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Iranian Youth

  • 1 July 2010
  • Posted By Shawn Vl
  • 1 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iranian Youth

Iranian-Kurdish Activist Faces Threat of Imminent Execution

Note: NIAC is Urging President Obama to Publicly Press Iran to Halt the  Execution of Zeinab Jalalian

Zeinab JalalianZeinab Jalalian, a 27 year old Iranian-Kurdish activist, is reportedly in imminent danger of being executed after being convicted of Moharebeh, or waging war against God, in a trial that has been roundly condemned as unfair and unjust by human rights defenders in Iran and around the world.

Reports indicate that Jalalian’s trial lasted only minutes, she was denied access to a lawyer, and no evidence was presented against Jalalian during her trial.

“The entire case is so full of irregularities that the authorities are obligated immediately to investigate the circumstances of her detention and trial,” said Hadi Ghami, spokesperson for the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI). “The life of a young woman hangs in the balance; her execution will be interpreted as another state-sanctioned murder in cold blood.”

  • 18 June 2010
  • Posted By Sherry Safavi
  • 2 Comments
  • discrimination, Human Rights in Iran, Iranian Youth, UN

Iran Rejects UN Accountability for Baha’i Treatment

The Baha’i International Community expressed its deep disappointment with Iran’s refusal to adopt recommendations made by the UN during Iran’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR).  Iran’s Secretary General of the High Council for Human Rights, Mohammad Javad Larijani, brazenly rejected a number of the council’s key human rights concerns and accused the Baha’i International Community of acting on behalf of Western powers.

“We are deeply disturbed by the Iranian government’s refusal to accept basic recommendations concerned with ending injustice, persecution and discrimination in that country,” a representative of the Baha’i International Community said at the meeting.

The UPR recommendations aimed to end discrimination against Baha’is and the Iranian government’s repression of the community, among many other recommendations about human rights in Iran.  Specifically, the council called on Iran’s government to do away with policies restricting Baha’i access to universities and official lists barring Baha’is from pursuing twenty five different professions.

Despite the statements of 26 states urging Iran to account for their human rights violations against the Baha’i community, Larijani flatly denied many of the allegations. “Baha’is enjoy full civil and citizenship right[s] in Iran… The government is supporting all of their economic activity.  They go to school, they go to universities …I can name for you more than 200 students at universities,” he told the council last Thursday.

The findings of the Human Rights Watch would suggest otherwise.

One Human Rights Watch report detailed how the Iranian government had denied some 800 students access to their school transcripts. The students had logged onto their student accounts only to be informed that their transcript was “incomplete.” Students complained that school officials had ignored their efforts to address the issue.

The Baha’i religion is not recognized by government authorities and Baha’i’s face severe consequences for the practice of their faith, which the government has characterized as participation in cult-like activity.  The roots of this discrimination can be traced back to the Iranian government’s interpretation of the Baha’i faith as a divergence from Islam and its practitioners as a heretic sect.

“One thing we are against and we are not going to hide it, we are against any cult type, sect type activity. Even if it is a Shiah sect we will ban them… This is the main accusation of [the Baha’i] people who are right now under pursuance of law,” Larijani contended.

Moreover, Larijani rebuked the Baha’i International Community, accusing them of parroting the United States.  Such allegations are not new. Just like the government’s efforts to undermine the Green Movement by painting it as a stooge of the “foreign agents,” their accusations against the BIC ring just as hollow.

Government officials have suggested the Green Movement is a Western ploy. They have accused various Western countries of staging the death of Neda Agha-Soltan. Her tragic death, caught on video, during the 2009 presidential election protests has became a visible symbol of the Iranian government’s repression, but sadly, there are dozens or hundreds of similar situations throughout Iran that could resonate just as strongly.  The abysmal treatment of the Baha’is is one of them.

  • 11 June 2010
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 3 Comments
  • Iranian Youth

Michael Rubin Wants to Let Iran Decide US Immigration Policy

Michael Rubin, writing at the Corner this week, took half a second to criticize NIAC’s work on expanding opportunities for Iranian students who want to come study in the US.  I say half a second because Rubin doesn’t seem to have actually read the article we wrote, having missed the point of it entirely.

According to Rubin, the US should not expand the number or types of visas offered to Iranian students without demanding parity from Iran. “It would be more productive if the White House, Senate, and State Department” would make US visa policy for Iran mirror Iran’s visa policy for Americans, he says.

I, for one, was surprised Michael Rubin — one of the most vehemently anti-Iran people in all of Washington — would actually suggest that American visa policy should be dictated by Ahmadinejad and Khamenei.

Working at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute, Rubin shouldn’t take lightly the idea of handing over American immigration policy to Iran.

I don’t think he’s going to win many friends that way — at least not outside of Ahmadinejad’s inner-circle.

