September 15, 2010 VOLUME 76
E-ZAN VOICE OF WOMEN AGAINST FUNDAMENTALISM IN IRAN
To our readers,
For more than a year now, the world has become familiar
with images of women at the forefront of the movement
for democratic and social change in Iran. Some, such as
Neda Agha-Soltan, and Taraneh Mousavi, have become
recognized as martyrs of a nation on the brink of
revolution. Still others such as Shadi Sadr and Shiva
Nazar Ahari, have with their brave defiance, proven to
the world that they will continue in their noble
struggle for human rights and justice at any price. Last
week, during the approaching Eid-al-Fitr holiday, the
Iranian government agreed to release the American hiker,
Sarah Shroud, who's been held in captivity on espionage
charges, for more than a year, in Iran's Evin prison.
She was released a few hours ago. The regime claims this
dubious act of "clemency" is in commemoration of the
Islamic holiday, which marks the end of the holy month
of Ramadan. When it comes to the fundamentalist nature
of the ruling regime in Tehran, there is no concept of
clemency or mercy. One recent example is the case of
Sakineh Ashtiani, a stoning victim who continues to face
death threats while in custody. There is also the case
of Farah Vazehan, who is currently awaiting execution
for participation in the Ashura protests of December
2009, and for having relatives who are members of the
Iranian opposition group known as the PMOI. So, why the
sudden shift from ruthless tyrant to benevolent
dictator? The timing of these high profile releases is
questionable as the president of Iran, Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad, prepares for his annual trip to the United
Nations General Assembly in New York in the upcoming
week. Surely Ahmadinejad will be met with a sea of angry
protestors, condemning his trip, as is the custom every
year, and surely the IRI's campaign of torture, rape,
and executions, as well as recent findings by an Iranian
opposition group of a secret nuclear enrichment site,
will all be at the forefront of issues discussed.
Perhaps there will be even be walk outs by other
nation's leaders, as was witnessed last year, in
defiance of his presence. WFAFI encourages these acts,
as they send a loud and clear message to Ahmadinejad and
to the Iranian people: "Ahmadinejad, has no place in the
E-Zan Featured Headlines
Global Voices Online- Septmber 13, 2010
Shiva Nazar Ahari, a jailed
human rights activist and blogger, was freed yesterday.
According to several news websites, Shiva was released
on $500,000 bail. She went to trial in handcuffs in
early September and was accused of involvement with the
organization, People's Mujahedin of Iran. This group has
been in conflict with the Islamic Republic for years,
and any affiliation with them is equated with waging war
against God or “Moharbeh“. This can carry a death
penalty in Iran. Several demonstrations have been held
in recent weeks to support Shiva. In Germany, on Friday,
September 10 Madrane Solh Dortmond (Mothers for Peace in
Dortmund), a group that is also supported by men, held
Shiva's photo in their hands (photo above). They gather
weekly, on Saturdays, to show solidarity with grieving
mothers in Iran. See more photos on their blog. People
also demonstrated in Washington DC. Ahmad Batebi, a
human rights activist, speaks of Shiva in this video,
and says she was only a human rights activist and was
never involved with politics.
The Associated Press-September 5, 2010
The Vatican raised the
possibility Sunday of using behind-the-scenes diplomacy
to try to save the life of an Iranian widow sentenced to
be stoned for adultery. In its first public statement on
the case, which has attracted worldwide attention, the
Vatican decried stoning as a particularly brutal form of
capital punishment. Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico
Lombardi said the Catholic church opposes the death
penalty in general. It is unclear what chances any
Vatican bid would have to persuade the Muslim nation to
spare the woman's life. Brazil, which has friendly
relations with Iran, was rebuffed when it offered her
asylum. Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani was convicted in 2006
of adultery. In July, Iranian authorities said they
would not carry out the stoning sentence for the time
being, but the mother of two could still face execution
by hanging for adultery and other offenses. Her son,
Sajad, told the Italian news agency Adnkronos that he
was appealing to Pope Benedict XVI and to Italy to work
to stop the execution. Lombardi told The Associated
Press that no formal appeal had reached the Vatican. But
he hinted that Vatican diplomacy might be employed to
try to save Ashtiani. Lombardi said in a statement that
the Holy See "is following the case with attention and
interest." "When the Holy See is asked, in an
appropriate way, to intervene in humanitarian issues
with the authorities of other countries, as it has
happened many times in the past, it does so not in a
public way, but through its own diplomatic channels,"
Lombardi said in the statement.
UPI-August 31, 2010
The mother of the Iranian
women whose shooting death became the symbol of an
anti-government movement made an international appeal to
find the killer. Iranian authorities in the aftermath of
disputed presidential elections in June 2009 arrested
nearly 5,000 people. More than 100 activists were
executed and opposition groups say at least 80 were
killed in custody or in the streets. Neda Ahgha Soltan
became the symbol of the opposition when she was
allegedly gunned down by Iranian security forces during
election unrest. Hajar Rostami, the mother of the
26-year-old woman, told the International Campaign for
Human Rights in Iran that she was putting an end to her
silence regarding her daughter's death. "Now I want the
world to help me find Neda's murderer," she told the
organization. She appealed to the New York rights
organization and the international court in The Hague to
help bring her daughter's killer to justice. Iran has
offered at least three separate accounts of the
incident, blaming U.S. intelligence networks, the
opposition movement and terrorist groups for the
shooting, which was captured on a cell-phone camera and
distributed on the Internet. "No one believes these
lies, neither Iranian people nor those abroad," said
The Guardian-August 31, 2010
Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani,
the Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning, was
told on Saturday that she was to be hanged at dawn on
Sunday, but the sentence was not carried out, it emerged
tonight. Mohammadi Ashtiani wrote her will and embraced
her cellmates in Tabriz prison just before the call to
morning prayer, when she expected to be led to the
gallows, her son Sajad told the Guardian."Pressure from
the international community has so far stopped them from
carrying out the sentence but they're killing her every
day by any means possible," he said. The mock execution
came days after prison authorities denied family and
legal visits to Mohammadi Ashtiani. Her children were
told she was unwilling to meet them while she was told,
also falsely, that no one had come to visit her. Sajad,
22, heard the latest evidence of psychological pressure
on his mother when he spoke to her by phone yesterday.
