September 15, 2009 VOLUME 64
E-ZAN VOICE OF WOMEN AGAINST FUNDAMENTALISM IN IRAN
To our readers,
In the last several months, Iranians at home and abroad, have seen nothing but silence and empty words from Washington. In June and July, despite the brutal crackdown, killings and outright gross violations of basic human rights that were video-documented by brave men and women in Iran, the administration decided to play it safe and not take "any side." Challenging Ahmadinejad's dictatorial elections engineered by Khamanie became a political puzzle for Washington who played a "wait-and-see" game throughout the violent weeks. At the end, the administration chose to recognize Ahmadinejad as the "Iranian President" and ignore the voice of the Iranian people. Then, late July, and August came the Iranian incursion by its Iraqi proxies against the Iranian opposition group (PMOI/MeK) based in Camp Ashraf, Iraq. The similarities between the style of crackdown, inhumane attacks and violence iwere striking. Iraqi security forces killed and wounded the Iranian refugees at the camp just as their masters in Tehran. Again, the flow of video-documented violence against the unarmed men and women at the camp brought nothing but silent from the administration who choose to hide behind the issue of "Iraqi Sovereignty." Then, came the "tough" September deadline that the administration had set for Tehran to respond to its offer for talks on mullahs nuclear program. Tehran responded with willingness to talk about everything except the "nuclear" issue. The administration, once again, backed down of its "tough diplomacy" and agreed to talk to Iran in Turkey on October 1st.
In a nutshell, since June, the administration with its silence and inaction has sent powerful signals to the dictators in Tehran saying:
1. It is ok to kill your people who do not agree with your manufactured elections, execute opponent, rape and torture political prisoners and murder young men and women in the streets of Iranian cities;
2. It is ok to reach over the Iraqi boarder, attack and kill your main opposition group in Iraq, because America, despite its international obligation, will look the other while you hire Iraqis to do your dirty work.
3. It is also ok to make a fool of us and ignore our deadline for nuclear talks because we really did not mean it when we said we will have tougher sanctions if you ignore our September deadline on nuclear issue.
This is not the "change" American voted for in November of 2008. President Obama has made it clear that his administration will not move to action over the issue of human rights. Iranians encourage the President to have as much talks as he wants with this regime, but, he must remember he is sitting at the table with an illegitimate regime who has killed and tortured thousands in recent months to remain in power. At the end of the day, change in Iran will be brought by the Iranian people and their resistance movement. Yet, it seems, the more things change in Washington, the more the stays the same.
E-Zan Featured Headlines
The Associated Press - August 16, 2009
Iran expanded a mass trial of opposition supporters
on Sunday with the addition of 25 defendants — including a Jewish teenager — in
defiance of international condemnation, as France said Iran agreed to release a
French woman held on spying charges from prison. The defendants are among more
than 100 people charged with plotting a "soft revolution" against the Islamic
theocracy during the postelection protests. The mass trial is part of an attempt
to put an end to the protests by those who say Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's June 12
re-election was the result of fraud.Women took part in large numbers in the
street protests that followed the disputed election. Ahmadinejad's attempts as
president to enforce a strict dress code on women and the jailing of many female
activists has won him few favors with women.
NCRI Website - August 17, 2009
Three women prisoners in Section 7 of the Women's
Prison of Gohardasht in Karadj, west of Tehran, are on the verge of execution.
Two of these women sentenced to death are Akram Mohammadi, 35, has served seven
years in prison and Ameneh Abdollah-Zadeh, 50, has served nearly 5 years in
prison. According to some reports, three other women prisoners of Section
7 of Gohardasht were executed last week. The executions have not yet been
announced. Faced with Iranian people’ outrage and disgust against rising
executions, the mullah’s regime carries out executions in secret.
Voice of America - August 17, 2009
Iranian police clashed with protesters who gathered
Monday outside the Tehran office of a reformist newspaper, which was recently
banned by authorities.Witnesses say police dispersed dozens of opposition
supporters who shouted anti-government slogans outside the office of the
National Trust (Etemad Melli), the newspaper of former presidential candidate
Mehdi Karoubi. Some demonstrators were reportedly arrested. Aides close to
Karoubi say Iran's judiciary ordered a ban on the daily Sunday, after it printed
his claims that some election protesters were raped while in custody. Karoubi
angered Iran's hardliners when he said women and young boys had suffered severe
physical and mental damage from rapes in detention centers. Iran's parliament
speaker rejected the claims as "baseless."
Voice of American - August 19, 2009
Iranian opposition figure Mehdi Karoubi says he is ready to present evidence to support his controversial claims that post-election detainees were raped in Iranian prisons. Karoubi's National Trust (Etemad-e Melli) Web site said the reformist asked to meet with top officials including Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in order to present the evidence. It said he made the meeting request in a letter to parliament speaker Ali Larijani. Parliament speaker Larijani immediately dismissed Karoubi's claims as "baseless." Earlier this week, Iran's judiciary ordered a ban on the reformist National Trust newspaper for printing Karoubi's rape accusations. Karoubi said women and young boys suffered severe physical and mental damage from the rapes in detention centers.
