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  • 30 April 2014
  • Posted By Kaveh Eslampour
  • 0 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2013

International Response to Abuse in Evin Prison

On April 17th, over 30 inmates in the 350 Ward of Iran’s Evin Prison were subjected to physical abuse and forcible head shavings, according to human rights groups outside of Iran. Victims included political prisoner Hossein Ronaghi Maleki and human rights lawyer Abdolfattah Soltani, both of whom were imprisoned following the uprisings of the disputed 2009 presidential election. With no public response from President Rouhani, campaigns professing solidarity with the prisoners have led the international outcry to investigate the incident and improve human rights in Iran.

The crackdown was conducted by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Intelligence Ministry officers, and prison guards who claim to have been conducting a routine search for elicit items such as cell phones. Following the incident, 32 prisoners were put into solitary confinement with some yet to be released. Gholam Hossein Esmaili was removed from his post as head of Iran Prisons Organization following the incident. However, in a move to defy critics, he was elevated to director general of the Justice Department in Tehran Province. This assault is the latest in a series of egregious human rights violations committed by the conservative dominated judiciary and the IRGC, possibly aimed at undermining President Rouhani in the ongoing nuclear negotiations with the West.

421 activists inside of Iran have written a public letter to President Rouhani calling for him to investigate the assault and protect citizen’s rights. Rouhani has not responded publically to the incident, although he has met privately with several prisoners’ family members. One day after protests outside of the President’s office, Rouhani administration spokesperson Mohammad Bagher Nobakht said that a team had been put together to investigate the attack. No new details about the team or their findings have emerged since the announcement a week ago. The constitutional powers of the president of Iran do not grant the authority to free political prisoners, although during his campaign Rouhani pledged to “improve the situation” of many prominent prisoners.

Rather than trying to appeal to President Rouhani, others have focused on supporting the victims of the assault. Thousands have viewed a group on Facebook (which is technically blocked inside Iran) dedicated to supporting those kept in Ward 350, with hundreds posting pictures of themselves with shaved heads to symbolize solidarity with the prisoners. More than 30 prisoners from inside of Evin Prison and six from the Rajaa Shar Prison have launched a hunger strike to call attention to their unlawful imprisonment and brutal treatment, according to human rights groups outside of Iran. In his latest report, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran Ahmed Shaheed reported at least 895 ‘prisoners of conscience’ and ‘political prisoners’ inside of Iran. Shaheed has still not been granted access to the country.

There has been increasing frustration with Rouhani for not pursuing campaign promises to improve human rights in Iran. Rouhani’s administration has appeared to focus instead on first resolving the nuclear issue with the West, under the belief that doing so can empower moderates and generate momentum on improving human rights in Iran. Former President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist, has called for the release of political prisoners, including 2009 presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. On the opposite side, hardliners continue to criticize Rouhani for negotiating with the West. A new hour long documentary titled “I Am Rouhani”, reportedly funded by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, is critical of Rouhani’s dealing with Iran’s “enemies.”

Rouhani Raises Hopes for Diplomacy at First News Conference as President

By Samira Damavandi and Caroline Cohn

At his first press conference as Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani indicated his willingness to reengage in diplomatic talks with the West, raising hopes for finding a solution to the current standoff over Iran’s nuclear program.

Rouhani replaced outgoing President Ahmadinejad, whose bellicose anti-U.S. and anti-Israel rhetoric only exacerbated the already tense relationship between the U.S. and Iran. The election of Rouhani, a centrist candidate who pledged “constructive interaction” with the world, was a rare positive sign for a potential easing of tensions between the two estranged nations.

Of Rouhani’s news conference on Tuesday, the Washington Post noted that  “It was certainly a remarkable tonal departure from Ahmadinejad, with lots of talk about compromising with the West.” As Rouhani fielded questions from the media – which included reporters from both inside and outside of Iran, including the U.S. – he made several positive remarks indicating his plans for steering Iranian foreign and domestic policy in a more conciliatory direction.

Diplomacy

In response to several questions about his plans for renewing nuclear negotiations, many posed by Western news correspondents, Rouhani reaffirmed his plans to pursue a more diplomatic approach to foreign policy, starkly opposite from the approach of his predecessor.  “As I have said earlier, our main policy will be to have constructive interaction with the world,” said Rouhani.

  • 10 September 2012
  • Posted By Joseph Chmielewski
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

Iranian pastor accused of apostasy is released

Yousef Nadarkhani, the Iranian Christian pastor who was sentenced to death after being found guilty of apostasy, has been released from prison after tireless work by his lawyers and an international outcry regarding his situation.

