October 15, 2010 VOLUME 77
E-ZAN VOICE OF WOMEN AGAINST FUNDAMENTALISM IN IRAN
To our readers,
On October 13, 2010, Iran’s most prominent female voice, passed away. Ashraf os-Sadat Morteza'i, or “Marzieh,” as she was called, passed at the age of 86, and after a lifetime of staunch opposition to the mysoginist regime in Iran. Born in 1926, Marzieh came from a family of artists and musicians, who supported and encouraged her to pursue her music career. At a time when few families allowed their daughters to go to school, Marzieh’s father, a clergyman, insisted on his daughter’s education. As a young woman, she pursued her music and singing career in an extremely professional and dignified manner. After the 1979 revolution, public concerts were banned, and eventually in 1992, Marzieh left Iran for Paris, home to the parliament in exile, the National Council of Resistance of Iran. It was there that Marzieh expressed her commitment to the Iranian opposition and stood by their side until the last of her days, performing many grand concerts at prestigious concert halls throughout Europe. Once, when she was asked why she left Iran to come to Paris she responded, “"I used to go to the countryside and sing to the mountains, the birds, for the water, for the hills, just to avoid my voice reaching one mullah," she told an interviewer in 1999. "They said music was only for the wicked. I was becoming a pale autumn leaf. If I had not come to Paris and met them, what would have happened to me? What would a nightingale do if you put her in a cage? She would die in 24 hours."
Today, let us commemorate Marzieh and her strong defiance in the face of the mullahs by remembering our sisters in the cells of Evin prison, who with their perseverance serve as a huge force of resistance and inspiration to all the women of Iran. They continue to their struggle even under the harshest psychological and physical conditions, including lack of adequate drinking water not only for themselves, but their infants who are in the cells with them. Let us remember Shiva Nazar Ahari, who after being released last month, is back in confinement at Evin prison, on bogus charges of “moharebeh,” (enmity against God) a charge punishable by death; and Nasrin Stoudeh, the passionate human rights lawyer, who is on her 20the day of hunger strike today.
Marzieh served as a source of inspiration to all Iranian women, but particularly the women of Iran who continue to struggle and fight for their rights, and the rights of their countrymen under the oppressive mullah’s regime. Today we remember her.
E-Zan Featured Headlines
NCRI-September 23, 2010
The chairman of the Free Women’s Association in Iraq’s Diyala province praised a boycott by Iraqi tribes of the Iranian regime’s so-called exhibition against the main opposition in Camp Ashraf.
Ms. Zakri Dawoud said the Arab tribes’ brave stance in boycotting the Iranian regime’s photo exhibit deserves praise and proves that Iraqi tribes are determined to take a stance against the Iranian regime’s meddling in their country. She told Iraq’s news agency, “Diyala’s residents have amicable and strong relations with members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK),” referring to the main Iranian opposition, 3,400 of whose members reside in Camp Ashraf situated in Diyala.
The Iranian regime’s embassy in Baghdad had staged a photo exhibit against Ashraf residents in reaction to the overwhelming declaration of support by 480,000 Diyala residents for the people of Ashraf in July. “We have known them (Ashraf residents) for the past quarter of a century,” Ms. Dawoud said adding, “and we know about their high morals and humanitarian and civilized behavior.”
The chairman of the Free Women of Diyala also added that the Iranian regime interferes in Diyala’s internal affairs, killing Iraqis and smuggling in explosives and weapons. Ms Dawoud said a government-imposed siege on Camp Ashraf at the behest of the Iranian regime is inhumane and is unacceptable by Iraqis who are known for their hospitality.
persian2english – October 1, 2010
In a short telephone conversation from prison with her husband Reza Khandan, human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh informed him that she has been on hunger strike since September 25, 2010. According to reports from Jaras, Khandan stated that after the brief telephone conversation with his wife, she was cut from any access to the phone. Nasrin Soutoudeh, who is an international human rights lawyer and a mother of two young children, was arrested on September 4, 2010. Her last telephone conversation with her family occurred on September 18th when she informed them that she planned to go on a hunger strike if her rights as an imprisoned citizen continue to be ignored. Consequently, her family has expressed deep concern for her wellbeing. It was confirmed today that she has been on hunger strike for over ten days now. [In December 2008], Nasrin Sotoudeh was awarded the first annual Human Rights Prize by Human Rights International, based in Italy. [The Iranian regime banned her from travel to receive her prize.] Nasrin Sotoudeh has represented a considerable number of political activists, journalists, civil activists and youth accused and incarcerated by the Islamic Repbulic of Iran.