Christian Post - August 20, 2009
Two Iranian women - Maryam Rustampoor, 27, and Marzieh Amirizadeh, 30, were arrested on 5 March for leaving Islam; and there put in the notorious Evin deprived of medical attention and often blindfolded for interrogations for several hours. They were tried after five months on 9 August, they were told to recant their faith which they said they will not do so. They were sent back to the prison where they face charge of apostasy which is death in Iran.“Maryam and Marzieh are being held simply because they have changed their belief. The UN Declaration on Human Rights says people everywhere should be free to do this and the Iranian Constitution guarantees freedom of religion,” Bishop Nazir-Ali was quoted as saying by The Times Online.
Agance France Presse - August 22, 2009
Iran's conservative clerics have objected to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's decision to include three women in his new cabinet, a report said on Saturday, dealing a blow to the hardliner's bid to secure parliament's nod for his ministerial line-up. Ahmadinejad named Sousan Keshvaraz, Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi and Fatemeh Ajorlou as his ministers respectively of education, health, and welfare and social security in his 21-member cabinet. "Although it is a new idea to choose women as ministers, there are religious doubts over the abilities of women when it comes to management. This should be considered by the government," Mohammad Taghi Rahbar, the head of the clerics' faction in the 290-member conservative-dominated Iranian parliament was quoted as saying by the conservative daily Tehran Emrouz.
The Associated Press - August 27, 2009
Women's rights activists say they aren't fooled by
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's nomination of the first female Cabinet
ministers since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, calling it a ploy to improve his
popularity that will actually hurt the cause of women. With the nominations of
three women for his new government, the hard-line president appears to be
seeking to burnish his image at a time when he is under siege from the
pro-reform opposition, which claims he won the June presidential election by
fraud. Since coming to power in 2005, Ahmadinejad has cracked down hard on women
activists, arresting many involved in a campaign to overturn laws seen as
discriminatory to women. Still, he has touted himself as a new, more
modern-thinking leader within Iran's hard-line, religiously conservative camp,
one that promotes women's rights in an "Islamic context."Women's rights
activists say having female ministers serve under Ahmadinejad would actually be
a setback for their movement — because of his motives and the cloud hanging over
his presidency due to the election. "This is just a reactionary policy to try to
restore his legitimacy in the eyes of the people," activist Mahboubeh
Abbasgholizadeh told The Associated Press by telephone from Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia. "Their appointment right now would be a bad thing for women's rights
because it's like cheating."
London Evening Standard - September 2, 2009
A woman on hunger strike outside the American
Embassy in Grosvenor Square for more than a month has suffered a heart attack.
Farzaneh Dadkhah, 41, was last night in a specialist heart hospital amid fears
that her prolonged period of starvation had triggered heart problems. She is one
of 12 people who were today on their 37th day without food, in a plea for
international action to help thousands of Iranian dissidents housed in a camp in
Iraq. About 3,500 people live at Camp Ashraf, which was set up near Baghdad in
the Eighties to house opponents of the Iranian regime. Iraqi security forces
entered the camp to take control on 28 July, leaving at least eight dead and
hundreds injured according to Amnesty International. Ms Dadkhah, who lives in
London, was admitted to University College Hospital on Monday night after she
began experiencing chest pains. Doctors placed her on a drip of fluids, salts
and sugar. Azadeh Hosseini, spokeswoman for the protesters, said: “Farzaneh was
just complaining of not feeling very well and then when they took her to
hospital they checked her heart and said she might have had a possible heart
attack.” Nonetheless the Iranian mother-of-two is expected to return to the
strike outside the embassy despite being severely malnourished. “She is very
determined,” said Ms Hosseini. “She was in prison for many years inside Iran so
she knows what could happen to people at Ashraf. She has put her health — and
life — at risk.”
NCRI Website - September 3, 2009
Ms. Mina Alizadeh, a member of the Women's National
Dragon Boat racing team of Iran who was taking part in the World Championship in
Prague, fled the regime’s training camp. The team returned to Iran without her.
Agents from the Regimes Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), through
its embassy in Czech Republic and Germany tried to locate and return Mina
Alizadeh to Iran. She has apparently sought asylum in Germany. Iranian athletes
abandoning the regime’s training camps during overseas trips since mullahs came
to power in Iran has been an ongoing situation. Aftab Daily on November 14,
2005, issue reported: The number of the Iranian athletes who have fled training
camps during overseas trips reach 20.
NCRI Website- September 3, 2009
A 17-year-old girl student who was arrested during recent uprisings was raped by the clerical regime’s henchmen in detention and her body was burnt with acid after killing her. She was secretly buried in section 302 of Tehran’s Behesht Zahra cemetery. Saiideh Pour-Aqa’i was the only child in her family and her father, who was wounded in Iran-Iraq war, died two years ago. She was arrested by plainclothes agents of the paramilitary Bassij Force while she was chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is great) on the rooftop of her residence in Dowlat street in Tehran. She was arrested just a few days after her birthday and she was subjected to the most brutal tortures during her detention and savagely raped. To cover up their crime, the clerical regime’s torturers killed her and burnt her body with acid. Saiideh’s mother identified her daughter’s corpse 20 days after her death in one of Tehran’s mortuaries. The agents of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) have been threatening the family of this young girl not to expose the crime and just to say that she died of kidney failure.
