November 15, 2009 VOLUME 66
E-ZAN VOICE OF WOMEN AGAINST FUNDAMENTALISM IN IRAN
To our readers,
The Iranian regime has displayed all the indicators of a falling regime in recent months. The brutal suppression in the streets, inhumane treatment of political prisoners, all forms of media crackdown and paranoia even over the its own "revolutionary" events, has not calmed the fundamentalist rulers in Tehran because the Iranian people, especially women, are not going to back down. There is no doubt, given the barbaric nature of this regime, the price of liberty and freedom is going to be even more costly in coming months. Yet, the demise of this regime is evitable. Protesters, especially women, are increasingly at odds with those "opposition" leaders' insistence on preserving the country's system of religious governance. The opposition has gone beyond "down with dictators", "down with Ahmadinejad" to "down with Khameinie" targeting the heart of theocracy and fundamentalism in power. Protesters also send strong, yet different, messages to Russia and USA. Their message for Russia was to stop its political and diplomatic support for the regime in Tehran. Their message to President Obama is to pick a side when they chant "Obama, Obama, you're either with us or with them."
With such bravery, one wonders what does it take for Washington to see the writing on the wall? What does it take to stand by the Iranian people and their desire for liberty and freedom? While the people of Iran, with their blood and sacrifice, are nurturing a formidable and undefeatable resistance to bring down this regime, Washington stands in silence and even looks the other way! As an Iranian woman said in a recent interview, " we will not forget those who stand with us and those who looked the other way when this regime kills and executes so many of our loved ones."
E-Zan Featured Headlines
The Christian Post – October 16, 2009
Since March, the two
Iranian women have been detained in the infamous Evin prison where
they were reportedly denied medical attention and often blindfolded
for interrogations for several hours at a time. Amirizadeh is said
to be enduring ongoing pain from a spinal problem, as well as an
infected tooth and intense headaches. The two are recent converts to
Christianity from Islam. According to reports received by the Farsi
Christian News Network, though they were arrested for
anti-government activities, the only “crime” the women have
committed is being practicing Christians. Despite the mental and
physical hardships, both women stated at a court hearing on Aug. 9
that they will not recant their faith. At the most recent hearing on
Oct. 7, the two women said, “If we come out of prison we want to do
so with honor.” Iran holds the No. 3 spot on Open Doors' list of
countries with the worst Christian persecution record. Last year,
the Iranian Parliament gave its initial approval to a bill that
would punish apostasy with death. There have been no updates on
whether the bill has received final approval from parliament.
Reuters News Agency - October 16, 2009
Iranian bloggers won a major press
award Friday for their efforts to cover the Islamic Republic's
disputed presidential election.
Iranian journalist Delbar Tavakoli, who fled the country after losing her job, received Friday the 2009 Mohamed Amin Award on behalf of the bloggers "for their commitment, bravery and dedication under harrowing conditions and extraordinary pressure while covering the presidential election.""Iranian bloggers redefined the concept of citizen journalism and social networking when they became the only source of news in Iran post-election," Christoph Pleitgen, head of Reuters News Agency media business said in a statement."I dedicate this prize to the Iranian journalists who worked hard to let the world know what is happening in Iran," Tavakoli said. "It is very hard to work as a journalist in Iran...The main reason for this is censorship."
NCRI Website - October 21, 2009
Iranian regime’s henchmen hanged five
prisoners including Soheila Ghadiri, a 28-year-old woman, in
Tehran’s Evin prison on Wednesday. Soheila Ghadiri’s death sentence
was quashed after the victim’s family had pardoned her. Saeed
Mortazavi, known as Judge Mortazavi, former Tehran Chief Prosecutor
and current deputy Prosecutor General, responsible for torture and
execution of thousands of prisoners, reopened her case which
eventually led to her execution despite all efforts to save her
life. She is the fourth woman hanged by the regime in the past 25
days. Mullahs’ insistence on carrying out such barbaric sentences
has nothing to do with crimes allegedly committed by prisoners, but
an effort to intensify the atmosphere of fear and terror in the
country, especially among women and youths who have displayed their
resolve to overthrow the regime and establish democracy and people’s
sovereignty in their nationwide uprising in the past few months.
