December 15, 2007 VOLUME 43
E-ZAN VOICE OF WOMEN AGAINST FUNDAMENTALISM IN IRAN
To our readers,
With the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report on Iran's nuclear program, much of Washington's attention was on "now what do we do with Iran!" Those in favor of appeasement were too quick to call it a day and beat the drums of "more talks" with Tehran's fundamentalist regime. Those in favor of war were too frustrated with the administration's positioning of the report and the inevitable change in course of action against Iran. All the while, more arrests, executions, public hanging and subjugation of women continued to escalate in the streets of Tehran and elsewhere throughout the country.
Regardless of its numerous inaccuracies and significant flawed methodology, the NIE report created an opportunity for policy makers to revise their ill-defined Iran-policy based on just the nuclear threat. The much needed new policy must evaluate Tehran's threat based on its dangerous fundamentalist nature that has now spread to Iraq and targets Iraqi women, youth and religious minorities. It should place Iran's human rights practices and treatment of women at its center of analysis so that continued and escalating violations in Iran will no go unnoticed. Unfortunately, given the misguided rhetoric on both sides of the political spectrum, this opportunity may come and go without the needed the revisions.
It is clear that the task of defusing Tehran's threat remains in the hand of brave men and women of Iran who protest the streets chanting "death to dictators." The future of peaceful Middle East and democratic Iran and Iraq remains in the hands of the indigenous forces and authentic voices of change. The fundamentalist regime will be unseated sooner or later and the history will judge those policy makers who failed to cease the moment in defending human rights and real peace.
E-Zan Featured Headlines
WFAFI News - November 16, 2007
According to Majlis (parliament) Women’s Committee Chairwoman Fatemeh Alia, "Iranian women are free to be active in various political and social arenas." Yet, they must ask for their husband's permission to leave the house or attend their father's funeral! Referring to the recent city council elections, Alia said "women are well represented in local councils", yet the public hanging and stoning women continues in Iran. MP Laleh Eftekhari stated that in the recent years "the Majlis has made great efforts in protecting the rights of women and children, and also strengthening family structure in the society." However, Iran holds the highest number of female execution in the world!
RFE/RL - November 16, 2007
The Islamic Revolution, which brought Iran's
conservative clerics to power in 1979, also established shari'a as the basis of
all laws in the country.
"For that reason, the other sections of Islam -- like Sunnis, like Ismaili, like Sufis -- not only haven't the same rights in the constitution and the political and judicial systems of Iran, they aren't considered real Muslims," Lahiji says. "For that reason, all kinds of persecution of these kinds of Muslims are permitted in Iran." In broader terms, Lahiji sees the demonization of Sufi Muslims in Iran as a strategy by Ahmadinejad's regime aimed at discrediting individuals or groups that pose political challenges to the power of Iran's conservative Shi'a clerics. "It's not only about the other sections of Islam. It's all the sections of society. In the last two years, the civil society of Iran -- the journalists, the students, the women, the [labor unions], the teachers, the universities -- all are victims of these very, very aggressive politics," he says. "And the other Muslim groups are [treated] the same. It's the result of the political aggression of Ahmadinejad."
The Guardian - November 19, 2007
As a result, the normally vigilant Culture and
Islamic Guidance Ministry's officials waved through the publication of the
innocuously named Memories of My Melancholy Sweethearts. Now the ministry has
reversed its decision, after conservative media drew attention to the book...
Mohammad Hossein Saffar-Harandi, Iran's Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister,
said the book was being banned on grounds of "immorality" and said a negligent
official had now been sacked. He also said the Iranian publisher, Niloofar,
would be held accountable, despite arguments that the ministry was legally
responsible for the mistake. Garcia Marquez's book is the latest in a series by
world-famous authors to be banned amid tightening censorship by President
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Government. Many previously available books, including
bestsellers and classics as well as academic texts, have been deemed unsuitable.
Ottawa Citizen - November 19, 2007
A Montreal doctoral student who was arrested after traveling to Iran to make a documentary faced a closed trial Saturday on accusations of intending to commit propaganda, a group seeking her freedom said. Mehrnoushe Solouki, who has dual French and Iranian nationality and is a Canadian permanent resident, traveled to Iran last December, but is currently prohibited from leaving the country since her arrest in February. In a statement, the Free Solouki group, which is petitioning for her return, said Ms. Solouki answered all the judge's questions for three hours before the trial was adjourned to an undetermined date. Ms. Solouki is accused of "intent of committing propaganda" against the Iranian regime. She had been detained at Evin prison, where Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi died after she was arrested and beaten to death during interrogation.
