Friday, 29 May 2009

BBC: Iran: Many die in Zahedan mosque bombing

A bomb in a mosque in south-east Iran has killed at least 19 people and injured 60, the governor of Sistan-Baluchestan province said.

The explosion happened in Zahedan, the provincial capital, at the time of evening prayer, Ali Mohammad Azad told Iranian state TV.

He said "terrorists", who had planned to detonate more bombs, were arrested.
The province is often the scene of lawlessness, including clashes between police and drug dealers or militants.

Zahedan is a mainly Sunni Muslim city in a mostly Shia country.
'Suicide attack'

Part of the Amir al-Mohini mosque was destroyed, the official news agency Irna reported.

Rescue teams were taking out the bodies of the dead and injured.

"It was a terrorist attack and the bomb was exploded by a terrorist," Mr Azad said, according to Irna, adding that members of a terrorist group had been arrested.

Mr Azad said "bandits and terrorists intended to disturb the order in the province before the election considering the insecurity in the eastern neighbouring countries".
Although it occurred in a remote region, the explosion comes at a time of heightened political sensitivity nationally, with just over two weeks before the
Fars news agency quoted witnesses saying the incident had been a suicide attack, and that a second bomb had been defused near the mosque. The reports could not be verified.

Thursday was a public holiday marking the death of the Prophet Muhammad's daughter, Fatima.
Drugs trade

Sistan-Baluchestan is one of the most deprived regions in Iran.
Its location on the borders of both Afghanistan and Pakistan make it a key route in the drugs trade.

Despite Iran's best efforts, a huge proportion of the world's opiates, such as heroin and morphine, are smuggled by heavily armed drugs gangs, often in large convoys.

There are also a number of militants in the area, many of them with links to the drugs gangs, and clashes with the security forces are common.

Two years ago at least 11 people, including members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, were

Foreigners are strongly advised to avoid the area, and a recent visit by a number of diplomats was accompanied by extremely heavy security, says the BBC's John Leyne in Tehran.

The insurgency is linked with the area's large Sunni population - at odds with Iran's Shia-led government.

But the Iranian government also accuses the US and Britain of supporting the militants.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

EU: Declaration by the Presidency on behalf of the European Union on the violation of religious freedom in Iran

The European Union expresses its deep concern about the increasing violation of religious freedom in Iran.

In particular, the European Union condemns the continuing persecution by the Iranian authorities of legitimate expressions of Christian belief. According to available reports, the Iranian nationals Hamik Khachikian, Jamal Qalishourani and Nadereh Jamali, arrested in January 2009, continue to be detained without charges, as are Marzieh Amirizadeh and Maryam Rustampoor, arrested in March 2009. In March 2009, Seyed Allaedin Hussein, Homayoon Shokouhi and Seyed Amir Hussein Bob-Annari received a commuted sentence of eight months in prison. Available evidence suggests that the aim of this persecution is to suppress the free choice and expression of religious belief.

The European Union reiterates its concern about the situation of seven members of the Bahai religious community in Iran –Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naimi, Said Rezaei, Mahvash Sabet, Behrouz Tavakkoli and Vahid Tizfahm – who have now been held in detention for more than one year and are facing serious legal charges. Again, evidence suggests that the persecution deliberately aims to suppress Bahai religious identity and legitimate community activities. Concerns relating to this case are further reinforced by numerous reports of official harassment of members of the Bahai community, including detentions; police summons and pressure to desist from community religious activities.

The European Union further expresses its concern at the plight of the Iranian Shiite ayatollah Seyed Hossein Kazemeini Boroujerdi, who has been imprisoned for his religious activities along with several of his followers. According to available reports, Boroujerdi is being denied hospitalization despite his serious health condition.
The European Union urgently calls on the Iranian authorities to uphold their international legal undertakings to safeguard religious freedom and to stop their persecution of legitimate religious activities. The European Union also reminds the Iranian authorities of their duty to safeguard the health of all persons in prison or under detention.

The Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia* and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania and Montenegro, and the EFTA countries Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, members of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova align themselves with this declaration.

* Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.

Monday, 25 May 2009

SAA: Beyond The Wall: Sources Of Iran’s Terror Campaign In Balochistan

By Belaar Baloch

23 May, 2009

The decades-old and artificial division of Balochistan between Iran and Pakistan is bringing yet new grief to its population. Amid speculation that the United States may take coercive measures to forestall Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons, the regime in Tehran is heavily fortifying its border regions, especially its “vulnerable” southeastern frontier known as Sistan-va-Balochistan, where it connects with Pakistani-controlled eastern Balochistan, its other half. While the international community is focused upon the most pressing issues, i.e., the war on terror and the boiling crisis over Iran’s nuclear activities, the voice of the Baloch people—repressed by both Iran and Pakistan—is either unheard or, for political reasons, deliberately ignored.

Unlike other ethno-national groups that fell victim to the decolonization process, Baloch miseries began early, when rival imperial forces confronted each other in a long game of geopolitics. This game ultimately cost the Baloch people their sovereign statehood and resulted in the arbitrary division of their homeland. Those who are familiar with the history of the “Great Game” will know how imperial Britain appeased Iran by serving up the western part of Balochistan in an effort to stem the feared Russian advance towards the warm waters of the Arabian Sea.

