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Posts Tagged ‘ Iran human rights ’

  • 2 June 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 4 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

Oh, the Irony

When I first heard about France and Belgium’s proposed laws for banning the burqa, I was outraged. As an American, I thought it ridiculous, violating the fundamental human rights of freedom of expression and free exercise of religion. I could not believe that two modern, democratic nations would not allow someone to practice their religion simply because they dress differently. As a Muslim, I was hurt.  Counter-arguments of “Well Christians can’t wear the cross either” were not even comparable to me and, quite frankly, made me angry.

But today when Manouchehr Mottaki, Iran’s Foreign Minister, denounced the law, saying that Iran “attaches great importance to the rights of religious minorities,” I laughed.

Mr. Mottaki, where have you been the past 31 years?

If Iran attaches such great importance to the rights of religious minorities, why are the Bahais still denied access to a university education and the right to inherit property unless they recant their faith? Why are they subject to arbitrary arrest and detention and violent attacks on their homes or property? Why are they denied establishment of places of worship or schools? Is it out of respect that Iran continues to detain seven Bahais after two years, violating their constitutional right to due process?

What of the Jews who until 2003 were not even considered equal to Muslims and Christians for compensation of murdered relatives in court? The Jews who have to build walls around their cemeteries to protect their dead out of fear that tombstones will be smashed or desecrated with anti-Israel slogans. Was Habibollah Elghanian murdered because of Iran’s great respect for religious minorities?

Why does religion continue to be on all identification papers in Iran if all religions are equal? And is imposing a hijab, with penalties for violations, really any better than banning it?

Mr. Mottaki, I ask what of all the Iranians who are not Shi’a Muslim? Before denouncing intolerance in Europe, look to the great intolerance in your own country. Iran, of all countries, does not have the right to denounce France and Belgium’s moves when it continues its much greater discriminatory practices.

And while I am still shocked at the proposed law banning the burqa, and at the fact that Spain, Austria, and the Netherlands are also preparing similar bills, I beg the hypocrites to please not speak out and demean the more valid arguments of many, rightfully-outraged Muslims around the world.

  • 28 May 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 2 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Regime doth protest too much

It seems that despite any claims to the contrary, the Islamic Republic is still at least a little bit fearful for its safety and survival with the upcoming anniversary of the June 2009 elections.

This can be seen in the detaining of artists, hikers, Canadian journalists, and French academics (among many others). It can be seen in the execution of Kurds, Afghans, Bahai’s, and election protesters. However, perhaps the most controversial, the most offensive, and the most un-Islamic, is the recent declaration of a documentary to be released by Iran’s Intelligence Ministry to “complete the removal of ambiguities surrounding the murder of Neda Agha Soltan” and provide “new evidence” about the West’s version of events. In other words, to prove that Neda’s murder was staged.

I understand the obsession with Western conspiracies, as there have been many in Iran’s history. I myself am often the first to point to an underlying conspiracy as an explanation for things. Nonetheless, it is clear to any reasonable person that Neda’s death is not a conspiracy. If the initial evidence was not enough to prove it, the regime’s reaction was.

Neda’s family was threatened to make false confessions attributing her death to the West. Her family was prohibited from holding a funeral for her, despite funerals being very important in Iranian and especially Muslim culture. Neda’s fiancé and the doctor who tried to save her life in the video, both scared for their lives, left the country. Her grave was desecrated by supporters of the regime. And now, after all this time, the regime brings it up, yet again, by pointing its finger to others.

But I do not want to argue that Neda’s death was indeed the work of the Islamic Republic, because there are many others who have done that before me. Rather, I would like to point out the regime’s psychological insecurity, at bringing up a death from nearly a year ago. This documentary, like the recent arrests, executions, and detentions, is to be released shortly before the one-year anniversary of the June 12 elections. These events all happening in the span of a few days are more than a coincidence; they are to continuously dissuade people from participating in expected protests. This documentary is likely meant to undermine the powerful symbol she has become as well as the legitimacy of the opposition movement in Iran.

But how long is a family to suffer? The Islamic Republic ought to stop exploiting and hurting the Iranian people simply to allay its own fears and insecurities. Besides, who is really going to believe that the blood coming from Neda’s death was from a ketchup bottle?