E-Zan Featured Reports
The Islamic Republic of Iran Reality Check
By Amil Imani
August 15 2009
The Right Side News
The Iranian people are calling for help and much of the world either turns a deaf ear or feels it has its own priorities to worry about. Then, the horrors keep playing out, unabated, in the streets, prisons and dungeons of the Islamic Republic of Iran. A reality check.
A 19-year old beautiful Taraneh was not shot with a single bullet to her chest as was the case with Neda Soltani. There were no bystanders in the dungeon with a cell phone to capture the prolonged torture, rape, and sodomy of this teen-ager.
According to highly reliable reports, as well as testimony on the House floor from the honorable U.S. Congressman McCotter, on June 28, 2009, Taraneh Mousavi, a young Iranian woman, was literally scooped off the streets without any provocation on her part and with no arrest warrant. This young woman was taken to one of the Islamists torture chambers where she was repeatedly brutalized, raped, and sodomized by Ahmadinejad's agents and with the consent of the "supreme leader" Ali Khamenei.
Near death from repeated beating, raping and sodomizing, the fragile young woman, bleeding profusely from her rectum and womb, was transferred to a hospital in Karaj near Tehran. Eventually, an anonymous person notified Taraneh's family that she had had an "accident" and had to be taken to the hospital.
The devastated family rushed to the hospital only to find no trace of their beloved daughter because, the gang of Islamic thugs, the foot-soldiers of Allah's "divine representative" Ali Khamenei, decided to eliminate all traces of their savagery. These beasts of Allah removed the dying woman from the hospital before the family's arrival, burned it beyond recognition and dumped her charred remains on the side of the road.
Taraneh means melody in Persian. According to her bereaved family and friends, true to her name, she used to sing with a beautiful warm voice and played the piano with skill. It is beyond imaginable cruelty to have her precious young life extinguished after an extended period of torture and rape.
Like Neda, another young woman, whose chest was ripped by the bullet of a murdering Islamist as she peacefully walked along with a throng of peaceful demonstrators, Taraneh's tragedy gives a glimpse of the true face of Islamic fascism and its brutality. The Taranehs and Nedas of Iran shall remain as eternal testaments to the depravity of Islamic fascism and the horrors it has visited on innocent people. And these young victims of the Islamic tyranny are by no means isolated cases. Tragically, women as a gender bear the brunt of Islamic misogyny. Women are systematically exploited, maltreated and disenfranchised from their God-given rights.
How did Taraneh end up in the hands of the Islamist murderers? According to reliable reports, the 19-year-old Taraneh Mousavi, was among hundreds arrested on June 28, 2009 in Iran's post-election aftermath. She was standing outside her school when she was arrested, along with a group of about 14 others, blindfolded and taken to an interrogation and torture center.
Witnesses present at the scene have reported that the basijis militia-hired government thugs--were giving the exceptionally beautiful Taraneh a particularly hard time. When the other detainees were allowed to contact their families and she was not, she sensed there would be trouble and gave her parents' telephone number to a few of the women there who in turn contacted her family after being released.
Our great Zoroaster, the luminous ancient prophet of Persia, spoke of the ongoing battle between the forces of good under Ahuramazda-God, and the forces of evil directed by Ahriman-the Satan. Zoroaster warned us not to fall for the enticements or be deceived by the machinations of Ahriman. He further informed us that evil can be recognized by the deeds of its people; people who would oppose the precepts of Ahuramazda.
The savage Islamists killed the magnificent child-woman Taraneh, after a long period of tortuous imprisonment and rape. By killing her, the agents of evil aimed to silence freedom loving Iranians. But assuredly they can never kill freedom. They only kill the body, but the spirit of freedom lives on.
According to the Islamic Sharia practiced by the Islamic Republic of Iran, it is impermissible to execute a woman if she is virgin. A handy excuse for the torture savages to satisfy their beastly lust by arranging a "wedding" ceremony before the eventual execution of the victim. The female prisoner is forced to consummate the "marriage" by submitting sexually to one of the chosen jail-keepers. A virgin woman gets forcibly raped before being hanged. This is yet another gift from Islam to humanity!
Lest reports of horrific mistreatment of innocent prisoners of conscience be taken as baseless rumors and innuendoes, in a letter dated June 12, 2009, a Presidential candidate, Mehdi Karoobi, explicitly states the violations. The letter addressed to the head of the Assembly of Experts on Leadership-the highest body of the ruling gang of clerics-Karoobi demands that an impartial commission be appointed to investigate the torture and rape reports of detainees, both women as well as men.
Mr. Karoobi writes: "I do not think that prisoners in the pre-revolution regime (i.e. the Shah's) had seen or heard of such crimes. "Some detained individuals have reported such savage rapes that have left the women victims with physical scars and ruptures in their reproductive systems. At the same time, young imprisoned boys have been raped in such atrocious ways causing them depression, physical and psychological pain, leading to their complete withdrawal from everybody."