What’s more, Rubin clearly doesn’t understand what NIAC and thousands of other Iranian-Americans have called for. Providing multi-entry visas does not affect the control of the visa interviews, as Rubin suggested (although it was a nice touch when he implied that Iranians coming to the US might be terrorists).  Really, he’s just opposed to the US doing anything that he views as a concession to Iran or its people.

But that’s precisely the problem: in Rubin’s view, helping the Iranian people is the same as helping the Iranian government. Forget that millions of Iranians stood up to protest against the government last year — Rubin simply can’t distinguish the Iranian people from the regime he so despises.

Sure, he shed some crocodile tears during the post-election crackdown last year, but now that protesters aren’t being killed in the streets he’s fallen back into his old habits again.  And one of those habits is opposing any measure that could help ease the life of ordinary Iranians.

The fact is, Rubin’s criticism of our student visas policy doesn’t have anything to do with the substance of our plan.  That’s obvious because there’s no “there” there.

Iranian students who want to come to the US have to come to grips with the reality that, once they arrive here, they can’t leave until graduation. The single-entry policy for Iranians means they have no choice but to miss out on academic conferences or other opportunities abroad; it means they’ll be unable to visit their homes for two, four, six years or more; and it means that they will be unable to return home in the event of some tragic family emergency.  We at NIAC have spoken directly with a student in Virginia who couldn’t attend his father’s funeral because he couldn’t obtain a return visa.

These are good kids we’re talking about here — many are destined for successful careers as engineers, doctors, or lawyers — and many of them are more than willing to jump through as many hoops and security checks as it takes just to be able to have the option of going home once or twice during their six-year PhD programs.  So, despite what Mr. Rubin says, no one is talking about undercutting control mechanisms in our immigration process.

What we’re talking about is making a small but significant overture to the youth of Iran — the future of Iran — to give them an opportunity to live and study here in the United States without forcing them to choose between an education and their family.   We’re talking about distinguishing between Iranians and the Iranian government.  We’re talking about doing something decent for the Iranian people.

In fact, President Obama called for more Iranian students to come to the US just a few months ago. The multi-entry visa will help make the President’s promise a reality.

No wonder Michael Rubin didn’t get it.

  • 10 June 2010
  • Posted By Shawn Amoei
  • 0 Comments
  • Iranian American activism, Iranian Youth

The Iranian Diaspora’s New Political Awakening

There is change afoot in Iranian communities all across the globe.

The Iranian Diaspora is coming of age politically, and nothing has helped propel this change more than the disputed presidential elections of June 2009 and the young Iranians who led the post-election unrest. Whereas once the Diaspora communities were psychologically fractured and plagued with ideological differences, the events of last summer have managed to forge a degree of unity unseen in the past 30 years.

Rallies to raise awareness about the Green Movement are planned in cities as diverse and far apart as São Paulo, Tokyo and Johannesburg. With hundreds of rallies scheduled for the anniversary of the June 12th election, global attention will once again be focused on the Iranian struggle for democracy. One key group, United4Iran, is coordinating over 60 demonstrations on June 12th across six continents. They aim to show the world that the thirst for freedom and the desire to have a meaningful say in one’s own affairs is an Iranian struggle over a century old, dating back to the Tobacco Protest of the 1890s.

A significant development, though largely unnoticed, is the impact students of Iranian descent are having in leading these efforts. This young college population can best be described as pragmatic, with a keen understanding of how to appeal to non-Iranians and attract them to this cause.

Iranian-American author Reza Aslan explains the difference between the outlook of younger and older generation Iranians in the Diaspora. The younger generation does not

carry the baggage of their parents. The generation that was forced out of Iran and into exile…has quite understandably a very emotional resonance when it comes to the Islamic Republic, and unfortunately as a result is not always a rational voice for dealing with Iran as a problem.

Not having that baggage puts them in a much better position to deal with the reality of Iran.

This generation of socially active and politically conscious youth can be credited for much of the unity seen today. Although some older activists still remain entrenched in the ideologies they have held since even before the Islamic Revolution, many others are now finding common cause realizing that they all share the same end goal. This new Iranian pragmatism is cause for great hope. As Nietzsche once said, “Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal.”

Young Iranians across the globe are making sure that that is no longer the case.

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.

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.

  • 18 February 2010
  • Posted By Layla Armeen
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iranian Youth

“My Upbringing Taught Me to Have My Own Opinion.”

Narges Kalhor, an outspoken and eloquent Iranian film maker who also happens to be the daughter of a top adviser to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, made headlines last October by attending a human-rights film festival in Germany.  Following Iran’s controversial presidential election, many Iranian artists and film makers expressed support for the opposition “Green Movement,” and Kalhor was certainly no exception. However, her father’s position in the Iranian administration put even a brighter spotlight on her opposition stand against the Islamic Republic. She received political amnesty from Germany right after she obtained a tip that her life would be in danger if she returned to Iran.

