Sunday, June 25, 2006


Statement for peace between Iran and the US

Invited by Peace Laureates Dr Shirin Ebadi and Prof Jody Williams, under the auspices of the Nobel Women’s Initiative, a number of Iranian and US women’s organizations and other civil society representatives came together in an historic meeting in Vienna from 6-8 June 2006. We agreed on the following:

1. As individuals representing NGO’s from the civil society of Iran and the US, we affirm our mutual respect and call for the reduction of tension and the prevention of armed conflict between our governments. Military action must be taken off the table. The US threat to use nuclear weapons in particular is immoral and illegal. Armed conflict would be devastating for the people of both nations and the world, especially for women and children.

2. We call upon the governments of Iran and the US to reduce military expenditures and use those resources for the health, education and general welfare of our people and renounce military and political aspirations that lead to war.

3. We call upon our governments to respect human rights and refrain from using the fight against terrorism or the excuse of national security as pretexts for violating human rights. We call on them to stop misusing religious beliefs and the pursuit of democracy to legitimize both the erosion of rights of their own people and aggression against other nations.

4. Violence is a choice. We call upon our governments to make other choices. We call upon them to enter into direct and public talks to find a peaceful end to their conflict. The objective of such talks must be to ensure human rights and security for our people.

5. Discussions should be broader than just the heads of state. The parliaments of the two countries -- as well as civil society, non-governmental organizations and academia -- must play constructive roles not only in peace talks but also in broader interactions between our societies with the ultimate goal of normalizing relations between the US and Iran.

6. Peace and security are linked to women’s equality. UN Security Council Resolution 1325 recognized successful decision-making on all peace and security matters, such as negotiations to reduce US-Iran tensions, requires the full participation of women.

7. The current crisis must be a wake up call to the international community. Nuclear states must lead meaningful negotiations on global nuclear disarmament and the promotion of a culture of peace.

8. We call upon the government of the US not to interfere in the internal affairs of Iran. We call upon the government of Iran to respect human rights, especially those of women, and respond to the needs of the diverse cultural, ethnic and religious communities of the country, thereby preventing justification for such interference.

9. We call upon the UN Security Council to comply with Article 26 of the United Nations Charter and develop the plan to use the world’s resources for the benefits of its peoples instead of for more armaments.

Prof. Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Laureate, USA - 1997
Dr. Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Laureate, Iran - 2003
Behnoush Amery, Society for Protecting the Rights of the Child
Liz Bernstein, Nobel Women’s Initiative
Felicity Hill, Greenpeace International, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Mary Ellen McNish, American Friends Service Committee
Mine Clearing Cooperation Campaign
Khadijeh Moghaddam, Independent Environmental Activist
Mary Olson, Nuclear Information and Resource Service
Sorosh Roshan, International Health Awareness Network
Atefeh Akbari Shahmirzadi, Advocacy Office of Dr. Shirin Ebadi
Mansooreh Shojaei, Women’s Cultural Center
Emira Woods, Foreign Policy in Focus/Institute for Policy Studies
Dr. Zeina Zaatari, The Global Fund for Women

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Saturday, June 24, 2006


Iran: Remove Rights Abuser from U.N. Delegation

Accused Torturer at Human Rights Council Session
(New York, June 22, 2006) – Iran should immediately remove Tehran’s notoriously abusive prosecutor general from its delegation to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Human Rights Watch said today. The prosecutor general, Saeed Mortazavi has been implicated in torture, illegal detention, and coercing false confessions by numerous former prisoners.
“Iran’s decision to send Mortazavi to Geneva demonstrates utter contempt for human rights and for the new council,” said Joe Stork deputy director of Middle East and North Africa division for Human Rights Watch. “Iran has just confirmed why U.N. members refused to elect it to the Human Rights Council.”

In April 2000, Mortazavi, then the judge of Public Court Branch 1410, led a massive crackdown to silence growing dissent in Iran. He ordered the closure of more than 100 newspapers and journals. In 2003, he was promoted to the post of Tehran’s prosecutor general. In 2002, a human rights expert appointed by the old U.N. Commission on Human Rights to monitor the human rights situation in Iran took the extraordinary step of naming Mortazavi publicly in his report and calling for him to be suspended from the bench.

Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi died in June 2003 while in the custody of judiciary and security agents led by Mortazavi. Lawyers representing Kazemi’s family have alleged that her body showed signs of torture, including blows to her head, and that Mortazavi participated directly in her interrogation.

In 2004, Mortazavi orchestrated the arbitrary detention of more than 20 webloggers and internet journalists, who were held in secret prisons. Human Rights Watch collected testimonies from several of these detainees who implicated Mortazavi in their ordeal, which included lengthy solitary confinement and coercion to make false televised confessions.

