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Wednesday, 28 January 2009

AFP: Six Bahais, Christian arrested in Iran: judiciary






TEHRAN (AFP) — Iran has arrested six adherents of the banned Bahai faith and a Christian for alleged propaganda against the Islamic republic and insulting Islam, the judiciary spokesman said on Tuesday.

"These people were not arrested for their faith. The six Bahais are accused of insulting religious sanctities and the Christian citizen of propaganda against the system," Ali Reza Jamshidi told reporters. He said the detainees' cases were under investigation, but did not reveal their identities or say when they had been arrested.
Jinous Sobhani, the former secretary of Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi's rights group, is also accused of "propaganda against the system and acting against national security," Jamshidi said.
Fars news agency reported that Sobhani was arrested in mid-January for links with a Bahai organisation. The Bahai faith was founded in Iran in 1863 but is not recognised by the government. Its followers are regarded as infidels and have suffered persecution both before and after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

IMHRO: Iran is responsible for missing American citizen

Iranian Minorities’ Human Rights Organisation (IMHRO)

Ref.IMHRO.39

27/01/09


59 year old Bob Levinson disappeared on Kish Island in March 2007. He is a retired FBI officer. The Iranian government deny any knowledge of his whereabouts and maintain that they do not have any information about him. Bob Levinson had previously worked on an inquiry into the murder of American Paul Klebnikov in Moscow
[i].

On 5 September 2007 Iran blocked a US request to allow Swiss diplomats to go to Kish Island to look for the luggage or other traces of Levinson
[ii].

According to the International Herald Tribune “Dawud Salahuddin, an American who lives in Iran and is wanted for the 1980 assassination of an Iranian dissident (Tabatabai) outside the diplomat's Maryland home, told The Associated Press in a series of telephone interviews and e-mail exchanges that he met with Levinson two months ago on Iran's Kish Island, a seedy Persian Gulf resort that is a free-trade zone where Americans do not need a visa…Tabatabai, the former spokesman for the Iranian Embassy in Washington, was an outspoken critic of the Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. In a 1995 interview with The Washington Post and ABC in Turkey, Salahuddin said he was hired by Iranian agents to kill Tabatabai for $4,000 (€2,957) and a promise he would be sent to China for medical training.”
[iii]

Bob’s wife and family have made a desperate appeal for Bob’s safe return. More information can be found at their website:
http://bringbackbob.us/

Iranian government all the time denied any knowledge about his where about. Some reports indicate that he is held in secret prison in Iran.


Reza Washahi, a researcher from IMHRO, has said that “in a country where there are informers everywhere and the government records the names of the books that you have on your shelf and the name of the paper that you buy, it is unbelievable that someone could just disappear without the knowledge of the government.”

IMHRO calls upon the Iranian government to release Bob Levinson and urges the international community to hold Iran to account for case of Bob Levinson.

We also are asking anyone who has any information about Bob Levinson to contact Bob family.

Contact Information
Bring Back Bob Foundation Trust

222 Central Park Ave Suite 1170
Virginia Beach, VA 23462
info@bringbackbob.us
Tell 001-888-234-4198

Actions


Please write to one of the following and express your concern regard of disappearance of Bob Levinson. Ask Iranian government to release Bob Levinson.

Secretary General United Nations
The Honourable Ban Ki-moon

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

Supreme Leader of Iran
Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei,
The Office of the Supreme Leader
Islamic Republic Street - Shahid Keshvar Doust Street
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
E-mail via web site
http://www.leader.ir/

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Ms. Navanethem (Navi) Pillay
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,

Palais des Nations,
CH-1211 Geneva 10,
Switzerland

Iranian President

Mahmoud Ahmadi Nejad
The Presidency
Palestine Avenue, Azerbaijan Intersection
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
E-mail via web site
http://www.president.ir/en/

European Parliament Human Rights Committee
Ms Hélène FLAUTRE
Bureau d'Hélène Flautre au Parlement Européen, 8G130, rue Wierz, B-1049, Bruxelles,
Belgique

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


[i] http://bringbackbob.us/facts/


[ii] As above

[iii] http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/05/10/america/NA-GEN-US-Iran-Missing.php

AP: Iran: Men vs. women soccer game draws punishment






TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The first mixed soccer game — females vs. males — since the 1979 Islamic revolution led to swift punishment Monday, as an Iranian soccer club said it had suspended three officials involved and handed out fines of up to $5,000.

Iran's strict Islamic rules ban any physical contact between unrelated men and women, and Iranian women are even banned from attending soccer games when male teams play.

The officials — a coach and two managers — first denied the game took place, but video clips on cell phones of the game were used as evidence against them, the Vatan-e-Emrooz daily newspaper reported.

Esteghlal, one of Iran's top two soccer clubs, said its disciplinary committee suspended two officials for a year while a third was suspended for six months. A fourth official was fined, a report posted on the club's Web site said.

The Jan. 20 game between the club's female team and its youth male team in Tehran was the first time in the 30 years of Iran's Islamic establishment that males and females played soccer together, observers said.

The youth team beat the women 7-0 in a game Vatan-e-Emrooz described as 'historic.' Video clips on cell phones were used as evidence against the suspended officials, who initially denied the game was held, the paper said. The report said the game was held at Marqoobkar stadium in south Tehran.

Mixed games for soccer, called football in Iran, were virtually unheard of even before the Islamic revolution.

Kamran Khatibi, a soccer writer at Kayhan sports daily, said he doesn't remember a "football game ever having been played between women and men in Iran — not even during Shah Reza Pahlavi's era."

Women can be just as passionate fans about soccer. One well-reviewed Iranian film, "Offside," follows the story of a girl who disguises herself as a boy to attend a soccer game at a stadium in Tehran.

In 2006, the same year the film was released, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad surprised his conservative backers by deciding that women could attend soccer games, saying their presence would "improve soccer-watching manners and promote a healthy atmosphere."

But Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, disagreed. He has final say on all matters in Iran, so his stance held — no women in the stands, not even in the segregated section when men play.
And only women can attend games when women's teams play. However, foreign women are occasionally allowed at men's matches, purportedly because they don't understand the language and the cursing.
According to the Esteghlal soccer club, Mohammad Khorramgah, the club's technical manager, was suspended for a year and fined 50 million rials ($5,000) for the Jan. 20 game.
The only woman among the suspended — Saeedeh Pournader, head coach of the female team — also got a year's suspension. Mostafa Ardestani, head coach of the youth team, got a six-month suspension and a 20 million rial ($2,000) fine.
A prominent Iranian soccer player and manager of the club's soccer academy, Ali Reza Mansourian, got a written rebuke and a fine of 50 million rials, the club said.

VOA: U.S. Condemns Stoning In Iran









The government of Iran recently confirmed that in December 2 men in the city of Mashhad were stoned to death on the charge of adultery. A third man was able to free himself from the pit in which he was buried and survived.