In her yesterday interview with BBC Persian, Kalhor once again was not shy in revealing her deeply critical views on her own father and the Islamic establishment as a whole. Referring to the post election aftermath in Iran Kalhor said:

“They are taking away the very basic rights of any human being from us. We have always been objecting to the status quo in Iran, but the maximum extortion took place after the election. We had never reached a level [until now] that we felt we had to stand up and fight for our rights.”

Like Narges Kalhor, Iranians, no matter where they live, have deep cultural and social roots in Iran. This is the nature of their culture, and if they ever feel that their identity is being attacked they will regroup regardless of their differences. They have shown that repeatedly throughout history.

The “Islamic Republic” was very controversial from the beginning, both for its name and its brutality in the immediate aftermath of the revolution. And today, thirty years later, many Iranian citizens ask themselves if Islam — or any other religion/ideology for that matter — can be a pillar of guidance in Iranian modern governance. Kalhor says that she doesn’t have any problem with Islam. What any individual believes is strictly a personal matter, and one must not abuse a line of thought to implement his/her personal interests.

Many in Iran today are comparing the Islamic Republic’s behavior with that of the Shah. The Shah also believed that if his opponents left Iran then he would be safe to rule. That didn’t exactly happen. His opposition managed to regroup and get international attention abroad without worrying about the Shah’s repression, and they eventually succeeded in toppling his dynasty.

Kalhor also shared her view on the Iranian revolution and the ongoing reform movement in Iran. “The revolution was a mistake. Reform must have happened.” Kalhor identifies herself as a child of the revolution, and says today again in Iran we need reform “step by step” instead of another revolution.  “I personally prefer to take a path where no more blood is shed.”

  • 19 January 2010
  • Posted By Darioush Azizi
  • 0 Comments
  • Culture, Events in Iran, Iranian Youth

Documentary on First Female Iranian Olympian to Premiere at Sundance

Munich, Germany – Fatima Geza Abdollahyan had just arrived back at her hotel in Amsterdam when she sat down to read her emails. After a long day at a documentary film festival, her tired eyes scanned the “Received From” column, finally coming to rest on “Sundance Festival 2010.” “Oh,” she thought to herself, “this must be the rejection letter.”

But Fate had a different plan in store for Fatima: “I read the first few lines, beginning with ‘We congratulate you…’ 3 times in a row – I could not believe that I was accepted!”

“Now, I need a drink,” she said.

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.

  • 14 December 2009
  • Posted By Lloyd Chebaclo
  • 4 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Iranian Youth

The Case of Salar

Salar Sohrabi is a 14-year-old boy who lives in Iran. He suffers from a severe form of Scoliosis, a progressive spinal deformity that requires immediate surgery, and Marfan Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder. Doctors and medical facilities in Iran are refusing to perform the necessary, life-saving surgery on Salar because of “their inability to handle possible complications he might face,” according to HelpSalar.com. Born in the town of Karaj, Iran, Salar was diagnosed with Scoliosis at the age of five, making his young life difficult. While he has not been one to complain about his condition, his mother could “feel his sadness in his heart.”

HelpSalar.com:

“She noticed Salar often had been teased at school due to his physical appearance. Which added to their suffering even more. Salar’s only complaint was having severe back pain, which is a result of this type of illness.

Recently Salar’s mom took a leave of absence after 20 years of service to spend more time with him. She almost spends her entire $600 monthly salary on physical therapy, medical tests, and doctor’s visits etc. for Salar.”

Salar’s life has been surrounded by extremely painful events. In addition to the loss of his father, Salar was six years old when his paternal grandfather died. Subsequently, Salar also lost his maternal grandmother. Those two individuals were the closest supporters he had. Obviously, these losses have been very devastating events in his young life, but there is something that keeps Salar’s hope alive and whatever this thing might be, we are asking those of you who have been touched by his story to make his hope a reality.

Like any other kid of his age, Salar wants to be able to play his favorite sport, basketball, and hopefully someday become an Electronic Engineer. Please see how you can help…”

Salar’s family has been able to raise the funds necessary for him to receive treatment at Stanford Medical Center, thanks to generous private donations.  Stanford already has agreed to treat Salar in January 2010 at a significantly lower cost than the expensive procedure requires. Salar and his mother’s visas have, however, been denied.

Their nonimmigrant visas were denied because “the applicant did not demonstrate strong ties outside the United States and was not able to demonstrate that his/her intended activities in the U.S. would be consistent with the visa status.”

According to Dr. Ivan Cheng of the Stanford Medical Center upon reviewing Salar’s medical file:

“He is at very high risk for further curve progression and further deterioration of his lung function.  Ultimately, he will probably have a significantly shorter lifespan without surgery.”

It’s sad that this young boy’s family managed to beat the odds and get everything lined up for this critical operation, only to have his visa request denied. The State Department should take another look at this case.

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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