Pages

Monday, 30 November 2009

BBC: Iranian navy detains five Britons on yacht in Gulf








Five Britons have been detained by the Iranian navy while sailing a yacht from Bahrain to Dubai, the Foreign Office (FCO) has said.
The sailors were crewing a boat belonging to Sail Bahrain when they were stopped on 25 November.

In a statement, the FCO said it was possible the crew, who are still in Iran, may have "strayed inadvertently into Iranian waters".

The five are understood to be safe and well and their families have been told.
It is not known where the sailors are being held nor which club they had come from, but the FCO did confirm they were on their way to take part in a Dubai-Muscat race. They are believed to have been sailing a yacht called the Kingdom of Bahrain.

FCO officials have had contact with Iran's ministry of foreign affairs and the Iranian embassy in the UK, while Foreign Secretary David Miliband said he hoped the issue would be resolved "soon".

The BBC's diplomatic correspondent Bridget Kendall said the FCO had wanted to keep the matter "private" in order to increase the chance of a resolution.

But after five days the details emerged and they had no option but to confirm the story, she added.

It is thought the Eid holiday could have delayed proceedings in Iran, said the BBC's Tehran correspondent Jon Leyne.

He added that with Iran feeling beleaguered over Western concerns about both its recent elections and its nuclear programme, the incident "could hardly [have come at] a worst moment".

Mr Miliband added: "FCO officials immediately contacted the Iranian authorities in London and in Tehran on the evening of 25 November, both to seek clarification and to try and resolve the matter swiftly.

"Our ambassador in Tehran has raised the issue with the Iranian foreign ministry and we have discussed the matter with the Iranian embassy in London," he said.
Stand-off

Sail Bahrain was recently launched by yachting company Team Pindar.

The 360-nautical mile Dubai-Muscat Offshore Sailing Race began on 26 November and ended two days later in the Omani capital's Bandar Al-Rawdah marina.

In March 2007 there was a prolonged stand-off between the UK and Iran after a 15-strong Royal Navy crew was detained by Iran's Revolutionary Guard.

The Iranians accused the crew of straying into its waters, but the British said they were in Iraqi territory.

They were released nearly two weeks later.

In 2004, eight British servicemen were held in Iran after being seized in the Shatt al-Arab waterway, where they were training the Iraqi river patrol service.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

IMHRO: Comic Campaign

Iranian Minorities’ Human Rights Organisation (IMHRO)

Ref.CC4

26.11.2009


An Ahwazi Arab comes to a post office and complains: "These new stamps with Supreme Leader do not stick..." The clerk answers: "Brother, you probably spit on the wrong side."

In IMHRO we decided to produce and reproduce some of the finest jokes regard of situation in Iran, and revealing what is going on, we do believe those jokes will help to spread around awareness more than e-mails!! Plus give you a smile!!

Please share them with your colleagues and your friends and show solidarity regard of Human Right of minorities in Iran.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

BBC: UN condemns Iran's response to post-election unrest







A key UN committee has voted to approve a non-binding resolution condemning Iran for its crackdown on protesters following June's disputed elections.

The resolution also repeated annual criticism of Iran's human rights record, including the use of torture and an increasing execution rate.

It urged Tehran to end persecution of political opponents and release those imprisoned for their political views.

Iran's UN ambassador dismissed the resolution as politically motivated.
Mohammad Khazaee said such measures had "created an atmosphere of confrontation and polarisation" at the UN.

Friday's text was approved by 74 votes to 48 with 59 abstentions, which the US said was "the largest vote margin on such a resolution on Iran in the UN ever".

'Deep concern'

Deputy state department spokesman Robert Wood said it demonstrated the international community was "deeply concerned" about the human rights situation in Iran.

The resolution expresses "deep concern at serious ongoing and recurring human rights violations" in Iran.

