Sunday, June 24, 2007
Filmmaker with French nationality asks “Why am I still being kept here?”Iran 21.06.2007
Filmmaker with French nationality asks “Why am I still being kept here?”
Reporters Without Borders has written twice to the French foreign ministry about the Iranian government’s refusal to allow Mehrnoushe Solouki, a documentary filmmaker with French and Iranian dual nationality, to leave Iran.
“Solouki is in a very difficult situation,” the press freedom organisation said. “The Iranian authorities are saying nothing. While no charges were brought against her after she spent a month in detention, the Tehran prosecutor’s office is awaiting a green light from the intelligence ministry to allow her to leave the country.”
Reporters Without Borders added: “Her family had to mortgage their home to pay the large amount of bail demanded for her release. This is just one more source of pressure on the young filmmaker, along with the many summonses for questioning that she has received since being set free.”
Reached by telephone, Solouki told Reporters Without Borders she did not understand the Iranian authorities’ silence. “Why am I still being held in Iran?” she asked. “Didn’t I have the consent and politically sacrosanct authorisations of Iranian officials to come to Iran? To spend time here and to film? Have I broken any rule, any of the rules laid down by the Islamic Republic? After an investigation, the Iranian judicial authorities concluded that I had not.”
Solouki added: “So why I am still being held in Iran? Am I guilty because I have French citizenship? Because I resided in Canada? Because I am an independent filmmaker? The interior ministry’s silence does not bode well.”
Solouki went to Iran in December 2006 to make a documentary about the events that followed the 1988 cease-fire between Iraq and Iran. She was arrested on 17 February and was held in Evin prison. She was finally released on 19 March after payment of 100 million toumen (80,000 euros) in bail. Her French passport was returned to her after the French embassy intervened. But the Iranian authorities are still holding on to all her notes and a portable hard drive that contains 70 per cent of the film she shot.
Parnaz Azima, a journalist with Iranian and American dual nationality who works for Radio Free Europe in the Czech Republic, is also currently barred from leaving Iran. She was accused of “propaganda against the Islamic Republic” and working for a “counter-revolutionary” radio station after she travelled to Iran in January to see her ailing mother. She has avoided imprisonment by paying the equivalent of 411,000 euros in bail but the authorities are holding on to her passport and she must remain in Iran until her trial takes place.
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Friday, June 22, 2007
Letter to the UN about Ali ShakeriUnited Republicans of Iran
For a Democratic and Secular Republic
Honorable Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations
Ms. Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
As you are well aware, Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Iran is a signatory, states that: (1) everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
After a month of uncertainty, finally the Islamic Republic of Iran confirmed the arrest of our friend and colleague, Mr. Ali Shakeri. Ali who is a member of the United Republicans of Iran was in Iran visiting his ailing mother and subsequently arrested while boarding a plane in Tehran.
For weeks it was unclear as to the reason and under whose jurisdiction he had been detained. Finally it was announced that he was being held on security-related charges and investigated by the security department of the Tehran prosecutor's office.
Throughout history, “security-related charges” has been a tool by despotic regimes to hold their citizens in confinement without proper judicial procedure. We are also concerned about the arrest of the 3 other Iranians, scholars Haleh Esfandiari, Kian Tajbakhsh as well as Nazi Azima, a reporter for Radio Farda. Although Ms. Azima is not under arrest but her passport has been confiscated and she is prohibited from leaving the country.
We hope that the United Nations as well as the OHCHR as the principal United Nations official responsible for United Nations human rights activities will take every step at its disposal to gain the freedom of these Iranians to return to their concerned families.
