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  • 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.

  • 27 January 2012
  • Posted By Jacob Martin
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

News Roundup 01/27

NYTimes: Israel doubtful that military strike would result in Iranian retaliation

The New York times reports that Israeli academics and intelligence officials are skeptical of the ferocity of Iranian retaliation tactics in the case of an Israeli strike and believe that possible measures, such as shutting down the Strait of Hormuz, would cause Iran to harm itself.  This belief is based on an analysis of Iran’s interests and previous actions, as well as the many over exaggerated threats presented in the past by Iraq and Hezbollah.  “A war is no picnic,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israel Radio in November. But if Israel feels itself forced into action, the retaliation would be bearable, he said. “There will not be 100,000 dead or 10,000 dead or 1,000 dead. The state of Israel will not be destroyed.” (NY Times 01/27)

Oil industry see Iran sanctions benefitting China, hurting West

Despite sanctions, Iran will continue to sell oil at a similar volume, although the majority of exported oil will go to China.  Being one of Iran’s only remaining customers, the Chinese will be able to bargain for a significantly reduced price on oil.  The West is relying heavily on an increased output from Saudi Arabia to avoid a spike in oil prices, which would hurt an already deteriorating global economy.  (Chicago Tribune 01/27)

U.S.-Israel joint missile defense drill now slated for October 2012

The largest-ever joint missile defense drill between the U.S. and Israel has been rescheduled for this Fall after news leaked that it had been suspended.  The drill, in which several thousand U.S. military personnel will be stationed in Israel, has been perceived as a signal to the region of the U.S. and Israel’s unity and resolve regarding Iran.  Auster Challenge’s abrupt cancellation two weeks ago fueled suspicions of a rift between the two countries in their approach to Iran, though U.S. and Israeli officials insisted it was due only to technical issues.  (Business Insider 01/27) 

  • 24 January 2012
  • Posted By Jacob Martin
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup 01/24

Australia imposes sanctions on Iranian oil

Following yesterday’s announcement of EU imposed sanctions, Australian Foreign Secretary Kevin Rudd stated that Australia would also stop importing Iranian oil.  Rudd acknowledged Australia’s imports of Iranian oil are already “negligible.”   (CNN 01/24)

Fitch: EU oil sanctions likely to increase prices

Fitch ratings evaluates that it is very likely that the EU oil embargo on Iran will increase oil prices, though it states markets may have already priced in much of the increase. Fitch notes that it is “difficult to predict at this stage” what effect U.S. extraterritorial sanctions will have, adding “the global oil market would have less flexibility in the event of large unexpected supply interruptions elsewhere, potentially sending oil prices much higher than current levels” if the sanctions are aggressively enforced. (Fitch Ratings 01/24)

  • 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.

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.

  • 6 October 2010
  • Posted By Lily Samimi
  • 0 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Nokia Feels the Heat

Nokia Siemens Networks has been under fire lately. Anyone who watched what happened in the aftermath of Iran’s 2009 election knows how hard it was for Iranians to get information out to the rest of the world without being caught by Iranian officials. And, as it was widely reported, Nokia’s technology played a major role in enabling the Iranian government to crack down on protesters by monitoring their cell phone devices, emails, and internet activities. But now, Nokia is being hit hard for their involvement.

In June 2010, Nokia released a carefully worded statement about the role of their technology in Iran and the human rights violations there.  A Nokia spokesperson, Barry French, told the European Parliament’s Human Rights Subcommittee that the company has been exiting out of the monitoring center business since March 2009 (before the June 2009 election) and they halted all service and support with Iran in 2009 after the elections. It seems Nokia wanted to make it clear that they condemn the human rights violations that Iranian officials have committed using  their technology, however they were not willing to take any blame for it.

In mid August 2010, two Iranians – Isa Saharkhiz and his son Mehdi Saharkhiz – filed suit in the United States against Nokia Siemens based on the Alien Torte Statute. This statute allows cases, especially human rights cases, to be brought to court in the United States even if they been committed on foreign soil, so long as they involve a potential violation of American treaty law. The Saharkhizes are suing Nokia for selling monitoring devices to the Iranian government that led to Isa’s arrest, torture, and 3 year conviction. Isa Saharkhiz is a reformist journalist and former head of the press department at the Iranian Ministry of Culture and Education under President Khatami. He is just one of the many examples of people that have been arrested and abused by Iranian officials who found them through Nokia’s monitoring system.

  • 29 September 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 3 Comments
  • US-Iran War

Military Attack on Iran: A Combination of Ignorance and Naivety

As always, those who talk about what US policy towards Iran should look like, are already prepared for failure of current US policy.

Now Senator Joe Lieberman is preparing to “up the rhetorical ante” on Iran and endorse military actions if sanctions fail

In an excerpt of what his staff has labeled a “major policy address” to be delivered at the Council on Foreign Relations later today, Lieberman states:

It is time to retire our ambiguous mantra about all options remaining on the table. Our message to our friends and enemies in the region needs to become clearer: namely, that we will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability — by peaceful means if we possibly can, but with military force if we absolutely must.

