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  • 31 December 2009
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 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

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

  • 31 December 2009
  • Posted By NIAC
  • Diplomacy, Sanctions

NIAC Applauds Shift Toward Targeted Sanctions

Contact: Phil Elwood

For Immediate Release

Washington, DC – The National Iranian American Council welcomes the Obama administration’s decision to pursue targeted sanctions on Iran’s leaders rather than indiscriminate sanctions that would contribute to the suffering of the Iranian people.

“As the Iranian people continue to bravely stand up for their rights, NIAC has been calling on the Administration not to punish the Iranian people for the activities of their government,” said Dokhi Fassihian, member of NIAC’s Board of Directors.  “We are pleased that the Obama administration is committed to pressuring Tehran in a way that spares innocent people unnecessary suffering.”

In Congressional testimony submitted before the House Oversight Committee’s National Security Subcommittee in December, NIAC President Trita Parsi said that “after the groundbreaking developments of this past summer, continuing to ignore the impact additional broad sanctions will have on the Iranian people’s struggle for democracy will only come at our own peril.”

A noticeable shift has occurred in Washington’s plans for Iran sanctions in the new year.  The White House has told leading lawmakers that the Administration does not support untargeted sanctions legislation aimed broadly at the Iranian economy that would punish innocent Iranians. Senior US officials have told journalists that they prefer more targeted measures over so-called “crippling” sanctions because of the desire not to have the Iranian people blame the United States for their isolation.  “We have to be deft at this, because it matters how the Iranian people interpret their isolation — whether they fault the regime or are fooled into thinking we are to blame,” stated a senior official.

NIAC has supported legislation that is designed to target Iranian officials responsible for human rights violations, while at the same time taking steps to remove harmful restrictions on the Iranian people’s access to information, basic rights and freedoms.

NIAC reiterates its call for lawmakers to support measures that stand with the Iranian people, and calls on Congress to support the President’s strategy for dealing with Iran

  • 23 July 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Conservatives Attack Rahnavard’s Brother

Ghalam News and BBC Persian report:

Zahra Rahnavard, wife of Mir Hossein Mousavi, has denied the accusations that have been published against her brother and said that she will take legal steps against those that frame him of crime.

Zahra Rahnavard’s brother, Shahpour Kazemi, who has been imprisoned for one month, is not a political figure, and it appeared that he would be freed soon.

But recently important anti-Reformist figures and newspapers have published stark accusations against Mr. Kazemi.

Elyas Naderan, a Principlist member of Majles, wrote a letter to Ransanjani following his Friday prayer sermon that called for releasing prisoners, and told him: “If the brother of the wife of Mir Hossein is one of the foremost creators of chaos in the country, he is responsible for some of the rioting. And from 10 years ago he has a history of creating discord with his wife, and he has confessed that she engineered part of the current riots, and she has taken many trips every year to America, and she has even acquired a green card to ease her travel between Iran and America. You’re telling me this man deserves to be free?”

The newspaper Javan, which is associated with the IRGC, reprinted Naderan’s letter and referred to Shahpour Kazemi as a “corrupt official of Iran’s banking system.”

Rahnavard announced today: “I am announcing that if they force a confession out of Mr. Kazemi or publish a hundred pages of accusations against him, neither I nor the people of Iran will believe it.”

Zahra Rahnavard’s birth name was Zohreh Kazemi, but she used the nom de guerre “Zahra Rahnavard” to engage in public criticism of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi during the Revolution, and she kept this name following the Revolution and is now known by it.

Zahra Rahnavard said her brother is 62 years old and “One of the best known experts in the field of communications in the nation.” He has a wife and three kids and his wife would travel to America for treatment of her disease and for “the transfer of knowledge and new technologies in the field of communications.”

She added: Having a green card is not a crime, unless those who seek to send him to prison are trying to use it to tarnish his name.

She asked about the validity of a member of Majles speaking about judicial accusations in a public form and, “Considering that judicial information and research is confidential, what gives a member of Majles the right to publish it?”

“I have not spoken about this issue before because, as my brother is a good man deeply concerned with the fate of the country, I expected him to be released soon. But I have witnessed that some trouble makers have turned the keys of projects that are illegal and disrespectful and naturally the authorities will be pursuing them.”

  • 21 June 2009
  • Posted By NIAC
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Iran Updates- June 21

12:45 am: Gary Sick analyzes what he calls Mousavi’s “manifesto”:

It is apparent from this statement that Mousavi’s movement—and Mousavi himself—has evolved enormously in the past week. The candidate started as a mild-mannered reformer. After the searing events of the past several days, he has dared to preach a counter sermon to Khameni’s lecture on Islamic government. Although he never mentions the leader by name, there is no overlooking the direct contradiction of his arguments. This open opposition to the leader by a political figure is unprecedented.