Agance France Presse - November 21, 2007
A General Assembly committee on Tuesday passed a resolution expressing "deep concern" at the "ongoing systematic violations" of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Iran. The vote in the assembly's human rights committee was 72 in favor, 50 against with 55 abstentions. It came after an Iranian motion to adjourn the debate was narrowly defeated. The resolution expressed "its very serious concern" at confirmed instances of "torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including flogging and amputations. The resolution, sponsored mainly by European countries, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel and Palau, also criticized stoning as a method of execution and "increased discrimination and other human rights violations against persons belonging to religious, ethnic, linguistic and other minorities." The resolution is expected to be endorsed by the full 192-member General Assembly at a later date.
NCRI Website - November 28, 2007
An Iranian woman activist, Maryam Hossein Khah, was
arrested by the Iranian regime security forces on November 17 in Tehran. The
mullahs’ Magistrate, accused her of being involved in “public agitation” and
“anti government propaganda.” Hossein Khah, a well known journalist, was sent to
Evin prison for writing on women's rights and the need to change discriminatory
laws against women. She was also charged for her participation in “One Million
Signature Campaign.” The court has set equivalent of $100,000 bail to let her
out of prison. Maryam Hossein Khah was quoted as saying in Evin Prison, “This is
the third time I come to Evin Prison. First time I came as a journalist to see
the state of women prisoners…this time is all different. Now I am one of those
unfortunate women prisoners. One of the hundreds of women who are locked for
years within Evin's tall walls where no one hears them; there is no law to
defend them and neither their families nor anyone else hear them…”
NCRI Website - November 29, 2007
Ali Reza Jamshidi, mullahs' judiciary spokesman
announced that Ms. Zahra Kazemi [the slain Iranian-Canadian photojournalist]
murder case will soon be reopened by the regime's Supreme Court, the official
news agency IRNA reported this afternoon. "The case has been brought to the
attention of a branch of Supreme Court. However, the sitting judges in the
branch have some reservations as to the way the case was presented and the
competence of the [lower] court...The judges have referred the case to the
related body for review," said Jamshidi. Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of
the Iranian Resistance described the measure by the Iranian regime as a
stage-managed show and said: the officials of the regime's judiciary are
responsible for Zahra Kazemi's murder. They have slaughtered thousands of
innocent women in their dungeons. A recent case was Zahra Baniyaqob, a young
physician. Forty-eight hours after her arrest by the State Security Forces (SSF)
in the western city of Hamedan, she was accused by the judicial authorities of
so-called "evident crime." However, there are credible reports indicating that
Ms. Baniyaqob was tortured and murdered while in the SSF custody. Mrs. Rajavi
reiterated that the only solution to the case would be to haul Ms. Kazemi's
murderers such as Saied Mortazavi, Tehran Prosecutor General, before an
international tribunal. She added that it would be appropriate for Canadian
government to take the lead in this matter.
AKI Italian News - November 29, 2007
The word 'women' must now be replaced on Iranian
state television by 'family', reformist Norouz news agency reports. In
programmes broadcast throughout the International Day for the Elimination of
Violence against women last Sunday, Iranian state TV used the world family
instead. In recent weeks, Iran's Centre for the Participation of Women changed
its name to the Centre for Family Matters.
Reuters - December 1, 2007
Iranian police will crack down on women in Tehran
flouting Islamic dress codes with winter fashions deemed immodest, such as tight
trousers tucked into long boots, an officer was quoted as saying on Saturday.
"Considering the start of the cold season and its special way of dressing,
police will start early next week a drive against women who wear improper
dress," Tehran police chief Ahmad Reza Radan was quoted as saying by state news
agency IRNA. "Tight trousers tucked inside long boots while wearing short
overcoats are against Islamic codes," the police chief said."Wearing a hat or
cap instead of scarves is also against Islamic dress codes." Police officials
were not immediately available for comment. The Iranian week begins on Saturday.
Police regularly clamp down on skimpier clothing and looser headscarves in the
summer. Usually this is for just a few weeks but this year the campaign has run
into the autumn.Women found dressing inappropriately may be warned or,
particularly for repeat offenders, can be taken to a police station and fined.
Police this year have also cracked down on men sporting what are considered
"Western" spiked haircuts. In October, a newspaper said 122,000 people, mostly
women, had been warned about their clothing and nearly 7,000 of those had to
attend classes on respecting the rules.