WFAFI News Services-October 4, 2010
The Executive Director of Tehran’s Census Bureau announced the 6% reduction in marriage and 4% increase in divorce in the first half of the current year. He said, “During this period 107,268 infants were born, which indicates an increase by 3% over the last year’s same period.” Ghashmi added, “Up to the end of September of this year, 63,330 incident of marriage were registered indicting a reduction rate by 6%, compared to the 68,059 cases in the past year.” The executive Director announced that 17,846 incidents of divorce were registered in the first half of the current year, which indicates a 4% growth rate over the last year’s 17,100 incidents of divorce. Gheshmi continued, “During the first half of the current year, 107,268 infants were born in Tehran that indicates an increase by 3% compared to the last year’s same period. 55,369 of the cases are newborn boys, and nearly 51,000 are newborn girls, which indicates the ratio of 48% to 52%, or 100 girls born for 107 boys, in Tehran.”
Gheshmi also indicated the registration of 31,256 incidents of death from beginning of the year to September in Tehran. He said this means every hour, 24 people are born and seven people die in Tehran.
WFAFI News Services-October 4, 2010
A quick glance at Ahmadinejad’s administration indicates that the economic difference between social classes has increased in a way that 48 million people, about two third of the population, make less than $800 a month, and consequently fall below the poverty line. Based on Ayandeh’s report, ”The hope for justice is being buried. A government whose slogan was fighting against Iranian mafia, and ending the class difference in Iranian society, has become, itself, a heaven for economic mafias.” State supported Ayandeh News added, “In the past five years a growing class of affluent people has created a new wave of mafia activities by which they make billions and drive expensive western cars. Official statistics indicate that 250,000 luxury cars have entered in the market, and if we add to this, the luxury cars made in Iran, the number of luxury cars in use, have exceeded 400,000 in the past five years. Economic studies indicate that this monumental volume of imported luxury cars is for the use of only 10,000 affluent households. These are members of a newly established economic class who have succeeded in making money using government loans, such as loans with less than half of the usual interest rates, and taking advantage of the chaotic bureaucracy of Ahmadinejad’s administration. As a result of this chaotic situation, Ahmadinejad’s administration is facing an unanswered question: Why In the midst of economic recession and increasing poverty, the number of luxury cars, million- dollar apartments, and expensive goods, as well as the ratio of class difference, has increased so dramatically?
United Press International- October 5, 2010
The children of an Iranian woman condemned to death for adultery asked Italy for political asylum, saying they feared being arrested, officials said. Sajjad Ghaderzadeh, the son of Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, told ANSA Tuesday he and his sister, Sahideh, received telephone calls from people saying they were "intelligence agents who threatened us." "Once I was called to their office but I didn't go," Ghaderzadeh said. "But there's a chance of us getting arrested, from one moment to the other." The Italian Foreign Ministry said the request and its reason would be "examined through our contacts with our various European Union partners in Tehran." Ghaderzadeh, saying his lawyer also was threatened, told ANSA he and his sister had appealed to Pope Benedict XVI to save their mother. Vatican spokesman Frederico Lombardi said the pope was monitoring the case. Ashtiani was found guilty of murder and adultery and condemned to death by stoning in August, prompting an outcry of international criticism. Iranian officials last month said they were suspending the sentence to review the case.
Freedom Messenger-October 13, 2010
Five prisoners hanged Monday, October 11, in the central prison of Isfahan. According to local Justice Department, one of the victims identified as Yaghoub D., 32, was an Afghan national. A day earlier, on the World Day against the Death Penalty, four other prisoners, including a woman, were hanged in the central prison of Zanjan. Adding the group execution of eight in the central prison of Kerman, a woman prisoner in Shirvan and two others in Orumieh prison between September 28 and October 7, the total number of executions in two weeks reaches 20. The regime, unable to deal with multiple crises and in the face of rising general aversion, finds its only way out in intensifying repression and more executions.
Euronews-October 14, 2010
A lawyer for the Iranian woman who faces a possible death sentence for alleged adultery and complicity in the murder of her husband has denounced the Tehran regime as maintaining slavery of women in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Mohammad Mostafaei was invited to address the European Parliament’s Human Rights Subcommittee. On a visit to Brussels from his exile in Norway, the lawyer told euronews: “I think there are political reasons the Iranian regime is playing like this with Sakineh Ashtiani’s case: to deflect international community attention away from [other] human rights violations in Iran. While focusing on the Sakineh case, people outside the country forget about the arrests of journalists and political prisoners. This is the Iranian regime’s policy today.” Officially, a sentence of stoning to death issued in 2006 was suspended in July this year but a review of the case is still in progress, according to the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Amid international pressure over the case, Tehran has defended stoning as an Islamic decree saying it cannot be abolished, while underscoring that execution by hanging has priority over stoning.
Huffington Post-October 14, 2010
Marzieh, Iran's most renowned female singer, passed away on Wednesday. Ashraf os-Sadat Morteza'i, or "Marzieh", had a legendry singing career which spanned some six decades. She died at the age of 86. She left Iran and joined the main opposition coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in Paris in 1994. She had not returned to Iran since.
