Saturday, April 28, 2007
Iran: Female child offender's death sentence confirmedIran: Female child offender's death sentence confirmed
Source: Amnesty International
Delara Darabi's death sentence has been confirmed by the Supreme Court, according to a 25 April report in the newspaper Etemad. The verdict has apparently been sent to the office of the Head of the Judiciary, Ayatollah Shahroudi, for consideration.
Her father has again requested that she be transferred from Rasht Prison to Evin, in Tehran, on the grounds that conditions in Rasht may have led in part to her January suicide attempt. Her life was saved by her cellmates, who alerted the prison authorities. According to recent reports, Delara Darabi has been beaten in Rasht Prison, leaving her with a broken arm, and she is in poor health. She reportedly also suffers from a pre-existing kidney complaint. It is not known whether she is receiving adequate medical care, but her condition has reportedly worsened in prison.
Delara Darabi, then aged 17, reportedly burgled the house of an elderly female relative on 29 September 2003 together with a 19-year-old man named Amir Hossein Sotoudeh. Amir Hossein allegedly killed the woman during the burglary. Delara Darabi initially confessed to the murder, but subsequently retracted her confession, claiming that Amir Hossein had asked her to admit responsibility for the murder to protect him from execution, believing that as she was under 18, she could not be sentenced to death. Iran is a state party to international treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, that expressly prohibit the use of the death penalty for crimes committed by those under the age of 18.
Delara Darabi was sentenced to death by Branch 10 of the General Court in Rasht in 2005. The Supreme Court later found "deficiencies" in the case and sent it for retrial. Following further trial sessions in January and June 2006, Delara Darabi was sentenced to death for a second time. Amir Hossein Sotoudeh was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment for complicity in the murder and both received sentences of three years' imprisonment and 50 lashes for robbery, and 20 lashes for an "illicit relationship". Delara Darabi's death sentence was confirmed by the Supreme Court on 16 January 2007. According to the Etemad report, this sentence has now been further confirmed by Branch 7 of the Iran's Supreme Court, sitting as a sentencing "discernment", or review, body (Sho'be-ye tashkhis).
Despite being a state party to international treaties which prohibit the use of the death penalty against anyone under the age of 18 at the time of offence, many child offenders are under sentence of death in Iran.
At least 177 people were executed in Iran in 2006, including one who was under the age of 18 at the time of execution, and at least three others who were under 18 at the time of the offences of which they were convicted.
On 14 January 200, judges in a Tehran criminal court cleared 19-year-old Mahabad Fatehi (known as Nazanin Fatehi) of premeditated murder, but ordered her to pay diyeh (blood money) to the family of the man she killed in self-defence in March 2005. She had been sentenced to death for murder in January 2006, but following domestic and international protests, her death sentence was quashed by the Supreme Court in May 2006 and her case sent for retrial (see UA 220/05, MDE 13/047/2005, 24 August 2005, and follow-ups).
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in Persian, Arabic, English or your own language:
- urging the Head of the Judiciary to overturn the death penalty handed down to Delara Darabi;
- reminding the authorities of their commitment to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that "sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below 18 years of age"
- calling on the Iranian authorities to implement the recommendations of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, which called on Iran in January 2005 to "immediately suspend the execution of all death penalties imposed on persons for having committed a crime before the age of 18";
- expressing concern at reports that Delara Darabi has been beaten in Rasht Prison, breaking her arm, and calling for her to be allowed immediate and regular access to any medical treatment she may require, or to be transferred to another prison if an improvement in conditions in Rasht is not possible;
- calling on the authorities to commute the sentences of flogging passed on Delara Darabi and Amir Hossein Sotoudeh, as flogging amounts to torture;
- acknowledging that governments have a responsibility to bring to justice those suspected of criminal offences such as murder, but stating your unconditional opposition to the death penalty, as the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and violation of the right to life.
Leader of the Islamic Republic
Ayatollah Sayed 'Ali Khamenei, Leader of the Islamic Republic
The Office of the Supreme Leader, Shahid Keshvar Doost Street, Tehran. Islamic Republic of Iran
Fax: +98 251 7774 2228 (mark "For the Office of His Excellency, Ayatollah Khamenei")
Email: Via website: http://www.leader.ir/langs/EN/index.php?p=sendletter
Salutation: Your Excellency
Head of the Judiciary
Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi
Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Justice Building, Panzdah-Khordad Square, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Fax: +98 21 3390 4986 (please keep trying)
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (subject line: For the attention of Ayatollah Shahroudi)
Salutation: Your Excellency
Speaker of Parliament
His Excellency Gholamali Haddad Adel
Majles-e Shoura-ye Eslami, Imam Khomeini Avenue, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Fax: +98 21 6 646 1746
Salutation: Your Excellency
and to diplomatic representatives of Iran accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat, or your section office, if sending appeals after 8 June 2007.