Stop Fundamentalism.com - October 26, 2009
Hengameh Shahidi, an Iranian woman Journalist and a member of Etemad-Meli Party, headed by Iran’s former presidential candidate, Mehdi Karrubi, has started a hunger strike in the Iranian notorious Evin prison, Iranian news sources say.Iranian Journalist, Hengameh Shahidi. Shahidi who has been detained for the past four months, started her hunger strike after she was transferred to the public ward of the prison. She intends to continue her strike until she is freed. Shahidi has been subject to intense torture and abuse in prison since her arrest. Shahidi who is a reputable journalist was arrested after the unrest erupted following June elections in Iran. Sources also indicate that another prisoner, Payman Aref, an imprisoned university student, has joined Shahidi in her hunger strike. Aref was banned from attending classes after June uprising. He was then arrested and is currently in solitary prison. While four months has passed since the Iranian post election unrest, arbitrary arrests of journalists, students and others are on the rise.
Reuters News Agency- October 29, 2009
An Iranian journalist and political
activist detained after the Islamic Republic's disputed election in
June has gone on hunger strike, a reformist website reported
Thursday. Norouz website said Hengameh Shahidi, who worked for the
Etemad-e Melli newspaper of pro-reform cleric Mehdi Karoubi, started
her action in Tehran's Evin jail Tuesday. "She is suffering from
heart disease and severe depression," it said, giving no source.
Norouz said Shahidi, a women's rights activist who advised Karoubi in the June 12 presidential election, had been detained for several months. Etemad-e Melli was shut down by the authorities in August.
WFAFI News Agency - October 29, 2009
A young woman, who initially identified herself as Soheila, was hanged in Tehran based on charges of killing her own baby. Soheila was later identified by her uncle using her birth certificate. Her real name was Khorshid. Her uncle explained to the court that after her father's death, her family struggled financially. Khorshid ran away from him and became a victim of prostitution and poverty. Once imprisoned she attempted to reach out to her family but given their traditional attitude the family did not offer her any help.
NCRI Website - November 4, 2009
Women and girls actively and
courageously participated in November 4 mass demonstrations and were
in the forefront of many protests, according to reports by the
Social Headquarters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK)
inside the country. In Tehran University, female students formed
human chains in front of male students to protect them from being
injured or arrested by the State Security Forces. During the
anti-regime protest in Karim Khan Zand Street in Tehran, a young
woman quarreled with a plainclothes agent who intended to arrest
her. Later, a group of Bassij forces attacked and arrested her. In
Northern Mofateh Street and the beginning of Modarress Street,
Bassij paramilitary forces attacked demonstrators and insulted them
and arrested many women and girls. In Azadi Square and streets of
Azadi and Jamalzadeh, anti-riot units and suppressive forces
arrested many girls and women and injured many more. Many
participants in today’s demonstrations were young female school
students who joined anti-regime protesters rather than the
demonstration organized by the regime.
The Associated Press - November 7, 2009
Iranian police have detained 109 people
for "disturbing public order" during an opposition rally this week,
the official IRNA news agency reported Saturday. Azizollah
Rajabzadeh, a security spokesman, said 62 of those detained have
been handed over to judicial authorities for trial and the rest have
been released after questioning."Police detained 109 people who
disturbed public order on the sidelines of the rally," he said. "62
of those arrested were handed over to judicial authorities and the
rest were set free. Of 62 detained, 43 are men and 19 women."
