Friday, August 31, 2007
URI letter to Louise ArbourUnited Republicans of Iran
For a Democratic and Secular Republic
August 30, 2007
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Honorable Louise Arbour,
We are delighted to hear that you are planning to visit Iran in the very near future. We hope your trip succeeds in its goals. As you are well aware, at no time in the history of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the condition of human rights in Iran has been as dire as it is today. As we write this letter to you, two Kurdish journalists Adnan Hassanpour and Abdolwahed Butimar (Heeva) are in jail facing execution just for exercising their basic right of free speech. These two journalists began a hunger strike protesting their condition and we are gravely concerned about their health. Many students are facing an uncertain future. Although most of them are now free on bail, but any day they may be rearrested and sent back to prison. Meanwhile they have been barred from continued education. Yet another sign of Islamic Republics disregard of its citizens rights. While on a visit to see his ailing mother, Ali Shakeri, a human rights and peace activist living in the United States, was taken into custody and remains in jail with no charges against him. A number of women are in jail for protesting the discrimination laws against them. Some have been released only after posting huge bounds. The women who began a campaign to collect one million signatures to demand changes to the discriminatory laws just celebrated one year anniversary of this campaign. I hope in your visit to Iran, you will be able to meet them and follow up on their campaign. No doubt you have heard about the case of Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Middle East Program, Kian Tajbakhsh, scholar, social scientist and urban planner working at the Open Society Institute and Parnaz Azima, a reporter for Radio free Europe/Radio Liberty. Mrs. Esfandiari was recently released after posting $330,000 bail but she is unable to leave Iran. Kian Tajbakhsh remains in jail charged with plot to foment a velvet revolution. And last but not least, Ms. Azima’s passport has been confiscated.
We do hope in your visit to Iran, you can visit these prisoners and others who we have not mentioned in this letter as well as their families and ask the Iranian Government to release them immediately and unconditionally.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us for additional information. In Europe you can contact Dr. Mehran Barati at +49-30-3247402 or +49-172-3238331 and in United States Mehdi Amini at (703) 850-7311
Dr. Mehran Barati,
International Relations Coordinator, Europe
International Relations Coordinator, USA
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Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Interview with Movie Director Jafar PanahiPaying a price in a social Movement is inevitable
Interview with Movie Director Jafar Panahi
Conducted by: Delaram Ali and Kaveh Mozafari
Saturday August 25, 2007
Translated by: M A
Born in 1960 in the city of Mianeh, Jafar Panahi is the best known Iranian Director in the world. His two films, Dayereh (Circle) and offside, which never received the required license to be shown [inside Iran], was able to bring to public attention, the suffering of the Iranian Women. He is among the supporters and a signatory of the Campaign to collect one million signatures to change the discriminatory laws in Iran. We sat with him to talk about the women’s issues as well as the Campaign.
---Mr. Panahi, what was the idea and motive behind the making of the movies Circle and offside? Meaning why did you put your emphasis on the women’s issue?
--- In the very first movies that I directed, including Baad Konak (Balloon), the theme and the main emphasis has always been the issue of “social injustices” and naturally when you live in a society such as Iran, you have to deal with the women’s issue. I do not mean that the women are the only subject of these injustices but rather they are the most deprived segment. Off course men are affected by these discriminations as well. Since they have families and in a society where such discrimination abounds, it will affect them as well. Off course in neither of these two movies, we have taken side but rather have narrated the reality and let the viewer’s judge where the discrimination comes from. Is it because of wrong policies? Incorrect culture? Is it rooted in religion and tradition? Or the outcome of wrong laws?
In reality, the people in my movies are representatives of certain mindset in our culture and at the same time subjects of indiscrimination from above and sometimes they have learned to explain away the realities. Both prisoners and the jailors are imprisoned in a bigger prison of unconsciousness. I believe in most instances the people have not accepted nor do they want to accept that discrimination exists.
In any case, this is the law that rules and people can not do much about it.
--- What is your view on the human activists? For example, does the Campaign not show to some degree the attempt to change the discrimination against women? Meaning those who are not trying to explain away the realities [but rather doing something about it]?
--- Yes. Unfortunately today in Iran we are witnessing the rulers who write the laws and try to enforce it with all means. Off course, this is the virtue of an ideological government which believes their way in the only way and it can not be changed. We are witnessing that even some religious heads (Olama) have shown positive opinion toward the Campaign or believe these issues must change based on today’s realities. But the ruling authorities do not recognize such interpretations. Because they see it as a deviation from explaining away the status quo.
I believe that this virtue of an ideological government looks for a certain model and it can not be changed by anyone. Hence, a Campaign such as yours becomes political which carries with it such judgements as propaganda against the state.
--- Mr. Panahi, today many of the Iranian artists avoid challenging the social problems with such slogans as “Arts for Arts”. They are in essence sacrificing the issue of a “committed artist” by separating themselves from the arena of social activism. Why is that?
--- We must not forget that there are differences between political discourses versus a social discourse. For example, I always say I am not a political director. I am not saying that as an individual, I do not have political ideas or beliefs but rather I do not produce political movies. Because I believe that a political movie has a historical purpose but a social movie with artistic and theatrical characteristics is deep and will not die with the passage of time. If I had political ideas in my movies, you would not have liked the actors that you enjoy, but if you see them share the same limitations, you would sympathize with them. With a social movie, you are searching for different segments of the society and try to recreate that. Additionally, what the actors picture it in their acting is not the result of their social activism but rather it is a very similar to when a director or some of the activists face a similar issue that is not necessarily due to a coordinated effort but rather a reaction to people with common worries that at some point may coincide with each other.
--- Mr. Panahi, the last question is that in your films that are women-related issues, do you pay any expense for it? And in what ways? In general, in such activities as the Campaign or producing a piece of art that looks at the social issues why must one pay for it?
--- We have to see under what society these demands and issues are brought up. Up to now we have not lived in an open society so it is natural that if it is not centered in the framework of the ruling ideology, it will have certain cost to it. Meaning any social activist or anyone else who has issues must pay for it. These expenses are not necessarily god or bad but it is a process that must be taken. No movement in a closed society can achieve its goals without paying for it and it is their responsibility to pay for it. These could be in the form of censorship of a movie or the pressure that is placed upon the activists of the Campaign.
 City in East Azarbaijan province, Iran.