She was known to Iranians of all generations for her songs which mixed traditionalism and culture with passion and contemporary issues. In the NCRI, she was the arts advisor to Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the coalition. Marzieh entered the world of art in 1942. In a famous Iranian play, Shirin and Farhad, brought to the stage by the Barbad theatre company, she played the role of Shirin for 37 nights and was an immediate success. Her skill, technique and cognition were such that composers, song writers and poets competed to get her to perform their works. She was the first singer to take part in Tehran's most prestigious program of the day, the Colourful Flowers. In the company of some of the most famous masters of Persian music, Marzieh performed more than 1,000 songs during her career. Banned from singing in public following the 1979 Islamic revolution, Marzieh earned the wrath of Iran's religious authorities by travelling to Camp Ashraf in Iraq in the late 1990s to live for several years alongside members of the opposition People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI), the Tehran regime's main nemesis. In a statement, Maryam Rajavi expressed her sincere condolences to the Iranian people for the loss of "this great lady" and called for three days of mourning.
E-Zan Featured Reports
Sentences for Iran’s Baha’I Leaders Reportedly Reduced
September 16, 2010
Prison sentences for seven Baha'i leaders in Iran have reportedly been reduced from 20 to 10 years, the Baha'i International Community learned Thursday. Lawyers representing the seven were informed Wednesday of the reduction in jail terms, it said. The Baha'i leaders -- two women and five men -- were arrested in 2008 and accused of espionage, propaganda activities against the Islamic order and the establishment of an illegal administration, among other allegations, according to the Baha'i International Community.
The group denies all charges and says they were trumped up in an effort to stifle the Baha'i religion, the largest minority faith in Iran. In the absence of official recognition of their faith, the seven national leaders helped meet spiritual needs of Iran's 300,000-strong Baha'i community. The sentences have drawn condemnation from the United States and human rights groups.
Iranian authorities view Baha'i adherents as "heretics" who may face repression on the grounds of apostasy. Baha'is may not establish places of worship, schools, or any independent religious associations in Iran. In addition, Baha'is are barred from the military and denied government jobs, according to a report by the bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Iran, however, denies mistreatment of Baha'is and says followers of the faith are free to live in Iran. But it says activities against the Islamic state are illegal and the government thus views the seven Baha'is as criminals. The Baha'i leaders are jailed at Gohardasht Prison in Karaj.
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claims woman was never sentenced to stoning
September 19, 2010
Asked about his thoughts on stoning in light of the international uproar over the case of an Iranian woman who reportedly received the sentence for adultery, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed the case as pure western media propaganda. In fact, he said on ABC's This Week that Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, 43, was never actually sentenced to stoning in the first place. "First, what I want to say is that Miss Mohammadi was never sentenced to stoning," Ahmadinejad told This Week host Christiane Amanpour in an interviewed aired on Sept. 19, 2010. "This was news that was produced and incorrect, and regretably, U.S. media affected -- was infected by U.S. politicians to make a piece of news out of it."
"But the Iranian government lifted the sentence..." Amanpour interjected.
Said Ahmadinejad: "Allow me. Allow me. When I represent the Iranian government, how is it that I am unaware of what you are telling me and that you should be aware of it? This is an issue that is being considered. It is still being processed. Given that there was no sentence of stoning issued in the first place this was the news that was made up. The propaganda behind it was big, and then those same murderers of people become supporters of human rights.
"Now this is ancient method, an ancient method that needs to change."
The following day, a spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry echoed Ahmadinejad's claim, saying the controversy over Ashtiani being sentenced to death by stoning for adultery was "organized media propaganda against Iran and to build up a human rights (violation) case," according to the news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur.
When pressed about the matter while attending a U.N. anti-poverty summit on Sept. 21, Ahmadinejad defended the handling of the case, telling reporters, "You do not understand our judicial system." Iranian officials have made it clear that the case involving Ashtiani, who, in addition to adultery, is also charged with having been an accomplice in the killing of her husband, is still under investigation, and Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said no final sentence has been issued yet on either of the charges. But was Ahmadinejad correct that the issue of stoning in this case was pure fabrication, that Ashtiani "was never sentenced to stoning"?
Ahmadinejad's claim is at odds with earlier comments from Iranian justice officials who seemed to acknowledge the stoning sentence while announcing in July the penalty had been shelved "for now." In July, Malek Ajdar Sharifi, the top judicial official in the province where Ashtiani was convicted, told the Iranian state news agency IRNA that her crimes were "heinous" and that the stoning would still take place if the judiciary wanted. "Although the verdict is definitive and applicable, the verdict has been halted due to humanitarian reservations and upon the order of the honourable judiciary chief, and it will not be carried out for the moment," according to reports from the Associated Press and Agence France Presse. That same week, Mohammed Javad Larijani of Iran's human rights council told the state news agency that the "review and appeal of the verdict is on the agenda," and maintained that "the hue and cry that the West has launched over this case will not affect our judges."