NCRI Website - November 11, 2009
Iranian regime has intensified pressures on women political prisoners in Iran. All visits and telephone calls to the prisoners in the women’s ward of Tehran’s notorious Evin prison have been cancelled. The prison authorities enforced the limitations after women prisoners refrained from forcibly going outside the building in the cold weather at 6:00 a.m. as their daily break. Shabnam Madadzadeh, Mahsa Naderi, Atefeh Nabavi, Fatemeh Ziaie Azad, and Nazila Dashti are among those held in the women’s ward of Evin prison. Mahsa Naderi, 19, arrested last February for “having contact with the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI)” is in critical condition. She has been suffering from various illnesses due to months of torture and solitary confinement in Ward 209 of Evin prison by Saeed Sheikhan. Her family’s requests for temporary leave to seek medical treatment for her had not been answered. Shabnam Madadzadeh, Mahsa Naderi, Atefeh Nabavi and Fatemeh Ziaie Azad, have been held for months without determination of their status. Atefeh Nabavi was arrested and imprisoned on June 15, 2009 during the post -election period. She spent 95 days in Ward 209 and later transferred to the ward known as “Metadon,” and women’s ward. Kobra Banazadeh, a relative of PMOI members residing in Ashraf, Aalieh Eghdam Doost, a women activist held in Gohardasht prison, and Fariba Pazhoh, a reporter held in Ward 209 of Evin prison are living in agonizing prison conditions. They are among the women political prisoners who were arrested along with hundreds of other women and girls in recent demonstrations particularly the November 4th protest. The number of prisoners held in prison cells are much higher than their assigned capacities; hence they are deprived of their primary needs and medical treatment.
The Associated Press - November 11, 2009
Iran has protested to an Oxford
University college over a scholarship in memory of the slain Iranian
student who became an icon of mass street protests sparked by the
disputed June election. In Tehran, a small group of hard-line women
demonstrated Wednesday against the scholarship in front of the
British Embassy. The women chanted "Death to Britain," the
semi-official Fars news agency reported. Oxford's Queen's College
established the Neda Agha Soltan Graduate Scholarship in Philosophy
earlier this year, named for the 27-year-old student fatally shot on
June 20 on the sidelines of a Tehran demonstration. Her dying
moments were caught on a video viewed by millions on the Internet,
and she became a potent symbol of the opposition's struggle."It
seems that the University of Oxford has stepped up involvement in a
politically motivated campaign which is not only in sharp contrast
with academic objectives" but also linked to British interference in
Iran's post-election turmoil, Iran's Embassy in London said in a
letter to the provost of the British university's college.
The Arab Times - November 14, 2009
Iran has deployed a special police unit
to sweep websites for political material and prosecute those deemed
to be spreading lies, Iranian media reported Saturday, in a step
clearly aimed at choking off the embattled opposition’s last real
means of keeping its campaign alive.
Many opposition websites are already banned, but the activation of the new 12-member unit, which will report to the prosecutor’s office, signals an intention to strike a more severe blow to a movement that refuses to accept President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election in June.
“Authorities know that the Internet is one of the few available channels for the opposition to make its voice heard. They want to silence opposition voices,” said reform-minded journalist Akbar Montajabi, who described the measure as the latest set of restrictions imposed on media in the country.
Reuters News Agency - November 15, 2009
The trial of a French teaching assistant
who was arrested on spying charges following Iran's disputed
election in June will resume on Tuesday, the ISNA news agency
reported on Sunday. Clotilde Reiss, who is out of jail on bail, has
been staying in the French embassy in Tehran since her trial started
on August 16. ISNA cited a statement from Tehran's Revolutionary
Court for its report on the new trial session, but did not give
NCRI Website - November 15, 2009
Some 200 mothers of those killed during people’s uprisings and the political prisoners held a protest rally in Tehran’s Laleh Park on Saturday. Similar rallies have been held every Saturday since the beginning of nationwide uprising. The suppressive forces encircled Abnama Square inside the Park in order to prevent gathering and mothers’ demonstration. On Thursday, November 12, families of those killed in the uprising went to Tehran’s Beheshte Zahra cemetery to pay respect to their lost loved ones. Big crowd of people also joined them to express their sympathy and solidarity with the families. Agents of the regime’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security who did not dare to go into the crowd tried to identify the participants and secretly filmed them.
E-Zan Featured Reports
Iran’s Politics Open a Generational
By Nazila Fathi
The New York Times
October 22, 2009
TORONTO — It had been years since Narges Kalhor could talk about politics with her father, Mehdi, a senior adviser and spokesman for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. He advocated greater restraints on social and political expression, while she favored more freedom. Still, they had always managed to get along.