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Friday, April 27, 2007
Iran: National Security Laws Used to Jail Women’s Rights ActivistsSix Women’s RightsAdvocates Receive Lengthy Prison Sentences(New York, April 27, 2007) – The head of Iran’s Judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi Shahrudi, should immediately overturn the convictions this week of six women’s rights advocates and end the Judiciary’s persecution of all such human rights defenders, Human Rights Watch said today. The six women are active participants in Iran’s burgeoning women’s rights movement. The Judiciary filed charges against them following a public demonstration to protest Iran’s discriminatory laws against women in Tehran on June 12, 2006.“The Iranian Judiciary is using national security laws to imprison women’s rights activists for peacefully protesting against legally sanctioned discrimination,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Instead of persecuting women’s rights activists, Iran’s government should scrap laws that discriminate against women.” On April 24, the Sixth Branch of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran sentenced Nusheen Ahmadi Khorasani, Shahla Entesari and Parvin Ardalan to three years’ imprisonment for “collusion and assembly to endanger the national security,” under article 610 of the Islamic Penal Code. The court ordered Khorasani, Entesari, and Ardalan to serve six months in prison, but suspended the remaining two-and-half years of their sentences.The same court sentenced two other women’s rights advocates to prison terms on April 18. It sentenced Fariba Davoodi Mohajer to four years’ imprisonment, three of which are suspended, also for “collusion and assembly to endanger the national security.” The court sentenced Sussan Tahmassebi to two years’ imprisonment, with one-and-a half years suspended, for “acting against national security.” A week earlier, Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran on April 11 sentenced Azadeh Forghani, also a women’s rights activist, to a suspended sentence of two years for “acting against national security by participating in an illegal gathering.”In these proceedings, the judge can implement the suspended sentences if he determines that the defendants have broken any law during the next five years.All six women supported the recently launched campaign, “Change for Equality,” to collect 1 million signatures to protest these discriminatory laws. This campaign seeks specific reforms, including making women’s testimony in court carry the same weight as that of men, equality of inheritance rights between men and women, the elimination of polygamy, and equality of compensation payments in the event of the wrongful death of a man and of a woman.As a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Iran is legally bound to protect freedom of expression, assembly and equality before the law, and prohibit arrest and detention resulting from the exercise of one of these rights. Over the past year, the Iranian government has substantially increased its persecution and prosecution of women’s rights activists. The security forces detained 33 prominent women’s rights advocates on March 4. Ardalan, Entesari, Khorasani, and Tahmassebi were among the detainees. Although the Judiciary released all of the detainees on bail, it has started to announce prison terms for those detained.On April 18, the Iranian minister of information, Gholamhussein Mohseni Ezhei, alleged that “the enemies of the government” are pursuing their plans through the women’s rights movement.“The Iranian government is making a mockery of national security laws by using them to prosecute women’s rights activists who peacefully protest against discrimination,” said Whitson. For more information on the persecution of women’s rights advocates in Iran, please visit the following Human Rights Watch materials:· “Iran: Release Women's Rights Advocates” (March 7, 2007) at http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/03/07/iran15452.htm; · “Iran: Women on Trial for Peaceful Demonstration” (February 27, 2007) at http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/02/27/iran15416.htm ; and· A photo essay featuring short bios of detained women’s rights activists, at http://www.hrw.org/photos/2007/iran03/index.html For more information, please contact: In New York, Hadi Ghaemi (English, Persian): +1-212-216-1231; or +1-917-669-5996 (mobile)In New York, Sarah Leah Whitson (English): +1-212-216-1230; or +1-718-362-0172 (mobile)
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Thursday, April 26, 2007
Role of Women in Middle East Media Grows4/26/07
Role of Women in Middle East Media Grows
By Mona Ghuneim, VOA, New York
Women in Islamic nations are increasingly being heard, seen and listened to, thanks in part to leading female voices determined to make a difference, despite challenges ranging from motherhood to threats on their lives. In New York, Mona Ghuneim spoke with some successful female media figures from the Middle East who are paving the way for young women today.
