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Iranian Human Rights Defenders Reject War

Over the past 9 years, many different cases have been made by Iran hawks in support of a military strike against the country. Much of the focus is on Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, and the possible threat that it would pose against U.S. allies in the region. But many war supporters also justify “the military option” by exploiting the worsening of human rights abuses in Iran and suggesting that the support of Iranian citizens can be gained through a war of regime change. In reality, neither group takes the voices and concerns of Iranians within Iran into consideration. These concerns include the disastrous effects war would have on the worsening human rights abuses within the Islamic Republic, and for Iran’s peaceful democratic opposition.

Last week, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran published “Raising Their Voices, Iranian Civil Society Reflections on the Military Option”. In an attempt to document the perspective of Iranians inside Iran in their report, the organization interviewed 35 of Iranian writers, human rights defenders, members of the political opposition, lawyers, student activists, cultural leaders, and journalists.

The report shows an overwhelming response rejecting a war against Iran: “military action against Iran by the United States or Israel would be futile, counterproductive and irrational. Accordingly, while achieving none of the goals used to justify such action, a strike would lead to further political regression and repression, deeper enmity between the Iranian people and the United States, and severe humanitarian problems.”

Even though many Iran hawks claim that military action is a threat to the Islamic Republic and could be helpful to the reformists or the opposition of the regime, the fact is that many extremists within the regime welcome the idea. Nationalism is and has always been a powerful factor within the Iranian society. “A war with Iran,” says the report, “would strengthen the current regime by stoking nationalism and dividing the opposition, and undercut the Iranian public’s goodwill toward the United States.”

Many Iranian citizens do want change and reform; they do not however, want a foreign imposition of such change for many reasons. “An attack would further militarize the state, exacerbate the human rights crisis in Iran, and undermine Iranian civil society and the pro-democracy movement,” says the report. War would put into the lives of political prisoners in Iran in further danger–Iranians remember well the many political prisoners who fell victim to mass executions during the Iran-Iraq war. A US military strike would also lead to more human rights violations, more extreme government crackdowns, economic, and environmental consequences.

Mohammad Seifzadeh, a leading human rights lawyer, who has served a prison sentence in Iran, has voiced his concern: “If a war were to take place right now, the atmosphere would definitely become more restricted and more limitations would be imposed upon intellectuals, human rights activist, social elites and students.”

The debates concerning a military strike against the Islamic Republic have not taken the voices of Iranian citizens, the people who will be affected the most by military action, into consideration. Iranians have essential insight to administer about the repercussions of a US military strike against Iran in regards to the future of US-Iran relations, regional and domestic stability, and protection of human rights.

  • 20 June 2011
  • Posted By Sahar Fahimi
  • 1 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iranian Youth, Sanctions, UN

Akbar Ganji: “The Worst Scenario for Iran: A Different Look” (Part 2 of 2)

On June 15, 2011, Akbar Ganji published an article,”The Worst Scenario for Iran: A Different Look,” on BBC Persian, examining the economy of Iran and the effects of the international sanctions on it. NIAC’s Ali Tayebi and Sahar Fahimi have translated this article from Ganji’s original pen, Persian, to English.  This is the second half of the article; the first half is here.

The worst possible situation

Ayatollah Khamenei will never accept to retreat in Iran nuclear project. His policy in the Middle East and North Africa to support the extremist activities and calling the ongoing changes across the region “Islamic Revolution” soured the anti-Iran atmosphere, and put Persian Gulf countries in an confrontational position with Iran.

In this situation, what option remains for the Western countries other than increasing political and economic sanctions?

Let us assume that the western countries succeed in sanctioning all Iranian banks. Let us assume that this sanction also includes Iran’s fuel, and Iran is put in a situation similar to Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s era. In this case, the unemployment rate in Iran will increase by millions, poverty will be expanded all over the country and the middle class will merge into the lower class. Tens of thousands of children and the elderly will lose their lives.

Would this situation lead to protests or cause a revolution? Thousands of different issues could lead to the collapse of the totalitarian religious regime, however, no one can predict that increasing unemployment and poverty will cause protests or spark a revolution. Consider Iraq, the toughest economic sanctions in ten years destroyed the Iraqi society, but did not hurt Saddam’s regime and at the end he stepped down only by military attack and invasion.

In the same situation, as long as the regime has power and intention to systemically crackdown any protests and critique, it will continue to survive. Decline in any of these two factors is a prerequisite for regime change.

