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  • 18 February 2010
  • Posted By Layla Armeen
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iranian Youth

“My Upbringing Taught Me to Have My Own Opinion.”

Narges Kalhor, an outspoken and eloquent Iranian film maker who also happens to be the daughter of a top adviser to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, made headlines last October by attending a human-rights film festival in Germany.  Following Iran’s controversial presidential election, many Iranian artists and film makers expressed support for the opposition “Green Movement,” and Kalhor was certainly no exception. However, her father’s position in the Iranian administration put even a brighter spotlight on her opposition stand against the Islamic Republic. She received political amnesty from Germany right after she obtained a tip that her life would be in danger if she returned to Iran.

In her yesterday interview with BBC Persian, Kalhor once again was not shy in revealing her deeply critical views on her own father and the Islamic establishment as a whole. Referring to the post election aftermath in Iran Kalhor said:

“They are taking away the very basic rights of any human being from us. We have always been objecting to the status quo in Iran, but the maximum extortion took place after the election. We had never reached a level [until now] that we felt we had to stand up and fight for our rights.”

Like Narges Kalhor, Iranians, no matter where they live, have deep cultural and social roots in Iran. This is the nature of their culture, and if they ever feel that their identity is being attacked they will regroup regardless of their differences. They have shown that repeatedly throughout history.

The “Islamic Republic” was very controversial from the beginning, both for its name and its brutality in the immediate aftermath of the revolution. And today, thirty years later, many Iranian citizens ask themselves if Islam — or any other religion/ideology for that matter — can be a pillar of guidance in Iranian modern governance. Kalhor says that she doesn’t have any problem with Islam. What any individual believes is strictly a personal matter, and one must not abuse a line of thought to implement his/her personal interests.

Many in Iran today are comparing the Islamic Republic’s behavior with that of the Shah. The Shah also believed that if his opponents left Iran then he would be safe to rule. That didn’t exactly happen. His opposition managed to regroup and get international attention abroad without worrying about the Shah’s repression, and they eventually succeeded in toppling his dynasty.

Kalhor also shared her view on the Iranian revolution and the ongoing reform movement in Iran. “The revolution was a mistake. Reform must have happened.” Kalhor identifies herself as a child of the revolution, and says today again in Iran we need reform “step by step” instead of another revolution.  “I personally prefer to take a path where no more blood is shed.”

  • 15 February 2010
  • Posted By Layla Armeen
  • 3 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Karroubi Son Brutalized After Feb. 11 Arrest (updated)

Fatemeh Karroubi, the wife of Mehdi Karroubi who is one of Iran’s main opposition leaders, claims her youngest son was arrested, tortured and threatened with rape after the February 11 anti-government protests. In an open letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran — Mrs. Karroubi discusses the current political turmoil in Iran and pleads for due process and restoration of the rule of law in the country.

After giving a brief history of her and her husband’s key involvement during the revolution, Mrs. Karroubi describes the events of the Feb. 11 and what led to her son’s brutal treatment by the Basij and the anti-riot police. She claims that her son, Ali Karroubi 37, was arrested with no legal basis then beaten and humiliated in a nearby mosque.

They took him to the Amiral Momenin Mosque and he was beaten along with other detainees. He was recognized when they were registering the detainees by name. Then, after ten minutes, after the agents got the order from higher officials, he was separated from the other detainees and beaten severely. They used the Mosque as a place of torturing the children of the people of the country. Along with physical torture, Ali was subjected to verbal assault against his parents and was under severe psychological torture. When Ali protested the insult against his parents, the physical and psychological tortures were increased.

Once Ali Karroubi was ordered to be released by the higher ups, she said, the agent in charge expressed his regrets that they could not keep him for another 24 hours, or else “he would have delivered his dead body.”

At the end of her letter, she appeals to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and asks for his direct intervention in stopping these appalling acts of injustice by the current elements in power.  She despises the “lack of an independent judicial system” and demands the Supreme Leader to intervene before it is too late.

***

update: Jaras reports that Tehran’s District Attorney, Jafar Dolat-Abadi is denying Karroubi’s arrest.  “If he claims that he was arrested then he needs to show reason and provide proof to his place of detention.”