One of the hostesses of a popular Saudi program called "Speaking Softly" says that until recently, she did not see people like herself on television.
Muna Abusulayman is one of four anchorwomen on the show that deals with various issues in a talk format. Of the four, Abusulayman is the only one who wears a hijab, or headscarf. She is also divorced and lives alone with her child in Saudi Arabia.
Broadcast via satellite by the Middle East Broadcasting Center, Abusulayman's show reaches a wide variety of viewers. She finds it amusing that she was the first anchorwoman to wear a hijab on international satellite television.
"You're going to laugh when I tell you this," she said. "There were no women on a non-Saudi governmental channel in the Arab world, other than two religious channels that were very very religious, that wore the scarf."
"We have 250 million people in the Middle East, half of them are women, at least half of them, so 50 million at least wearing the hijab, and there was not one single woman representing them on television," she added.
Women in the Middle East actually make up the majority of anchors and presenters on television. But, Abusulayman says, they are much less prominent behind the scenes and in other media like print and radio.
Tasneem Ahmar, who runs a media and advocacy group in Pakistan as well as producing radio programs on women's issues, agrees with Abusulayman.
With more than 25 years experience as a journalist, Ahmar says that, not unlike the West, most decision-making jobs, top executive positions, and "tough" assignments are given to men.
"Women normally are assigned very soft issues - social issues, cultural issues," she said. "There are very few women, you'll find, who are doing hard political stories or economic stories or current affairs programs."
One woman in the Middle East who does cover tough stories and speaks out is May Chidiac. She is the host of a Lebanese TV program called "With Audacity."
Chidiac is known all over the Arab world for her tenacious journalism. A victim of an assassination attempt by suspected Syrian agents, she lost a hand and a leg in a car bombing in September 2005. After numerous surgeries, she went straight back to work.
"It was a big challenge to me," she said. "I wanted to be able to explain to those who decided to kill me that they will not be able to silence me."
Being silent is not an option for Huda Ahmed, an Iraqi journalist who works in Baghdad for the U.S. based McClatchy newspapers chain.
Ahmed says that while it is a dangerous job being a reporter, male or female, in Iraq today, she cannot be quiet. She says that the female voices have to be heard and if she does not help them, who will?
"I keep writing and contributing because we have few females doing that," said Ahmed. "We have many many challenges that make me feel that I have to serve my own people and those people who want their stories to be told."
"I would like that my writing, or my voice, will reach the government. I hope that what we write - whether in Arabic or in English - that will make a change, make a difference," she continued.
The women all agree that the growing number of females attending university in the Middle East will make a difference.
Mehrangiz Kar, a journalist and human rights activist from Iran, says that 65 percent of students at Iranian universities today are women, and many of them study journalism.
Tasneem Ahmar thinks positive changes for women in the Middle East and the Islamic world are on the horizon. She predicts that a new wave of young women in the Pakistani media will have an impact in five to ten years in her country.
"These young girls who have come in, they're very ambitious and they're very hard working and I don't think anything is going to stop them from going to the top positions."
While there is still a lot of work to be done, the women hope that their efforts and successes in the media will inspire not only women but men too. Or maybe there is truth to the old adage, "the best man for the job is a woman."
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Iran: Crackdown Intensifies On Students, Activists, And Teachers4/25/07
Iran: Crackdown Intensifies On Students, Activists, And Teachers
By Golnaz Esfandiari
April 24, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- The Iranian establishment has long been criticized by rights groups for being intolerant toward critics.
The country is often described as the biggest jail for journalists in the Middle East and harassment of activists is a routine part of the political scene.
Yet observers say that in recent weeks state pressure on women's rights activists, students, and teachers has reached new heights.
"The resistance that the current movements are facing is like when you cut off the top part of a tree. There is no doubt that it will result in many branches growing from it."
Ali Afshari is a political activist and former student leader currently residing in the United States.
"The government feels threatened and because of that it has intensified its crackdown," Afshari said. "[Authorities] think that in this way they can create calm and remove the threats. On the other hand, social groups have realized that by remaining calm they cannot reach their demands, therefore they have increased their protests."
Just in the past week, some 10 women's rights activists have been summoned to court. Four have been sentenced to prison -- including two today -- while others were charged with "gathering and colluding to disturb the national security" and "disturbing public order."
On April 2, the government detained five women involved in the campaign to gather one million signatures in an effort to change laws deemed discriminatory against women. And last month, police arrested over 30 women's rights activists who had gathered in front of a Tehran court to peacefully protest against the prosecution of five other activists.