“Iran has brought Mortazavi to Geneva instead of bringing him to justice,” Stork said. “This decision should make Mortazavi the poster child for rampant impunity in Iran.”

Human Rights Watch urged Iran to hold Mortazavi to account in particular for the allegations of torture, and to remove him from office. Governments participating in the Human Rights Council session should seek Mortazavi’s removal from the Iranian delegation, Human Rights Watch said, and should refuse to meet with the delegation while Mortazavi remains a member.

All U.N. member states were invited to send representatives to speak during this first week of the Human Rights Council, which was created last month to replace the old commission. More than 100 countries are scheduled to address the body.
For further information on Mortazavi, please see:

Essential Background: Overview of human rights issues in Iran

"Like the Dead in Their Coffins: Torture, Detention, and the Crushing of Dissent in Iran

False Freedom: Online Censorship in the Middle East and North Africa

Iran: Judiciary Uses Coercion to Cover Up Torture

Iran: Journalists Receive Death Threats After Testifying

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Thursday, June 15, 2006


Iran: Police Assault Women’s Rights Demonstrators

(New York, June 15, 2006) – Iran must investigate the police beating of hundreds of women’s rights activists during a peaceful demonstration in Tehran on Monday, Human Rights Watch said today. The organization called on the government to release those detained after the police attack on protestors.
Eyewitnesses told Human Rights Watch that police and intelligence agents lined Haft Tir Square in downtown Tehran hours before the start of the planned demonstration on June 12. As the demonstrators assembled, the security forces immediately started to beat them with batons, sprayed them with pepper gas, marked the demonstrators with color spray, and took scores into custody.

“The Iranian government has again shown its utter contempt for basic freedoms like the right to peaceful assembly,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities should free those arrested at once and find out who’s behind the police violence.”

On Tuesday, Jamal Karimirad, a spokesman for the Judiciary, confirmed that security forces arrested 70 people, 42 women and 28 men, to prevent the demonstration from taking place. He said the Judiciary is charging the detainees with “participation in an illegal assembly.”

An eyewitness told Human Rights Watch that, for what is thought to be the first time, the government transported policewomen to the demonstration to arrest female demonstrators while policemen dealt with male protestors.

“Female police officers ruthlessly beat demonstrators with their batons and took many into police vans for detention,” this witness said. “Bystanders were shocked at how harshly the police reacted to demonstrators.”

The demonstration followed a call last week by hundreds of women’s rights activists and human rights defenders to demand reforms in Iran’s legal code and remove discriminatory clauses against women.

Prior to the demonstration, the Judiciary summoned and interrogated numerous women's rights activists. On Saturday night, agents of the Judiciary went to the homes of prominent activists to issue summons. Those summoned include Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani, Parvin Ardalan, Sussan Tahmasebi, Zohreh Arzani, and Fariba Davoodi Mohajer. Davoodi Mohajer was the only one who received the summons in person. On Monday, Judiciary agents at the Branch 14 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran interrogated her for 10 hours.

Also on Monday morning, security forces arrested another activist, Shahla Entessari, at her workplace in Tehran. Among those arrested at the demonstration are Ali Akbar Mousavi Khoiniha, a former member of the parliament, Jila Baniyaghoub, Delaram Ali, Samira Sadri, Bahareh Hedayat, Leila Mohseni, Bahman Ahmadi Amooi, Siamak Taheri, and Farahnaz Sharifi.

Human Rights Watch called on the government to release all detainees without delay, end its harassment and intimidation of activists, and abide by its international obligations to respect freedom of assembly, and to prevent and punish police brutality.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Nuclear 'Carrots and Sticks' for Iran

Proposal Offers Rewards, Punishment to Convince Iran to Dump Enrichment Program
WASHINGTON, June 6, 2006 — - ABC News has obtained a draft of the "carrots and sticks" proposal that the United States, Europe, China and Russia made to Iran to encourage it to stop developing its nuclear program. The four-page document offers a "fresh start" based on "mutual respect."
Click here to read a draft copy of the document.
After initially downplaying any interest in the proposal, Iran now says it needs more time to consider the proposal, a step President Bush says "sounds like a positive step to me."
Iran's change in tone comes after the United States and its allies offered Iran the most generous proposal yet to resolve the nuclear standoff of the past two years.
Among the incentives, or "carrots" for Iran if it ceases its nuclear program:
Iran would get help building new nuclear power plants, specifically light water reactors that cannot be used to make weapons-grade nuclear fuel.
Iran would get a new facility to hold a five-year supply of nuclear fuel.
The deal would also open the door to "guarantees for [Iran's] territorial integrity" -- words meant to assure Iran there would be no invasion by the United States or Israel.
A package of economic incentives so Iran can purchase a new fleet of American and European aircraft, something that it is now forbidden to do. Its aging airline fleet has become a safety threat.
The incentives would all be contingent on Iran agreeing to stop enriching uranium -- making fuel that can be used for bombs or nuclear power. Iran's refusal to do just that has raised tensions with Iran over the past two years.
But even on that point, the proposal says Iran could be allowed to resume uranium enrichment in the future if it can convince the United Nations Security Council it is for peaceful purposes only.
If Iran rejects the deal, the draft proposal threatens a long list of sanctions -- "the stick" approach:
freezing Iranian assets abroad;
a travel ban on high ranking officials;
an arms embargo;
reducing diplomatic relations with all the countries that made the proposal. Very significant, since Russia and China -- two hesitant partners in the sticks approach, both of which have extensive trade with Iran -- have agreed to this proposal.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Iran has "a matter of weeks" to respond to the offer.
A source close to the Iranian government told ABC News today that Iran may agree to temporarily stop enriching uranium but is unlikely to agree to fully shut down the program. It's unclear if that is enough for a deal on negotiations.

