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  • 6 October 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 2 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

Monolithic Myths

I could not help but laugh at the irony when I read successive articles in the New York Times on Monday in which, in the first article, Iran’s government was referred to monolithically as “the mullahs”, while in the second, the Times reported that senior clerics in Iran are actually being targeted for government censorship.

The divided and competing interests within Iran’s political scene is nothing new.  But following the 2009 election crisis, this reality was exposed even to those who do not closely follow events in Iran. And the un-Islamic nature of the Iranian government, despite official claims, has been revealed time and time again, especially in the past two years–including in the brutal crackdown on protesters and the government’s attacks on dissident clerics’ homes and offices.

Despite all these obvious divisions, the New York Times published a news analysis discussing Bob Woodward’s new book and what it may reveal about Obama’s policy towards Iran. Throughout the article, author John Vincour constantly refers to the Iranian government as “the mullahs.”

Yet as the Times reported the same day (“In Sign of Discord, Iran Blocks Web Sites of Some Clerics”), Iran’s government is  censoring the websites of Grand Ayatollah Yousef Sanei and Grand Ayatollah Asadollah Bayat-Zanjani. Those attempting to access the websites were instead redirected to the standard Iranian government filtering page.

The most likely reason? Both Sanei and Bayat-Zanjani openly condemned the violent crackdown on the street protests following the fraudulent presidential elections in 2009. Muhammad Sahimi, a UCLA professor and political columnist for Tehran Bureau, said of the censorship:

“Filtering their sites is precisely because of the public positions that they have taken… This is part of the ‘cyberspace war’ that the hardliners have publicly announced against the Green Movement and its supporters.”

As Grand Ayatollah Sanei said on his website in response to the censorship, “Let it not go unsaid that freedom of expression is emphasized under Islam.”

So why does John Vincour talk about Iran’s government in shorthand as “the mullahs”?  It doesn’t just happen once. Vincour continuously refers to the Iranian government as a group of mullahs, as if they are all united and of the like mind.

Now, I’m not talking about being politically correct. I’m just talking about being correct. Vincour ignores all the rivalries and complexities in Iran’s leadership and unites them all under the same banner.

Many clerics refused to congratulate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his supposed election victory; Ayatollah Dastgheib called on the Assembly of Experts to review the performance of the Supreme Leader; the homes and offices of Montazeri, Karroubi, and Sanei have all been attacked; and recently, a dispute erupted over Azad University. These are but a few examples of the many rifts and complexities in Iran’s leadership.

To be perfectly honest, considering how often Iran is in the news today and how often it is the subject of policy discussions, I expect more from not only the New York Times, but also of those who are leading the debate on Iran. And I am not only bothered by Vincour’s ignorance, but also surprised.

Perhaps as we debate and formulate policies regarding Iran, it is time to do ourselves a favor and be mindful of the intricacies of Iranian politics before we talk about Iran as if it were a monolith.

  • 19 October 2009
  • Posted By Lloyd Chebaclo
  • 5 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in DC, Legislative Agenda, Nuclear file, Sanctions, UN

Berman-Hoyer play hot potato with Sanctions Bill

Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Howard L. Berman (D-CA) said Thursday the committee will mark up the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act (H.R. 2194) (IRPSA) on October 28.

Later that day, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer was pressed by Chief Deputy Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and “committed to moving the bill quickly to a vote once it is passed out of the committee.”

When he introduced the bill last Spring, Berman made it clear:

“I fully support the Administration’s strategy of direct diplomatic engagement with Iran, and I have no intention of moving this bill though the legislative process in the near future,” Berman continued. “In fact, I hope that Congress will never need to take any action on this legislation, for that would mean that Iran at last has complied with the repeatedly-expressed demand of the international community to verifiably suspend its uranium enrichment program and to end its pursuit of nuclear weapons once and for all.”

So why are these people talking about passing these sanctions without the administration asking for it,  while continually undermining current negotiations? (Day 2 of talks wrapped in Vienna today.)

Both are under pressure to move the bill, and both are looking to pass the onus onto the other. Ultimately only the Obama administration would lose out because Berman and Hoyer are acting at cross purposes with it.

  • 9 August 2009
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Sunday News Roundup

Washington Post: With Iran Blaming West, Dual Citizens Are Targets

Among the more than 100 people on trial after Iran’s disputed presidential election are two dual citizens: Kian Tajbakhsh, 47, an American Iranian urban planner, and Maziar Bahari, 42, a Canadian Iranian filmmaker and Newsweek reporter.

 

New York Times: Iran Prosecutor General Acknowledges Torture

A top judiciary official acknowledged Saturday that some detainees arrested after post-election protests had been tortured in Iranian prisons, the first such acknowledgment by a senior Iranian official. […]

 

Speaking to reporters at a news conference, Qorbanali Dori-Najafabadi, the prosecutor general, said “mistakes” had led to a few “painful accidents which cannot be defended, and those who were involved should be punished.”

 

Such mistakes, he said, included “the Kahrizak incident,” a reference to the deaths of several detainees at Kahrizak detention center in southwestern Tehran.