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Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Iran's Guard builds a fiscal empirehttp://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-guards26aug26,1,755670.story?ctrack=2&cset=true
From the Los Angeles Times
Iran's Guard builds a fiscal empire
From construction to laser eye surgery, the Revolutionary Guard dominates the Iranian economy.By Kim MurphyLos Angeles Times Staff WriterAugust 26, 2007LONDON — Iran's Revolutionary Guard has quietly become one of the most significant political and economic powers in the Islamic Republic, with ties to more than 100 companies, which by some estimates control more than $12 billion in business and construction, economists and Iranian political analysts say.The Guard was created in 1979 as a military and intelligence force to protect the ideals of Iran's Islamic Revolution. But the 125,000-strong force has used the massive military engineering capability it developed rebuilding the country after the 1980-88 war with Iraq to take over the strategic highlands of the Iranian economy. The legendary people's army now has its hand in a broad and diverse variety of activities, such as dentistry and travel, and has become the dominant player in public construction projects across the country, say businessmen and economists in Tehran and analysts abroad. Under the leadership of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a former Revolutionary Guard commander, the force also has extended its reach in the Cabinet: 14 of 21 members are former Guard commanders. Former officers also hold 80 of the 290 seats in the parliament and a host of local mayorships and local council seats. Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, is a former Guardsman.The Revolutionary Guard's growing economic clout helps explain why the Bush administration is reportedly contemplating designating it a terrorist organization: More important than the label itself, the move would allow the U.S. to block its assets and disrupt operations by firms that associate with it, which with the Guard's large financial footprint would affect supplies, credit and investment to a broad swath of the Iranian economy. With billions of dollars in revenues at the Guard's disposal, analysts say, the organization that has been the ideological heart of the Islamic Revolution has developed an expanded capability to finance and mount covert military operations well outside the public eye. "Now, all the money that's coming in serves to make them the most powerful force in Iran. They have a massive hand in the economic sector," said Robin Hughes, deputy editor of the London-based Jane's Defense Weekly. "And what's important about that is there is no oversight body that exists that has the capability to supervise the IRGC's economic activities," he said, using initials of its formal name, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Across Iran, public works projects involving pipelines, roads, bridges and, increasingly, oil and gas are dominated by the Guard's engineering arm, the equivalent of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, or by companies with which the Guard has a close relationship. "The amount of money we're talking about is $12 billion to $15 billion in contracts. Unbelievable," said a Tehran-based economist who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons. "Basically, the private sector has no more space for doing civil projects in the country, or very few of them. All the projects are being done by special companies which belong to the Revolutionary Guards." Iranian officials have disclosed an estimated $6 billion in contracts the Revolutionary Guard has received over the years -- a figure equivalent to one-tenth of Iran's annual exports of $66.7 billion, mainly oil. The nation's annual gross domestic product is about $204 billion, unadjusted for cost of living. Even in cases where the Guard does not assert direct ownership of companies, there often are important below-the-radar links, said Mahan Abedin, an Iranian native who is research director for the Center for the Study of Terrorism in London."The people who do the really tough jobs on these big construction projects, because they design a lot of them, are part of the Revolutionary Guards. But that ownership is never stated," Abedin said. "There is a very complex commercial structure in place. They will always hide that link."Back in the '80s, it was a very pure force, ideologically. Very Islamic. But now the whole thing is about making money."The Revolutionary Guard plays a unique role in Iranian society. It was envisioned as a people's army that would provide a counterweight to the regular military and protect the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's Islamic Revolution against the threat of foreign-sponsored coups, and today it remains a bastion of Islamic ideology. Its troops are organized in parallel to the Iranian military, complete with an officers' academy and independent naval, air and ground components. It also runs a large and widely feared domestic and foreign intelligence service, and reports directly to the supreme leader of Iran's Shiite regime.The Guard has mobilized its equipment stockpiles, wartime medical know-how, weapons-building capability and cheap military labor to become the contractor of choice on many government projects. "The IRGC is so deeply entrenched in Iran's economy and commercial enterprises, it is increasingly likely that if you are doing business with Iran, you are somehow doing business with the IRGC," Henry Paulson, U.S. Treasury secretary, said in a speech last month.No oversightCrucially important to U.S. officials weighing the possibility of sanctions is that the Guard presides over a multibillion- dollar income stream outside the scrutiny of Iran's parliament or the national budgeting process, according to many of those familiar with the Guard's operations.Such a cash flow, Iranian opposition leaders and some analysts have argued, could be marshaled to finance clandestine military operations, such as support to Iraq's Shiite militias, weapons for Lebanon's Hezbollah fighters or clandestine nuclear development programs.The controversial uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, which came to light in 2002, was developed under close supervision by the Revolutionary Guard without disclosure under the parliament's public budgeting process. Since then, U.S. officials have attempted to impose a series of sanctions to halt financing of Iran's nuclear and missile development programs."They don't answer to anybody. Because they have the power. They have the guns," said Mohsen Sazegara, a co-founder of the Guard who helped draft its original charter, but who has gone into exile in the U.S. "And when there is no free media to criticize them, naturally they start to become corrupt, to start to do whatever they want. This is now the situation."Revolutionary Guard leaders have said they are using their expertise and equipment for the good of the nation, and are not only providing employment, but generating work for companies that subcontract with the organization. Many Iranians have argued that it is better to have Guard engineering firms in charge of strategic sectors of the economy than relying on foreign firms. "The IRGC considers itself responsible for the defense of the Islamic Revolution, its achievements, and the ideology and values of Imam Khomeini," the chief commander, Yahya Rahim Safavi, wrote in a letter to the parliament in 2003. "Our main mission is to stop those who wish to destroy and overthrow the Islamic Revolution."Last year, the Guard's main engineering firm, Khatam al Anbia, was awarded a contract to construct a $1.3-billion, 560-mile gas pipeline to the Pakistan border. It is also the lead contractor for development of a portion of Iran's massive South Pars gas field, a project worth $2.3 billion, beating out more experienced foreign oil and gas contractors. And Guard interests are also thought to be in control of the transport of oil from Kazakhstan through Iran.The Guard also won two contracts potentially worth $2 billion for expansion of Tehran's subway system and is linked to a company that assembles up to 50,000 Mazda cars a year in Iran. Chances are, Iranians who go in for laser eye surgery are being treated by the employees of the Revolutionary Guard, which operates a major hospital in Tehran and several dental and eye clinics. In 2004, the much-heralded new Imam Khomeini International Airport just south of Tehran, run by a Turkish-Austrian consortium, had been open only a few hours when it was ordered closed by the Guard, citing "security" concerns.Several analysts said the closure was widely believed to be an attempt by the Guard to protect its oversight of air shipments to and from the Iranian capital. It is now under Guard control, out of the prying eyes of outsiders. Iranian analysts say that some elements of the Guard have leveraged its control of Iran's borders into an informal relationship with gangs that smuggle in alcohol, cigarettes and satellite dishes from Iraq. No competitionMany of Iran's businessmen say it is impossible to compete against companies that not only have the inside track in government contracting but the armed force of the law behind them.A businessman who would allow only his first name, Ali, to be published said his company lost out in bids for overhauling an oil terminal in the port of Mah Shahr and expansion of the port in Chabahar after a Guard-affiliated company bid was one-third less and won the contract."How can we compete?" he said. "Why can they offer such an inexpensive price for a civil project like this? A, they have access to cheap assets and equipment owned by the IRGC. B, for unskilled workers they can use the drafted soldier, though we have to pay. C, they are confident that once they win the tender, they can ignore the overruns."Reports that the Bush administration may designate the Guard a terrorist organization have drawn widespread condemnation across Iran.Many analysts have said the idea of designating a national army as a terrorist group dooms any hope of cooperation between the U.S. and Iran on security in Iraq. The public, though mindful of some corruption in the Guard ranks, largely sees the organization as a source of national pride and a guardian of Iran's aspirations as a force to be reckoned with in the Middle East.But Sazegara said the organization's economic role is a breach of the original mission he helped craft for it as an associate of Khomeini: to act as a people's army, a protector of revolutionary ideals and an obstacle against any coup attempt by the regular army.He said the main force behind the Guard's movement into the economy was a mandate by former President Hashemi Rafsanjani for all government departments to begin generating some of their own revenues."This was not a bad idea. But you know, you have to control such an idea. Especially when you allow the security forces and military forces to get involved in creating income," said Sazegara, who is now a research fellow at Harvard University.Sazegara and others said some commanders, current and former, have become wealthy with the organization's moneymaking enterprises. But the majority are considered uncorrupted, and have resisted efforts to engage in businesses not advancing the Guard's revolutionary aims, they said."The main body of the Revolutionary Guard and the majority of the commanders, they don't like this situation. They don't want to be corrupted. They don't want to be involved in politics," Sazegara said."The IRGC can never be allowed to get too corrupt, because that would endanger the system as a whole," Abedin, the London-based terrorism expert. "It still is seen as a prime ideological force, the strong arm of the Islamic Revolution. So its ideological health is very, very important to key people in the regime, and they watch it very, very carefully."
firstname.lastname@example.orgTimes staff writer
Bob Drogin in Washington contributed to this report.
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Monday, August 27, 2007
RSF: Two journalists under sentence of death now on 42nd day of hunger strikeTwo journalists under sentence of death now on 42nd day of hunger strike
Reporters Without Borders is worried about the state of health of journalists Adnan Hassanpour and Abdolvahed “Hiva” Botimar, who are under sentence of death and who began their 42nd day on hunger strike today. Their lawyer, Saleh Nikhbakht, who met them on 20 August, said they are “very weak” and “will not hold out much longer.” They are consuming nothing but of water with a little sugar dissolved in it.
“We hold the chief of the judicial system, Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi, personally responsible for the state of health of these two journalists, which is the result of the appalling conditions in which they are being held,” the press freedom organisation said. “They are in solitary confinement and their most basic rights are being flouted.”
Hassanpour and Botimar, who write for the magazine Asou, went on hunger strike to protest against the conditions in Sanandaj prison, in Iran’s Kurdish northwest, where they have been held for more than six months. They have been allowed to see their families only once, on 8 August. They are demanding an end to their solitary confinement, their transfer to another prison and the ability to see their relatives and lawyers freely. They are also asking to see a justice department official.
In his latest statement, published by the FARS news agency, Nikhbakht said the Sanandaj prosecutor refused to transfer them to the prison in Marivan, where their families live, unless ordered to do so by Ayatollah Shahroudi.
A revolutionary tribunal in Marivan sentenced them to death on 16 July for spying, “subversive activities against national security” and “separatist propaganda.”
Meanwhile, Reporters Without Borders is still without news of Ako Kurdnasab, a journalist with the weekly Karfto, who has been held in Sanandaj prison since 21 July, and Soheil Assefi, a freelance journalist who contributes to several news media, who has been held in Tehran’s Evin prison since 4 August. Neither has been tried and it is not known what they are charged with. Assefi has not been allowed any visits.
Two non-political prisoners have been placed in the cell in which Payam-e mardom-e Kurdestan editor Mohammad Sadegh Kabovand is being held in the Evin prison’s security wing 209 and, as a result, he is worried about his safety, his wife said. Kabovand has been held in Evin prison since his arrest on 1 July and initially he was in solitary confinement.
