Monday, 28 July 2008

RFERL: Traditional Azeri Wedding Leads To Groom's Arrest In Iran

by Khadija Ismaylova

BAKU -- Vedud Asadi is well-known for his work promoting the cultural and language rights of Iran's Azeri minority, so it's little surprise that he celebrated his wedding with a nod to his ethnic heritage.

Guests sang folk songs and danced traditional dances -- but the flag may have been the icing on the cake for Iranian authorities who came to arrest him two weeks after the event, according to his sister, Sumayya Asadi.

"I think it was because we put the image of the Azerbaijan's flag on the wedding cake," she says. "We sang only Azerbaijani songs, there were no Persian songs. We all were speaking Turkic [Azeri], [and there was] Turkic dancing. There is no need for Persian in a Turkic wedding. We used our flag -- we don't need others' flags. I think Vedud was arrested for this, because the first thing they asked for when they initiated the search was the wedding film.

"Vedud Asadi's bride, Zahra Purasad, says the secret police who arrived at the newlyweds' flat in Rasht on the evening of July 22 did not give any reasons for her husband's arrest. "I asked, but they did not say anything," Purasad tells RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service.

The Iranian authorities were already familiar with Asadi's activism. In 2006, the former chairman of the Islamic Students Union at northwestern Iran's Ardebil University was arrested for participating in a protest against cartoons that depicted Azeris as cockroaches.

His family says he spent about 3 1/2 months in prison without being charged following that arrest, and they now fear he will be imprisoned again. His wife knows only that he was taken to a local court on July 24, but has no information about the outcome in court or his current whereabouts.

The ethnic-Azeri minority makes up 25-33 percent of Iran's population. While the Iranian Constitution provides language and cultural rights for the country's minorities, the regime has banned the teaching of the Azeri language in schools, and harassed and jailed activists like Asadi.

Sumayya Asadi says the officers who arrested her brother seized his Azeri-language books, material on the history of Azeris, CDs, and his computer.

Iranian authorities often cite the promotion of "pan-Turkism" as the reason for detaining ethnic Azeris. But Sumayya Asadi says her brother is no separatist, he simply believes that his people's cultural and linguistic rights are worth fighting for.

She says that if she is Azeri, she has the right to speak Azeri. "I should not have to speak Persian.... If there are 35 million Turks [Azeris] in the country, shouldn't these 35 million have the right to speak, write, and communicate in their own language?"

As for Asadi's wife, when asked what she feels about the arrest of her husband just two weeks after the wedding, she says she has no regrets for their actions at their wedding.

"He was arrested for his nation, he did not do anything bad," she says. "Not for stealing, not for drinking alcohol or immoral behavior -- for his nation only. I am proud of him."

Friday, 25 July 2008


'I have no doubt they wanted to kill me,’ says former Muslim.ANKARA, July 21 (Compass Direct News) – Days after his release from a month of interrogations and severe torture under secret police custody, Iranian Christian Mohsen Namvar has fled across the border into Turkey with his family.

Traveling by train, the badly beaten Christian arrived July 2 in eastern Turkey with his wife and son.

Namvar, 44, had been held incommunicado by a branch of Sepah (the Iranian Revolutionary Guards) from May 31 until June 26, when authorities told his family they were releasing him “temporarily.”

Although the secret police demanded $43,000 in bail, officers refused to issue a court receipt for the family’s cash payment.

At the time of his release, Namvar was experiencing fever, severe back pain, extremely high blood pressure, uncontrollable shaking of his limbs and recurring short-term memory loss.
“I have no doubt they wanted to kill me,” Namvar told Compass.
According to Namvar, who converted from Islam to Christianity as a teenager, his severe physical mistreatment stemmed from his refusal to give the police any names or information about other converts and house church groups in Iran.

In the spring of 2007, he had been arrested and severely tortured with electrical shocks, allegedly for baptizing Muslims who had become Christians. Three months after back surgery for those injuries, he regained the ability to walk, but still suffered pain and discomfort.
Namvar presented himself last week to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Ankara to apply for status as an asylum-seeker.

He and his family were assigned by the UNHCR to relocate in one of 30 designated satellite cities in Turkey, where he is required to sign in daily at the local police station. They must wait 11 months, until June 8, 2009, for a UNHCR interview in which they will detail their reasons for requesting asylum.

“We are tired in our minds, and very sad,” Namvar’s wife said after learning they must wait nearly a year in Turkey before even presenting her husband’s case. “We were under so much pressure in Iran, and again we are facing it here.”

While her husband was under arrest, she had been subjected to a second police ransacking of their home, repeated telephone calls filled with slander and death threats and one attempt to kidnap their son from his school.