Mousavi has in fact issued a manifesto for a new vision of the Islamic republic. The repression and disdain of the government has brought the opposition to a place they probably never dreamed of going. And no one knows where any of the parties are likely to go next.

12:15 am: A NIAC employee just spoke with a contact in Tehran, who tells us that Iranian security forces are arresting injured demonstrators after they are released by the foreign embassies. This has not been corroborated.

The embassies reportedly started helping some of the injured because those being sent to hospitals were being arrested.

11:59 pm: From Tehran, a friend of a former NIAC intern sends the following message:

A day after the the black Saturday, you could see people shocked with the news of the killings. We all knew that these guys are savages. But what we did not think was that, in the time of the Internet and mobile phones with cameras, they would show their real face so early.

People want revenge. You probably have read what Iranians are posting on the Internet. “Neda” has become a hero–we will definitely rename the street where she was killed after her. We will fight back. People have not stopped chanting God is Great. The funniest thing is that a government which claims to get its legitimacy from Allah and Islam cannot stand people saying “Allah-o-Akbar”.

Nevertheless, there is nothing they can hide. We still have very slow Internet access which, if people continue to protest, I believe will be shut down completely. The only concern that we have now is the bloody Rajavis (MEK), who now want to benefit from the situation. They are definitely helping the dictators. They are only giving more reasons for cracking down the people. May God protect us all.

11:37 pm: There are now blogs and websites in Persian being circulated that tell you how to stop bleeding, etc. This one tells you how to take care of someone who has been shot, and this one says how to stop bleeding in general.

11:03 pm: Thinking up new ways to protest.

According to Kalemeh News [Persian], people are finding creative ways to protest since they have not been able to get permits for peaceful demonstrations. “People have decided to turn on their [automobile] headlights on Monday from 5pm to 6pm. It seems like this new method of protest is a result of unprecedented restrictions and harsh treatment of the people by the armed forces and militias.

10:27 pm: Mousavi’s statement.

An amazing NIAC member, Arvin, translated Mousavi’s 6th statement, which was posted today. The original Farsi is here: [The newspaper, affiliated with Mousavi, was reportedly hacked earlier today and now appears down.]

It is worth nothing that unlike his earlier statements he is no longer saying there is doubt about the election or irregularity; he outright calls it cheating as a foregone conclusion. Also when he refers to “unlawfulness by the government” that is code for Ahmadinejad. That is what he called him during the debates, and is what he said he has come to stop. He also urges the people to keep their protests nonviolent.

In the name of God, the compassionate and merciful,

We are all from God, and one day we will return to Him [A Koranic quote, that signifies readiness for death]

The heart-wrenching news of martyrdom of a group of protestors, against widespread cheating in recent elections, has cast a pall of silence and sadness over our society. Opening fire on people, militarizing the city, spreading fear, provoking [the public] and power displays are all illegitimate children of the unlawfulness which we face and it is bewildering that the perpetrators of these acts accuse others of this. To those who call people lawless for expressing their opinions, I say that the biggest act of lawlessness is indifference [to the public] and contravention of the explicit [text] of article 27 of the constitution [allowing public demonstrations] by the government in not issuing permits for peaceful gatherings. Do revolutionary people who, with gatherings like these brought you and us out of the dark history of the Shah’s tyranny, need to be beaten and wounded and be threatened with force?

I, as a mourner, invite the people to self-restraint. The country belongs to you. The revolution and the government are your inheritances. Objecting to lies and cheating is your right. Be hopeful in exercising your rights and do not allow those, who try to instill fear in you to dissuade you, to make you angry. Continue to avoid violence in your protests and treat the disproportionate actions of the security forces as broken hearted parents would their children. Having said that, I expect that security forces will not allow memories of these days to cause irreparable harm in their relationship with the people. That they [security forces] are not informing the families of the martyred, the wounded, and the arrested, and are keeping them hidden and in limbo will not aid in restoration of peace and will antagonize [people’s] emotions. Arbitrary arrests lead to loss of respect and authority of security forces in the mind of the people and the society.

I ask the Almighty to be compassionate towards these martyrs and to give them the highest of honors, and for their stricken families I wish patience and fulfillment of their dreams.

Mir Hossein Moussavi

31 Khordad, 1388 [June 21, 2009]

Sign the Petition


7,350 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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