"The implementation of Islamic regulations like stoning and the headscarf have always been faced with their impudent hostility and opposition," he said.Moreover, Ahmadinejad's claim is directly contradicted by two court documents smuggled out of the country by Mohammad Mostafaei, Ashtiani's original attorney. We spoke to Mostafaei, who fled Iran in August under threat of arrest and sought amnesty in Oslo, Norway. "Everything Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on TV is not true," Mostafaei said, adding that the sentence of stoning was handed down by the lower court, and confirmed in an appeals court, before the international furor among human rights activists pressured Iranian officials to review the case. Mostafaei thinks Ahmadinejad simply didn't calculate that he had taken copies of court documents with him. One of the documents, he said, is the original sentencing document, obtained by Amnesty International and posted online by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. Amnesty International provided us with a translation of the document, which was originally written in Persian.
It reads, in part, "In this case, Ms. Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, born in 1968, from and resident of Oskou, daughter of Asghar, is accused of adultery with strangers. In consideration of the file contents, the complaint of her children from her murdered husband, the late Ebrahim Qaderzadeh, the police report, and the express confessions of the aforementioned during all preliminary investigations and cross examinations...it seems that the main motive of the aforementioned for murdering her husband in complicity with one of the strangers -– this charge against her is being examined by another court of the province –- was her illicit relations with strangers and strong moral corruption. Other indications and adminicles all point to the committing of the said adultery offence and have led to the achievement of knowledge by the majority. Therefore, invoking Articles 63, 83 and 105 of the Islamic Penal Code, the majority of court members sentence Ms. Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, daughter of Asghar, to stoning for adultery (repeatedly with strangers). This sentence may be appealed before the Supreme Court within 20 days of its notification." (An adminicle is something that contributes to proving a point.)
In addition, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran posted a document that Mostafaei said was issued by the Supreme Court administration on July 7, 2010. The document is also written in Persian, and Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, said the document acknowledges the receipt of an appeals request to rule on the stoning sentence of Sakineh Ashtiani. We had the documents independently translated and confirmed both documents list stoning as the sentence.
"It explicitly states her sentence as stoning," Ghaemi told us. "If there was no stoning sentence, the Supreme Court would not have issued this report." Amnesty International pointed us to one other piece of evidence. A press release issued by the Iranian embassy in London on July 8, 2010, "denies the false news aired in this respect (the Ashtiani case) and notifies the Ministry that according to information from the relevant judicial authorities in Iran, she will not be executed by stoning punishment. It is notable that this kind of punishment has rarely been implemented in Iran, and various means and remedies must be probed and exhausted to finally come up with such a punishment."
The statement also notes that "the stoning punishment has not been cited in the draft Islamic Penal Code being deliberated in the Iranian Parliament." According to a 2008 report from the United Nations on human rights issues in Iran, the head of Iran's judiciary issued a circular to prohibit stoning as a punishment. "However," the report states, "as in the case of the ban on public executions, this circular does not have a binding legal effect and serves only as an instruction for individual judges."
Reports of stoning sentences in Iran are uncommon, and it's even more rare that the sentence is actually carried out. The U.N. report notes that stoning verdicts have been suspended for at least 14 people (11 women and three men); and an active coalition exists in the country seeking to ban the practice of stoning altogether.
Nonetheless, the practice of stoning still occurs -- with the most recent instance in 2007, according to the U.N. Mostafaei said he has handled about 10 cases involving stoning. In a handful of cases, the punishment was later reduced to 99 lashes, he said. About 14 people in Iran have been sentenced to stoning and are in prison awaiting punishment. Mostafaei believes international denunciation has worked, and in an open letter, he talks broadly about human rights issues facing Iran. "I think the government can't continue this punishment in the future, in my opinion," he said. Iranian officials have accused Mostafaei of taking advantage of the case to get asylum in Europe.
In August and September, a woman claiming to be Ashtiani appeared on state television (with her face blurred out) and confessed to being an accomplice to her husband's murder. The woman also criticized Mostafaei, saying that he had shamed her by making the case an international human rights issue. Her lawyer said the interviews were coerced.
We are not weighing the issue of Ahtiani's guilt or innocence but whether she was "never sentenced to stoning." We think there's enough evidence -- from previously reported statements from Iranian judicial officials and from court documents provided by Ashtiani's one-time attorney -- to show that stoning was the sentence by the lower court. In this case, the sentence has been suspended, and the case is under review. Ahmadinejad may have a point that stoning sentences are rare, that the sentence is often overturned and that there is often a prolonged process of review before such sentences are carried out. But we rule his claim that Ashtiani was never sentenced to stoning in the first place is False.
Iranian Women Stand Against Misogynist Ahmadinejad
September 23, 2010
There has been a concerted effort by Tehran to conflate opposition to the Iranian regime, its human rights abuses, and its inherent and deeply ingrained misogyny, with beating the drums of war. Tehran has managed to take advantage of some anti-war groups to line up support for its murderous behavior. The aim is to insinuate the notion that "if you are against the Iranian regime, you are for war with Iran."
Those who now callously argue that any strong criticism of the Iranian regime amounts to a preparation for war only serve to provide the regime with the "moral" cover it needs to continue its human rights atrocities, the stoning of women, the torture and execution of political dissidents, and exporting of terrorism. In fact, during Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's five-year tenure as the regime's president, 1,860 people have been executed, among them 42 women, with 261 cases reportedly carried out in public. Additionally, seven have been stoned to death, among them women. Iran is also the only child executioner in the world, hanging 36 juveniles in the same period.