"They are furious with the international outcry over my
mother's case so they are taking revenge on her," he
Kuwait News Agency- August 28, 2010
The UN Committee on the
Elimination of Racial Discrimination concluded its
seventy-seventh session and released its observations
and recommendations on the reports of Iran, The
Committee recommended that the Government continue its
efforts to empower women and promote their rights,
paying particular attention to women belonging to
minorities. The Committee recommended that Iran take
appropriate steps to combat manifestations in the media,
as well as in everyday life, of racial prejudice that
could lead to racial discrimination. The Committee also
recommended that, in the area of information, Iran
promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among
the various racial and ethnic groups in Iran, especially
on the part of public officials, and including through
the adoption of a media code of ethics that would commit
the media to showing respect for the identity and
culture of all communities in Iran, taking into account
the possible intersection of racial and religious
discrimination. The Committee recommended that Iran
continue its efforts to implement measures to enable
persons belonging to minorities to have adequate
opportunities to learn their mother tongue and to have
it used as a medium of instruction. It requested Iran to
provide more information on the literacy levels of
ethnic minorities. The Committee urged the Islamic
Republic to take the necessary steps to achieve
effective protection from discrimination against Arab,
Azeri, Balochi and Kurdish communities and some
communities of non-citizens in various domains, in
particular, employment, housing, health, education and
freedom of expression and religion.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty-August 27, 2010
Two Iranian rights activists
arrested on their way to the funeral of a senior
dissident cleric last year have won international press
freedom awards, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.The two are
jailed blogger Kouhyar Goudarzi and prominent women's
rights activist Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh. The two were
arrested on their way to take part in the funeral in
Tehran last December of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali
Montazeri, which attracted tens of thousands of
mourners. Abbasgholizadeh was one of two recipients of
the German Palm Foundation's press freedom award for
this year, which was announced on August 26.
Abbasgholizadeh, who left Iran several months ago, was
sentenced in absentia in May to 2 1/2 years in jail and
30 lashes on charges of acting against national security
over a 2007 protest. "This award gives me the
opportunity to show the situation in Iran, especially
that of women, and the character of Iranian women in the
postelection crackdown," she told RFE/RL. She also said
she would use the 20,000-euro ($25,418) prize money to
raise international awareness of the plight of women in
Iran by making documentaries and publishing articles.
The award is named for German bookseller Johann Philip
Palm, who was executed in 1806 for publishing a document
critical of French occupation troops.Blogger Goudarzi
was chosen on August 25 as the recipient of the 2010
John Aubuchon Freedom of the Press Award from the U.S.
National Press Club. Goudarzi, a journalist for the
Committee of Human Rights Reporters, was charged with
heresy, propaganda against the regime, and participating
in illegal gatherings. He was among 17 political
prisoners who went on hunger strike late last month to
protest against the worsening conditions at Tehran's
Evin prison. Club president Alan Bjerga said Goudarzi
reminded "us of the importance of working for a free
press in the United States and abroad."
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty- August 23, 2010
A female commander of the
pro-government Basij militia, Zohreh Abbasi, has said
that her unit has introduced a special program that
allows baby girls to be registered as members of the
force and receive training. Abbasi, who heads the
Hossein Haj Mousaee unit, said that in the past six
years 23 baby girls had been trained as Basij members
through "Koranic, cultural, educational, and military"
classes."In this regard Basij mothers register their
baby girls 40 days after they were born at the Hossein
Haj Mousaee unit by presenting documents and IDs,"
Abbasi was quoted as saying by Iranian news websites.
She said 420 women are currently members of the Hossein
Haj Mousaee Basij unit. She added that two babies have
recently been born and that work is under way to prepare
a dossiers for the new "Basij babies" and enroll them in
the special program. Hossein Aryan and Roozbeh Bolhari
of RFE/RL's Radio Farda had previously reported on how
"resistance centers" were now being built in elementary
schools in order to prepare children for joining Basij
units. The "Basij babies" program suggests that some in
the Islamic republic believe that children should be
indoctrinated not at elementary schools but even before
that -- as soon as they're born, in order to prevent
them from turning into potential critics or independent
individuals who want to decide about the way they live
themselves and not based on the rules set by the Iranian
establishment. Former parliament speaker Gholam Ali
Haddad Adel, who is an ally of President Mahmud
Ahmadinejad, once said that Iranian youth and women were
being approached by Iran's "enemies." "The enemy has
plans for them," he said in 2008. Now it appears that
some hard-liners believe that the "enemy" might have
plans even for Iran's newborns.