According to the "Stop Stoning Forever Campaign," an organization devoted to ending the gruesome practice, there are at least 8 women and 2 other men who are at risk of being stoned to death in Iran. However, Judiciary Chief Mahmoud Hashemi Sharoudi recently issued an order that the stoning verdict against one woman be changed to 100 lashes.

Despite a 2002 directive issued by Mr. Shahroudi, announcing a ban on stoning, in a recent news conference Judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi said that Mr. Shahroudi's directive was advisory only, and that judges in Iran could ignore it if they chose to do so. However, the Tehran criminal court recently acquitted 2 sisters who had been sentenced to stoning on the charge of adultery.

The stoning verdict had been originally approved by the Supreme Court, but once it was taken to the Judiciary Chief for approval the Judiciary Chief said the verdict was not in conformance with religious laws and was not legal.

Amnesty International issued a statement deploring the stoning executions that took place in Mashhad. It also urged Iranian authorities not to carry out the sentences of death by stoning against Iranians in other areas of the country.

"Stoning is a sickening punishment, specifically designed to maximize suffering," said Amnesty International United Kingdom Director Kate Allen. "The Iranian authorities should abandon it immediately." The European Union also condemned the practice.

The United States joins the international community in denouncing the inhumane practice of stoning in the Islamic Republic of Iran. In a written statement issued by the Department of State, the U.S. called the practice "cruel and unusual punishment ... that does not meet the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Iran has ratified. We call on Iran not only to permanently abolish the practice of stoning, but to offer all defendants fair and transparent trials."

MNN: Iran more hostile to Christians











Iran (MNN) ― Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is reserving his judgment
of the new United States President Barack Obama. Some believe Obama's administration will be a break from George W. Bush. Regardless, one thing is certain: Iran is concerned about what they call "western influence" in their predominately-Muslim country.

President of International Christian Concern Jeff King says Iranian Christians are arrested, beaten and tortured. And that's not all. "Parliament is looking to push an apostasy law with life sentences and death sentences for Muslims that convert to Christianity. This isn't posturing. This is real stuff. We're helping some of these brothers come out there with their bodies and minds broken."

King believes he knows why Iran is taking this action. "They see the youth slipping away, and they don't know what to do. And so Ahmadinejad has said, 'I'm going to stop Christianity. I'm going to crush it.' And I think he's going to find out what most world leaders find out when they try to do that: they actually spread Christian and actually increase it exponentially."

That's exactly what's being reported from Christian satellite television, radio and internet ministries reaching into Iran. They report unprecedented response from
new believers in Iran wanting to know more about their Christian faith.

While King is concerned about the safety of believers in Iran, he says we need to pray for the church. "The church will go through a purification process. And those who aren't fervent, who are double-minded are going to melt away, and what's left is a core of people that are absolutely committed to the Lord."

The result of the commitment is obvious, says King. "They will be in prayer, and they will be spreading the Gospel. Others around them see their lives, and it's contagious. Christianity spreads. It always happens."

Pray for Iranian believers as they face political uncertain and hostility. Pray also that they'll be creative in their witness.


Sunday, 25 January 2009

Compass Direct News: IRAN: THREE CHRISTIANS ARRESTED FROM HOMES IN TEHRAN










‘Continuously high’ wave of arrests increases; whereabouts, charges unknown.


LOS ANGELES, January 23 (Compass Direct News) – Three Christians from two different families were arrested from their homes Wednesday morning (Jan. 21) and are being held without charges, sources told Compass.

Authorities took Jamal Ghalishorani, 49, and his wife Nadereh Jamali from their home in Tehran between 7 and 8 a.m., about a half hour after arresting Hamik Khachikian, an Armenian Christian also living in Tehran. Ghalishorani and his wife are Christian converts from Islam, considered “apostasy” in Iran and potentially punishable by death.

Christian sources told Compass that Ghalishorani converted to Christianity 30 years ago, and his wife received Christ about 15 years ago. They have one child, a 13-year-old daughter, while Khachikian has two children, a 16-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter. Authorities have not told the families of the charges against those arrested or their whereabouts.

The three arrested Christians belong to house churches, source said, and they hold jobs and are not supported as clergy. Police also took books and computers from the families’ homes. The arrests come as part of a tsunami of arrests in the past several months, the sources said.

“We don’t know why the pressure is continuously high, but we see that it is increasing,” said one source. “The government does it to the Baha’i people as well – there are more arrests in the last several months among them than in maybe the whole 30 years before.”

Arrests and pressure on Christians from authorities have ramped up even further in the past few months, the source said, adding that the reasons were unclear.
Another source, however, said the arrests are part of a concerted, nationwide government plan.

“We are quite sure that these arrests are part of a bigger operation from the government,” the source said. “Maybe up to 50 people were arrested. In Tehran alone already some 10 people were arrested – all on the same day, January 21.”
Sources noted that whereas past waves of intense harassment and arrests of Christians eventually have subsided, recent pressure has been “continuously high,” with reports of arrests in almost every month of 2008.

“In the past there have been waves of incredible pressure, but then it seemed to calm down a bit sometimes,” said one source. “Then we had the feeling pressure came and went, but now it is continuously ongoing.”

The families of those arrested fear for their safety. Khachikian’s wife is “very confused, she has no idea where her husband is,” said the source. “Relatives are taking care of the daughter of Jamal and Nadereh’s, but of course she’s very anxious about what will happen to her parents.”

The arrests are particularly disturbing in light of the Iranian parliament’s approval last September of a new penal code calling for a mandatory death sentence for “apostates,” or those who leave Islam. In the past death sentences for apostasy were issued only under judicial interpretations of sharia (Islamic law).

Under the new penal code, male “apostates” would be executed, while females would receive life sentences. The new code was to be sent to Iran’s most influential body, the Guardian Council, which will rule on it. The council is made up of six conservative theologians appointed by Iran’s Supreme Leader and six jurists nominated by the judiciary and approved by parliament. This body has the power to veto any bill it deems inconsistent with the constitution and Islamic law.

The last Iranian Christian convert from Islam executed by the Iranian government was Hossein Soodmand in 1990. He was accused of working as “an American spy.” Since then at least six Protestant pastors have been assassinated by unknown killers.

OMCT: Five members of the Baha'is community detained incommunicado_Fear for safety







IRN 220109

Arbitrary and incommunicado detention/ Risk of torture and other forms of ill-treatment/ Fear for safety

The International Secretariat of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) requests your URGENT intervention in the following situation in Iran.

Brief description of the situation

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by a reliable source and Antenna International, a member organisation of OMCT SOS-Torture Network, about the arbitrary and incommunicado detention of five members of the Baha’is community, namely Mr. Aziz Samandari, Ms. Jinous Sobhani, Mr. Shahrokh Taef, Mr. Payam Aghsani and Mr. Didar Raoufi.