So, it is high time for the forceful rejection of the false notion that opposition to such crimes is tantamount to warmongering. The only benefactor of this notion is the Iranian regime. What has instead become clear time and again is that when the international community actually applies pressure on the Iranian regime when it comes to human rights abuses, the regime succumbs.
The most recent evidence of this is the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, an Iranian mother of two who was sentenced to stoning on charges of adultery. After a high profile international campaign, which was initiated by Ashtiani's children, the stoning, which was due to take place in July, was postponed by the Iranian regime's officials. Although the death sentence against her still stands, it is in large part due to the pressure applied by the international community that Ms. Ashtiani has not become another statistic of the regime's victims.
The regime argues that reports of its atrocious human rights abuses are nothing more than fabricated "anti-Iranian" propaganda meant to incite Americans to wage war. This is precisely what Ahmadinejad said when asked about Ashtiani's case in an interview with ABC television over the weekend. He first claimed that Ashtiani was never sentenced to death by stoning (which clearly contradicts an Iranian Foreign Ministry official's acknowledgment that the stoning had been halted), and that the story was nothing but an invention of the American media and politicians (deliberately ignoring her children's efforts that initially publicized her case). Ahmadinejad then noted, "We are opposed to the way United States manages the world, manages Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere" -- as if this was somehow relevant to the question at hand. The world has to realize, both for the sake of the Iranian people who have on numerous occasions risen up in their millions against that dictatorial regime, as well as for the sake of global peace and security, that the genocidal behavior of the Iranian regime is no accident. Rather, it is endemic to its very existence, and its way of governance.
The time for muting criticisms of the Iranian regime is over - the people of Iran want, and need, allies in the international community to put concrete demands on the regime. A large rally to be held by thousands of Iranian Americans across the United States on Thursday 23 September across from the United Nations headquarters is meant to show the world that Ahmadinejad and his misogynist regime do not represent the Iranian people.
To the contrary, the participants will endorse the 10-point plan of Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran coalition, with states, among other things, "We believe in complete gender equality in political and social rights. We are also committed to equal participation of women in political leadership. Any form of discrimination against women will be abolished. They will enjoy the right to freely choose their clothing."
Unlike the mullahs, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi is committed to the "abolition of the death penalty" and the establishment of a "pluralist system," which guarantees "freedom of parties and assembly, freedom of expression of opinion, speech and the media." And finally, she concludes, "We want the free Iran of tomorrow to be devoid of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction."
Supporting the Iranian people and holding the Iranian regime accountable for its crimes is far from embracing war. In fact, it is the surest way to avoid the two scariest alternatives: an Iranian bomb or bombing Iran.
Iran Urged to End Harassment of Rights Activist Facing Seven Years In Prison
September 24, 2010
Amnesty International has called on the Iranian authorities not to imprison a prominent human rights defender and journalist sentenced to a total of seven years in prison, including six for recording an interview with a reformist cleric. Emadeddin Baghi, the head of the now-banned Association for the Defence of Prisoners' Rights (ADPR), who had been released on bail in June after six months’ detention, was told on Wednesday of his conviction for "propaganda against the system" and "gathering and colluding with the aim of harming national security" while attending a trial session for another case.
The charges were brought against him over a 2008 TV interview with the late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, broadcast by BBC Persian in December 2009 following the cleric's death.
However, when interrogated following his arrest in December 2009, Baghi was asked about his views on the death penalty; his connections to human rights groups including Amnesty International and his NGO work. The interview with Grand Ayatollah Montazeri was scarcely mentioned, suggesting he had really been arrested for his human rights work.
Emadeddin Baghi had already been sentenced in July 2010 to one year's imprisonment and to a five-year ban on any media or NGO work, in connection with his establishment of the ADPR in 2003. The award-winning human rights defender remains free but faces imprisonment if his appeals against his convictions fail. "This is yet another example of the Iranian authorities persecuting Emadeddin Baghi, an activist who has been repeatedly imprisoned for his work," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa deputy director.
"His plight is emblematic of the continuing government crackdown on activists in Iran, where those who speak out against human rights violations face intimidation, arrest or worse." If made to serve these sentences, Amnesty International would consider him a prisoner of conscience. Baghi, who won the 2009 Martin Ennals Award for human rights, has been systematically targeted by the authorities and has several other cases pending against him. The 49-year-old suffers from serious heart and kidney ailments resulting from or exacerbated by poor prison conditions, including delayed medical treatment.
He was arrested on the latest charge the day after mass anti-government protests were held in Tehran and other cities during the Shi'a religious occasion of Ashoura, in December 2009.
According to Baghi's website, in the past 30 years he has been summoned to court or for interrogation more than 85 times, fined once, prevented from publishing 13 books, been given a five-year ban on engagement in public life and received a total of 18 and a half years in prison sentences, and has already spent four and a half years in prison.