“Through systematic investigations within the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the Ministry of Intelligence and the Police it appears that no individual with this name was ever arrested,” Dolat-Abadi continued.

No word yet on how a person can convince the District Attorney they were arrested…

  • 11 February 2010
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 8 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Bearing Witness: 22 Bahman

NIAC is liveblogging the events of Feb. 11 in Iran, which marks the latest day of planned opposition protests as well as the anniversary of the founding of the Islamic Republic.  We encourage readers to share their own news and insights in the comments section below.

2:36 pm: More from the Senate presser.  John McCain, speaking about the new Iran Human Rights Sanctions Act:

The United States must lead an international effort to support the human rights of the Iranian people, and to put that effort at the center of our policy toward Iran.  This is not about picking winners in an internal Iranian matter. It’s about standing up for the universal values we hold dear and championing the cause of all who seek to secure those values for themselves.

1:49 pm: Senate focuses on Iran human rights. As Laura Rozen reported this morning, Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman are introducing a bill imposing sanctions on Iran — nothing new there — but this time the focus is not on the nuclear program, but rather the human rights violations going on.

The scheme is straightforward: the bill requires the President to draw up and periodically update a list of names of individuals who have committed human rights abuses in Iran,” a Senate aide says. “These individuals are then subject to a set of targeted sanctions, including a visa ban and various financial restrictions under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.”

The list will also be public, so that other governments and people around the world, including in Iran, can see who these individuals are, the aide continued. It also includes a presidential waiver that can be exercised on a case-by-case basis. “The overall sanctions scheme lifts when the President can certify that the Iranian government has taken certain tangible steps to improve the human rights situation inside the country, such as releasing all political prisoners.

The press conference, which is still going on, is available here, via C-Span.

12:46 pm: “Allah-u Akbar,” “Death to Dictator” rooftop chants tonight. JARAS is reporting that opposition supporters are planning to shout “death to the dictator” alongside their usual chants of “Allah-u Akbar” tonight.  (h/t NYT)

12:42 pm: Most mainstream news outlets have validated my initial assessment earlier today (9:02 am) about the government using security services to maintain relative control over the opposition’s activities.  Tehran Bureau called it an “anti-climax,” and AP is reporting many opposition supporters being deflated at the size and strength of opposition rallies compared to the pro-government one.

[T]he massive security clampdown appeared to succeed in preventing protesters from converging into a cohesive demonstrations. Large numbers of riot police, members of the Revolutionary Guard and Basij militiamen, some on motorcycles, deployed in back streets near key squares and major avenues in the capital to move against protesters.

Without playing the game of counter-factuals, it is important to note just how differently today could have gone.  Following Ashura, which rocked the hardliners to their very core, many expected today’s protests to be even larger and more well organized.  Many more dreaded the possibility that Basij and security personnel would fire on the crowds and kill scores.  Obviously that did not happen today, though the Basijis were as violent as ever in dispersing the crowds.

For those who yearn for democratic progress and respect for human rights in Iran, as we do, days like today will always be difficult to watch.  It’s a catch-22: for the “greens” to prevail, many believe they will have to endure massive violence, brutality, and chaos.  But the world can hardly abide the violence, brutality, and chaos that we have already witnessed.  And so, faced with this difficult challenge, many in the West on Facebook and in the blogosphere simply turn against one another, choosing to engage in petty backbiting rather than keeping the focus where it belongs: on the struggle that continues to be waged by average, ordinary people in Iran.  Frankly, they couldn’t care less what we think or what our problems with one another are.

12:13 pm: Our contact in Iran (11:58) also points out a big distinction between the various types of security personnel surrounding the demonstrations — the ordinary police forces versus the Basij, or as our contact calls them the “gladiators.”  For those on the ground in Iran, the ordinary police force is much more ambivalent about cracking down on opposition activities — the guards at the makeshift prison that was overrun by protesters were police, not Basij, which made a big difference to the opposition supporters.