Arresting Student Activists
State pressure on student activists has also increased. A number of them have been banned from university classes and many have been summoned to court and disciplinary committees over their political and press activities.
Last week, 15 students at Mazandaran University were detained following protests of the sentences handed out by disciplinary committees to student activists at the university. Most of them have since been released.
Dozens of teachers have also been detained in recent weeks in connection with several demonstrations over low wages and poor working conditions.
On April 7, more than 40 teachers were detained in the city of Hamedan. Most were released shortly afterwards. On April 16, Ali Akbar Baghani, the head of Iran's Teachers Association, was detained while teaching at a school in Tehran. The association has been active in organizing teacher protests.
The wave of arrests, court summonses, and intimidation of activists has caused concern in Iran and also internationally with rights groups calling on Tehran to respect the rights of peaceful demonstrators.
Amnesty International expressed concerned in an April 20 statement, stating that peaceful protesters have been increasingly targeted in Iran since Intelligence Minister Gholam Hussein Mohseni Ejeie publicly accused the women's movement and student campaigners of being part of an enemy conspiracy for a "soft subversion" of the government.
On April 23, Iran's largest reformist student group, Daftare Tahkim Vahdat, said Ejei's comments are a confirmation of the growing gap between the government and the Iranian people. The group condemned the increased pressure on activists as an attempt to eliminate all critical voices.
A leader of Daftare Tahkim Vahdat, Mohammad Hashemi, told Radio Farda that the crackdown on activists in connected with Iran's international problems.
"The establishment is doing its best to cover all its crises and problems it is facing on the international scene by cracking down on [critics] inside the country," Hashemi said.
Protesters Not Deterred
Afshari, who was jailed in Iran a number of times because of his political activities, believes the government's repressive measures are failing.
"You see women staging protests in front of the revolutionary court, despite the fact that they know they could be beaten up and dealt with [legally]; but they come to the scene, they know they will be summoned to the court but they don't pay attention to these problems," he said. "Students also know they have to pay a price [for their activism], but they continue their fight. This shows that the policies of cracking down on and creating problems [for protesters] have not been effective. They have had the opposite effect and led to the spreading of protests."
In Tehran, human rights lawyer Mohammad Ali Dadkhah tells RFE/RL that the tough measures used by the government will not succeed in silencing critics and activists.
Meanwhile, a protest at Shiraz University caused by the introduction of a new code of conduct has entered its third day today -- student activists there and at other universities show no signs that they will be dissuaded from protesting by state pressure. Likewise, women's rights advocates have also expressed a renewed determination to fight for their rights. And teachers demanding higher wages have also said they will continue their protest and strike in the coming weeks
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Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Iran: Arrests of peaceful demonstrators and activists continueIran: Arrests of peaceful demonstrators and activists continue
Source: Amnesty International
Amnesty International is calling on the Iranian authorities to release immediately and unconditionally all those detained in connection with recent peaceful demonstrations by teachers, students and others, to halt all trial proceedings that could result in the imprisonment of prisoners of conscience and to cease harassment of those campaigning to uphold human rights, including trade union and political rights. The organization is concerned that such protestors have been increasingly targeted since Minister of Intelligence Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie publicly accused the womens' movement and student campaigners of being part of an enemy conspiracy for a "soft subversion" of the government in Iran on 10 April 2007.
Dozens of teachers, mostly members of local Teachers' Associations or the National Council of Teachers' Associations, have been detained in recent weeks in connection with demonstrations which began in March 2007 by teachers demanding higher pay and working conditions. Hundreds of teachers were arrested; all were later released, but since then many more teachers have been arrested across the country after plans were announced for strikes on 15 and 16 April, and on 2 May, which is Iran's National Teachers' Day.
On 7 April, 45 teachers were arrested in Hamedan, including the entire board of the Hamedan Teachers' Association, which was subsequently banned by the authorities. Most were released shortly afterwards, but at least four are reported to remain in detention, whose surnames are Zare'i, Ghadimi, Refahiat and Gholami.
