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  • 18 November 2009
  • Posted By Matt Sugrue
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

“A Death in Tehran”

Frontline’s “A Death in Tehran” has long been billed as a documentary re-visiting the June 20, 2009 murder of Neda Agha Soltan. However, the segment focuses more on those who are still alive, and who carry the emotional scars of those who have both lost a loved one and had their government turned against them. The story examines the heartbreaking stories of those close to Neda, from her sister and boyfriend, Caspian Makan, to Arash Hejazi, the doctor who tried to save Neda, Faranak, a former reporter for PressTV, and Bilba Tavakoli, a friend.

Makan, Hejazi, and Faranak are now living in exile but have been consistently threatened by the Iranian government for speaking out about the circumstances surrounding Neda’s death. Hejazi decided to speak out against the government’s attempts to obscure the truth because

in every life a moment comes that the integrity of some person would be tested. I realized on that day that this was the moment in my life. I had to chose between keeping myself safe or proving my integrity.

Faranak left PressTV when, after the election, she became disillusioned with the station’s coverage of the election and joined the protesters. After being shot in the knee with a plastic bullet, Faranak was taken to the hospital where she witnessed Basij forces storming the emergency room and attacking the patients. If Faranak’s testimony is viewed in conjunction with Ahmadinejad supporter Nader Mokhtari’s forceful statement “we will not lose Iran,” then it becomes clear just how far the current government is willing to go in order to maintain its power.

“A Death in Tehran” includes numerous clips – albeit largely from cell phone cameras – of the protests and government’s reactions. Videos of Basij members firing into crowds of protesters provide some of the most chilling images of the entire documentary. Even if the crowd were attacking the militia and military buildings, it is impossible that the Basij firing from the rooftops were strictly targeting the few violent protesters.

 What they [the Iranian leadership] don’t want to accept, don’t want to understand, this is the people of Iran. Like the Islamic Revolution that was the people of Iran as well; like the Constitutional Revolution. This is the majority of the people who want freedom, who want democracy, who want human rights,

said former Deputy Prime Minister Mohsen Sazegara when discussing the government’s crackdown on the protesters.

With its investigation of the events leading up to and following Neda’s murder, Frontline provides a chilling, insightful account of the ongoing post-election violence that is taking place in Iran.

  • 17 November 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

PBS: A Death in Tehran

[vodpod id=Groupvideo.3938522&w=425&h=350&]

Check your local listings.

At the height of the protests following Iran’s controversial presidential election this summer, a young woman named Neda Agha Soltan was shot and killed on the streets of Tehran. Her death — filmed on a cameraphone, then uploaded to the web — quickly became an international outrage, and Agha Soltan became the face of a powerful movement that threatened the hard-line government’s hold on power.

With the help of a unique network of correspondents in and out of the country, FRONTLINE investigates the life and death of the woman whose image remains a potent symbol for those who want to keep the reform movement alive. The film also explores a number of unanswered questions in the aftermath of the greatest upheaval in Iran since the 1979 revolution: How many were arrested and killed as the security forces attempted to contain the growing protest movement? To what extent was the presidential vote manipulated? What is the future of the movement that seems to have been silenced?

Read the official press release after the break.

  • 4 November 2009
  • Posted By Sanaz Tofighrad
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Uncategorized

Videos from Today


Seven Tir Street:


Woman being attacked by security forces:


Tehran University:



  • 27 October 2009
  • Posted By Matt Sugrue
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

A Policy of Imprisonment

The detention of Iranian Americans by the government in Tehran serves the purpose of those hardliners who want to avoid diplomatic engagement with the United States. This is the argument Karim Sadjadpour takes in his recent Foreign Policy article. Sadjadpour argues that the imprisonment of his friend Kian Tajbakhsh is not about Tajbakhsh’s supposed role in the post-election protests; as the Iranian government views it, “da’va sar-e een neest…that’s not what this fight is about.”