A regime that can and yearns to remain in power by a broad crackdown, will sustain until these factors have changed.

Akbar Ganji: “The Worst Scenario for Iran: A Different Look”


On June 15, 2011, Akbar Ganji published an article,"The Worst Scenario for Iran: A Different Look," on BBC Persian, examining the economy of Iran and the effects of the international sanctions on it. NIAC's Ali Tayebi and Sahar Fahimi have translated this article from Ganji's original pen, Persian, to English.  

“The Worst Scenario for Iran: A Different Look”

Two factors could open a small breathing space and create opportunities for the opposition within the upcoming year; first- the dispute between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s team and the other conservatives; second- the creation of targeted subsidies and its consequences.

In mid-April, the dispute between the conservatives and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began to escalate, and, in the past few weeks, the majority of political news has been dominated by this topic. In these circumstances, less attention was paid to the economic conditions; a circumstance that is due to structural issues, creation of targeted subsidies, and economic sanctions. This article discusses the second matter and its political outcomes.

The Quest for Nuclear Immensity

Manners and methods of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic, has and continues to display that he is not willing to back down from his stance. His strategy in every situation is offensive. For example, in the case of the United Nations, he advises that instead of awaiting the feedback and criticism of Western governments and civil societies of human rights violations in Iran (the passive approach), Iran should be on the offense, because Western governments are the largest actors in human rights violations of people and governments (the active approach). Or, in the case of women, instead of the West condemning and questioning us for ‘restricting’ our women, we will condemn and question the Western world, for objectifying their women.

In the past 23 years, the supreme leader’s “quest for nuclear immensity” has been activelty persued. He has been firmly against retreating on this matter, and has always commanded the active persuit of this project. He instructed Mohammad Khatami, at the end of his presidential term, to abolish the uranium enrichment suspention agreement with European nations and begin production. Thus, he is not open to compromise and agreement on this matter.

What has been the reaction of Western governmnets? They have passed a few sanctions on Iran through the United Nations. Aside from the international boycotts, the United States and the European Union have independently put more sanctions on Iran. These sanctions have been followed by political ones, the latest of which was an American sanction on June 19,2011, against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Basij paramilitary, Iran’s national police and its chief, Esmael Ahmadi Moghadam due to major human rights violations.

Two-year election anniversary marked by silent protests, death of Hoda Saber

On the second anniversary of Iran’s fraudulent presidential elections, brave Iranian men and women took to the streets once again in silent and peaceful protests. According to eyewitnesses, “demonstrators numbered in thousands” and were greeted by massive numbers of armed security and military forces at every corner. In a phone interview with the Guardian, one eye witness said, “their numbers were ten times more than an ordinary day in Vali-e-Asr street, I think around 30,000 people were out there in total.” The demonstrators walked the sidewalks of main streets in silence and refused to respond to the Revolutionary Guard’s roaring motorcycles and insulting comments.

Soon after the start of the protests, members of the guard, security and military forces attacked the protestors, beating many and arresting some. According to an eyewitness testimony on Kalameh, “anyone wearing or carrying anything green was arrested. A few young men, in green T-shirts, were quickly arrested. One of the undercover officers angrily smashed the head of one of the boys on the door of the vehicle, shouting ‘Mousavi and the color green are forever dead!’ before forcing the boy into a van filled with protestors.”

The election anniversary was also marked by the sudden death of imprisoned journalist and activist Reza Hoda Saber after an eight-day hunger strike, adding to the heartache and anger of many Iranians. Hoda Saber began his strike on June 2 as a protest to the treatment and death of Haleh Sahabi, who herself was killed when she was temporarily released from prison to pay respects at the funeral of her father, Ezatollah Sahabi.

Hoda Saber was reportedly taken to Modarres hospital due to complaints of chest pain, where the cause of his death was announced to be a heart attack. The sad irony is that it seems, according to the Iranian government at least, that the fate of imprisoned activists in Iran is all the same: death, caused by a heart attack.  According to Tehran Bureau, “doctors have said that if he had been brought to the hospital in a timely fashion, he would not have died.”  Meanwhile, Iranian authorities deny Hoda Saber was on a hunger strike in the first place.

Yesterday, however, sixty-four of his prison mates signed a witness testimony that was published on Kalameh by anonymous ‘green’ allies at the Evin prison. They testify that Hoda Saber was a healthy, active man who worked out everyday and did not have any illness in the year he had spent in the prison.

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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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