Locked in its intense geopolitical rivalry with Russia, Britain had left untouched the semi-sovereign status of the eastern part of Balochistan, hoping eastern Balochistan would serve as a buffer to help preserve its richest colony, India. In the aftermath of the First World War, a confident British foreign secretary Lord Curzon, then assuming the control of Iraq as a protectorate under the League’s mandate, and realising the great importance of this region, summed up the Imperial forward strategy in this way:
“Now, that we are about to assume the mandate for Mesopotamia, which will make us conterminous with the western frontiers of Asia, we cannot permit the existence between the frontiers of our Indian Empire and Balochistan and those of our new protectorate, a hotbed of misrule, enemy intrigue, financial chaos and political disorder. Further, if Persia were to be alone, there is every reason to fear that she would be overrun by Bolshevik influence from the north. Lastly, we possess in the south-western corner of Persia great assets in the shape of oil fields, which are worked for the British navy and which give us a commanding interest in that part of the world.”

With partition of the subcontinent in 1947, however, Britain colluded with the founders of the newly created state of Pakistan to force eastern Balochistan to join Pakistan.

The Baloch living in these forcibly annexed territories, however, never accepted the new status quo. From the outset, the Baloch perceived this division and arbitrary rule of their homeland by the Persians and Punjabis as illegitimate.

The Baloch refused to abandon their socio-cultural identity and adopt the alien values imposed by the Persians. Despite the creation of the unnatural border known as the Goldsmith Line, the Baloch from both sides not only maintained their socio-cultural ties, but even strengthened these links in order to counter the threats of assimilation they felt emanate from both Pakistan and Iran.

Iran’s recent decision to physically separate Balochistan with a hundreds of kilometre-long wall, turning it into two non-communicating halves, is an extraordinary affirmation of state power and one that reflects Iran’s general readiness to aggressively control the Baloch population. In justifying this move, Iran uses border infiltrations as a pretext.

From the Qajars to the Pahlavis and, in recent times, under its revolutionary idealogues, Persians have claimed jurisdiction over ethnic minorities on the basis of their racial “supremacy” and the “higher” values of their civilisation. These xenophobic attitudes towards ethnic minorities have a long history. In the heyday of his rule, Reza Shah who was desperately seeking an ideology to unite the “nation” chose fascism. Describing Shah’s fascination with fascist ideology, Stephen Kinzer notes in his book “All The Shah’s Men” that Mussolini, Franco and Hitler “seemed to him to be embarked on the same path he had chosen, purifying and uniting weak, undisciplined nations. He launched an oppressive campaign to obliterate the identity of minority groups, especially Kurds and Azeris and glorify his ideas and person.”

Unfortunately, this history of terror against minority populations does not end with Reza Shah. His son Muhammad Reza Shah chose to reinforce his father’s mission by giving a free hand to SAVAK, one of the most dreaded intelligence organizations of its time. SAVAK’s death squads conducted numerous overt and covert operations in Balochistan, driving ordinary people out of settled areas.

Eventually facing a revolt by the Baloch, Iran became the first country to establish formal diplomatic ties with Pakistan in order to legitimize the Goldsmith Line—the border dividing Baloch territory into Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. The Baloch members of the West Pakistan Assembly, however, did not recognize the conclusion of the boundary commission and challenged its recommendations in Pakistan’s apex court. Fears related to the integrity of the Iranian borders led Muhammad Reza to send a large contingent of Iranian forces armed with Huey Cobra attack helicopters to support the Pakistani army in its efforts to crush the Baloch insurgency in 1973 in eastern Balochistan.

In the aftermath of its recent revolution, the theocratic regime in Tehran became even more aggressive, particularly against its non-Shi’ite minorities. Soon after consolidating their grip on power, the revolutionary zealots embarked on a plan to accomplish “Imam’s” mission: “purifying” and “enlightening” the Sunni Baloch population. The revolutionary utopians were in search of an enemy and revenge. Just as Khomeini and his lieutenants found an external enemy, i.e., the United States—the most formidable “enemy” of Islam and its revolution, so did they identify an internal one, depicting the Baloch as a “proxy” of Iraq, bent on the destabilization of the revolutionary state. Under the Shah, as one astute observer put it, “Iranian sense of excellence and racial pride had expressed itself in snobbery and hauteur. In Khomeini’s crusade, and in the magnificent isolation of its embattled position, Iran evoked—and Khomeini has insisted on this—the solitude of the Prophet Mohammad’s mission donned a religious guise.”

Nevertheless, the ideals of a modern-day Mahdi had serious limits; his appeal did not extend beyond the Persian realm as non-Shi’ite minorities rejected his design to establish a more “authentic” and “pure” social order based on the repressive Shi’ite sectarian doctrine invented by Khomeini and his faithful ideologues. Since then, Tehran has perceived the Baloch as a threat to its national security and has employed various methods—from state-led terror to the policy of assimilation—to counter this perceived threat.