Early in his life, Nadarkhani abandoned his Islamic faith and by age 19  officially converted to Christianity and shortly thereafter began his work as a pastor. In 2006, Nadarkhani began to protest the mandatory enrollment of his children in Quran classes at school. He was immediately imprisoned on charges of protesting. A few months into his sentence, his charge was changed to apostasy, the abandonment of one’s religion.

Nadarkhani was brought before a court in 2010 and given the death penalty. He was to be executed by hanging. His lawyers appealed the verdict, but a court in the city of Qom upheld the original sentence. But September 8, 2012, the apostasy charge was downgraded to evangelizing Muslims, the penalty for which was three years. Given that Nadarkhani had already served about six years in prison, he was released from a facility in Lakan, Iran.

Reaction from the international community regarding Nadarkhani’s plight had been strong, outspoken and unrelenting. Iran’s constitution allows for the free practice of one’s own religion, and yet the courts were still permitted to convict Nadarkhani of apostasy. Such a clear violation of basic human rights garnered reaction from many groups, including NIAC.

  • 11 January 2012
  • Posted By Ardavon Naimi
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup 01/11

Iranian nuclear scientist assassinated

An Iranian nuclear scientist and a department supervisor of the Natanz uranium enrichment plant, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, was assassinated after an assailant on a motorcycle attached a magnetic bomb to his car. Iranian officials claim that Israel is responsible for the assassination (New York Times 01/11).

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, “The United States strongly condemns this act of violence and categorically denies any involvement in the killing” (Washington Post 01/11).  Israeli officials have declined to comment. (Reuters 01/11).

The Guardian provides a timeline of similar attacks on Iran’s nuclear program and scientists.

Sanctions watch

Rebuffing pressure from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, China’s vice minister of foreign affairs repeated China’s opposition to sanctions on Iran’s oil export.  “We oppose pressuring or international sanctions because these pressures and sanctions are not helpful. They have not solved any issues,” he said. “We believe these problems should be solved by dialogue.”  (NY Times 01/11).

While India’s foreign minister insisted Iran is “crucial” to India’s energy security, companies such state-owned refining company Hindustan Petroleum Corporation are working to diversify their oil supplies away from Iran and are increasing imports of crude oil from Saudi Arabia. (Financial Times 01/10).

Reaction to Fordo site

Russia expressed concern over Iran’s announcement of uranium enrichment at its underground Fordo site near Qom, and urged all parties to resume talks through the P5+1.

Secretary of State Clinton condemned the announcement, saying “there is no plausible justification” to enrich uranium to a 20 percent level. She said the step brings Iran closer to nuclear weapons capacity (AP 01/10).

Meanwhile, GOP candidate Rick Santorum said Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is ignoring the facts when he says that Iran has not yet decided to build a nuclear weapon (Think Progress 01/10).

U.S. intelligence official discuss the effects of U.S. sanctions

A senior U.S. intelligence official tells the Washington Post that sanctions may “create hate and discontent at the street level so that the Iranian leaders realize that they need to change their ways.”  However, the intelligence official also acknowledged that the sanctions “could have the opposite effect from what’s intended and impel the Iranian leader to decide, ‘We’re going to build that nuclear weapon.’”  The official argued further that obtaining a nuclear weapon “actually might temper [Iran’s] behavior.” (Washington Post 01/10).

Iran blocks MPs from running for reelection

Iran’s interior ministry has barred at least 33 Iranian members of parliament from running in March’s parliamentary election. Most reformist candidates are refusing to participate in the election. (The Guardian 01/10).

IPS reports that, less than two months before the parliamentary elections, the Iranian government has instituted a new round of arrests and prison sentences for Iranian activists and journalists (IPS 01/10).  Meanwhile, Iran’s police chief Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam discussed the launch of Iran’s national Internet service.

Notable opinion: 

In an op-ed for Foreign Affairs, writer Hooman Majd, returning from a 11 month visit to Iran, discusses the political climate, the effects of sanctions, and the state of the opposition movement:

So sanctioning Iran’s central bank and embargoing Iranian oil, tactics the White House may be using as a way to avoid having to make a decision for war, will neither change minds in Tehran nor do much of anything besides bring more pain to ordinary Iranians. And making life difficult for them has not, so far, resulted in their rising up to overthrow the autocratic regime, as some might have hoped in Washington or London.

Predicting the future in Iran is a fool’s game, as the country and its people have defied expectations for years. But with continuing political turmoil among conservatives, pressure from the West, parliamentary elections in March, and the almost complete crushing of the reformists, it seems that this year promises to be another annus horribilis for both the leadership and the people.

To read the full piece click here.

Additional Notable News:

A Washington Post editorial argues “every effort must be made” to stop “Iranian sales of oil everywhere in the world,” and that the Obama administration should not engage Iran at this point.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has published a list of a 110 secret executions in Iran’s Vakilabad Prison.