Mid East Youth - December 2, 2007
The women’s rights’ activist Jelveh Javaheri was
arrested today by the Revolutionary Courts. She was summoned to the court today
and was arrested on charges of disrupting the public opinion, anti-regime
propaganda, and spreading false news. Javaheri is a sociology graduate student
and has been active in women rights’ groups for a long time. Her activities
included writing articles as well as translation of related material.
Javaheri was amongst the activists who were arrested last March after their calm protest was disrupted by the Police. She will join Maryam Hosseinkhah, another activist who has been in the infamous Evin Prison for about two weeks now
Agance France Presse - December 6, 2007
Iran plans to set up police stations run by women
officers in the Islamic republic's capital to deal only with offences committed
by women, the Tehran Emrouz newspaper reported on Thursday. Fariba Shayegan,
commander of the capital's women police academy of Kowsar, was quoted as saying
that the authorities plan "probably to set up special police stations for women
in Tehran." Two such police stations have already been launched in the
religious, northeastern, city of Mashad, she said. Women police officers, who
previously had been seen mostly in administrative departments, have been
increasingly involved over the past few years in enforcement of observing
Islamic rules in the treatment of female criminals. The most considerable
presence of police women has been highlighted in the country's continuing
crackdown on those flouting the Islamic dress code. Thousands of women have been
warned this year, by joint crews of male and female officers, for wearing tight,
short coats and skimpy headscarves.
Times online - December 8, 2007
On her first day at Basra University this year a man
came up to Zeena, a 21-year-old Christian woman, and three other Christian girls
and ordered them to cover their heads with a hijab, or Islamic headscarf.
“We didn't listen to him, and thought he might just be some extremist student
representing only himself,” she said. The next day Zeena and two of her friends
returned to class with uncovered heads. This time a man in the black clothes of
the Shia militia stopped them at the entrance and took them aside. “He said, 'We
asked you yesterday to wear a hijab, so why are you and your friends not
covering your hair?'. He was talking very aggressively and I was scared,” Zeena
recalled. The girls explained that they were Christians and that their faith did
not call for headscarves. “He said: 'Outside this university you are Christian
and can do what you want; inside you are not. Next time I want to see you
wearing a hijab or I swear to God the three of you will be killed immediately',”
Zeena recalled. Terrified, the girls ran home. They now wear the headscarf all
the time. Despite Basra's increasing similarity to the repressive Iranian
theocracy, which many believe has exerted it influence over the city, Britain
says that its work here is done, and plans to reduce troop levels to only 2,500.
Critics say that will barely allow the Army to protect its own base at Basra
The Associated Press - December 9, 2007
At least 40 women have died this year at the hands
of religious vigilantes in the southern city of Basra, the police chief said
Sunday, describing the discovery of mutilated bodies accompanied by dire notes
warning against "violating Islamic teachings." Maj. Gen. Jalil Khalaf blamed
sectarian groups he said were trying to impose a strict interpretation of Islam
by dispatching patrols of motorbikes or unlicensed cars with tinted windows.
They accost women who are not wearing traditional dress and head scarves, he
said. Before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, Basra, Iraq's second-largest city,
was known for its mixed population and night life. Now, in some areas, red
graffiti warns of dire punishment for any woman who wears makeup and appears
with her hair uncovered: "Your makeup and your decision to forgo the headscarf
will bring you death."
Khalaf said bodies have been found in garbage dumps with bullet holes, decapitated or otherwise mutilated with a sheet of paper nearby saying, "she was killed for adultery," or "she was killed for violating Islamic teachings." In September, he said, the headless bodies of a woman and her 6-year-old son were among those found. He said a total of 40 deaths were reported this year. "We believe the number of murdered women is much higher, as cases go unreported by their families who fear reprisal from extremists," he said.
The Associated Press - December 10, 2007
Hundreds of Iranian students angry over a crackdown
on activists protested Sunday at Tehran University, the second such
demonstration in less than a week, witnesses and state radio said. One witness,
Mehdi Arabshahi, said the campus protest lasted more than two hours as dozens of
students chanted slogans against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's hardline
administration. "Students chanted against policies by Ahmadinejad's
administration, which is imposing pressures on the universities and detaining
activists," Arabshahi said. He said students from other universities joined in
the protest and broke one of the university's gates...33 students and activists
including four women were detained Tuesday after they staged a protest on the
Tehran University campus.