At present, the Baloch are suffering a “second revolution.” Under the leadership of Khomeini’s faithful followers, there are those who vow to take the revolution back to its roots. This new generation of followers has recently renewed their hostility towards the Baloch and other ethnic groups, particularly those concentrated in bordering regions. This time Shi’ite totalitarian ideology is not the sole source of adventurism, but also a recently revived Persian nationalism. These two aggressive impulses derive from the regime’s increasing paranoia: that Baloch political groups are being “aided” by western states in order to create internal instability.

In search of the “enemy within,” the new revolutionaries, under the banner of Shi’ite authenticity and Persian nationalism, have reinforced their terror campaign in the towns and villages across the Baloch region. After a long and unsuccessful campaign to indoctrinate ordinary Baloch into Shi’itism, the regime recently revived old terror tactics used to intimidate innocent civilians. During the shah’s despotic rule, SAVAK’s clandestine agents ruled Baloch streets; under Khamenai, the task was given to the thugs of Marsad (Ambush). But methods and tactics remain the same and these include: systematic use of violence to eliminate political activists, extrajudicial killing of Baloch political activists and religious clerics, forced eviction of ordinary people, the destruction of houses and agricultural farms, thereby creating a general climate of fear in order to force the Sunni Baloch into submission.

With its failed attempt to garner support from the non-Persian population for its nuclear quest, the regime has also employed violent means to silence those who are unwilling to share in its euphoria over its nuclear program. Following a chilling defeat at the hands of the Baloch resistance fighters in the heart of Zahedan city, the elite Revolutionary Guards Corps turned their guns on innocent civilians and conducted barbaric public executions. In so doing, the Persian leadership proved to the world that even in this modern age, they are not ashamed to carry out the medieval and ruthless purges characteristic of their past.

Nevertheless, when it comes to the subject of moral stature, the Persian leadership never forgoes an opportunity to teach Persian “moral” values to the world. On the eve of releasing the British sailors the President of Iran, addressing a large media audience, seized this opportunity to deliver a lecture to a western audience, trying to claim the moral high ground. In his hypocritical speech, he demonised the western system, depicting it as unfair and unjust, especially with regards to women’s rights, notwithstanding the fact that the Islamic Republic is the only state in the world that permits the execution of children, most recently the barbaric hanging of Said Qmabarzai, a seventeen-year old teenager.

For the Baloch, Kurds, Awazis, Turkomen and Azeris, the sky will not fall when U.S. cruise missiles overwhelm Iranian nuclear sites, because the subjugated minorities do not share the agenda of the Persians: to make this state a regional hegemon. For generations, these minorities have been denied their basic rights under Persian rule. And the Baloch, with a distinctive history and character, were never, after all, a part of “Greater Persia.” Nor will they benefit if they choose to become a component of this Persian megalomaniac state. Similarly, the Baloch in Pakistan have no incentive to embrace a Punjabi regime that has converted Baloch eastern territory into a nuclear dumping ground: its hills are still covered with radioactive dust and its soil contaminated.

Now obsessed with Iran’s nuclear program, the West has failed to condemn the regime over its human rights abuses against the Baloch and other ethnic minorities. The strategic considerations of the West take priority over human suffering. It is true that the notion of justice has never been a popular feature in the realm of international politics, especially in that part of the world where hydrocarbon politics is central to the shrewd practitioners of realpolitik, who in their very tradition, are willing to overlook human suffering at the cost of “stability” and “order.” However, the obsession to preserve this order at the expense of human catastrophe has blinded policymakers to the fact that it is this very international order that is threatened by both Pakistan and Iran.

The former is armed with nuclear weapons and employs jihadi groups as a foreign policy tool in its efforts to gain strategic depth. It regards Afghanistan as part of its strategy to gain an economic foothold in the Central Asian republics. The later is vigorously meddling in an unstable Iraq, as well as pursuing the development of nuclear arsenals to dominate the region. Imagine a world with these two rogue states, both armed with nuclear weapons, and their foreign policies driven by militant Shi’ite and Wahabi ideologies.

Ironically, Washington has rediscovered its “reliable” ally in the war on terror. The nature of its “cooperation” with the Punjabi military regime provides the answer as to why the West is overlooking Pakistan’s policy of repression in eastern Balochistan. While America pours billions of dollars into Pakistan to appease its army, the whole region has been transformed into a military garrison, one in which the local Baloch have been driven out of their towns and villages and compelled to live as refugees on their own soil. America’s policy has brought neither stability to Afghanistan , nor has it helped dismantle the terrorist infrastructure.

Facing state-led ethnic cleansing by both Iran and Pakistan, the Baloch demand protection from the international society. While moral rhetoric in the foreign policy of civilized nations rarely overrides strategic interest, in this case, it is in their own interest to save the secular and tolerant Baloch, who are at present besieged in a heartland of extremists and fanatics.

(The writer is a Baloch academic living abroad. He is working in areas related to strategic and security issues. His E-mail address is:

Thursday, 21 May 2009


Government trying to quell Christian son’s human rights activities.