The New York Times reports that on Tuesday, the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet near the Persian Gulf saved a group of distressed Iranian mariners.

  • 23 August 2011
  • Posted By David Shams
  • 1 Comments
  • MEK

The MEK’s Propaganda Machine in Three Easy Steps

“The Green Movement, I understand from the testimony in Congress in July, has accepted Madame Rajavi,” said Canadian MP Carolyn Bennett on a talk show hosted last week by Jim Brown of the CBC.

Wait, WHAT? The Green Movement has “accepted” Rajavi?

Nothing could be further from the truth.  The Green Movement has made it abundantly clear that they oppose the MEK.  They’ve warned that the Iranian government seeks to use MEK and its lack of support among Iranians to try to undermine the peaceful democratic opposition.  The Financial Times reported on how prominent Greens signed an open letter to Secretary Clinton calling on her to NOT delist the MEK, citing the harm it would do to Iran’s democratic opposition.  And most recently, Kaleme – the publication associated with the Green Movement’s Mir Hossein Mousavi – published an editorial last week strongly warning against supporting the MEK.

So where did Bennet get her false information from?  The MEK propaganda machine.

  • 20 June 2011
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 2 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iranian American activism

Each Iranian: One Voice Campaign

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjo4MHA2VuA]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B88yLjz3zVs]

On Friday, June 19, twelve political prisoners in Iran started an indefinite hunger strike in protest over the killing of two fellow political prisoners, Haleh Sahabi and Hoda Saber, Green Voice of Freedom reported.

One day after that, Kaleme, the opposition website close to Mir Hossein Mousavi, called on all Iranians around the world to join the Each Iranian: One Voice Campaign by creating a 2-3 minute video statement in solidarity and support.

Shirin Ebadi, Maziar Bahari, Hamid Dabashi, Mohsen Kadivar, and other prominent Iranians have joined this campaign, raising their concerns about the life of these twelve prisoners and calling on the Iranian regime to release them and all other political prisoners in Iran.

One of the twelve political prisoners, human rights activist Emadeddin Baghi, has reportedly been granted release from prison–winning an appeal to have his sentence reduced to time served.  In his place, Mehdi Eghbal has joined the hunger strike.  The others participating are Bahman Ahmadi Amooei, Hasan Asadi Zeidabadi, Emad Bahavar, Ghorban Behzadian-Nejad, Mohammad Davari, Amir-Khosro Dalir-Sani, Feizollah Arabsorkhi, Abolfazl Ghadyani, Mohammad Javad Mozaffar, Mohammad Reza Moghisseh, and Abdollah Momeni.

Hoda Saber and Haleh Sahabi are the most recent political prisoners that lost their live under the brutal pressure of the regime on imprisoned activists. Haleh Sahabi was killed at her father’s funeral while she was temporary released from prison to attend the ceremony. In protest of Haleh’s death, Hoda Saber started a hunger strike and, three days later, he died after being brutally beaten by officers of the security force.

Many of the videos can be found at Green Voice of Freedom and are included after the jump.

Stop talking war, start talking…

We’re slowly reaching a critical point in the nuclear impasse with Iran.

If you listen to Iran hawks on the right, Iran is hell bent on getting a nuclear weapon.  They just know that’s what Iran wants, despite, as Roger Cohen suggests, no evidence or logical basis supporting their conclusion.

Unfortunately, there’s been little to no push back against what sounds eerily familiar to the rhetoric coming out of neo-cons in 2002, pre-Iraq invasion.

Keeping quiet could lead us beyond the point of no return, where no matter what we do or say or what calculus we use, the end result is a strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.  Of course, many Iran-hawks will portray this as a “limited strike” sortie, where only nuclear facilities are attacked.  But if “limited strike” doesn’t sound a whole lot like “slam dunk” or “cake walk,” you might not be listening closely enough.

For us to assume Iran would not respond to “limited strikes”, that Iran would slow or end its enrichment of uranium, that Iran would somehow become more pliant in its reporting, and that the rest of the Middle East would remain quiet, is recklessly naive at best.

I want to be clear before I go forward.  I don’t support an Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons.  But the fact is Iran has not decided to actually begin a nuclear weapons program.  The only conclusion we can draw from a new IAEA report is that they are still in the investigations phase, despite attempts to suggest otherwise. And Iran still hasn’t decided if they actually want a program, and, if they do, what will it look like.  As I’ve written previously, all major intelligence analysis points to this conclusion as well.

