Thursday, 29 May 2008

Amnesty International Report 2008


The authorities continued to suppress dissent. Journalists, writers, scholars, and women’s rights and community activists were subject to arbitrary arrest, travel bans, closure of their NGOs and harassment. Armed opposition, mainly by Kurdish and Baluchi groups, continued, as did state repression of Iran’s minority communities. Discrimination against women remained entrenched in law and practice. Torture and other ill-treatment were widespread in prisons and detention centres. A security clampdown announced in April was marked by a sharp rise in executions; at least 335 people were executed, among them seven child offenders. Sentences of stoning to death, amputation and flogging continued to be passed and carried out.


Iran’s uranium enrichment programme continued to be a focus of international tension. Israeli and US authorities refused to rule out the possibility of military action against Iran. In March, the UN Security Council imposed further sanctions. In September, the US government designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a “terrorist organization” for allegedly supporting insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. In December, US intelligence agencies published a report stating that Iran had ended any nuclear weapons programme in 2003. The same month the UN General Assembly condemned the human rights situation in Iran.

Ayatollah Meshkini, Head of the Assembly of Experts that oversees the appointment of the Supreme Leader, died in July. He was replaced by former President Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Increasing numbers of Iranians faced poverty as the economic situation deteriorated. In June rioting followed the introduction of petrol rationing. A three-month strike by workers at the Haft Tapeh Sugar Plant in Khuzestan Province over unpaid wages and benefits was forcibly broken up by security forces in October. Haft Tapeh and other workers and teachers staged large demonstrations, and arrests were made.

Freedom of expression

Vaguely worded laws and harsh practices resulted in widespread repression of peaceful dissent. Demonstrations frequently led to mass arrests and unfair trials. The authorities maintained tight restrictions on internet access. Journalists, academics and webloggers, including some dual nationals, were detained and sentenced to prison or flogging and several publications were closed down. In April, the Minister of Intelligence, Gholam Hossein Eje’i, publicly accused students and the women’s movement of being part of an attempt to bring about the “soft overthrow” of the Iranian government.

Ali Farahbakhsh, a journalist, was granted an early conditional release in October after 11 months in detention. He was convicted of “espionage” and “receiving money from foreigners” in connection with his attendance at a media conference in Thailand.

Human rights defenders

Independent human rights groups and other NGOs continued to face long delays, often lasting years, in obtaining official registration, leaving them at risk of closure for carrying out illegal activities. Students campaigning for greater respect for human rights faced reprisals, including arbitrary arrest and torture. Individual human rights defenders were persecuted for their work; some were prisoners of conscience.

Emaddedin Baghi, Head of the Association for the Defence of Prisoners and a leading campaigner against the death penalty, was detained in October following a summons relating to accusations of “endangering national security”. While the family was posting bail, they were told that he now had to serve a suspended sentence imposed in 2003, including for “printing lies”. Another three-year prison term imposed on him in July 2007 for “propaganda in favour of opponents”, arising from his work on behalf of Iranian Ahwazi Arabs sentenced to death after unfair trials, was pending appeal. His wife, Fatemeh Kamali Ahmad Sarahi, and daughter, Maryam Baghi, were given three-year suspended prison sentences in October for “meeting and colluding with the aim of disrupting national security” after attending a human rights workshop in Dubai in 2004. In December he suffered a seizure while in custody.

Mansour Ossanlu, head of the Union of Workers of the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company, was detained in July after visiting Europe to gather support for the independent trade union movement in Iran. Following international protests he received medical treatment for an eye injury reportedly sustained during a dispute with prison officials during an earlier detention. In October an appeals court upheld a five-year prison sentence imposed in February.

Discrimination against women

Women continued to face widespread discrimination in law and practice. Thousands were arrested for non-compliance with the obligatory dress code.