Agance France Presse - December 12, 2007
Several clerics sitting as MPs in the Iranian parliament have criticized the Tehran police chief for showing excessive zeal by ordering a crackdown on women's high boots, a newspaper said on Wednesday. "No officials have the right to mix religion with emotions and issue decrees and implement them on behalf of clerics," clerical MP Seyed Hadi Tabatabai told the reformist Etemad newspaper. "Such behaviour tarnishes Islam." The police last week launched what was termed a "winter" crackdown on unIslamic dressing, to follow an unusually vigorous summer drive against women whose clothing was deemed overly flimsy. Tehran police chief Ahmad Reza Radan said women who wear high boots with their trousers tucked-in would be targeted by the moral police, as well as those who sport hats instead of headscarves and short tight winter coats.Radan had described such fashions as an example of "Tabarroj", an Islamic term which means revealing one's beauty and bodily contours to unrelated men. "A Muslim woman wearing high boots with a coat and other coverings does not contradict Islam," the daily quoted MP Mohammad Taghi Rahbar as saying. "The clerics should define tabarroj and Commander Radan's comments are not within police responsibilities. Cultural bodies should make decisions in this regard," the conservative cleric said.
E-Zan Featured Reports
'The Iranian regime commits crimes against its own people'
New Dehli, India
November 23, 2007
How can we peace work when
there is no democracy?” asks Sheema Kalbasi, Iran born poet and human rights
activist in an online interview with BIJURAJ. Award winning poet and literary
translator, hers is an outstanding and honest voice from the Middle East. She
left Iran twenty years ago after the birth of the current regime and has worked
for the United Nations and the Center for Afghan Refugees in Pakistan. Today she
lives with her husband and daughter in the United States.
What is writing for you and how did you turn to writing?
Writing is a way of expression to me. A line we all walk but some of us take it to a different level. I write in many styles. An experiment I have been doing lately is combining the political, social, and economical issues with erotica, and historical facts.
How much of yourself do you expose in poems? Also, how do people respond to it?
I believe in the universality of human experience. That’s the general framework and the reason why we can read each other’s poems and enjoy them. But there is also a particular element at work here and that’s my individuality. I experience life in a particular body, in a particular age, and in a particular culture. In a sense, when I talk about “me” I am talking about us and when I talk about “us” I am talking about me.
You created the horizontal
and vertical, a new style in poetry. Tell us about that.
It is a style of poetry written parallel to one another but can be read both horizontally and vertically.
Is it easy to write with
others? Can you share your experiences of collaborating with other poets?
For me it has been an easy and enjoyable experience to write with other poets. I have joint poems with Roger Humes and Ron Hudson, two American poets, Alessio Zanelli, an Italian poet, and Yahia Lababidi, an Egyptian-Lebanese poet in English. I have also co-written several poems in Persian with Naanaam (Hossein Martin Fazeli,) an Iranian-Canadian poet, and filmmaker.
You are actively engaged in translation. What method do you generally use? There's a phrase that goes, "the poem is that which is lost in translation." What do you say?
I only translate poems that I feel connected with. I don’t see translation as just translation. I believe the translation of a poem should also embody the accent and mood of the original poem. The Seven Valleys of Love, the Bilingual Anthology of Women Poets from the Middle Ages Persia to the Present Day Iran is an upcoming book that I have translated and edited.
You are also an activist. How does poetry mesh with your activism?
Being a Human Rights activist, poetry has been a way to bring attention to the crimes committed by the Iranian regime and other human rights issues around the world. In fact one of my poems Hezbollah, where I have described the suffering of Iranian religious and ethnic minorities in addition to the arrests and executions of the political prisoners, was awarded the Harvest International prize last year.
One senses a lot of restlessness and agony in your poems...
Yes. I am. My parents did their best to provide me with everything I needed. But I was born in Iran and, before I left as a teenager, experienced totalitarianism first hand.
While dealing the woman subjects in a poem, you seem more aggressive. Do you agree?
I primarily write as a human and not as a woman. People like to say that I am a woman activist. I don’t deny that I am a woman activist or a feminist but first and foremost I am a human rights activist. I believe in equality and therefore I don’t see myself as a woman first. This applies to my poetry and art as well.
Your poem For The Women of Afghanistan has a strong local flavor. Have you ever been to Afghanistan?
I have never been to Afghanistan. When I lived in Pakistan in the eighties I worked for UNHCR. I heard about Afghans’ sufferings first hand and later when I moved to Denmark and Taliban came to power I decided to write the poem For The Women of Afghanistan and got it published in 1998. Ever since its publication this poem has received great deal of attention. It has been anthologised, presented by students, taught in colleges and school classrooms by professors and teachers around the world including India, and has been used in art and crafts as well as paintings by artists.