11:58 am: A contact in Iran who attended the rallies in and around Azadi and Sadeghieh Square this morning told us of his experience, which left him bruised and cut from scuffling with security forces.

According to the source, the biggest difference between today’s events and previous demonstrations was the amount of undercover police among the crowd.  The moment anyone indicated an opposition or “green” point of view, plainclothes militiamen would come out of nowhere and take that person away.  One gentleman remarked about all the buses funneling people in from out of town, only to be whisked away by three undercover agents.

Our contact was also one of the protesters shot with an orange paint pellet, to mark him for arrest at a later time.  He managed to find a hiding place where he could wipe the paint off of his pants to evade detection.

Finally, during the morning’s rallies, he recounted an experience where three protesters were being held by police in a makeshift pen, when a group of other opposition supporters came to the rescue.  They so outnumbered the police guards, throwing rocks and yelling for their release, that the crowd broke down the holding pen and freed the three.

11:35 am: IAEA on Iran’s “modest” new enrichment. AP obtained an internal IAEA document regarding the enrichment work announced in this morning’s speech by President Ahmadinejad, which for the first time took  uranium above the 5% level in Iran. “Iran expects to produce its first batch of higher enriched uranium in a few days but its initial effort is modest, using only a small amount of feedstock and a fraction of its capacities,” it said.  “It should be noted that there is currently only one cascade … that is capable of enriching” up to 20 percent, said the document.

The document, relying on onsite reports from International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, also cited Iranian experts at the enrichment plant at Natanz as saying that only about 10 kilograms — 22 pounds — of low enriched uranium had been fed into the cascade for further enrichment.

Agency inspectors were told Wednesday “that it was expected that the facility would begin to produce up to 20 percent enriched … (uranium) within a few days,” said the one-page document.

11:22 am: Tehran Bureau has an interview with Karroubi’s son, Hossein.

How is your father Haj Agha Mehdi Karroubi? We’re treating him for burns to his face and eyes. He’s having trouble with his lungs too. He was badly attacked with pepper spray. Plainclothes agents (vigilantes) approached him and kept spraying it in his eyes. He’s resting at home though; he’s not been hospitalized.

Any news of your brother Ali?

We haven’t been able to figure out where he is. Everyone we call claims to have no information on him. We believe he’s in the custody of the law enforcement agency.

11:05 am: Recap. Most reports indicate that people are heading home right about now.  The day was characterized by the contrasting styles of the one large government-sponsored rally in the morning with tens of thousands of people, versus the numerous smaller and nimbler gatherings by the opposition forces.  There have been no confirmed cases of protesters being killed, (though rumors abound), and most likely the number of arrests is in the low hundreds.  Protests occurred in most of the major cities, but the heaviest presence was felt by far in Tehran.

Many commenters are calling the presence of governmental security forces “stifling,” using violence and intimidation to prevent demonstrations from growing beyond relatively small numbers.  With over a month to prepare, the government’s security forces were out in full force today, immediately reacting when opposition leaders like Karroubi, Khatami, and Mousavi appeared among the people.  For much of this week, Internet service was spotty and Gmail has been taken down completely, all in preparation for today’s expected events.  (Compare this to Ashura, when the government had hardly any time at all to prepare, and the reaction by Basij and police was much more careless and led to more bloodshed).  Family members of opposition leaders were beaten or detained, and there was never an opportunity to rally supporters around the green movement’s figureheads.

10:30 am: Brutality.

[youtube=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kSBWG2rBV8&feature=player_embedded”]

9:32 am: Via Mir Hossein Mousavi’s Facebook page, Kalame news is reporting:

Dr. Zahra Rahnavard, wife of Mir Hossein Mousavi, who was intending to join the people in the demonstration from Sadeghiye Square was surrounded and attacked by plain clothes militia. The plain clothes militia physically assaulted her and beat her with batons at her head and back. Zahra Rahnavard after this incident with the support of a large crowd of people who made a human shield to protect her, was able to leave the area.

9:21 am: The Guardian relays an AP interview with protesters today, who were dejected for the same reason mentioned below at 9:02.

“There were 300 of us, maximum 500. Against 10,000 people,” one protester said.