The Islamists' ruling Iran-the curse of Allah-heartlessly hang gays on the grounds that same sex relationship is a capital offense according to the Islamic ethos. Yet, these same beasts gang-rape innocent young men in their medieval dungeons, after having arrested them for participating in peaceful demonstrations.
The horrors visited on innocent Iranian detainees by the goons of the Islamic Republic with the consent of the head-criminal, Ali Khamenei, and the orders of the brutal "President" Ahmadinejad, make every decent human shudder with revulsion. It is sadly reminiscent of Nazi Germany. The Nazi's use of piano wires for nooses to torment maximally their victims by slow death has been matched by the Islamist Fascists' resort to sexual brutalization that eventuates in death.
Freedom-lovers and decent humans like Taraneh and Neda, like millions of others, did not believe that a murdering Islamist Ahmadinejad was their President. They did not approve of his rabid attacks on Israel, demanding its eradication; they did not condone his largess on Islamist terrorists such as Hizbollah and Hamas; they did not want religious minorities, such as Baha'is, to be deprived of their rights of citizenship simply because they did not belief in his religious zealotry; they did not want to live as second class citizens because of their gender.
Tragically, there are people in position of power who turn a blind eye to these horrors with their sole concern for their own self-interests. When Robert Gibbs, spokesman for the White House, shamelessly declares that Mahmood Ahmadinejad, the fraud, is the elected President of Iran, one wonders about Gibbs' humaneness. How would Gibbs feel if Taraneh was his daughter and Ahmadinejad had her blood on his hands? Would Gibbs, or for that matter President Obama, call this murderer Ahmadinejad, a duly-elected President worthy of shaking his blood-stained hand?
Reality check shows that fascism is being practiced once again, this time in Iran, and once again, many powerful people such as Gibbs of the White house and Ban of the United Nations fail not only to express their condemnation, they proceed by bestowing legitimacy on the murderers and their rule.
Hill Gathering Honours ‘Brave’ Women of Iran
By Pam McLennan
August 17, 2009
A group of about 150 Iranians gathered in front of
the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill on Saturday to “show solidarity with the
brave women of Iran and Ashraf” who have been stepping forward to declare their
opposition to the fundamentalist mullah-based regime in Iran.
Iranian nationals from Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto—including ten who have been on a hunger strike for 18 days—attended the event. The hunger strikers have been assembling daily outside the U.S. Embassy to protest the withdrawal of American protection of Camp Ashraf in Iraq.
The camp, which is home to 3,5000 exiled members of the the People's Mujahideen Organization of Iran (PMOI) dissident group, was recently invaded by Iraqi troops who beat and shot at the unarmed residents.
While the Iraqi regime has forbidden journalists to enter the camp making it difficult to get accurate news, videotapes taken during the two-day attack attest to the brutality that resulted in nine deaths and hundreds of injuries.
Many of the injured were women who stood at the front line in an attempt to stop the Iraqi security forces, according to the protesters in Ottawa—all the more remarkable as the fundamentalist Iraqi regime does not allow women the same rights and freedoms as males.
Hunger striker Narges Ghaffari has not eaten solid food for 17 days and has lost nine kg. She explained how she admires the women who stood up for their homes in Ashraf, who tried to stop the troops, and who gave aid and shelter to those injured in the attacks on July 28 and 29.
“It gets me so emotional to see Iranian women protecting the camp or themselves, and standing up to the regime as I have seen a lot of stuff, as have other people. The fact that the women are willing to risk standing up for their country shows that the Iranian regime has no legitimacy with the people.”
The hunger strikers feel that camp residents are vulnerable to further attacks. The Iraqi government has made it clear that they want to close the camp and repatriate the residents to Iran or send them to some other country.
Iraqi officials have disputed the details surrounding the attacks, blaming rioting and snipers within the camp.
The PMOI has been designated a terrorist organization by Canada, the U.S., Iraq, and Iran. In January of this year, the European Union agreed to remove the group from its terror list. Camp Ashraf residents surrendered their weapons to U.S. forces in 2003.
Liberal MP Raymonde Folco made an impassioned speech stating that the rights of women everywhere need to be respected and that it is “important to let the people of Ashraf know that they are not alone, that they are not forgotten, that we are there to watch over them.”
She said she has written to President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper asking them to intervene urgently to protect the camp residents.
“We have a responsibility to those people in Iran and in Ashraf to not forget them and to be with them in spirit until someone helps those helpless people in Camp Ashraf,” she said.
Honourable David Kilgour addresses the Iranians on Parliament Hill (Stell Liu/Epoch Times) A statement from Senator Mobina Jaffer, Chair of the Canadian Committee on Women, Peace and Security from 2002-2005, was read, which said in part: “As a Muslim, I am always saddened when misogynistic ideology and the oppression of women is promoted in the name of Islam. I want to give my support to the women of Iran for opposing fundamentalism, oppression, and terrorism.”
Homa Allizadeh, a human rights activist and singer from Montreal, sang in Persian while the hunger strikers and others joined in, and later, a recording made in Camp Ashraf of the popular song “Tell Me Why” was played.