On 12 April, three teachers in Tehran, Ali Safar Montajabi, Mohammad Taghi Fallahi and Mahmoud Bagheri were summoned to the Revolutionary Court and afterwards were transferred to Evin Prison. Three others were detained on 14 April and also taken to Evin Prison: Hamid Pourvosouq, the Deputy Head of the Iranian Teachers' Association, Alireza Akbari Nabi and Mohammad Reza Reza'i Gorgani, members of the senior editorial committee of the weekly "Teachers' Pen". On the same day, four teachers, Mojtaba Abtahi, Abdolrasoul Emadi, Nourollah Barkhordar and Hamid Majiri (or Mojizi) were reportedly arrested in Homayoun Shahr; three other teachers were reportedly arrested in Kerman. On 16 April, Ali Akbar Baghani, the Head of the Iranian Teachers' Association, was detained by three plain clothes officials in his classroom in a school in Tehran. He had previously been detained without charge or trial between 3 and 28 March 2007.
Bizhan Sabagh, an engineering student at Mazandaran University who had previously been suspended by the university disciplinary committee for one term in connection with his student activities, was arrested on 14 April 2007 by security officials in front of the university. Some 14 students who began a sit-in protest at Bizhan Sabagh's arrest were also detained later the same day. All, with the exception of Sayed Ziya'addin (Ziya) Nabavi, have since been released on bail or on written guarantees.
Womens' rights activists
On 18 April, two women on trial for participating in a peaceful demonstration on 12 June 2006 demanding equal rights for women were sentenced to prison terms. Fariba Davoudi Mohajer was sentenced to four years' imprisonment, of which three years were suspended, and Sussan Tahmasebi was sentenced to two years' imprisonment, of which 18 months were suspended. The women, currently free, are expected to appeal against their sentences. Also on 18 April, Behareh Hedayat, a university student, was tried, without the presence of her lawyer, on charges of "acting against state security", "participating in an illegal demonstration on 12 June 2006" and "disturbing public order". Earlier, on 11 April, Azadeh Forghani, a university student, was given a two-year suspended sentence in connection with the same demonstration. Several days later, she was summoned to court where she was questioned and informed that she was facing new charges in connection with a peaceful gathering on 4 March 2007 held to protest against the prosecution of five other activists in connection with the demonstration in June 2006. On 18 April six other women reportedly attended a court session in which they were interrogated about the 4 March gathering. Parvin Ardalan, Zara Amjadian, Elnaz Ansari, Nasrin Afzali, Niloufar Golkar and Marzieh (Minoo) Mortazi Langaroudi were reportedly charged with "gathering and colluding to disturb national security", "disturbing public order" and "disobeying the orders of officials".
Five women active in the "Million Signatures Campaign" were arrested on 2 April 2007 while collecting signatures in support of an end to discriminatory legislation against women in Iran. Three were released after one day in detention, but Mahboubeh Hossein Zadeh and Nahid Keshavarz were taken to Evin Prison and were released on bail on 15 April 2007. They were reportedly accused of "acting against state security through propaganda against the system".
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Thursday, April 19, 2007
Nahid Keshavarz writes from Evin prison4/18/07
Nahid Keshavarz writes from Evin prison: What will they do about the Growing Awarness among female Prisoners and their Guards?
Source: Change for Equality, Iran (translated By Sussan Tahmasebi, April 13, 2007)
Women’s Rights Activists, Nahid Keshavarz and Mahboubeh Hossein Zadeh, who remain in prison since April 2, 2007 for collecting signatures in support of the "One Million Signatures Campaign" demanding changes to discriminatory laws against women, have recorded their experiences among female inmates. Here is what Nahid Keshavarz has to say.
What will they do about the Growing Awarness among female Prisoners and their Guards?
It is Tuesday, April 10, 2007, 3:30 in the afternoon. It has been a good day for both Mahboubeh and I. It’s visitation day. Visitation day is the sweetest of days for prisoners. From the moment they announce your name till the moment you finally see your loved ones, your entire being is filled with anticipation. You stretch the moments in their presence, and in your mind, you dress yourself in your most beautiful clothes—one becoming of the occasion, albeit that you are forced to wear a veil and prison issued slippers. Perhaps for those who have never experienced prison, there is no difference between the navy colored veil lent to you by your fellow inmates with love, and the prison issued veil, marked with the logo of the Revolutionary Courts, the logo that is supposed to represent justice. But for us, there is a difference between these two, even if their colors are the same. The veil you borrow from your fellow inmates, the veil that is lent to you with love, gives you a better feeling and you view yourselves as being among your sisters and mothers rather than in the position and in the identity assigned to you by your captors.