NCRI Website –August 18, 2010
One of the political
prisoners arrested during the Ashura day protests on
December 27, 2009 in Iran has been sentenced to the
inhumane punishment by hanging. Political prisoner Farah
(Elmira) Vazehan has also been sentenced to two years in
prison and payment of monetary fines. Ms. Vazehan’s
family and her lawyer have reportedly protested the
ruling. According to reports, Ms. Vazehan is currently
held at the notorious Evin prison’s Women’s Ward, and
was sentenced to be hanged after almost 8 months of
detention.The Iranian regime’s interrogators have
charged the female political prisoner with producing
pictures and videos of unprecedented popular protests
and having contacts with the main opposition People’s
Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). Ms. Vazehan’s
uncle was executed during the 1980s by the clerical
regime. Some of her family members, including her
sister, were subjected to imprisonment and psychological
and physical tortures during the 1980s as well. Massive
and unprecedented anti-regime protests were triggered in
June 2009, which shook the Iranian theocracy and brought
its weaknesses to light both for the Iranian people and
the international community. The clerical regime
responded to the rallies by unleashing a brutal
suppressive campaign, including widespread arbitrary
arrests, imprisonment, torture and execution
Euro News-August 17, 2010
Iran has warned western
countries not to interfere in the case of a woman
originally sentenced to death by stoning for committing
adultery. An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman in
Tehran said the furore over the case has been stoked by
the west to damage Iran. He insisted that judicial
procedures were strict. Last week Iranian TV broadcast
pictures purportedly showing Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani
admitting having an extra-marital affair and confessing
to complicity in her husband’s killing.The alleged
confession was greeted with scepticism and alarm.
Ashtiani’s lawyer fled to Norway, claiming his client
had been tortured beforehand. The stoning sentence has
been suspended pending a review. But the Iranian
authorities have been accused of adding charges relating
to murder, which it is feared could pave the way for
Ashtiani to be hanged. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has
rejected an offer by Brazilian President Luiz Inácio
Lula da Silva, with whom he has good relations, to grant
the woman asylum in his country. In the west the case
has generated an outcry, with numerous protests taking
place in cities, including London and Berlin.
E-Zan Featured Reports
frees U.S. woman accused of spying after 14 months
- now she pleads for her fiance and friend to be
released as well
September 15, 2010
The Daily Mail
An American hiker held in Iranian custody for more than a year accused of spying was dramatically released today - and made an impassioned plea for the release of two fellow Americans still detained in Iraq. Sarah Shourd was arrested in July last year with two companions when they strayed over Iran's border with Iraq.Yesterday she was told she could leave the country if she paid $500,000 in bail money, but it is not known if the amount has been paid. Shourd arrived in Oman - where her bail was posted - on a three-hour chartered flight from Tehran. Her bail was posted by Omani sources, a senior U.S. government official said.
She said at the airport: 'I've been waiting for this moment for a really long time, and I'm extremely grateful to be standing here. I want to begin by giving my deepest thanks to the sultan of Oman, Sultan Qaboos.'
Shourd, 32, also thanked Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, Iran's supreme leader, and 'everyone who has been a part of making this moment happen for me and for my family'. But she spoke emotionally about the release of Shane Bauer, 28, who is her fiance, and Josh Fattal, 28 - who are still detained in Iran.
She said: 'I can't enjoy my freedom without them. They should be standing here with me. They don't deserve to be in prison a minute longer than I do.'
The three Americans were detained after they allegedly strayed across an unmarked border into Iran while hiking in Iraq's Kurdistan region. Iran accused the three of spying, a charge the United States and the hikers have denied. Miss Shourd will still face trial for allegedly spying with her U.S. friends, Iranian authorities said yesterday.
She was due to be released on Saturday, but that decision was deferred at the last minute in a sign believed to indicate a rift in Iran's hardline rulers.
The families of the three Americans said the trio were on a mountain hike in northern Iraq when they were detained near Iran's border.
'President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government has been under attack for violation of human rights. This may be a way to evade further attacks'
A lawyer representing the three, Masoud Shafie, said he met the Americans for the first time since their arrest and presented their final defences.
An Iranian analyst who asked not to be named said the delay in Shourd's release 'brought to the surface the power struggle' between President Ahmadinejad and other hardliners. 'Ahmadinejad wants to gain international respect after the disputed presidential vote in 2009,' he said, referring to an election which the opposition says was rigged.
Another analyst said her release may be linked to Ahmadinejad's trip to New York to attend the U.N. General Assembly later this month.
'His government has been under attack for violation of human rights. This may be a way to evade further attacks in New York,' the analyst said.
State media reported on Friday that Shourd would be released as a result of intervention by Ahmadinejad, to show the 'special view of Iran on the dignity of women'.
Some hardline MPs criticised Shourd's planned release, accusing the government of 'meddling in the judiciary's affairs', the Tehran-e Emrouz daily reported on Sunday.
ISNA, the student news agency, quoted the prosecutor on Sunday as defending the right of the judiciary to make the decision without outside pressure. The judiciary chief is a brother of parliament speaker Ali Larijani, one of Ahmadinejad's political rivals, who lost to him in a 2005 presidential vote. Larijani is a staunch critic of the president's economic and foreign policies.Under Iran's Islamic law, espionage can be punishable by execution.
British Prostitution Ring Sentenced To 2-Plus Years Each
September 14, 2010
Three women and a man who admitted to trafficking in underage girls have been sentenced to prison terms of more than two years each, British authorities announced Tuesday.