“It means they won and we lost. They defeated us. They were able to gather so many people. But this doesn’t mean we have been defeated for good. It’s a defeat for now, today. We need time to regroup,” she said.

Another protester insisted the opposition had come out in significant numbers, but “the problem was that we were not able to gather in one place because they (security forces) were very violent.”

It should be noted that this is actually not at all the representative view for most opposition supporters being reported on today.  Many green activists on Twitter have been circulating messages saying the goal of the opposition today was to disrupt the government’s official ceremony, and that it was a victory.

9:02 am: It’s still very early to be drawing conclusions from today’s events, as people are still out in the streets.  But one thing I’m struck by is just how much the government has been in control today.  Sure, they chartered busses and lured tens of thousands to the official government rally with free food, but they have also managed to keep the opposition activities largely on their terms today.

The government’s strategy is to depict the protesters as a small group of rioting thugs, burning trash cans and disrupting order for their own radical, “foreign-backed” agenda.  Toward that end, they have been very effective at keeping the demonstrations today dispersed and nervous — less of the “million man march” and more like Seattle WTO protesters.  Above all else, the ruling elites know the danger of big crowds: strength in numbers takes over and individuals no longer feel like they will be held accountable for their actions, thus their demands get more radical and their tactics more extreme; this forces a harsher backlash from security forces, possibly including using lethal force.  And then that’s the ball-game.  That’s exactly what happened in 1979, and Khamenei learned that lesson well enough that he’ll do his utmost not to repeat it.

So today’s events (like previous ones) have seen security forces disrupt crowds before they can coalesce into a large group, arresting numerous individuals as a way of controlling the crowds before they get out of the police’s hands.

8:42 am: Josh Shahryar has catalogued most of the opposition rallies today, with his own figures for numbers arrested by police forces.  By his account, thousands gathered in Esfahan at the See-o-Seh Bridge, where security forces tried to disperse the demonstators with tear gas.  Also, protests occured in Ahvaz, Shiraz, Mashad, and of course, Tehran, with skirmishes involving security forces either arresting individuals, blocking protesters routes, or in some cases firing tear gas and beating anyone showing any sign of opposition activity.

Interestingly, many accounts we’ve been hearing involve protesters being hesitant to wear green, flash a V for victory sign, or even chant openly out of fear of backlash from security personnel.  In some cases, particularly at Azadi Square where Ahmadinejad addressed the official government rally, security forces scanned the crowd watching for any signs of “green” activity, and quickly pulled people out of the group as soon as they were given cause.

8:15 am: Indisputable. Via United4Iran, this video of protesters tearing down a photo of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and then trampling on it:

[youtube=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fd4FRQXiwzc&feature=player_embedded“]

Remember that even in the heady days of protests this summer, it would have been unthinkable for protesters to deface an image of the Supreme Leader.  In a short eight months, the demands of the demonstrators have evolved, and their tactics have advanced as well.

  • 2 February 2010
  • Posted By Layla Armeen
  • 3 Comments
  • Events in Iran

“Revolution is not Completed; Dictatorship Still Exists”

The anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, February 11, is commemorated in Iran as a day to recognize the Iranian people’s stand against all forms of dictatorship.  That day 31 years ago was one of the bloodiest of the Iranian uprising that toppled the Pahlavi dynasty and its dictatorial regime. This year, the government expects massive popular protests to erupt as Iranians continue to hijack official government holidays to demand their rights and demonstrate their frustration with the disputed June 2009 election that put Mahmoud Ahmadinejad back in office for another four years.

In a recent interview on his website Kalameh, Mir Hossein Mousavi, one of the main speakers for the opposition movement, discussed how elements of dictatorship have not been eradicated from the Iranian power structure, even after the Islamic Revolution. Mousavi stated that a theocratic totalitarianism is the darkest form of dictatorship man has seen in history, hinting that the “revolution” has not reached its goals and is therefore incomplete.  He went on to say that people should be the decision makers in their social and political journey and not the unelected officials who are currently in charge.