With outmost Respect,
International Relations Coordinator
June 22, 2007
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Thursday, June 21, 2007
Iran Leads the World in Executing ChildrenIran Leads the World in Executing Children
New Executions Highlight Arbitrary Nature of Iranian Justice
(New York, June 20, 2007) – Iran should immediately suspend the use of the death penalty for crimes committed by children under age 18, Human Rights Watch said today. Iran is known to have executed at least 17 juvenile offenders since the beginning of 2004 – eight times more than any other country in the world. Iran’s highest judicial authorities have repeatedly upheld death sentences handed down to juvenile offenders charged with committing crimes when they were as young as 15. Such sentences violate Iran’s international treaty obligations, which prohibit the death penalty for crimes committed by people under 18. In some cases, the death sentences also violate Iranian domestic law requiring that children under 18 be tried before special juvenile courts. “Iran holds the deplorable distinction of leading the world in juvenile executions, and the authorities should end this practice at once,” said Clarisa Bencomo, children’s rights researcher on the Middle East at Human Rights Watch. “The Iranian government needs to stop sending children to the gallows and start living up to its international obligations by issuing clear legislation to ban the juvenile death penalty.” Iran is known to have executed two juvenile offenders already this year. Syed Mohammad Reza Mousavi Shirazi, 20, was executed in Adel Abd prison in the city of Shiraz on April 22 for a murder he allegedly committed when he was 16. His family was not notified of the planned execution and did not see him prior to the execution. Documents in Human Rights Watch’s possession show that both the lower court and the Supreme Court acknowledged that Mousavi was wrongly tried in an adult court. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court rejected Mousavi’s request for a retrial before a juvenile court, accepting the lower court’s argument that it was in effect “acting in place of a juvenile court.” The Supreme Court confirmed the death sentence, stating “in the light of the direct confession of the accused and the rest of the evidence presented against him, the court sees no significant flaws or shortcomings in the proceedings.” Torture and ill-treatment are common in Iranian detention centers, making the court’s willingness to accept a child’s confession in a death penalty case particularly disturbing. In a separate case, Iranian authorities executed 17-year-old Sa'id Qanbar Zahi in Zahedan on May 27. According to press accounts, Zahi’s arrest, confession, trial, sentencing, and execution took place in the space of a few weeks. If true, these factors raise serious doubts that the 17-year-old was able to mount a meaningful defense, and raise further serious concerns about whether other basic fair trial standards were met. Iranian officials have repeatedly stated that they are working to comply with Iran’s legal obligations by ending executions of child offenders. High-ranking Judiciary officials have repeatedly said that no juvenile executions take place in Iran. On October 1, the chief of Tehran’s Judiciary, Alireza Avaii, told reporters that “our current policy is that execution sentences for juveniles not be implemented and it has been a long time that any such executions have taken place.” Iranian officials also point to legislation that would establish a new legal framework for juvenile courts, pending in parliament since July 2006, and claim that it would end executions of juvenile offenders. In fact, this legislation would only offer the possibility of reducing sentences if the judge finds that the defendant is not mentally mature. The proposed legislation (Article 33) makes clear that reduction of sentences in qisas and hadd crimes, for which punishment includes execution, shall be applied “when the complete mental maturity of the defendant is in doubt.” Qisas crimes are offenses against a private right where the victim is entitled to a similar retribution, and hadd crimes are offenses with punishments specified under the Islamic penal code. Article 31.3 of the proposed law would allow a sentence of the death penalty or life imprisonment, if imposed on juvenile defendants ages 15 to 18, to be reduced to a term of imprisonment ranging from two to eight years in a juvenile correctional facility. The majority of juvenile executions in Iran are for qisas and hadd crimes, where judges would continue to have discretion to order executions, if the mental maturity of the defendant is determined by the judge not to be in doubt. “Iran has had more than enough time to demonstrate its commitment to ending the juvenile death penalty,” Bencomo said. “The government now needs to take urgent, concrete steps to end this practice.” Human Rights Watch called on the Iranian parliament to remove from the proposed law the discretion for a judge to impose the death sentence on a juvenile offender. Parliament should also pass the remainder of the proposed legislation mandating reduction of sentences as soon as possible. Human Rights Watch also urged the Council of Guardians, a clerical body with veto power over adopted legislation, not to oppose the proposed legislation. Only Iran, Sudan, China and Pakistan are known to have executed juvenile offenders since 2004. Sudan carried out two such executions in 2005, while China executed one juvenile offender in 2004 and Pakistan executed one juvenile offender in 2006. In contrast, Iran is known to have executed at least three juvenile offenders in 2004, eight in 2005, and four in 2006. In total numbers, only China carries out more executions than Iran. On a per capita basis, Iran executes more people annually than any other country. Two core international human rights treaties, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, prohibit the imposition of the death penalty for crimes committed before the age of 18. Iran has ratified both treaties.
