Friday, March 28, 2008


Iran: Private Homes Raided for ‘Immorality’

Authorities Escalate Arbitrary Arrests, Harassment

(New York, March 28, 2008) – The arrest of more than 30 men attending a party in a private home in the city of Esfahan signals renewed efforts by Iranian authorities to enforce “morality” codes, and highlights the fragility of basic rights in a country where police powers routinely undermine privacy, Human Rights Watch said today.

It urged Iranian authorities to release the men reportedly arrested in late February, and to drop charges against people accused of consensual homosexual conduct, drinking alcohol, and other related “morals” offenses.

“When police routinely break down doors to enforce a brand of morality, it means a line has been crossed to invade people’s privacy at any time,” said Joe Stork, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Iran’s repressive system of controlling people’s dress, behavior, and personal lives violates fundamental rights.”

Sources inside Iran report to Human Rights Watch that on February 28-29, police in Esfahan raided a private home and arrested 30 or more men attending a party. They have been jailed for almost four weeks without access to lawyers and without charge. Police reportedly referred them to a forensic medical examiner to look for “evidence” that they have engaged in homosexual conduct.

In May 2007, during a nationwide crackdown to enforce dress codes and conduct, police raided another private party in an apartment building in Esfahan. They arrested 87 persons, including four women and at least eight people whom they accused of wearing the clothing of the opposite sex. Victims told Human Rights Watch that police stripped many of them to the waist in the street, and beat them until their backs or faces were bloody. Several reportedly had bones broken.

Of those arrested, 24 men were tried for “facilitating immorality and sexual misconduct,” as well as possessing and drinking alcohol. In June 2007, an Esfahan court found all of them guilty of various combinations of these charges. Most were sentenced to up to 80 lashes and to fines of 10 million to 50 million riyals (US$1,000-5,000). The verdicts are under appeal and have not yet been enforced.

Sources in Iran have told Human Rights Watch that since the May 2007 arrests, police have intensified surveillance, harassment, and abuse against people connected to the 87 arrested men, or otherwise suspected of homosexual conduct. Several described being detained by police and interrogated to reveal contacts.

According to one man’s account, police “poured water over me. … They threatened me, they said ‘cooperate with us.’ … They are after everyone, they said, ‘You are completing your gang, you are creating new members, where do you gather?’” They told me, ‘Go out and meet people.’ In essence, I should spy for them.”

Human Rights Watch learned that in December 2007 at another private gathering in Esfahan, police arrested 16 more people, subjecting them to forensic examinations. Authorities released them after four days in detention.

Other reports indicate that in March 2008, Esfahan police entrapped several men over the internet by answering personal advertisements, and interrogated them to reveal the names of friends and contacts. Police found erotic pictures of men on another man’s mobile phone after arresting him, and a court reportedly sentenced him to three years of imprisonment.

Iranian law provides punishments up to death for penetrative same-sex sexual activity between men on the first conviction, and punishes non-penetrative activity with up to 100 lashes. Homosexual conduct between women is punishable with death on the fourth conviction. Iran’s Penal Code requires four reiterated confessions, or the testimony of four “righteous men” as eyewitnesses, to prove lavat, or sodomy. However, judges are permitted to accept circumstantial evidence or inference. At the May 2007 raid in Esfahan, police reportedly brought four civilian witnesses to prove that “immorality” was taking place.

The last documented death sentences for consensual homosexual conduct in Iran were handed down in March 2005. It is not known whether they were carried out. In extensive interviews with men and women inside and outside Iran, Human Rights Watch has documented widespread patterns of arbitrary arrest and torture based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Western sources have suggested that charges of consensual homosexual conduct are converted to charges of rape in the Iranian judicial system, but Human Rights Watch has found no evidence of this.

“In Iran, for some people, the spy at the bedroom window or the knock at the door can mean the threat of a death sentence,” said Stork. “Privacy, freedom from arbitrary arrest, and freedom from torture are human rights. Police and judges must respect them.”

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Sunday, March 23, 2008


Outside View: Iran's election results

Published: March 21, 2008 at 10:40 AM


MOSCOW, March 21 (UPI) -- The first results of the parliamentary elections in Iran were not sensational.

As expected, the religious conservatives representing Iran's political elite, which aim to maintain the permanence of the Islamic state's foundations and the ayatollah regime, won recent elections by a landslide.

Their main opponents, reformers advocating liberal reforms in the economy and the social sphere and better relations with the West, did not even receive 20 percent of seats in the Majlis, the Iranian Parliament. However, it is still too early to talk about the unconditional victory of supporters of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is at the center of this issue.

According to preliminary data, the hard-liners from the United Principle-ist Front and the Broad Principle-ist Front have not received the expected 70 percent of seats in the Majlis because independent candidates won more than 20 percent the seats.

Out of 290 seats, 260 have already been distributed. The United Front won 88 seats, the Broad Front 75, the coalition of reformers 23, and the National Trust Party (the second list of reformers) 17. The remaining 47 seats went to independent candidates.