When Opera Lyra soprano Floralove Katz was introduced, she asked the hunger strikers to be seated so that they “wouldn’t exhaust themselves.” She asked the crowd to join her in singing “O Canada” and then “Where have all the flowers gone.”
Minoo Homaily spoke in Persian and recounted harrowing details of being jailed and tortured in Iran and finally escaping to Canada.
The final speaker, former MP David Kilgour, said that the “criminal operation against Ashraf residents, who are all ‘protected persons’ under the Fourth Geneva Convention, was carried out at the request of the Iranian regime’s supreme leader.” Naghi Shafie, an Iranian supporter drove from Toronto to show his support.
Chadors in the Cabinet can’t cloak Iran’s
By Jeff Jacoby
August 19, 2009
The Boston Globe
MAHMOUD Ahmadinejad announced on Sunday that for the first time since the 1979 revolution, women will be named to the Iranian Cabinet, a development the news media promptly described as a bid “to soften his hardline image’’ and to “mollify the opposition . . . while currying favor with women.’’ Some people will believe anything, so presumably somebody somewhere is taking at face value Ahmadinejad’s claim that from now on things are going to be different in Iran. “We have entered a new era,’’ he said on state television. “Conditions changed completely and the government will see major changes.’’
It would be pretty to think so. But meaningful change to Iran’s theocratic government will not be coming from Ahmadinejad or the cutthroat mullahs he answers to. His first female Cabinet choices - Fatemeh Ajorloo for the social welfare ministry and Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi for the health ministry - are as hardcore as the men already in power in Tehran. According to Massoumeh Torfeh, an Iran specialist at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, both nominees are supporters of “draconian changes to family laws,’’ diminishing the rights of women in cases of divorce and child custody. Ajorloo, moreover, “was influential in setting up the Basij Sisters militia, which has been involved in brutal attacks and arrests of women’s rights activists.’’
If this is the regime’s strategy for “currying favor with women,’’ what would a strategy for alienating them look like?
Islamist power in Iran has been a disaster for women: That is the blunt truth that no public relations maneuvering can disguise. It has been less than two months since 26-year-old Neda Agha Soltan was cut down, reportedly by a Basij gunman, during Iran’s post-election protests - protests that brought throngs of women opposed to Ahmadinejad’s presidency into the streets. Neda - whose graphic murder, captured on video, was viewed by millions around the world - is a far more potent symbol of what Islamist rule means for women than the chador-clad hardliners being named to the Iranian Cabinet.
The misogyny of radical Islam is not a peripheral distortion, but a key element of the society Islamists aim to create. The Iranian-born journalist Amir Taheri recalls that one of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s last sermons emphasized the “three threats’’ confronting Islam: America, Jews, and women. Women organized the first mass demonstration against the new Khomeini regime in 1979, Taheri writes. In the years that followed, “the authorities imprisoned hundreds of thousands of women . . . and executed thousands.’’
By now, 30 years into the Khomeinist theocracy, voluminous literature documents the repression of women under the mullahs. Some of it is impassive, such as the 2006 United Nations report that found that “violence against women in the Islamic Republic of Iran is ingrained’’ and that many Iranian women “feel compelled to tolerate violence inflicted not only by their husbands but also by other family members, for fear of shame, of being ostracized, or of being divorced, and for lack of alternatives to the abusive environment.’’ Other accounts, considerably more wrenching, include Freidoune Sahebjam’s heartstopping “The Stoning of Soraya M.’’ and Marina Nemat’s acclaimed “Prisoner of Tehran.’’
The depravity to which women and girls can be subjected in Ahmadinejad’s Islamist paradise is difficult to overstate. In an interview with the Jerusalem Post last month, a Basij militiaman explained how the regime’s devout thugs deal with young females sentenced to die:
“In the Islamic Republic it is illegal to execute a young woman, regardless of her crime, if she is a virgin . . . Therefore a ‘wedding’ ceremony is conducted the night before the execution: The young girl is forced to have sexual intercourse with a prison guard - essentially raped by her ‘husband.’ ’’
When he was younger, he had taken part in such “weddings’’ but now, he said, he regretted them. “I could tell that the girls were more afraid of their ‘wedding’ night than of the execution that awaited them in the morning. And they would always fight back, so we would have to put sleeping pills in their food. By morning the girls would have an empty expression; it seemed like they were ready or wanted to die.’’
It will take more than shuffling a few Cabinet posts to end the Islamists’ grotesque cruelty to the women and girls of Iran. “We have entered a new era,’’ Ahmadinejad says. Not by a long shot.
Hunger Strike a Daily Reminder of U.S.'s
By Robert McCartney
August 30, 2009
The Washington Post
On a sunny patch of Pennsylvania Avenue a half-block
from the White House, middle-aged men and women recline on beach lounge chairs
under four canopies festooned with colorful flags. They haven't eaten solid food
in a month. Before them stands a row of large photographs of 11 men, each draped
with a wreath of red flowers. A soft-spoken woman carrying a light-blue umbrella
hands out leaflets.