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Monday, June 05, 2006


2006 Golden Pen of Freedom Acceptance Speech by Akbar Ganji

Ladies and gentlemen:

In the presence of representatives from the world media gathered here, let me begin by thanking the World Association of Newspapers for giving me the Golden Pen Award. I am humbled by the honor. I think the prize should in fact go to all Iranian dissidents and freedom-fighters.

And in this category, more than anyone the prize should go to those who fought for freedom and human rights and were as punishment slaughtered during what came to be known as “Serial Murders.” The prize should go to the prisoners who in 1987 were executed while serving their sentences in prisons across Iran. The prize should go to all of those who were tortured and paralyzed only because they worked in journalism, and contributed to defending free thought in the country. The prize should go to all the dissidents who were deprived of their social rights, and imprisoned. The prize should go to all those who have been forced into exile only because they dared to think and live differently, and continue to be deprived of their right to return to their country and have been left with no choice but to live in exile.

The prize should go to all the Iranian intellectuals who worked hard in the last two decades to inform Iranians about freedom and liberty. Here I stand on behalf of all of these groups and accept this prize in their name and in order to show appreciation for their glorious struggle.

What will follow are the views of only one Iranian dissident about the current world conditions. They are no more than an effort to “think out loud,” an attempt to offer problems for a dialogue, for an exchange of views and finally for critical but reasoned discussion. What I offer here is a synopsis of a lengthier piece whose text has been made available in both Persian and English.

Our ideal is the creation of a humane world, but in fact we live in a world steeped in reckless and widespread violence, a world of genocides and civil wars, of ethnic cleansing and gross violations of citizens’ rights in many corners of the globe. These instances of moral depravity have deprived all of us of the chance to live in a secure world of enduring peace. But in our world today, there are also bright lights of hope. Today, more than ever in human history, thanks to improved means of communication, people, free from their ethnic, racial, and religious identities-or more specifically, free from any secondary identity-simply as human beings, are concerned about the fate of other human beings.

Today we are witnessing the birth of a new moral concept in the world: Global citizenship. Today vast numbers of people no longer consider themselves merely the citizen of a state, no longer feel compassion only for their compatriots, but rather consider themselves also citizens of the world. They feel compassion with other global citizens. Our gathering here today is the best example of solidarity among citizens of the world. But we must accept that we are only at the beginning of the road. There are still too many calamities around us, calamities like terrorism, coercion, dictatorship, discrimination, and war.

These are indications that we need to still find ways to expand this solidarity, and give reality to the concept of world citizenship. In my mind, Kant is the philosopher who can be most helpful to us on this path. According to Kant, humans have rights by the mere fact of their humanity, and in that sense, humans are all equal, and laws are just only if they treat everyone without exception, equally, and they can safeguard the liberty of all. Kant invites us to be humble and benevolent. Such benevolence and humility require us to always put ourselves in the place of the other, and do unto others as we do unto ourselves.

Only in this way can human solidarity be strengthened. Only through this perspective will we consider our gifts and privileges, as well as our needs, things we must share with others. According to Kant, humans are ends in themselves, and must never be used as means to other ends. An authentic life is one wherein every individual has the right to pursue his or her own goals, and is not deemed merely a tool to be used by others to achieve their goals. If we can create equality for everyone, then this authentic life can become a reality, and people can, in cooperation and competition with one another, pursue their goals successfully, and have a chance to offer their values for scrutiny and discussion in the public domain.