As one of the many who cried upon watching Neda’s death, I can only imagine how her family must feel. My advice to the Islamic Republic: show a little Muslim compassion, it is what we are best known for. Let the dead rest in peace. And let the living finally move on.

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.

  • 19 May 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 1 Comments
  • Culture, Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

The Starvation of Iranian Art

World-renowned Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, famous for his 2006 film Offside, has been engaged in a hunger strike in Tehran’s Evin Prison since Sunday.

Tahere Saeidi, the filmmaker’s wife, told the Rahesabz website that Panahi told her on the phone that he will continue his protest until he is allowed to see his family, meet with a lawyer, and be set free pending trial.

“I swear on the cinema in which I believe: I will not stop my [hunger] strike until my wishes are fulfilled,” he wrote. “My last wish is that my corpse be given back to my family so they are able to bury me where they like.”

Panahi has been detained since early March on charges of producing a film on the unrest inside the country after the June 2009 election.

The freedom to make films was the focus of the Cannes Film Festival yesterday, where Panahi was supposed to have been a juror on the panel but obviously could not attend because of his detention.

Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami made a plea for Panahi’s release at the Cannes Film Festival yesterday.

“I can’t understand how a film can be described as a crime when it is yet to be shown to anyone,” said Kiarostami, adding, “When a filmmaker is imprisoned, it is the art which is attacked. I believe we can’t remain different to the situation. One can’t give up hope.”

The Iranian culture has been long known for its art: its painters, writers, poets, musicians, and filmmakers. Iran has made a name for itself in the international community through its art. This can be seen in the very fact that many notable American film directors have called for Panahi’s release including Steven Spielberg, Oliver Stone, Robert Redford, Martin Scorcese, Robert de Niro, and Michael Moore.

The Islamic Republic must release Panahi and show the world and remind Iranians in particular just how much art is revered in our culture.  We cannot have our artists continuously punished for their work. We cannot continue to scare Iranians from even trying to produce something truly magnificent.

“My Thoughts Turn to Them”

A deal has been reached between Iran, Turkey, and Brazil, in which Iran has agreed to ship most of its enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for nuclear fuel rods to power a medical research reactor.  Deprived of the uranium, Iran cannot process it to the higher levels needed for weapons production. In addition, the fuel rods returned to Iran for Tehran’s research reactor cannot be processed beyond their lower, safer levels.

In addition, Iran has finally released French academic Clotilde Reiss, who has been held in Tehran’s Evin Prison for more than ten months on charges of espionage as well as participation in rioting and civil strife. Her 10-year jail term was commuted to a fine of 3 billion rials ($300,000). Reiss was welcomed by President Sarkozy on her return home early Sunday afternoon.

Of course, Iran’s cooperation on these two fronts should not discount its lack of cooperation on an issue even more important, that of human rights. While many in the West can now rest assured that Iran now does not have enough uranium to build the nuclear bomb, at least for now, the Iranian people continue to be held in prisons throughout Iran. Iran’s human rights abuse has only increased since the June 2009 presidential elections and can be seen as recently as the very controversial execution of five Iranians just last week.

As Reiss said on her return to France,

I am thinking chiefly of two men who were executed in January 2010 and who were pretty much at my sides during the public trial. They treated me like a sister. I am thinking about them because I was overwhelmed by their stories. Now that I am free in my country, my thoughts turn to them.

Many others continue to be detained in prison in Iran, including women and children. Now that there has been some initial progress on the nuclear concern, at least temporarily, it is finally time for other powers to focus an equal amount of attention on the rights of the Iranian people.

Photo credit: Reuters/Benoit Tessier; Atta Kenare / AFP/Getty Images

  • 11 May 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 2 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Executions Meant to Be a “Warning,” Spark Protests Instead

Protests took place in Tehran and major cities around the world including Frankfurt, London, Vienna, Toronto, Koln, and Paris, among many others, on May 9 and May 10, 2010 after the execution of five political prisoners in Iran’s Evin Prison.  The Tehran protests included chants of “Freedom,” and “Basiji get out of here,” and “Students would rather die than surrender to oppression,” while elsewhere chants also included “Death to the Islamic Republic.”

