” also adds to the bold nature of Karroubi’s comments.

Perhaps this was meant as a tacit jab to Ayatollah Khamenei’s own authority. Some report that Karroubi’s use of “Mr. Khamenei” referral was not an accidental slip of the tongue, but rather meant as a deliberate insult to the Supreme Leader, citing that the comments remained unchanged on Saham News for hours.

  • 25 January 2010
  • Posted By Nayda Lakelieh
  • 7 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Karroubi ‘recognizes’ Ahmadinejad…

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports (via www.payvand.com) that opposition leader Mehdi Karrubi recognizes Ahmadinejad as being the head of Iran’s government, although he is quick to maintain that the June presidential election was rigged.

Karrubi’s new found stance could demonstrate a ploy to extract similar concessions from the ruling elite–sort of a quid pro quo.   Hossein Karrubi, the opposition leader’s son, explained to RFE/RL’s Radio Farda that his father still believes the presidential election was tarnished by fraud.

Karrubi, who stood against Ahmadinejad in the disputed June vote, was asked by the semiofficial Fars news agency whether he recognized “the lawful and elected president of the Iranian people.”

He was quoted by Fars as responding, “I still maintain that there were problems, but with regard to your question, I should say that I recognize the president.

A opposition source adds that security fears told RFE/RL that Karrubi’s comments did not represent a shift in his previous stance.

He didn’t say he recognizes Ahmadinejad as the elected president, he said he recognizes him as the head of the government. There is a government in the country and its head is Ahmadinejad,” the opposition source said in a telephone interview from the Iranian capital.

Many are anticipating more protests next month following the commemoration of the 1979 Islamic Revolution; perhaps Karrubi’s seemingly calculated stance is a consequence of the Revolution’s impending 30th anniversary.


  • 25 January 2010
  • Posted By Nayda Lakelieh
  • 2 Comments
  • Events in Iran

Ahmadinejad’s version of the ‘stimulus package’?

Reuters reports that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s new plan to make Iranian national currency more “real”, by removing the zeros from the Rial. Although the official inflation rate in Iran has declined over the last year (from 30% to less than 10% now), Ahmadinejad plans to remove zeros from the national currency.

“We are supposed to remove zeros (from the rial) to make its value real,” Ahmadinejad said. “We have to return its value to the one existing in the law,” he said, without elaborating.

The Iranian President wants to remove “zeros” from Iranian national currency, without specifying when this tactic is to be implemented. Currently 1,000 rial note is worth about 10 US cents. No further details were given by President Ahmadinejad.

  • 25 January 2010
  • Posted By Nayda Lakelieh
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Even More Crackdowns on Iranian Media

Radio Zamaneh reports ( via www.payvand.com)  that Iran’s Ministry of Culture has cautioned fifteen newspapers for publishing criticism of Iran’s domestic unrest following the June presidential election.

Iran’s Ministry of Culture has issued warnings for 15 newspapers for “spreading rumours” and “representing a false image of the country’s situation.” Seven of them were reprimanded for publishing the statements of Mohammad Khatami, the former president, who is currently considered as one of the chief leaders of the opposition.

Five other dailies were reprimanded for printing statements by Ali Motahari, a conservative member of the parliament.

In an interview, Ali Motahari had criticized the actions of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during the candidate debates of the presidential campaign and claimed they were at the root of the “sedition” that took place after the elections.

Motahari thus added that “if leaders of the sedition are to apologize to the people, it is only fair that Ahmadinejad also apologizes to the people too.”

Following Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election in June, the Iranian government’s crackdown on objective media and the detention of journalists has increased significantly.  Reporters Without Borders is reporting that the Iranian government currently has 42 journalists and bloggers imprisoned.

‘Mercy’ Period is Over

The NY times reports that Iran’s national police chief, Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam, issued a warning that the “mercy” phase was over: Iranian authorities would soon begin cracking down even more severely on opposition activities.

The police chief warned that this crackdown would not be limited to protesters but anyone who used technology, such as cellphones, twitter alerts, and e-mails to publicize the street protests.

This proclamation does not come lightly; since the June 12 disputed presidential elections opposition groups have relied heavily upon such technology to help organize their movement. The government has repeatedly tried to block websites and shut down opposition newspapers, and the battle over access to information is a daily struggle.

“After all the evidence we saw on Ashura, our tolerance has come to an end, and both the police force and the judiciary will be confronting them with full force,” Mr. Ahmadi Moghaddam said, according to Iran’s semiofficial news service ILNA.

The December 27th Ashura protests was one of the most violent outbreaks since the initial summer protests, as hundreds of dissidents were arrested and at least 8 were killed. More opposition protests are expected next month during the celebration of the founding of the Islamic Republic.