But after Iran’s disputed presidential election in June and the protests that followed, the disagreement exploded into a breach. Last week — as her father accused her of being manipulated by the opponents of the government — Ms. Kalhor, now 25, applied for refugee status in Germany.
“The difference between my generation and my parents’ generation, who are very ideological, is just increasing day by day,” she said in a telephone interview from Germany. “Their goals have not materialized, and it is our turn to lead the way.”
While Ms. Kalhor’s case has been widely publicized, she is hardly alone. Numerous children of prominent Iranians have become estranged from their powerful parents since the election, which the opposition says was rigged. Thousands more middle-class families have been divided by the generational chasm that opened over the summer.
Mohsen Ruholamini, the son of a senior commander of the Revolutionary Guards, was arrested during the protests in July and tortured to death, according to his father, who has staunchly defended the government’s handling of the unrest.
The son of another senior official close to Mr. Ahmadinejad, who is a student activist in Tehran but spoke on condition of anonymity to protect his father, said he and his father had for years avoided talking about politics.
“I know he has tried to protect me in the past and he tells me that whatever I do, I should not get into trouble,” he said. Last year, his father tried to send him to London to continue his studies and stay out of politics. But he refused to go and stayed to campaign against Mr. Ahmadinejad.
Mehdi Khazali, the son of Ayatollah Abolghassem Khazali, a senior cleric close to Mr. Ahmadinejad, criticizes the country’s top leadership on his blog, drkhazali.net. At one point, he wrote that his father supported Mr. Ahmadinejad and the conservatives only because he had been “cheated, lied to and taken advantage of for his religious beliefs.”
Because of the growing alienation of young Iranians, family dynamics could be complex, particularly among the families of elite government officials. “These children are more affected by society and even Facebook and Twitter on the Internet than their families,” said Alireza Haghighi, an Iranian political analyst at the University of Toronto. “The younger generation has been very frustrated with the political situation.”
In Ms. Kalhor’s case, her parents’ religious and political conservatism did not extend to daily life. Her father, who has been an adviser to Mr. Ahmadinejad since 2005, helped and encouraged Ms. Kalhor to become a graphic designer and a filmmaker.
Mr. Kalhor embodied other contradictions, having appeared as a campaigner for Mr. Ahmadinejad on national television in 2005 wearing his long hair in a ponytail — something that is frowned upon by conservatives — and saying that all Iranians in exile, including the son of the shah, would be allowed to return to the country if Mr. Ahmadinejad were elected.
Ms. Kalhor said that through it all she remained close to her father until a year ago, when he moved out after separating from her mother. But she was also developing her own political views, she said.
“My generation wants its most basic needs such as freedom of expression and personal freedoms,” she said. “We want to live, we do not want to face persecution for expressing our political opinion; as women, we don’t want to walk on the street with the constant horror that we could be intimidated for showing an inch of hair.”
She said she began participating in the rallies in favor of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s leading opponent, Mir Hussein Moussavi, before the elections and voted for him in hope of real change. Infuriated by Mr. Ahmadinejad’s re-election, which she called a “gross lie,” she joined the protests, during which, she said, she was beaten by the police and tear-gassed.
“This was an explosion of 30 years of suppression and intimidations of my generation,” she said of the protests. “I am happy that we finally found the courage to speak up.”
Ms. Kalhor went to a German film festival last week to show her movie “The Rake,” which is based on a Kafka short story about torture in prison, “In the Penal Colony.” While there, she made no secret of her support for the opposition movement at the festival, wearing a scarf of the opposition’s trademark green and appearing without the head scarf that is mandatory for Iranian women, even when they are outside the country.
She said she decided to apply for refugee status after hearing from friends that she faced arrest if she returned.
Her father reacted angrily and said that he was unaware of his daughter’s trip to Germany and that she had been tricked.
“I believe she has been tricked by the country’s enemies and has become a tool for propaganda,” Mr. Kalhor told the Mehr news agency. “As a father, I advise her not take a path that has no return and not become an instrument in the hands of the enemy.”