Tajbakhsh was not the opposition mastermind that the government alleges. As the protests against the June election were reaching their height, Tajbakhsh maintained a low profile. He even continued to “meet with his minder” from the Ministry of Intelligence, like he had been doing since his four month imprisonment in 2007. Sadjadpour contends that the Iranian government is using Tajbakhsh as a means to an end. The leadership wants to strengthen its negotiating position in relation to the United States.

Sadjadpour points out that,    

While neighboring Dubai and Turkey have managed to build thriving economies by trading in goods and services, Iran, even 30 years after the revolution, remains in the business of trading in human beings.

In an attempt to answer the question why this is still the case and what is to be done, Sadjadpour looks to both the left and the right. Continuing to engage with Iran can only boost the ability of the United States to help people imprisoned by the Iranian government. At the same time, hardliners in Iran work to sabotage engagement with the United States as a way to distract people from the country’s real problems. Imprisoning Iranian Americans, like Tajbakhsh, is one of the methods hardliners use to wag the dog.

Perhaps it is time that the Iranian government begins to worry more about the economic well being of its citizens, and less about its relative standing in the world. Indeed, in all likelihood Iran’s standing in the world would increase if the government stopped oppressing its own people and looked to their needs.

Even Niccolo Machiavelli, the ultimate advisor on power politics, recognized that rulers should avoid being hated: “the prince must consider…how to avoid those things which will make him hated or contemptible; and as often as he shall have succeeded he will have fulfilled his part, and he need not fear any danger in other reproaches…And one of the most efficacious remedies that a prince can have against conspiracies is not to be hated and despised by the people.” A government that resorts to fear and repression as methods of retaining control also begins the process of undermining its own authority in the eyes of the people.

It is time that Iran’s leaders begin to act like a government that has an interest in the welfare of the Iranian people, and begin to act less like men with guns. In a fitting conclusion, Sadjadpour allows Tajbakhsh to have the last word on the state of the Iranian government,

Iranians might ponder Barack Obama’s challenge to Iran to articulate ‘not what it is against, but what future it wants to build.’ Each Iranian will wonder how much thought our rulers or our fellow countrymen have given to this critical question and why answers to it are so vague and so few.

  • 23 October 2009
  • Posted By Sanaz Tofighrad
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Karroubi Attacked Once Again

Mehdi Karroubi was attacked by baton-wielding plainclothes militia at a press fair in Tehran on Friday.  Karroubi’s turban fell to the ground in the process.  He was attacked before at one of the Friday prayers in Tehran during the summer. 

According to Amir Kabir newsletter, Karroubi’s supporters at the fair started chanting slogans in his support upon witnessing the attack. 

Amir Kabir also reported that hundreds of visitors gathered in front the Fars News Agency’s booth and chanted slogans such as “Death to Dictator.”

  • 19 October 2009
  • Posted By Bardia Mehrabian
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

International Community Must Condemn Human Rights Violations in Iran

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran announced that the international community needs to urgently condemn a number of child executions that are to be scheduled in Iran.

“United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, who issued a detailed report on the grave situation of human rights in Iran on 13 October, should lead international efforts to persuade Iran to halt imminent executions of child offenders. In addition, “P5+1” governments, which are engaged in negotiations with Iran, should call for an immediate halt such executions.”

Iran is one of the only countries that conducts child executions and is the only country since 2008 to actually carry them out. This is done despite Iran being party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child – an international convention that prohibits the death penalty on persons accused of committing a crime under the age of 18 – and Islamic principles that support banning child executions.

The United States and the other members of the P5+1 must press Iran on this fundamental issue of human rights. This is a veritable soft-spot of the Iranian regime. The issue of human rights is a constant reminder to the Iranian opposition that the international community supports them and engages in action that consistently keeps the Iranian people in mind. In other words, the action of holding the Iranian regime responsible to their signed commitments to human rights and its people is the raw fuel that sustains the burgeoning opposition in Iran.

