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Posts Tagged ‘ Amnesty International ’

  • 11 October 2011
  • Posted By Helia Ighani
  • 2 Comments
  • Congress, Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, UN

The Fight For Access to Higher Education in Iran

In the same way that international forces are imposing sanctions on Iran in an effort to alter its nuclear aspirations, Iran is punishing its own people by “sanctioning” their access to basic human rights.

Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the nation’s religious minorities have withstood waves of repression, not limited to imprisonment, torture, and in many cases, execution.

In particular, members of the Baha’i Faith (Iran’s largest religious minority) have been denied access to higher education, essentially blocking their ability to pursue a professional career.

Some will attempt to flee the country to attend University elsewhere. Since this is not a possibility for most individuals, the most common alternative is participation in the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE), which has been subject to constant government raids and arrests since its beginning in 1987.

As Roxana Saberi’s emphasized in her editorial last week in the Wall Street Journal:

“U.N. officials—particularly Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay—plus member states and other individuals must place constant pressure on Tehran just as they have in cases such as mine. This will bring attention and justice to the real heroes, the everyday Iranians in prison for pursuing universal human rights and demanding respect for human dignity.”

Such attention is necessary and is definitely a step in the right direction. Bringing international condemnation of human rights violations in Iran will hopefully one day succeed in toppling persecutory methods ensued by the Islamic regime.

  • 2 July 2010
  • Posted By Sherry Safavi
  • 6 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran

One Iranian Court’s Cruel and Unusual Choice of Punishment: Death by Stoning

Death by stoning, generally thought of as a barbaric and obsolete practice of a bygone era, is unfortunately not quite the anachronism one would like it to be. An Iranian woman, facing charges of adultery for her involvement with two men responsible for the murder of her husband, has been sentenced to death by stoning in the Iranian city of Tabriz.

Sakineh Mohamamadie Ashtiani’s execution will be drawn out. She will be struck by rocks until she is buried up to her chest. Had she been a man she would have been buried up to her waist only. Inopportunely, the majority of those sentenced to death by stoning in Iran are women.

News of the sentence has been met with a mixture of moral outrage and deep disappointment. Stoning is yet another example of the Iranian government’s utter disregard for human rights. At every turn, one stumbles upon a new article detailing Iran’s human rights abuses. Amnesty International reported 126 executions in Iran from the beginning of the year to June 6.

What is perhaps, most disturbing about stoning is that while it may be a first class human rights violation, it is perfectly legal choice of punishment in Iranian adultery cases. Individuals guilty of infidelity are generally punished with lashes and jail time. The choice of punishment is left to up to the judge. This can be found in Article 83 of the Laws of Islamic Punishment in Iran which was ratified in 1991. The irony is that the punishment of stoning does not appear in the Koran. If the government chooses to follow through with the execution of Ashtiani, the stoning will be the first in years.

Ashtiani’s execution is believed to be imminent. She denies the allegations. Her children, Fasrideh, 16, and Sajjad, 20, are working on behalf of their mother but have not been informed as to the status of her case. Her son pleaded for her release:

“Please help end this nightmare and do not let it turn into a reality. Help us save our mother.”

Matters are complicated by the fact that Ashtiani has already been punished for her alleged extramarital relations. She was tried in 2005 and sentenced to 99 lashes after which she confessed to the crime. She also served an unknown amount of time in prison. She has since then retracted her confession.

One year later, Ashtiani and the two men with whom she was accused of having sexual relations were all tried for the murder of Ashtiani’s husband. They were found guilty and sentenced to death. Ashtiani maintains her innocence. The case is complicated by the fact that murder is not punishable by stoning. In order for Ashtiani to have received the punishment of stoning, her adultery case must have been reopened, human rights activists say. Moreover, it is possible that Ashtiani had trouble understanding the court proceedings due a language barrier, said human rights attorney Mohammad Mostafaei. She speaks Turkish, the court proceedings were held in English.

Ashtiani’s sentence, death by stoning, is a staggering reminder of the rapid deterioration of human rights under President Ahmadinjad’s administration . As the international community continues to focus it’s attentions on nuclear concerns, human rights has taken the back seat and cases like Ashtiani’s go unnoticed.

2 More Executed in Iran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

  • 25 November 2009
  • Posted By Lloyd Chebaclo
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

Human Rights Organizations Call for Investigation into Mysterious Death of Physician in Iran

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reported today that along with Amnesty International and Physicians for Human Rights, it sent a letter to Iranian authorities demanding an investigation into the death of Dr. Ramin Pourandarjani, a 26-year-old physician at the Kahrizak detention center, “who reportedly witnessed grave human rights violations there.”

Iranhumanrights.org:

“Scores of protestors were detained and held at Kahrizak, where they were allegedly tortured and ill treated.  At least four detainees died in the facility. Iranian authorities have promised to investigate the ill treatment of detainees at Kahrizak but to date, no public announcements about the prosecution of those responsible have been made.”