Ms. Kalhor brushed aside her father’s claims, saying she had no other choice.
Iranian awarded Dutch human rights
November, 9 2009
By Perro de Jong
The Radio Netherland
Shadi Sadr has helped Iranian women with
free legal assistance and has started a campaign against stoning. She's
been awarded one of the foremost Dutch human rights prizes, the Human
Rights Tulip. But not before experiencing the regime's violence against
"They beat me and forced me to go with them", Shadi Sadr tells Dutch radio. She was detained last July in the wake of popular protests against president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and brought to the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran. Her interrogators knew exactly who she was.
In 2004, Sadr had founded Raahi: an organisation for women in legal trouble. Because Iranian women have few rights and even less independent access to funds, they're often helpless in court. Raahi offered them free legal assistance, until the authorities closed it down.
More recently, Sadr made even more enemies within the regime.
She began a campaign "to defend women who are sentenced to stoning", she says. Because the victims of this traditional - and in the eyes of many barbaric - form of punishment are almost never men.
When she was detained in July, her interrogators at Evin Prison accused her of being controlled by foreign powers out to overthrow president Ahmadinejad.
But unlike many of the protesters who'd taken to the streets the month before to demonstrate against the president's disputed re-election, Sadr was released after eleven days without being tortured.
Since her release - thanks, she believes, to international pressure on Tehran - Shadi Sadr has been living in Germany.
The Dutch government has awarded her the Human Rights Tulip for her "extraordinary courage". But, she says, it's not just her struggle that's being recognized in this way.
She dedicates the award - which she received from Dutch foreign minister Maxime Verhagen in The Hague - to "all the people in Iran who fight every day to get their rights." Despite the fact that the protests against the president's re-election were crushed, she remains optimistic.
"The gaps between the government and the people are increasing day by day", she says. "No government can survive such a gap for a long time, so either the government will solve the problem with the people. Or the people will solve the problem themselves."
The Human Rights Tulip comes with a stipend of 10,000 euros. In addition, it includes funding of up to 100,000 euros for projects proposed by the winner, to further promote her or his cause.
Iran's opposition steers challenge
toward the top
By Brian Murphy
The Associated Press
November 11, 2009
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Just minutes before anti-riot police charged opposition marchers in Tehran last week, a new chant bubbled up from the crowd: "Death to Nobody."
It was more than just a play on the "Death to America" slogans that are staples of Iran's political life. The cries give a sense of how much the protest movement has evolved since the raw outrage of last summer.
The demonstrations have moved beyond narrow attacks on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his disputed re-election in June. They are now drifting toward a blanket challenge of the Islamic leadership's right to rule.
"It's gone from anti-Ahmadinejad to more of anti-regime in general," said Mustafa Alani, a regional analyst at the Gulf Research Center in Dubai. "That's an important shift."
And here lies the protesters' strength, but also their potential unraveling, some experts say.
An overall challenge to the powers of non-elected clerics — headed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — could provide the big picture goal to sustain the demonstrations for years. But it also carries risks. Top among them: alienating the opposition leadership, who remain still loyal to the Islamic system, and bringing even harsher crackdowns by authorities who can justify use of violence to protect the status quo.
The two senior figures in the opposition, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi, have repeatedly said they do not seek to overthrow the ruling clerics. Since July, authorities have put on trial more than 100 pro-reform figures accused of being part of a plot to topple this religious hierarchy.
Mousavi and Karroubi's reluctance could leave room for more militant opposition leaders to emerge in the future.
The protests last week coincided with state-run rallies marking the 30th anniversary of the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. The timing, like the shouts of "Death to Nobody," were a symbolic challenge to one of the ideological pillars of the regime — the anti-U.S. fervor of the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the pro-American shah.
Just blocks away from the opposition marches, the pro-government demonstrators were bellowing the standard beat of "Death to America" to mark the Nov. 4 embassy seizure.
Many pro-reform marchers still wore the green colors of Mousavi, who claims he is the rightful winner of the June 12 presidential election.