Activists working with the Campaign for Equality, which aims to collect a million signatures in Iran calling for an end to legalized discrimination against women, faced harassment and arrest. In August, Nasim Sarabandi and Fatemeh Dehdashti were sentenced to six months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, for “acting against national security through the spread of propaganda against the system”. They were the first people to be tried and sentenced for collecting signatures. At the end of the year, four campaign activists remained in detention without charge or trial – Ronak Safarzadeh and Hana Abdi, Kurdish women who were detained in Sanandaj in October and November respectively; and Maryam Hosseinkhah and Jelveh Javaheri, who were detained in Tehran in connection with their work editing the campaign’s website. The authorities persistently filtered the website, making access difficult.

Women’s rights defender Delaram Ali, who had been arrested in June 2006 following a peaceful demonstration demanding greater respect for women’s rights, had her 30-month prison sentence temporarily postponed following local and international campaigning. In March, 33 women activists were arrested outside Tehran’s Revolutionary Court during a protest against the trial of five women charged in connection with the June 2006 demonstration. All were released, but some faced trial.

Repression of minorities

Repression continued of Iran’s ethnic minorities, who maintained their campaigning for greater recognition of their cultural and political rights.


At least eight Iranian Ahwazi Arabs were executed after being convicted in connection with bomb explosions in Khuzestan in 2005. At least 17 other Iranian Arabs were believed to be facing execution after unfair trials related to the bombings. Scores, possibly hundreds, of Ahwazi Arabs were reportedly arrested in April, in advance of the anniversary of riots in 2005 protesting against a letter allegedly written by a presidential adviser, who denied its authenticity, which set out policies for the reduction of the Arab population of Khuzestan.

In April, journalist Mohammad Hassan Fallahiya was sentenced to three years in prison with hard labour for writing articles critical of the government and for allegedly contacting opposition groups based outside Iran. He was detained in November 2006 and denied access to a lawyer throughout the judicial process. His family said the Evin Prison authorities refused to allow them to take him medicines required to treat heart and blood disorders, endangering his life.


Hundreds of Iranian Azerbaijani activists were arrested in connection with a peaceful demonstration on International Mother Language Day, 21 February. The demonstrators called for their own language to be used in schools and other education institutions in the areas of north-west Iran where most Iranian Azerbaijanis reside.

Prisoner of conscience Saleh Kamrani, a lawyer and human rights defender, was detained in Evin Prison between August and December. In September 2006 he had been sentenced to a year in prison – suspended for five years – for “spreading propaganda against the system”. It was unclear whether his arrest was connected to this sentence.


Jondallah, a Baluchi armed group, carried out attacks on Iranian officials, including bombing a bus carrying Revolutionary Guards in February. It also took hostages, at least one of whom was killed.

Nasrollah Shanbeh-zehi was arrested following the bus bombing. Five days later he was publicly executed following a summary trial.

Ya’qub Mehrnehad, head of the Voice of Justice Young People’s Society, a recognized NGO, was detained in April in Zahedan, initially by the Ministry of Intelligence, following a meeting in the Provincial Office of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance that the Governor of Zahedan reportedly attended. He remained in Zahedan Prison at the end of the year, without access to a lawyer. He may have been tortured.

In May police shot dead Roya Sarani, an 11-year-old Baluchi girl, while she was being driven home from school by her father in Zahedan. The authorities reportedly put pressure on her family to hold a small funeral. No official investigation was believed to have been held into her killing.


Members of the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (Partiya Jiyana Azadîya Kurdistanê, PJAK) attacked Iranian forces, who shelled parts of northern Iraq where they believed PJAK forces were hiding. Numerous Kurds were arrested, many accused of membership of, or contact with, proscribed groups. Kurdish journalists and human rights defenders were particularly at risk of harassment and detention.

Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand, head of the Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan (HROK) and editor of the banned weekly newspaper Payam-e Mardom, was detained in July apparently for “acting against national security”, “propaganda against the system” and “co-operating with groups opposed to the system”, although he was not formally charged. He complained of poor prison conditions and ill-treatment, including denial of access to the toilet, which was apparently intended to force other leading HROK members to turn themselves in to security officials for questioning.

Religious minorities

Baha’is throughout the country continued to face persecution on account of their religion. At least 13 Baha’is were arrested in at least 10 cities and were subject to harassment and discriminatory practices, such as denial of access to higher education, bank loans and pension payments. Nine Baha’i cemeteries were desecrated.

In August and November, clashes involving Sufis resulted in scores of injuries and, in November, more than 100 arrests. In September, a couple – a Christian convert who married a Christian woman in an Islamic ceremony – were reportedly flogged in Gohar Dasht in connection with their faith.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Torture and other ill-treatment were common in many prisons and detention centres, facilitated by prolonged pre-charge detention and denial of access to lawyers and family. At least two people died in custody, possibly as a result of torture. Torturers were rarely if ever held to account for their crimes.

In May, four students and editors-in-chief of student publications arrested in May at Amir Kabir Polytechnic were tortured, according to their families. The abuse allegedly included 24-hour interrogation sessions, sleep deprivation, beatings with cables and fists, and threats to prisoners and their families. The detainees were arrested in connection with articles deemed by university officials to “insult Islamic sanctities”. In July, the families of the detained students sent an open letter to Ayatollah Shahroudi, Head of the Judiciary, describing the alleged torture.

Zahra Bani Yaghoub, a medical graduate, died in custody in Hamadan in October. She was arrested for walking in a park with her fiancé and died in detention the next day. The authorities said she had hanged herself. Her family said that she was in good spirits when they spoke to her on the phone half an hour before she was found dead. A report in November indicated that the head of the detention centre had been detained, but was then released on bail and remained in office.

In November, a retrial was ordered in the case of the 2003 death in custody of Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian-Iranian photojournalist. She was tortured to death, but the only person prosecuted was acquitted in 2004, a decision upheld in 2005. She had been arrested for taking photographs outside Evin Prison.

Death penalty

The number of executions rose sharply in 2007. Amnesty International received reports that at least 335 people were executed, although the true figure was almost certainly higher. Some people were executed in public, often in multiple hangings. Death sentences were imposed for a wide range of crimes, including drug smuggling, armed robbery, murder, espionage, political violence and sexual offences. A “special” court in eastern Iran established in May 2006 to reduce the time between the crime and the punishment led to a marked rise in the number of Baluchis executed.

Child offenders

At least seven people aged under 18 at the time of the crime were executed and at least 75 other child offenders remained on death row. Following domestic and international protests, the death sentences of at least two child offenders – Sina Paymard and Nazanin Fatehi – were commuted.

Makwan Moloudzadeh, an Iranian Kurdish child offender, was executed in December following a grossly flawed trial for three rapes he allegedly committed at the age of 13, eight years earlier. In sentencing him to death, the judge relied on his “knowledge” that the offence had occurred and that Makwan Moloudzadeh had reached puberty at the time of the crime and so could be tried and sentenced as an adult.

Execution by stoning

Ja’far Kiani was stoned to death in Takestan in July, despite an order from the Head of the Judiciary granting a temporary stay of execution. The judge in the case was later said by officials to have been “mistaken”. At least nine women, including Ja’far Kiani’s co-defendant, and two men remained at risk of stoning. In November, judicial officials said that a new version of the Penal Code had been sent to the Majles for approval and that, if approved, it would provide for the possibility of commuting stoning sentences.

Cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments

Sentences of flogging and amputation continued to be passed and implemented.
In November, Soghra Mola’i was flogged 80 times for “illicit relations” after her sentence of death by stoning was overturned following a retrial. She remained in prison to serve a sentence for involvement in the murder of her husband.

At least eight people had their fingers or hand amputated after conviction of theft.