"Though currently free, Emadeddin Baghi's life has become a living prison in a Kafkaesque world where those who promote justice for others are assured only of injustice for themselves," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui. Human rights activists are continually targeted for their work by the Iranian authorities. Other recent cases include the following:
Prominent women's rights activist Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani, who was formally charged on 22 September with "propaganda against the system" for writing for a feminist website and participating in demonstrations following the disputed 2009 presidential elections. She is currently free.
On 18 September 2010, Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court sentenced rights activists Saeed Ha’eri and Shiva Nazar Ahari, to prison terms on charges including "disturbing public order" and “moharebeh” (enmity against God). Sa’eed Ha’eri was also sentenced to flogging. Currently free, both are members of the Committee for Human Rights Reporters, an organization founded in 2006 which campaigns against human rights violations. Human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh was arrested on 4 September 2010 and is currently in solitary confinement in Evin prison in Tehran. She is not known to have been formally charged, but the reasons stated on her summons include suspicion of "propaganda against the system" and "gathering and colluding with the aim of harming state security". Her husband and her lawyer have both been warned not to speak publicly about her situation.
Women's rights activists Maryam Bidgoli and Fatemeh Masjedi were sentenced to one year in prison on 29 August 2010 for "propaganda against the system by collecting signatures for a petition to change discriminatory laws, and for publication of materials in support of a feminist group opposed to the system". They had been arrested and held for almost two weeks in May 2009. Both are members of the One Million Signatures Campaign (also known as the Campaign for Equality) which seeks to end discrimination against women in law.
Iranian Parliament Receives Petition To Scrap Polygamy
September 26, 2010
A group of women’s rights activists delivered a petition with five thousand signatures to the Iranian parliament urging the legislative body to “bar polygamy.” ILNA reports that the petition was delivered by 40 women who called on the parliament to halt al efforts in “promoting temporary marriages and polygamy.”
One of the activists announced that their efforts in the past week to meet with the parliament’s Legal and Judicial Commission had failed but the secretariat of the parliament had finally accepted the petition today. According to this report, efforts to collect more signatures continue and other women’s groups will deliver them to the parliamentary office in the coming days.
The Legal and Judicial Commission of the parliament is set to review the controversial articles of the Family Protection Bill regarding temporary marriages, polygamy and lump-sum alimony (mehrieh) on Tuesday. Women’s activists along with a group of former women parliamentarians pushed the parliament to review these articles last month.
Women’s rights websites also published a letter signed by over 330 “men defending equal rights.”
The signatories state that the articles of this bill are discriminatory and “while they degrade women, they are also an insult to men because the proposed law presumes that men are only motivated by their sexual desires.”
The statement goes on to add that they believe men must struggle alongside women for equal gender rights.
The Family Protection Bill was introduced into the parliament three years ago at which time protests from women’s groups forced the lawmakers to shelve it. However, in the past months, Iranian hardliners have managed to re-introduce it into the parliament and re-ignite the controversy.
Feminism is Failing in the War Against Women
By Virginia Haussegger
September 28, 2010
In a chilling ABC radio interview last week, a young Palestinian man calmly described how he repeatedly smashed his sister's head against the wall until he killed her.
Khaled Mahmood explained this was an "honour" killing, as his sister had shamed the family by sleeping with a man of her choice. She had to be obliterated. It seems the police agreed. No charges were laid.
In some parts of the world, not only do fathers, brothers and husbands own a woman's body, they own her virtue. Their identity and manliness is embedded in it. This, of course, is an impossible burden for any woman to carry.
Afghan teenager Aishia learned that last year, when she was pinned down as her husband cut off her nose and ears, because she tried to escape his family's abuse. Seventeen-year-old Dua Khalil learned it too, just before she was stoned to death in northern Iraq three years ago, for having a boyfriend. Bangladeshi woman Fozilitun Nessa also learned it, when her face was doused in acid because she refused a marriage proposal. For the hundreds of thousands of women killed, maimed, or savagely beaten for expressing their free will, "honour" doesn't come into it. Nor does a fair trial. As Iranian mother Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani knows too well. She's on death row, facing execution by stoning for having sex with a man who wasn't her husband. There is a totalising ideology on the march across the world, and it's anti-women.
This is not about religion, piety or virtue. Rather it's about misogyny and a global war against women. It's about the rights and freedoms of women. The ownership and control over women's bodies has become the chief battleground. World events and the rise of neo-fundamentalism in the 80s and 90s, by young men eager to revive and restore old practices, have made feminism more important than ever. And yet feminism has lost its voice. We don't know how to respond to the horrors of infallible patriarchal control. In our failure to act and strenuously resist this global push back against women's liberty and free agency, feminism is at a point of moral crisis.
Has feminism failed? Numbers have improved, legal structures and new frameworks have been erected. The scaffolding is there - for some of us. But for a growing number of the world's women, their freedoms are at serious risk. And feminism remains deathly silent. Right now, at a time when we need a massive feminist surge to fight back rising anti-woman sentiment, we're sitting on our hands. Is this not our business too? Why do feminist responsibilities stop at the border?