According to the information received, on 14 January 2009 early in the morning, Iranian Intelligence Ministry officials arrested at their respective homes Mr. Aziz Samandari, Ms. Jinous Sobhani, Mr. Shahrokh Taef, Mr. Payam Aghsani and Mr. Didar Raoufi, after raiding the homes of twelve Baha’is (including of the five) in Tehran. Security agents reportedly seized laptops, books and photographs related to the Baha’i Faith. The five are all being reportedly held incommunicado in Evin Prison. No charges were reportedly brought against them but a relative was informed that they would have been arrested for “threat to inner security and collaboration with hostile countries”.

The International Secretariat of OMCT is gravely concern with regard to the incommunicado detention of Mr. Aziz Samandari, Ms. Jinous Sobhani, Mr. Shahrokh Taef, Mr. Payam Aghsani and Mr. Didar Raoufi. OMCT recalls that incommunicado detention facilitates torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. OMCT is further concerned about these detentions which are consistent with a pattern of persecution and arbitrary arrest of members of the Baha’i minority in Iran
[1]. Over thirty Baha’is would have been arrested over recent months, including seven members of the Baha’is leadership group who have been reportedly in prison for over seven months. OMCT recalls to Iran that according to article 9 1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention”.

Action requested

Please write to the authorities in Iran urging them to:

i. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Aziz Samandari, Ms. Jinous Sobhani, Mr. Shahrokh Taef, Mr. Payam Aghsani and Mr. Didar Raoufi;
ii. Guarantee immediate and unconditional access to a legal representation of their choice, their family and any medical treatment they may require;
iii. Order their immediate release in the absence of valid legal charges that are consistent with international law and standards, and if such charges exist, to ensure that they are given a prompt and fair trial, in which their procedural rights are guaranteed at all times;
iv. Order a thorough and impartial investigation into the circumstances of these events in order to identify those responsible, bring them to trial and apply the penal and/or administrative sanctions as provided by law;
v. Guarantee that adequate reparation is awarded to the victims;
i. Guarantee the respect of human rights and the fundamental freedoms throughout the country in accordance with international human rights standards.

Addresses:

· Leader of the Islamic Republic, His Excellency Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei, The Office of the Supreme Leader, Shoahada Street, Qom, Islamic Republic of Iran, Faxes: + 98.21.649.5880 / 21.774.2228, Email: info@leader.ir / istiftaa@wilayah.org / webmaster@wilayah.org;

· President, His Excellency Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Presidency, Palestine Avenue, Azerbaijan Intersection, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran, Fax: + 98.21.649.5880, E-mail: dr-ahmadinejad@president.ir;
· Head of the Judiciary, His Excellency Mr. Mahmoud Hashemi Shahrudi, Ministry of Justice, Park-e Shahr, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran, Fax: +98.21.879.6671 / +98 21 3 311 6567, Email: Irjpr@iranjudiciary.com;
· Minister of Foreign Affairs, His Excellency Mr. Manuchehr Motaki, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Abdolmajid Keshk-e Mesri Av, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran, Fax: + 98.21.390.1999, Email: matbuat@mfa.gov;
· Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Chemin du Petit-Saconnex 28, 1209 Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 7330203, Email: mission.iran@ties.itu.int;
· Ambassador Mr. Ahani, Embassy of Iran in Brussels, avenue Franklin Roosevelt, 15 A. 1050 Bruxelles, Belgium, Fax: + 32 2 762 39 15. Email:
iran-embassy@yahoo.com.

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Iran in your respective country.

*******
Geneva, 22 January 2009

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.


[1] See for example OMCT Urgent Appeal diffused on 171208.

Friday, 23 January 2009

IMHRO condemns the execution of a Baha’i man

Iranian Minorities’ Human Rights Organisation (IMHRO)

Ref.IMHRO.38

24/01/09


According to the Radio France Persian service, Hushang .K was executed for having a relationship with a woman
[i]. They did not provide any more detail about the case.

In Iran having a relationship with the opposite sex is forbidden and can end in the death penalty, it is called Zena (adultery) in the penal code.

IMHRO condemns the execution of Hushang .K by the Iranian government, it is clear that he was executed for just being a Baha’i.

IMHRO researcher Reza Washahi said these types of excuse for arresting and sentencing death penalty are always used against the minorities in Iran and there is a fear that the number of such cases could increase. A few years ago a brave lawyer, who had annoyed the government, was charged with possessing bottles of wine in his house and was arrested on that basis, but real story was something else.

IMHRO reminds the Iranian government that they are a signatory party of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR), The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and also the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). All these covenants clearly support the freedom of social life and also freedom of religion.

Background


Iran is the birth place of the Baha’i religion, but the Baha’i are persecuted in Iran and their holy sites are attacked and destroyed. Many Baha’i have had to leave Iran from fear of persecution.

6 Baha’i leaders were arrested in May 2008.

The Baha’i religion is not recognised by the Iranian government and they accuse the west of inventing the Baha’i religion in Iran.

[i] http://www.rfi.fr/actufa/articles/109/article_4859.asp

Thursday, 22 January 2009

HRW: Mohammad Sadegh Kaboudvand Awarded Hellman/Hammett Grant







Award for Persecuted Writers Given to Imprisoned Iranian

January 21, 2009


(New York) - Human Rights Watch today announced a Hellman/Hammett grant, awarded to persecuted writers, for the Iranian human rights activist Mohammad Sadegh Kaboudvand. He is serving a 10-year prison term in Iran for his writings and is in a critical medical condition in urgent need of care.

Each year, Human Rights Watch awards Hellman/Hammett grants to writers punished by their governments for expressing opposition views, criticizing government officials or actions, or writing about topics that the government does not want reported. A special emergency grant is awarded to writers who need to flee for their safety or need immediate medical treatment for injury caused by torture, assault or harsh prison conditions.

"Kaboudvand's work as a human rights defender and journalist promoting critically needed reform in Iran has landed him in prison with little access to urgently needed medical care," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "His experience is harsh testimony to the plight of journalists, dissidents and other peaceful critics in Iran today."

Kaboudvand is a prominent human rights defender, journalist, and founder in 2005 of a group that seeks to protect the rights of Iranian Kurds, the Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan (HROK). The group grew to include 200 local reporters throughout the Iranian Kurdish region, allowing it to provide detailed and timely reports from throughout the region, published in the now-banned newspaper Payam-e Mardom (Message of the People) for which Kaboudvand was the managing director and editor.

Through his human rights and journalism work, Kaboudvand was instrumental in creating a civil society network for Kurdish youth and activists. He is also the author of three books, Nimeh-ye Digar ("The Other Half," a book on women's rights), Barzakh-e Democracy ("The Stuggle for Democracy"), and Jonbesh-e Ejtemaii ("Social Movements").

Intelligence agents arrested Kaboudvand on July 1, 2007 and then searched his home and possessions, his lawyers said. The agents took him to ward 209 of Evin Prison, under the control of the Intelligence Ministry and used to detain political prisoners. They held him without charge in solitary confinement for nearly six months.

