May 15, 2009 VOLUME 60


To our readers,

On May 1st, the Iranian regime committed yet another heinous crime and executed a 23 year old woman who was arrested and charged at the age of 17. Delara Darabi was hanged in the city of Rasht in Northern Iran. She confessed to the murder after her arrest to protect her boyfriend who had robbed and killed the victim. The boyfriend who was convicted of 10 years in prison for complicity to murder had asked Delara to accept the responsibility since she was underage and "could not" be executed. Delara was an artist, a painter. She once said: "I try to defend myself using colors, forms and words. These paintings are my swear to what I have not done. From behind the walls, I say hello to you, who has come to see my paintings." Delara has become the symbol of tens of juveniles executed by the Iranian regime.

The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Iran is a signatory to, bans capital punishment for offenders who committed crimes before their 18th birthday. Time and time again, the barbaric regime in Tehran has proven to have no respect for any human rights norms, or international treaties and conventions.

Iranian women see no benefit in futile engagement of the Islamic fundamentalist regime. It will only buy them time and embolden them in the relentless internal suppression of their citizens.

WFAFI calls on the Obama administration and other leaders of the free world to place the issue of human rights, women's and children's rights at the center of any policy relations with Tehran's regime. We firmly believe that the only viable solution for Iran and the region is a secular democratic regime to replace the dictatorial clerical government in Iran. Let's stand up with the Iranian people and assist them in their endeavor to restore freedom and democracy to their homeland and to rid the region from the menace of Islamic fundamentalism.

E-Zan Featured Headlines

Agance France Presse - April 18, 2009

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led a chorus of dismay Saturday at the eight-year jail sentence for US-Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi by an Iranian court that accused her of spying. "I am deeply disappointed by the reported sentencing of Roxana Saberi by the Iranian judiciary," said Clinton, who was attending a Summit of the Americas with President Barack Obama in Trinidad and Tobago. "We will continue to vigorously raise our concerns to the Iranian government," she said in a statement. "We are working closely with the Swiss Protecting Presence to obtain details about the court's decision, and to ensure her well being." The verdict came despite calls by Clinton for Saberi's release and Obama's diplomatic overtures to Iran after three decades of severed ties. The reporter had been detained in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran since January and went on trial behind closed doors on Monday accused of spying for the United States. "This is a shocking miscarriage of justice," said US Senator Byron Dorgan, who represents the state of North Dakota where Saberi's family lives. "The Iranian government has held a secret trial, will not make public any evidence, and sentenced an American citizen to eight years in prison for a crime she didn't commit. "I call on the Iranian government to show compassion," said Dorgan, adding that he would continue to work with the Saberi family, US State Department officials and the international community to gain her release. "I will not rest until Roxana is given her freedom and arrives home in the US," added Dorgan in a statement after her conviction. The state's other US senator, Kent Conrad, described her Saberi's sentence as "preposterous" and a "travesty of justice." Iran, said Conrad, "is doing enormous damage to their credibility on the world stage with behavior like this." Saberi, who has been living in Iran for six years, reported for NPR, the BBC and Fox News, and while working as a journalist was pursuing a master's degree in Iranian studies and international relations. National Public Radio president Vivian Schiller said the network was "deeply distressed by this harsh and unwarranted sentence." Saberi "has already endured a three-month confinement in Evin prison, and we are very concerned for her well-being," she added. "We appeal to all of those who share our concerns to ask that the Iranian authorities show compassion and allow her to return home to the United States immediately with her parents." The BBC said in a statement issued in London that it was "extremely concerned at this severe sentence." "Roxana was tried in secret and no evidence of espionage has been made public," it said. Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi said in March that Saberi's press card had been revoked in 2006 and since then she had been working "illegally." Earlier this week State Department spokesman Robert Wood told reporters that the charges of espionage against Saberi "are baseless, without foundation."