The three women and one man pleaded guilty to the charges Monday in Harrow Crown Court, north of London. They were arrested about a year ago and accused of bringing girls to London to sell them for sex. "This is a sad and harrowing case that involved the main defendants effectively selling the virginity of girls as young as 13 for as much as 150,000 pounds ($231,300)," said Detective Chief Superintendent Richard Martin, head of the Metropolitan Police Service's Human Exploitation and Organized Crime Command.
Fatima Hagnegat, Marokh Jamali and Rasoul Gholampour pleaded guilty to conspiracy to traffic persons within the United Kingdom for sexual exploitation. Hagnegat and Jamali also pleaded guilty to control of prostitution for gain, police said. Jamali and Gholampour received sentences of two years and nine months in prison, while Hagnegat was sentenced to two and a half years, court officials announced.
A 43-year-old woman who also pleaded guillty to trafficking conspiracy received a two-and-a-half-year prison term. Her name was withheld under British laws aimed at protecting the identities of children.
The investigation began in September 2009 after a woman dropped off a handwritten note at the Jumeirah Carlton Hotel in London's upscale Knightsbridge neighborhood. The note was addressed to the owner of the hotel and mentioned a rented house with girls available, though it didn't say for what, police said.
"I have 12 girls ready from the age 14-20 years, who are living all over the U.K.," the note read.
Concerned staff at the hotel alerted police, who traced the phone number on the note and the woman's car to an address in Wigan, near Manchester in northern England. That was where Hagnegat, 24, lived with her 30-year-old husband Gholampour, police said.
An undercover officer then called the number on the note to ask about hiring girls for a client. He spoke to Hagnegat's aunt, Marohkh Jamali, 41, who said she could arrange a party for four to five people that night with girls from Iran, England and Eastern Europe, police said.
The aunt said the girls would be between the ages of 14 and 20, police said.
A week later, the officer met Jamali at the Lancaster London hotel, which agreed with police to be the venue for the undercover officer's meetings with the defendants.
Jamali told the officer she could provide girls between the ages of 14 and 20. She said some of the girls were virgins, and that a number of them were available for a full range of sexual acts, police said.
Over the next two weeks, Jamali e-mailed the officer 28 times with pictures of several girls 14 and older, saying they were available for sex.
The officer then contacted Jamali to arrange a meeting with the girls. Jamali said she would bring four or five of them, including two 13-year-olds, to London and that she wanted at least 50,000 pounds ($77,000) and as much as 150,000 pounds ($231,300) for each one, police said.
Jamali went to the hotel the next day with Hagnegat and six girls, two of whom were 14, one who was 17, and others who were 18 or older. Officers then arrested Jamali and Hagnegat and took the six girls to a victims center, police said.
The girls told investigators that they traveled from Wigan, England, to London on the understanding they would earn money by dancing for a group of rich men. It was only once they arrived in London that they were told they may be asked to have sex with the men.
Gholampour was arrested when police then searched Hagnegat's home, and the 43-year-old owner of the apartment where the girls stayed the night before the London meeting was also arrested, police said. She could not be named for legal reasons, they said.
"This case highlights the fact that trafficking is not just a crime that involves foreign nationals being brought in the U.K. It is something that happens within the U.K. as well," Martin said. "We hope that this result will encourage any other potential victims to come forward and speak with police who may have felt that they couldn't do so before."
Iranian woman facing deportation is at risk of stoning, says MP
By: Alexandra Topping
September 13, 2010
An Iranian woman accused by the Tehran regime of circulating copies of Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses is at risk of being stoned and flogged if her forced removal from the UK takes place as planned tomorrow, her MP has said. Gerald Kaufman, Labour MP for Gorton, where a campaign to prevent the family's removal is based, described as "intolerable" the decision to remove Farah Ghaemi, 45, her son Ahmed, 20 and her 10-year-old son known as Child M.
"This woman will undoubtedly be exposed to the possibility of being flogged, tortured, imprisoned or stoned," he said. "This is an extremely cruel and dangerous regime. To send a family that includes a vulnerable woman to a place with Iran's current and past record strikes me as intolerable."
The planned removal comes as fears grow for the safety of dissident Iranian women after the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, 43, who faces execution after being convicted of adultery. She has reportedly been sentenced to receive 99 lashes in prison for "spreading corruption and indecency" after a picture said to be of her without a veil - though in fact of another woman - appeared in the Times. Kaufman wrote to the immigration minister, Damian Green, but as of yesterday had not yet had a reply. "I have been in parliament for 40 years and I have never dealt with a government, Labour or Conservative, that has been so heartless and uncaring about individual immigration cases as this one," he said.
Supporters fear the family, who have been in the UK since fleeing Iran in 2007, are being included in the coalition governments' trial of chartering flights to return asylum seekers with children to their countries of origin as quickly as possible. In August Ghaemi attended an interview in which she was asked to voluntarily return to Iran, and told that otherwise she would be forcibly removed. She refused and was informed that she would be issued with removal orders within two weeks.
All previous attempts by the family to claim asylum in the UK have failed, but lawyers are currently re-applying on new grounds, arguing that the 10-year-old boy is undergoing counselling for trauma experienced during a stint at Yarl's Wood detention centre. Donna Brown, solicitor for the family, said there had been no assessment of Child M's mental state and that he had been receiving weekly counselling since January for the trauma he suffered while in detention. A separate application was made on Friday for an injunction against the removal from the European court of human rights. The family say they came to the UK in the summer of 2007 to visit relatives and recover from the death of Ghaemi's husband, who had died in a car accident. They say they intended to stay only for one or two months, but then received a phone call from Iran saying their home and business had been raided by police.