As I wait to be escorted to the visitation area, I start up a conversation with one of the female prison guards. I explain to her that I am fighting to attain equal rights for women. I tell her about the "One Million Signatures Campaign" which aims to change discriminatory laws against women. I explain that my experience in prison has reaffirmed my commitment to justice and the path that I have chosen. In jest, the guard says "let the men take second wives, why does it concern you, anyway?" I speak of my responsibilities as a citizen. I know that the guard herself is opposed to polygamy, to men’s uncontested right to divorce, and girls’ marriage at a young age, still she does not believe that I am in prison because I am fighting to change these same laws. "Certainly you must have insulted someone, that is why you are here," she says. I explain that my friends and I have employed the most civil of strategies in asking for changes to discriminatory laws against women. I explain that I believe in civic action, in creating change, and as such we are only collecting signatures in support of our demands. "This is why I have chosen to work within the Campaign. Because through this effort we can work to educate the public about these demands," I explain.
I realize, more than ever before, that judges have the power to keep us in prison endless periods of time. They have the power to claim that our demands as contradictory to the foundations of the Islamic Republic, proclaim that polygamy is a main tenant of Islam and the State, and to accuse us of crimes, to equate our efforts within the "One Million Signatures Campaign" to "actions against national security, through the spread of propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran." But, I wonder, how will these judges, who work so hard at upholding these patriarchal traditions and laws, counter the growing awareness among female prisoners? What do judges do with the women who cite these very restrictive laws as justification for their unlawful actions? Women like Behjat, who is accused of murdering her husband. A woman who in her own defense explained to the prosecutor that "when your laws work unjustly against me and other women, and place us in an extreme disadvantage, when I spend four fruitless years in pursuit of a divorce, all the while forced to take refuge in the homes of relatives and strangers, uprooting my children time and again, am I not forced to take matters into my own hands and to ensure justice on my own?"
Perhaps our court system can exhaust women’s rights activists through the infliction of threats and fear. Perhaps they can tire us through continuous summons to court, by inflicting in our hearts uncertainty, by forcing us into prison, but truly what will the court system do about the increasing awareness among its own prison guards? The social workers and guards at Evin prison know better than anyone, about the immense tragedy that results from unjust laws, oppressive cultural traditions and the male interpretations of religion. These are the realities that make up the lives of women, condemning them to "dead ends," spent in prison. In these few days we have heard a lot of stories—real stories. We have listened to the stories of these women, who, because of discriminatory laws and oppressive cultural realities, have reached an eternal dead end.
We have seen women who are in prison on charges of murder, but who prior to taking matters in their own hands had tirelessly struggled to resolve their problems and to escape the cycle of violence to which they were condemned. Prior to resorting to the murder of their husbands, most of these women had never committed even the smallest of crimes. They were kind mothers and wives, who for years quietly endured the violent nature of their relationships, their husband’s unfaithfulness or his years of addiction. Forced to try all avenues to flee their cruel fait and after having met repeatedly with failures in their efforts to improve their situation, these women chose a path of escape, that in essence was never a truly a choice at all.
I reach the visitation area. One of the male prison guards reads names off a list. Some of the prisoners go to a public visitation area and some are assigned cabins for their visitation. My share it seems is a cabin, with a window that separates me from my family. Nader and Sadigheh are waiting for me. My sister, who is beautiful and kind, is herself a victim of the discrimination that is enforced and perpetuated by these very laws. She fully understands me and because of her extreme kindness, she does not wish a better life for herself alone. My dear Nader, he is wearing his best clothes. My heart aches, when I see that he is wearing clothes that are my favorite. I pick up the phone in the cabin. Their voice gives me hope. They tell me about the solidarity of my friends and my colleagues who continue to push for the aims of the Campaign. I return to my prison cell, with even greater determination. On my way back, I see Mahboubeh. She too is going to visit with her family.
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Sunday, April 15, 2007
URI Interview with Republic Radioto listen to the interview go to:
Go to March Section.