Sound familiar? Ho-hum? Demonstrations like this are so common in Washington that we rarely honor them with more than a glance. A drive down Embassy Row typically passes protesters angry over some event deemed worthy of perhaps two paragraphs in the Foreign pages last week.
Our blasé attitude is understandable, but we miss an opportunity when we ignore these scenes. They offer windows into rich, dramatic human experiences and historic developments overseas.
Moreover, it often turns out that these demonstrators are our neighbors, anxious about relatives or political issues in their native countries. Our region has attracted waves of immigrants from turbulent parts of the world, including the Vietnamese in the 1970s and Central Americans in 1980s.
The beach chair protest provides an especially interesting tale, including a troubling message about America's actions abroad. The demonstrators are ethnic Iranians, most of them U.S. citizens. They are pressing the Obama administration to intervene to protect about 3,400 Iranian exiles in Camp Ashraf outside Baghdad, which was stormed by Iraqi security forces July 28. The 11 men in the photographs were killed (plus one other), and hundreds of the camp's unarmed residents were injured. U.S. military forces stationed nearby, who once pledged solemnly to safeguard the camp's residents, stayed out of it.
"This is going to bring attention that people are getting beaten and killed in a place where you [the U.S. government] promised to protect them," said Zahra Rashidi, 51, of Chantilly.
She and husband Parham Malihi, 48, have consumed only Gatorade, water and tea in the hunger strike, which reached its 32nd day Saturday. Malihi said he feels weak sometimes but has a history of suffering for his politics. He's missing a toe and has scars on his face after being tortured during five years in prison in Iran in the 1980s.
"All of this is the price we pay for our freedom," he said. "We have pain but are proud of it."
The background of the controversy is convoluted, even by Middle Eastern standards. The exiles in Ashraf are the remnants of an Iranian opposition group, the Mujaheddin-e Khalq, or MEK, which has long been based in Iraq.
The Iraqi government, which is increasingly close to Iran, wants to shut down the camp and evict its residents, as Tehran has been demanding. The United States is concerned but says Ashraf is now an internal Iraqi matter since the Baghdad government has assumed full sovereignty of the country.
The embarrassment for Washington is that it made a show earlier in the decade of assuring Ashraf's residents that they would be safe in exchange for their formal agreement to disarm and repudiate violence. The United States did so even though it has listed the MEK as a terrorist organization since 1997, mostly because of attacks that the group staged decades ago. America warmed to the MEK in part because the group provided valuable help monitoring Iran's nuclear program. In 2004, a U.S. Army general issued each Ashraf resident a written declaration with congratulations "on their recognition as protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention."
The collapse of those assurances is a particular source of anger for demonstrators here. They hand out photocopies of "Protected Persons" identity cards carried by men killed at Ashraf last month. They say: "Should an incident occur, it is requested that you contact the [U.S.] 89th Military Police Brigade at the following phone numbers."
Many of the demonstrators have relatives or friends in Ashraf. About 30 people are staging the hunger strike, and additional protesters come to chat and chant. A hundred showed up Wednesday for a half-hour march they hold each evening in front of the White House. Some stay overnight, so the protest goes on around the clock.
The demonstrators are mostly well-educated and successful. Those interviewed included a construction company owner, civil engineer, university professor, published poet and two former international wrestling champions.
Some grew up in politically active families and lost relatives to execution by the Iranian government. Others are getting involved for the first time after being outraged by video footage of the incursion in the camp. It shows Iraqi forces beating people with batons, vehicles swerving directly into groups of people and numerous people with bleeding heads. Long bursts of automatic gunfire are audible. An American in military uniform is seen being asked to intervene and then gets in a vehicle and drives away.
The Americans "made a promise that they went back on," said Zolal Habibi, 28, of Alexandria. She is especially worried about two people now in Ashraf: her mother, whom she hasn't seen in seven years, and her closest friend, a woman who needed stitches in her head after being beaten there. Her father, a prominent writer and sociologist who received his Ph.D. from American University, was killed in 1988 by the Iranian government.
The people in Ashraf are "the closest thing I have to a family," Habibi said.
In short, the folks in the lounge chairs are unhappy because the U.S. government let down some Iranians in Iraq who share our dislike for the regime in Tehran and whom Washington promised once to protect even though it officially labels them as terrorists. Got that? Such are the intriguing stories to learn from those colorful little spectacles on the streets of Washington.
Woman's case reflects prisoners' treatment in
By Scheherzade Farnarzi
The Associated Press
September 6, 2009
The interrogator politely apologized for grilling the prisoner about her role in the mass protests over Iran's disputed presidential election. Then the prisoner was made to sit facing a wall in the courtyard of Iran's Evin Prison, blindfolded, handcuffed and covered in an all-enveloping chador for four and a half hours under the blazing sun.
"America is our enemy," the interrogator told her. "Why are you so naive and can't see this? It's exploiting the situation here and wants to ransack the country. They don't have your interest at heart.