Lawyers have previously produced a copy and translation of the arrest warrant, which said the arrests were "with respect to disseminating fabrication and propagating against the sacred system of the Islamic Republic of Iran through printing and publishing the noxious book Satanic Verses".
Iranian Woman Said to Be Lashed Over Photo
By: Ravi Somaiya
New York Times
September 5, 2010
A mix-up over a photograph led to a sentence of 99 lashes for the Iranian woman whose earlier death sentence by stoning from Iranian authorities caused an international outcry, a lawyer for the woman said Sunday. The lashing of the woman, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, 43, was carried out in the northern Iran prison where she is being held, according to the lawyer, Javid Kian. But another lawyer for Ms. Ashtiani disputed that account. In a telephone interview from Iran, Mr. Kian said that he had not had contact with Ms. Ashtiani since Aug. 11, when she gave what he called a false and coerced videotaped statement that she was involved in the murder of her husband. The statement was broadcast on Iranian state television in an apparent effort to deflect criticism from around the world of the Iranian government’s sentence that Ms. Ashtiani be executed by stoning for a 2006 adultery conviction. The authorities lifted the stoning sentence, but there have been signs that Ms. Ashtiani, who is being held in Tabriz prison in northern Iran, would be hanged instead.
The latest episode began on Aug. 28, when The Times of London published a photograph on its front page of a dark-haired woman wearing earrings and what appeared to be pink lipstick, which can be seen because the woman is not wearing the chador, or traditional Islamic veil. The headline with the photograph said, “Revealed: true face of the woman Iran wants to stone.” Inside, an editorial urged continued pressure on Tehran not to execute Ms. Ashtiani. Five days later, The Times published an apology, saying the photograph “was not of Ms. Ashtiani, but of Susan Hejrat, an Iranian exile who lives in Sweden.” It blamed the mistake on confusion among journalists; another of Ms. Ashtiani’s lawyers, Mohammed Mostafaei; and her son Sajad Ghaderzadeh, 22.But Mr. Kian said that one of two women who had been held with Ms. Ashtiani in the Tabriz prison and recently released “told me that Ashtiani said she had received 99 lashes” for “indecency” after the photograph appeared.
Mrs. Hejrat, 48, interviewed by telephone at her home in Sweden, confirmed that the photograph was of her. She said that she had used it with articles she had written about Ms. Ashtiani as a campaigner for women’s rights in Iran. “It could have been mixed up in e-mail,” she said, adding, “I am very upset that she got another punishment because the Iranian government saw a picture of me.”Iranian authorities are using the image, Mr. Kian said, as “an excuse to put pressure on her and those around her.” He said that after her statement about her husband’s murder, Ms. Ashtiani had been subjected to a mock hanging. The lashing sentence was intended to “impact her family and journalists who may report about her case,” he added. “It is to spread fear so they don’t talk, and to keep the family’s mouths shut.” An editor at The Times of London, Simon Pearson, said that the newspaper was still looking into the confusion over the image. “But if what we’re hearing is correct,” he said, referring to the lashing sentence, “you’d have to draw the conclusion that they are sending a message to the Western media that Ashtiani will suffer if we cover her story.” Mr. Ghaderzadeh, Ms. Ashtiani’s son, could not be reached on Sunday. But in an open letter published Saturday by the International Committee Against Execution, an organization run by Iranian exiles, he denied being the source of the photograph, which he said “has given the prison authorities an excuse to increase their harassment of our mother.” He blamed Mr. Mostafaei and said the lawyer no longer represented his mother.
In an e-mail on Sunday, Mr. Mostafaei, who fled Iran under government pressure and now lives in Norway, said that he continues to work for Ms. Ashtiani and that the photograph had been “sent to me by Sajad via e-mail from an internet cafe.” He also said that his sources in the Tabriz district court denied that Ms. Ashtiani had been lashed. Mr. Kian said he did not know how the photograph of Mrs. Hejrat came to appear in The Times. But, he said, “I’m sorry it got to them.”
Iran Paper Says Bruni Should Die After Stoning Comment
August 31, 2010
An Iranian newspaper said on Tuesday that Carla Bruni, the wife of France's president, deserved to die after she expressed solidarity with a woman sentenced to be stoned for adultery.The hardline daily Kayhan called Bruni a "prostitute" whose lifestyle meant she deserved a similar fate as the Iranian woman who was sentenced to death for adultery. Carla Bruni was one of several French celebrities who published open letters to Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, whose case has caused international outrage and highlighted Iran's use of stoning as capital punishment. The wife of President Nicolas Sarkozy wrote: "Spill your blood, deprive your children of their mother? Why? because you have lived, because you have loved, because you are a woman, an Iranian? Every part of me refuses to accept this."
Kayhan, whose editor-in-chief is appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, reported Bruni's letter on Saturday under the headline: "French prostitutes enter human rights uproar." On Tuesday it returned to the subject, criticising Bruni's "illicit relationships with various people" and blaming her for causing Sarkozy's divorce from his second wife."Studying Carla Bruni's record clearly shows the reason why this immoral woman is backing an Iranian woman who has been condemned to death for committing adultery and being accomplice in her husband's murder and, in fact, she herself deserves to die," Kayhan said. There has been no official reaction from France where the media have paid very little attention to the affair. At his weekly news conference, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast called on Iran's media to use more temperate language. "Insulting the officials of other countries and using inappropriate words, this is not approved of by the Islamic Republic of Iran," he said when asked about the issue.