With 11 journalist currently detained, Iran continues to be the Middle East’s biggest prison for the press and is one of the world’s 10 most repressive countries as regards freedom of the media.
Sign the petition on behalf of Adnan Hassanpour and Abdolvahed “Hiva” Botimar
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Iranian-American academic released on bail8/27/07
Iranian-American academic released on bail
Source: Amnesty International
· Dr Haleh Esfandiari (f), aged 67, academic, joint US-Iranian national
· Kian Tajbakhsh (m), aged 45, academic, joint US-Iranian national
· Parnaz Azima (f), journalist, joint US-Iranian national
· Ali Shakeri (m), aged 59, peace activist, joint US-Iranian national
Haleh Esfandiari was released on 21 August, on bail of three billion Rials (US$320,000). She is currently unable to leave Iran. The director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC, USA, Haleh Esfandiari was arrested on 8 May by officials from the Ministry of Intelligence and taken to Section 209 of Evin Prison in Tehran, which is run by the Ministry of Intelligence.
On 21 May the Ministry of Intelligence issued a statement accusing her of activities which it said was aimed at a “soft overthrow of the [Iranian] system”. A 29 May statement by the judiciary specified that she had been detained because of a complaint made by the Ministry of Intelligence, which accused her of "acting against state security through propaganda and espionage for foreigners". It is not clear, however, whether she has been formally charged. Haleh Esfandiari was never allowed to see her lawyers while she was in custody.
Kian Tajbakhsh, a social scientist and urban planner, was arrested on 11 May and is believed to be held in Section 209 of Evin Prison. He too was accused in May of “acting against Iran’s national security” and “spying for foreigners”. He does not have access to legal representation.
In July, Haleh Esfandiari appeared with Kian Tajbakhsh in an Iranian TV programme in which they gave what were described as "confessions" by some Iranian newspapers. Such footage breaches Iran’s obligations under the ICCPR, which guarantees the right “not to be compelled to testify against himself or to confess guilt”.
Parnaz Azima, a journalist with Radio Farda, the Persian-language service run jointly by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America, reportedly appeared before the Revolutionary Court's Public Prosecutor on 15 May and ordered to post bail. Bail of around US$440,000 was deposited on 21 May but the authorities have refused to return her passport. On 15 July, her lawyer stated that her case had been referred to Branch 13 of the Revolutionary Court. She has apparently been accused of “acting against national security by spreading propaganda against the system”. No date is known to have been set for a trial.
Ali Shakeri, a peace activist from the city of Irvine in California, USA, was arrested on 8 May at one of Tehran's international airports as he was leaving for Europe. He is held in an unknown location by the Ministry of Intelligence. He is not believed to have been charged. On 8 June, the judiciary confirmed that he was in custody. He has not been given access to legal representation. On 12 August, Tehran’s Deputy Prosecutor stated that Ali Shakeri’s case was not related to the cases of Haleh Esfandiari and Kian Tajbaksh and that “the time had not yet arrived for providing full information about his situation”
In recent months the Iranian authorities have increased pressure on journalists, academics, human rights defenders and others perceived as having links with foreign countries or having been involved in initiatives to build Iran’s civil society. In April, 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. In May, an official at the Ministry of Intelligence warned Iranian academics not to have contact with foreigners. He said, "Unfortunately our academics are subject to intelligence threats, and,with the methods they use, they first establish an initial contact, and this academic contact soon turns into an intelligence link."
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in Persian, Arabic, English, French or your own language:
- welcoming the release on bail of Haleh Esfandiari and calling for any charges against her and Parnaz Azima relating solely to the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and association to be dropped and for them to be allowed to travel freely;
- expressing concern for the safety of Kian Tajbakhsh and Ali Shakeri, and urging the authorities to ensure that they are not tortured or otherwise ill-treated;
- calling on the authorities to release Kian Tajbakhsh immediately and unconditionally, as he is held solely for his peaceful activities, including his academic work;
- calling on the authorities to make public the current whereabouts of Ali Shakeri and to release him immediately and unconditionally if he is not to be charged with a recognisably criminal offence;
- calling for Kian Tajbakhsh and Ali Shakeri to be granted immediate and unconditional access to their lawyers, families and any medical treatment they may require;
- asking to be informed in detail of the reasons for their arrest, including any charges brought against them;
- reminding the authorities that Iran is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and that under Article 14 (g), everyone has the right not to be compelled to testify against him or herself or to confess guilt, and urging them to end the practice of showing videotaped “confessions” on television.
Leader of the Islamic RepublicHis Excellency Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei
The Office of the Supreme LeaderIslamic Republic Street - Shahid Keshvar Doust StreetTehran, Islamic Republic of IranEmail: email@example.comSalutation: 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
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (In the subject line write: FAO Ayatollah Shahroudi)
Salutation: Your Excellency
Minister of Intelligence
Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie
Ministry of Intelligence, Second Negarestan Street, Pasdaran Avenue, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Salutation: Your Excellency
His Excellency Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
The Presidency, Palestine Avenue, Azerbaijan Intersection, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
via website: www.president.ir/email
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 5 October 2007.
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Iran: Radio Farda Journalist Describes Life 'In Limbo'Iran: Radio Farda Journalist Describes Life 'In Limbo'
(RFE/RL)August 27, 2007 -- For more than eight months, Iranian authorities have prevented Radio Farda correspondent Parnaz Azima from leaving the country. In an interview with Radio Farda on August 26, Azima said she lives in a state of limbo, never knowing precisely what are the charges against her or where they may lead. A citizen of both the United States and Iran, Azima has not been allowed to leave Iran since January 25, when she returned to visit her ailing mother.
RFE/RL: Court authorities have shown your attorney, Mohammad Hossien Aghasi, the specifics of your case for the first time. What is your reaction to the fact that it is now official that you have been barred from leaving Iran indefinitely until Intelligence Ministry officials return your confiscated Iranian passport?
Parnaz Azima: It is like you are in an unknown situation spending time in a state of limbo.... It is hard to put up with this when you don't know how long [it takes] and for an indefinite amount of time you end up living in a temporary situation, especially when you suddenly left everything [in the Czech Republic] and find yourself in Iran due to the illness of your mother.... I have left my apartment abroad for eight months, hoping God would look after it.... My grandchild will be born soon in the United States and I wish I could be there to experience this. I was under medical treatment before coming to Iran and that is now interrupted.
"Now, imagine a life in which you permanently think and feel that you are under surveillance, your visits and probably your phone calls are under control, and it is not clear when these will end."
In addition to all of this, an article was published in a newspaper in Iran in which it was implied that I was under surveillance.... I mean it was said that my visits with others are related to my work and things like this, which shows that therefore I am under surveillance. Now, imagine a life in which you permanently think and feel that you are under surveillance, your visits and probably your phone calls are under control, and it is not clear when these will end.... On top of that, if I have a security-related case, you have the feeling of threat or this concern that at every moment they may come to your home to inspect your residence.... The situation has become such that my close friends hesitate to visit me because these arrests and all the existing conditions have caused a fear among people, to which I give them every right. But, well, it is not that easy to bear this situation, especially when it becomes long-term and when you do not know when it will end.
RFE/RL: Have any officials made hopeful promises to you?
Azima: Well, some institutions representing the judiciary have tried to do some mediation; but they, too, made some suggestions to me that the Intelligence Ministry had suggested to me before -- i.e., the conditions they set up were similar to those of the Intelligence Ministry and under no conditions did I bend over and accept them. This has been the limit of such efforts and this contact, of course, was made only once.
RFE/RL: Which institution within the judiciary was it that contacted you?
Azima: I prefer not to mention its name.
RFE/RL: What were the specific suggestions made to you that you alluded to?
Azima: There was, of course, a new condition added. The first condition was to cooperate with the Intelligence Ministry -- the Intelligence Ministry had already proposed this to me, but I had rejected it. Then they suggested resigning from my position at Radio Farda, to which I said I thought it was a personal issue for individual to decide where to work or not work or to resign or not resign. These cannot be dictated. Therefore I rejected these suggestions. I said if I make a decision to cooperate with Radio Farda and continue my cooperation or at another point in time to leave Radio Farda for whatever reason, this would be my personal issue and no one else can dictate this to me.
RFE/RL: You also alluded to the article published in the daily "Etemad" about two months ago. Before you had mentioned that you and your attorney would try to have your response to the article published. Where have these attempts led?