Somali born feminist, Aayan Hirsi Ali, speaks of the West's "misguided politeness" in opting to say nothing and do nothing about the abhorrent abuses and treatment of women and girls, that are excused as cultural custom or religious rites. Honour killings, female genital mutilation, acid attacks, forced marriages, and sexual slavery are among the so-called 'cultural' practices she has in mind when Hirsi Ali calls on Western feminists to "take on the plight of Muslim women and make it their own cause".
However, indignity, debasement and gender apartheid extend beyond fundamentalism. Ignorance is perhaps the greatest tool of control used against women. There are 62 million primary school age girls around the world who don't go to school. Some 520 million women can't read. More than half a million women die each year - around one per minute - from treatable reproductive complications, and a lack of priority. It is inconceivable to me that someone can pick up a newborn baby girl and in disgust throw it into a "slops pail", uttering the words "useless thing". Chinese writer Xinran Xue described this scene recently when writing about "Gendercide" and the world's missing 100 million baby girls. At least being chucked in the bin is a quick death. Other baby girls are slowly starved, or simply abandoned, for one single reason - they are female.
What is it about girls and women that make them so utterly dispensable? In our own backyard, the Pacific region, some of the rates of maternal death are among the worst in the world. Papua New Guinea is only surpassed by Afghanistan and yet this scandal of female neglect rates no mention here. Picture Fiji, Vanuatu, or the Solomn Islands, and we think of holidays. What we choose not to see are skyrocketing teenage pregnancies and extremely high rates of violence against women. Sixty per cent of Pacific nations have no laws against domestic violence. Which is perhaps why 73 per cent of women in the Solomons think it's OK for a husband to beat his wife. Last year Vanuatu's traditional chiefs challenged a 2008 law passed to protect women form domestic violence, saying it "contradicted Vanuatu's custom". Traditional, cultural practices that assert male authority will always disadvantage women. So why do we kow-tow to them? Why are we so ready to adopt a lazy, cultural-relativist position?
Has feminism failed? Perhaps not for you and I. But you know what? It’s not just about us.
It's not just about us.
Women Fears for Sister in Jail
October 1, 2010
AN Iranian-born author and former political prisoner who fled as a refugee to Australia says she has been threatened with reprisals. Rosa Vasseghi says she has been threatened for criticising the Iranian government's arrest of her sister, who has been jailed for five years for being a member of the minority Baha'i faith. Ms Vasseghi, who lives in Melbourne after gaining asylum in 1999, says she and her family have received repeated threats since speaking out over the plight of her sister, Rozita, who has been held in solitary confinement since her arrest in March. Rozita Vasseghi is being held in a detention centre run by the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence after being convicted of "teaching against the regime, taking action against national security and insulting religious sanctities" for distributing CDs about the Baha'i faith.
The International Federation for Human Rights is campaigning for Rozita's freedom, saying the conditions in which she is held are "so appalling" that she is in "an extremely weakened state" and her condition is "very serious".
"Her only crime is being a Baha'i," says her sister, who was herself imprisoned and tortured for her religious beliefs before escaping Iran in the 1990s.
She said Rozita's arrest followed a trip she made to Australia in 2008, where they were reunited for the first time in 11 years. "It was after she came to Australia they accused her. She was accused of being a spy and insulting Islam because she travelled overseas,' Rosa Vasseghi told The Australian. She said for the first three months her sister had been in a cell with no mattress or blanket. Their 70-year-old mother had been able to see Rozita three times for a few minutes at a time. On the last visit, two months ago, she barely recognised her daughter as she had lost so much weight, was in intense pain and could barely walk.
Rosa Vasseghi said when she had been talking on the phone to her mother two weeks ago, a man's voice had cut into the phone line and told her: "One day it will be your turn. Your time is also coming." On a second occasion she had been told: "We will get to you, too." Human rights activists say Iranian intelligence is known to monitor the telephones of political and religious dissidents and frequently interrupts their calls. Rosa Vasseghi is the author of eight children's books and a non-fiction book published last year about the detention, torture and rape of women prisoners around the world. She says after the book's publication, she received a phone call from a man with an Iranian accent calling from within Australia, who said: "We will stop you. I am going to catch you and rape you."
"I was very shocked. I didn't expect that to happen here in Australia," Ms Vasseghi said.
Depriving female political prisoners of drinking water in Evin prison
WFAFI News Services
October 4, 2010
The water in The Women Ward 2 of Evin Prison has been shut off for 24 hours. Women political prisoners are kept in this ward. With water shut off, they can hardly have access to drinking water, and lack of clean drinking water has created many health problems. Some prisoners have contracted illnesses causing nausea and diarrhea. Lack of drinking water has caused serious conditions for the infants and their mothers. Women prisoners and other detainees’ requests and protests have been unanswered so far. The Warden who is a female guard named Mrs. Rezaee refuses to respond to their requests. If the lack of drinking water continues, there will be the possibility of various epidemics which may threaten prisoners’ lives.