What forced you into exile \? Tell us about your life in the US.
What forced me to leave my country of birth was the current regime of Iran. Your readers may be familiar with the ruling regime of Iran. Just to give you an example, in the last fifty three days there have been seventy nine executions in Iran. Twenty seven of those were public hangings. Twelve of those broadcast on the Iranian TV. Women have no right to divorce, or to leave the country unless they have permission from their husband or, if they are single, from their father or guardian. For as long as I lived in Iran and remember and from what I read and hear, the political activists are routinely imprisoned and executed. There have been massacre of ethnic minorities such as Kurds. Recently 700 hundred Iranian Baloch were arrested to be executed. University students are hanged under false accusations. When I turned 14 I simply decided I had to leave the country. In the words of Kahlil Gibran, the Lebanese philosopher and writer: “He who does not prefer exile to slavery is not free by any measure of freedom, truth and duty.” Today I no longer see myself just as an Iranian. I am a Danish citizen as well as a U.S. resident and that said, I like to once again say that I see myself as a human and not a citizen of this or that country. In answer to your question about my life in the U.S., I like to say that in my opinion the United States is definitely not perfect but it is the one country where democracy is at its best.
US now placed its eyes on Iran. Do you think war is imminent?
I don’t know if war is on the cards or not but the world has been quiet when it comes to the human rights crimes committed by the Iranian regime. I believe they have to voice their outrage at these violations before everything else. Why has the world been quiet for the past thirty years while our best people have been killed in the prisons of the oppressive regime of Iran? Why all we hear is 'Peace' and never do we hear 'Democracy'! How can peace work when there is no democracy?
If there's war, as an Iranian living in the US, you may be put in complex situation...
No. I don’t believe my life will be any more complex than it was when I was living in Iran. In fact I believe the United States is the one country where my dignity as a human being is never questioned.
How you evaluate the governments in Iran and US.
There is no comparison between the Iranian regime and the U.S. government. The Iranian regime commits crimes against its own people and supports terrorism around the world. The United States has a democratic government and if people are dissatisfied with one political group they have the chance to elect a different one four years later. Even when they U.S. government commits war crimes in Abu Gharib prison in Iraq we hear and read about it and people get convicted. The same doesn’t apply to the ruling regime of Iran.
You have been criticising Iranian government, so is there a chance that you might be in danger when you go back to Iran? Have you visited Iran lately?
I don’t travel to Iran. I left Iran twenty years ago. Ten years ago I traveled back to Iran because my grand mother had passed away. That was when I decided to voice my concerns even more. A year or two years later I published an opinion article where I wrote my observations and experience of the visit. Here is what I wrote for the Iranian Times:
“With pain and sorrow I saw a dreadful, poverty-stricken, dark Iran on the eve of the new millennium. My childhood dream of the year 2000, for the most part, looked something like rocket-shaped cars, lunar colonies, and electric toothbrushes! It was disillusioning to find Tehran 2000 as a city of beggars, of barefoot children with cheeks of tan and dust, of the dark-red sun trying to breathe through the heavy dark clouds of municipal mismanagement. Iran 2000 is an economy based on subsidies, to fill people's bellies just enough so they can survive. Survive to see more of the misery. Survive to receive token dowries and pastries for the blood of their raped virgins in the prisons of oppression. Survive to see fellow human beings buried in a hole up to their chests, stoned to death by a bloodthirsty mob of howling beasts. Survive to find that questioning, yes even questioning this bloodbath, is punishable by death. So much for our economy. So much for our individual and intellectual freedom. So much for justice, and above all so much for our human dignity.”
Let us go back in time a bit. What is your opinion on the Iranian revolution? Do you think what was originally a progressive revolution got hijacked?
Iranians in hope and search for democracy started the revolution. Unfortunately the outcome, only two days after the regime change, was killing, and stabbing the army and intelligence officers in the streets. Such bloodshed is never a good start for any change. Later Bahais, Kurds, and political activists become the targets for the new dictators.
After the September 11
attack, we often hear that people from Middle East and Asia are under suspicion
in US and Europe...
Yes. I do feel so when I go to the airport. Recently my husband, the director of a research center in Washington, D.C. was humiliated on the airplane and his safety was put in danger by the flight attendant when he was on his way back from a business trip. But the United States is where we can voice our concern and are heard.