Compass Direct News - April 18, 2009

Accused of "acting against state security" and "taking part in illegal gatherings," two Iranian Christian women have been held in a Tehran prison for over a month in a crowded cell with no access to legal representation. Amnesty International, in an appeal for urgent action last week, reported that authorities have made the accusations known but have imprisoned the women without filing official charges. The organisation called on Iranian authorities to release them and expressed concern for their health. Maryam Rostampour, 27, and Marzieh Amirizadeh Esmaeilabad, 30, who were active in church activities and distributing Bibles according to Amnesty's appeal, were arrested on 5 March. They are being held in the detention center of Evin Prison, a facility that has drawn criticism for its human rights violations and executions in recent years. Their families have presented the title deeds of their homes as bail but are still waiting for approval from the judge. Amnesty reported that Esmaeilabad said both are suffering from infection and high fever and had not received adequate medical care. They continue to be detained in an overcrowded cell with 27 other women.


Agance France Presse - April 19, 2009

Human rights groups on Sunday challenged President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to eliminate severe discrimination in Iran, ahead of his arrival at a UN conference against racism and intolerance in Geneva. The International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), the Baha'i International Community (BIC) and the Iranian League for Human Rights (LDDHI) said Ahmadinejad must tackle discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities, women, and halt incitement to hatred. "By coming to the Durban Review Conference, President Ahmadinejad signals a commitment to the conference's goals of eliminating all forms of discrimination and intolerance," said Diane Ala'i, the BIC's representative at the UN in Geneva. "His first move on returning home, then, should be to address the severe discrimination and persecution that have flourished under his tenure," she added. Ahmadinejad is the most prominent head of state scheduled to address the opening of the UN review conference on Monday, which is being boycotted by the United States, Israel, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands. His virulent anti-Israel statements and comments casting doubt on the Holocaust have prompted fears that his speech could overshadow the primary aim of the conference, to take stock of racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance around the world. The rights groups said religious discrimination was widespread in Iran, notably affecting Baha'is, Christians, Jews, Sufis, Sunni Muslims, and other minorities, through arbitrary arrests, intimidation and harassment. They also accused Iranian government-controlled media of fomenting hatred against Bahai's, and warned that repression against activists belonging to ethnic minorities including the Kurds was "rising dramatically". "Human rights have sharply deteriorated in Iran under the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, as well as against women, are of grave concern," said Karim Lahidji of LDDHI. The human rights groups called on governments taking part in the conference, as well as the media, to hold Ahmadinejad accountable for violations in Iran.


Agance France Presse - April 24, 2009

The European Parliament on Friday called on Iraq to respect the "protected persons" status of an exiled Iranian opposition group and withdraw a threat to close their camp north of Baghdad. The parliamentary text, adopted during a plenary session in Strasbourg, called on the Iraqi prime minister "to ensure that no action is taken by the Iraqi authorities which violates the human rights of the Camp Ashraf residents and to clarify the government's intentions towards them." Iraqi national security advisor Muwafaq al-Rubaie said last month that the 3,000 members of the People's Mujahedeen of Iran (PMOI) should leave the camp, 80 kilometres (50 miles) from border with Iran, where they have been living for two decades, describing them as "foreign terrorists." The EU parliament said that those in the camp who left Iran for political reasons "could be at risk of serious human rights violations if they were to be returned involuntarily to Iran." The MEPs said that "no person should be returned, either directly or via a third country, to a situation where they would be at risk of torture or other serious human rights abuses." They called on the Iraqi government to respect the legal status of the residents as "protected persons" under the Geneva Conventions and to refrain from any action that would endanger their life or security. The resolution also called on the European Union, together with the Iraqi and US governments, the United Nations and the Red Cross "to work towards finding a satisfactory long-term legal status for Camp Ashraf residents." The camp houses supporters of the PMOI and their families. The PMOI was founded in 1965 in opposition to the shah of Iran, but was defeated by the rival clerical regime which took power in 1979. The group disarmed after the overthrow of Saddam in April 2003 by US-led forces but was allowed to remain at Ashraf. In 2002, the PMOI was listed by the European Union as a terrorist organisation but was struck off the list in January this year, to the fury of Tehran. It remains on a US blacklist. PMOI head Maryam Rajavi, who lives in exile in Paris, welcomed the EU parliament's stance as "a defeat for the clerical regime in its plots against the residents of Ashraf and its attempts to prepare the grounds for a human catastrophe."