In May 2008, Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court sentenced Kaboudvand to 10 years in prison for "acting against national security by establishing the Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan, widespread propaganda against the system by disseminating news, opposing Islamic penal laws by publicizing punishments such as stoning and executions, and advocating on behalf of political prisoners." In October 2008, Branch 54 of the Tehran Appeals Court upheld his sentence.

The Iranian government relies on these and other provisions of its "security laws" to imprison writers, intellectuals, and human rights defenders for expressing critical views, or for trying to meet peacefully. In 2008, Human Rights Watch issued a report about how Iran's security laws are used to clamp down on independent activism (
http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2008/01/06/you-can-detain-anyone-anything-0 ).

Kaboudvand's wife and three children last heard from him on December 16. On December 17, Kaboudvand, whose parents both died of heart attacks, suffered a heart attack in prison, said his lawyers. He had already been in fragile health because of a previous heart attack, high blood pressure, a kidney infection, and a prostate condition. According to his lawyers, the authorities have rejected requests from prison doctors to allow him access to specialists for medical care that is not available in the prison medical center.

Human Rights Watch called on the Iranian government to grant Kaboudvand the medical care he needs to treat his life-threatening conditions immediately and to end his unjust confinement. Human Rights Watch reiterated its calls on the government to repeal the vague and arbitrary provisions of its penal code used to silence critics and activists who seek to exercise their rights to free expression and assembly.

Human Rights Watch started the Hellman/Hammett program in 1990. Since then, it has awarded grants to more than 600 writers from 91 countries. It awards the grants every year after a selection committee composed of authors, editors, and journalists who have a longstanding interest in free expression issues review nominations.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

amnesty: Iran: Preserve the Khavaran grave site for investigation into mass killings











Amnesty International calls on the Iranian authorities to immediately stop the destruction of hundreds of individual and mass, unmarked graves in Khavaran, south Tehran, to ensure that the site is preserved and to initiate a forensic investigation at the site as part of a long-overdue thorough, independent and impartial investigation into mass executions which began in 1988, often referred to in Iran as the “prison massacres”. The organization fears that these actions of the Iranian authorities are aimed at destroying evidence of human rights violations and depriving the families of the victims of the 1988 killings of their right to truth, justice and reparation.

Reports indicate that between 9-16 January 2009, the numerous ad hoc grave markings made by the families of some of those executed in previous years were destroyed by bulldozer. The site was at least partially covered by soil and trees were planted.

Amnesty International additionally calls on the Iranian government to act on its standing invitation to UN mechanisms and to facilitate the visit to the country of the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. In his visit he should be allowed to have an unhindered access to the Khavaran site with a view to indicating how best to conduct an investigation into the events of 1988, including in relation to the unmarked graves at Khavaran.

The Iranian authorities have the obligation to conduct an impartial investigation into the events and bring to justice those responsible for the “prison massacres” in fair proceedings and without recourse to the death penalty. Destruction of the site would impede any such future investigation and would violate the right of victims, including the families, to an effective remedy.

The Iranian authorities also have a responsibility to ensure that the body of anyone secretly buried who was not the victim of a crime is returned to his or her relatives. Destruction of the grave site would prevent this from happening and inflict further suffering on the families of the victims of the “prison massacres” who have been yearly commemorating the killing of their loved ones by gathering in Khavaran.


Background

Between August 1988 and February 1989, the Iranian authorities carried out a massive wave of executions of political prisoners – the largest since those carried out in the first and second year after the Iranian revolution in 1979.

In all, between 4,500 and 10,000 prisoners are believed to have been killed. Amnesty International has repeatedly called for those responsible for the “prison massacre” to be brought to justice in a fair trial without the death penalty.

For further information, see Iran: The 20th anniversary of 1988 "Prison Massacre", AI Index: MDE 13/118/2008, 19 August 2008,


http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE13/118/2008/en , and Amnesty International’s report, Iran: Violations of human rights 1987-1990 (AI Index MDE 13/21/90).

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

IMHRO Letter to President Obama

The Honourable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Iranian Minorities’ Human Rights Organisation (IMHRO)

Ref.IMHRO.37

2009-01-20


Dear Mr. President

I am writing to you as a representative of the Iranian Minorities Human Rights Organisation (IMHRO). We are a small non-governmental organisation who campaign to raise awareness of and change the government-sanctioned deprivation of minorities’ human rights that occurs in Iran. In recent years the suppression of ethnic and religious minorities in Iran (including Arabs, Kurds, Baluch, Turkmen, Turks, Bahá’í, Christian, Sunnis and Jews) has increased. We believe that this needs to be rectified. We are the only solely English-medium human rights organisation that concentrates on minorities’ human rights in Iran, and feel that much work needs to be done to highlight within the Western world the lamentable state of affairs that currently exists in this area.

We would like to extend our congratulations to you regarding your recent success in the US presidential elections. It was a campaign well-fought on both sides, and one that is a testament to the high standard of democracy that exists within the USA.

However, we at IMHRO would like to highlight the need for change in Iran, and ask that you keep in mind, when shaping foreign policy, just how important the fundamental human rights really are. In the case of minorities in Iran we would like to see the United States, as always, continue with their uncompromising stance on the upkeep of human rights. We will continue to keep you up-to-date with our work where possible, and highlight the areas most in need of attention.

Yours sincerely and God bless America,

Reza Washahi
IMHRO Director

VOA: Persecution Of Kurdish Iranians









Farzad Kamangar is a teacher, a human rights defender, and a member of Iran's Kurdish minority. The combination may prove fatal for the 33-year-old Iranian. For more than 10 years, Mr. Kamangar taught in Iran's Kordistan province.

He was also a member of the teachers' union there, before it was outlawed by the regime. In addition, he belonged to an organization that was active in defending human rights, including Kurdish minority rights and rights for women.

He was arrested in 2006 and sentenced to death in 2008, after being convicted of so-called "crimes against national security" and of being "moharabeh," that is, an enemy of God. Mr. Kamangar has insisted that he is innocent of any crime, and international human rights monitors have said his trial was grossly unfair.

They have also said he has been tortured in custody – beaten, flogged and electrocuted. Amnesty International reports that on November 24, 2008, guards entered his cell in Evin prison, beat him and threatened him with imminent execution. It is hard not to see the Iranian regime's brutal treatment of Farzad Kamangar as part of a pattern of repression aimed at Iran's ethnic Kurdish minority.

While all Iranian defenders of human rights or peaceful political dissidents are under threat and worse from the Iranian government, Iranian authorities are particularly punishing to those who belong to ethnic minority groups. Human Rights Watch recently published a new report detailing the repression of Iran's Kurdish population by the Iranian government.

Kurds make up approximately 7 percent of the population and live mainly in the northwest regions of the country. The report shows how the regime, in an increasingly aggressive campaign, uses so-called security and press laws to arrest and prosecute Kurdish Iranians simply for exercising their rights of freedom of expression and association.