LOS ANGELES, May 20 (Compass Direct News) – In an attempt to silence a Christian human rights activist living in England, Iranian authorities arrested and interrogated his Muslim father for six days before releasing him yesterday.

Abdul Zahra Vashahi, a retired 62-year-old suffering a heart condition, was arrested on Thursday (May 14) in Iran’s southwestern city of Bandar Mahshahr and interrogated about the human rights activities of his son, a Christian convert who has been living in England since 2003. His son, John (Reza) Vashahi, converted to Christianity while in England and in 2008 founded the Iranian Minorities Human Rights Organization (IMHRO).

In February the elder Vashahi had received a call from local authorities telling him that if his son didn’t stop his activities, they would arrest him instead.

While his father was in custody, authorities asked the elder Vashahi many questions about his son’s activities and had him fill out forms with detailed information about his extended family and friends.

“He is very tired, because the interrogations were very long,” his son told Compass. “All the questions were about me.”

The younger Vashahi said the Iranian government started putting increased pressure on his family, whom he has not seen in six years, since he founded IMHRO.

“It is a good example of harassment even outside the country,” Vashahi told Compass by telephone today. “It is just showing how far the government will go if we let them. Inside we can’t talk, and we come to Europe and still they want to silence us; it’s a very worrying sign.”

Vashahi, unlike his father, was involved in politics when he lived in Iran. His family belongs to Iran’s Arab-speaking community, the Ahwazi, most of whom live in the southwestern province of Khuzestan.

He said that even when he was living there, police had come to his father’s workplace to ask him questions, but that after he fled the country six years ago, the pressure seemed to have stopped. It began anew when he became an outspoken Christian campaigning for the rights of minorities in Iran and especially with the establishment of IMHRO, he said.

The activist is an active member of Amnesty International, and through his own organization he publicizes Iran’s human rights violations of minorities, especially Christians. He has also started a blog called “Jesus for Arabs.”

Fighting for Minority Rights

Vashahi acknowledged that his family, which is Muslim, was never happy with his choice of faith or vocation.

Asked whether he believed the government arrested his father because of his faith or his work, the younger Vashahi said, “I think it’s both, because part of my human rights activity is in regard to Christians in Iran, and we’ve been in touch with Christians and persecuted churches.”

The 30-year-old activist said that when the Revolutionary Guard arrested his father, they confiscated all of his books and compact discs, as well as a computer and his sister’s university dentistry textbooks.

“It’s a bad situation, and I hope we find some solution,” Vashahi said, “No one has the right to talk about anything in Iran. Suppression of the church is increasing in Iran; they don’t want us to talk about that. They don’t want us to talk about it inside, and also they want to silence us outside.”

Vashahi said that despite the government pressure, he is not planning to stop his human rights activism.

“I’m not going to be silent, because if I do, then I’m accepting their logic, which means I caused the arrest of my dad,” Vashahi said. “My dad is innocent, and that system is wrong to arrest someone instead of somebody else.”
In 2008, when deciding to establish the IMHRO, he said he felt torn between confronting Iran’s injustices and wanting to ignore them from his comfortable, safe distance.

“Another part of me was saying, ‘you are safe now, but you should do your fair share, you should make noise, and if people inside can’t talk and you are outside and you don’t want to talk, how will people learn what is happening?’” he said. “I felt responsibility, and in the end that part won.”

In a phone conversation with his mother yesterday while his father was sleeping to recover from his time in prison, he said he felt that she was choosing her words very carefully. She told him not to contact them or other family and friends.

“She emphasized that we are all Muslims, and that this is an Islamic country,” Vashahi said. “So she was giving me hints that it [the arrest] had to do with the change of religion.”

Although there were no official charges against his father, Vashahi said it is possible that authorities still could take him to court or detain him again for more interrogation.

“I hope this doesn’t happen again,” he said. “In fact, they’ve taken my family as hostage. They did this type of policy to other people and they’ve always failed, and I don’t know why they keep doing it, because people like me they are not going to stop. Others didn’t stop, and they’re just bringing more condemnation on themselves and exposing themselves to more condemnation in the eyes of the world.”

New Wave of Arrests
Compass has learned of four confirmed arrests of Christians in the last two weeks in the capital city of Tehran, while sources said a new wave of arrests has rolled across the country.

Authorities have been warning arrested Christians not to speak to foreign news agencies.

“The government is treating people like they don’t want them to talk,” said a source. “The government is really afraid of international news agencies, they really don’t like them. That is why they put pressure on the believers, and they are really scared.”

Although in most cases of arrests and interrogations Christians have been released with no physical harm, a source said in some instances they were told to sign papers that they would stop Christian activities and were threatened if they continued.

“It’s happening everywhere,” said the source. “This is the strategy of the government. They are doing it everywhere.”

Maryam Rostampour, 27, and Marzieh Amirizadeh Esmaeilabad, 30, are in their second month of detention at the notorious Evin prison house in Tehran, accused of “acting against state security” and “taking part in illegal gatherings.”