Although Ahmadinejad's direct supporters -- neo-conservatives from the United Front -- received more than 30 percent of places, their chances of forming an absolute majority in the Majlis are doubtful. Everything depends on the independent candidates and hard-liners from the Broad Front.

For the most part, the Broad Front is represented by so-called moderate conservatives who do not share the president's positions on key directions in domestic and foreign policy. One of them is Ali Larijani, the recent secretary of the National Security Supreme Council. He was a former associate of the president but is likely to compete with him for the presidency in 2009.

Independent candidates are a mixture of moderate hard-liners and moderate reformers. Therefore, the Broad Front could create an alliance with independent candidates, and it is possible that the tone in the Majlis' eighth convocation will be set by this coalition of moderates rather than by Ahmadinejad's supporters.

The parliamentary elections in Iran are usually perceived as a dress rehearsal before the presidential elections. The 2004 elections were particularly telling in this respect. The reformers who were in the top echelons of power had reasons to hope for success. Their leader Mohammad Khatami confidently won in two presidential elections, but it was enough for the reformers to fall a little short of their goals in the economy, and the Iranian people gave their sympathies to the conservatives.

At first, the reformers lost the local council elections and the parliamentary elections, and then the presidential elections. They did not have any chance of success. The conservatives won a convincing victory, and eventually in the second round neo-conservative Ahmadinejad was launched into power by the wave of conservative success.

The current elections will not be an exception of the established practice. The political forces that will win the Majlis and local councils will have objective chances for success in the presidential elections in 2009.

What are Ahmadinejad's chances of winning the elections?

The 2006 municipal council elections showed a noticeable decline in his party's popularity. The neo-conservatives sustained huge losses for many reasons. The economic situation in the country was worse than before the presidential elections in 2005, and Ahmadinejad's confrontational policy toward the West put Iran on the brink of international isolation.

Local council elections are less controlled by the clergy, and their results more precisely reflect public opinion. This is why the neo-conservative failure in the 2006 elections foreshadowed the current acute political struggle on the eve of the Majlis elections. Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has joined this struggle and become an ally of the president. For the first time in Iran's history, he has urged the nation to vote for the current president and his neo-conservative party.

This is a tell-tale fact. Most likely, the top echelons of the radical clergy see the reformers as a threat to the ayatollah regime sometime in the foreseeable future. This time, Khamenei has managed to partially save Ahmadinejad's image, but this is not likely to be enough for his protege's victory in 2009.

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No Swinging Allowed!: Images from the Life of Raheleh Zamani, who did not wish to Die

Sunday 23 March 2008

Change for Equality: "She did not want to die. She wanted to live for her children; for her daughter. She would say: ’I know that when my daughter turns 15, she too will be forced into marriage. She will have to endure beatings and humiliation, and infidelity. She will have to endure what I have endured.’ She did not want to die, so that perhaps she could save her daughter of a similar destiny."

The play "No Jumping Rope!" brought to stage images of the short life of Raheleh Zamani,
recounting her marriage at age 15 and her execution at age 27.

At age 24, after enduring years of violence, humiliation and constant infidelity by her husband, and after repeated failed attempts at obtaining a divorce, Raheleh Zamani murdered her husband—a murder which left those who had the opportunity to meet Raheleh in a state of disbelief. The play, "No Jumping Rope!" was a combination of theatre, performed by Azadeh Faramarziha, and narrations performed by Maryam Hosseinkhah and Jelve Javaheri. The Play was staged on Saturday March 12, 2008, as part of events marking the International Women’s Day at the amphitheatre of the School of Economics at Allameh Tabatabi’ie University. The play was based on a project developed by Azadeh Faramarziha and Nasim Khosravi and other members of the Campaign’s Arts Committee. Nasim Khosravi, the Director of the Play, spoke a few words about the execution of Raheleh after the performance. "Despite the tireless efforts of Zohreh Arzani, Khadijeh Moghaddam, Mahbobeh Hosseinzadeh, Nahid Keshavarz, Aida Saadat, and Marjan Sekhavati, women’s rights activists and members of the Campaign, Raheleh was executed," Khosravi explained.

At the time of Raheleh’s execution, Maryam Hosseinkhah and Jelve Javaheri, were in Evin’s public ward, on charges related to their activities in support of the Campaign. Mahbobeh Hosseinkhah and Nahid Keshavarz too met Raheleh after they were arrested collecting signatures in support of the Campaign’s petition and during their 13 day detention in Evin’s public ward.

Take a look at pictures from this performance on Images for Equality, the photo site of the Campaign.

Translated by: Sussan Tahmasebi

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Obama Statement Commemorating the Persian New Year

Chicago, IL March 20, 2008

On behalf of Michelle and my two daughters, I want to offer my best wishes to you for a happy and prosperous Persian New Year. Nowruz has been celebrated for at least 3,000 years by millions worldwide including over 1 million Iranian Americans in the United States. As I campaign across the country, I am frequently reminded of the tremendous contributions and aspirations of Iranian Americans. Iranian Americans have contributed to the social, economic, and cultural fabric of this nation. Together, we will help write the next chapter of the great American story. It is my great honor to celebrate this Persian New Year with you.