Mousavi’s remarks, coming at a time when tensions are at their highest level between the Iranian government and the Iranian people, are a unmasked call to stand up to the status quo. One could go a step further and interpret his comments as a suggestion that a revolution remains in progress as the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution approaches.  Mousavi said “the “revolution is not completed because dictatorship still exists.”

Letter from a Tehran Jail

In the New York Times today, Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett–both of whom I deeply respect–argue that the protesters in Iran make up a small, demographically isolated minority of Iranian society, and their activities therefore have very little chance of enacting real, substantive change in Iran’s political system.  For evidence of the protest movement’s weakness, the authors pose three questions:

“First, what does this opposition want? Second, who leads it? Third, through what process will this opposition displace the government in Tehran?” 

Needless to say, none of the potential answers proves satisfactory.                                                                                                

The Leveretts are entitled to their opinion, sacrilegious as it may be to some.  But in downplaying and even denigrating the activities of Iran’s dissidents, I fear that they will have justified the accusations that are sure to be flung their way–accusations of acting as apologists for the government, of disparaging a courageous and non-violent protest movement, and even of siding with Iran’s violent regime. 

I am reminded of the Letter from a Birmingham Jailthe famous essay by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in which he decries the so-called “white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice,” more concerned with the negative peace of the status quo than with bringing about that which is right through urgent action.  By action, of course, Dr. King was talking about civil disobedience. 

Like the “white moderate” in King’s letter, the Leveretts do not dare pin their hopes on seismic changes righting Iran’s political injustices.  Instead, they recommend the US acknowledge the movement’s futility, embrace Iran’s current leaders, and secure America’s strategic interests through rapprochement.  But their cynicism, which dismisses a popular movement without a manifesto, charismatic leader, or strategic playbook, ignores the plain and simple fact that repressive governments are inherently unsustainable. 

People who have awoken to the dawn of a freer and more open society cannot be pushed backwards and kept permanently in darkness.  Like Dr. King, the Iranians who take part in the protest movement–even if they are a minority–engage in civil disobedience in order to “bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive” in their society.  Iranians have not always lived in fear of roaming militias or cyber-surveillance teams watching their every move online; nor have they been closed off to alternatives structures that value individual liberty over ideological fealty.

“Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever,” King said. 

The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained.

In the case of Iranians, the “something within” is the long and arduous journey toward a democratic system of governance–a journey that began with the Constitutional Revolution in 1906, caught a fleeting glimpse of success with Mohammad Mosaddeq in 1953, erupted chaotically in 1979, and has been brewing once again since June 12.  The “something without” is their forebears: Gandhi, Mandela, King, and Walesa.

I agree with the Leveretts’ conclusion that Iran’s government is not about to crumble under the pressure of the protest movement.  But I believe now more than ever before that democratic change in Iran is bound to occur eventually.  The events of the past seven months have revealed a conflict embedded deep within Iran that will not go away.  It might be suppressed for awhile, but it won’t be extinguished. The struggle for rights will continue, and, to paraphrase President Obama on the night of his election, the Iranian people will “put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.”

Chinese Death-Mobiles

A colleague forwarded these photos of Chinese-made vehicles that appear to be designed for crowd-control, possibly to be used against protesters in Iran.

I think it’s interesting how a lot of the anger at the government’s repression against the protesters is now being directed toward the Chinese for supporting the regime.  China has long maintained an amoral foreign policy (that’s amoral, not necessarily immoral) which ignores issues such as human rights and instead takes a coldly rational view of national self-interest.  (ie Iran has oil.  China needs oil.  Period.)

Here lies a fundamental problem with America’s approach to Iran over the past two decades, in which we have relied almost entirely on using sanctions as a strategy unto themselves.  Cutting off trade with Iran might raise the cost of doing business for the government a little bit, but it also crowds out any possibility for a positive US influence.  This is what George W. Bush meant when he said we have “sanctioned ourselves out of influence with Iran.” Sanctions are a tactic; not a strategy.