But much of the protesters' defiance went beyond Mousavi's complaints over the election and the subsequent crackdown and targeted Khamenei in acts that were almost unthinkable before the postelection meltdown. Protesters tore up or trampled images of the supreme leader, whose most ardent backers believe is answerable only to God.
Demonstrators also called on President Barack Obama to pick a side, in apparent frustration with White House efforts for direct talks with Iran's leaders. "Obama, Obama, you are either with them, or with us," they chanted.
The opposition leaders were not among the crowd. Reformist web sites say hard-line vigilantes kept Mousavi from leaving his office. Karroubi was overcome by tear gas and left before riot police moved in, according to his Web site.
More than 100 people were detained, including several journalists, but most were later released.
Karroubi later denounced the "very ugly" tactics of police, which he claimed included attacking women. Mousavi issued a statement calling for the rights of all Iranians to be respected. But there was nothing to suggest they would follow the protesters' lead in hardening their stance against Iran's political system.
After security forces crushed that massive protests that erupted after the election, opposition groups in recent months have used major state-backed events to stage rival rallies.
The next test could come Dec. 7, which marks the death of three students in 1953 during protests of a visit by then-Vice President Richard Nixon for talks with the shah.
Reform groups appear focused on trying to build a credible turnout for the next marches after just several thousand joined last week's protests.
Some reformist Web sites have urged students to stay off campus on the days of future marches so they can't be blocked from joining by security forces. Many other sites are carrying one of the new symbols of the opposition: a green-hued drawing of a young woman wearing a headscarf and thrusting up her fist in protest.
"The long-term crisis for the government isn't over," said Alireza Nader, an analyst of Iranian affairs at the RAND Corp. in Washington.
Still, authorities must be careful about how hard they push back or else they risk a backlash. The government crackdown so far "has been very violent but measured in some ways," Nader said. But if authorities carry out threats to arrest Mousavi and Karroubi, "this could fan the flames," he said.
Some high-level officials have offered talks with the opposition as a way to keep the tensions from spilling over to recurring cycles of protests and violence.
The former chief of the judiciary and close ally of Khamenei, Ayatollah Mahmoud Shahroudi, was quoted Monday in Iranian newspapers as calling the postelection rifts a "family dispute" that can be worked out through dialogue.
But Meir Javedanfar, an Iran analyst based in Israel, said Khamenei "sees the reformist movement as a threat" and aims to "stifle its growth and, if he can, to completely suffocate them."
But the greater the pressure, the more risk he could rally people around the protests.
"Khamenei's actions could actually strengthen the reformist movement," he said.
Neda 'was ready to die for cause' in Iran
November 15, 2009
Agance France Presse
An Iranian killed in protests over President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's reelection in June was willing to be "shot in the heart" for her cause, her boyfriend said in an interview Sunday.
The killing of Neda Agha-Soltan on June 20 came to symbolise the public uprising against Ahmadinejad's victory earlier that month in presidential elections against Mir Hossein Mousavi which the opposition says were rigged.
A graphic Internet video of her bleeding to death was seen around the world and triggered an outcry over the sometimes brutal crackdown on demonstrators.
Her boyfriend Caspian Makan -- who was jailed in Iran following her death but is now reportedly in hiding in an unidentified Middle Eastern city -- told the Observer that Neda was committed to helping overthrow Ahmadinejad.
"Neda was present at the front line of the protests from the very first day," Makan said in comments quoted by the paper.
"She was a natural leader and attracted many (protestors) to her side. I think that is why she was shot.
"The Iranian state and its security officials did not want her, they wanted to extinguish her."
He also recalled her saying: "If I get shot in the heart or arrested, it's not important because we are all responsible for our future."
In another interview, Makan told the BBC that he had been worried about her getting involved in the protest. She apparently told him: "Even if we'd had a child, I'd carry my child to these demos on my back.
"That's when I realised I couldn't prevent her from going... she was only thinking of her goal -- democracy and freedom for Iranians."
Some Iranian hardliners claim Neda's killing was staged to damage Ahmadinejad's government and seek to divert the blame from Islamist vigilantes cracking down on protestors.