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Shirin Ebadi: The Collection of Signatures Should Continue with Greater Determination

Shirin Ebadi: The Collection of Signatures Should Continue with Greater Determination

Saturday 15 March 2008

Change for Equality: With the recent arrest of Raheleh Asgarizadeh and Nasim Khosravi, the number of persons arrested for the collection of signatures has increased to 15 persons. The sentences of 3 of these activists have already been issued. Most recently, Ehteram Shadfar was sentenced to 6 months suspended prison term, for the period of two years. We interviewed Shirin Ebadi with respect to these new developments. Excerpts of this interview follow:

Q: In your opinion why have heavy sentences been issued for the collection of signatures. Do you think that the collection of signatures is a crime?

A: Luckily the equal rights movement of women in Iran has reached a level of logic and credibility that it forces any just and impartial person to accept its demands and even the harshest of judges cannot overlook these demands, by saying that women don’t have rights, or that they should be valued at half that of men. But since it has been decided to pressure women’s rights activists, the pressure is exerted through other venues and excuses. For example, they say that these actions are against national security. They can do this, because this is a broad accusation, but its definition is actually very specific.

The most important issue from a legal perspective, is intent, meaning that an individual must be intent on acting against national security. Even judges who find women’s rights activists to be guilty, fully recognize that the demands of these women are intent on ensuring their equal rights with men and their brothers, and they only want to end laws that allow for practices such as polygamy. These very justified demands, in no way are related to national security issues. But why are judges reluctant to announce that women are being sentenced to prison and lashings for making demands with respect to their rights? The reason is very simple. They are fearful of public opinion. In other words, while the courts are handing out such sentences, they are not willing to announce their true intention in doing so, as this would incite public opinion in objection to such sentences. As such, without even addressing the nature of the crime, and without even addressing the crime in the final decision of the court, they arrest someone for collection of signatures and put them on trial. With the vague accusation of actions against national security, they try to justify their actions as far as public opinion is concerned. But these tactics will only go to justify and further give credibility to the demands of women.

Q: In your opinion, given the pressures activists face and the price they have had to pay for the mere act of collecting of signatures in support of the Campaign’s petition, do you think it is necessary to continue along this path, or should we end the collection of signatures?

A: Not only should we not end this strategy, but we should continue signature collection with greater determination and resolve. Because these arrests and sentences demonstrate that this movement has been very effective and from a patriarchal perspective which is prevalent in our society the effort is viewed as dangerous, justifying the harsh crackdowns. The strategy of signature collection must not change, because it is the most peaceful of strategies and the women involved in the Campaign have never infused this effort with their political discussions, or even their political beliefs, and have only emphasized the concept of equality. Equality of men and women is an issue that even decision-makers have come to accept, at least in terms of their discourse. I hope that one day the Parliament will take action on the issues they speak about.

Q: Recently, the speaker of the Judiciary announced in a news conference that the collection of signatures in and of itself is not a crime but that it may be viewed as disruption of public opinion?

A: The collection of signatures for certain issues and for some people may be viewed as disruption of public opinion. For example if you collect signatures in support of discrimination and perpetuation of violence against a particular ethnic or religious group, then the act could be considered as an act intended to disrupt public opinion. But the collection of signatures in the One Million Signatures Campaign is intended to demonstrate that women are asking for a revision in laws that discriminate against them. Such a demand, which is being expressed through the most peaceful of strategies, meaning the collection of signatures, can never be considered disruptive of public opinion. Still the arrests, pressures and violence with which they are treating these peaceful activists are on the rise, even though the collection of signatures is not considered to be a crime according to the law. So, why do they continue to arrest young girls engaged in peaceful activism and collection of signatures demanding changes to discriminatory laws against women? Someone needs to respond to this very logical question, but unfortunately there is no accountability on this issue from officials.

Translated by: Sussan Tahmasebi

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Thursday, March 20, 2008


President Bush Message on Nowruz Celebrations

Presidential Message on Nowruz Celebrations

March 2008

I send greetings to those celebrating Nowruz.

For the millions of people who trace their heritage to Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey, Pakistan, India, and Central Asia, Nowruz is a time to celebrate the New Year with the arrival of spring. This cherished and ancient festival brings together family and friends to reflect on what has come before and celebrate a season of new beginnings.

Our country is proud to be a land where individuals from many different cultures can pass their traditions on to future generations. The diversity of America brings joy to our citizens and strengthens our Nation during Nowruz and throughout the year.

Laura and I send our best wishes to all those celebrating Nowruz, both here in the United States and abroad. May the year ahead be filled with peace and many blessings.