Numerous newspapers and magazines have been closed; editors and writers have been imprisoned; non-governmental organizations have been refused permits to operate; and human rights defenders like Farzad Kamangar have been sentenced to death.The U.S. calls on Iran to stop the repression of all Iranians, including Kurdish Iranians, who only seek the peaceful exercise of their universal human rights.

In addition, the U.S. urges the Government of Iran to follow the rule of law, and free all political prisoners, like Farzad Kamangar, who are imprisoned because of their efforts to defend the rights of the Iranian people.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Human Right Watch World Report 2009












Iran

With the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continuing to

invoke “national security” as a justification for silencing dissent, 2008 saw a dramatic rise in arrests of political activists, academics, and others for peacefully exercising their rights of free expression and association in Iran.

There were numerous reports of the torture and mistreatment of such detainees. The Judiciary, accountable to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and the Ministry of Intelligence continued to be responsible for many serious human rights violations. The number of executions also increased sharply in 2008.

Freedom of Expression and Assembly
Iranian authorities systematically suppress freedom of expression and opinion by
imprisoning journalists and editors, and strictly controlling publishing and academic activity.


Most journalists arrested in 2008 were targeted for covering ethnic minority issues and civil society activities, and the National Security Council has given newspapers formal and informal warnings against covering issues such as human rights violations and social protests. The few independent dailies that remain heavily self-censor.

Many writers and intellectuals who have evaded imprisonment have left the country or ceased to be critical. The government has fired dissident university professors or forced them into early retirement, a trend that intensified in 2008. State universities also recently began banning some politically active students from registering for their next semester, putting pressure on student associations and their supporters to not criticize the government.

In 2008 the authorities continued to target student and internet journalists. The
government systematically blocks Iranian and foreign websites that carry political news and analysis.

The Ahmadinejad government shows no tolerance for peaceful protests and gatherings.

Security forces arrested over a hundred student activists in 2008, often
without informing their families of the arrests. According to some of the impris-

oned students and their families, security forces subjected these students to mistreatment and abuse during their detention.

Civil Society
The government has increased pressure on civil society organizations that call for human rights and freedom of speech by restricting their activities and barring
activists from leaving the country.


These include the Center for Defenders of Human Rights, led by 2003 Noble Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi, and the Association of Iranian Journalists.

On October 2 Iran’s official news agency warned Ebadi, a lawyer who publically criticizes the government and regularly defends political and human rights cases in court, not to “misuse the tolerance of the government.”

The Malaysian foreign ministry, under pressure from the Iranian government, forced the International Peace Foundation to cancel an October 2008 conference that Ebadi was due to attend. Earlier in the year Ebadi had received death threats. In response, she announced that the Iranian government would be held responsible for any harm to her. The authorities later promised to guarantee her safety.

Government intelligence officials forced Mohammad Sadigh Kaboudvand, a journalist and human rights activist in the western province of Kurdistan, to shut
down his NGO Defending the Human Rights in Kurdistan, and in July 2007 arrested him. He was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment in June 2008 for acting against national security and engaging in propaganda against the state.

Criminal Justice and the Juvenile Death Penalty
Iranian law allows death sentences for persons who have reached puberty,
defined in law as age 9 for girls and 15 for boys. At this writing, Iran was the only country to have executed juvenile offenders in 2008, a total of six persons for crimes committed while under age 18. The country carried out 26 of the 32 known executions of juvenile offenders worldwide since January 2005. According to multiple sources, at least 130 other juvenile offenders are on death row in Iran.


In many cases these sentences followed unfair trials, and the executions themselves sometimes violated Iranian national laws, such as the failure to notify families and lawyers of the execution 48 hours in advance.

On August 4, 2008, the Judiciary cancelled the execution by stoning of four
Iranians. The Judiciary spokesman said that it would review all pending stoning
sentences. However, stoning remains a sentence permitted under the penal code.
Women’s Rights
The government escalated its crackdown on women’s rights activists in 2008,
subjecting dozens of women to arbitrary detention, travel bans, and harassment.


Eight women’s rights activists were arrested in June as they were commemorating a 2006 meeting on women’s rights that was broken up by police. In October an
Iranian-American student researching women’s rights in Iran, Esha Momeni,
was arrested and held for some three weeks in Tehran’s Evin prison.


Security agents seized her computer and footage of interviews she had conducted with women’s rights activists. Later that month, security agents blocked Sussan
Tahmasebi, a leader of the One Million Signatures Campaign for Equality, from
boarding a plane and confiscated her passport, without charging her with any
crime. The Judiciary has also prosecuted women involved in peaceful activities on
behalf of the campaign for “disturbing public opinion,” “propaganda against the
order,” and “publishing lies via the publication of false news.”

In September an appeals court in Tehran upheld prison and lashing sentences
against two women’s rights activists, Massoumeh Zia and Marzieh Mortazi
Langrudi, for taking part in a 2006 demonstration demanding equal rights. Four
women were also sentenced earlier in the year to six months in jail each for writing
articles for feminist websites.

In January 2008 the authorities released Maryam Hosseinkhah and Jelveh
Javaheri from Evin prison, where they were serving sentences for “disturbing public opinion” and “publishing lies.” Two other activists, Ronak Safazadeh and
Hana Abdi, remain in detention in Sanandaj on charges of “endangering national
security.” Prior to their arrest they were active members of the Azarmehr
Association of the Women of Kurdistan, a group that organizes capacity-building
workshops for women in Iranian Kurdistan.

Minorities
Iran’s ethnic and religious minorities are subject to discrimination and, in some
cases, persecution. In the northwestern provinces of Azerbaijan and Kurdistan,
the government restricts cultural and political activities by the Azerbaijani and
Kurdish populations, including the operation of NGOs that focus on social issues.
The government also restricts the promotion of minority cultures and languages.

On September 10, for example, plainclothes Intelligence Ministry agents arrested
19 prominent Azerbaijani cultural activists and academics during a private
Ramadan celebration and detained them in Evin Prison.


The Iranian government accuses them of siding with armed opposition groups and acting against national security.

On September 30, Molavi Abdolhamid, one of the most prominent Sunni clerics
in Iran, said that if the government failed to address the problems of the Sunni
community, including discrimination, its members would be unlikely to participate
in the presidential election in 2009. The 2008 execution of two Sunni clerics
in Zahedan, the assassination of two Sunni clerics in Kurdistan, the destruction of the Abu-Hanifeh Sunni religious school near Zahedan, and the arrest of 11 Sunni clerics who protested against this assault, coupled with systematic efforts to remove Sunni citizens from governmental positions, the army, and the police
force, are among the major criticisms Abdolhamid leveled against the government.

The government continues to deny Iran’s Baha’i community permission to worship publicly or pursue religious activities. On May 14, security forces arrested six
leading Baha’i adherents and members of the Baha’i national coordination group,
without informing them of the charges against them, and sent them to Evin
prison. One associate of this group had already been arrested on March 5. At this writing, all seven remain in detention.

HIV/AIDS
In late June security forces detained without charge Arash and Kamyar Alaei, who are well known in Iran and internationally for their contributions to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs; they remain in detention at this writing.