Tell us something about Iranian writers in exile...
Exiled writers are contributing a lot, not only to the Persian literature but to the world literature as well. Exiles and immigrant writers and poets have, throughout history, had an important role to play in discovering new frontiers in articulating experience and finding new means of expressions. Think of Russian exiles like Marian Tsvetaeva or Josef Brodsky. Think of German exiles like Paul Celan. The same applies to Persian literature. Not many people might know the bright exiled Iranian writers now. But in time they will.
Iranian films have been appreciated the world over.. do you follow Iranian cinema?
I like some Iranian movies. Movies like Gaav (the Cow) by Dariush Mehrjui or Baad Maa Raa Baa Khod Khaahad Bord (The Wind Will Carry Us) by Abbas Kiarostami. But in general I am not an Iranian film buff. That said, I am happy about the success of Iranian movies on the international stage. I think it brings attention to richness of my culture and also exposes the problems we’re facing in Iran (in movies like Zendaan-e Zanaan, Women’s Prison). I just remembered reading an article in New York Times in 2001 in which the author, a renowned film critic, had called Kiarostami “arguably the most important filmmaker alive”. That’s a pretty big statement by a big paper! I am not crazy about Kiarostami’s cinema but that statement made me happy!
In Decolonizing the mind, Ngugi wa Thiong'o argues that the primary duty of any writer is to write in his\her own language first. However, writers like you prefer to write in English. What do you say about this?
I write in English but also in Persian and Danish. In fact I am one of the few Iranian contemporary poets who write in rhymes as well as the free style in Persian. Any language the writer feels comfortable with is great to write in.
There are human rights violations happening in the US as well. As you know, writers like Mumia Abu Jamal and Marlyn Buck are now in prison. What are your views on this?
I disagree. There are not many Human Rights violations in the United States. If there were, we would hear about it. How many cases are there like Mumia abu Jamal? As for Marilyn Buck she and 6 others were convicted in the Resistance Conspiracy Case of the bombing of the United States Capitol Building to protest the US invasion of Grenada.
Iran: Female Doctor's Prison
Death Causes Public Outcry
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
By Farangis Najibullah
November 23, 2007
Zahra Bani Yaghoub was a
27-year-old medical university graduate from Tehran who some two years ago
volunteered to work in the western city of Hamadan. Bani Yaghoub was due to
return to Tehran next year to complete her medical studies and become a
specialist in urology. But instead she died in suspicious circumstances in
Hamadan prison on October 13. Eyewitnesses said she was arrested by Iran's
morality police while walking with her fiance in a Hamadan city park. Her fiance
was released an hour later, but she was kept in prison overnight.
The next day, her lifeless body was handed over to her parents with the police claiming she committed suicide by hanging herself.
"Now people see that even an ordinary person does not have basic security; and a person simply can get arrested on a street and, instead of returning home, their bodies are buried in a cemetery." -- journalist Isa Saharkhiz
Bani Yagoub's family, however, say they have no reason to believe that their daughter would take her own life.
Her father, who reportedly works at an Islamic Revolution Guards Corps facility, accuses the police of assaulting and murdering his daughter.
The family also says her brother had spoken with her over the phone 15 minutes before the time the police claim she killed herself. Bani Yaghoub's brother said there was no indication she was minutes away from taking her life.
The family says Bani Yaghoub's body was bruised and that there was blood in her nose and in her ears.
Bani Yaghoub's death has caused worries in Iranian society about basic civil liberties and personal safety.
Iran's state media has briefly reported the official version of the event. The independent media, however, have been covering all sides of the story and public reaction to her death.
Isa Saharkhiz, an independent journalist and a member of the Association of Press Freedom in Iran, says the details of this woman's tragic death in prison have reached the Iranian people through the country's independent media and foreign news agencies.
Saharkhiz says that under the Islamic regime, Iranians have somehow become accustomed to political activists or independent journalists being arrested and even killed in suspicious circumstances, but this ordinary woman's death while in custody has shocked society.
"Now people see that even an ordinary person does not have basic security; and a person simply can get arrested on a street and, instead of returning home, their bodies are buried in a cemetery," he tells RFE/RL. "It has become a very sensitive issue in our society and created many questions."
In an open letter to the head of the Iranian judiciary this week, a group of former Iranian parliamentarians called for a thorough investigation into the circumstances around Bani Yaghoub's death.