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

amnesty: Yunes Aghayan, a member of Iran’s Azerbaijani minority is at imminent risk of execution after being convicted of “enmity against God

AI Index: MDE13/038/2009

UA 113/09 Risk of Imminent Execution
IRAN Yunes Aghayan, (m)

Yunes Aghayan, a member of Iran’s Azerbaijani minority and an Ahl-e Haq follower, is at imminent risk of execution after being convicted of “enmity against God”. He is held in Oromieh Prison in West Azerbaijan Province, in north-west Iran. Another man, Mehdi Qasemzadeh, was executed after being convicted in the same case around 28 February 2009, giving rise to fears that Yunes Aghayan could be executed at any time.

Yunes Aghayan was arrested around November 2004, following at least two clashes in September 2004 between members of a group of Ahl-e Haq members and police. The group had refused to take down religious slogans at the entrance to their cattle farm in Uch Tepe, West Azerbaijan Province. During the clashes, five Ahl-e Haq members and at least three members of the security forces were killed.

Yunes Aghayan and four others were tried before Branch 2 of the Mahabad Revolutionary Court. In January 2005, Yunes Aghayan and Mehdi Qasemzadeh were sentenced to death for “enmity against God”, usually applied to those who take up arms against the state. Their sentences were upheld by the Supreme Court in April 2005 and Mehdi Qasemzadeh was executed around 28 February 2009. Three others - Sehend Ali Mohammadi, Bakhshali Mohammadi, and Ebadollah Qasemzadeh - were also sentenced to death, but their death sentences were overturned by the Supreme Court in September 2007. They are serving 13-year prison sentences in internal exile in Yazd Province, central Iran.

The Ahl-e Haq are members of a religion founded in the 14th century, who live mainly in Iraq and western Iran. Most members are Kurdish, with smaller numbers from other ethnic minorities including Azerbaijanis.

The Iranian constitution guarantees equality to minorities in Iran, who are believed to number about half of the population of about 70 millions of inhabitants. Article 3(14) provides for equality of all before the law. Furthermore, Article 18 (1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Iran is a state party, states: “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.”

Under Article 13 of Iran’s Constitution, three religious minorities - Zoroastrians, Jews and Christians - are entitled to practise their faith. However, adherents of unrecognized religions, such as Baha’is, the Ahl-e Haq, and Mandaeans (Sabeans), or those who convert from Islam to another religion, are not permitted the freedom to practise their beliefs and are particularly at risk of discrimination or other violations of their internationally recognized human rights.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in Persian, Arabic, English, French or your own language:
- urging the authorities to commute Yunes Aghayan’s death sentence;
- stating that Amnesty International recognizes the right and responsibility of governments to bring to justice those suspected of criminal offences, but opposes the death penalty as the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment;
- reminding the authorities that as a state party to the ICCPR, Iran has undertaken to uphold freedom of religion, including the right to manifest one’s religion in public.

Head of the Judiciary
Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi
c/o Director, Judiciary Public Relations and Information Office
Ardeshir Sadiq
Judiciary Public Relations and Information Office
No. 57, Pasteur St., corner of Khosh Zaban Avenue
Tehran, Iran
Email: (In the subject line write: FAO Ayatollah Shahroudi)
Salutation: Your Excellency

Leader of the Islamic Republic
Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei
The Office of the Supreme Leader
Islamic Republic Street – End of Shahid Keshvar Doust Street
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
via website: (English) (Persian)
Salutation: Your Excellency

His Excellency Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
The Presidency
Palestine Avenue, Azerbaijan Intersection
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Fax: + 98 21 6 649 5880
Email: via website:

Director, Human Rights Headquarters of Iran
Mohammad Javad Larijani
Howzeh Riyasat-e Qoveh Qazaiyeh / Office of the Head of the Judiciary
Pasteur St, Vali Asr Ave., south of Serah-e Jomhuri
Tehran 1316814737, Iran
Fax: +98 21 3390 4986 (please keep trying)
Email: (In the subject line write: FAO Javad Larijani)
Salutation: Dear Mr Larijani

and to diplomatic representatives of Iran accredited to your country.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat, or your section office, if sending appeals after 8 June.

Monday, 18 May 2009

CSW: Iran - Grave concerns over welfare of Christian women detained without charge

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is calling for the immediate release of two female Christian converts from Islam, who are being held without charge and who are reported to be in poor health.

Maryam Rostampour, 27, and Marzieh Amirizadeh, 30, are currently being held in Evin prison, where the Iranian-American journalist, Roxana Saberi is also being held. They share a cell with 27 other women.

The pair were arrested by Iranian security officers on 5 March after their apartment was searched and their bibles confiscated amongst other items. The women are known be practicing Christians.

Maryam and Marzieh were interrogated at the Police and Security Station 137 in Gysha before being taken to Vozara Detention Centre. They suffered sleep deprivation as part of their interrogration. On 18 March they were taken to branch two of the National Security Section of Iran’s Revolutionary Court, before being sent to Evin prison.

Neither have been charged with any crime defined under Iranian or international legislation, nor have they been permitted access to lawyers.

An initial bail request of $400,000 was retracted by the Iranian authorities after Maryam’s and Marzieh’s families appealed for their release.