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Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Iran: Amnesty International appeals against planned executions by stoningAMNESTY INTERNATIONALPublic StatementAI Index: MDE 13/075/2007 (Public)News Service No: 115 20 June 2007
Iran: Amnesty International appeals against planned executions by stoningAmnesty International today made an urgent appeal to the Head of the Judiciary, Ayatollah Shahroudi, to prevent the executions of two people due to be publicly stoned to death tomorrow, 21 June 2007. The two – Mokarrameh Ebrahimi (f) and an unnamed man – are scheduled to be killed in a cemetery in the town of Takestan, Qazvin province. According to activists involved in the ‘Stop Stoning Forever’ campaign in Iran, (which can be viewed in Persian at http://www.meydaan.com/news.aspx?nid=391) Mokarrameh Ebrahimi and the unnamed man were sentenced to death after conviction of adultery. Under article 83 of Iran’s Penal Code, execution by stoning is prescribed for adultery committed by a married man or a married woman. Under Iranian law, adultery can only be proved by the testimony of eyewitnesses (the number required varying for different types of adultery), a confession by the defendant (repeated four times), or the judge's "knowledge" that the adultery has taken place. In this case, the basis for the conviction of adultery was the judge’s “knowledge”, apparently on the basis that they had a child together.Mokarrameh Ebrahimi and the unnamed man have been imprisoned for the past 11 years in Choubin prison. Qazvin province. Recently, they reportedly appealed to the Judicial Commission for Amnesty and Clemency to overturn their stoning sentence, but the appeal was rejected. The stoning was then scheduled for 17 June, but is now due to take place on 21 June – in public, and reportedly in the presence of the judge from Branch 1 of the Criminal Court in Takestan. It is reported that he will throw the first stone, following which those present at the public gathering will continuing stoning the two until they are pronounced dead. The pits in which Mokarrameh Ebrahimi and the unnamed man will be placed in order to be stoned are reported to have been dug already in Behesht-e Zahra cemetery in preparation for the executions. Amnesty International is urging the Iranian authorities to intervene immediately to prevent the planned stonings and to commute the death sentences in both cases. The organization opposes the death penalty in all cases as the ultimate cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment. Execution by stoning aggravates the brutality of the death penalty, being specifically designed to increase the victim's suffering since the stones are deliberately chosen to be large enough to cause pain, but not so large as to kill the victim immediately. Amnesty International is also calling on the Iranian government to abolish altogether executions by stoning and to impose a moratorium pending the repeal or amendment of article 83 of the Penal Code All existing sentences of execution by stoning should be commuted. Amnesty International also opposes the criminalization of consensual adult sexual relations conducted in private, and further urges the Iranian authorities to review all relevant legislation with the aim of decriminalizing consensual adult sexual relations conducted in private.