Unfortunately, some have decided, despite the fact Iran is within boundaries of international law circumscribing uranium enrichment and despite the fact Iran remains operating within the framework of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, the US needs to threaten Iran for its transgressions—as Senator Lieberman’s questioning of Leon Panetta at his recent confirmation hearings would suggest.    What we have to understand is that, in many ways, the policy coming out of Tehran is in large part a response to such threats.  (Disclaimer, this doesn’t mean that Iran is helping its cause by being evasive regarding their program.)

This means that they could decide they are safer with nuclear weapons, or with people thinking they have nuclear weapons.  We have to refrain, however, from accelerating any decision by Iran to seek nuclear weapons.  Far worse, however, would be a self-fulfilling prophecy–an attack on Iran that drives them to decide to weaponize.   As my former professor Dr. Robert Farley, at the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School of Diplomacy and Commerce says, “Angels weep when we mistake pre-emptive strikes with preventative strikes.”

  • 27 May 2011
  • Posted By David Shams
  • 1 Comments
  • Sanctions

Bringing Iran sanctions home

As the summer travel season is right around the corner, recent sanctions on foreign energy companies dealing with Iran have raised the prospect of higher gas prices that could put those vacation plans on hold.

But even as Venezuela is likely bluffing about curbing oil supplies to the U.S., and the Administration takes pains to ensure they don’t sanction the U.S. out of foreign oil and gas markets, a new round of sanctions introduced in Congress threatens to bring the sanctions home.

New Iran  sanctions proposed (H.R. 1905 in the House, S. 1048 in the Senate)  would, for the first time, target the energy exports of Iran–which has the world’s third largest proven oil reserves–in what would effectively be an oil embargo.  This would cause a spike in oil and gas  prices as Iranian energy is prohibited from the world market.  That means increased transportation costs, higher prices for goods and services, a rise in unemployment, and a stalled economic recovery.

In an already fragile economic situation, why Congress is considering an oil embargo on the world’s third largest producer of oil is beyond me, though the fact that AIPAC just sent 10,000 of its members to the Hill to lobby for the new Iran sanctions may have something to do with it.  But the last thing the US needs right now is another setback in our economic recovery.

Unfortunately, Congress has so far glossed over the new sanctions as “merely closing loopholes in existing Iran sanctions,” said NIAC Policy Director Jamal Abdi in an Inter Press Service dispatch, New Iran Sanctions Could Push Petrol Prices Even Higher.   “But if they read the bill, they’ll find out it actually imposes an oil embargo on Iran that could raise gas prices and threaten the U.S. economy, not to mention cause humanitarian suffering in Iran.” 

  • 19 May 2011
  • Posted By David Shams
  • 1 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran

Dorothy Parvaz is released, but will Iran open up on human rights abuses?

In welcome news, Dorothy Parvaz–the Al Jazeera English correspondent who was detained in Syria two weeks ago and later deported to Iran–was released yesterday.  She arrived in Doha, Qatar on a flight from Iran and detailed her ordeal in an interview with Al Jazeera here.

But while it is an immense relief that Parvaz has been freed, politically motivated detentions and executions continue in Iran.  Hundreds of political prisoners and journalists continue to languish in Iranian jails–such as Kurdish activist Habibollah Latifi, who faces imminent execution, and student leader Majid Tavakkoli, who will soon be celebrating his 25th birthday behind bars.

What is Iran doing about these cases?

Mohammad Javad Larijani, head of Iran’s Human Rights Council, announced that Iran has no objection to allowing the recently mandated UN human rights monitor on Iran to visit the country.

This too is welcome news.  However, while Larijani said Iran accepts the basic framework of the UN investigative process, he questioned the “professionalism” of some of the UN investigators—a tact that has been used in the past to deny access to or impose prohibitively stringent conditions on investigators to prevent them from doing their jobs.

Moreover, last week Larijani announced plans for Iran to create its own “Islamic Charter of Human Rights” and framed this as a way to impose counter pressure on human rights.

It is beyond me why Iranian government would need to create yet another human rights charter given that it ignores the numerous international human rights statutes it has already signed.  Perhaps the first action that could be taken under the new charter will be an investigation of the brutal treatment of prisoners that Dorothy Parvaz says she witnessed during her detention in Syria.

  • 28 April 2011
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 0 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran

NIAC Interview with Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi

At an event hosted by NIAC on Saturday, Nobel Laureate and human rights lawyer Dr. Shirin Ebadi called for international attention on the human rights situation in Iran and warned that war, or threats of an attack on Iran, would be devastating for the country’s indigenous human rights and democracy movement.  But before speaking at the NIAC event in Virginia, Dr. Ebadi gave an exclusive interview with NIAC President Dr. Trita Parsi and Dr. Hazhir Rahmandad, a NIAC member and assistant professor at Virginia Tech.

The interview (in Persian) is below, while our English-only audience can read highlights on NIAC’s website, here.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zIPCn6dDaU]

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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