CSW’s Advocacy Director Tina Lambert said: ”CSW is deeply concerned for the safety of all Iranians who leave Islam, as the number of arrests has increased significantly during 2008. These concerns are heightened by the fact that the Iranian parliament is currently debating a draft bill which could codify the death penalty for apostasy from Islam.

We are calling on the international community to urgently demand the release of Maryam and Marzieh. It is utterly deplorable that these women are being illegally detained for exercising their fundamental human right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Iran continues to remain an aggressive abuser of freedom of religion and belief while Iran’s President Ahmadinejad unashamedly condemns the international community’s approach to human rights.”

Washington Post: Man stoned to death in Iran for adultery: judiciary

TEHRAN (Reuters) - A man was stoned to death in Iran for adultery but the woman involved in the case repented, the judiciary said on Tuesday, suggesting her life was spared.

The Islamic Republic has been heavily criticized by the European Union, rights groups and the United Nations for stoning convicted criminals and there are official Iranian recommendations the practice should not occur.

Asked whether he could confirm that a man charged with adultery was stoned to death in the northern city of Rasht during the Iranian month that ended on March

20, judiciary spokesman Alireza Jamshidi told a news conference:

"What you said about stoning is correct. But the woman repented ... Among the instances in which the sentence is not performed is when there is a repentance by the individual involved."

Iranian media said the executed man was 30 years old.

According to Iran's Islamic penal code, men convicted of adultery should be buried up to their waists and women up to their chests for stoning. Stones used should not be large enough to kill the person immediately.

In January, Jamshidi said two men convicted of adultery were stoned to death the previous month in the city of Mashhad, but a third man escaped while the punishment was being carried out.

According to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, a non-governmental group based outside Iran, someone who was convicted on the basis of another's testimony and who escaped the stoning pit may have their life spared.

Iran's judiciary, which ordered a moratorium on stoning in 2002, last year said the lives of four people sentenced to stoning had been spared and the implementation of other sentences had been halted pending a review of their cases.

Iran has implemented sharia law since Iran's 1979 revolution.
Jamshidi also defended the handling of the case of Delara Darabi, 23, whose execution in a Rasht prison on Friday drew condemnations from the European Union and Western rights groups.
She was convicted of murdering her father's cousin when she was 17. The Etemad daily said she had initially confessed the crime because she believed she would be pardoned as the crime was committed when she was a minor.

Amnesty International said it was outraged at her execution and the fact that her lawyer was not informed about it.

But Jamshidi said: "We have not come across any mistake by the judges on her
He said the judiciary preferred that such sentences were reduced to imprisonment if the victim's family agreed, but made clear Iran would not bow to outside pressure: "We enforce our rules and regulations within the framework of Islamic standards."

Human rights groups have criticized Iran for sentencing juveniles to death. Iran says it only carries out the death penalty when a prisoner reaches the age of 18.
(Writing by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Richard Williams)

Saturday, 16 May 2009

amnesty Birmingham interview with IMHRO

Iranian Minorities’ Human Rights Organisation (IMHRO)

Listen to short interview here

Friday, 15 May 2009

IMHRO strongly condemning the arrest of Abdul Zahra Washahi

Iranian Minorities’ Human Rights Organisation (IMHRO)



The Iranian security services have just arrested Abdul Zahra Washahi, a retired 62 year old Ahwazi Arab from Bandar Mahshahr (south-west Iran), who is the father of Reza Washahi – currently working as a researcher with IMHRO.

After a number of threats over the phone, the Iranian government finally arrested Abdul Zahra Washahi on 14th of May 2009. A few months ago Abdul Zahra was told that unless his son stopped his human-rights activities, he would be arrested instead.

This case and similar cases clearly show the tyrannical nature of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

IMHRO condemns putting pressure on dissident human-rights activists through their families still in Iran. To use the families of human-rights activists as a ransom is clearly an inhumane policy and practice of the Iranian government.

This policy of silencing through intimidation has never worked in the past and is not going to work now. IMHRO requests the international community to act swiftly for the release of Abdul Zahra Washahi, who also suffers with a heart condition.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

IMHRO condemning anti Semitic remarks of Ahmadi Nejad in UN meeting

Iranian Minorities’ Human Rights Organisation (IMHRO)



IMHRO urges Iranian government to before lecturing the world, should improve it’s own record on human right, stop arresting human right activist, releasing people like Mohammad Sadiq Kabodwand who is in prison for establishing human right organisation, should stop suppressing Arabs minorities in Iran and giving back their wealth who do not have even healthy water to drink.

Many Turkish activists are in prison, and Turks with huge population still not allowed to study and communicate in their mother tongue.

Baluches who are under constant pressure and their cultural activist like Mehrnahad executed.

IMHRO researcher Reza Washahi said Sunnis who their mosque are Bulldozered and their leaders are hanged, Sufi dervishes who their holly worship sites demolished, Christian who converted from Islam being kidnapped and forced to repent, Jews who targeted by provocative media and anti Semitic campaign of government and Bahá’í leaders who arrested and charged with act against national security just because for being a Bahá’í.