Pourandarjani had been working at Kahrizak once a week as part of his military service, treating detainees who had been tortured. Some reportedly died of their abuses in the facility. Before his death, Dr. Pourandarjani “reportedly received threats to prevent him from revealing the abuses he had witnessed at Kahrizak.” He was also said to “have been forced to certify that one detainee had died of meningitis.”  (Our readers will remember that detainee was Mohsen Roholamini, the son of an aid to the conservative presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaei. Parleman news reported in August that the coroner’s office of Tehran announced that he did not die from meningitis, leading to the conclusion that he had been killed in Kahrizak.)

Amnesty and ICHRI describe the suspicious circumstances behind the doctor’s death:

“Dr. Ramin Pourandarjani’s body was discovered in a room at Tehran police headquarters on 10 November. While the Chief of Police, General Esmaeil Ahmadi-Moqaddam, has said that Dr. Pourandarjani, committed suicide and that a letter found near his body suggested that he had been depressed, officials had initially said he had suffered a heart attack in his sleep and later that he had died of poisoning. Dr. Pourandarjani’s father, Reza-Qoli Pourandarjani, said he had spoken to his son the night before his death and that he did not appear to be depressed. He told the Associated Press that he had initially been informed by the authorities that his son had broken his leg in an accident and that his [the father’s] consent was needed for surgery. However after travelling to Tehran from his home in Tabriz, Reza-Qoli Pourandrarjani discovered that his son was dead.”

  • 5 September 2009
  • Posted By Matthew Negreanu
  • 2 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Caspian Makan, fiancé of Neda Agha Soltan in Evin

According to Amnesty International:

Caspian Makan, the fiancé of Neda Agha Soltan, a young woman killed in the recent protests in Iran, has been held in detention since 26 June, after he made a statement linking her murder to the pro-government Basij militia. Currently held in Evin Prison in Tehran, Caspian Makan is reported to have told his family that if he signs a “confession” saying that the People’s Mojahedeen Organization of Iran (PMOI-[MKO]), a political body banned in Iran since 1981, killed her, then he may be released. Amnesty International said it fears he may be forced to sign such a “confession” under torture or other ill-treatment, given the pattern of human rights violations in Iran following the election. The organization said that he may be a prisoner of conscience, held for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.

Neda Agha Soltan, 27, was killed on 20 June in Tehran. She was shot as she and three companions, including Caspian Makan, were leaving one of many demonstrations that took place following Iran’s disputed presidential election on 12 June. While other demonstrators were trying to help her, a man with a mobile phone camera filmed her dying moments. The video footage was widely circulated on the internet and became a symbol of the unrest that developed in Iran. In an interview with BBC Persian TV on 22 June, Caspian Makan said that “Eyewitnesses and video footage […] clearly show that probably Basij paramilitaries […] deliberately targeted her”. It later emerged that a member of the Basij militia, a state security body under the command of the Revolutionary Guard, incriminated himself by exclaiming after her shooting that he did not mean to kill her. Caspian Makan was arrested at his home in Tehran four days later. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is reported to have described Neda Agha Soltan’s death as “suspicious”. On 29 June he wrote to the Head of the Judiciary requesting that an investigation be undertaken into it. However, in the days following her killing, a number of government officials made statements denying that the state security forces were involved in her death and, in some cases, blamed others. Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, a representative of the Supreme Leader, stated in Friday prayers at Tehran University on 26 June that the evidence showed that the protesters themselves killed her and did so as a way of making “propaganda” against the system. The authorities have since intimidated Iranians who have spoken out about the killing. Chief of Police, Brigadier General Ahmadi-Moghaddam, is reported to have told a press conference on 30 June that the Iranian police and Ministry of Intelligence had issued an international arrest warrant via Interpol for the arrest of Dr Arash Hejazi, a doctor who tried to save Neda Agha Soltan’s life at the scene and who spoke publicly about what he witnessed to international news media. The warrant accused Dr Arash Hejazi of spreading misinformation about the killing and thereby “poisoning the international atmosphere” against the Iranian government. Dr Arash Hejazi, as well as the TV journalist who interviewed Caspian Makan, have both left Iran, fearing for their safety.

The Iranian authorities are reported to have harassed and intimidated Neda Agha Soltan’s family and other mourners after her death. Before burying her in Behesht-e Zahra Cemetery, in a section apparently set aside by the authorities for those killed in the unrest, her family were said to have been told by the authorities to ensure that no mourners other than family members attend the burial. They were threatened with unspecified punishment if they did not comply. The authorities were also reported to have issued a ban on collective prayers for Neda Agha Soltan in mosques. When Agha Soltan’s family and other mourners tried to hold a commemoration service for her at Niloufar mosque in Abbas Abad, they were interrupted after 10 minutes by about 20 Basij paramilitaries, who entered the mosque and dispersed the attendees. Amnesty International has called on the Iranian authorities to take immediate steps to protect Caspian Makan from torture or other ill-treatment while in detention and, in particular, to ensure that he is not forced to sign any “confessions” under such treatment. The organization has urged that Caspian Makan be given immediate access to his lawyer, family and any medical treatment he may need. It has also called for his immediate and unconditional release unless he is to be charged with a recognizable criminal offence.

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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