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Monday, March 17, 2008


Iran shuts down 9 magazines

By LEE KEATH, Associated Press WriterSun Mar 16, 3:01 PM ET

Iran's Culture Ministry on Sunday announced the closure of nine cinema and lifestyle magazines for publishing pictures and stories about the life of "corrupt" foreign film stars and promoting "superstitions."

The Press Supervisory Board, a body controlled by hard-liners, also sent warning notes to 13 other publications and magazines on "observing the provisions of the press law," the ministry said on its Web site.

It was not clear why the nine magazines were targeted for closure. They do not deal with politics, focusing on light lifestyle features, family advice, and news of celebrities.

They regularly publish photos of Iranian actresses in loose headscarves and stylish clothes, as well as foreign female film stars without head coverings — but nothing more revealing than what is tolerated on some state media.

A recent issue of one of the closed magazines, Sobh-e-Zendegi, or Morning of Life, had photos of Cameron Diaz, Naomi Watts, Mandy Moore and Angelina Jolie — all wearing long sleeves and baggy clothing — and brief stories on some of their current activities.

The ministry said it shut the magazines down for "using photos of artists, especially foreign corrupt film stars, as instruments (to arouse desire), publishing details about their decadent private lives, propagating medicines without authorization, promoting superstitions."

It did not elaborate. Such magazines often have small adds for vitamins and remedies, including pills to treat impotence.

Mohsen Ahmadi, editor Sobh-e-Zendegi, condemned the order.

"It is deplorable that a family lifestyle magazine is ordered closed. It means 70 people have lost their job," he told The Associated Press.

Ahmadi said he received the closure order from the Culture Ministry on Sunday, but it was dated March 10. He said he suspected authorities waited to implement the order until after Friday's parliament elections to avoid raising anger.

The other magazines closed down were Donya-e-Tasvir, Baznegari, Talash, Be Sooy-e-Eftekhar, Neday-e-Iran, Haft, Shooka and Havar, according to the Web site.

Iran saw a wave of newspaper closures amid a confrontation between reformers and hard-liners during the 1997-2005 tenure of former reformist President Mohammad Khatami.

The judiciary has shut down more than 100 pro-reform newspapers and jailed dozens of editors and writers on vague charges of insulting authorities since 2000.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008


German Bundestag Resolution in regards to Elections in Iran

On March 6, 2008, German Bundestag asked the Iranian Government to recognize the candidacy of all candidates including the reformist candidates. Among those voting in favor of resolution 8379/16 along with the coalition government were Social Democrat and Christian Democrat Parties as well as liberal Party, the Green party and the left. German Parliament also asked the Government of Iran to hold a free and fair election for everyone. The Iranian election is scheduled to take place March 13.

It also reiterated its willingness to continue its existing dialogue with their Iranian counterparts as well as its wish to meet the representatives of political parties in the near future.

There were 7200 candidates for the election of which unfortunately majority of them were disqualified. According to the reformist parties, only 20 percent of their candidates were qualified.

In addition, the German Bundestag stated that only a parliament which is truly representative of the people can challenge the hard road ahead. To achieve a true competitive election, there must be freedom to vote and freedom to be elected.

Translated by
United Republicans of Iran

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Friday, March 07, 2008


Unions in worldwide protests over detention of Iranian labour leaders

6 March 2008

Trade unionists and human rights activists in towns and cities across the world are today voicing their opposition to the continued imprisonment of Mansour Osanloo and Mahmoud Salehi. The two Iranian trade union leaders, respectively representing Tehran bus workers and bakery workers, have been in prison for several months.

Protesters are participating in an ITF campaign day, backed by the trade union movement and Amnesty International. Actions included: protests outside the Iranian embassy and the Houses of Parliament in London, UK, and the delivery of letters of protest to the Iranian embassy in Tokyo and the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as a solidarity rally in the Japanese capital and the distribution of some 45,000 leaflets at 35 locations across the country.

In Ethiopia, unions screened the ITF’s film about the Iranian bus workers’ union, “Freedom will come”, and distributed a special issue newsletter amongst workers and the diplomatic authorities. Meanwhile in Indonesia, more than 200 trade unionists participated in a rally in front of the Iranian embassy in Jakarta, during which a letter of protest was delivered to the Chief of Security. In the Ukraine unions staged a picket in front of the Iranian embassy and the building of the Council of Ministers in Kiev; they also attempted to deliver a letter of protest at the embassy but officials refused to accept it.

Since the protests began, the British and Australian governments have released statements backing the day of action. In his statement, British Foreign Office Minister Dr Kim Howells said: ”We call on the government of Iran to release immediately Mansour Ossanlou and Mahmoud Salehi. They have been imprisoned for several months for their involvement in peaceful activities in support of workers’ rights in Iran. This is a clear violation of their right to freedom of expression and association.”

Stephen Smith, the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, outlined the government’s commitment to core international labour standards and said: "The Australian government will continue to call upon the Iranian government to respect and uphold human rights.”