Azima: After the talks with the representatives of those institutions in the judiciary, an article against me was published in "Etemad," which was very strange because usually "Etemad" does not publish this kind of article. There are other specific newspapers that we are familiar with that publish such articles. It was clear that the writer of the article had access to my case file, and it probably was an article dictated by the Intelligence Ministry or those who have had access to my case. And, of course much of the information in the article was altered and unreal. The writer attempted to prove that I was involved in actions against national security because I work for Radio Farda, or that since allegedly Radio Farda is an institution that seeks to instigate a soft revolution, therefore someone who works for Radio Farda is also involved in actions against national security, which were the same issues that I was asked about several times and which were mentioned during the interrogations. I mean, I had said that what you refer to as 'propaganda against the state' is the same thing that we in professional and international journalism refer to as 'the free flow of information.'
In this article, in short, several unreal allegations were brought up and since in it there were allusions to the content of my case file, it is itself a crime, because it is first of all regarded as a kind of exposure of classified documents and, secondly, parts of it can be regarded as unfounded accusations.
Therefore, I wrote a letter to "Etemad" and asked the newspaper to publish my response. Despite my attempts and the contacts I made with the daily's editor and publisher, several phone calls and numerous visits of the "Etemad" office, unfortunately without officially saying that my response would not be published, the issue was constantly postponed to future weeks.
Then I sought my attorney's help in this matter, and following all contacts, he also faced a similar response. And, it is very strange to me why this newspaper is not willing to publish the response of a citizen who wishes to defend her honor and prestige, although this newspaper is a pro-reform publication. This is very strange to me. I asked them to publish the response by the end of the last month. But more than one month has passed since then and the response has not yet been published.
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Thursday, August 23, 2007
Iran: Statement by Political, Cultural and Social Activists on the Continuous Detention of StudentsStatement by Political, Cultural and Social Activists
on the Continuous Detention of Students
The [Iranian] civil society, especially the students, workers, and journalists, have come under mounting pressure being accused of soft revolution, agitation of public, insult to all that is sacred. In an open letter to the head of the Judiciary family member of some of the imprisoned students have stated that their sons had been tortured both physically and mentally including unethical actions, long term sleep deprivation, lashing, threatening them with rape, for the purpose of obtaining information.
On the basis of defeated strategy of rule by fear and intimidation and pressuring the students and obtaining compulsory information, they can not defeat the student and pro-democracy movement. These events have occurred at a time when:
1) Human Rights charter of the United Nations which Iran is a signatory, bars ill-treatment of prisoners for the purpose of obtaining information.
2) The constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran based on the articles below clearly guarantees the rights of the people:
a. No authority has the right to abrogate legitimate freedoms, not even by enacting laws and regulations for that purpose, under the pretext of preserving the independence and territorial integrity of the country. (Article 9)
b. The formation of parties, societies, political or professional associations, ……is permitted …….. No one may be prevented from participating in the aforementioned groups, or be compelled to participate in them. (Article 26)
c. Public gatherings and marches may be freely held, provided arms are not carried and that they are not detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam (article 27)
d. Innocence is to be presumed, and no one is to be held guilty of a charge unless his or her guilt has been established by a competent court. (article 37)
e. All forms of torture for the purpose of extracting confession or acquiring information are forbidden. (article 38)
We, the signatories of this statement:
1) Protest the illegal arrest of students, workers, human rights defenders and handing out heavy sentences without the presence of an attorney and Jury and find it unconstitutional.
2) With respect to the fact that the investigations of the three students of Amir Kabir University have ended, we demand for their immediate release until the formation of the court and proclaim that in respect to the knowledge of physical and mental pressure of the students, they be not taken directly to the court from prison. Judiciary must respect this legal demand to avoid continuous pressure of the students and protect the student’s rights.
3) Demand from the authorities to arrange for the students to meet with elected attorneys and doctors that are respected by the families.
4) Demand for the formation of an independent and well-respected truth commission to look into the charges of “forced confession” in regards to the students in an open and neutral court with the presence of attorneys.
22nd of August 2007
Signatory of 680 names
 Translated by United Republicans of Iran. Visit us at http://www.iranrepublic.org/
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Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Iran Releases Dr. Haleh Esfandiari from Evin PrisonNews Release FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Contact: Vicki Bear Dodson
Phone: (202) 691-4268
Release No. 75-07
August 21, 2007
Iran Releases Dr. Haleh Esfandiari from Evin Prison
WASHINGTON—An Iranian official this morning announced that Dr. Haleh Esfandiari has been released on bail from Evin prison. Esfandiari, director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Middle East Program, was incarcerated in Tehran on May 8, 2007, on allegations of endangering Iranian national security.
“We rejoice at the news of Haleh’s release,” said Lee H. Hamilton, president and director of the Wilson Center. “This has been a long and trying ordeal for her and for her family. Her physical and mental well-being is now the urgent priority. We want to see her well, we want her to be permitted to return to the United States, and we want to see her reunited with her family.”
“Haleh has lost close to seven months of her life. She was subjected to untold hours of interrogation and an isolation that we cannot imagine. She was denied time with her husband, her daughter, her son-in-law, her two granddaughters, and literally hundreds of other family members, friends, and colleagues who care deeply about her.”
“We thank all who offered their prayers and their efforts on behalf of Haleh’s release. An extraordinary amount of people from around the world rallied to Haleh’s side. We have had many interlocutors—official and non-official—on Haleh’s behalf. We have had many staff members at the Wilson Center who worked tirelessly in the hope that this day would come. This outpouring only reinforces Haleh’s life’s work on behalf of dialogue, understanding, and bringing people together.”
“We look forward to the day when Haleh is fully recovered from this ordeal, and she can return to her colleagues and her important work. We continue to hope and pray for the safe and quick return of Kian Tajbakhsh, Parnaz Azima, and Ali Shakeri, who have also been unjustly detained in Iran.”
Media with questions may reach Vicki Bear Dodson at (202) 691-4268 or email@example.com.
The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars is the living, national memorial to President Wilson established by Congress in 1968 and headquartered in Washington, D.C. The Center establishes and maintains a neutral forum for free, open, and informed dialogue. It is a nonpartisan institution, supported by public and private funds and engaged in the study of national and world affairs.
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Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Ban Ki-moon asked to intercede on behalf of two journalists under sentence of deathBan Ki-moon asked to intercede on behalf of two journalists under sentence of death
Reporters Without Borders wrote yesterday to United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon urging him to intercede in the case of Adnan Hassanpour and Abdolvahed Botimar, two journalists who were sentenced to death on 16 July, and to ask the Islamic Republic of Iran to adhere to the international treaties it has signed concerning civil and political rights.
“Their most basic rights were violated as they were barred from court when the sentence was handed down,” the letter said. “Even more egregiously, they were not notified of the sentence and only found out from a newspaper.”
Hassanpour and Botimar (who is also known as “Hiva”), were allowed a visit from a family member in their prison in Sanandaj, in Iran’s Kurdish northwestern region, on 8 August. They discovered they had been sentenced to death from a report in the daily Kayhan. They have been on hunger strike for nearly 30 days, and are consuming only water to which some sugar is added.
The letter pointed out that 11 journalists are currently in prison in Iran for trying to do their job. Some are serving sentences imposed in trials with no due process. Others are being held without trial. The prison conditions are appalling and they are denied access to the medical treatment they need.
“Journalists are being harassed and threatened by the regime, which is waging a witch-hunt against the independent media.” the letter said. “Many of them have been brought into court on charges which are baseless but are deemed admissible by a compliant judicial system.”
The letter concluded: “These men need to know that they have your support. If the United Nations were to intercede on their behalf, they would be able to recover a degree of dignity and the freedom to work as journalists. We are convinced that you could find ways and arguments to get Iran to respect the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which it has signed.”
Of the nine other journalists currently in prison, Soheil Assefi, is the one who was arrested most recently. A contributor to several news media, he was detained when he responded to a summons and presented himself to a Tehran court on 4 August, four days after officials from the prosecutor’s office searched his home, taking personal documents and computer material. He is now being held in Tehran’s Evin prison on unknown charges. He was able to telephone a relative on 9 August but has not been allowed to receive visits.
Farshad Gorbanpour, who was arrested for no clear reason on 31 July, is also being held in Evin prison. According to his wife, who was able to visit him once, he is charged with “activity against national security” and could be released if he pays bail of 200 million touman (the equivalent of 158,000 euros).
Journalist Ako Kurdnasab of the Sanandaj-based weekly Karfto was arrested at his newspaper by intelligence ministry officials on 21 July after one of the city’s courts opened an investigation against him. He is now awaiting trial in Sanandaj prison. His family has had no word from him and does not know what he is charged with.
Ejlal Ghavami of Payam-e Mardom-e Kurdestan (a weekly that was closed by the authorities in 2004) has been detained since 9 July, a month after a Sanandaj court sentenced him on 9 June to three years in prison for “inciting populations to revolt”and “activity against national security.” He has an eye infection. Payam-e Mardom-e Kurdestan editor Mohammad Sadegh Kabovand was arrested on 1 July and sent to Evin prison, where he staged an eight-day hunger strike in protest against his solitary confinement. Reporters Without Borders has been told that he is under a great deal of pressure to deny information published by the Kurdistan Human Rights Organisation, of which he is one of the founders. He is also reportedly charged with “activity against national security.”