Amnesty International reports

Iran: Human rights abuses against the Baluchi minority (MDE 13/104/2007)
Iran: The last executioner of children (MDE 13/059/2007)

Monday, 26 May 2008

IMHRO: 100 years on Ahwaz Oil

Iranian Minorities’ Human Right Organisation (IMHRO)


100 years ago, on 26 of May 1908 first oil discovery happened in the Middle East and in Ahwaz area. 100 years on, indigenous Ahwazi Arabs are not benefited from the oil and as end of oil era could be soon, is not clear what will happen for indigenous Ahwazi Arabs.

The entire world benefited from Ahwaz oil

Listing the countries that benefited from of Ahwaz oil is nearly impossible, tracing each drop of oil went where is not realistic but in general, the entire world had benefited from Ahwaz oil.

The major beneficiary are Iran, which after occupying Al-Ahwaz in 1925 for 83 years, whole Iranian economy was based on Ahwaz oil, British Empire won WW1 and WW2 on wave of Ahwaz oil.

British had design and built Abadan oil refinery on 1912, which till before war started between Iran and Iraq in 1980, was biggest oil refinery in the world. A giant oil company called BP today, had born inside Ahwaz oilfields.

American used Ahwaz oil to fill their army machines during Korea war and Vietnam War. South Korea, Japan and these days’ china and Russia are investing for more oil development in the Ahwaz area.

All above are examples of great contribution of Ahwaz oil toward the world. But what the world did for Ahwaz?

Ahwazi Arabs: oil was not for us

Unlike other Arab oil area in Arabic Gulf, Ahwazi Arabs did not benefited from oil. As oil discovered and October revolution happened in Russia, world’s power agreed that Iran can use oil of Ahwaz to built army to stop Russian getting to “warm waters”.

In 1925 Reza shah occupied Ahwaz, and arrested Sheikh Khazal who was ruler of Ahwaz at the time. Sheikh Khazal later tortured and killed by Persian. Since then discriminating of Persian against Ahwazi Arabs started.

Case of oil in Ahwazi is one of the most tragic stories in 20 and 21 century. It is more heart breaking when we hear daily, that end of oil era is near. If we are looking to cause of Least Developed Countries, case of Ahwazi shows clearly how reach to be people, became a poor people with no healthy drinking water”, IMHRO researcher Reza Washahi said.

“Arab, western and eastern countries and UN all closed their eyes on Ahwazi Arab issue. For the world we are just pump of oil not humans.” he added.

Human Right abuse of Indigenous Ahwazi Arabs by the hand of Persian

Human right in Ahwaz since 1925 deteriorated. Arab tribes who riots against Iranian government in all this years subjected to execution of their sheikhs, young men, destroying their villages and displacement.

Ahwazi Arabs banned to speaks and educate in their mother tongues and systemically kept out of higher education.

In last 83 years Many Ahwazi Arab people disappeared, tortured and executed. In massacre of 1980-81 in city of Mohammareh eye witness talking about pallet of bodies blocking the rivers. General Madani ordered his under command, elite navy commandos to shot any Arabs in the street. In Argentinean style, they put Arabs on the bag on drown them in Karon river. The world simply chose to go blind eyes.

Prisoners who been on hunger strike had executed, pregnant women executed, women prisoners gave birth to baby girl and Iranian government kept the baby girl along her mother in unhealthy solitary confinement.

Many villages destroyed for new oil fields developments. Land owners forced to sign the papers stated that they gave over happily their land for oil developments. In recent years Iranian government stopped the water and electricity on villages to force them to leave, that they can use their land for oil developments.

Most of Ahwazi Arabs living in shanty towns, indecent housing and no access to basic health service. Banned from speaking and education in their mother tongue, restriction made by the state for their custom and culture increasing all the time. In Ahwaz any type of gathering is forbidden and media is just only state propaganda.