The Iranian Alumni Association of Majlis Representatives, which brings together more than 400 former Iranian parliamentarians, urged Ayatollah Hashemi Shahrudi to fully investigate the case in order to answer all outstanding questions.
Bani Yaghoub's death attracted more attention this week with high-profile lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi discussing the possibility of an autopsy being done.Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi (Fars)
Mehrangiz Kar, an Iranian-born, human-rights lawyer and author based in the United States, says whether the cause of death was a murder or a suicide, the police and judiciary are responsible for this tragic event.
"Who, how, and why could push such a young girl -- one who had a bright future ahead of her -- to the point of anxiety and despair?" she tells Radio Farda. "No matter what has happened, the authorities are responsible for this death."
Both Kar and Saharkhiz say the chances are slim that the authorities would hold any police officer or a prison worker responsible for Bani Yaghoub's death.
They say the authorities cannot ignore the case, which has taken on a high profile with all of the media coverage. But they believe officials will probably drag on the investigation for months and even years until publicity around it eventually fades.
Bani Yagoub's death in prison was similar to that of Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian-Canadian photographer who was arrested while taking pictures outside Iran's notorious Evin prison in 2003. Kazemi later died amid allegations that she was severely beaten, tortured, and possibly raped in prison. Prison officials, however, said Kazemi had a stroke.
Earlier this year, Iran launched a "public security and moralization campaign" during which many citizens, including many women, were arrested and questioned for their alleged un-Islamic attitude, such as Western-style hairdos or outfits.
Unmarried men and women cannot walk together in public holding hands.
There are many cases in Iran when young men and women have been arrested for walking together. However, most of them were later released after paying a fine or receiving other punishments such as flogging.
Tribal leader: Evicting Iranian regime is only solution for Iraq
CNN's Thomas Evans, Charley Keyes and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.
November 23, 2007
The leader of a prominent group
representing tribes in southern Iraq is calling for "the eviction of the Iranian
regime from our homeland."
Sheik Jasim al-Kadhim, president of the Association of Nationalist and Independent Iraqi Tribes from the south, condemned what he called Iran's meddling in Iraq by those affiliated with Quds Force, an arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The United States accuses the Quds Force of aiding Shiite militias in Iraq and has designated it as a terrorist group.
Al-Kadhim, speaking by phone Friday, said evicting the Iranian regime -- in particular from the southern Iraqi provinces -- is "the only solution and hopeful prospect for Iraq."
Al-Kadhim's comments represent another kink in the relationship between the two nations, who share the Shiite faith and whose friendliness toward each other has raised U.S. concerns.
Additionally, 300,000-plus Iraqi Shiites signed a petition calling for an end to what they call "Iranian terrorist interferences" and demanding the United Nations investigate the Islamic republic's involvement in Iraq.
The United States has been at the forefront of a bitter battle over Iran's nuclear program. Washington suspects Iran intends to develop nuclear weapons, but Tehran has said its program has only peaceful aims.
On Tuesday, the Iraqi Shiite groups announced they had completed the six-month process of gathering signatures for the petition.
The groups demand the United Nations "dispatch a delegation to investigate the four years [of] crimes in the southern provinces by the Iranian regime and its proxies," according to the Independent National Tribal Organization in Southern Iraq.
The petition has the support of 14 clergy members and 600 sheiks as well as the signatures of 25,000 women, the release said.
"The most painful stab on the back of the Shiites in Iraq by the Iranian regime has been its shameful abuse of Shiite religion to achieve its ominous ends," the petition said.
The People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran -- or Mujahedeen-e Khalq -- which seeks to overthrow the Islamic regime in Iran, also backs the petition.
The organization has been labeled a terrorist group by the United States, Iraq and Iran -- all for different reasons -- but it continues to operate in Iraq under the U.S. military's protection. The United States considers the group a source of valuable intelligence on Iran.
Iran has blamed the group for supporting Shiite insurgents, but the organization has said "these allegations are only to cover up the crimes of the Iranian regime and its mercenaries in Iraq," according to the Shiite group's statement.
Another Iran-Iraq tiff emerged this week when Iraqi spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh announced upcoming talks that he said will "help to establish security and stability in Iraq and to dispel the tensions in the region."
According to Iran's Press TV, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini expressed concern about some of al-Dabbagh's remarks.
"Al-Dabbagh earlier said that as Iran had cut its support for insurgents in Iraq, Tehran and Washington should take advantage of the situation to hold a new round of talks," the report said. "Hosseini vehemently dismissed the accusations, calling on the Iraqi government not to be influenced by the [psychological war] waged by the U.S."