If member nations of the UN, nation-states, organizations, or individual members want to see real changes in Iran, they must remain persistent on holding Iran to its commitment of human rights.

  • 14 October 2009
  • Posted By Matt Sugrue
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Tentative Information about Those Sentenced to Death in Iran

Enduring America has reported that five men have been sentenced to death for participating in the post-election protests. The five men are listed as: Mohammad Reza Ali-Zamani, Arash Rahmanipour, Hamed Rouhinejad, Naser Abdolhosseini and Davoud Mir Ardebili. The conviction of the first four men, and the fact that Mr. Ardebili is a defendant in the same trial, has been reported on other websites. However, it has been difficult to find confirmation of Mr. Ardebili’s conviction outside of the Enduring America article and some Twitter feeds.

The first four men were accused by the Iranian judiciary of “being involved in post-election violence…they had effective membership in banned opposition groups.” Contrary to the government’s position, one report suggests that,

essentially none of the aforementioned individuals had any ties with the violent incidents and post-election events or had any effective membership in the mentioned organizations.

Mr. Zamani and Mr. Rouhinejad and Ahmad Karimi, who has not yet been convicted, apparently attempted to emigrate to the West by traveling into Iraq in mid-2006. The three men were unable to gain visas to continue onto any western countries, and in 2008, after a seventeen-month stay in Iraq, they returned to Iran. It was during their stay in Iraq that Mr. Zamani apparently made contact with Anjoman Padeshahi Iran (API); however, API has denied ever having contact with Mr. Zamani.

It has been reported that the men, along with six others, were arrested in May 2009, and taken to the infamous Ward 209 of Evin Prison. It is unclear what charges the government leveled at the nine men. Security forces ended their interrogations of the prisoners around the time that the post-election protests were beginning. Apparently Mr. Rahmanipour, one of the six other people arrested, and Mr. Zamani agreed to make “false confessions in return for their freedom,” but were tricked by the government and sentenced to death.

Unlike the previous three men, Naser Abdolhosseini was arrested after the start of the election protests. He was charged with being associated with the banned group Mojahedin-e-Khalgh, but his family denies that Mr. Abdolhosseini was ever associated with the organization. There are reports that Mr. Abdolhosseini was not actually in Tehran when the protests were occurring, and was arrested after returning home. A man identified as his brother, Mojtaba, has stated that,

My brother was told that if he made televised confessions, his sentence would be reduced. They told him televised confessions would reduce his prison term and he would be released before the end of his term. They deceived him into making televised confessions, but contrary to what he was promised, they sentenced him to death. They took advantage of Naser and played with his life.

While the above information is subject to further verification, it does provide a tentative view of the behind the scenes machinations of the Islamic Republic. If true, then these reports raise the question of how many other prisoners currently on trial not only confessed under duress, but were never actually associated with the election protests and are simply political prisoners of opportunity.

  • 9 October 2009
  • Posted By Matt Sugrue
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Amnesty International Issues Statement About Mohammad Reza Ali-Zamani

Amnesty International released a statement today asking the Iranian government to review the October 8th death sentence handed down to Mohammad Reza Ali-Zamani. The release states that,

Zamani, 37, was sentenced to death by a Tehran Revolutionary Court on Thursday after he was convicted of “enmity against God for membership of and activities to further the aims of the terrorist grouplet Anjoman-e Padeshahi-e Iran (API)”.   

The API is an exiled opposition group which advocates the ending of the Islamic Republic and the establishment of an Iranian monarchy.

He was also convicted of “propaganda against the system”, “insulting the holy sanctities”, “gathering and colluding with intent to harm national internal security ” as well as of leaving the country illegally to visit Iraq where he was alleged to have met US military officials.

Mr. Zamani is the first of the 100 prisoners arrested after the June election protests to be sentenced to death. Amnesty accurately describes the trials that led to Mr. Zamani’s conviction as “show trials,” as well as a “mockery of justice.”