Today we need to help create and strengthen a truly viable, clever, and vital public domain, and we ourselves must move in that arena, and use it to control and curtail power and criticize those politicians who have turned human beings into tools and means. Only through such a public sphere can we stand up to ideological and intellectual totalitarianism that wishes to impose its vision of a perfect world forcefully on everyone. As Kant has written, the principle of human freedom is the foundation of a democratic state and for him, freedom is when no one can coerce me to pursue my happiness according to their vision. Everyone must be free in their pursuit of their own happiness.

Central to this idea of freedom, and democracy is that women must have equal rights with men, and must be allowed free and equal access to the public sphere. The worst kind of despotism is a patriarchal system wherein men define everyone’s norms of happiness. But we can go one step further than Kant, and declare that if we are to have a world where each individual is free to pursue his or her own goals and idea of happiness, we must cement a solidarity against violence and those who promote it.

The foundation of this solidarity can be Jesus Christ’s famous aphorism, “Love Thy Neighbor.” But we must have an expanded view of what neighbor means: My neighbor is not just my “brother in faith;” any human being anywhere in the world, regardless of their dress, their color, their gender, and their faith is my neighbor. I must respect their dignity. Citizens of the world under every name are my neighbors. A violent act against any citizen of the world is a violent act against all of us.

Defending the rights of these neighbors can create the kind of solidarity we need, the kind that deters violent forces from treading on the rights of even the most unknown citizen of our world. The other principle we must cultivate is the notion of publicity and transparency in politics. These characteristics were amongst Kant’s ideals as well.

Every decision in the public domain, particularly every political decision, must be made publicly and transparently. It must be open to the scrutiny of everyone. We must shed the light of enquiry into the dark house of politics. Only this way can we criticize, analyze, and deconstruct the decisions that are intertwined with our fate. Only this way can we approve, improve, or reject these decisions. Today the role of the media particularly is to focus this light into these dark houses.

Our world today suffers from violence; this violence has many facets. It creates different forms of pain and suffering. Terror, oppression, imprisonment, and solitary confinement are only the more obvious facets of this violence. They are the tools of despots and dogmatists, who use them to force their ideas and ideals on the citizenry. Human rights knows no boundaries, and accepts no exceptions. The idea that this religious tenet or that local cultural norm render certain human rights obsolete or impractical must not be allowed to be used by despots to legitimize their despotism.

Today we must struggle against violence in every one of its facets. Today the kind of revolutionary violence referred to by people like Sartre, Fanon, and Marcuse are no longer legitimate. We have seen how violence only begets violence; how revolutionary violence destroys both the bad and the good. We must no longer use violence as a weapon to fight violence. Peaceful resistance, peaceful civic resistance, must replace revolutionary violence.

My slogan for fighting against oppression and violence is simple: Forgive, but never forget. Forgiveness is a virtue that overcomes even legitimate anger and hatred. Forgiveness foregoes revenge. But forgiving injustice does not mean forgetting it. It does not mean foregoing the struggle against it. Forgiveness only implies giving up hatred and vengeance. Forgiveness leaves hatred to the hateful, ill-wishing to evildoers, and revenge to the vengeful. But forgiveness does not condone forgetting the crime. Nor does it condone our duty to resist bravely the criminal rulers or the dogmatic defenders of past crimes. We must always remember that the crime and the injustice did occur. We must always remember the conditions that led to the creation of fascism, totalitarianism, and other forms of dictatorship, that have been the source of injustice.

And we must inculcate this knowledge into our individual and collective memory, so that we can ensure that they shall never happen again. Paul Ricceur said it best when he declared that moral and committed humans hear constantly in their memory the voices of all the oppressed, from behind prison walls, concentration camps, and torture chambers. They hear these cries and never allow these voices of conscience to be drowned out. The principle of “Forgive but never forget” is the sine qua none of a democracy, free from violence. After discovering the truth, after shining the light of truth into the dark houses in which violent decisions have been made, after exposing injustice, we will forgive the despots and the criminals, so that the vicious cycle of violence does not continue. Anger, hatred, and hostility cannot create a democratic society free from the scourge of violence. That is why we need to forgive, but never forget. Forgiveness does not wash away the crime, or mangle our memories; it only does away with the need for hatred and revenge; it does not obviate struggle, but only the need for hatred. Those who forgive go on with their fight against evil with a heart filled with joy and free of hate.

War is the other scourge of our time, and our citizens of the world have as their goal an end to all wars, and the achievement of an enduring peace; the kind of enduring peace first advocated by Kant. According to Kant, enduring peace can come only if democracy spreads around the world. Democracies usually don’t enter into wars with one another. Today, only citizens of the world can, through the requisite sense of responsibility that comes with such citizenship, stop the khodsar decisions of khodsar governments in fanning the flames of war.

Now that I have these few words, I can with a more deliberate consciousness accept, on behalf of all the citizens of the world, and as a humble member of this great community that fights every facet of violence, the Golden Pen Award.

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