Al-Dabbagh's office then expressed "surprise and regret" at Hosseini's comments.
In the 1980s, Iran and Iraq fought a nearly decadelong war that left more than 1 million dead. The two countries have been working to improve ties since the U.S.-led invasion ushered in a Shiite-dominated government.
No date has been set for the expert-level talks, which will follow three earlier meetings between U.S. and Iranian officials in Baghdad. But Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said another round of talks will occur in "the near future," according to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency.
The United States and Iran have not had diplomatic relations since 1980, and the Swiss Embassy represents U.S. interests in Iran.
Some signs suggest tensions are easing: Iraqi and U.S. officials have indicated recently that Iran is using its influence to improve security in Iraq by restraining cross-border weapons flow and militia activity, and U.S. commanders released nine Iranian prisoners in Iraq this month.
Fundamentalist regimes post
grave threats to women
Forum calls for examination of means to offer assistance
By Eileen Connelly, OSU
The Catholic Telegraph
December 14, 2007
ARCHDIOCESE — This past June, Sister of Charity of Cincinnati Louise Akers, co-coordinator of the congregation’s Office of Peace, Justice and Integrity of Creation, was among the participants at a large international forum held in Villepinte, a small town north of Paris, France.
The objective of the gathering, comprised of more than 50,000 people — Iranians, along with supporters from the United States and Europe — was "to witness to an alternative way of governance while calling for an end to the systematic oppression carried out by the Mullahs (clerics), especially toward women whose rights are not acknowledged nor allowed," Sister Louise explained.
Iranian Mullahs persist in their oppressive fundamentalist regime, ruling in the name of Allah, Sister Louise said, noting that all fundamentalisms are extreme political and religious ideologies grounded in patriarchal tradition that manifest themselves through exclusive and oppressive doctrines, policies and structures.
In Iran, she said, these are demonstrated by the existence of military tribunals, stoning of women and imprisonment, torture or killing of dissidents. Sister Louise went on to quote Randall Balmer, a professor of American religious history at Barnard College, Columbia University, who noted the fundamentalists’ analysis of the status quo is that it’s being threatened, and said, "There’s a sense that the world is out of control and chaotic, and that if we can control our women then the world will be a safer place. That’s a real perception on the part of a lot of religious conservatives — Muslims, Catholics, Protestant fundamentalists."
At the forum, numerous international politicians addressed those gathered. Featured speaker Maryam Rajavi, President-Elect in Exile of Iran, spoke in favor of establishing a democratic Iran and against clerical policies that violate human rights. She also addressed the significance of the European Union’s recent identification of the Iranian Resistance Movement as a "terrorist group." Yet, the movement’s history and philosophy "contradict such a label," Sister Louise said. "The United States has also labeled them a ‘terrorist group.’ What sense does this make in light of the government labeling Iran as part of the ‘axis of evil.’"
The following objectives outlined by Rajavi counter the terrorist label and "challenge us to call for an alliance with rather than against the NCRI (National Council of Resistance of Iran)," added Sister Louise. "The United States and European Union need to listen to these alternative principles and relinquish their policy of appeasement toward the mullahs."
The objectives are:
The ballot box is the only criterion for legitimacy.
In Iran of tomorrow, we will respect all individual freedoms. Expression of opinion, speech and the media are completely free, and any censorship or inquisition is banned.
We support and are committed to the abolition of the death penalty.
The Iranian Resistance will establish the separation of the church and state. Any form of discrimination against the followers of all religions and denominations will be prohibited.
We believe in complete gender equality in political and social rights
We are committed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and international covenants and conventions.
Our foreign policy will be based on peaceful coexistence. . .
The day was also filled with music, celebration and intense conversations, according to Sister Louise. "On my way home, a song by folk singer Holly Near came to mind," she said. "I believe her refrain captures the grounding and necessity for an alternative to fundamentalisms — that of a pluralistic posture toward all in the human community.
Sister Louise offered suggestions for further reading and reflection for area Catholics interested in learning more about the issue including Karen Armstrong’s Battle for God (fundamentalism in the three Abrahamic faiths); Diana Eck’s A New Religious America (pluralistic approach to religion and faith); and American Theocracy by Kevin Phillips, a one-time speech writer for former President Richard Nixon, who sounds an alert related to theocratic characteristics within the U.S. government. She also recommended visiting www.theocracywatch.org and www.womenfreedforum.com for more information.
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Volume 43, December 15, 2007
The E-Zan © 2007