  • 14 January 2010
  • Posted By Nayda Lakelieh
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Iran Election 2009, Uncategorized

Reformist Cleric Arrested

Radio Zamaneh reports (via www.payvand.com) that Iranian reformist cleric Mohammad-Taghi Khalaji was arrested yesterday by the Qom Intelligence Department. Khalaji’s son Mehdi affirms that when arrested, Khalaji’s computer and personal documents, such as his passport, were confiscated as well. Mehdi Khalaji further reports that his mother and sister also had their passports confiscated and they were told not to leave the country.  The Khalaji family had been planning to visit Mehdi, who currently lives in the US and works at the DC think tank the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Mohammad-Taghi Khalaji is a prominent Qom cleric close to reformist clerics Ayatollah Montazeri and Ayatollah Sanei. He was arrested and imprisoned three times before the Revolution as a political activist.

Mehdi Khalaji reports that his father had given a speech on the night of Tasua, the Shiite Holy Day in Ayatollah Sanei’s home criticizing government pressure against clerics and opposition leaders.

Mohammad-Taghi Khalaji supported presidential candidate Mousavi and has spoken out several times condemning the Iranian government for their brutal crackdown on election protestors.

  • 12 January 2010
  • Posted By Nayda Lakelieh
  • 9 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Iran Election 2009, Israel, Nuclear file

Bomb Kills Nuclear Scientist in Iran

The LA Times reports that Massoud Ali-Mohammadi, one of Iran’s top nuclear scientists was killed on his way to work this week. Adding ambiguity to the death, officials offer various explanations for the explosion. Some state that a bomb was fixed onto a motorcycle near his car while others report that the explosives were in a nearby trash bin, detonated by remote control.

Various sources report that Ali-Mohammadi was an outspoken supporter for Mir-Hossein Mousavi. However, Iranian officials are quick to blame the West and Israel for the assassination, as a reactionary measure to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons capability.

State television described Ali-Mohammadi as a “revolutionary university professor martyred in a terrorist operation by counterrevolutionary agents affiliated” with the West.

According to one nuclear physics student who studied under Ali-Mohammadi, he was killed for his support for the student movement.  Another student believes that Ali-Mohammadi had cut ties with the Revolutionary Guard years ago.  No suspects have yet to be arrested.

UPDATE

Dr. Ali-Mohammadi’s field of specialization is now being disputed; Tehran University’s website lists Ali-Mohammadi as being a professor of Elementary Particle Physics. The New York Times also reports that two Iranian academics spoke out against claims that Dr. Ali-Mohammadi was a nuclear physicist. In fact, Ali Shirzadian, a spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Agency affirmed that Ali-Mohammadi has no association with the agency in charge of Iran’s nuclear program.

  • 8 January 2010
  • Posted By Nayda Lakelieh
  • 3 Comments
  • Congress, Culture, Iranian American Life

Khodahafez America?

This week Congressman Greshman Barrett announced that he would like to reintroduce the Stop Terrorists Entry Program (STEP) Act, originally introduced in 2003. STEP is an attempt to “step up” national security policies by amending our nation’s current immigration policies. Basically, the STEP ACT would prohibit the admission of aliens from countries deemed to be “State Sponsors of Terrorism,” including Iran.

The United States has come a long way since the days of the Mayflower — in both good ways and bad — but our nation was ultimately founded by immigrants; everyone has immigrant roots, including Congressman Barrett.

One could say to suddenly bar all Iranians seeking to come to the US could be seen as a eugenic measure of some sort, keeping out specific groups of “aliens” from US soil, and adhering to the bigoted idea that only specific ethnic groups belong within the US. It would also deport Iranians on student visas, temporary work visas, exchange visas, and even tourist visas within 60 days. This would mean that if the STEP Act were to pass, my Calculus tutor Bijan would be deported before we even take our final exams, simply for being here on a student visa.

The STEP Act doesn’t take into account that Bijan has only twenty more credits to complete his B.S. in Biology, simply focusing on the fact that he is Iranian.

Even those seeking emergency medical treatment, political, or religious asylum will only be granted entry after “extensive federal screening.”  Anyone who has experienced the “extensive federal screening” process knows how difficult it is.

If a law like this had been implemented ten, twenty, even thirty years ago many of us Iranian-Americans would not be here today. Many of the great contributions that Iranian Americans have made to the United States — in medicine, engineering, science, and academia — would not have occurred.

The US has tried rounding up people based on where they or their families were born — Japanese internment camps during WWII being the most poignant example — and there are even some pundits in Washington who still think it was a good idea.  But even in today’s frenzied political atmosphere where teabaggers set the bounds for discourse, this has to be crossing a line, right?

If you think so, check out what NIAC is doing on this.

Sign the Petition

 

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.

Sincerely,

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