NCRI Website - May 1, 2009

Delara Darabi, 23, was hanged this morning, May 1, despite widespread international opposition. This has shocked all freedom loving and democratic forces around the world. Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, described the execution of the young woman, who at the time of the crime attributed to her was only 17 as a sign of savagery, barbarism and misogyny of the medieval regime ruling Iran. She urged the international community to condemn this unprecedented and hideous crime. Mrs. Rajavi added that the world community, in particular the EU and the US, are facing a big test; continue keeping silence and inaction in face of the bloodletting religious fascism ruling Iran or standing up to responsibilities that the UN Charter, conventions and international regulations have defined for them in dealing with such regimes. Mrs. Rajavi urged all international organizations, human rights and women rights organizations to call upon the international community to confront this regime, which is a shameful stain for modern world and has no relevance to the 21st century.


US State Department Press Release - May 2009

Hillary Rodham Clinton Secretary of State, Office of the Spokesman Washington, DC May 1, 2009 The United States is proud to join the international community in celebrating World Press Freedom Day and the contributions that journalists make to advancing human dignity, liberty, and prosperity. We live in a world where the free flow of information and ideas is a powerful force for progress. Independent print, broadcast, and online media outlets are more than sources of news and opinion. They also expose abuses of power, fight corruption, challenge assumptions, and provide constructive outlets for new ideas and dissent. Freedom of the press is protected by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is a hallmark of every free society. Wherever media freedom is in jeopardy, all other human rights are also under threat. A free media is essential to democracy and it fosters transparency and accountability, both of which are prerequisites for sustained economic development. Those who seek to abuse power and spread corruption view media freedom as a threat. Instead of supporting an open press, they attempt to control or silence independent voices. The methods they use against news organizations and journalists range from restrictive laws and regulations to censorship, violence, imprisonment, and even murder. Such tactics are not new, and cannot go unanswered. We are especially concerned about the citizens from our own country currently under detention abroad: individuals such as Roxana Saberi in Iran, and Euna Lee and Laura Ling in North Korea. On behalf of President Obama, I want to affirm the United States' strong commitment to media freedom worldwide. We will champion this cause through our diplomatic efforts and through our exchange and assistance programs. We will work in partnership with non-governmental organizations and directly with members of the media. And we will stand with those courageous men and women who face persecution for exercising and defending the right of media freedom.

E-Zan Featured Reports

US 'deeply disappointed' as Iran convicts reporter
April 18 2009
The Associated Press
By Ali Akbar Dareini

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran convicted an American journalist of spying for the United States and sentenced her to eight years in prison, her lawyer said Saturday, complicating the Obama administration's efforts to break a 30-year-old diplomatic deadlock with Tehran. The White House said President Barack Obama was "deeply disappointed" by the conviction, while the journalist's father told a radio station his daughter was tricked into making incriminating statements by officials who told her they would free her if she did. It was the first time Iran has found an American journalist guilty of espionage - a crime that can carry the death penalty. Roxana Saberi, a 31-year-old dual American-Iranian citizen, was arrested in late January and initially accused of working without press credentials. But earlier this month, an Iranian judge leveled a far more serious allegation, charging her with spying for the United States. The Fargo, North Dakota native had been living in Iran for six years and had worked as a freelance reporter for several news organizations including National Public Radio and the British Broadcasting Corp.