World heard about what happened in Darfur, but Ahwaz news share in the world media is less than %1 of coverage of Darfur news. World heard about remote tribes, but they forget where came from 100 years energy of running cars and industry.

26 of May 2008 marking 100 year of oil discovery in Ahwaz, question is: the world which benefited from Ahwaz oil will soon remember its victims and do something to stop next hundred years of torture and executions of Ahwazi Arabs by the hand of Persians?

Saturday, 24 May 2008


ISTANBUL, May 21 (Compass Direct News) – Police in the southern Iran city of Shiraz this month cracked down against known Muslim converts to Christianity, arresting members of three Christian families and confiscating their books and computers.

The arrests began at 5 a.m. on May 11, when two couples were taken into custody before boarding their flights at the Shiraz International Airport and sent directly to jail. All four were subjected to hours of interrogation, questioning them solely “just about their faith and house church activities,” an Iranian source told Compass.
The detained Christians were identified as Homayon Shokohie Gholamzadeh, 48, and his wife Fariba Nazemiyan Pur, 40; and Amir Hussein Bab Anari, 25, and his wife Fatemeh Shenasa, 25.
Although the two wives were released the same day of their arrest, Anari was detained until May 14, and Gholamzadeh remains jailed.
Two hours after the early morning arrests of May 11, police authorities invaded the home of Hamid Allaedin Hussein, 58, arresting him and his three adult children, Fatemah, 28, Muhammed Ali, 27, and Mojtaba, 21.
All the family’s books, CDs, computers and printers were hauled off as well.
Hussein, his daughter and one son were released later the same day, but son Mojtaba remains in prison.
Two days later, local police picked up two more former Muslims involved in a separate house church in Shiraz as the Christian converts were talking together in a city park. Both men, Mahmood Matin and a second man identified only as Arash, are still jailed.
Still another arrest incident was reported last month in the northern city of Amol, in Mazandaran province near the Caspian Sea. Two of the arrested converts to Christianity, one a pregnant woman, are still imprisoned, with no news of their whereabouts.
Mushrooming House Churches Over the past two years, Iran’s harsh Shiite Muslim regime has continued to arrest, harass and intimidate dozens of citizens involved in the nation’s mushrooming house church movements.

One such movement confirmed last month that its indigenous groups of Iranian converts to Christianity are doubling in size every six months.
Converts from Islam are routinely subjected to both physical and psychological mistreatment while being held for days or weeks, usually in solitary confinement. Huge bail amounts are demanded for their release, under the threat of further detention or formal criminal prosecution if caught worshipping or spreading their faith.
The large number of Iranians embracing Christianity has been attributed in part to
a number of radio stations and satellite television channels launched in the past five years broadcasting Christian programs in Farsi into the country 24 hours a day.
One Tehran analyst quoted in a May 8 article in US News & World Report accused Christian satellite TV channels of “emotionally manipulating” Iranian viewers into changing their religion.
“Iranians are looking for a balm, and proselytizers are taking advantage of that,” the unidentified analyst claimed.
But Iranian Christian converts both inside and outside the country disagree. The overwhelmingly unpopular Islamist regime has so disillusioned its citizens with Islam, they say, that thousands are now willing to risk arrest, lashings and even death to find peace and purpose for their lives.

In January of this year, the Iranian parliament drafted a proposed criminal code that would make the death penalty mandatory for “apostates” who leave Islam for another religion.

Under the existing law, apostasy is one of several “crimes” which can be punished with execution,
although Islamic court judges are not required to hand down a death sentence.
The last Iranian Christian convert from Islam formally charged with apostasy was acquitted in May 2005. But Hamid Pourmand served 22 months of a three-year prison sentence on fabricated charges before he was finally released under virtual house arrest in July 2006.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

IMHRO: Kurdish human rights chairman suffers stroke as result of long imprisonments and torture

Iranian Minorities’ Human Right Organisation (IMHRO)



Mohammad Sadigh Kabodwand

Mohammad Sadigh Kabodwand the founder and chairman of the Kurdish human rights organization suffered a stroke on Saturday 17th May.