Said Matinpour of Yarpagh (an Azeri-language weekly based in Tehran) has been detained since 28 May, when he and his wife were arrested at their home in the northwestern city of Zanjan. He was transferred to Tehran two days later and is now being held in security section 209 in Evin prison. He has not been charged and neither his relatives nor his lawyer have been able to see him.
Three other journalists have been held since last year. Kaveh Javanmard of Karfto was arrested on 18 December in Sanandaj and was sentenced during a secret trial on 17 May to two years in prison for “inciting revolt” and “activity against national security.” Ali Farahbakhsh, a contributor to several business newspapers including Sarmayeh, was arrested on 27 November and was sentenced on 26 March to three years in prison for spying. He is currently being held in Evin prison’s security section 209, where he has for some time been deprived of his medicine.
Finally, Mohammad Hassin Falahieh of the state TV station Al-Alam’s Arabic-language service has been detained since last November. He was convicted of spying by a revolutionary court on 29 April and is now serving a three years sentence in Evin prison’s security section 209. His lawyer says he is ill and needs treatment.
Sign the petition on behalf of the journalists who have been sentenced to death in Iran
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Statement by Tehran Bus Workers’ UnionStatement by Tehran Bus Workers’ Union
in regards to the arrest of its leader as well as the members of the Board of Directors
In response to a call by The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) to mark August 9, 2007 as a day of support and solidarity with Mansour Osanlou and Mohammad Salehi, members of some 30 countries Workers Union rose to the occasion in various fashions.
In support of this call as well as to show its support to the families of the detainees, Tehran Bus Workers’ Union invited its members to gather at the residence of Mansour Osanlou. But unfortunately from the early mornings of the 9th of August, official as well as Plainclothes personnel of the security forces cordoned off the streets to block entrance to his house. Following this action, they arrested Ebrahim Madadi, seyed Davoud Razavi, Yaghoub Salimi, Ebrahim Norouzi Gohari, Homayoun Jaberi, Taher Sadeghi and Mrs. Fatemeh Hajilou and took them to the section 209 of the Evin Prison.
Tehran Bus Workers’ Union condemns this unlawful act and demands for the immediate release of the detainees.
Long live the solidarity of workers for a just life.
Tehran Bus Workers’ Union
August 13, 2007
 Translated by International Relations Committee of the United Republicans of Iran. Visit us at www.iranrepublic.org
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Monday, August 13, 2007
The analytic Statement of the General Council of the Office of Fostering Unity in respect to recent political developments in IranThe General Council of the Office of Fostering Unity condemns the parody of televised confessions by the Iranian-American detainees that was broadcast on Iran’s state owned television last week as well as the arrest of activists who had a sit-in protest in front of the University of Tehran. This body expresses its concern over the continuation of such confession scenarios which are conducted under duress and while subjecting the captives to severe torture. In view of this, the General Council demands the immediate release of all the detainees…
News extract from www.akhbar.rooz.com on Sunday July 29, 2007:
While 21 days have passed since the arrest of students and political activists on the anniversary of Student uprising of 1998, all the news emerging from Evin prison, section 209 point to medieval torture and persecution of the captives. The government claims that a velvet revolution is under way in order to ouster the regime. The incarceration of activists is intended to link this claim to the confessions that are obtained from them. Last year the renowned Iranian philosopher Dr. Ramin Jaahaanbegloo and a handful of journalists were arrested on the pretext of being connected to foreign governments. The journalists had only made travel plans abroad to attend professional seminars. Recent arrests are believed to be the continuation of the same preemptory policy by the regime and it does not seem to be the end of it. Deliverance of baseless accusations against student movement and political activists in the confessions being broadcast attests to the existence of such policy by the government to be used against the aforementioned groups.
For this reason this Council (The association of Islamic Student Union, as a part of the Student movement) would like to point out some facts with respect to recent incidents:
“It goes without saying that the broadcast of confessions obtained from imprisoned activists under harsh conditions of Evin prison, as the judiciary system of the regime has said, has no legal merit. More over, the charges made against activists have not been proven in any judicial court .The Islamic Republic has broadcast similar confessions from previous captives many times over the decades and has turned this issue into a political farce”. The contents of these confessions only demonstrate that the government is misusing the concept of “Velvet Revolution” and “Soft Overturn”. The Claim of a “Velvet Revolution staged in Iran with the help of an international institution such as Source Institute that has dealings with all nations of the world, including Iran, is absolutely baseless. Sections of the Iranian government are themselves the beneficiaries of the financial assistance of the Source Institute. In fact Iran’s former president during, his trip to United States, delivered a speech in that institute.
Furthermore, one needs to ask what is the reason that the regime so adamantly rejects the idea of “Velvet Revolution” and open society? Non-violent revolutions are contemporary phenomena in modern societies and they show a departure from violent revolution. They are the product of civil societies and they demonstrate that people and nations are willing
to bring about a better system of government and political system via peaceful transitions and without blood shed.
The peaceful transition of governments in Eastern Europe in 1980s from totalitarian regimes into democratic system of government took place as a result of people’s natural reactions to closed societies, economic hardship, and the inhuman treatment of citizens in their respective countries. In Eastern Europe people did not deem reforms of their leaders’ behavior or the system of government as a realistic approach to bringing about desired change. Therefore, the transition occurred through a non violent revolution with no blood shed.
Linking the recent televised confessions as well as the actions of Iranian student and political activists to Velvet Revolutions means:
- The regime has found similarities between the social, political and economic conditions in Eastern Europe that led to dissolution of communism to those in Iran. In this case an appropriate response to popular demands for grassroots changes in the society should not include arresting the activists and academia that call for change. This will not make the problems go away, Or it means:
- Although the televised confessions do not have any legal merits, they provide an
excuse for the government to crush the existing resistance movements in the
society. In this case the government itself does not believe that the parameters that
led to the disintegration of Communist blocks really exist in Iran. Such
parameters include strong party affiliations, presence of established civic
organizations, free press, and an independent judiciary. Therefore, linking the
confessions to velvet revolutions here is only a pretext for suppressing the Iranian
The analysis provided above offers an explanation for the reason that the Islamic regime
of Iran reacted so frenziedly to the aforesaid sit-in of the members of our association. Not
to mention that it accused the arrested protesters of jeopardizing the national
security of the country. By such actions the government only to builds on its
record of human rights violations.
The Office of Fostering Unity hereto condemns the arrest of our members on
July 9th. It also warns against forcing the captives to make false confessions. Our
association regrets that the government has already forced the Iranian-American captives
to participate in a televised program in which they made confessing statements under
pressure. Hence, our association demands the release of all the captives.
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Friday, August 10, 2007
Iran: Worldwide Protest updateAustralia
ITF unions in Melbourne have joined forces and organised a picket outside the Department of Foreign Affairs to express their solidarity with the Iranian workers. Mansour Osanloo's situation was raised in both the Lower and Upper Houses of the Victorian State Parliament today. (Email report by Vic Moore, RTBU)
The Japanese trade union delegation visited the Iranian Embassy in Tokyo on 9 August. Representatives from Rengo, ITF, ITF-JC and IUF-JCC met with the Minister Counsellor, Mohammad Ali Sarmadi Rad. They submitted their protest letters, ITF petition and campaign posters and demanded an immediate release of Mansour Osanloo and Mohamoud Salehi, as well as proper medical treatment and access to their lawyers and families. The delegation stressed that the Iranian government must guarantee fundamental trade union rights to their workers as a member of the ILO. (Email report by Mac Urata)
150 activists from ITF affiliates demonstrated at the Iranian Embassy in Jakarta between 10h00 and 12h00 today. After discussions with an official from the Embassy, the ITF Indonesia Coordinator and 3 representatives from each affiliate were permitted to meet with the First Secretary / International Affair Consul of the Embassy. The Embassy agreed to bring the case to Tehran. (Email report by Hanafi Rustandi)
Between 10h00 - 11h00, 50 union activists from seven ITF affiliates in Thailand (BMTA-SWU,TRAN-U, LU-ETA, KSLU, SRUT, TG Union and AOT-SWU) gathered and picketed in front of the Iranian Embassy in Bangkok, demanding the immediate release of Mansour Osanloo and Mahmoud Salehi. Because the Embassy did not allow the union delegation to enter their premises, the ITF petition and the protest letter were submitted to the Embassy representatives through the entrance gate. (Email report by Su-angcana Tungworachet)
Bilal Malkawi, ITF Amman Office, along with representatives from the transport unions in Jordan are gathering in front of the Iranian embassy and will be handing protest letters to the Ambassador.AlgeriaThe Railway union has faxed the letter to the Iranian embassy.PalestineThe General Union for Transport Workers has sent the letter to the Iranian embassy in Jordan. YemenUnion members of the GFTW have written a protest letter and will be delivering it to the embassy at 12h00.