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International Support for Persecuted Women's Rights Campaigners in Iran

(March 7, 2008) In a strong show of international support for the Iranian women's rights movement, over 280 leading women's right advocates and organizations from around the world including six Nobel Peace Laureates have expressed their serious concern about the persecution and prosecution of their Iranian colleagues. They have endorsed a statement calling on the Iranian government to end repressive policies and the persecution of campaigners for equal rights.

"The Iranian women's rights movement is facing unprecedented obstacles and threats. On the occasion of March 8, International Women's Day, we express our solidarity with Iranian women in their quest for equal rights and an end to pervasive legal discrimination against women," they stated.

The six Nobel Peace Prize Laureates include Wangari Maathai (2004), Shirin Ebadi (2003), Jody Williams (1997), Rigoberta Menchú Tum (1992), Betty Williams (1976) and Mairead Corrigan (1976), of the Nobel Women's Initiative, who joined hundreds of representatives of women's rights organizations from around the world attending a meeting of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York and other civil society leaders in endorsing the statement.

A particular target of Iranian authorities has been activists in the One Million Signatures Campaign, which aims to revise discriminatory laws against women. The government has routinely detained and prosecuted the campaigners.

To date, the government has detained and prosecuted 43 members of the One Million Signatures Campaign, claiming they were "endangering national security." Two campaigners, Hana Abdi and Ronak Safazadeh, have been in detention for over five months. On Sunday, March 2, intelligence agents prevented Parvin Ardalan, one of the Campaign's founders, from attending a ceremony in Sweden to accept the prestigious Olof Palme Prize.

The statement called on the Iranian government "to remove all restrictions on peaceful assembly and expression as required by the Iranian Constitution and in accordance with Iran's obligations under international human rights treaties."

To read the full statement about women's rights and about other human rights challenges in Iran, visit the website of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran:

For more information and to arrange an interview with Shirin Ebadi, please contact:
In New York, Hadi Ghaemi (English, Farsi): +1-917-669-5996,

In Vienna, Aaron Rhodes (English):+43-676-635-6612,

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008


URI letter to the UN Human Rights Council

United Republicans of Iran
For a Democratic and Secular Republic

March 6, 2008

The eight parliamentary elections is neither free nor Democratic

Honorable head of United Nations Human Rights Council

The eight parliamentary elections in Iran scheduled for March 14, 2008 clearly violates the articles of Universal Declarations of Human Rights, International covenant on civil and political rights as well as the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Iran. According to article 30 of election laws in Iran that serves as the basis for the election body of the Interior ministry as well as the Guardian Council, many of the political parties and groups engaging in peaceful criticism of Iran’s theocracy, not only have been barred from campaigning under the banner of their political affiliation, but also are not allowed to run as independents. In addition, the executive council of interior ministry and the observing committee of Guardian council have illegally managed to widely filter out candidates in favor of a particular group within the establishment. Therefore, this election does not enjoy the merits of a free and democratic election. Provisions of a fair competition between candidates are lacking in this election. Based on the aforementioned and defiance of the Islamic Republic of Iran in upholding its international obligations in the realm of Human Rights and the civil and political rights of its citizens, particularly where it pertains to freedom of political parties and elections, We are registering our complaints based on unaliented civil and political rights and also based on:

Articles 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights regarding the right of freedom of expression and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

Articles 20, 21 and 25 of International covenant of civil and political rights

Declaration of Inter-Parliamentary Union passed on March 1994 outlining the characteristics of free election

We demand that according to the complementary protocol and section 4 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, an investigation be carried out and the government of Iran as an offender of the above rights be pressured to abide by the laws and also change the discriminatory laws when necessary.

Our objections are based upon:

Lack of freedom of peaceful activity for political parties and associations inside the country.

Inability to be nominated, to freely elect the candidates of one’s choice and hold the pertaining rights based on the provisions of Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Covenants on Civil and Political Rights, due to lack of “Practical Commitment” to Islam and Absolute dominance of Supreme Leader.

Inability of religious minorities to hold office and to assume responsibilities in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the government.

Since according to the article 2 of the complementary protocol and section 4 of the
Covenant on the Civil and Political Rights, the protesters must file their complain
inside Iran whereas Iran’s Constitution has not anticipated any organization to take care of such complaints, We submit our complaints to the head judiciary and the Commission of Article 90 in Islamic parliament in Iran.

Dr. Mehran Barati Mehdi Amini
International Relations-Europe International Relations-USA

Carbon Copy to:

Honorable Head of Inter-Parliamentary Union
Honorable Head of Committee to Defend Free and Fair Elections in Iran
Honorable Head of Committee of Defending Human Rights in Iran

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Radio Free Europe journalist accuses Iran of intimidation

By Doreen Carvajal

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

PARIS: An Iranian-American radio journalist who is facing a yearlong prison term for her broadcasts to Iran through Radio Free Europe said Wednesday that Iran had threatened to seize her 95-year-old mother's home in Tehran if she did not return to serve a sentence for propaganda.