But it said there was "particular concern" at the Iranian government's response to the 12 June elections and the "concurrent rise in human rights violations".
It comes as the major powers said they were disappointed with Iran's response to an offer of a deal over its nuclear programme.

President Mahmoud Ahmandinejad was declared the winner of June's election, resulting in large scale protests by supporters of opposition candidates who said the poll had been rigged.

The UN committee criticised the subsequent "harassment, intimidation and persecution, including by arbitrary arrest, detention or disappearance" of opponents of the government.
It also condemned alleged abuses of those in prison and "numerous deaths and injuries" in the crackdown.

The BBC's Barbara Plett in New York says some of those countries which did not vote for the resolution did have concerns about the state of political rights in Iran, but objected to the practice of singling out specific countries for condemnation.

Saudi Arabia broke ranks with Muslim nations and voted in favour of the resolution, possibly because it accuses Iran of backing Shia rebels in neighbouring Yemen, says our correspondent.

On Friday, following meetings in Brussels, the six world powers negotiating with Iran said they were disappointed by Tehran's failure to respond positively to a recent deal on its nuclear programme.

Iran has rejected the offer, which would allow it to continue to develop a nuclear reactor by exporting uranium to other countries to be enriched.

Friday, 20 November 2009

IMHRO: MEK and OIPFG both had a hand in suppression of Minorities in Iran

Iranian Minorities’ Human Rights Organisation (IMHRO)

IMHRO study in Politics and Human Right


IMHRO.Study.01

20.11.2009


Minorities in Iran are concern regard of MEK
[i] (People's Mujahedin of Iran)[ii], going out of the list of terrorism in West. It is true that MEK and OIPFG (Organization of Iranian People's Fedai Guerrillas)[iii] members persecuted in Iran and many executed, but it is also fact that they had a hand in suppression of minorities in Iran.

After the Revolution - 1979
Soon after revolution MEK and OIPFG majority branch sided by Islamic regime in Iran. MEK were the first to give a title of imam to Khomeini.

Soon Revolutionary guards and MEK clashes, this clash also killed many innocent people
[iv]. The problem was created largely because Khomeini did not allow the MEK to power-share in government.

The Iranian government’s response was also brutal. Many members of the MEK were executed. In 1988 alone, the Iranian government hanged thousands of MEK, OIPFG and other political party’s supporters and members
[v].

However, in recent years the Iranian intelligence service has changed their tactics. They started releasing the MEK members instead of sentencing them to death. They have even been known to send them to Europe
[vi]. This has resulted in heavy confrontation between immigrants from Iran who are MEK supporters and MEK in EU.

They have also allowed some old members of MEK to establish a magazine in Tehran, which is concerned with what happened in the early years of the revolution. Although it has even criticised the Tehran, it seems it is designed to attack the MEK legacy.

It should add that Iranian government still execute members of MEK. Putting pressure on Iraqi government to arrest, kidnap and extradite their members to Tehran

The National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI)
MEK have always tried to show that they are main face of the opposition to the Iranian government, and that they can benefit more from publicity, financial help and supporters, than other parties and organizations.

For this reason they started an organization called the NCRI (National Council of Resistance in Iran). In the beginning, many left-wing people joined this organization. However, they soon discovered that it is not a democratic organization and is under the control of the MEK.

Now, the NCRI works as an arm of the MEK.

Human Rights Abuse: Suppression in Iraq
During an uprising against Saddam Hussein, after the occupation of Kuwait and the first gulf war, the MEK operated as Hussein’s iron fist in some Kurdish areas and Arab areas in the south.

Human Rights Watch reported the widespread torture and human rights abuses in camps operated by MEK in Iraq[vii].

Anne Singleton’s
[viii] account of her experience is a valuable insight into the organisation and its tendencies. In recent interview she said “The MEK is a cult, with every implication that has,” she said. “The leadership is unelected, unaccountable and perpetrates abuses against its own members.[ix]

After 11 September

There are reports that suggest that the MEK celebrated after the 11 September attacks
[x]. They abandoned armed conflict mainly as they could not operate inside Iran any more.