 

His comments came after weeks of reports that detainees had been tortured, and they fell somewhere between an admission and an accusation, as most of the arrests were made by the Revolutionary Guards and the paramilitary Basij militia, groups that are not under the control of the judiciary.

 

Even so, the statement was likely to be incendiary in Iran, where allegations of torture by Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi became a central justification of the 1979 revolution that brought the hard-line clerics to power.

 

Detainees’ accusations of torture have already prompted a parliamentary investigation of abuses at Kahrizak, which was closed last month by order of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

 

Mr. Dori-Najafabadi said his team had tried to change the situation after taking control of the arrests last month, the ILNA news agency reported, and he encouraged people to come forward with complaints.

 

“Maybe there were cases of torture in the early days after the election,” he was quoted as saying, “but we are willing to follow up any complaints or irregularities that have taken place.”

 

In another indication of dissension, he said a special judiciary committee had recommended the release of Saeed Hajjarian, a prominent reformist. Mr. Hajjarian’s family said he had been tortured, and has expressed concern about his health. Last week, the Iranian authorities said Mr. Hajjarian had been moved to a site with access to doctors.

 

Mr. Dori-Najafabadi also said that about 100 people had been arrested every day after the post-election demonstrations began, and that there were efforts to release about the same number daily. There are nearly 200 detainees today, he said.

 

 

Iran’s Police Chief admits election demonstrators were tortured

Iran’s police chief admitted today that protesters arrested after June’s disputed presidential election had been tortured while in custody in a notorious prison in south-west Tehran. But he denied any of the detainees died as a result of their mistreatment.

 

In remarks reported by state-run media, General Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam said the chief of the Kahrizak detention centre had been dismissed and punished.

 

“The head of the centre has been sacked and jailed. Three policemen who beat detainees have been jailed as well,” the official IRNA news agency quoted Moghaddam as saying.

IRGC Commander: Arrest Mousavi, Karroubi, & Khatami

“If Mousavi, (defeated candidate Mehdi) Karoubi and (former president Mohammad) Khatami are main suspects behind the soft revolution in Iran, which they are, we expect the judiciary … to go after them, arrest them, put them on trial and punish them,” said Yadollah Javan, a senior Guards commander, the official IRNA news agency reported.

U.S. National Security Advisor Calls for Release of Americans in Iran

The United States has sent strong messages to Iran urging the release of three American hikers who were detained there recently, U.S. national security adviser Jim Jones said on Sunday.

 

“We have sent strong messages that we would like these three young people released as soon as possible, and also others that they have in their custody as well,” Jones told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” The Iranian government acknowledged on Sunday that it had the three Americans in its custody, he said.

Fars News: Ahmadinejad to introduce new cabinet next Monday.

Shirin Ebadi calls for release of detainees.

Press TV: Iran Police Chief blamed for Kahrizak prison deaths

Hamid-Reza Katouzian, a member of the Principlist faction that holds the majority of seats in the Parliament (Majlis), said Wednesday that Iran’s Police Chief, Esmail Ahmadi-Moqaddam, is responsible for the death and abuse of detained opposition demonstrators in Kahrizak.

 

“Unfortunately, the gross misconduct of Kahrizak officials have resulted in the murder of scores of young people,” said Katouzian. “The Iranian Police Chief is duty bound to provide a clear explanation in this regard.”

 

Robin Wright: In Iran, a Hostage-Taker Is Now Hostage

This new purge may be more profound politically than the campaign against the followers of Mir Hossein Mousavi: The Iranian revolution is eating its children.

 

Mohsen Mirdamadi saw it all coming. He warned me about it five years ago. The only thing he didn’t foresee was his own role. Last week, he sat in a revolutionary court, dressed in gray prison pajamas, as one of its victims. 

Iran Updates – June 28

5:47 pm: According to a contact in Tehran, women police are now out in force. Not that the women protesters were free from being attacked, but now there is a special female force solely designed for them.

5:24 pm: LA Times reports that Mousavi’s wife, Zahra Rahnavard, was also at the rally.

5:21 pm: Tweets from a human rights activist in Iran:

  1. Kambiz Norouzi, legal secretary of journalists’ union was arrested today.
  2. Shokoofeh Azar, reporter for Sarmaye Emrooz paper, was arrested in front of Ghoba mosque. Her family have no info.
  3. Mousavi was in the vicinity of Ghoba today but huge crowd & heavy traffic did not let him enter the mosque.

5:17 pm: Some British embassy officials released

(VOA) Iranian state media is reporting that authorities have released some members of the British Embassy staff in Tehran, one day after eight Iranian staffers there were detained for alleged links to the nation’s post-election unrest.

A report quotes the nation’s intelligence minister, Qolam Hosein Mohseni-Ejei as saying Sunday it has proof that some British embassy employees collected news about the recent protests.

It is unclear how many staffers remain in custody.

3:50 pm: More on Rafsanjani’s statement, as reported by the Iranian Labor News Agency and translated by Sanaz:

Rafsanjani, the head of the Expediency Discernment Council said the aftermath of the elections is a “complicated ploy by suspicious agents whose goal is to create separation between the people and the Islamic regime.” According to Rafsanjani, “wherever people have entered the scene with awareness such a plot has been neutralized.”