"The policies, the manners and the comments of other countries' officials, we criticise them, we make objections to them and we call for them to review their deeds, but we don't think using inappropriate words and insulting words is the right thing to do." Ashtiani, a mother of two, has received 99 lashes for having an illicit relationship with two men. The stoning sentence has been suspended pending a judicial review but could still be carried out, an Iranian judiciary official has said. Murder, adultery, rape, armed robbery, apostasy and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Iran's sharia law, enforced since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Iran is second only to China in the number of people it executes, according to Amnesty International. Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who has developed close ties with his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has offered asylum to Mohammadi Ashtiani, prompting an embarrassing public rejection of his offer by Iran.
Courageous and Principled: Shiva Nazar Ahari
By: Muhammad Sahimi
PBS Frontline News
August 28, 2010
Women have always been at the forefront of the struggle for a democratic Iran in which the rule of law is supreme and no one is discriminated against based on gender, ethnicity, religion, or social class. This was true both before the 1979 Revolution, and, as I will explain in a forthcoming article, after it, as well. In the 1980s, hundreds of young women who were members of the Mojahedin-e Khalgh Organization (MKO) or belonged to leftist secular groups were killed in clashes with the security forces or executed. I make no judgment as to whether what they were doing was right or wrong, but it certainly takes deep conviction and courage to be willing to sacrifice one's life in the struggle for one's ideals.
Even after the end of the Iran-Iraq War and the execution of over 4,500 political prisoners, including many women, during the spring and summer of 1988, their struggle never ceased. The infamous Chain Murders that claimed the lives of a large number of political dissidents and intellectuals took at least nine female victims. The most prominent was Parvaneh Majd Eskandari, widely known as Parvaneh Forouhar. She was the wife of Dariush Forouhar, the nationalist political dissident who was active against Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and served in the provisional government of Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan, but turned against the Islamic Republic. The couple were murdered on the evening of November 21, 1998.
After the war with Iraq ended, a generation of women activists emerged and began a struggle against all the types of discrimination imposed on women by the Islamic reactionaries. Some, such as Shirin Ebadi, concentrated their efforts on defending the rights of women and children. Others worked more broadly in defense of human rights. Nationalist-religious women have also been active. Among their leaders have been Azam Taleghani, daughter of the progressive and immensely popular Ayatollah Sayyed Mahmoud Taleghani who was active against the Shah, and Marzieh Mortazi Langroudi, wife of Dr. Habibollah Payman who leads the Movement of Militant Muslims and is part of the Nationalist-Religious Coalition. Faezeh Hashemi, daughter of former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, has been another outspoken foe of the hardliners. Even conservative women aligned with the Iranian fundamentalists have been active against discriminatory practices, such as legislation under consideration by the Majles (parliament) that allows men, among other things, to have more than one wife.
In recent years, a new generation of female journalists has emerged that has been active against the hardliners, including Parvin Ardalan and Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani, cofounders of the Campaign for One Million Signatures (COMS), which seeks to eliminate all the discriminatory laws against Iranian women. Journalists Masih Alinejad, Jila Baniya'ghoub, and Jamileh Kadivar, human rights advocate Narges Mohammadi, and attorneys Farideh Gheyrat, Nasrin Sotoodeh, and Shadi Sadr are also among those who have been at the forefront of the struggle. A forthcoming article will go into greater detail about the activities of these and many of the other courageous Iranian women who have been leaders in the fight for a better Iran. The present article focuses on just one such courageous woman, Shiva Nazar Ahari.
Who is Shiva Nazar Ahari?
Shiva Nazar Ahari was born in June 10, 1984. According to her mother, Shahrzad Kariman, she was always a very smart student, even after she suffered a severe head injury in an accident. She has a sister and a brother. Nazar Ahari attended Islamic Azad University, graduating with a degree in civil engineering. She then tried to sign up for the national graduate school entrance examination, but was prevented from doing so. When she inquired about the reason, she was told that she had received an "asterisk" as a student and "must first solve her problems with the Ministry of Intelligence."
Since coming to power in 2005, the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been giving such "asterisks" to politically active students. One asterisk can lead to suspension from university for multiple semesters; two can result in exile to a university in a remote area or outright expulsion; three means jail. Nazar Ahari had been apparently been given at least two.
Nazar Ahari has been a fierce human rights advocate. In 2003, she was one of the founding members of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters (CHRR). Formerly the group's secretary-general, she is currently its spokesperson. She is a journalist and blogger, an advocate for the rights of child laborers, and a member of the COMS. Along with Akram Eqbali, Hanieh Ne'mati, and Maryam Araei, she is a founding member of the Society of Tara Women (STW), a civil organization devoted to the lawful, nonviolent defense of the rights of women. All four of the group's founders have been repeatedly harassed by the security forces.
According to her mother, Nazar Ahari was first arrested on September 11, 2002, when she was only 18 years old. She was browsing the bookstores near the University of Tehran when she was picked up. Jailed for 23 days, she was released after her family posted a $50,000 bail. On May 27, 2004, she was arrested again, as was Ne'mati. The security agents also tried to arrest Egbali, but she was not home at the time. The goal was to prevent the university students from organizing a large-scale protest on the anniversary of the July 9, 1999, student uprising. After her release, she was once again arrested on July 9, 2004, and held for a short time.