The journalist, Parnaz Azima, 59, who works for the Persian-language service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Prague, said her lawyer in Iran was appealing her conviction Saturday by Tehran's 13th Revolutionary Court for spreading propaganda and working for the "anti-revolutionary" Radio Farda, the Persian-language station of Radio Free Europe.

Azima was one of four Iranian-Americans accused of endangering national security during visits to Iran in 2007. Azima, who had returned to care for her ailing mother, said she was met by two security officials at the airport in Tehran who confiscated her passport. It was the second time that she had been detained about her broadcast work.

"The interrogation was about everything, about my own life," she said. "What was I doing before leaving Iran 25 years ago. What I was doing in my life before coming to Radio Free Europe. And then about what was I doing in Radio Free Europe. And they were always insisting that if I cooperated with them, everything would be closed."

She noted that officials particularly urged her to avoid covering sensitive issues like human rights.

After Azima's conviction was announced, the U.S. State Department condemned the accusations as "baseless." Azima has drawn support from Reporters Without Borders, the media rights group, which views measures against her and other reporters as a wider attempt to intimidate journalists, writers, scholars and activists in Iran.

"My mother's house is under bail for a very expensive amount of money - it's about $600,000," Azima said from Radio Free Europe's headquarters in Prague. "And that was something like hostage-taking."

Executives at Radio Free Europe, which is funded by the United States, charge that Azima's dilemma is part of a broader pattern of threats and intimidation against their journalists that broadcast to many conflict zones in the world. Two of its reporters were killed in Iraq last year, and last weekend employees were beaten and threatened by the police while covering demonstrations in Armenia.

The Iranian authorities, according to the broadcaster, have pursued a softer strategy that relies on criminal charges and relentless pressure on relatives of journalists and sources, including student activists threatened with reprisals if they provide information about demonstrations to the broadcaster.

"The devilish thing about this is that all the tactics are below a certain threshold," said Jeffrey Gedmin, president of the broadcaster. "They're not war crimes. It's not bloodbath. It's not political assassination," he said, adding that the pressure "all has a powerful and a cumulative affect" akin to destroying people without leaving scars.

In the past 12 months, according to the broadcaster, the parents of one Radio Farda employee were forced to pay the equivalent of $50,000 to recover the title of their home in connection with the jailing of the journalist in 2006. The parents of another employee, according to the broadcaster, were warned by another security official that their daughter should stop covering Iranian issues.

In the meantime, Radio Free Europe is using technology to reach Iranians in new ways. In late February, Radio Farda started a new text-message service for Iranians that touches on themes from politics to jokes.

Gedmin conceded that the broadcaster was limited in its options to protect its journalists, but he views the increasing intimidation as a measure of how successful the broadcaster is becoming at identifying sensitive issues.

The interrogators, he said, told Azima "something to the effect that if we find their pressure points, they will find ours."

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Monday, March 03, 2008


Parvin Ardalan, Banned from Travel While on Way to Receive Olaf Palme Award

Change for Equality: Parvin Ardalan was banned from travel early this morning, March 3, 2008,

while on her way to Stockholm, Sweden, to take part in a ceremony in her honor as the recipient of the 2007 Olaf Palme Award. Ardalan, went through the passport check point and boarded the plane without problems, but was forced to depart the plane when security officials prevented the plane from take off, on the excuse that she was banned from travel.

In an interview with Change for Equality, Ardalan explained: "I did not have a travel ban, and during the passport check I was not told as such. But after I boarded the plane, they announced my name and airport security officials boarded the plane. They told Air France officials that I was banned from travel and that I could not exit Iran. They also seized my passport. Instead they gave me an court order, which requires me to turn myself in to the security branch of the passport office within 72 hours."

The Olaf Palme foundation, which is an independent and non-governmental entity, has awarded its annual 2007 prize to Parvin Ardalan, for her activism on behalf of women and within the Iranian women’s movement.

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Saturday, March 01, 2008


Ahmadinejad visits Iraq

Ahmadinejad in historic Iraq visit

By Hugh Sykes BBC News, Baghdad

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is due to travel to Iraq on Sunday for two days - the first such visit by an Iranian president.

Although he was invited by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, it is a controversial and potentially divisive state visit, as well as a security challenge.

Many Sunni Arabs find it deeply objectionable that Iraqi hospitality is being offered to a man they suspect of covertly helping to finance and arm Shia militia groups.

Those groups have killed hundreds of Iraqis in gruesome attacks that often involve torture with electric drills.

One Sunni tribal leader believes the Iranian president is coming here "to organise more terrorist operations in Iraq".

Iranian instructor

The United States also believes Iran has helped Shia groups in Iraq - especially helping develop "shaped" or "explosively penetrating" rounds.

These are chillingly effective roadside bombs that launch molten metal when they are detonated; the force of the explosion propels the molten rounds at such high speed that they can penetrate military armour.

And just a day before the Iranian presidential visit, the US military said they had captured a man they described as a sniper instructor "trained in Iran".

They said he was also an expert in the design and use of those penetrating rounds.