The journalist's Iranian-born father, Reza Saberi, told NPR that his daughter was convicted Wednesday, two days after she appeared before an Iranian court in an unusually swift one-day closed-door trial. The court waited until Saturday to announce its decision to the lawyers, he said. Saberi's father is in Iran but was not allowed into the courtroom to see his daughter, who he described as "quite depressed." He said she denied the incriminating statements she made when she realized she had been tricked but "apparently in the case they didn't consider her denial." Saberi's lawyer, Abdolsamad Khorramshahi, told The Associated Press he would "definitely appeal the verdict." U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the United States was working with Swiss diplomats in Iran to get details about the court's decision and to ensure Saberi's well-being. She said in a statement the United States will "vigorously raise our concerns" with the Iranian government. The United States has called the charges against Saberi baseless, and the State Department said Thursday that Iran would gain U.S. good will if it "responded in a positive way" to the case. Obama has said he wants to engage Iran in talks on its nuclear program and other issues - a departure from the tough talk of the Bush administration. Iran has been mostly lukewarm to the overtures, but Iran's hard-line president gave the clearest signal yet on Wednesday that the Islamic Republic was also willing to start a new relationship with Washington. In a speech, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran was preparing new proposals aimed at breaking an impasse with the West over its nuclear program. But Iran's judiciary is dominated by hard-liners, who some analysts say are trying to derail efforts to improve U.S.-Iran relations.

The United States severed diplomatic relations with Iran after its 1979 Islamic revolution and takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Relations deteriorated further under the former President George W. Bush, who labeled Iran as part of the so-called "Axis of Evil" along with Saddam Hussein's Iraq and North Korea. Saberi's conviction comes about two months ahead of key presidential elections in June that are pitting hard-liners against reformists who support better relations with the United States. Ahmadinejad is seeking re-election, but the hard-liner's popularity has waned as Iran's economy struggles with high-inflation and unemployment.

Some conservative Iranian lawmakers played down Saberi's conviction, saying the verdict would not affect any ongoing efforts to build trust between the United States and Iran. "Although there is a wall of mistrust between Iran and the United States, the judicial verdict won't affect possible future talks between the two countries. The verdict is based on evidence," said lawmaker Hosseini Sobhaninia. Saberi's father disagreed, telling NPR, "I don't think they have any evidence and I haven't heard any evidence that they have made public." Human rights groups have repeatedly criticized Iran for arresting journalists and suppressing freedom of speech. The government has arrested several Iranian-Americans in the past few years, citing alleged attempts to overthrow its Islamic government through what it calls a "soft revolution." But they were never put on trial and were eventually released from prison. "The Saberi case is the latest example of how Iranian authorities arbitrarily use spying charges to arrest journalists and tighten the gag on free expression," said Paris-based Reporters Without Borders. Meanwhile, NPR said it was "deeply distressed by this harsh and unwarranted sentence." Iran has released few details about the charges against Saberi. Iranian officials initially said she had been arrested for working in the Islamic Republic without press credentials, and she had told her father in a phone conversation that she was arrested after buying a bottle of wine. An Iranian investigative judge involved in the case later told state TV that Saberi with passing classified information to U.S. intelligence services. Her parents, who traveled to Iran from their home in Fargo in a bid to help win their daughter's release, could not be reached by the AP for comment on Saturday. Saberi's father has said his daughter, who was Miss North Dakota in 1997, had been working on a book about the culture and people of Iran, and hoped to finish it and return to the United States this year.