Go to Friday, 30
Click on 2 & 3
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Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali KhameneiIranian Journalist Challenges Supreme Leader
(MNA)April 13, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Prominent Iranian journalist Ahmad Zeidabadi has challenged Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in an open letter in which he questioned why criticism of the supreme leader's actions and decisions is banned in Iran.Zeidabadi also asked Khamenei why Iranians should share his view on the nuclear issue. The journalist also expressed regret that those who favor flexibility on that issue are portrayed as "enemies" of the Islamic establishment. Zeidabadi argues that due to the importance and sensitivity of the issue, the establishment should allow differing views to be expressed freely. In recent weeks, a number of activists have called on Iran to suspend its sensitive nuclear activities and return to the negotiating table. Zeidabadi says many Iranians are concerned about the nuclear issue and the future of their country. Zeidababi has been jailed several times in Iran because of his critical articles. Charges against him have included acting against Iran's national security and insulting Iran's leaders. Under Iran's constitution, the supreme leader is the highest political and religious authority in the country. (iran-emrooz.net)
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Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Iran: Release Women's Rights Activists(New York, April 7, 2007) ? The Iranian government should immediately release two women?s rights activists arrested on April 1 and end its harassment and persecution of human rights defenders, Human Rights Watch said today. On April 1, 2007, security forces arrested five women?s rights activists who were planning to gather signatures for the One Million Signatures Campaign, a project aimed at collecting one million signatures to demand an end to discrimination against women in Iranian law. This includes a call for women?s testimony in court to carry the same weight as that of men, equality of inheritance rights between men and women, the elimination of polygamy, and equality of compensation payments in the event of the wrongful death of a man and of a woman. The arrests took place in Laleh Park in Tehran; three of the five were released two days later. ?These arrests are the latest sign that the Iranian government can?t tolerate people who demand rights for women,? said Fadi Al-Qadi, Middle East advocate at Human Rights Watch. ?Iran should stop targeting peaceful activists, and abide by international human rights law.? According to eyewitness reports provided to Human Rights Watch, a small group of women?s rights activists were in Laleh Park preparing to ask passersby to sign their petition when uniformed security forces approached them. They told the activists they merely wished to speak to them but proceeded to arrest five: Mahboubeh Hosseinzadeh, Nahid Keshavarz, Saideh Amin, Sarah Imanian and Imanian?s husband, Homayoun Nami. On April 3, authorities transferred the five to a branch of the Revolutionary Court. According to a colleague of Hosseinzadeh, court officials then asked the detainees to sign a pledge to end their activities on behalf of the campaign. Hosseinzadeh and Keshavarz refused. Court officials told them that their activities amounted to acting against Islam and the state and that they would be charged accordingly and taken to Evin Prison. That afternoon, officials brought the five detainees to Niloufar Police Station in Tehran where they released Amin, Imanian, and Nami. They transferred Keshavarz and Hosseinzadeh to Evin prison. On the evening of April 4, Keshavarz called her husband from Evin Prison and told him that she and Hosseinzadeh had been taken to the women?s general ward. She informed him that the previous night they had been detained in a punishment block for women at Evin, where she and Hosseinzadeh had feared for their safety. Keshavarz?s lawyers, Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi and Nasrin Sotoodeh, went to the Revolutionary Court on April 4 to inquire about the detainees. Authorities barred the two lawyers from entering the court, thus preventing them from obtaining information about the case against their clients. Authorities have also prevented the families of Keshavarz and Hosseinzadeh from meeting them since their arrests. On April 5, relatives and friends of the two went to Evin prison to request a visit. The prison officials told them that due to the warden?s absence, they would be unable to see the detainees and that they should pursue the matter at the Revolutionary Court. At the court, officials provided no clarification about the detainees? cases on the grounds that the presiding judge was absent, and advised them to return on Saturday, April 7. Iran is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and as such is legally bound to protect freedom of expression, assembly and equality before the law, and prohibit arbitrary detention, such as detention resulting from the exercise of one of these rights. It must also guarantee due process and humane treatment to those in detention. During the past year, the Iranian government has intensified its persecution of women?s rights advocates, especially those involved in the One Million Signatures Campaign. On March 4, four days before International Women?s Day, authorities arbitrarily arrested 34 women involved in the campaign, two of whom spent more than two weeks in solitary confinement. Keshavarz and Hosseinzadeh were among those detained. While all the women were eventually freed on bail, prosecutions against them are proceeding. On April 4, authorities summoned three of those detained on March 4 ? Parastoo Dokoohaki, Sara Loghayee, and Saghi Loghayee ? to appear in court on Sunday, April 8 to answer charges of ?disturbing national security and the general order by gathering illegally.? ?The Iranian government should release Keshavarz and Hosseinzadeh immediately and stop persecuting those who work peacefully for women?s rights,? said Al-Qadi.
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The End of the Dispensable IranianApril 10, 2007
By ROYA HAKAKIAN
DAWN had always arrived in Berlin’s Turm Strasse with the bustling of shopkeepers and the drowsy hiss of buses pulling into their stops. Always, except on the morning of April 10, 1997. On that day, the street had been cleared of traffic and blocked to anyone but pedestrians. On the rooftop of every building leading to Nos. 91-92, snipers had been stationed.