On August 22, 2004, the University Students Committee for the Defense of Political Prisoners organized a peaceful protest in front of the United Nations office in Tehran. The families of many political prisoners took part. At the time, Nazar Ahari was secretary-general of the group. Most of its efforts were geared toward the publication and distribution of information about the prisoners and the conditions of their incarceration. The security agents arrested Nazar Ahari, Eqbali, and five other student activists and took them to Evin Prison. Nazar Ahari's mother, who participated in the protest, was also arrested, but was released after one week.
While they were held in Evin's infamous ward 209, controlled by the Ministry of Intelligence, Nazar Ahari and Eqbali released an open letter protesting their arrest. They also protested the United Nations' inaction regarding their arrest and violations of the rights of political prisoners. After 20 days in jail, they were each released on $50,000 bail. Nazar Ahari was rearrested on December 7, on the 51st anniversary of the murder of three university students by the Shah's security forces. She was released but then went through a show trial the following year that resulted in a one-year suspended sentence.
On June 12, 2006, the COMS held a peaceful gathering at 7 Tir Square in Tehran to kick off the signature-gathering campaign. Security agents savagely attacked the participants. Nazar Ahari, who had taken part, later went on Radio Farda to describe what happened. On June 14, 2009, two days after the rigged presidential election, Nazar Ahari was arrested at work by agents of the Ministry of Intelligence. The arrest warrant was dated June 7, five days before the rigged vote. Her home was searched and her personal belongings removed. On July 17, the day former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was to lead the capital's Friday Prayers from the University of Tehran, Nazar Ahari's attorney, Shadi Sadr, was arrested.
Nazar Ahari spent 33 days in solitary confinement in Evin's ward 209 and was then transferred to the general ward. She had very little contact with her family, a violation of the Islamic Republic's law that stipulates that all prisoners should be able to see their families at least once a month and be able to call them once a day. On September 1, she was set a bail of $500,000, well beyond her family's means. When her mother protested the large amount, the prosecutor in charge of the case told her, "If you cannot post the bail, she will remain in jail." The figure was eventually lowered to $200,000. After it was posted, Nazar Ahari was released temporarily on September 23.
While in jail, she befriended another woman student activist, 28-year-old Atefeh Nabavi, who had been arrested during the huge postelection demonstrations of June 15. Her cousin, Zia ol-ddin Nabavi, another "asterisked" student activist and a spokesman for the Committee for the Defense of Continuing Education (which fights for the rights of such students), along with six other student activists, were also arrested. Atefeh Nabavi was held in ward 209 for 97 days. After Nazar Ahari's release, she published a memoir about her time in jail in which she described Nabavi as a victim of physical and sexual torture. Nazar Ahari and her friends began a campaign for Nabavi's release. Nabavi was eventually put through a show trial and given a four-year sentence. She was the first woman to receive a jail sentence merely for participating in a peaceful demonstration in which millions of other people also took part.
Nazar Ahari was rearrested on December 20, together with another activist, Mohboubeh Abbasgholizadeh. They were intending to go to Qom to participate in the funeral of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri but were arrested just as they were getting on the bus.
During her imprisonment, Nazar Ahari was accused of participating in the peaceful Green Movement demonstrations held on November 4, the 30th anniversary of the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Under interrogation, she was asked why she and her friends had formed a committee for Atefeh Nabavi. Since then, she has spent at least 200 days in ward 209. She went on a hunger strike for a while to protest her illegal detention, as she had committed no crime. She was not allowed to see her parents until March 24. She told them that, while in solitary confinement that had lasted until February 14, she had been held in a cagelike cell that made it almost impossible for her to move.
In early March, Shadi Sadr received an award that is given annually to courageous women around the world. She did not participate in the awards ceremony (presumably because it was at the U.S. State Department), but declared that she wanted to give the award to Nazar Ahari. Sadr also criticized the State Department for not transmitting her message in which she praised Nazar Ahari.
A short while later, Mir Hossein Mousavi, his wife, Dr. Zahra Rahnavard, and Mehdi Karroubi met with the family of Nazar Ahari. The fundamentalists and hardliners are terrified by the prospect of an alliance between the leaders of the Green Movement and student activists. Raja News, a website controlled by ultra-rightist Fatemeh Rajabi -- wife of Gholam-Hossein Elham, a close aide to Ahmadinejad -- has published a stream of lies and propaganda about Nazar Ahari. Much of the site's claims stems from her defense of the rights of the late political prisoner Valiallah Feiz Mahdavi, arrested in 2001 on the charge of trying to join the MKO. He was executed on April 17, 2006.
Nazar Ahari fought for him not because she had any sympathies towards the MKO, but because she always defends the rights of the defenseless regardless of a person's political views, gender, ethnicity, or religion. That is what a true defender of human rights does. The bogus accusations against her -- including the charge that she is herself associated with the MKO (Tehran's prosecutor, Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, has made the totally baseless claim that the "website of the CHRR is linked with the MKO") -- have been made because her advocacy on behalf of Feiz Mahdavi, as well as her refusal to go along with the Intelligence Ministry's order to stop publicizing the violations of human rights of political activists. According to her attorney Mohammad Sharif, she has been accused of moharebeh (enmity toward God), an offense punishable by execution, as well as participating in an illegal gathering to commit offense against the nezaam (political system) and spreading propaganda against it. She first went before a judge in this latest case on May 23. Her trial is set to resume on September 4 in Branch 26 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court.