This comes after  Senator Lindsey Graham last week called for direct military intervention for the purpose of regime change in Iran.  “From my point of view,” Graham said, “if we engage in military operations as a last resort, the United States should have in mind the goal of changing the regime…not by invading (Iran), but by launching a military strike by air and sea.”

Obviously, many things come to mind at their proposal: the question of whether or not Iran is even developing nuclear weapons, the mess we have created and left behind in Iraq, and the chaos we find ourselves in in Afghanistan. Even leaving all this aside, however, I am still left confused and bewildered by the increasing call for military action against Iran by some of our nation’s so-called leaders and experts.

Perhaps most dangerous is the effect military strikes would have inside Iran on the prospects for change. Those who advocate a military attack argue that it will lead to a revolution and possible regime change. These idealistic hopes could not be farther from the truth. As Shawn Amoei wrote, “To believe this is to seriously misunderstand nationalism, the Iranian people, and Iranian history.” See the Iran-Iraq War as the perfect example of how the Iranian people will come together, even under an undesirable regime, in the face of foreign invasion.

A military attack will have a detrimental effect on those within the opposition and civil rights movements within Iran, who already fear being tainted by the US. As insideIran.org researcher Shayan Ghajar eloquently explained:

“Foreign attack on Iran would lead to further marginalization of internal opposition movements by the central government, or would cause a surge of nationalism that temporarily erases domestic disputes. O’Hanlon and Riedel agree, saying, “Nor is a strike by an outside power likely to help the cause of Iranian reformists.” … Mir Hossein Moussavi, the most prominent politician in the Green Movement, has repeatedly argued against… “foreign domination.” …Human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, too, opposes any form of military action. Politician Ataollah Mohajerani, who has ties to numerous opposition leaders, said that any attack on Iran would serve only to strengthen the Iranian military and distract the public from their internal divisions.

In other words, rather than fomenting change, a military attack on Iran would do just the opposite.

In the aftermath of the June 2009 presidential elections in Iran, Joe Lieberman said, “We have to do everything we can… to support the people of Iran.” Now, just a little over a year later, he is explicitly endorsing bombing Iran. I’m sorry, but you can’t have it both ways.  But  it sounds like Lieberman will be joining his friend Lindsey Graham and assert that they know what’s best for the Iranian people, that Iran’s opposition leaders and human rights defenders are wrong, and that the people of Iran will greet us as liberators.

  • 1 July 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 3 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

A Half-Hearted Attempt at Accountability

A military court in Iran sentenced two men on Wednesday to death and nine others to jail for the torture of three protesters which resulted in their death last summer at the notorious Kahrizak detention center.  According to the report on Jahan News, an additional 33 others  were also accused of attacking a student dormitory in Tehran.  Despite this development, however, many human rights violations in Iran continue.

Following is a list of some of the many ongoing human rights abuses in Iran that should not be overlooked.  Unfortunately, this isn’t an exhaustive list.

-Currently, Zeinab Jalalian is on death row for 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.

-On June 26, approximately 50 houses owned by Baha’is were demolished in a village northeast of Tehran. According to an eyewitness, the houses were set on fire and then demolished by four bulldozers. “We informed the governor’s office that they were destroying our houses, but they did nothing to prevent it,” he said.

-According to Human Rights Watch, there are 16 Iranian-Kurds on death row in the notorious Evin prison. Their names are Rostam Arkia, Hossein Khezri, Anvar Rostami, Mohammad Amin Abdolahi, Ghader Mohammadzadeh, Habibollah Latifi, Sherko Moarefi, Mostafa Salimi, Hassan Tali, Iraj Mohammadi, Rashid Akhkandi, Mohammad Amin Agoushi, Ahmad Pouladkhani, Sayed Sami Hosseini, Sayed Jamal Mohammadi, and Aziz Mohammadzadeh.

-Majid Tavakoli, a renowned Iranian student activist, is currently suffering from a rapidly deteriorating physical condition in Evin Prison. According to Human Rights House of Iran, Tavakoli is suffering from abdominal bleeding.

Despite the concerns raised by Tavakoli’s prison mates, prison officials have yet to transfer him to the infirmary at Evin.  Tavakoli’s physical condition has deteriorated to the extent that he is no longer able to speak on the phone.  After days of no news, although he contacted his mother briefly today, he was unfortunately unable to speak to her for long due to his incessant coughing.

-Isa Saharkhiz is an imprisoned journalist who has been in prison for a period of one year without due process. He is suffering from hypotension and low blood pressure and recently collapsed for the second time. Prison officials have refused to transfer him to the prison infirmary despite his deteriorating condition.

-There is no news of political activist Mehdi Ale-Ziarat who was originally detained on June 10, 2010. He is a member of “Tose’eye Melli” (National Development) student publication and has worked on a number of articles and photos which were to be used in the first issue of this journal.

These are but a few of the many human rights abuses still going on in Iran.  This list could be far longer.  While news of the Iranian government finally punishing some of those responsible for such abuses is welcome, continued human rights violations show that the government is half-hearted at best in its attempt to display some accountability here.

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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