A delegation composed of the ITUC, PSI, UNI, IUF and the Coordinator of the Council of Global Unions met with the Deputy Permanent Representative of the Iranian Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, Ambassador Sajjadpour and submitted a note verbale. The delegation called for the immediate release of Brothers Osanloo and Salehi, as well as access to medical treatment, their lawyers and families and protested against the arrest of the five members of the Executive Board of the Vahed Syndicate and the fact that security agents were trying to prevent Vahed union members from gathering at Osanloo's house. The delegation also recalled the responsibility of the Iranian government to uphold the principles of freedom of association in light of its membership to the ILO. (Email report by Raquel Gonzalez)
The Nepal Trade Union Congress and Nepal Yatayat Mazdoor Sangh (NETWON) jointly submitted the ITF petition and a protest letter addressed to the Iranian Government through the Nepalese Foreign Ministry in the afternoon of 9 August. The Foreign Ministry committed to send the information to the Iranian Government soon. (Email report by Ajay Kumar Rai)
Today at around 11h30, more than 500 members of AIRF-NRMU-HMS gathered at Parliament Street to protest against the abduction of Bro. Mansour Osanloo. Due to high security in Delhi, the police did not give permission to hold the demonstration in front of the Iranian Embassy. After discussion with police officials, they finally agreed to allow a few representatives to the Iranian embassy in order to meet the Consulate. Jasvinder Singh, ITF Delhi Office, together with Mr. Harbhajan Singh, Member of the National Working Committee - AIRF went to the Iranian embassy and delivered a memorandum to the Consular who assured the delegation that the memorandum would be forwarded to the Ambassador and sent to the President of Iran. (Email report by Jasvinder Singh)
Hundreds of activists from ITF unions, the National Union of Seafarers of India and the Transport & Dock Workers' Union jointly staged a demonstration in front of the Iranian Embassy in Mumbai today demanding the immediate release of Mansour Osanloo and Mahmoud Salehi. A joint delegation from the two unions submitted a protest memorandum to the Deputy Consul General. (Fax report by Transport & Dock Workers' Union, Mumbai)
PakistanThe Pakistan Transport Workers' Federation and the Pakistan Labour Federation staged a demonstration outside the Lahore Press Club calling for the release of Mansour Osanloo and the five members of the union's Executive Board who were arrested today. Representatives from the Pakistan Transport Workers' Federation, the All Pakistan Banks and Financial Institution, GTS Employees' Union, All Pakistan Para Medical Staff Association and the Railway Workers' Federation addressed the rally. (Email report by Haji Muhammad Saeed)
MoroccoThe Road Transport union - UMT has delivered a protest letter to the Iranian Embassy. The letter, which was addressed to the Iranian President, expressed the union's solidarity with Mansour Osanloo. (Email report by Bilal Malkawi and Sahmane Said)
The CGT in France has organised various activities following the joint appeal by the ITUC and ITF for a global Action Day in solidarity with Mansour Osanloo and Mahmoud Salehi. Information about the campaign has been distributed to all member organisations asking them to send protest messages to the Iranian Embassy in Paris. The CGT has also addressed a letter to the French Foreign Affairs Minister demanding intervention with the Iranian Authorities. On 9 August, CGT activists together with their colleagues from CFDT and FO, gathered outside the Iranian Embassy in Paris to deliver a letter demanding the immediate release of Mansour Osanloo and Mahmoud Salehi. The Embassy refused to receive the delegation and their messages and so these messages were sent by fax. A demonstration was held near to the Embassy, bringing together union activists and a number of Iranians residing in France. (Email report by Hélène Bouneaud)
The Federations of the Independent Trade Unions of Russia, representing 28 million workers, has sent a protest letter to the Iranian Embassy in Russia concerning violation of trade union rights in the Iran and the imprisonment of Mr. Mahmoud Salehi and Mr. Mansour Osanloo. (Email report by Anton Leppik)
SEV delivered their protest letter to the Iranian Embassy in Berne as part of their protest action in front of the Iranian Embassy today. The letter is the same letter that the union had sent to the Iranian President on 12 July. (Email report by Markus Fischer)
The Austrian union for transport and services, VIDA, together with their colleagues from the Austrian trade union of municipal workers (GdG) and representatives from Amnesty International and Iranian colleagues participated in protest action in front of the Iranian Consul and the Iranian Embassy. A bus from the works council of the Vienna urban transport company delivered the petition signatures to the Embassy. A meeting with the Ambassador at the Iranian Embassy will take place on 14 August. The Austrian Foreign Ministry has informed the union that they have requested an official meeting with the Iranian Embassy in Vienna to discuss the case of Mansour Osanloo. This evening, an Iranian group is planning a demonstration in solidarity with Mansour Osanloo in front of St. Stephans cathedral. (Email report by Harald Voitl)
ITF affiliates in Norway have organised a joint demonstration in front of the Iranian embassy in Oslo today. Representatives from the four unions (Norsk Transportarbeiderforbund, Norsk Jernbaneforbund, Fagforbundet and Yrkestrafikkforbundet) met a representative of the Embassy and delivered a protest letter. The embassy promised to send the letter to the Iranian Government. (Email report by Per Ostvold and Asbjorn Wahl)
In Brussels, the ITUC and its unions organised a demonstration at the Iranian Embassy. Participants carried posters and a letter was delivered to the Embassy. Media coverage of the demonstration was very good. (Email report by Janek Kuczkiewicz)
SwedenAt 13h30 today a delegation from LO Sweden visited the Iranian Embassy in Stockholm to deliver a letter to protest against the violation of trade union rights in Iran and the imprisonment of Mahmoud Salehi and Mansour Osanloo. The delegation was permitted into the Embassy grounds but the representatives were only allowed to deliver the protest letter to the Embassy guards. Outside the Embassy, there were 300-400 demonstrators from different exiled-Iranian organisations who were waving flags and signs, distributing leaflets and shouting messages. (Email report by Anders Larsson)
ITF General Secretary, David Cockroft lead an ITF staff delegation to join representatives from the TUC, RMT, Unison, GMB, TSSA and the T&G to protest outside the Iranian Embassy in London. The unions were joined in solidarity by Amnesty International and Iranian activists all calling for the immediate release of Brothers Osanloo and Salehi. The ITF petition, signed by almost 3,000 people, was delivered to the Embassy but officials of the Mission would not meet the delegation.David Cockroft told those assembled "We are determined to ensure that all those seeking to defend simple trade union rights are given proper freedom. These are freedoms that are outlined in international standards that Iran has accepted by being a member of the International Labour Organization. ITF Road Transport Workers' Section Chair, Martin Mayer called for trade union rights and the release of Mansour Osanloo.
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Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Democratic culture: A campaign for equality --By Dr. Ali Akbar MahdiAugust 8, 2006 iranian.com
Changing laws and rules in any society requires a great deal of skill, energy, resources, and dedication from the public to achieve a desired outcome. Yet, these necessary ingredients are effective only if public demand for change is accompanied by state support. In a traditional, restrictive social structure that is governed by a theocratic structure, it is not easy to change religiously embedded, traditionally grounded, and politically defended laws. In such a society, those who work for change are considered a serious threat to the state; thus, every means is used to suppress them.
Since its inception, the Islamic Republic has rode the wave of “mass politics” – a wave generated during the revolutionary process that toppled the Pahlavi regime. While it has demonstrated its ability to be organized and well disciplined in policy execution, the regime still employs “mass mobilization” as a major tactic to both delegitimize and intimidate the domestic opposition to its political-ideological postures.
Confronted with such a political environment and the realities of a religiously-based gender regime, Iranian feminists have had to think hard about how to confront unequal laws imposed on their lives. In the past, secular women activists, using old tactics of mass demonstrations to confront imposed restrictions by the revolutionary government, were crushed by street mobs and club-wielding zealots. Consequently, women activists were forced to find less dangerous means of expressing their dissatisfaction and opposing restrictions imposed on their identity, public appearance, occupations, and educational choices.
As women gained a sense of direction in the newly established order, individualized and diffused tactics were adopted in the form of dress, make-up, selection of music, etc. to assert their autonomy in the face of a faceless, enigmatic identity imposed from above. Women sought opportunities to expand government limits and develop pathways for self-growth and self-expression. As the war with Iraq ended and the regime transitioned to a post-war era, women looked for a new space of their own, not only across the public landscape, but also in the private domain.
A new wave of activism for gender equality introduced women to sports, non-governmental organizations, literary circles, political organizations, and various educational opportunities previously closed to women. The election of Mohammad Khatami as President in 1977 ushered in a new era in which civil society organizations emerged; the music and film industry experimented with new ideas and fresh perspectives; and, women began to participate in a variety of previously restricted roles.