In a letter to his daughter, Mohammad Nazar Ahari wrote,
Years ago, 1979, was when the hopelessness of a nation turned into hope.... We all came out into the streets and created the epic event of 22 Bahman 1357 [February 11, 1979, when the Shah's regime was toppled] by the blood of the martyrs and much sacrifice.... My dear Shiva, in our thoughts, the imprisonment [of political activists] was not the promise of the Revolution. Nazar Ahari is highly respected among her fellow inmates. In addition to the phone number for their own families, practically all political prisoners in Evin have one other number, that of Shiva Nazar Ahari. That is just one indication of the depth of their appreciation for the effort that she dedicated to the defense of other political prisoners.
In a letter to another prisoner, Nazar Ahari wrote, When your heart trembles for the rights of another human, that is when you begin to slip; that is when the interrogations begin. When your heart trembles for another prisoner, a woman, a child laborer, that is when you become the accused. When you find faith in people and believe in humanity and nothing else, that is when you commit your first crime.
Controversial 'Family Bill' Returns To Iranian Parliament's Agenda
By Golnaz Esfandiari
August 24, 2010
Iran's parliament is preparing to discuss a bill this week that would allow men to marry additional wives without the consent of their first wife, and would tax dowries.
It is called the Family Protection Bill, but it is better known as the antifamily bill. Women's rights activists say the bill, first proposed by President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's cabinet in 2007, would pave the way for polygamy, harm the family structure, and set back the battle against discriminatory laws in the Islamic republic, where women have second-class legal status.
Activists say the bill gives men a free hand to abuse the system and deprive women from any right within the family. Supporters say the bill is intended to reinforce Islamic principles, with legislator Mohammad Dehghan arguing that it would defend the rights of women and girls who for some reason cannot have an exclusive marriage. Under Islamic law as applied in Iran, men can take up to four wives. However, polygamy is not widespread in Iran, and many citizens condemn the practice.
Will Iranian women dare take to the streets in protest this time around?
In 2008, parliament was due to vote on the bill, but following widespread protests and criticism by a large coalition of activists, it was sent to the parliament's legal committee for more work. This was seen as a victory for Iranian women's rights activists, but one that may prove to be short-lived. This time around, the conservative-dominated parliament may face much less opposition -- many of the bill's most ardent critics are now in jail or out of the country -- and activists say few changes have been made to the original legislation, and that on some points it has been made more discriminatory. On August 19 opposition figure Zahra Rahnavard called on parliament to scrap the bill from its agenda for the sake of "families' durability." Rahnavard, the wife of opposition leader Mir Hossein Musavi, has said that Koranic references to polygamy have been misinterpreted in the bill.
One of the bill's most contested articles, Article 23, states: "Marriage to a subsequent permanent wife should depend on court authorization upon ascertainment of the man's financial capability and commitment to uphold justice among his wives."
Norway-based Iranian women's rights activist Asieh Amini says that some 10 conditions have been added to Article 23, which she says makes the legislation even more discriminatory.Under the changes, a man would be able to take a new wife if his first wife were to become addicted to something to the point that it would harm her family, if she were to contract a terminal disease, if she were away from home for six months, or if she were to become sterile.
Amini says all the articles in the bill reinforce legal inequalities that effectively discriminate against women in Iran. The question is, what if a man is addicted, what happens then to the family? Why is the law silent about that?" Amini asks. "What if a man is sterile or doesn't have sexual ability and desire and if a man leaves his house -- what happens to his wife and children?"
In fact, she says all the bill's articles are written in favor of "sexual and moral submissiveness to the family's man." Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner and lawyer Shirin Ebadi, who along with other activists fought against the bill in 2008, says it reinforces unequal divorce law and encourages polygamy.
"It forces a woman to share her marriage and her feelings with another woman and she is not even being given the possibility to divorce her husband. This was one of the aspects that Iranian women united opposed," Ebadi says.
Activists have opposed other aspects of the bill, too, including the suggestion that women's dowries would be taxed and removing conditions for the registration of temporary marriages, instead of banning those types of marriages. The bill has been reintroduced as a number of activists who opposed the bill are now either in jail, free on bail, or in exile, including Ebadi and Amini. Tehran-based women's rights activist Fatemeh Govarayi believes that's exactly why the bill is again on the parliament's agenda. She says that a year after the highly disputed presidential election, "a very harsh repression" is ruling over Iranian society.
"Blood has been spilled and washed away," Govarayi says, and that parliament and the Iranian establishment as a whole have seen it as an opportunity, "judging that the opposition to the bill will not be as widespread and organized as it was in 2008, they're aiming at passing the bill with maybe [some minor changes]."
Human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who is also based in Tehran, says Iranian women inside the country and also those outside will not remain silent about the bill, which she says will take them many steps back. She believes that in the past year the presence of women in demonstrations, particularly the postelection street protests, has been even more pronounced than men's.
"If Iranian officials use intelligence, they would never not add up the anger that has been accumulated in Iranian women's hearts for years," Sotoudeh says. Tehran sociologist Shala Ezazi, who describes the bill as an attempt by the authorities to have greater control over Iranian women, believes that in practice it will be rejected by women, but also men.
"I predict that it cannot be applied in practice, the conditions are such that even such threats will not force women to sit at home and accept a series of inopportune demands," Ezazi says. Activists have called on men and women who seek justice to oppose the bill.
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