Turm Strasse 91-92 is the address of Berlin’s highest criminal court. It is also the site of one of the least known, yet most momentous events in the contemporary history of Germany and Iran. The 1992 assassinations of four Iranian Kurdish leaders at a restaurant called Mykonos led to a trial that took nearly four years and culminated in a verdict, 10 years ago today, that implicated the Iranian leadership — the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei; the president at the time, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani; and the foreign minister, Ali Velayati — as the masterminds of the crime. An arrest warrant had already been issued for the minister of intelligence, Ali Fallahian.
Nostalgia has a way of augmenting reality, which may be why those who were there remember droves of thousands along the street. The crowds were ready for mayhem — armed with bullhorns, boom-boxes and loudspeakers — if the verdict were lenient toward the assassins, who had been members of the Hezbollah, or if it failed to address the role of the Iranian leadership in the murders, the latest in a chain of assassinations of Iranian dissidents throughout the world.
Suspense had everyone in its jittery grip. A few with mobile phones anxiously awaited calls from a handful of spectators who had managed to get inside the court. At nearly 9:30 a.m., Parviz Dastmalchi, one of the survivors of the Mykonos shootings, finally heard from a friend. “They named them all,” the voice whispered at the other end. A perennial skeptic, Mr. Dastmalchi chalked the statement up to the Iranian penchant for hyperbole. But when the silent throngs on the street broke into cheers, he knew it was true.
Suddenly, the Iranian opposition was united. From one end of Turm Strasse, members of the People’s Mujahedeen crossed the street to embrace monarchist sympathizers on the other side. Former enemies linked their arms as a decadent Persian dance tune called “Baba Karam” blared on the loudspeakers. Mr. Dastmalchi and other political activists who had observed the trial with stoicism began to weep. The widows and children of the victims, who had wept for years, were jubilant.
The verdict resulted in almost all the European Union’s members recalling their ambassadors from Tehran for several weeks.
The diplomatic blackout is one reason Mohammad Khatami, who was lagging behind the incumbent, Mr. Rafsanjani, in the last weeks of the presidential campaign, pulled ahead. However dead the reform movement now seems — though many insiders consider it only dormant — it began with the election of Mr. Khatami and reached its pinnacle in 2000. That is when the investigative journalist Akbar Ganji published his series of books on the assassinations of political leaders and writers within the country. These books, which set off a debate about civil society and the rule of law among Iranian intellectuals, may have never existed without that verdict, the indefatigable German prosecutor, Bruno Jost, and the extensive volumes of testimonies and records that were released.
Through tens of hours of interviews, I have often wondered why I, the supremely squeamish, the one who reaches for the remote when an actor reaches for his revolver, should be interested in the story of so gruesome a murder. The answer came to me as I sat packed among strangers in the coach class of a Berlin-bound Continental flight: Tyrannies strip nations of dignity, as do exile and war. And I have experienced that unholy trinity. I am an exile who has lived through the Iranian regime’s tyranny and the early years of the Iran-Iraq war.
The verdict in the Mykonos trial was a victory for every displaced or oppressed Iranian. Through this trial, the German judiciary restored dignity to Iranians by insisting that we were not dispensable beings. If there is one community of Muslim immigrants about whose assimilation Europe needs not worry, it is the Iranian community in Germany. By extending its laws to these immigrants, by giving them justice, the German judiciary gave Iranians a taste of what they could never have in their own country.
More than any assimilation program possibly could, this event turned ordinary Iranian immigrants into loyal German patriots. Former political prisoners, whether under the shah or the current regime, saw how a real court operates. Democracy, many of them believed, was a superior system, the right way to run a society. In this particular case, it was also highly therapeutic.
For once, Iranians had the pleasure of proving to Westerners, who are perpetually consumed by atrocities committed against their own, that the first victims of the Iranian regime and Hezbollah were Muslim Iranians, and that their war with the Western world began much later than their war against Iranians. Had Europe, had the world, spoken against those earlier crimes, the beast of terrorism may not have grown into the multiheaded monster that it is today.
What the Mykonos trial did for the cause of democracy and rule of law in Iran cannot be accomplished by military might. The 1992 case is still open, as are the cases of several other murders throughout Europe. Solving these murders and bringing justice to their victims are among the most effective steps the international community can take to strengthen the hands of the democratic forces in Iran.
Roya Hakakian, the co-founder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center and the author of “Journey From the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran,” is writing a book about the assassinations at Mykonos.