Group besieged in Iraq
Washington Times
May 1, 2009

By Lord Robin Corbett
Trouble is brewing at Camp Ashraf in Iraq, where 3,500 members of the main Iranian opposition group the PMOI - the People's Mujahideen of Iran - are based. At Iran's request, the Iraqi authorities, who took over protection of Ashraf from American troops in January, are now preventing medicine and fuel from reaching the inhabitants. Parts of Ashraf, including a dormitory for several hundred women, have been besieged since mid-March, and unarmed residents have been subjected to violence. Most journalists and Iraqi doctors are not allowed entry - neither are relatives of the PMOI nor women of any nationality. These draconian measures were put into force by Iraq's National Security Adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, a key ally of Iran, who says he wants to drive PMOI members out of Iraq. They also come two months after the European Union removed the PMOI from its terrorist list. Britain de-proscribed the group in 2008 after the Court of Appeal found that all the evidence showed it was "perverse" to classify the group as a terrorist organization. The group remains on the U.S. blacklist, but in 2004 Washington recognized all PMOI members in Ashraf as "protected persons" under the Fourth Geneva Convention, after determining that none of them could be charged with any crime under U.S. law. Under international law, an attempt to forcefully displace the population even inside Iraq would be tantamount to a war crime. Nevertheless, Iran's Supreme Leader the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in February publicly demanded that the Iraqi president "implement the bilateral agreement to expel the PMOI," triggering the current developments. The European Parliament on April 24 adopted a resolution calling on the Iraqi government to "end its blockade of the camp and respect the legal status of the Camp Ashraf residents as 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."
Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, last month warned of an impending humanitarian catastrophe at Ashraf. The World Organization Against Torture urged U.S. authorities to "take the necessary steps to ensure the effective protection of Ashraf residents."
In Strasbourg in mid-April, Corien Jonker, who chairs the refugees committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, said: "The situation of Iranians in Camp Ashraf in Iraq has become more than alarming. These persons must, as a matter of urgency, receive full guarantees of international protection."
Most independent observers agree - and the Iraqis make no secret of this - that the actions to drive the PMOI out of Iraq have been coordinated in Tehran. Iranian authorities are overwhelmed by student-led protests and therefore resort to arbitrary arrests, torture and mass executions to spread fear. Opponents of the regime were given a major boost when the 27 EU states lifted the ban on the PMOI in January. This alarmed Ayatollah Khamenei and his mullah clique.
The ayatollah suffered a second blow at the end of January when Iraqis went to the polls to elect provincial councilors. The slate allied to Iran failed to win in any of the 14 provinces in which voting was held, and Iraqis sent a powerful message that they oppose what most call a "hidden occupation" by Iran. Almost incomprehensibly, the Christian minority groups did better in Baghdad than Iran's chief ally.
The PMOI in Ashraf has spent the past six years convincing Sunni and Shi'ite Iraqis to stop their infighting and hostility toward the coalition and unite in opposing the import of Iranian fundamentalism. Sunni Arabs leaders now encourage members of their sect to take part in the December national elections, and top Shi'ite and Kurdish groups, including those in government, threaten to withdraw from their alliance with Iranian proxy groups such as the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq led by Khamenei protege Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim.
Iraqi dailies and commentators constantly talk of 5.2 million Iraqis having backed the PMOI's call. The Ayatollah Khamenei has realized that if current circumstances persist, come December, he will lose his grip on power centers in Iraq, which would break his already feeble ideological hold over members of his Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
To the ayathollah, losing Iraq is akin to losing the ideological adjutancy of the Guards, which also form the backbone of the suppression apparatus in Iran. It follows that the Khamenei regime would then face huge domestic public upheaval of revolutionary proportions. This is precisely why his predecessor the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini saw the takeover of Iraq, with its majority Shi'ite population, as the Islamic Republic's lifeline, and why the Ayatollah Khamenei is putting maximum pressure on Iraq to expel his main opponents.
The current siege of Ashraf by Iraqi forces violates international humanitarian law and the written assurances Baghdad gave to the United States before taking charge of the camp's protection. Ashraf residents have vowed not to leave despite the use of force by the Iraqis.
Fearing a humanitarian catastrophe, Iraqi democrats and nationalists such as Saleh Mutlaq, who heads the Sunni National Dialogue Front in the Iraqi Parliament, and Shi'ite Ayatollah Ayad Jamaleddin who sits on the Iraqi Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee have urged U.S. forces to take back responsibility for protection of Ashraf to undercut Iranian pressure on the Iraqi government to suppress the group.
Iraq's Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi earlier this month announced on his Web site that the PMOI's presence in Iraq was legal and fell "within the bounds of international conventions."
The United States must now heed the recommendation of Iraqi democrats and retake control of Ashraf's protection. In doing so, this time next year, we could see an Iraqi administration free of Iranian proxies and consequently an Iranian society brimming with dissent.