Pregnant woman executed, prisoners executed while on huger strike. Political parties are banned, any gathering more than 2 people considered activity against the national emergency.

Women right activist who are sent to prison for just signing a petition for equal right, workers and labours who faced long term prison for organising simple strike, gay right activist who executed and student who are suppressed all showing what is going inside Iran today.

Stopping execution of juvenile and stoning political activists would make a very good start.

IMHRO urge Iranian government to stop anti Semitic remarks and campaign against the Jews and instead of lecturing the world regard of Human Rights should start to improve the Human rights inside Iran.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Guardian: The cost of religious conversion in Iran

In Iran, Christians like Maryam Rostampour and Marzieh Amirzadeh face detention without charge, just for practising their beliefs.

There's no shortage of press coverage on Iran. Its ambitious nuclear programme combines with a steady flow of delusional commentary from President Ahmadinejad to ensure it a permanent presence on the international media stage.

What we rarely get to hear about in detail is the damage the Iranian ruling elite
causes its own citizens on a daily basis.

Since the Islamic revolution, the 300,000-strong Baha'i community has faced consistent discrimination in Iran. They've been the victims of extrajudicial killings and unexplained disappearances. According to the community, 40 Baha'is are currently being detained in prison for no other "crime" than practicing their own beliefs. This number includes members of their national leadership. Baha'is are still banned from receiving higher education.

Although members of historical Christian minorities, such as Armenians, enjoy relative freedom in Iran, the story is different for those who have converted to Christianity from Islam.

Muslim converts to different faiths face intimidation, not only from their own families, but also from the Iranian authorities. They are regularly threatened, assaulted and detained without charges, or even executed. There are roughly 10,000 Christians from Muslim backgrounds in Iran and their experiences have not been very different to those of the Iranian Baha'i community.

Their stories and cries for help regularly get ignored by the international community, despite the fact that the freedom to change religion is clearly enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Maryam Rostampour, 27, and Marzieh Amirzadeh, 30, are currently being held in the notorious Evin prison. These women are both converts to Christianity from Islam, and have been imprisoned without charge since 5 March, when police officers searched their home.

Maryam and Marzieh suffered sleep deprivation as part of the police interrogation process and are now sharing a cell with 27 other women. The women are known to be practicing Christians.

CSW's research claims that there were more than 22 similar cases of apostates who were arrested and released during 2006. The story is usually the same. The victims are released following hefty bail payments, but are never given the opportunity to challenge their illegal detention. They are then left to patch up their lives and face the social stigma of being "apostates" in their communities.

Life in Iran may get even more challenging for "apostates" in the coming years.

Last October, the Iranian parliament voted in favour of a draft bill which would make the death

penalty compulsory for all male apostates, while female apostates must live out their years in prison. If this bill is passed it will jeopardise the future of all Baha'is and Christian converts in Iran. The bill was hardly mentioned in the international press.

In light of that, there was something deeply ironic about President Ahmadinejad standing at the UN's recent conference on racism, unashamedly lecturing the world on human rights. It is tragic to see the language of human rights manipulated in this way. Whatever President Ahmadinejad may say, hundreds of thousands of Iranians are having their voices silenced and their dignity
destroyed, even as I write.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

amnesty: Iran: Man faces death by stoning for adultery

Amnesty International warned today that a 30-year-old man is at imminent risk of being stoned to death in the city of Rasht, northern Iran after being convicted of "adultery while being married", according to Iranian news reports. At least eight women and two other men are also believed to be at risk of stoning to death in Iran.

Fears for Mohammad Ali Navid Khamami's life increased after the spokesman for Iran's Judiciary, Ali Reza Jamshidi, confirmed in a 5 May press conference that another man had been stoned to death in the Iranian month of Esfand (February- March 2009). Although Ali Reza Jamshidi also said that he was not aware of anyone else at risk of stoning in Rasht, he did not deny the possibility.

The report follows news of nine executions in Iran already this week and the international outcry over the 1 May execution of Delara Darabi, a young woman who was under 18 at the time of her alleged offence.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

'Iran seems to be set on a particularly bloody course this year, with more and more reports of death sentences and executions.

'Amnesty condemns all executions and calls for an end to the death penalty. But the practice of stoning, specifically designed to inflict a long and painful death, is particularly sickening.

'The Iranian authorities should listen to the voices of condemnation from all over the world and stop this horrific practice.'

Amnesty International also received reports that 30-year-old Vali Azad from Parsabad had been stoned to death in secret in Lakan Prison on 5 March after being convicted of "adultery while being married" by the General Court in Gilan Province. According to the report, a woman convicted in the same case had been pardoned. Following his execution, Vali Azad's body was reportedly buried in secret, despite requests by his family to have his body returned to them for burial.

Stoning in Iran is prescribed for the offence of "adultery while being married". In 2002, the Head of the Judiciary instructed judges to impose a moratorium on stonings. However, at least five men and one woman have been stoned to death since 2002. In January 2009, Ali Reza Jamshidi, while confirming two executions by stoning in December 2008, said that the directive on the moratorium had no legal weight and judges could therefore ignore it.