BACKGROUND INFORMATIONExecution by stoning is prescribed under Iranian law for adultery committed by a married man or a married woman. The Iranian Penal Code is very specific about the manner of execution and types of stones which should be used. Article 102 states that men will be buried up to their waists and women up to their breasts for the purpose of execution by stoning. Article 104 states, with reference to the penalty for adultery, that the stones used should "not be large enough to kill the person by one or two strikes; nor should they should they be so small that they could not be defined as stones".In December 2002 Ayatollah Shahroudi, the Head of the Judiciary, reportedly sent a ruling to judges ordering a moratorium on execution by stoning, pending a decision on a permanent change in the law, which was apparently being considered by the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. However, in September 2003, a law concerning the implementation of certain kinds of penalties, including stoning, was passed, which appeared to undermine this moratorium. Also despite the moratorium, Amnesty International continued to record sentences of stoning being passed, though none of these were known to have been implemented until May 2006, when a woman and a man were reportedly stoned to death. The two victims- Abbas (m) and Mahboubeh (f) were reportedly stoned to death in a cemetery in Mashhad, after being convicted of murdering Mahboubeh’s husband, and of adultery - a charge which carries the penalty of stoning. Part of the cemetery was cordoned off from the public, and more than 100 members of the Revolutionary Guard, and Bassij Forces, who had been invited to attend, reportedly participated in stoning the couple to death. On 21 November 2006, the late Minister of Justice, Jamal Karimi-Rad, denied that stonings were being carried out in Iran, a claim repeated on 8 December 2006 by the Head of the Prisons Organization in Tehran. The campaigners against stoning have since stated in response that there is irrefutable evidence that the Mashhad stoning did indeed occur.In mid-2006, a group of Iranian human rights defenders, mostly women, including activists, journalists and lawyers, began a campaign to abolish stoning, having identified nine women and two men under sentence of death by stoning: Hajieh Esmailvand, Ashraf Kalhori, Parisa, Iran, Khayrieh, Shamameh Ghorbani (also known as Malek), Kobra Najjar, Soghra Mola’i, Fatemeh, Abdollah F., and Najaf. The ‘Stop Stoning Forever’ campaign aims to save the lives of the nine women and two men under sentence of stoning, and to abolish stoning in law and practice. Lawyers in the group undertook to represent them. Since the campaign began, three individuals have been saved from stoning, others have been granted stays of execution, and some of the cases are being reviewed or re-tried. Hajieh Esmailvand was acquitted on 9 December 2006 of the charge of adultery, for which she had been sentenced to stoning, and is now free from prison; Parisa was released on 5 December 2006 after receiving 99 lashes, following a Supreme Court ruling which changed her sentence of execution by stoning to flogging; the stoning sentence of Najaf - Parisa’s husband - was also changed to flogging by the Supreme Court.
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Monday, June 18, 2007
Action at the UN Plaza in NY on behalf of Haleh Esfandiari and other detained Iranian-AmericansVIGIL TO SUPPORT HUMAN RIGHTS IN IRAN AND TO CALL FOR JUSTICE FOR DETAINED IRANIAN-AMERICAN SCHOLARS AND ACTIVISTS
THE IRANIAN GOVERNMENT HAS RECENTLY BEEN ENGAGED IN A WIDESPREAD CRACKDOWN ON CIVIL SOCIETY IN IRAN
In May the government of Iran arrested four Iranian-Americans: prominent U.S. scholars Haleh Esfandiari and Kian Tajbakhsh, journalist Parnaz Azima and activist Ali Shakeri. Esfandiari, Tajbakhsh and Shakeri remain in detention where they are subject to ill-treatment. All four face serious charges stemming from their peaceful activism and scholarly work and could be sentenced to long prison terms.
JOIN AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL, THE AMERICAN ISLAMIC CONGRESS AND HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH AS WE CALL FOR JUSTICE AND FOR THE RELEASE OF THE DETAINED IRANIAN-AMERICANS
SPEAKERS TO INCLUDE SHAUL BAKHASH, HUSBAND OF HALEH ESFANDIARI, AND ZAINAB AL-SUWAIJ OF THE AMERICAN ISLAMIC CONGRESS
WHERE: Dag Hammarskjold Plaza at 1st Avenue and 47nd Street across from the United Nations Plaza
WHEN: Wednesday June 27, 12 noon to 1 pm
Feel free to bring signs calling for freedom for the detained Iranian-Americans. This is to be a non-political and non-partisan action advocating human rights
For more information contact Sharon McCarter 202-691-4016 or Amnesty International USA 202-675-8755
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Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Iran: Women's rights activists releasedIran: Women's rights activists released
Amnesty International Public Statement
Amnesty International welcomes the news that Ehteram Shadfar and another woman, detained on 10 June, were released under personal guarantee on 11 June 2007. Ehteram Shadfar told the Iranian Students' News Agency after her release that she had been questioned about her activities in gathering signatures for the "Campaign for Equality" (which aims to collect a million signatures of Iranians to a petition demanding an end to legalised discrimination against women in Iran) and that a case is being prepared against her.