But Iran regards the US as an occupation force in Iraq, and considers resistance to be legitimate.
Before leaving for Iraq, Mr Ahmadinejad laughed off American accusations of Iranian interference.

"Is it not funny that those with 160,000 forces in Iraq accuse us of interference?" he asked

Careful arrangements

The president's visit is a complex security challenge.

Baghdad International Airport, where he is due to arrive, is directly alongside the mostly American military airbase - and the Americans control the airspace.

But it is likely an Iraqi air traffic controller will be on duty when the Iranian presidential plane requests permission to land.

Visiting dignitaries usually head straight from Baghdad airport to the fortified Green Zone - in an American helicopter.

The BBC understands that the Iranian president will not be offered this facility.

Nor would he be likely to accept a ride from the Great Satan, as the US is often described in Iran.

So he will have to go by car - along the seven-kilometre airport road into the city.

Traffic on this road has often been ambushed and attacked - and along much of its length there is only a light fence.

Ironic 'allies'

The president will also avoid the Green Zone, as to gain access to this area - home to the huge American Embassy and numerous Iraqi government offices - vehicles are required to stop at US checkpoints.

And few American troops would want to wave through a man many in the US believe was one of the students who kidnapped American diplomats in Teheran for 444 days soon after the fall of the Shah in 1979.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denies he was involved.

There are also paradoxes associated with this visit.

Despite decades of bad blood, Iran is a potential US ally - against al-Qaeda and the Taleban in Afghanistan.

Shia Iran has little in common with the fundamentalist Wahhabists of the Taleban and al-Qaeda.

Enlightened self-interest

After the attacks on New York and Washington in September 2001, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he was "repulsed" by the loss of civilian lives.

During the following fortnight there were several meetings in Geneva between Iranian and US officials.

According to diplomats, the Iranians urged the US to invade Afghanistan as soon as possible and to install a government to oppose the Taleban.

Tehran also promised $500m for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

It was enlightened self-interest. Iran did not want to be sandwiched between two enemies - Saddam Hussein to the west and the Taleban to the east.

It is ironic that both threats to Iranian stability were removed... by the US.

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# posted by @ 6:07 PM  0 comments


Unions join forces in action day for imprisoned Iranian trade unionist

27 February 2008

Hundreds of thousands of trade unionists across the world will unite in a day of action next week to call for the release of Iranian bus workers’ union leader Mansour Osanloo.

Events on 6 March will take place worldwide, including London, UK, where trade unionists and human rights activists will participate in a demonstration outside the Iranian embassy. The ITF campaign day, supported by the UK trade union movement as well as Amnesty International, will also see a red double decker bus visit London protest sites during the day.

Solidarity actions, including demonstrations, will also be held at Iranian embassies, in cities, railway stations and at border crossings in Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Ethiopia, Cote d’Ivoire, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mali, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Spain, South Africa, Switzerland, Thailand and Turkey. Other countries are planning activities.

The “free Osanloo day” is receiving particular backing from railway workers and their unions who have voted to dedicate a planned rail action day – which traditionally promotes rail safety – to campaigning on Osanloo’s behalf.

David Cockroft, ITF General Secretary, commented: “The Iranian government’s continuing mistreatment of Mansour is a running sore. He has asked only for his basic rights and has been answered with fists, truncheons and manacles – but he has not been forgotten. On 6 March we will once again prove that he has friends and supporters around the world.”

Mansour Osanloo is President of the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company, which has been targeted by the Iranian authorities. He is being held in Tehran’s Evin prison on trumped up charges. The ITF and International Trade Union Confederation have spearheaded the campaign to defend him and he has been declared a prisoner of conscience by Anmesty International.

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# posted by @ 5:55 PM  0 comments


Draft Iranian law threatens gross human rights violations

NEW YORK 22 February 2008 (BWNS)

(Correction appended)

The Iranian Parliament is considering legislation that would institutionalize a series of gross human rights violations, affecting not only Baha'is but many others, even outside of Iran, the Baha'i International Community said today.

Of greatest concern is a section that would mandate the death penalty for anyone who converts from Islam to another religion, a provision that would affect not only Baha'is but also Christians, Jews, and others.

"This proposed law goes against all human rights norms and standards, including international treaties that Iran itself has agreed to," said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha'i International Community to the United Nations.

"It is important for the international community to speak out, now, before it is too late and the draft code becomes Iran's law of the land."

The proposed law also would extend the government's reach over alleged security violations outside the country, give legal effect to discriminatory practices already in wide use against Baha'is and others, and redefine a series of "religious" and other crimes so vaguely as to place in jeopardy virtually any group facing government disapproval.

"If adopted, the code will permit the government and the clergy to act with impunity against Iran's citizens on the sole basis of their religious affiliation," said Ms. Dugal. "This is not only an affront to the people of Iran; it is an offense to all who seek to uphold fundamental human rights."

Ms. Dugal said the new section on religious conversion -- defined as apostasy -- is especially severe, in that its language mandates the death penalty for anyone who converts from Islam to another religion and does not immediately recant.