Amnesty supporters are calling on the Iranian authorities to commute the sentence of death by stoning faced by Mohammad Ali Navid Khamami and others, and for them not to face execution by any other means. Amnesty is urging the authorities to ensure that the moratorium on stonings is implemented immediately and effectively, making it clear that any officials who defy the instruction will be held accountable.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Reuters: Twenty killed in clash in western Iran-report

TEHRAN, April 25 (Reuters) - Gunmen killed 10 Iranian police in an attack in western Iran late on Friday, the ISNA news agency reported on Saturday.ISNA said 10 "armed bandits" were also killed in the clash in Kermanshah province, which borders Iraq and is home to many of the Islamic Republic's minority Kurds.

ISNA did not give detail on the identity of the attackers.Iranian forces often clash with guerrillas from the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The PKK took up arms in 1984 to fight for a Kurdish homeland in southeast Turkey. (Reporting by Zahra Hosseinian; writing by Fredrik Dahl; editing by )

ONTOP: Gay Website Owners Face Charges In Iran

Fifty owners of websites have been arrested and are facing criminal charges in Iran, reports AFP.

Officials say they have shut down 90 anti-Islamic and pornographic websites since March.
“The accused in these cases face several charges, and so we will call for the maximum punishment prescribed by the law,” Tehran's deputy prosecutor Reza Jafari said. Jafari said the operators deserve to face the death penalty, but would not comment on when they would go on trial.

Jafari said the websites were shut down because they contained pornographic material including “incest, sex with children and animals, homosexuality and erotic stories” as well as “insults to religious sanctities.”

In September 2007, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told students at Columbia University that there were no gay men or lesbians in Iran.

“In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country,” he said to boos from the audience. “In Iran we do not have this phenomenon, I don't know who has told you that we have it.”
Iran's Revolutionary Guards militia accused Google, the Internet search engine, of “offering financial support” to the owners of the unidentified websites.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Iranian man stoned to death after being found guilty of adultery - but repentant woman wins reprieve

A man found guilty of adultery has been stoned to death in an Iranian city, despite an official moratorium on the particularly cruel form of execution.

The woman involved in the case has 'repented and so has not been stoned,' said Ali Reza Jamshidi, a judiciary spokesman.

Some Iranian news websites identified the condemned man as Vali Azad, a 30-year-old government employee.

The stoning follows Friday's execution of Delara Darabi, 23, despite calls from the international community for a reprieve.

She was just 17 when she confessed to the killing of her father's cousin, before retracting her confession, saying she had been defending her 19-year-old boyfriend.

Now international aid agencies and human rights group have joined in a chorus of outrage and disapproval over Iran's 'illegal' execution, calling on the U.N. to hold an international tribunal to bring those responsible for justice'.

The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Iran has signed, bans capital punishment for offenders who committed crimes before their 18th birthday.

Miss Darabi has become a figurehead for human rights, and her case gained widespread attention after moving paintings and drawings that she made in her prison cell were shown around the world.

Iran executed eight 'juvenile offenders' last year, and 42 since 1990, according to Amnesty International.

While a few other countries are known to have executed juvenile offenders in recent years - Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sudan and Pakistan - Iran has accounted for more than two-thirds of such executions in the past four years, according to rights groups.

A person condemned to death by stoning is buried in a pit with his or her hands tied behind the back. If the condemned person manages to pull free, he or she usually faces whipping or imprisonment instead but their life is spared.

Men stoned to death are buried to the waist while women are buried deeper, to stop the stones from hitting their breasts. Such apparent regard for a woman’s modesty effectively means it is harder for a woman to wriggle free because she is buried more deeply than a man.

Stoning as a method of execution is 'specifically designed to increase the suffering of the victim,' Amnesty International said.

Article 104 of Iran’s penal code stipulates that the stones should 'not be large enough to kill the person by one or two strikes; nor should they be so small that they could not be defined as stones'.

Some stoning victims have taken 20 minutes to die.

Monday, 4 May 2009

RFE/RL: More Than 100 Iranian Activists Detained In Tehran

More than 100 Iranian labor activists and several members of the One Million Signatures Campaign against discriminatory laws were detained in Tehran on May 1 as they gathered in the city's Laleh Park to mark International Workers' Day.

Witnesses told RFE/RL that police violently attacked activists and workers who had gathered at the park and detained them even before they had started protesting.

Among the detainees is women’s rights activist Jelveh Javaheri, whose husband, Kaveh Mozafari, was also detained at Laleh Park.

Javaheri was detained at the couple's home. Security forces searched the house, confiscated personal files and computers, and took Javaheri with them.

According to Javaheri’s mother, authorities have set a high bail for her release. She said her daughter has not been able to make the payment.

The daughter of another activist, Maryam Mohseni, who was also detained at Laleh Park, said that her mother is being held at Tehran’s Evin prison. She said her mother has been fighting for May Day celebrations to be allowed in Iran for the past 20 years.

Charges against the detainees are not clear.

The families have called on authorities to release their loved ones without any conditions.