Finding itself in a new environment, the women’s movement had to look for new tactics and strategies compatible to the narrow avenues available within a theocratic system. Under such circumstances, the movement found success galvanizing support around grievances affecting a broad array of the female population—not simply single constituency issues. Given that women comprise nearly half of the Iranian population, relying on group identity and grievances offered a smart approach to building solidarity and mobilization. Issues such as custody for children, the right to divorce, legal equality, and opposition to violence against women were as important to secular, educated middle-class women as to poor, conservative, and working women. In fact, these issues for the latter were no less important than concerns with bread-and-butter issues.
Recognizing the importance of core issues affecting women, and the diversity of views, ideologies, and politics within the gender, women activists began to organize around grievances affecting all women, regardless of their religious, ideological, ethnic, and social class backgrounds. This shift in strategy posits two important distinctions that women activists have inevitably embraced. First, while they do not represent all women in the society, they must deal with issues affecting all women. Secondly, their efforts in changing gender relations and family laws are not unrelated to other social change efforts and activities. In an exclusionary and repressive political system, they could not afford isolation from the other protest movements. Therefore, they regarded the alliance with other progressive movements in society essential to the viability of the women’s rights project, especially the democratization movement.
The Campaign for “One Million Signatures Demanding Changes to Discriminatory Laws”After numerous demonstrations protesting unequal gender laws and typical signature collection campaigns for encouraging the government to make Iran a state party to the UN Women’s Conventions, secular women activists realized that repeated state disruptions of their peaceful public demonstrations demanded a change of tactic. In August, 2006, the “Campaign for One Million Signatures Demanding Changes to Discriminatory Laws” (The Campaign hereafter) was launched.
Since its inception, the Campaign has been consistent in challenging oppressive laws and restrictive conditions of women and has achieved recognition from youth, student, worker, human rights, and civil society activists both inside and outside of the country. The activists working with the Campaign believe in women agency and participation in decision making, especially as they relate to a woman’s right to child custody, marriage and divorce terms, inheritance allocation, resistance to male aggression, and so on. Community issues related to a woman’s life are to be decided through negotiations and deliberations by its members, both males and females, rather than distant bodies unfamiliar with a woman’s needs and concerns. Relegating such issues to traditions set in the past denies women agency, community, and input in their own lives, especially in the context of contemporary civil society. The Campaign’s activists believe that even acceptable traditions and moral codes are to be subject to adaptation to new situations and the free consensus of citizens – a feature of modernity and democratic tradition. The goals of the Campaign include:
• changing discriminatory gender laws, • the Empowerment of women in society, • the development of a critical gender consciousness, and • dealing with the sources of the social and legal discrimination women are subjected to — both in public and private domains.
The initiative is guided by a broad strategy of bringing about changes in laws affecting women, resisting discrimination in the public sphere, and promoting individuality in the private domain. Campaign activities are varied, and include both practical and consciousness/knowledge-raising works. Practical activities include non-violent resistance to exclusionary practices in public domain, offering legal assistance to women in distressed situations, capacity and confidence building amongst women, and defending imprisoned activists. Cultural activities include research on laws affecting women’s well-being, group discussions and public debates, media works, networking, and advocacy. Together, these efforts help transform discriminatory gender relations in public and private arenas and improve the conditions for women participation and leadership in decision-making.
One innovative approach of the Campaign is the deliberate attempt to identify “roads less traveled” by pursuing adaptive tactics and looking for emerging opportunities rooted in the daily experiences of women— whether a soccer game, a significant international convention, or an unfortunate imprisonment of an activist. In each case, avoiding impatient and emotional reactions, campaign activists are ready to brain storm, pull ranks together, and mobilize resources according to their goals and objectives. They have adopted tactical means that yield greater public support and accomplish broader outcomes. Using new technologies, the Campaign has placed itself on the global network and remains an active participant in the virtual world. Campaign’s webpage (http://www.wechange.info/english), though filtered and blocked by the state regularly, moves from one proxy to another transmitting the latest campaign activities and developments.
Strictly confined to constructive social and legal changes, the Campaign avoids ideology from within and without. Allowing ideological concerns to shape its strategy and tactics, it would succumb to the challenges that have crippled past women activism. Campaign activists realize the diversity of views, needs, and conditions both among themselves and women activists of other orientations. With this understanding, they are willing to support changes that improve the status of all women, regardless of their religious and political views, and are willing to work with female Muslim activists to the extent that such alliance will result in changes in laws affecting women’s lives.
Along with the Muslim reformists, who advocate the re-interpretation of Sharia laws regarding women, the Campaign activists have been able to force the state to accommodate a few issues of concern to women, albeit both in mild and often belated manner. These “Muslim feminists,” a term most avoid using for themselves, have realized the depth of inequalities embedded in religious injunctions and are demanding a women-friendlier interpretation of those laws. They also find themselves embattled with both family patriarchs and an entrenched conservative religious establishment that remains oblivious to their concerns. Both religious and secular activist women oppose the state policy of leaving a woman’s fate solely in the hands of “learned” men whose reference point is a different time and place in history.
Campaign activists have tried hard to avoid elitism — a crippling feature of past women activism in Iran. The current women activism dispels the old image of the women movement as an elitist effort distant from ordinary citizens. During the Pahlavi period, most political activists, whether liberal, conservative, or radical, dismissed women’s efforts for social change for two reasons. First, they considered them as a part of the state agenda, thus not genuine and worthy of attention.
Given the state’s close relationship with the United States, efforts in integration of women in the labor force were seen as a service to the imperialist-capitalist agenda in Iran. Second, political activists regarded feminist ideas as misguided actions of well-to-do women disconnected from the reality of the masses. Even today, Islamic reformists often express similar doubts about activism of secular women as Western-originated and irrelevant to the vast majority of women throughout the country – a charge proven wrong by the developments in the past two decades.
A cursory survey of changes in the past decade and a half shows that secular women activists’ concerns resonate with the public and often force politicians and state ideologues to respond, either by accommodating or trying to find ideological justifications for the discriminatory laws and practices supported by the state. Criticism of the discriminatory treatment of women in custody, inheritance, retribution, and witness laws has penetrated popular culture and dominates themes and topics of art, literature, and media.
Many issues raised by these women in the first and a half decade of the revolution are now part of daily debates among religious reformists, intellectuals, journalists, educators, liberal clerics, and politicians. To gain public support and win votes in elections, most politicians, including current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, attempt to incorporate these concerns in their agenda and make forward-looking pre-election promises on women issues.
The Campaign and DemocratizationThough not focused on ideology and politics, particularly on attempts to access political office, the Campaign is inevitably engaged in politics. Its goals of changing laws and improving women’s status invite resistance from both the patriarchal power structure and the theocratic state. To avoid the traps of the political process, the Campaign has to dispel the notion that it is working as a political party. It has done so by adopting both open tactics and an inclusive strategy of democratic education.
The campaign recruits from and aims to reach all sectors of society. Its strategy to achieve its goals is “one person, one signature, one encounter, one event at the time,” thus promoting one-to-one interaction between activists and citizens in all corners of society. Activists meet with people, discuss issues, provide literature explaining laws affecting women, and encourage them to support the campaign. The idea is to gain momentum through iteration, repetition of a sequence of activities all building successively on each other; thus moving closer to the desired change. Though reformist in nature, the approach is less risky and more rewarding since it avoids spontaneity and unpredictability inherent in abrupt change.
The Campaign offers an excellent exercise in a bottom-up model of democratic change — an important aspect of the democratization education and process. Since it aims to be a broad-based grassroots movement, recruiting from all sectors of society, it will be able to communicate with and enable participation in all social strata: educated and uneducated, religious and secular, urban and rural, political and non-political, old and young, and male and female. Collecting signatures one person at the time, with personal visits and conversation with ordinary citizens, help participants to gain a close understanding of the condition of women’s lives in various settings. These encounters and interactions have a transformative effect on women’s lives and ideology by achieving the followings: a. Showcasing activism and individual participation in social movements
b. Demonstrating the underlying connection between societal laws and the specific problems faced by women in diverse communities and conditions
c. Providing a critical forum in which women may share experiences as well as measure their respective conditions in relation to the national situation, and
d. Offering support and assistance to women who might need them the most. As these contacts increase, more members are recruited, more networks are established, more consciousness raised, more literature and research are produced, and more activism and enthusiasm are generated. These interactions and iterated activities lay the foundation for a participatory culture necessary for the democratization process.
Finally, while maintaining its independence and focus, the Campaign is not indifferent to other community-based efforts for improving the conditions of socially and economically deprived strata. Women involved in the Campaign have often partnered with workers, students, and human rights activists because all these movements represent efforts for restoring human rights of citizens. Campaigners are organized into non-governmental organizations to help address various social problems. Many have worked with people in disaster areas, AIDS patients, earthquake victims, abused children, and victims of sexual violence.