Iran: the world's second biggest sponsor of capital punishment
By Neil Durkin
May 2, 2009
Daily Telegraph
The US State Department's naming of Iran as the "most active state sponsor of terrorism" in the world coincides with other alarming news out of Iran today.
This morning a call came through to my office at Amnesty telling me that a 22-year-old woman called Delara Derabi had been executed earlier today at Rasht Central Prison in north-west Iran.
This was pretty devastating. Darabi wasn't famous, but was certainly well-known in anti-death penalty campaigning circles. Myself and Amnesty colleagues had been working on her case for the past three years. Recently her lawyer Abdolsamad Khoramshah and human rights campaigners had been desperately trying to avert this woman's impending death. They were doing this partly because - as with us at Amnesty - they opposed the death penalty in all instances, but also because there were grave doubts over Darabi's actual guilt. Her trial was unfair and potentially crucial evidence was never heard.
More than this, she was a minor at the time of the alleged offence (aged 17) and the execution of child offenders is banned internationally. Not for the first time (they did it eight times last year as well) the Iranian authorities have flouted this global prohibition, thumbing their noses at the international community in a quite outrageous manner.
In fact, with Delara Derabi's hanging Iran has breached its own laws as well. Her execution went ahead this morning without even her lawyer being told, in defiance of the Iranian legal requirement that legal counsel should receive 48 hours' notice of an impending execution. To add insult to injury - and what particularly shocked people in my office - Iran's Head of the Judiciary had only very recently (19 April) ruled that there should be a stay of execution for two months.
Working in human rights you get used to setbacks but Delara Darabi's execution was a cruel blow, quite out of the blue. Meanwhile, the statistics on the death penalty in Iran are becoming increasingly alarming. So far this year - including Darabi's hanging - Iran has already executed at least 140 people, comfortably more than one per day on average. In crude numerical terms, this is almost certainly second only to China anywhere in the world, and all this with only a fraction of China's mammoth population.
On top of the continued furore over Iran's nuclear threat, its sponsorship of international terrorism and its persecution of opponents and critics (anyone from the US-Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi to Iranian women's rights activists at the incredibly brave Campaign For Equality), should be added this quiet and very deadly increase in capital punishment.
Iran may or may not be the most active state sponsor of terrorism in the world, but I can confidently say that it is the second biggest sponsor of capital punishment anywhere on the planet.

Iran - Khavaran Cemetery: Mullahs move remains of victims of massacre to undisclosed location
May 2, 2009

NCRI Website

NCRI - Plain-clothes agents of the Iranian regime in their latest efforts to destroy the most important proof left from the criminal massacre of more than 30,000 political prisoners in 1988, removed the soil from parts of the Khavaran cemetery, in South East of Tehran, relocating the remains of victims.
On Saturday, April 25, 2009, in early morning hours, the agents used several loaders and trucks to remove the soil from the southeastern part of the Khavaran cemetery, where mass graves are located. They then began to replace it with fresh soil.
Families of victims while visiting the cemetery recognized tracks left from operating of heavy machinery and signs of replacement of the soil, as well as parts of skeletons which had surfaced. Some families of the victims collected the parts as evidence.
The demolishing of Khavaran cemetery was first ordered by mullahs’ Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei personally, and was placed on the agenda of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was mayor of Tehran at the time. The ruling mullahs, who were carrying out this project under the banner of turning the cemetery into a public cemetery, were later forced to abandon the idea in the face of protests from victims’ families. In 2006, Ahmadinejad, now acting as the mullahs’ President, ordered the demolition of stones belonging to some of the slain political prisoners at the cemetery.
In 1988, in act of unprecedented brutality, the regime dug huge graves in Khavaran cemetery and buried the bodies of thousands of massacred political prisoners in these mass graves. Then it tried to veil this human catastrophe through deceptions. However, the Iranian Resistance published numerous documents and evidence exposing this inhumane crime in the eyes of the world.
In the course of this massacre, which is a clear example of a crime committed against humanity, more than 30,000 political prisoners, many of whom had already finished their sentences, were sent to the gallows for merely supporting, sympathizing with or being members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI). They were executed group after group in accordance with the religious decree (fatwa) issued by Ruhollah Khomeini, the mullah regime’s founder.
The Iranian regime’s security forces have also adopted measures to prevent families from visiting the cemetery and holding services as they do every Friday, by welding and shutting the main door.
Additionally, security forces have on many occasions resorted to beating the families and other harassment measures, to prevent them to visit the burial site of their loved ones. They have told the families that in the future they can only enter the cemetery when is permitted by the regime.