When the US has open trade relations with another country, and that country’s government behaves in a way that we find disagreeable, the US can exercise powerful leverage by threatening to withhold trade until the troubling behavior stops.  But when we have no relations with a country — as is the case with Iran — we don’t have the same amount of leverage, and are reduced to casting aspersions from across the Atlantic.

Now, I am not arguing that we lift the embargo on Iran and start trading with Tehran.  I am simply pointing out that two decades of broad US sanctions have contributed to the situation we’re in right now, in which Iran is driven directly into the arms of the Chinese, leaving all of us to huff and puff without a thing to do.

  • 4 January 2010
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 2 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Woops…[update of “Former IRGC Spy Chief: The End is Near”]

As you know, when we here at NIAC aren’t promoting human rights in Iran, ensuring the free flow of information via Internet services, and protecting the interests of the Iranian-American community, we also do a little blogging.

From time to time, helpful users like you send us tips and information on interesting stories dealing with Iran, and most of the time we welcome the suggestions.  But of course, this can sometimes be a risky practice, and it is possible that our judgment will lapse from time to time–as it did today when we published a story about a supposed former IRGC intelligence chief.

Laura Rozen cautions:

With all the stories of continued Iranian unrest, human rights abuses and the complications for Western nuclear diplomacy, beware what seems a notable uptick, too, in very fishy stories of the Chalabi/U.S.-soldiers-will-be-greeted-with-flowers type emerging as well.

We apologize for not scrutinizing this story more than we did, and thank our friend Laura for the helpful reminder.

  • 31 December 2009
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 4 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

NIAC calls for Disarmament of Basij Paramilitary to Ensure Security for Iranian Citizens

Contact: Phil Elwood
917.379.3787

For Immediate Release

Washington, DC – The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) strongly condemns the campaign of intimidation being carried out by the Iranian government against its citizens through the Basij paramilitary.  NIAC calls on the Iranian government to disarm the Basij immediately and to end the violent repression of the Iranian people.

In the months following the disputed Iranian presidential elections, the Basij has been responsible for a brutal, escalating campaign of violence, both targeted and indiscriminate, aimed at silencing and intimidating Iranians attempting to express themselves freely and assemble peacefully.

The Basij is a volunteer paramilitary force that has evolved from a decentralized morality police into a full scale armed militia that receives orders from the highest levels of the Iranian government.

“To permit an armed, above-the-law, para-military group to roam the streets in the name of security is a contradiction in terms,” said Trita Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council. “Security, free expression, free assembly and the full enjoyment of universal rights cannot occur as long as the Iranian government permits armed groups to suppress the Iranian people.”

Extensive documentation assembled by human rights organizations and the United Nations demonstrate that the Iranian government has utilized the Basij to terrorize its population through intentional physical harm, leading to scores of injuries and deaths.  During the most recent events on the holiday of Ashura, witnesses described Basijis bloodying protestors with batons, wooden sticks and metal pipes, firing live rounds into crowds, and running vehicles over innocent demonstrators.  Basijis on motorcycles use truncheons, tear-gas, pepper-spray, water cannons, chains, plastic bullets, and live ammunition to intimidate, injure, and kill peaceful demonstrators.  In one instance, a protester was tied to the back of a van and dragged through the street.  In other instances, students were thrown out of dormitory windows and off bridges.

The Basij’s repression is not limited to the acts of violence committed in public areas against demonstrators and bystanders, but also is carried out through violent nighttime raids in which they seek to suppress protesters chanting from their rooftops.  Reportedly, Basijis break into homes, ruthlessly beat residents, destroy property and even shoot live rounds to silence people at their own residences.

It is apparent that the Basijis receive orders from the highest levels of the Iranian government and have significant access to arms, yet there has been no accountability for the violence they have inflicted upon innocent Iranians.

The United Nations General Assembly passed resolution 64/176 on December 18, detailing the “use of violence and intimidation by Government-directed militias” that have resulted in “numerous deaths and injuries.” The resolution expresses concern regarding the Iranian government’s “ongoing, systemic and serious restrictions of freedom of peaceful assembly and association and freedom of opinion and expression,” and calls on Iran to allow entry to and cooperate fully with UN human rights rapporteurs.