"The text uses the word Hadd, meaning that it explicitly sets death as a fixed punishment that cannot be changed, reduced or annulled," said Ms. Dugal. "In the past, the death penalty has been handed down -- and also carried out -- in apostasy cases, but it has never before been set down in law.

"The law also extends to naming as apostate any follower of a religion other than Islam who had one parent who was a Muslim at the time of his or her conception. Thus, for instance, the child of a Muslim and a Christian who chooses to adopt the Christian faith would be considered an apostate under the terms of the law and therefore subject to execution," Ms. Dugal said.
Another troubling section of the proposed code would extend "security" laws outside the country, exposing those outside Iran to the government's reach.

"Iran is apparently not content with targeting those it considers its opponents only within its borders," said Ms. Dugal, explaining that Article 112 of the proposed code refers to actions "against the government, the independence and the internal and external security of the country."

"Since the notion of 'security' is not defined in the law, any action can be qualified as such," Ms. Dugal said. "Indeed, many Iranian Baha'is have been falsely accused of activities against the security of the state.

"If the new penal code is adopted, Iranian Baha'is -- and others -- all over the world would likewise be liable for actions taken outside Iran that are considered contrary to Iran's security."
The code's vagueness with respect to "offending the sacred" and other crimes would give the government free license to act against any group it disapproves of, said Ms. Dugal. "The code includes articles that refer to the commission of unspecified crimes or felonies, as well as articles referring to those guilty of 'corruption and mischief on the earth,'" she said.

"It would also institute capital punishment for anyone who 'insults the Prophet,'" Ms. Dugal explained. "Such provisions place many groups, including Baha'is, in an extremely vulnerable position, since an 'insult' to the Prophet can be defined in almost any context, especially where religious belief is concerned."

In related developments, the Presidency of the European Union recently expressed concern over the situation of the Baha'i community in Iran.

"The EU expresses its serious concern at the worsening situation of ethnic and religious minorities in Iran, in particular to the plight of the Baha'i," said the EU Presidency in a statement on 7 February 2008.

"The EU is concerned about the ongoing systematic discrimination and harassment of Baha'is in Iran, including the expulsion of university and high school students, restrictions on employment and anti-Baha'i propaganda campaigns in the Iranian media."


On 22 February 2008, changes were made to the second-to-last and third-to-last paragraphs to clarify that the source of the European Union declaration in support of Baha’is was the EU Presidency. The presidency rotates among member nations, and Slovenia currently holds the position; the article originally gave the name of the Slovenian minister responsible for the Presidency, but the statement was released in the name of the Presidency itself.

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# posted by @ 5:43 PM  0 comments


Iran: Kurdish Teacher Tortured, Sentenced to Death

(Washington, DC, February 27, 2008) –

The Iranian judiciary should revokethe death sentence of Kurdish teacher Farzad Kamangar, Human Rights Watch said today. Kamangar was active in a number of civil society organizations.

The authorities should also investigate Kamangar's allegations that he was tortured in detention, and they should hold accountable any officialsinvolved in such abuse.

"Farzad Kamangar's case highlights how human rights abuses have becomeroutine in Iran," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at HumanRights Watch. "Kamangar was tortured, subjected to unfair trial and nowfaces execution."

On February 25, Branch 30 of Iran's Revolutionary Court sentenced Kamangarto death on charges of "endangering national security." The prosecution claimed that Kamangar is a member of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

According to Kamangar's lawyer, this trial violated the Iranian legal requirements that such cases must be tried publicly and in the presence of ajury. He also told Human Rights Watch that court officials ridiculed hisrequests that they follow mandated legal procedures.

Authorities arrested Kamangar in Tehran in July 2006 and held him in various detention centers in Kurdistan, Kermanshah, and Tehran. Kamangar claims that during a period of detention in Unit 209 of Evin Prison in August 2006, officials tortured him to such an extent that they had to transfer him to the prison clinic to receive medical attention. Kamangar also alleges torture and ill-treatment while in detention in the cities of Sananaj in Kurdistan province and Kermanshah.

Kamangar's lawyer told Human Rights Watch that the first time he met his client, Kamangar's hands and legs were shaking as a result of mistreatmentduring detention and interrogation. Kamangar himself outlined the details ofhow he was tortured in a letter written from prison. Human Rights Watch has obtained a copy of this letter.

Prior to his arrest, Kamangar worked for 12 years as a teacher in the city of Kamyaran, where he was on the governing board of both a local environmentalist group as well as the local branch of the teachers'association. Kamangar wrote for the monthly journal Royan, a publication ofthe Department of Education of Kamyaran. He was also a writer with a local human rights organization that documents human rights abuses in Kurdistanand other provinces.

Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment in all circumstances because of its cruel and inhumane nature."This case gives the Iranian authorities an opportunity to show how they caninvestigate and remedy a situation where there is strong evidence of anunfair trial and of torture," Stork said.

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# posted by @ 5:25 PM  0 comments

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