Who'd be female under Islamic law?
In Muslim states, violence against women is validated. A dark age is upon us
The Independent
May 4, 2009
By Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

I am a Muslim woman and, like my late mother, free, independent, sensuous, educated, liberal, contrary and confrontational when provoked, both feminine and feminist. I style and colour my hair, wear lovely things and perfumes, appear on public platforms with men who are not related to me, shake their hands, embrace some I know well, take care of my family. I defend Muslims persecuted by their enemies and their own kith and kin. I pray, fast, give to charity and try to be a decent human being. I also drink wine and do not lie about that, unlike so many other "good" Muslims. I am the kind of Muslim woman who maddens reactionary Muslim men and their asinine female followers. What a badge of honour. Female oppression in Islamic countries is manifestly getting worse. Islam, as practiced by millions today, has lost its compassion and integrity and is entering one of the darkest of dark ages. Here is this month's short list of unbearable stories (imagine how many more there are which will never be known): Iranian painter Delara Darabi, only 22 and in prison since she was 17, accused of murdering an elderly relative, was hanged last week even though she had been given a temporary stay of execution by the chief justice of the country. She phoned her mother on the day of her hanging to beg for help and the phone was snatched by a prison official who told them: "We will easily execute your daughter and there's nothing you can do about it." Her paintings reveal the cruelty to which she was subjected. Meanwhile Roxana Saberi, a 32- year-old broadcast journalist whose father is Iranian, is incarcerated in Tehran's Evin prison, accused of spying for the US. She denies this and says she has been framed because she was seen buying a bottle of wine. This intelligent, beautiful and defiant woman is on hunger strike. Over in Saudi Arabia, an eight-year-old child has just divorced a 50-year-old man. Her father, no doubt a very devout man, sold his daughter for about £9,000. I have been reading Disfigured, the story of Rania Al-Baz, a Saudi TV anchor, the first woman to have such a job, who was so badly beaten up by her abusive husband that she had to have 13 operations to re-make her once gorgeous face. Domestic violence destroys females in all countries, but in Muslim states, it is validated by laws and values. As Al-Baz writes, "It is appalling to realise that a woman cannot walk down the street without men staring at her openly. For them she is nothing but a body without a mind, something that moves and does not think. Women are banned from studying law, from civil engineering and from the sacrosanct area of oil."

Small optimistic signs do periodically appear in this harsh desert, says Quanta A Ahmed, a doctor who worked in Saudi Arabia and then wrote her account, In the Land of Invisible Women. She describes the love she finds between some husbands and wives, idealists who think better rights will come one day.
That faith in the future is echoed by Norah al-Faiz, the Deputy Minister for Women's Education, chosen in this week's Time magazine list of the world's most influential people. They hope because they must, I guess, even though they can see the brute forces lining up on the horizon ready to crush them by any means necessary. This country has spread its anti-female Wahabi Islam across the globe, its second most important export after oil.
In Afghanistan Ayman Udas was a singer and songwriter who wore lipstick and appeared on TV, defying her family. She was a divorced mother of two who had remarried. Ten days after this she was shot dead, allegedly by her brothers, who must think they are upright moral upholders with places reserved in paradise. In March President Karzai gave monstrous tribal leaders what they demanded, absolute control over wives by husbands and the right to rape them on the marital bed. Protests by brave women in that country and international outrage has forced him to step back from this commitment but there is concern that he is too weak to hold out, and once again women will become the personal and political playthings of men.
Let's to Pakistan then shall we, the country that once elected a woman head of state. The divinely beautiful Swat Valley has, for reasons of political expediency, been handed over to the Taliban, and there they have blown up over a hundred schools for girls and regularly flog young females on the streets. The girls are shrouded and forbidden to scream because the female voice has the potential to arouse desire. Or pity perhaps.
I am aware that my words will help confirm the pernicious prejudices that fester in the minds of those who despise Islam. Yet to conceal or excuse the violations would be to condone and encourage them. There have been enlightened times when some Muslim civilisations honoured and cherished females. This is not one of them. Across the West – for a host of reasons – millions of Muslims are embracing backward practices. In the UK young girls – some so young that they are still in push chairs – are covered up in hijabs. Disgracefully, there are always vocal Muslim women who seek to justify honour killings, forced marriages, inequality, polygamy and childhood betrothals. Why are large numbers of Muslim men so terrorised by the female body and spirit? Why do Muslim women encourage this savage paranoia?
I look out of my study at the common and see a wife fully burkaed on a sunny day. She sits still. Her children and husband run around, laughing, playing cricket. She sits still, dead, buried, a ghost. She is complicit in her own degradation, as are countless others. Their acquiescence in a free democracy is a crime against their sisters who have no such choices in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Al-Baz says: "I am a disruptive presence because I give women ideas." Me too. To transgress against diehard obscurantists and their unholy rules is an inescapable sacred duty. Yet how pathetic that sounds. Progressive believers tilt at windmills driven by ferocious winds of self-righteousness. Our arms and legs weaken and we are brought to our knees. I fear there is only worse to come.

