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Iran Election 2009

Underground Music Eludes Government Efforts to Silence It

Music has become political as Iranians turn to alternative outlets to express their frustration at the leaders of their government. Avid fans of blocked music have found ways to maneuver around government censors to download the “resistance music” the Islamic regime has so doggedly tried to silence.

Rap, folk, and classical music artists have all come together to give rise to a varied and dynamic underground music scene which has grown rapidly in the wake of the 2009 election in Iran. The lyrics of dissent have caught the attention of a wide public audience, speaking to the young and old alike.  As street demonstrations and open rebellion have been repressed, music has become a subtle but powerful form of protest according to Abbas Milani, the director of Iranian studies at Standford University.

The lyrics to one such song by traditional artist Mohammad Reza Shajarian titled “Language of Fire,” are pointed and powerful, making it an overnight hit:

Lay down your gun/ As I hate this very abnormal shedding of blod/The gun in your hand speaks the language of fire and iron/But I, before this fiendish tool/Have nothing but, the language of the heart/ The heart full to the brim with love for you/Who are in love with the enemy.

Unsurprisingly, the music has come under the ever-watchful government eye in Iran. Some artists like Persian classical musician Shahram Nazeri have paid a steep price for artistic freedom. Nazeri was held in custody and threatened after his release of an anti government song, “We Are Not Dirt or Dust.” His song was a response to President Ahmadinejad’s dismissal of protesters as “dirt and dust” in the aftermath of the demonstrations following the disputed presidential election last year.

Artists like rapper Shahin Najafi and folk artist Mohsen Namjoo have found themselves homeless.  Najafi now lives in Cologne, Germany and faces three years in prison and one hundred lashes should he choose to return to his native country. As Namjoo, who now lives in Palo Alto, California, told New York times reporter Nazila Fathi, “you have to constantly live with fear.”

However, there have been victories. When broadcasters tried to play Shajarian’s music as part of a government propaganda campaign, he proclaimed himself the voice of dirt and dust. He stood up to the state-controlled media and threatened to sue broadcasters if they continued. In the end, the voice of dirt and dust triumphed and broadcasters backed off.

  • 3 June 2010
  • Posted By Sherry Safavi
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Leader Pardons 81 Political Prisoners, Hundreds More Remain Incarcerated

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei pardoned 81 of some 530 political prisoners jailed in the wake of the 2009 presidential election. The fate of the other 450 who remain incarcerated is unknown and new arrests continue to be made.

The government has not released the names of those pardoned or confirmed their wrongful prosecution. According to ILNA news agency, the Leader noted in a letter to Sadegh Larijani, head of the judiciary, that the pardons were made on the Prophet Mohammad’s daughter’s birthday.

Speculation still surrounds today’s pardons with the Associated Press writing that “the pardons were seen as a gesture of good will by Iran’s leaders just days before the anniversary of the June 12 election.” However, some remain skeptical finding it hard to believe that Khamenei would have been motivated by a sudden change of heart to express good will towards a group of people he has spent the last year repressing. A far more likely explanation would be that the pardons are part of an effort to shift domestic and international attention away from the regime’s many human rights violations in the days nearing the anniversary of the 2009 election.

Aaron Rhodes, spokesperson for the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, has come to this conclusion. He notes that the Leader’s pardons speak to the innocence of those imprisoned. It would then follow that those imprisoned under similar circumstances, i.e. the other 450 political prisoners, should be pardoned as well. If the Leader does not extend the pardon to those individuals, then today’s pardons are essentially meaningless and arbitrary.

Further undermining the legitimacy of the pardons are reports made to the Campaign of prisoners being forced to ask for pardons. One example is director and film maker Mohammad Nourizad who was ruthlessly beaten when he refused to seek a pardon for a crime he had not committed.

Moreover, pardoned sentences do not even ensure the detainees freedom. In the past, interrogators have kept close watch on former political prisoners and threatened them in order to keep them in the country and out of the public eye. Long after their release, these former detainees find themselves still in a cell, a larger and more comfortable one certainly, but a cell nonetheless.

  • 28 May 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 2 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Regime doth protest too much

It seems that despite any claims to the contrary, the Islamic Republic is still at least a little bit fearful for its safety and survival with the upcoming anniversary of the June 2009 elections.

This can be seen in the detaining of artists, hikers, Canadian journalists, and French academics (among many others). It can be seen in the execution of Kurds, Afghans, Bahai’s, and election protesters. However, perhaps the most controversial, the most offensive, and the most un-Islamic, is the recent declaration of a documentary to be released by Iran’s Intelligence Ministry to “complete the removal of ambiguities surrounding the murder of Neda Agha Soltan” and provide “new evidence” about the West’s version of events. In other words, to prove that Neda’s murder was staged.