For more than 20 years the Alaei brothers have been active in addressing problems relating to drug use, with a focus on the spread of HIV/AIDS, and have played key roles in putting these issues on the national healthcare agenda.

Key International Actors
In 2008 Iran’s nuclear program again dominated discussions and policies in the
international arena, overshadowing the urgency of discussing Iran’s human rights
violations. During Ahmadinejad’s presidency, critical dialogue between the West
and the Iranian government on human rights issues effectively stopped.

The European Union has pledged to tie progress in broader cooperation with Iran to respect for human rights, but the pledge has had little impact. The United Nations Security Council has adopted three resolutions since 2007 to sanction Iran economicallyfor its nuclear program.

In 2008 Iran continued to use what it calls “foreign threats” as grounds to suppress civil society and ignore widespread domestic and international objections to human rights violations. The authorities use the rhetorical support of Western countries, especially the United States, for dissidents and human rights activists as an excuse to restrict the freedom of expression and assembly within the country.

The Iranian government has not allowed the UN Human Rights Council’s special
rapporteurs to enter Iran and investigate violations of human rights alleged by
activists, the media, and independent sources since 2005.



irishtimes: Government criticises Iran's oppression of minorities







The Government has accused Iran of harassing and oppressing minority religions.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin has sent a firmly worded letter to his Iranian counterpart expressing concerns at the Islamic republic’s overall human rights record.


Mr Martin previously held talks on several issues with Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki at the UN General Assembly session in New York in September. In the latest correspondence, the Cork TD claimed human rights protection in Iran is worsening instead of improving.

He also criticised the use of the death penalty and claimed that Iran has executed more teenagers in recent years than any other country.

“Children and minors under the age of 18 should never be subject to the death penalty, including older persons convicted of offences committed as minors.
It is believed that 100 prisoners currently under sentence of death in Iran either are minors or were minors at the time of the offence.

Mr Martin called on Iran to comply with the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The TD also said the Irish Government was also very concerned at the systematic campaign of harassment and oppression directed at members of the minority Baha’i faith.

The minister said members of the religion are randomly arrested by police, are sacked by their employers and have difficulty obtaining burial places.
“I find it particularly shocking that newspapers closely linked to the Government are active leaders in promoting hatred and misrepresentations of fellow Iranians who are members of the Baha’i community,” Mr Martin added.

The letter continued: “It is difficult in these circumstances to avoid the conclusion that the Government and authorities of Iran are actively trying to suppress a religious faith.”

Ireland, as a friend of Iran, has no wish to see its reputation damaged in this way, Mr Martin said.

The TD suggested that the best starting point for the Iranian government to address the issues of concern would be positive engagement with Iranian human rights defenders and with international monitoring mechanisms.“

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

IMHRO condemning anti Jewish campaign of Iran

Iranian Minorities’ Human Rights Organisation (IMHRO)

Ref.IMHRO.36

15/01/2009

IMHRO condemns the Iranian government’s threat of destroying Israel and its support of extremist groups who are against peace in the Middle East.

President Ahmadi Nejad’s has publically denied the holocaust which is a very clear and worrying sign of the anti Jewish attitude held by the Iranian government, towards Israel and towards Jewish people and minorities living in Iran.


Iran is home to the largest number of Jews anywhere in the Middle East outside Israel
[1]. The Jews are one of the oldest minorities in Iran, and throughout that time they have contributed to society in a peaceful manner. Today about 25000 Jews are living in Iran[2]. President Ahmadi Nejad’s recent comments referring to the destruction of Israel brought widespread international concern. It is also reported that his comments have led to an increase in pressure on Jews in Iran.

The Iranian government is the only country in the region which is not in favour of peace between Palestinian and Israel. The main reason for Iran’s opposition is that it allows the government to feed their internal propaganda. The internal propaganda against Israel thus helps to distract attention away from the economic, social and political problems within Iran since the 1979 revolution.

Billions of dollars has gone missing from the treasury during Ahmadi Nejad’s presidency. Various reports indicate that the Islamic regime in Iran is building up weapons of mass destruction. Considering the state of the country that money should be spent on health care, education, and housing of minorities (who make up more than 50% of the population in Iran.)

In the area of Baluchistan people are living in poverty, Arab people of al Ahwaz face terrible difficulties because they do not have healthy drinking water. Kurdish people are suffering from a lack of investment in hospitals and health centres and Turks and Turkmen are suffering from high rates of unemployment.

Jews suffers in Iran

The Jewish community in Iran faces various forms of discrimination. The anti-Israel rhetoric and propaganda of the Iranian government threatens the safety of the Jewish population in Iran, as it leaves them isolated from the rest of the population. The Iranian government’s announcement of the arrest of an Israeli spy in Iran
[3] and the biased coverage of the situation between the Palestinians and the Jews has lead to an escalation in hatred towards the Jewish community in Iran.

During the fighting in Lebanon a hard line weekly newspaper, Yalesarat, published two photographs of synagogues on its front page full of people waving Israeli flags celebrating Israeli Independence Day. The paper falsely said that the synagogues were in Iran - even describing one as the Yusuf Abad synagogue in Tehran and locating another in Shiraz.
[4]

There is fear that tensions over Iran’s nuclear ambitions could escalate and that this could cause Islamic fundamentalists in Iran attacking the Jewish population in Iran.

Jews also face harassment when they want to travel to Israel to visit relatives or religious Jewish sites. As Iran does not have diplomatic ties with Israel they have to go through Turkey and it has been reported that the Iranian government forcing them to work with Iran against Israel.

In recent years many Jews have left Iran because of fear and threats
[5].

IMHRO is concerned by the Iranian president’s anti Semitic views, his denial of the holocaust and the threat posed by a country such as Iran developing Weapons of Mass Destruction.

IMHRO urge the international community to stop Iran from developing such weapons and to stop the spread of propaganda against Jewish minorities in Iran.




[1] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/5367892.stm

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persian_Jews

[3] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/jews-in-iran-face-death-for-spying-1099181.html

[4] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/5367892.stm

[5] http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/n/a/2007/10/22/international/i003947D24.DTL


BBC: Iran executes two men by stoning






Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Two men convicted of adultery have been stoned to death in Iran, a rare punishment that the Iranian judiciary says it is trying to have scrapped.

The stoning took place in Mashhad in December, said judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi confirming press reports.

In stonings, men are buried to the waist and stones are hurled until they die. Women are buried to the shoulders.

A third man, an Afghan national, managed to dig himself out of the hole, and therefore escaped execution.

In 2002, Iran's judiciary chief issued a directive imposing a moratorium on execution by stoning and it has been scrapped in the new draft penal code which has yet to be passed into law.

Several stoning sentences are said to have been suspended or commuted, and the last reported execution by stoning was in July 2007.