The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, expressed shock following the upsurge in state supported violence during Ashura events and called on the government to restrain its security forces.  “People have a right to express their feelings, and to hold peaceful protests, without being beaten, clubbed and thrown into jail,” Pillay stated.

Human rights organizations have submitted extensive documentation as part of Iran’s upcoming Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council in February detailing the Iranian government and the Basij’s appalling abuses.  These organizations have called on the UN Human Rights Council to address violations by Iran of several covenants to which the government is party, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Social, Economic, and Cultural Rights (ICESR), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

The UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials provides that security forces must utilize nonviolent means before resorting to force, and such force must be proportionate and be subjected to an effective reporting and review process.  The code also provides that firearms must not be used unless there is an imminent threat to life and only when strictly avoidable to protect life.

“Not only does the Basij paramilitary not abide by these international regulations, it is clear the force is being used in violation of international law as an armed pressure group to inflict fear, injury and death on those who disagree with the government,” said Dokhi Fassihian, of NIAC’s Board of Directors.

NIAC calls on the Iranian government to disarm the Basij, to instruct all security forces to refrain from the use of force against peaceful demonstrators, and to immediately halt state-sanctioned violence against the Iranian people

  • 30 December 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 2 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Iran Election 2009

“If they do not accept you, you do not force them to — and you leave.”

Ali Rafiei/AFP

In July, much of the discussion revolved around the role Rafsanjani might play in a national reconciliation bid.  Since the violence this past weekend, editorial pages are abuzz about the possibility that the regime might soon topple, but few have taken the time to question how such monumental changes might actually occur within Iran’s political system.

A dear friend and colleague of ours has written in to discuss just that:

Today, after a meeting with the Majlis, Iran’s Prosecutor General said that “leaders of the sedition” should be prosecuted.  On top of their sedition list is Fa’ezeh Hashemi (Rafsanjani’s daughter), along with Karrubi and Mousavi.  Rafsanjani will be more likely to go against Khamenei’s approach if his daughter is prosecuted, jailed or killed (as Musavi’s nephew was Sunday).

On December 5 (the Shiite holiday Eid-e Ghadir), Rafsanjani delivered a speech that was strikingly similar to the one he gave on July 17th–only this time his disagreement with Khamenei was clearer.  Rafsanjani said that it is “impossible to rule society by suppressing it,” and that the Prophet Mohammad told Imam Ali that “if the people accept you, then you rule. If they do not accept you, you do not force them to and you leave.”

Several sources claim that powerful players like Iran’s Minister of Intelligence are getting ready to go after Rafsanjani himself. These players want Rafsanjani expelled as Chairman of the Expediency Council.

Even if his daughter’s being targeted for arrest won’t force Rafsanjani to choose sides and join the Green Movement, the hardliners might soon make the choice for him.

  • 28 December 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 2 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Obama’s Statement on Iran

From President Obama’s press statement today:

Before I leave, let me also briefly address the events that have taken place over the last few days in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The United States joins with the international community in strongly condemning the violent and unjust suppression of innocent Iranian citizens, which has apparently resulted in detentions, injuries, and even death.

For months, the Iranian people have sought nothing more than to exercise their universal rights. Each time they have done so, they have been met with the iron fist of brutality, even on solemn occasions and holy days. And each time that has happened, the world has watched with deep admiration for the courage and the conviction of the Iranian people who are part of Iran’s great and enduring civilization.

What’s taking place within Iran is not about the United States or any other country. It’s about the Iranian people and their aspirations for justice and a better life for themselves. And the decision of Iran’s leaders to govern through fear and tyranny will not succeed in making those aspirations go away.

As I said in Oslo, it’s telling when governments fear the aspirations of their own people more than the power of any other nation. Along with all free nations, the United States stands with those who seek their universal rights. We call upon the Iranian government to abide by the international obligations that it has to respect the rights of its own people.

We call for the immediate release of all who have been unjustly detained within Iran. We will continue to bear witness to the extraordinary events that are taking place there. And I’m confident that history will be on the side of those who seek justice.

Thank you very much, everybody. And Happy New Year.

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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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