The ordeal of Nazy, a 29-year-old university student who worked with the campaign of defeated presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi, gives a rare glimpse of what is happening to detained protesters. Nazy spoke to The Associated Press by telephone from Tehran after her release on the condition that only her first name be used, to protect herself and her family.
Thousands have been arrested since incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner, despite cries of fraud. The opposition claims detainees were savagely raped by their jailers and at least 69 people were killed, including some from beatings in prison.
The account from Nazy, who is known in reformist circles, could not be independently backed up. But former prisoners and human rights groups have noted that such treatment of prisoners - a mix of intimidation and persuasion known as white torture - is widespread, and that ordinary people along with well-known opposition politicians have been subjected to it.
"This case is one of thousands that take place in Iran," said Mohammad Javad Akbarein, an analyst who was himself jailed in 2001. "The majority of prisoners experience white torture. But it's worrisome when people become complacent when prisoners are not subjected to black torture and forget that their rights, dignity and honor are trampled on."
June 20 was a tense Saturday, the day after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared the presidential vote would stand and warned opposition leaders to end street protests or be responsible for bloodshed.
"We knew that from that day on anyone who comes into the street may have to pay a high price for it," said Nazy.
Nazy was on her way to buy a book in Tehran's downtown Enqelab Street and planned to attend a demonstration that afternoon at 4. Before leaving home, she stuffed a bunch of white wristbands that said "change" into her backpack along with a folded poster she had prepared for the afternoon demonstration. White is the color of Karroubi's supporters.
At noon, Nazy had just climbed out of the car in front of the bookshop when a man in a white vest, blue shirt and white sneakers twisted her arm and slapped handcuffs on her. He pushed her forward and ordered her to walk a few yards in front of him in the busy street.
No sooner had she started walking that two clean-shaven young men in tight blue jeans and wearing green wristbands- the color of the other defeated reformist candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi - caught up with her. "Don't make any noise; when you reach the narrow street we will help you escape," one of them told her.
But when she reached the street that led to the "Protective Police," the men pushed her inside the gate. They had duped her.
She walked into a huge courtyard packed with disciplinary police officers and with vans and jeeps. Nazy saw five or six men beaten as they were led into the detention center.
Nazy herself was hit a couple of times on her back, led into a basement and interrogated.
A female guard pulled out a poster from Nazy's bag. "Ha, instead of saying 'In the Name of God,' she's written 'In the Name of Democracy' on the poster," the guard mocked Nazy. "I'll show you what democracy really is."
Another guard came in and challenged Nazy for being a member of the 'One Million Signature' campaign - a group pressing for changes in Iran's laws on women.
"Why don't you live your life quietly?" she said. "Do you really consider yourself a woman? We are women who work to bring bread to the table, just like normal people. You ought to do the same and work. You call collecting signatures work?"
She said Nazy's family was looking all over town for her and added, "Why don't you use your brain a little?"
Nazy said she was working for the woman's rights.
"Can't you find a better way to fight for our rights?" the officer asked her.
By 4 p.m. the number of detainees - mostly men picked up at the protest sites - had swelled to more than 100.
Nazy and two other women waited for several hours in a van while more female demonstrators were brought in. It was dark by the time the van, which seated 12, was filled with 19 women plus two female and one male officers. They sat three to a seat, blindfolded, their hands tied to the chairs.
Every time they said a word, they were smacked in the head. At one point, the male officer threw six heavy bottles full of water on their heads.
Nazy slightly lifted her blindfold and watched guards hit around 60 men - mostly young - in the head with batons. Blood streamed down their faces and soaked their shirts.
The women were driven to the Vozara Monkerat (Moral Police), a temporary jailhouse for prostitutes and drug addicts.
The officers dumped them inside the green metal gates of the building and left. No one at the Monkerat knew why the 19 women were there, who had brought them, what their offenses were. They shoved every five of them into a 3 by 2 meter (10 by 6 feet) carpeted room where they couldn't even stretch their legs. The rooms were dark, with no windows.
By the time dawn broke, the women were screaming. A young mother was wailing. She had left her three-year-old child in the house alone to shop at the corner store when she was arrested.
After 15 hours, they were allowed to use the toilet, and only once.
Just before midnight, the women were escorted up the stairs into a room with a big library. They were given forms to fill: reason for their detention.
The middle-aged interrogator - in a short-sleeved white shirt and white pants and a golden chain around his neck - did not look like a typical officer of the regime. Nor did his assistant, a young man also clean-shaven and wearing chains.
A few minutes later, a young, thin man wearing a suit walked in.
"Do you realize your crime is much heavier than others?" the new man asked Nazy. "Because you are with the ("One Million Signature') campaign."
"I don't even know why I have been arrested," she replied.
He wrote at the bottom of the paper: "to be released on billion rial (about $100,000) bail." He told her to sign the paper so she could go home that night.
Her charge was: disruption of law and order, action against national security, destruction of public property, participation in illegal gathering.
She said did not accept any of the charges.
"Then you will stay right here," he said. "Put on her handcuffs and blindfold and take her downstairs," he told the guard.
Nazy was terrified. She didn't want to stay there alone, and was worried about her family.
"If I sign it means I accept the charges?" she asked the man.
