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JARAS: Tajbakhsh to be Released from Prison

According to the Jaras website, the most prominent Iranian opposition website, Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh, top researcher and sociology professor from Columbia University will be released from prison for Norooz, most likely by the end of today.

Citing an unnamed source, Jaras is reporting that Dr. Tajbakhsh will be released by tonight or tomorrow. It appears that the Iranian government is releasing a large number of its political prisoners for Norooz, though the judiciary has set outrageous bail amounts for each detainee. It is reported that Dr. Tajbakhsh’s bail is set at $500,000 US.

Dr. Tajbakhsh, an Iranian American who holds dual citizenship, was arrested in the aftermath of June 2009 disputed election, and has been sentenced to five years in prison for his alleged political activities against the establishment. Following the great international outcry by a variety of human rights organizations, Tajbakhsh’s original sentencing of fifteen years was reconsidered by an appellate court and was later reduced to five years instead.

NIAC has repeatedly called for Tajbakhsh release, as well as for the release of all political prisoners in Iran.

Iranian Women Band Together, Caution Against Broad Sanctions

March 8th, International Women’s Day, was celebrated with even more passion this year in Tehran.

Zahra Rahnavard – the outspoken wife of the presidential election challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi –  issued a statement at a meeting with members of the women’s rights movement in Iran praising all the brave women of the Green Movement for their struggles during the past nine months.  She referred to the Green Movement as a very diverse network of ethnic groups, unions, students and of course women.

Rahnavard referred to the women’s movement in Iran as one of the most constructive approaches in shaping the future of freedom and democracy under the umbrella of the newly born Green Movement.  Representatives from Mothers for Peace – another organization formed after the disputed June 2009 elections that actively supports the Green Movement — joined Rahnavard in expressing alarm about the potential for the democratic movement to be derailed by punitive economic sanctions imposed by the west.

Non-violence in a civil disobedience struggle is a major principle for Mothers for Peace. Violence has many faces, and we identify economic-sanctions as a vivid face of violence. Sanctions are a silent war against any nation that has risen up for democracy. Sanctions will exacerbate violence and crackdowns. Women and children are always the first group suffering from sanctions.

Iranian 9/11 Hero: STEP Act a Mistake

Shahram's story became well known after Newsweek featured a photo of him.

New York – When Shahram Hashemi saw an airplane fly into the second World Trade Center building and smoke spewing from the first tower, he knew it wasn’t an accident. So Shahram, a young Iranian university student who had only been in the U.S. for three years, made a remarkable decision. As others fled the scene, Shahram found himself running toward the epicenter of the worst terrorist attack ever seen on American soil.

“A few minutes after the first tower collapsed, I found myself in a war zone,” Shahram said.  In the middle of the chaos, he began helping move shocked and confused people away from the towers to a safe place.

Seeing him in his business suit, a local fire chief threw his heavy coat over Shahram’s shoulders and handed him a mask. Just then, the second tower began to buckle and he sought refuge in the nearby AmEx Building. Emerging from the building, Shahram joined a group of civilian volunteers to extinguish fires and clear rubble for the search and rescue teams. All day he worked until the soot, dust and exhaustion took hold of him.

That day, Shahram helped save over a dozen lives – while here in America on a student visa.

  • 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.

Congressman Introducing Legislation to Bar & Deport Iranians from U.S.

Congressman Gresham Barrett (R-SC) has announced his intention to reintroduce legislation that would prohibit “the admission of aliens from countries designated as State Sponsors of Terrorism as well as Yemen to the United States.”  The Stop Terrorist Entry Program (STEP) Act, first introduced in 2003, also would have required all persons from these countries on student visas, temporary work visas, exchange and tourist visas to leave the United States within 60 days, despite their legal status in the country.  Residents and nationals of Iran, Cuba, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen would be affected.

The bill makes an exception only in the cases of individuals who are seeking political or religious asylum, or who have immediate emergency medical needs.

Congressman Barrett said his bill came in response to the Fort Hood shooting and the Christmas-day attempt to blow up an airplane over Detroit. “While President Obama may have declared an end to the War on Terror, it is clear our enemies did not get the message. Twice in the past two months, radical Islamic terrorists have attacked our nation and the Administration has failed to adapt its national security and immigration policies to counter the renewed resolve of those who seek to harm our citizens.”

The American Army major and Nigerian alleged to have committed those attacks would not have been affected by the STEP Act.

In response to Barrett’s announcement, the National Iranian American Council has launched a campaign against the bill, saying it is “offensive to American principles, harmful to US interests, and discriminates against Iranians and Iranian Americans.”  The group also noted that no Iranian has ever committed a terrorist act on American soil.

The 2003 version of the bill is available online.  Congressman Barrett’s office did not respond to requests for comment.  Aside from the inclusion of Yemen, and a new provision to prohibit the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay prison to the United States, Congressman Barrett has not indicated any further differences between his new bill and the legislation he introduced in 2003.

To Twitter or Not to Twitter

“It was Sullivan who famously proclaimed ‘The Revolution Will Be Twittered’ and called Twitter ‘the critical tool for organizing the resistance in Iran,’” writes Evgeny Morozov a Foreign Policy blogger and Georgetown University Fellow. “It is easy to see why so many pundits accepted this narrative: they had seen something similar before,” he continues, referring to the “Velvet Revolutions” of Eastern Europe during the eighties and nineties.

However, Morozov quickly points out the fundamental flaw in such pre-emptive victories:

“In reality…this new media ecosystem [like Facebook and Twitter] is very much like the old game of ‘Telephone,’ in which errors steadily accumulate in the transmission process, and the final message has nothing in common with the original.”

Morozov’s critique – in the Fall 2009 issue of Dissent – on the opinion that Iran’s protest movement is somehow catalyzed through the conduits of social networking would make any postmodern thinker at least grin. However, Morozov posits that it is wishful thinking and arrogance on the side of Western democracy exporters who believe that the gadgets and toys for capitalist mass consumption can be seriously considered a source for “real change”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amnesty:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Green Movement and Iranian Government Clash Flares Up

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

According to AP:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Iranian Government Targets Opposition Worldwide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Sign the Petition

     

    7,349 signatures

    Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

    May 14, 2012
    Larry Page
    Chief Executive Officer
    Google Inc.
    1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
    Mountain View, California 94043

    Dear Mr. Page:

    It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

    Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

    But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

    In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

    We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

    Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

    We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.

    Sincerely,

    [signature]

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