Intimidation and SuppressionNews coming out of Iran daily is depressing and awfully painful! Rarely does a day pass without the news of student, women, worker, human rights, or political activists being “summoned to the court,” “arrested,” “abducted,” “fined,” or “sentenced to imprisonment and/or flogging.” Among those most targeted are women and university students involved in various campaigns demanding reform and change. In recent months, women activists involved in the Campaign have been pulled into court and handed severe punishments for their participation.
The pressure on the Campaign has been building since its activists’ encounter with government security agents, many of them club-wielding women, during a peaceful protest in Haft-eTir Square, June 2006. While a dozen participants were arrested at the time and released on bail later, more and more of them have been called into court and sentenced harshly for their participation in that event or other activities associated with the Campaign. The latest victim is Delaram Ali, a student activist involved in the Campaign, who was given 2 years and 10 months prison term and 10 lashes for her participation in last year’s protest.
Despite its peaceful, reformist, and democratic approach, the campaign has been targeted by the current administration of President Ahmadinejad. Its activities have been curtailed; its center’s office is searched and closed; its demonstrations canceled or disturbed by police; and its members have been intimidated, harassed, arrested, fined, jailed, and sentenced to long and short-term imprisonment. A further blow to the Campaign came two weeks ago in a speech from the top leadership in the country. The Campaigns’ peaceful demand to align Iranian gender laws with international conventions was rejected – a position which certainly will increase the pressure on the Campaign and its activists.
What is surprising is that the government takes pride in legal and institutional changes since 1990 – changes that were opposed by the same government in the 1980s. Most of these changes, though limited and conditional, have come as a result of efforts by women despite government restrictions and policy orientations. Arenas like sports, education, arts, literature, and sciences were made inaccessible to women in the early years of the revolutionary government. If there are some openings and opportunities in these areas now, it is exactly because of the struggle and sacrifices dearly paid for by women! To take credit for these changes and yet deny the role and importance of women activists who have been pushing for these changes since 1980 is disingenuous.
The Road AheadThe Campaign has emerged from a circle of secular feminists who, along with some Islamic female reformists, have been able to generate what Thomas R. Rochon calls a “critical community” – a group of critical thinkers and activists who are not part of a formal organization but make a self-conscious, mutually interacting group generating sensitivity to some social problem.*
Members of the Campaign have made heroic efforts to stay afloat within a theocratic state, repressive political environment, restrictive legal structure, and conservative cultural milieu. They are courageous women who have strength and vision to see to it that their children will not be subject to discriminatory laws that have blocked their own opportunities for individual growth, social progress, and career advancement – laws that keep them in unfavorable and unwanted marriages, leave them to the whims and wishes of the males in their family and work, and treat their intelligence and inheritance half what is allotted to men.
Like all other critical communities generating social change, the Campaign has no illusion that these changes may not come about as soon as they wish. No one believes that these patriarchal laws will disappear all together soon or those determined judges and law-makers will have a change of heart overnight. Their task is a difficult one, not only because they are challenging discriminatory laws imposed on women, but also because they are challenging entrenched norms, folkways, and social rules governing social interactions at home, school, and work. They live in a society fraught with social restrictions, political red-lines, cynicism, familism, and a sort of tribalism. None of these factors generate hope for progressive social change and democratic idealism.
Yet, the task of the Campaign is to generate consciousness, expectation, demand, and mobilization for change. Once the issue becomes public and the demand for change becomes widespread, the movement will take the center stage and produce a new energy and momentum much stronger than those found among the early activists. While the goals of the Campaign are farther out, its capacity to generate change and make a difference is much closer to the pulse of these women that it has ever been before. The impact will be gradual, cumulative, tangible, and practical. The goal is to make a difference, be it changing one person’s mind at a time, winning one fellow over in a day, or forcing open a closed door in each instance.
Given the difficulties the Campaign and its activists face, it is easy to lose hope and give up the fight. However, these women have demonstrated that there is no excuse for giving up the fight just because the state is determined to stop them, or laws are invented and re-interpreted in order to limit the Campaign’s reach. The Campaign has already done its job by leaving a mark and legacy that will be hardly forgotten by the newer generation of activists looking for a more equal status in the modern global society.
* See Thomas R. Rochon, Culture Moves; Ideas, Activism, and Changing Values. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998.
AboutAli Akbar Mahdi is Professor at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology in Ohio Wesleyan University.
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Monday, August 06, 2007
worldwide protest againt Islamic Republic of Iranhttp://www.itfglobal.org/solidarity/osanloo2.cfm
Worldwide Update – 6 August 2007
Information on planned activities by unions for the ITUC/ITF International Action Day in solidarity with Mansour Osanloo and Mahmoud Salehi on Thursday 9 August 2007:
In London, the ITF and the UK trade unions, together with Amnesty International will take part in a protest vigil outside the Iranian Embassy. The delegation plans to deliver the ITF petition. The participants to the vigil will carry the campaign posters and also hold boards displaying the names of those people who have signed the petition.
In Geneva, a delegation composed of representatives from Global Unions including the ITUC, UNI, PSI and IUF will visit the Mission to Iran and meet with the Ambassador at 15h30. The ITUC is also planning a meeting with the Iranian Mission in Brussels.
An ACTU delegation of union officials including ITF affiliates such as RTBU and MUA will seek an audience with the Iranian Ambassador and deliver a letter of protest at the Iranian Embassy in Canberra.
The Austrian union for transport and services, VIDA is in contact with the Foreign Ministry and has requested a meeting with the Iranian Embassy on 9 August. A rally is planned in front of the Embassy.
The Canadian Labour Congress has written to the Ambassador. A CLC protest vigil will be held in Toronto – Queen’s Park on 9 August between 12h30-13h30.
French unions are planning a demonstration at the Iranian Embassy at 13h00 on 9 August. The CGT as well as Force Ouvrière will join this protest action. The FO will mobilize its transport and food sections.
Bus workers in Frankfurt are planning a protest action.
TRANSNET has publicized the Action Day to all union activists.
GDBA has sent a protest letter to the Ambassador and asked all union activists to do the same.
Amnesty International is preparing a statement of support. The ITUC/ITF campaign has been advertised to all UK trade union contacts and activists in the London region. The Amnesty UK Section has also highlighted Mahmoud Salehi's case in its monthly online action E-zine which is sent to 60,000 registered activists in the UK.
The RMT has sent a message to union activists calling for their support. The union has also highlighted the protest appeal on its website.
The ITUC-ITF appeal has been circulated to all GMB staff and activists asking them to sign the online petition.
UNISON has publicised the appeal on its webpage calling for people to take action.
The National Union of Journalists has raised Osanloo’s case at its International Committee.
The British National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) has asked its activists to sign the online petition and send letters of protest to the Iranian Embassy.
The Free Trade Union of Railway Workers (VDSzSz) has publicised the appeal on its website encouraging members and visitors to sign the petition.
ITF affiliates are sending their individual protest letters to the Iranian Embassy in Jakarta. On 9 August a delegation of ITF affiliates will take part in a demonstration outside the Embassy where a joint protest letter will be submitted. Local media have been contacted.
A delegation from RENGO will meet with the Ambassador at the Iranian Embassy in Tokyo on 9 August and also submit a protest letter and copies of the ITF petition. Mac Urata will represent the ITF at the event.
The ITF Malaysia Council plans to deliver a protest letter to the Iranian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
As there is no Iranian diplomatic mission in the country, NETWON will visit the Ministry of Nepal Government and submit a protest letter. The union has also consulted the NTUC for possible joint action.
The FNV has publicised the campaign on their website and urged people to sign the petition.
Norsk Transportarbeiderforbund is organizing a demonstration outside the Iranian Embassy and will deliver a protest letter.
ITF affiliates in Panama will deliver a letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs requesting that the Government communicate the unions' request that Brothers Osanloo and Salehi are released immediately to the Iranian Government.
Federatia Sindicala Transloc intends to picket the Iranian Embassy and distribute leaflets calling for the release of Mansour Osanloo and Mahmoud Salehi.
SEV will organize a protest action in front of the Iranian Embassy in Berne and submit the union's protest letter. Media have been invited to the event.
Affiliates in Thailand will participate in the Action Day. The ITF Coordinating Committee is seeking cooperation with ITUC affiliates.
The Seamen & Waterfront Workers' Trade Union will hold a press conference to highlight the plight of the Iranian prisoners.
The AFL-CIO is organizing a delegation to visit the Iranian Interest Section on 9 August to submit a protest letter from their President, John J. Sweeney and to also deliver a copy of the ITF petition. Union events will also take place in Chicago and New York.