Amnesty International is urging the Iranian authorities not to bring charges against the two women, as it considered them to be prisoners of conscience, and to end the harassment and persecution of supporters of the campaign.
Amnesty International is very concerned to learn that the Tehran authorities have not granted permission for a gathering of women to be held today, the anniversary of a demonstration calling for equal rights for women in 2006. According to a report by the Iranian Labour News Agency on 11 June, one of the main organizers of the planned gathering had been told that the authorities would not permit it to go ahead. Behareh Hedayat, Head of the Women's Commission of the Office for the Consolidation of Unity (a student organization) and a member of its central committee, was reported to have said that although the organizers had sought permission for the gathering 10 days in advance, having been told by the authorities that permission would be granted if they did so, they had informed on the morning of 11 June that the authorities were opposed to the gathering and would not give permission for it to proceed.
Amnesty International is calling on the Iranian authorities to allow all Iranians to exercise their right to gather peacefully, as provided for under Iranian law and international human rights standards on freedom of expression and association.
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Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Iran: Authorities maintain pressure on women's rights activists as anniversary of demonstration approachesPublic Statement by Amnesty International
Amnesty International is calling on the Iranian authorities to release immediately and unconditionally two women detained in connection with their peaceful activities to promote equal rights for women, to halt all trial proceedings that could result in the imprisonment of other prisoners of conscience and cease the harassment of those campaigning to uphold women’s rights in Iran. The organization is concerned that such protestors have been increasingly targeted since 10 April 2007, when Minister of Intelligence Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie publicly accused the women's movement and student campaigners of being part of an enemy conspiracy aiming at a “soft subversion” of the government in Iran.
Amnesty International is also calling on the Iranian authorities to respect the internationally recognised rights to freedom of expression and assembly and to permit a gathering planned for 12 June 2007 to go ahead. The authorities should also ensure that the policing of the meeting is consistent with international standards on law enforcement such as the United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, and that there should be no repetition of previous incidents when police have attacked or otherwise used violence against peaceful women’s rights and other demontsrtaors.
Arrest of activists
The Iranian authorities have arrested two members of the “Campaign for Equality,” which aims to collect a million signatures of Iranians in support of demands for law reform to end legalised discrimination against women, in the run up to the first anniversary of a demonstration to demand equal rights for women under Iranian law.
According to the Campaign’s website, (http://weforchange.info/english/spip.php?article100&var_mode=calcul), Ehteram Shadfar, a 62-year-old member of the Women’s Cultural Centre, who has been active collecting signatures for the campaign, was arrested at 1pm on 10 June 2007 by police who came to her house with a 50-year-old neighbour, who does not wish to be identified, who had apparently been arrested while collecting signatures. According to Maryam Taghavi, Ehteram Shadfar’s daughter, her mother was taken away by a plain clothes official, a chador-clad woman and a soldier, who possessed no arrest warrant although such a warrant is required under Iranian law.
The officials said the women would be questioned and would be returned to their homes after an hour. However, they were not released. They were taken to Niloufar police station and then transferred to the Vozara Detention Centre, where they are believed to be still held, after a judge issued an order for their arrest. No charges are known to have been brought against them, but activists believe they have been detained in connection with their collection of signatures for the campaign. Amnesty International believes they are prisoners of conscience, held solely for the peaceful exercise of their internationally recognized right to freedom of expression and association and should therefore be released immediately and unconditionally.