Convicted of “moharebeh” (enmity against God)  Farzad Kamangar, Ali Heydarian, Farhad Vakili, Shirin Alam-Holi, and Mehdi Eslamian were all hanged on Sunday, May 9, 2010 in the prison. Of the five prisoners, four were Kurds, sparking outrage at Iran’s continued poor treatment of the large minority in the state.

Amnesty International has condemned the act and is calling on Iranian authorities to halt all executions, or at the very least adhere to their own laws regarding their implementation.

The five were accused of “enmity against God” for carrying out “terrorist acts” and convicted of this vaguely worded charge which can carry the death penalty and is usually applied to those who take up arms against the state.

“We condemn these executions which were carried out without any prior warning. Despite the serious accusations against them, the five were denied fair trials. Three of the defendants were tortured and two forced to ‘confess’ under duress,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Citing “security” concerns, the government has in the past often accused activists, journalists, and writers of “stirring trouble and ethnic and racial conflict” and of “working with opposition groups,” including the murder of Shivan Qaderi and the subsequent arrest of several Kurdish activists in July 2005 and the murder of Mohammad Islamian in December 2009.

While this recent act may have simply been a continuation of Kurdish oppression in the country, it is more likely that it was to serve as a warning for upcoming protests on the anniversary of the June elections. Regardless, one thing does remain clear. This was a blatant violation of human rights.

It is quite ironic that while the purpose of these executions was likely meant to deter Iranians from future protests, it in actuality served as a reason for other protests to take place.

Everyone knows that the Iranian people have continued to be upset at the actions of their government — whether they have come out into the streets to protest or not.  These smoldering demonstrations, though small, seem to represent a welling up of indignation and outrage as the anniversary of the June 2009 election approaches.

It will be interesting to follow this new trend, as protests of Iranians inside and outside the country are becoming more frequent and can now be expected without warning.

  • 7 May 2010
  • Posted By Layla Armeen
  • 2 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Who is Mousavi Challenging in His New Statement?

Mir Hossein Mousavi issued a statement just a few days ago calling for the implementation of each and every article of the Iranian constitution. According to Mousavi, the full implementation of the law is the only peaceful solution to the existing crisis in Iran, and he commits to this path forward.  His English translated statement can be found on his Facebook page. Mousavi’s official site – Kalameh – provides the full text in Persian.

Every single ignored or abandoned article of the constitution should be implemented

Mir Hossein Mousavi stressed that the full implementation of the constitution without any personal interpretations against the clear rulings of the constitution is the only solution for achieving national unity and reinstating the rights of all ethnics groups and said: “Every single ignored or abandoned article of the constitution should be implemented and if there is any issue in this matter that should be put to a referendum.”

Which abandoned articles of the Iranian constitution is Mousavi referring to, and what are the road blocks that he sees in this proposed path forward?

He is most likely challenging the full – unquestioned -authority of the Supreme Leader which even under the existing Iranian constitution is supposed to be monitored by the Khobregan Council; a council that because of the nature of its appointment by the bodies under the control of the Supreme Leader himself is unable to make a sound judgment in questioning the Leader himself.

Mousavi almost never talks about Ayatollah Ali Khamenei directly. The two have a history of a ferocious political fighting in the early days of the Iranian revolution, and it appears that neither of them is ready to move away from that history.

After the death of Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the revolution, the Iranian constitution was amended and voted on. That was when the Absolute Guardianship of the Islamic Jurisprudence – Velayat e Motlagheye Faghih – was inserted into the Islamic Republic’s constitution. Almost overnight, Khamenei, a Hojatoleslam back then and  a man who was a subordinate of Mousavi in government was elevated to a position of an Ayatollah, and became the sole absolute power in the Islamic Republic. Thereafter, Mousavi disappeared from the political arena for twenty years.

Although the principle of Velayat Faghih is enshrined in the constitution, there also exist other chapters and articles that are supposed to monitor its performance.  But these articles are never enforced.