He said the charges would remain whether she signed or not. She was afraid that if she accepted the charges, they would slap a prison sentence on her.
"Don't sign. Stay here until you die," the man threatened her.
The young assistant tried to persuade her to sign.
"Will I then go home tonight?" she asked him.
"Yes. Don't you see you are signing bail?" he assured her.
The moment she signed, the interrogator said: "Put on her handcuffs and blindfold and take her to Evin."
"But you said I will be going home tonight!" Nazy said.
"Who do you think you are that I have to answer to you? Take her to Evin!" the man snapped.
It was after 2 a.m. when she and 6 other prisoners arrived at Evin. No one was expecting them. Guards said they had no vacant rooms, the prison was overcrowded.
Meanwhile, six busloads of men tied to the windows arrived from the criminal detention center of Shahpour, one of the most notorious centers known for torturing inmates.
Finally, at 2.30 a.m. the new arrivals were allowed into the Women's Section 2. They were searched and fingerprinted. Every six of them were put in a cell with a carpet, a toilet, a shower and a washbasin.
The inmates included a 30-year-old woman with breast cancer who was sexually molested while she was driven from Shahpour to Evin. The woman, who had undergone surgery a few months earlier, was bleeding when she arrived.
Among the others were a 15-year-old arrested with her mother and aunt; two 16-year-old girls riding bicycles near the protest site and, ironically, four supporters of Ahmadinejad, including a 40-year-old seamstress whose brother was a senior Revolutionary Guard official.
Most of the food was camphorated and numbed their lips. Water was undrinkable. Many prisoners felt nausea.
In the morning, Nazy wore a chador, was handcuffed and blindfolded and walked with a guard to an interrogation center known as the Evin School - so called perhaps because of the school desks used there.
The interrogator stood behind her asking questions and told her to write the answers at the bottom of the paper from underneath her blindfold. "He used foul language," said Nazy.
For every question, he took the paper from Nazy, wrote it down and returned it to her to write the answer. He asked the same questions over and over again.
Why did you vote for Mehdi Karroubi? Why did you choose Karroubi over Mousavi? How much money did you get?
Where did your meetings take place? Did you wear the veil at the campaign headquarters? How did you know how many votes you got? Who said so?
Who was the decision-maker in your campaign? Who wrote the slogans? Before the elections, did you plan if the results were not in favor of your candidate that you would cause disturbances?
He grilled her for nearly three and a half hours.
Nazy's last interrogation took 4 1/2 hours under the sun. All the female prisoners were brought to the courtyard and made to sit facing the wall. Interrogators sat behind them.
Some were very aggressive and even kicked and slapped the prisoners. But Nazy's interrogator was polite.
"This is what happens when there's a mass sweep. Some are innocent," he told Nazy. "Why did you have to come into the street that day when you knew the situation was tense?"
Then he gave her a lecture about U.S. designs against the Islamic Republic and the attempts of opportunists to destabilize the country.
"You've done nothing here, but if we don't find those responsible we will have to blame you, charge you for it. Why? Because you brought about a situation where they could exploit it," he said.
Nazy was released on bail at 11.30 the following night, one week after being arrested.
She awaits a summons from court.
Iran: Imprisoned student is in critical
September 10, 2009
Mahsa Naderi, a 19-year-old economics student of
Mashhad university, imprisoned in Ward 209 of Tehran’s Evin prison, is in
critical condition but she has been denied of medical treatment. She was
arrested for attending a ceremony in Khavaran, a cemetery located in South East
of Tehran, commemorating the victims of 1988 massacre of political prisoners in
Following is the excerpts of an interview of Persian language Voice of America TV with Mrs. Masoumeh Naderi, Mahsa’s mother:
VOA: Mrs. Naderi why was your daughter arrested?
Masoumeh Naderi: My daughter and her father who was a political prisoner for 5 years from 1381-1986 went to Khavaran cemetery for honoring those martyrs who have been buried there. Few days later, they [Iranian regime’s agents] arrested my husband and told him your daughter will be arrested too. But since my daughter was under 18 at the time, they did not arrest her. A couple of years later, they came to our house and arrested my daughter and took away our computer, my daughters’ hand writings and a few a number of other things with them. My husband was in prison at that time. They transferred the 18-years-old Mahsa to solidarity confinement and she spent three months there.
VOA: Have you been in contact with your daughter or did you get a chance to visit her in prison or did you have a lawyer for her?
Masoumeh Naderi: After she had spent three months in solidarity confinement, they transferred her to Ward 209 of Evin prison. She is there with three others in a cell. Because there are so many prisoners there, they were allowed to use washroom only once in a day. This resulted in creating kidney problem and infections for her. Once she had so much needed help that her friends ask prison guards for help but they responded by saying that let her die, we brought her here to die.
VOA: In Khavaran cemetery, those who have been executed in 1981-1988 have been buried. Most have been buried secretly. Later the family members and their relatives found out. Most of them were member of the People’s Mojahedin organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). Gatherings held by victims’ families has always turned into clashes with the government forces. A few months ago the government forces destroyed a number of graves sites there.