3:33 pm: Ayatollah Javadi Amoli Calls for Separation of Powers in Iran

“When one person alone enacts, executes and judges the law, there will be problems” (Translated from Mowj news)

Amoli, who led the Friday prayers sermon in Qom, believes that the best way to resolve the current situation is a separation between the executive branch, the judicial branch and the Islamic jurist. Amoli said separation of powers is not a recent phenomenon and it existed before Islam. “Separation of powers does not belong to a particular century. Islamic and non-Islamic governments have it now, too,” he said.

2:39 pm: “Iranbaan” also reports via twitter that “Mousavi could not join [the] people today but apparently he’s spoken to them through a mobile & a loudspeaker.”

2:32 pm: Iranian activists are reporting that Mehdi Karoubi, Morteza Malekian, Faezeh Hashemi & Effat Mar’eshi were among today’s demonstrators.

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

This video shows Karroubi with demonstrators, but we can’t confirm if it is in fact from today.

1:55 pm: Video of demonstrators

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5v-OOpUbkm8]

1:53 pm: Clashes in North Tehran

(Via AP) Riot police clashed with up to 3,000 protesters near a mosque in north Tehran on Sunday, using tear gas and truncheons to break up Iran’s first post-election demonstration in five days, witnesses said.

Witnesses told The Associated Press that some protesters fought back, chanting: “Where is my vote?” They said others described scenes of brutality — including the alleged police beating of an elderly woman — in the clashes around the Ghoba Mosque.

The reports could not immediately be independently verified because of tight restrictions imposed on journalists in Iran.

According to one Iranian human rights activist, the Ghoba Mosque was full and there were “tens of thousands” in the nearby streets. She reports the police are beating people to disperse the crowd.

12:30 pm: Israeli Press – “Good we didn’t bomb Iran”

[E]verything happening at Tehran’s Azadi Square – the amazing coming together of young people, Internet culture, social ferment, and woman power – would not have happened had we listened to the regular bunch of hysterical screamers around here and attempted to bomb Iran’s nuclear sites

What would have happened then? Exactly what happens around here during times of war: The Iranian public would have rallied around the leadership, a wave of patriotic fury would have swept through the whole of Iran, and Ahmadinejad would not have needed to resort to any fraud in order to defeat the reformists.

12:17 pm: Rafsanjani breaks silence, calls for fair and thorough examination of election complaints:

In Sunday’s statement, Rafsanjani praised a decision by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last week to extend by five days a deadline for Iran’s top legislative body to receive and look into complaints by the three defeated candidates.

“This valuable move by the Supreme Leader in order to attract the people’s trust towards the election process was very effective,” Rafsanjani told a meeting of families of victims of a 1981 bombing in Tehran that killed many senior officials.

“I hope those who are involved in this issue thoroughly and fairly review and study the legal complaints,” he said.

11:46 am: Is Iran “meddling” in Iraq?

Yes, says Gen. Ray Odierno, Commander of US forces in Iraq. Today on CNN, Odierno said Iran continues to “interfere inside of Iraq.” Although that activity is somewhat reduced, Odierno said that was a result of the improved security situation, not of the Iranians’ intent. Odierno said of the Iranians, “They’re still attempting to interfere in Iraq. They’re still attempting to have undo influence inside of Iraq.”

11:20 am: Iranian employees of British embassy, UN detained:

Iranian authorities arrested eight local employees of the British embassy in Tehran, accusing them of “playing major parts” in the recent unrest over a presidential election, the semi-official Fars news agency reported today.

The eight worked in the embassy’s political section. At least one UN employee has also been targeted:

Iranian authorities have also targeted local staffers of the United Nations. At least one was arrested after she was photographed flashing a supportive “V” signal with her fingers during a rally in support of Ahmadinejad’s challenger, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, in front of the U.N.’s Tehran offices.

11:19 am: The Guardian has a piece examining the battle behind-the-scenes for power in Iran. The article provides a lot of context, but breaks little new ground.

NPR has a story about the CIA’s troubles collecting reliable information on Iran.

  • 15 June 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Brief news recap from the weekend

Massive Ahmadinejad victory rallies: Ahmadinejad supporters rally in the nation’s capital http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8099501.stm

Khamenei Approves Election 88 Results a Second Time without Reservation http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=98115&sectionid=351020101

Supreme Leader orders election probe: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090615/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_iran_election

Mousavi Formally Calls for Guardian Council to Nullify Elections, Calls for General Strike Tuesday http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jun/14/iran-election-mousavi-appeal

Arrests: Mohammad Reza Khatami, the brother of Mohammad Khatami; the leader of IIPF Mohsen Mirdamadi; former Deputy Interior Minister Mostafa Tajzadeh; and religious activist Taghi Rahmani are among those who were arrested at their homes. In addition, 100s of journalists – especially from Etemad Melli, Karroubi’s paper

Communications Shutdowns: SMS text-messaging system remains down in Iran since election day, while Facebook and YouTube are also blocked. Internet bandwidth has slowed to a crawl.

All info on arrests, shutdowns from: http://www.payvand.com/news/09/jun/1139.html

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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