I understand the obsession with Western conspiracies, as there have been many in Iran’s history. I myself am often the first to point to an underlying conspiracy as an explanation for things. Nonetheless, it is clear to any reasonable person that Neda’s death is not a conspiracy. If the initial evidence was not enough to prove it, the regime’s reaction was.

Neda’s family was threatened to make false confessions attributing her death to the West. Her family was prohibited from holding a funeral for her, despite funerals being very important in Iranian and especially Muslim culture. Neda’s fiancé and the doctor who tried to save her life in the video, both scared for their lives, left the country. Her grave was desecrated by supporters of the regime. And now, after all this time, the regime brings it up, yet again, by pointing its finger to others.

But I do not want to argue that Neda’s death was indeed the work of the Islamic Republic, because there are many others who have done that before me. Rather, I would like to point out the regime’s psychological insecurity, at bringing up a death from nearly a year ago. This documentary, like the recent arrests, executions, and detentions, is to be released shortly before the one-year anniversary of the June 12 elections. These events all happening in the span of a few days are more than a coincidence; they are to continuously dissuade people from participating in expected protests. This documentary is likely meant to undermine the powerful symbol she has become as well as the legitimacy of the opposition movement in Iran.

But how long is a family to suffer? The Islamic Republic ought to stop exploiting and hurting the Iranian people simply to allay its own fears and insecurities. Besides, who is really going to believe that the blood coming from Neda’s death was from a ketchup bottle?

As one of the many who cried upon watching Neda’s death, I can only imagine how her family must feel. My advice to the Islamic Republic: show a little Muslim compassion, it is what we are best known for. Let the dead rest in peace. And let the living finally move on.

The Bastions of the Paramilitary

Hossein Sajedi, Tehran’s police chief, said yesterday that despite the fact that “some media” (read: Mousavi and Karroubi) have called for rallies on June 12, Iranian security forces will confront any “illegal” demonstrations. “Police will confront any illegal gatherings … police are vigilant and in charge of public order and security,” he said.

My question to Mr. Sajedi is: what is the definition of an illegal demonstration? Is it one that involves students staging a sit-in at their university? Is that illegal? Are singing and holding up peace signs also a threat to national security?

On Saturday and Sunday, students at Tehran’s Islamic Azad University staged a sit-in as protest against the fraudulent June 2009 presidential elections and calling for the release of their classmates who had been imprisoned in the months after the election.

Apparently, this was deemed illegal, as security forces broke up the protests. According to Daneshjoo News, at least four students who were critically injured by Basij forces, rather than receiving medical attention, have been arrested.

I fear for a government which violates its own constitution in arresting those partaking in peaceful protests. Of even bigger concern though, is the way the government has transformed the country’s bastions of knowledge into bastions of the paramilitary. As a result of the sit-in and the attacking security forces, afternoon classes were canceled, reminiscent of the way classes were often canceled for the same reason shortly after the 1979 revolution. In addition, security forces threatened students with harsh sentences from the university’s disciplinary committee, a clear violation of university rules.

When the university officials become involved in oppressing their own students, the very nature of the university as a free and safe atmosphere is threatened. Not only is the canceling of classes obviously detrimental to the students’ learning, but this oppression will undoubtedly negatively affect many students’ forms of thinking at an age when they are most receptive to new ideas. While this may be the aim of the regime, this generation is the very future of the country. And to attack one’s future generation and their chance of flourishing is not only stupid, it is also self-destructive.

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.

  • 12 May 2010
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 3 Comments
  • Congress, Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Iran Election 2009, Sanctions

Video: Gates on Iranian politics

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Secretary of Defense Gates spoke with CNN’s John King yesterday about the internal situation in Iran and whether the resentment and popular unrest following last year’s election is still continuing.

I think Secretary Gates is correct in saying that, despite things being calm on the surface, there is a reservoir of popular dissatisfaction among the Iranian people.  That doesn’t mean that the regime will be overthrown tomorrow, nor does it even mean that there is going to be a huge protest on the anniversary of the June 12 election.

What it means is there is a whole political faction lying in wait.

Before last year’s election, progressives in Iran were largely Khatami-style reformists.  Now, the progressive movement in Iran is made up of the Mousavi/Karroubi school of reform — in addition to the more radical viewpoints among a portion of the population, which supports abolishing the Islamic government altogether.

As for the matter of sanctions — Gates says they have “had an impact,” and that more sanctions will have “more of an impact.”  But by defining the goal of sanctions (the “principal value,” as he says it) as political isolation for Iran, Secretary Gates shows a much more nuanced understanding of the sanctions issue than most sanctions proponents in Congress and among outside organizations.