The Iranian authorities have also made other arrests of people collecting signatures in support of the campaign. They include five women active in the “Million Signatures Campaign” who were arrested on 2 April 2007 while collecting signatures in Laleh Park in Tehran. Three were released after one day in detention, but Mahboubeh Hossein Zadeh and Nahid Keshavarz were taken to Evin Prison and were released only on bail on 15 April 2007. They were reportedly accused of “acting against state security through propaganda against the system”.
Reprisals against participants in the 12 June 2006 demonstration
At a peaceful demonstration on 12 June 2006, around 70 activists were arrested, some of whom were beaten by police. Most were released shortly afterwards, but Sayed Ali Akbar Mousavi-Kho’ini was held for over four months and alleges that he was tortured in detention. Several of those who attended the demonstration have faced judicial proceedings: Zhila Bani Yaghoub, a journalist, was acquitted of the charge of attending an illegal demonstration in February 2007. Five others have since been sentenced to prison terms: on 18 April 2007, 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; on 24 April 2007, Branch Six of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran sentenced both Noushin Ahmadi Khorassani, Shahla Entesari and Parvin Ardalan to three years’ imprisonment for “collusion and assembly [intended] to endanger national security,” of which two-and-a-half years were suspended. None of these five are currently detained, pending the outcome of appeals against their sentences.
In May it was announced that Behareh Hedayat, a university student and Head of the Women’s Commission of the Office for the Consolidation of Unity, a student organization, had been sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, suspended for five years, on charges of “acting against state security”. She had been tried in April, without the presence of her lawyer, and was reportedly acquitted of two other charges of “participating in an illegal demonstration” and “disturbing public order”. Other women have also been summoned to court sessions although their verdicts have not yet been announced.
On 4 March 2007, at one of the trial sessions of the five women sentenced in April, the police arrested 33 women who had gathered peacefully outside the courtroom to protest about the trial. All were released, some on bail, but some are continuing to face harassment and persecution by the authorities. For example, Zeinab Peyghambarzadeh, a student and women’s rights activist who is involved in the Campaign for Equality, was detained on 7 May 2007, after being summoned to court in connection with her participation in the 4 March gathering. She was released on bail on 16 May, after court officials had repeatedly obstructed her father’s attempts to meet the bail payment. She had also spent four days in detention in January 2007 while collecting signatures on the Tehran metro. 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”. Also in April, Azadeh Forghani, who on 11 April, was given a two-year suspended sentence in connection with the 12 June demonstration, was summoned to court where she was questioned and informed that she was facing new charges in connection with the 4 March gathering.
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Thursday, June 07, 2007
An Open Letter to Judiciary of the Islamic Republic: Who is responsible for Arrest of Ali Shakeri?For a Democratic and Secular Republic
June 8, 2007
An Open Letter to Judiciary of the Islamic Republic!
Who is responsible for
Arrest of Ali Shakeri?
Head of the Judiciary of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Ayatollah Seyed Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi
Almost a month has passed since the arrest of Ali Shakeri, a member of the United Republicans of Iran, who was visiting his dying mother who passed away days after seeing him for the last time.
Still authorities under your jurisdiction decline to reveal his whereabouts and the reason for his rest. On the very same day that Mr. Alireza Jamshidi, the spokesperson for the Judiciary stated in an interview that “Mr. Shakeri is not arrested and there are no charges pending against him” Daily Keyhan reported on his arrest along with fabricated charges.
The United Republicans of Iran strongly condemns the arrest of Ali Shakeri and expects you as the head of the judiciary of the country to announce under whose jurisdiction he has been detained and why it has cleared itself for his detention.
We are worried about the safety of Ali and demand to hear about his status and for him to have the right to a lawyer and for his immediate release.
At the same time, we are concerned about the safety and wellbeing of three other Iranians namely Mrs. Haleh Esfandiari, Mrs. Nazi Azima as well as Mr. Kian Tajbakhsh. The charges against them are without merit and that they must be released immediately.
We seek guarantee of security for all Iranian for their basic right as a citizen to travel to their country without fear and intimidation and warn the leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran on its consequences.