International and local human rights groups have long campaigned for a ban on

stoning in Iran as a "grotesque" punishment which is designed increase the suffering of the condemned.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

HRW: Iran: End Repression in Kurdish Areas








January 9, 2009

(New York, January 9, 2009) - The government of Iran should amend or abolish broadly worded national security laws used to stifle peaceful dissent in the country's Kurdish areas and end arbitrary arrests of Kurdish critics and dissidents, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

The 42-page report, "Iran: Freedom of Expression and Association in the Kurdish Regions," documents how Iranian authorities use security laws, press laws, and other legislation to arrest and prosecute Iranian Kurds solely for trying to exercise their right to freedom of expression and association. The use of these laws to suppress basic rights, while not new, has greatly intensified since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power in August 2005.

"Iranian authorities show little tolerance of political dissent anywhere in the country, but they are particularly hostile to dissent in minority areas where there has been any history of separatist activities," said Joe Stork, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa Division.

Kurds account for 4.5 million of the 69 million people in Iran, and live mainly in the country's northwest regions. Political movements there have frequently campaigned for greater regional autonomy. The main Iranian Kurdish parties with a long history of activism deny that they engage in armed activity and the government has not accused these groups of any such activity since the early 1990s.

"No one would contest a government's right to suppress violence," Stork said. "But this is not the case here. What is going on in the Kurdish areas of Iran is the routine suppression of legitimate peaceful opposition."

The new report documents how the government has closed Persian- and Kurdish-language newspapers and journals, banned books, and punished publishers, journalists, and writers for opposing and criticizing government policies. Authorities also suppress legitimate activities of nongovernmental organizations by denying registration permits or charging individuals working with such organizations with spurious security offenses.

One victim of the government's repression is Farazad Kamangar, a superintendent of high schools in the city of Kamayaran and an activist with the Organization for the Defense of Human Rights in Kurdistan. He has been in detention since his arrest in July 2006. The new report reproduces a letter Kamangar smuggled out of prison describing how officials subjected him to torture during interrogation.

On February 25, 2008, Branch 30 of Iran's Revolutionary Court sentenced him to death on charges of "endangering national security." Prosecutors charged that he was a member of the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), but provided no evidence to support the allegation. In July, the Supreme Court upheld the sentence. Kamangar's lawyer has appealed to the head of the judiciary to intervene, the only remaining option for challenging the sentence.

See the full 42-page report here:

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Opnenewsnow.com: Iranian Christians under gov't thumb

onenewsnow.com

Conditions are harsh for Iranian Christians in Iran, where evangelistic activities are against the law and Christian groups are monitored by government spies.

A new penal code under consideration by Iranian lawmakers would mandate capital punishment for those who leave Islam. Recently, the son of a pastor, who was martyred for his faith 18 years ago, was free on bail after being charged with promoting anti-government propaganda.


Abe Ghaffari, president of
Iranian Christians International, says many Muslims are coming to Christ in Iran -- and that has put the Islamic government on edge. "In Islam there is no assurance of salvation. You observe all these rites and rituals and do good works, but at the end of the day you don't know how Allah will judge you," he notes. "Secondly, people have observed that those who are strict Muslims are even more corrupt than your average citizen, and that Islam is not able to transform anyone into a better person."

Ghaffari adds that Christians in Iran lack support because they have to conduct their worship services and meetings under the watchful eye of Islamic government officials.

RWB: As holder of EU presidency, Czech government urged to intercede on behalf of jailed bloggers and journalists







Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard wrote yesterday to Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, whose government has just taken over the European Union’s rotating presidency, asking him to do everything possible to obtain the release of the 11 journalists and bloggers currently held in Iran.

“In 2008, the Islamic Republic of Iran maintained its position as the Middle East’s most repressive country towards bloggers and journalists, who face constant harassment,” the letter said. “Five bloggers and six journalists are currently detained because of what they wrote. There has been repeated intimidation of human rights activists since last month. We have on several occasions asked the authorities to release prisoners of conscience and to allow their lawyers to do their work. Because of their silence, we turn to you in the hope that you can transmit our concerns to your counterparts in Tehran.”

Militiamen mobilised by the Revolutionary Guards protested in Tehran at the end of last month against Israel’s Gaza offensive. Around 100 of them demonstrated on 1 January outside the home of Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi, a human rights lawyer, chanting slogans hostile to her and her Human Rights Defenders Centre, which she created in 2002. The police closed the centre on 21 December on the grounds that it did not have interior ministry permission to operate, and they searched her law office on 29 December. The threats to Ebadi’s activities and to her family have been condemned by the United Nations, European Union, United States, Canada and other leading western governments.

The five bloggers whose release was requested are Hossein Derakhshan (http://www.hoder.com), Davoud Azadfar (http://www.azadfarkurd.blogfa.com/), Esmail Jafari (http://www.poutin.blogfa.com), cleric Mojtaba Lotfi and women’s rights activist Shahnaz Gholami (http://azarwomen.blogfa.com). Jafari, Lotfi and Gholami are serving jail sentences ranging from five months to four years. The fate of Derakhshan and Azadfar is unknown.

Of the six journalists held, the most recently arrested was Bahman Totonchi, a former contributor to the weekly Karfto. Intelligence ministry officials went to his home in Sanandaj, the capital of the northwestern province of Kurdistan, on 18 November to carry out the arrest. He is being held in a Sanandaj prison run by the intelligence services and it is not clear what will happen to him. Fellow Sanandaj-based journalist Kaveh Javanmard is serving a two-year sentence that he received from a local court in 17 May 2007.

Mohammad Sadegh Kaboudvand, the former editor of the weekly Payam-e mardom-e Kurdestan, has been held since July 2007 in Tehran’s Evin prison, where he is having serious health problems. On 23 October, a Tehran appeal court confirmed the 11-year prison sentence he was given for creating a human rights organisation in Iran’s Kurdish northwest.

Another Kurdish journalist, freelancer Massoud Kurdpoor, was sentenced to a year in prison on 15 October for speaking out about the deteriorating human rights situation in the Kurdish region in interviews for foreign radio stations such as Voice of America, Radio France Internationale and Deutsche Welle. He was convicted on a charge of “publicity against the government in interviews given to foreign and enemy news media.”

Mohammad Hassin Falahieh Zadeh, a journalist who was sentenced in April 2007 to three years in prison on a spying charge, went on hunger strike from 5 to 19 October to press for a review of his trial. He used to work for the Arabic-language service of state-owned TV station Al-Alam while freelancing for many Arab news media such as the Lebanese daily Al-Mostaqbal, Abu Dhabi TV and Radio Dubai. Arrested in November 2006, he has been held longer than any other journalist currently detained in Iran.

The death sentence imposed on Kurdish journalist Adnan Hassanpour, who has been held for “subversive activities against national security” ever since his arrest outside his home on 25 January 2007, was quashed by the Iranian supreme court on 4 September on the grounds that he could not be regarded as a “mohareb” (enemy of God). His case has been returned to the court that convicted him in the Kurdish city of Sanandaj.