IMHRO has learned that he is in a stable condition, but needs urgent medical help.

“He was denied access to medical help before and was held in very bad conditions in solitary confinement as well as being subjected to torture”, IMHRO researcher Reza Washahi said.

IMHRO asks the international community to put pressure on the Iranian government to make sure that Mr. Mohammad Sadigh Kabodwand has access to all available medical services for treatment. IMHRO believes that this is the responsibility of the Iranian government to make sure that prisoners are healthy.

Ebrahim Lotf Allahi

The Iranian government has cleared the officer of any wrong doing, who was involved in torturing Mr. Ebrahim Lotf Allahi, a law student at the time when he died during detention.

In January 2008 news came out that they had buried him in the middle of the night and did not allow a medical report to establish cause of death.

The Iranian government told his family that he had committed suicide in prison.

IMHRO are appalled by the fact that the Iranian government is backing their security officer and have cleared him of manslaughter. Reza Washahi told IMHRO that this clearly shows that the Iranian government is systematically authorising torture against minorities.

Kaveh Aziz Poor

Kaveh Aziz Poor, a Kurdish man from the villages near Mahabad city, lost consciousness as a result of torture and after 20 days died in hospital in the city of Uromiyeh. He was arrested on the charge of being a member of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan.

IMHRO again wants to remind the international community of the Iranian government’s policy with regard to human rights and to political activists belonging to minorities, especially the Kurdish minority in Iran. The case of Kaveh Aziz Poor provides evidence of this.


The Kurdish minority in Iran number up to 6 million people who live in the west midland, the North West and also in the north east of Iran.

Iranian Kurds are denied social and political rights. Various human rights organisations have reported that hundreds of Kurds are in prison, some of them there for long time.

Kurdistan is the only area in Iran where revolutionary guards’ bases are situated near almost every village. As the Kurds mainly belong to the Sunni minority, the government deliberately diverts investment from the Kurdish area.

In recent years the situation in Kurdistan has worsened. Papers and magazines even in cultural form have not been tolerated by the government and they have had to close down. Magazines and papers closed down by the government in recent years include Manisht, Payame Mardom Kurdistan, Heh Naran, Rojeh Lat, Asu, Asdhti, and Rasan.

In recent months the Iranian government has arrested Mamosta Ayub Ganji, Sunni Imam of Ghaba mosque in Sanandaj city. He reportedly has lost his memory and is unable to speak.

Please write to one of the following and express your concern for the medical condition of Mr. Mohammad Sadigh Kabodwand. Ask the Iranian government to give assurances that they will do what is necessary to restore him. Point out that his condition is the result of long imprisonments and being subject to torture.

Please write to one of the following and express your concern about the death of Kaveh Aziz Poor and Ebrahim Lotf Allahi. Ask the Iranian government to do a full investigation into the cause of the deaths of these two men and to bring the people responsible to justice.

Secretary-General United Nations
The Honorable Ban Ki-moon

United Nations Headquarters
Room S-3800
New York, NY 10017

Supreme Leader of Iran

Sayyed Ali Khamenei
E-mail via web site

Iranian President
Mahmud Ahmadinejad
E-mail via web site

Head of the Judiciary

Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi Shahroudi
Howzeh Riyasat-e Qoveh Qazaiyeh / Office of the Head of the Judiciary
Pasteur St., Vali Asr Ave.,

south of Serah-e Jomhouri,
Tehran 1316814737,
Islamic Republic of Iran

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Ms Louise Arbour
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10,

Chairwoman of European Parliament Human Rights Committee
Bureau d'Hélène Flautre au Parlement européen

8G130, rue Wierz
B-1049, Bruxelles,

Sunday, 18 May 2008 The highest illiteracy rate is in the Sistan-Baluchestan province

From correspondents in Tehran
May 07, 2008 05:57pm

The highest illiteracy rate is in the Sistan-Baluchestan province and Tehran has the highest literacy rate,'' Kosari said.