The drinking water of the Women Ward is provided from the wells dug into the prison’s yard. This water is not suitable for drinking, and has caused kidney disease and other illnesses among political prisoners and other inmates.
At this time there are 20 women political prisoners kept in Evin’s Women Ward and their names are as follows:
Nazila Dashti, Atefeh Nabavi, Mahdeeh Golroo, Zahra Jabbari, Farah Vazehan, Kobra Zahgehdoost,
Allyeh Eghdamdoost, Saba Rezvani, Hengame Shaheedi, Bahareh Hedayat, Parveen Javadzadeh, Rayhaneh Hadjebraheemdabagh, Susan Taryanian, Maneejeh Safarelahee, Fatema khorramjoo, Motaharreh Bahrameehagheeghee, Ozrasadat Ghazeemeersaeed, Kefayat Malekmohhamadee, Fatima Rahnama.
Iran Arrests 9 Christians for Evangelism, Reports State Media
October 9, 2010
Iran has arrested nine Christians on the charge of evangelism, according to a report picked up by a Persian language Christian news agency Tuesday.Seven Christian Iranians were accused of cooperating with two foreigners who were supported by “Christian-Zionist organizations,” reported the Farsi Christian News Network based on a state news program that aired Sept. 10 on the Fars News Agency. The Fars News Agency is connected to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, a branch of Iran’s military. According to the report, the Christians were accused of proselytizing – which is illegal in Iran – outside of the Northwest city of Hamedan. The term “Christian Zionists” is often used by the Iranian government to refer to evangelical Christians and does not imply any relationship with Israel or Zionists.
While the nationalities of the two foreigners were not identified, the authority in the report said the supporting organizations are based in the United States and Great Britain. A security official announced the arrest – something not typically done in the Islamic republic. According to FCNN, it is the first time in some 30 years that a state TV station has broadcasted news about the arrest of a group of Christians.
News of the arrests comes as some Christian persecution watchdog groups have expressed concern over an intensifying government crackdown on Christians in Iran. Over the past year, authorizes have shut down at least three churches, accusing them of converting Muslims. The largest church that gives public services in Iran was forced last November to stop its Friday worship services due to government pressure. In February, an Iranian evangelical pastor was arrested and had visible marks of torture when he was released more than a month later.
There have also been reports of security officials arresting Muslims who converted to Christianity. Last May, officials arrested five newly converted Christians while they were meeting for Bible study. Iran also arrested two young female converts last year, leading to an international outcry from human rights and persecution watchdog groups. Iranian authorities finally released the two young women last November after detaining them for 259 days in the country’s notorious Evin Prison, where they reportedly were subjected to psychological abuse and their medical requests were ignored. In Iran, it is illegal for Muslims to convert to Christianity, although Christians are allowed to convert to Islam. Open Doors’ 2010 World Watch List ranks Iran as the second worst persecutor of Christians in the world.
Iran, Pakistan Among Worst in Gender Equality Report
Radio Free Europe
October 12, 2010
The Global Gender Gap Report for 2010 examines the status of women under four broad headings. They are: economic opportunity, educational attainment, political empowerment, and health and survival.
By this rubric, the Nordic countries have the fewest inequalities for their female citizens. Iceland tops the whole survey, followed by Norway, Finland and Sweden.
World Economic Forum director Klaus Schwab notes in an accompanying statement that gender equality is important not only on moral grounds, but also has tremendous value in terms of economic prosperity.
He says low gender gaps are directly linked to economic competitiveness, and the full use of women's talents in the workforce is necessary if a country is to grow and prosper.
By the same measures, two countries which are doing notably badly are Iran and Pakistan. Iran occupies 123rd place, only 11 spots from the bottom of the list.
The tables show that Iranian women earn on average only one-third the amount males earn. They are virtrualy absent from the ranks of legislators, senior officials, and managers.
The only heading in which women do well is education, where they are equal with males in secondary education and slightly ahead of males in terms of participation in higher education.
Pakistan shows a broadly similar picture. It occupies 132rd place on the list -- just two places from the end.Less than a quarter of Pakistani women are active in the workforce, and they earn less than a fifth of the income of males on average. Female unemployment is running at double the rate of male unemployment.
Despite strong female figures in politics in the past, women are deeply underrepresented in the political process, and they even live shorter lives than their menfolk.
But despite all the bad news, Saadia Zahidi of the World Economic Forum points out that "over the past five years" there have been encouraging trends in global women's right.
"One encouraging sign is that of the 114 countries which have been covered from the very beginning, about 86 percent have made progress, while 14 percent are deteriorating," Zahidi stressed optimism.
"So, in general, the majority of countries are improving over time." The report's coauthor Ricardo Haussman says further progress will be achieved when societies find ways to make marriage and motherhood compatible with the participation of women in the economy.
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Volume 77, October 15, 2010
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