Namvar said he was surprised that the interviewing officer at the UNHCR spent only six minutes registering information from their passports. Following standard UNHCR protocol, the official did not ask why they had fled from their country, nor did he collect copies of documents they had brought concerning his case.

Nearly 15,000 applications for refugee or asylum status are now in process at the Ankara office, which is the largest UNHCR center in Europe apart from the Geneva headquarters.
“But even if they have strong evidence for their case, at best it takes three to four years for someone to be resettled through our office,” UNHCR external affairs officer Metin Corabatir told Compass.

Police Pressures

Although he earned his living as a miner, Namvar had been active in preaching and teaching the message of Christ across northern Iran since the early 1990s.

His first brush with the authorities came when he was caught in 2001 giving out Christian literature at a gas station. “I spent three days in jail,” he recalled.

After that, local police demanded that he obtain permission each time he wanted to enter the city near his home, in effect banning him from the region.

“The police created a very bad atmosphere there against us,” Namvar said, “so no one would even respond to our greetings on the street.”

Because of this, Namvar moved his family to Tehran. But he was unable to find work, due to his police record and the requirement on all job applications to state his religion.
For the past seven years, he has supported himself by translating books from English into Farsi, while continuing to visit and minister among various house church groups.
“I never knew God until Jesus showed Himself to me in a dream,” Namvar said, recalling his conversion to Christianity 29 years ago. “But ever since then, I have followed Jesus and told others about Him.”

Under Iran’s hardline Shiite government, a Muslim who converts to Christianity has committed apostasy, which is punishable by death.

Iranian Christians Mahmood Matin and Arash Bandari have been jailed since May 15 in Shiraz, where they were arrested on “suspicion” of apostasy.

Under a draft law under discussion this month in the Iranian parliament, the “optional” death penalty now in force for apostasy would become obligatory.


Thursday, 17 July 2008

IMHRO met with Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London

Iranian Minorities’ Human Right Organisation (IMHRO)


Press Release


On 15 July, IMHRO's member met the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, regarding the situation of ethnic and religious minorities in Iran.

In a meeting with FCO officials, Mr. Reza Washahi, IMHRO's researcher discussed various issues related to both ethnic and religious minorities in Iran.

IMHRO is committed to highlighting and publicising the plight of the minorities of Iran to the World by lobbying and rising awareness of situation of Minorities in Iran.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

IMHRO: Free Mohammad Sadigh Kabodwand

Iranian Minorities’ Human Rights Organisation (IMHRO)



Iranian revolutionary court, branch 15 in Tehran has sentenced Mr. Mohammad Sadigh Kabodwand, founder of the Kurdish Human Rights Centre to 11 years in prison.

Mr. Kabodwand who is kept in harsh conditions had a heart attack 2 months ago and he has been denied medical access and treatment.

The Iranian government accused him of “acts against national security”, having for the seventh time filtered the web site of the human rights organisation of Kurdistan.

Reza Washahi, researcher for minorities, told IMHRO that in revolutionary court style in Iran, there is no jury present, it is always behind close doors, international observers are not allowed to attend, lawyers usually do not have access to their client’s file until the last minute before the trial begins and most of the evidence is based on torture; judges are usually hand-picked by the security service. Detainees are kept in inhuman conditions and often under torture. In general all the process of pre-trial and the hearing are not according to international standards and covenants.

IMHRO strongly condemns the 11 year sentence of Mr. Mohammad Sadigh Kabodwand and thinks he should be rewarded not punished for being a human right activist. IMHRO also wants to highlight the fact that human rights activities are unfortunately considered to be against national security in Iran; this is a most clear sign of a totalitarian government.

IMHRO urges the Iranian government to release immediately and to compensate Mr. Mohammad Sadigh Kabodwand for the ill treatment he has received during his detention.


The Kurdish minority in Iran which numbers up to 6 million people live in the west midland, north-west and north-east areas of Iran.

Iranian Kurdish people are denied social and political rights. Various human rights organisations report that hundreds of Kurds are in prison, some of them there for a very long time.

Recently reports indicate that there is huge arsenic pollution in the city of Ghorweh as a result of Gold mining by Chinese companies in Sargonay mine in south-east Kurdistan.

Mrs. Hana Abdi who is a campaigner for equality rights for women has been sentenced to 5 years in prison.


Please write to the one of the following and share your concern about Mohammad Sadigh Kabodwand case. Write to the Iranian government and demand immediate release of Mohammad Sadigh Kabodwand.

Secretary General United Nations
The Honourable 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

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,

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

Iranian President

Mahmud Ahmadinejad
E-mail via web site

European parliament Human Rights committee
Bureau d'Hélène Flautre au Parlement européen

8G130,rue Wierz
B-1049, Bruxelles,