The international community must loudly condemn the conviction of Mr. Zamani based on a confession that was almost certainly obtained through torture.  It’s unconscionable to think that a government would execute one of its citizens for exercising their right to voice their opinion. Tehran’s decision to proceed down this path shows that it has truly gone beyond the pale in its efforts to repress dissent and hide from the legitimate suspicions that surround the disputed elections that took place in June of this year.

  • 8 October 2009
  • Posted By Matt Sugrue
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Unconfirmed Report about Death Sentence for Protester

The Times Online has published an unconfirmed report from Mowjcamp, an opposition news website, that the Iranian judiciary has sentenced to death opposition supporter Mohammad Reza Ali-Zamani . The Times Online reported that:

The first death sentence for participation in Iran’s post election protests was handed down on Monday, an Iranian reformist website has reported.

Mowcamp, one of the many Farsi-language sites relied on by opposition supporters to spread news, reported that the accused, Mohammed Reza Ali-Zamani, had been informed of the verdict on Monday after the conclusion of his trial. The website gave no source for its report, which could not be independently verified.

The website reported that Mr Ali-Zamani “was transferred on Monday from Evin prison ward 209 to Revolutionary Court number 15, presided over by Justice Salabati and the execution verdict was communicated to him.” Evin is the name of Tehran’s most infamous prison, where regime opponents have been imprisoned since the reign of the Shah.

If confirmed, it would be the first death sentence yet in the trials of more than 100 opposition supporters for allegedly fomenting street violence following President Ahmadinejad’s disputed election victory in June.

Major news sites have yet to pick up the story, and are probably waiting for further information and confirmation. The news that Ali-Zamani has been sentenced to death has, however, been spreading through Twitter.

  • 8 October 2009
  • Posted By Matt Sugrue
  • Diplomacy, Human Rights in Iran, Uncategorized

State Department Cuts IHRDC Funding

The Boston Globe has reported that the U.S. State Department has discontinued its funding of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC). Over the years, the group has received $3 million in grant money from the State Department, but its recent request for a two-year, $2.7 million grant was denied.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), a division of the State Department, is tasked with deciding grant requests for non-governmental groups that work on influencing the Iranian government. USAID did not elaborate on the decision to turn down IHRDC’s funding request.

IHRDC was currently working on documenting human rights abuses that occurred after the disputed Iranian election. It has also reported on Iran’s assassination of dissidents and the 1988 killings of political prisoners. Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) said it was “disturbing” that IHRDC’s grant application was denied.

Roya Boroumand, a leading opponent of capital punishment in Iran, commented on the government’s decision, saying,

“If the rationale is that we are going to stop funding human rights-related work in Iran because we don’t want to provoke the government, it is absolutely the wrong message to send,’’ she said. “That means that we don’t really believe in human rights, that the American government just looks into it when it is convenient.”

USAID’s decision to cut funding is certainly a blow to the IHRDC and its important and necessary work. The United States, however, has to tread extremely carefully when supporting human rights advocacy in Iran, given the history of US involvement there.  Receiving government money opens groups like the IHRDC to accusations of being pawns of the U.S. government, and simply pushing an American agenda.

This could ultimately enable repressive governments like the Iranian regime to characterize reports about their human rights abuses as nothing more than American imperialist propaganda. Groups like the IHRDC should be funded solely by private donations and other non-governmental resources.

I, for one, hope the IHRDC will use the recent State Department decision as a clarion call for a massive fundraising push among private donors.  Just imagine: the State Department cuts off $2.7 million in funding, so the IHRDC’s goal should be to exceed that figure in private donations.

Doing so would help take the wind out of arguments’ that attack the reputation of groups advocating for human rights, and in the long term would actually help further the goals of the IHRDC and similar organizations.

Update: It should also be noted that Iranian human rights activists and the leaders of Iranian civil society have universally opposed US Government funding for human rights advocacy in Iran.  The people whose views matter most–those who are on the front lines of the fight for human rights in Iran–explicitly called for the State Department to cut off its funding.

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.



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