Being absent from the political arena in Iran, Mir Hossein Mousavi, “felt a sense of danger” as he called it, and re-entered politics to challenge the existing absolute authority. As opposed to American political culture — which can be much more direct or blunt —  the Iranian way of conducting politics is hidden beneath loads of sarcasm, metaphor, poetry, and peculiar Persian literature, which is another reason why it is so difficult for foreign governments to understand the Iranian side of the story.

But now Mousavi is back, and is challenging a twenty year old – undisputed – stronger-than-ever, absolute authority that appears to be more frustrated with its own inability to contain popular resentment.

Mousavi never refers to this personal authority by its name, but his subliminal messages appear more and more transparent as his movement progresses.

  • 23 April 2010
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 3 Comments
  • Congress, Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Sanctions, UN

Changing Course on Iran Sanctions

This post appeared in today’s The Hill newspaper.

New sanctions on Iran are about the surest bet in Washington these days.

Both the House and the Senate have passed a “crippling” gasoline embargo, and the administration has all but given up talk of negotiations in favor of pressing for UN Security Council sanctions “that bite.” In fact, the only thing left that the administration and Congress disagree on is whether the new sanctions should target all of Iranian society or just the hardliners in power — not an insignificant disagreement by any measure, but one that underscores the broader acceptance of the argument that new sanctions are the only game in town.

But given the fact that the U.S. has sanctioned Iran for decades with little to show for it, the debate over U.S.-Iran policy should not be boiled down to a question of how much more damage we can do. Rather, smart power dictates that the U.S. use every tool available, including those that have been taken off the table, such as lifting certain sanctions.

No one expects the U.S. to unilaterally lift its embargo on Iran. But certain sanctions have unambiguously failed to achieve their objective, contributing instead to the suffering of ordinary Iranians. These should be reexamined, and where appropriate, lifted.

  • 21 April 2010
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 1 Comments
  • Congress, Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Sanctions

Let’s Talk About Sanctions for a Moment.

For as much focus as there is on Iran sanctions, it’s a shame there isn’t a better debate going on.

Congress is preparing to negotiate a final version of the petroleum embargo that passed both houses with overwhelming majorities a few months ago.  (Quick refresher on Congressional proceedings: The House and Senate both passed a sanctions bill, but the two bills included very different provisions.  So they both have to appoint a few members to what’s called a “Conference Committee” that is charged with negotiating a compromise version of the legislation which, after being approved once again by both chambers, will be sent to the President to be signed into law.)

This means that, for the moment, the sanctions bills are a relatively clean slate — provisions can be cut, inserted, re-worked, or even brand new ideas can be put in that never showed up in the original versions.

So this is an opportunity to make some real improvements — inserting important provisions that further human rights and support the Iranian people in a bill that is virtually guaranteed to be signed into law. The only down-side is: the main thrust of the bill is still really bad, punishing the Iranian people while letting the human rights abusers off scot-free.

But this is an opportunity that Congress would do well not to miss.  They can use this legislation to adopt some of the better ideas that have been kicking around almost instantly — things like waiving sanctions to allow Iranians to access Internet communications tools or anti-censorship programs; things like dropping the ban on sending direct humanitarian assistance to the Iranian people; or even ending the single-entry visa policy for Iranian students in the US.

None of this will solve the nuclear problem, nor will these ideas end human rights abuses in Iran.  But it will declare unambiguously that the United States is no longer interested in contributing to the suffering of ordinary Iranians.  It would take real, practical steps to make life a little easier for Iranians and a little harder for human rights abusers.

In short, it would demonstrate that the US stands with the Iranian people.

  • 15 April 2010
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 7 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, UN

So Iran wants to be on the UN Human Rights Council… (VIDEO)

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BloggingheadsTV had Mark Leon Goldberg of UN Dispatch talking with Suzanne Nossel of the State Department yesterday about Iran’s bid for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council.

Yes, you heard that right.  This, apparently, is how the Human Rights Council works — the countries most qualified to speak about human rights are the ones who have first-hand experience violating human rights themselves.

Cynicism aside, this is an incredibly important issue, and the Obama Administration has to get it right.  In the absence of direct diplomacy, and in the context of the sanctions push that is still ongoing, the US is doing very little to actually promote human rights in Iran.

The least — and I mean the very least — they can do is work to stop Iran from making a mockery of an important international institution for the promotion of basic universal rights.

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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