Court frees US-Iranian 'spy' reporter
Business Day
May 12, 2009

US-born journalist Roxana Saberi would be freed soon, after an Iranian appeals court cut her eight-year jail sentence for espionage to a suspended two-year term, her lawyer said yesterday. A judiciary source said Saberi, whose jailing on April 18 on charges of spying for the US became a new source of tension between Tehran and Washington, had already been released and would be allowed to leave Iran. But her father Reza said she had not yet walked free after more than three months in detention, and he was waiting in front of Evin prison in northern Tehran. "She will be freed today, hopefully. The papers are ready. it is just a matter of time, a couple of hours," he said in a telephone interview. "We are very happy." Reza Saberi said he and his Japanese wife Akiko would "bring our daughter back home", apparently referring to the US, where he moved in the early 1970s. "We will go back as soon as possible," he said.

“We will go back as soon as possible,” he said.
The development came a day after an appeals court held a hearing on the case of Saberi, a 32-year-old freelance journalist who has worked for the BBC and US National Public Radio.
“The appeals court … has reduced her jail sentence from eight years to two years of suspended sentence … and she will soon be free,” her defence lawyer Abdolsamad Khorramshahi said.
He said Saberi would be banned from doing any reporting work in Iran for five years.
“There are no obstacles for her leaving the country and she can leave Iran freely,” said her other lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht.
Saberi looked thin and tired at Sunday’s court session.
Last week, her father said she had ended a two-week hunger strike and was “very weak”.
The judiciary denied she had refused food and said she was in good health.
Saberi, a citizen of both the US and Iran, was arrested in late January for working in the Islamic republic after her press credentials had expired.
She was later charged with espionage, a charge that can carry the death penalty.
Her case created a new problem for Tehran and Washington at a time when the administration of US President Barack Obama is seeking to reach out to the Islamic state after three decades of mutual mistrust.
The US said the espionage charges against Saberi, a former Miss Dakota who moved to Iran six years ago, were baseless and demanded her immediate release.
Tehran, which does not recognise dual nationality, said Washington should respect the independence of Iran’s judiciary.
The two countries are locked in a dispute over nuclear work that the west fears is aimed at making weapons, an allegation Iran denies.
Obama has offered a new beginning of engagement with Tehran if it “unclenches his fist”.
Iran said the US must show real change in policy towards it.
Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders said last month that Saberi’s conviction was a warning to foreign journalists working in Iran ahead of its presidential election in June.
The organisation said seven journalists were imprisoned in Iran, which it said was ranked 166th out of 173 countries in its latest press freedom index.
The country denies western allegations that it is seeking to stifle dissenting voices.
Its government says it welcomes constructive criticism and upholds the principle of free speech.

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Volume 60, May 15, 2009

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