"At the moment, there are 9.45 million people who are completely illiterate in the country,'' the deputy head of the Literacy Movement Organisation, Parviz Kosari, was quoted as saying in the Kayan newspaper. The organisation was set up after the 1979 Islamic revolution as the successor of other such bodies that already existed in Iran, in a bid to reach out to adults in remote areas deprived of regular education.

"The highest illiteracy rate is in the Sistan-Baluchestan province and Tehran has the highest literacy rate,'' Kosari said. The southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan is one of the most deprived areas of the country, stricken by poverty and a lack of water.
The statistics underline that illiteracy remains an issue in Iran despite successive efforts by governments under the shah and then after the revolution to eradicate the problem. In the 1950s, only around 15 per cent of the Iran's then largely agrarian population was literate.

But government campaigns and mass migration to the cities meant literacy soared in the next decades. "About 85 per cent of our target population are women and 53 per cent reside in villages,'' Mr Kosari said. He said women were more motivated to learn reading and writingm, while men were busy trying to make a living. Nine million Iranians illiterate - report

NINE million Iranians cannot read or write out of a population of at least 71.5 million, a newspaper reported today."At the moment, there are 9.45 million people who are completely illiterate in the country,'' the deputy head of the Literacy Movement Organisation, Parviz Kosari, was quoted as saying in the Kayan newspaper.

The organisation was set up after the 1979 Islamic revolution as the successor of other such bodies that already existed in Iran, in a bid to reach out to adults in remote areas deprived of regular education. "The highest illiteracy rate is in the Sistan-Baluchestan province and Tehran has the highest literacy rate,'' Kosari said. The southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan is one of the most deprived areas of the country, stricken by poverty and a lack of water.

The statistics underline that illiteracy remains an issue in Iran despite successive efforts by governments under the shah and then after the revolution to eradicate the problem. In the 1950s, only around 15 per cent of the Iran's then largely agrarian population was literate. But government campaigns and mass migration to the cities meant literacy soared in the next decades. "About 85 per cent of our target population are women and 53 per cent reside in villages,'' Mr Kosari said. He said women were more motivated to learn reading and writingm, while men were busy trying to make a living.

Friday, 16 May 2008

e Media Wire: Iran Arrests National Bahá'í Leaders

Washington, DC (PRWEB) May 16, 2008 -- The Institute on Religion and Public Policy has learned that officers of Iran's Intelligence Ministry have arrested six of the seven members of the country's national Bahá'í leadership, the worst assault on Iran's Bahá'ís in almost 30 years. The seventh leader has been in detention since March 5.

According to information received from the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States, the arrests came during morning raids on May 14. The six leaders are being held at Tehran's infamous Evin Prison

The last major round-ups and detentions of national Bahá'í leaders came in the early 1980s. In 1980, all nine members of the national leadership were abducted and then disappeared. Bahá'ís have no official clergy, and since their spiritual assemblies were outlawed after the Iranian Revolution of 1979, have relied on electing national and local committees as leaders of the faith.

The Iranian government severely restricts the lives and religious practices of Bahá'ís, who number about 300,000 and are Iran's largest religious minority. Bahá'ís also suffer more official discrimination and harassment than followers of other minority faiths. Bahá'ís are barred from serving in the government and military, and are often denied admittance to state universities.

"For three decades, Bahá'ís have suffered egregious persecution for their faith," said Institute President Joseph K. Grieboski. "These latest arrests, however, are particularly disturbing because they signal that the government is worsening its abuse of and increasing its attacks against Bahá'ís. We call on the international community to pressure Iran to release immediately the seven national leaders it has detained, and to help secure the freedom to worship for Bahá'ís that is a fundamental right of all people."