RFE/RL: Imprisoned Iranian Blogger Begins Hunger Strike







Shahnaz Gholami, an online Iranian journalist and rights activist, has begun a hunger strike in Tabriz city prison.

The editor of the "Azerzan" blog, Gholami was accused of publishing propaganda against the Islamic republic and jeopardizing national security. She was sentenced to six months in prison last month.

Her lawyer, Naghi Mahmudi, told RFE/RL’s Radio Farda that Gholami began the hunger strike to protest her prison conditions. She has been kept in the same ward with convicted murderers, drug dealers, and prostitutes.

Gholami advocates for women rights as well as for the rights of the Azerbaijani minority in Iran. She was detained for three weeks in 2007 for criticizing a police crackdown on public protests in many cities in northwest Iran. She spent five years in prison for her political activities in the 1980s.

The blogger’s arrest in November came a few days before a pro-government publication, "Sobh-e Sadegh," called the Internet a Western tool of subversion.

In its article, "Sobh-e Sadegh" accused the U.S. government of attacking “the opinions of young Iranians and the world population for its own interests.” Among other “tools of subversion,” the Iranian publication listed RFE/RL, Voice of America, and CNN, as well as Google and Yahoo! search engines.

(by RFE/RL correspondent Farangis Najibullah)

amnesty: fear of forcible return of Ahwazi Arabs from Iraq to Iran











PUBLIC

AI Index: MDE 14/001/2009

07 January 2009

UA 3/09
penalty

IRAQ

Shaheed ‘Abdulhussain ‘Abbas ‘Amouri (m), Iranian national, aged 37
Mohammed ‘Ali ‘Abdulzahra Hamad ‘Amouri (m), Iranian national, aged 30
Naji ‘Aboud ‘Obidawi (m), Iranian national Shaheed ‘Abdulhussain ‘Abbas ‘Amouri, Mohammed ‘Ali ‘Abdulzahra Hamad ‘Amouri and Naji ‘Aboud ‘Obidawi

are at risk of being forcibly returned from Iraq to Iran where they would face torture or even the death penalty.

The three men, Iranian nationals and members of the Arab Ahwazi community, are being detained in the city of al-‘Amara, south of Baghdad.

Shaheed ‘Abdulhussain ‘Abbas ‘Amouri and Mohammed ‘Ali ‘Abdulzahra Hamad ‘Amouri fled to Iraq in December 2007 and were arrested in the southern city of Basra. They were charged with entering Iraqi territory illegally, sentenced to one year’s imprisonment and transferred to al-‘Amara prison to serve their sentences. Shaheed ‘Abdulhussain ‘Abbas ‘Amouri and Mohammed ‘Ali ‘Abdulzahra Hamad ‘Amouri have completed their prison sentence and may be at imminent risk of being forcibly returned to Iran. They are said to have been sought by the Iranian authorities for organizing protests during widespread anti-government demonstrations in April 2005.

Naji ‘Aboud ‘Obidawi fled Iran around June 2008 and went to Iraq where he was arrested and transferred to al-‘Amara prison. Amnesty International does not know the exact reasons for his arrest and what charges, if any, have been brought against him. His arrest, however, may be due to him entering Iraq illegally. Naji ‘Aboud ‘Obidawi had been serving a 10-year prison sentence in Iran in connection with the April 2005 protests. He was allowed leave to visit his family during which time he decided to escape to Iraq.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION
Much of Iran's Arab community lives in the province of Khuzestan, which borders Iraq. It is strategically important because it is the site of much of Iran’s oil reserves, but the Arab population does not feel it has benefited as much from the oil revenue as the Persian population. There were mass demonstrations in April 2005, after it was alleged that the government planned to disperse the country's Arab population or to force them to relinquish their Arab identity. Following bomb explosions in Ahvaz City in June and October 2005, which killed at least 14 people, and explosions at oil installations in September and October 2005, hundreds of people were arrested. Further bombings on 24 January 2006, in which at least six people were killed, were followed by further mass arrests. At least 17 men have now been executed as a result of their alleged involvement in the bombings. It is not clear if another man was executed or died in custody.

As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and to the Convention against Torture (CAT), Iraq has an obligation not to return anyone to a country where they would be at risk of torture or other ill-treatment. Furthermore, the international law principle of non-refoulement, a principle binding on all states, prohibits the forcible return of anyone to a country where they would be at risk of serious human rights abuses, including torture.

RECOMMENDED ACTION:

Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in English or your own language:
- urging the Iraqi authorities not to forcibly return Shaheed ‘Abdulhussain ‘Abbas ‘Amouri, Mohammed ‘Ali ‘Abdulzahra Hamad ‘Amouri and Naji ‘Aboud ‘Obidawi to Iran where they would be at risk of torture and possibly the death penalty;
- reminding the Iraqi government of its obligations under international law that they must not forcibly return individuals to a country where they would be at risk of serious human rights violations, including torture.

APPEALS TO:
fax numbers and e-mail addresses are not available for all Iraqi authorities and may change at any time. Please send appeals via the Iraqi embassy or diplomatic representative in your country, asking them to forward your appeals to:
President
Jalal Talabani
Salutation: Your Excellency

Prime Minister
Nuri Kamil al-Maliki
E-mail: iraqigov@yahoo.com
Salutation: Your Excellency

Minister of Justice
Safa al-Din al-Safi
E-mail: minister@iraqi-justice.org
deputy@iraqi-justice.org
Salutation: Your Excellency

Minister of Foreign Affairs
Hoshyar Zebari
E-mail: press@iraqmofa.net
Salutation: Your Excellency

Minister of Human Rights
Wajdan Mikhail Salam
Fax: +9641 538 2007
Email: Wj_mohr_min@yahoo.com
Salutation: Your Excellency



COPIES TO: diplomatic representatives of Iraq accredited to your country.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat, or your section office, if sending appeals after 18 February 2009.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

APA: Activist of movement for the rights of Azerbaijanis living in Iran goes on hunger strike










Baku. Ramil Mammadli – Azeri-Press Agency

Preliminary investigation of the accusations brought against the activist of the movement for the rights of the Azerbaijanis living in Iran, journalist Shahnaz Gulami continues, said the journalist’s lawyer Nagi Mahmudi, Committee for Protection of Gulami’s Rights told APA. Mahmudi said that his client had been going on hunger strike in Tabrz jail since December 19. The lawyer said Shahnaz Gulami was allowed to meet with her daughter Husna.

Mahmudi said Shahnaz Gulami was frequently called to Tabriz Department of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (ETTELAAT).Shahnaz Gulami was in prison for her activity in Iran People’s Patriots Movement in 1989-1994. In May, 2007, she was imprisoned for a month for her participation in the anniversary of the pickets in connection with the caricatures published in the “Iran” newspaper insulting the Azerbaijanis.

Gulami was detained for her national activity on November 9 this year and transferred from detention facility of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security to Tabriz jail on November 22. Shahnaz Gulami is the member of Iranian Women Journalists Association.