To hear these people talk about it, sanctions are a magic bullet that can tear down Iran’s economy and bankrupt Tehran’s treasury.

Fortunately, Gates realizes that isn’t going to happen.  So — we hope — the administration has a plan for what to do next, after the sanctions are put in place and before we realize that they haven’t made all of our wildest dreams come true…

  • 11 May 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 2 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Executions Meant to Be a “Warning,” Spark Protests Instead

Protests took place in Tehran and major cities around the world including Frankfurt, London, Vienna, Toronto, Koln, and Paris, among many others, on May 9 and May 10, 2010 after the execution of five political prisoners in Iran’s Evin Prison.  The Tehran protests included chants of “Freedom,” and “Basiji get out of here,” and “Students would rather die than surrender to oppression,” while elsewhere chants also included “Death to the Islamic Republic.”

Convicted of “moharebeh” (enmity against God)  Farzad Kamangar, Ali Heydarian, Farhad Vakili, Shirin Alam-Holi, and Mehdi Eslamian were all hanged on Sunday, May 9, 2010 in the prison. Of the five prisoners, four were Kurds, sparking outrage at Iran’s continued poor treatment of the large minority in the state.

Amnesty International has condemned the act and is calling on Iranian authorities to halt all executions, or at the very least adhere to their own laws regarding their implementation.

The five were accused of “enmity against God” for carrying out “terrorist acts” and convicted of this vaguely worded charge which can carry the death penalty and is usually applied to those who take up arms against the state.

“We condemn these executions which were carried out without any prior warning. Despite the serious accusations against them, the five were denied fair trials. Three of the defendants were tortured and two forced to ‘confess’ under duress,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Citing “security” concerns, the government has in the past often accused activists, journalists, and writers of “stirring trouble and ethnic and racial conflict” and of “working with opposition groups,” including the murder of Shivan Qaderi and the subsequent arrest of several Kurdish activists in July 2005 and the murder of Mohammad Islamian in December 2009.

While this recent act may have simply been a continuation of Kurdish oppression in the country, it is more likely that it was to serve as a warning for upcoming protests on the anniversary of the June elections. Regardless, one thing does remain clear. This was a blatant violation of human rights.

It is quite ironic that while the purpose of these executions was likely meant to deter Iranians from future protests, it in actuality served as a reason for other protests to take place.

Everyone knows that the Iranian people have continued to be upset at the actions of their government — whether they have come out into the streets to protest or not.  These smoldering demonstrations, though small, seem to represent a welling up of indignation and outrage as the anniversary of the June 2009 election approaches.

It will be interesting to follow this new trend, as protests of Iranians inside and outside the country are becoming more frequent and can now be expected without warning.

  • 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.

  • 29 April 2010
  • Posted By Darioush Azizi
  • 4 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009, Sanctions, Uncategorized

Ex-Iranian diplomat in Norway: target sanctions, talk up human rights abuses

InsideIRAN.org interviewed Mohammad Reza Heidari, the Iranian diplomat in Norway who defected over the June 12, 2009 elections and the aftermath. The full interview can be found here but we’ve highlighted some of his comments below:

I have friends in the IRGC, the basij, the Ministry of Intelligence, Iran’s radio and television, and other places who are against the government. They have to cooperate with the government because if they do otherwise, they will face many severe challenges. This issue requires a national will. Strikes are on the way. Teachers, who went on strike, have started the right thing. Iranian laborers are on the same path.

They have gathered a bunch of commoners around them to protect themselves. They try to associate the Green Movement with the rich and then tie them to Western countries. They are terrified. I am from the lower classes and I worked for the government for many years. All my friends are the same. The government has to spend large sums of money to feed people and bus them into cities in order to generate crowds for pro-government demonstrations.

Sanctions must be smart and targeted and only go after the ruling elite. These sanctions should not affect the Iranian people. Countries should not issue visas for the leaders of Iran and their families. Companies should be banned from dealing with the IRGC. The last issue I would like to mention is human rights. Western countries must make human rights the priority. Iran has made such a big deal of the nuclear program to divert attention from its human rights abuse.

Is the Sanctions Debate Justifying the Military Option?

This post originally appeared at InsideIran.org.

To an outsider, it may seem like Washington is united in favor of imposing new sanctions on Iran. But, like in Iran itself, the internal wrangling over this question among Washington policymakers is much more complex and divided by factions than one may assume.

Congressional leaders from both parties have long called for new sanctions — and, bolstered by the strong support of the pro-Israel lobby, even some Democrats have undermined the President’s engagement strategy in their zeal for a more heavy-handed approach. Now that the administration has moved past direct talks and embraced the pressure track, one would assume that Congress, the President and the rest of the Iran policymaking community is in harmony.

But they’re not. Not even close.

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,

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