The MEK’s View of Minorities in Iran
MEK have only accepted the right of self-determination for Kurds in Iran. This was basically a tactical decision they had to make, while they were in Iraq.

In general they view the minorities in Iran with the same chauvinism that the government does.

The Problem of Criticising the MEK
After the long propaganda campaign carried out by the MEK and the Iranian government against each other, criticising the MEK is very difficult.

MEK say that whoever criticises them are traitors and working for the Iranian government. Also, the Iranian government considers any move by a country which facilitates the work of the MEK as evidence of some sort of deal between the West and the MEK.

Both sides have poisoned the air so much, that it takes lots of courage to say anything about the issue of the MEK. It is true that the Iranian government will do anything to stop MEK. It is true that they released some of their members and sent them to Europe. However, it is also true that the MEK is a dangerous organisation. It became a cult over the years.

OIPFG and Minorities

OIPFG especially majority branch (OIPFM)
[xi] which sided by Islamic regime in early days of revolution, helped Iranian security service to persecute local leaders belong to ethnic minorities.

Arab, Kurds, Turks and Baluch minorities suppressed as a result of corporation of OIPFM with Islamic government.

Minorities View about MEK and OIPFG
[xii]
Minorities in Iran do not recognised MEK and OIPFG as their defender and MEK and OIPFG are not representing them in any way.

When they last their armed war in early 80s against the Islamic regime in capital, they just brought their war to minorities’ area and in fact brought central government for more suppression of minorities.

Minorities are suffered from the violence done by MEK and OIPFG. For minorities in Iran, there are not many differences between MEK, OIPFG and Iranian security service.

sources:

[i] Also known as PMOI or MKO.

[ii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People's_Mujahedin_of_Iran

[iii]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organization_of_Iranian_People's_Fedai_Guerrillas
[iv] http://www.cfr.org/publication/9158/

[v] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/1321090/Khomeini-fatwa-%27led-to-killing-of-30%2C000-in-Iran%27.html

[vi] Said Hajarian, Iranian intelligence officer in interview with Cheshm Andaz (Iran Perspective) Iran Magazine.

[vii] http://hrw.org/backgrounder/mena/iran0505/4.htm
[viii] http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/womanshour/2005_40_thu_01.shtml

[ix] http://www.thenational.ae/article/20090203/FOREIGN/119570883/1002

[x] http://www.jamestown.org/programs/gta/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=26189&tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=178&no_cache=1

[xi] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organization_of_Iranian_People%27s_Fedaian_(Majority)

[xii] We should add Hekmatist party or movement to this list as well.

Reuters: Iran police say ready to carry out hand amputations







TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian police are ready to enforce Islamic punishment law, such as amputating hands, because a failure to carry out these punishments had led an increase of crimes, the Ebtekar newspaper reported Monday.

Under
Iran's Islamic law, repeat offenders face amputation of their fingers for theft, but sentences are seldom carried out, especially in public.

In recent years, such sharia sentences have rarely been reported.
"Not carrying the Islamic punishment law, particularly its most important part that is hand amputation, spreads insecurity in Iran," said Asghar Jafari, head of Iran's criminal police, Ebtekar reported. "Police are ready to carry out hand amputation of convicted criminals."

The United Nations and rights activists have in the past criticized Iran for such amputations. Iran dismisses the criticism, saying the sentences are part of sharia.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi, Editing by Matthew Jones)

Thursday, 19 November 2009

RFERL: Iranian Court Refuses To Release Azerbaijani Scientist








TEHRAN -- A Tehran court has refused to grant bail to an Azerbaijani scientist being held on still-unclear charges, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

Azerbaijani physicist Rashid Aliyev, who had worked for the Iranian Sazan Electronics Industry Company (SEIC), was arrested on October 5 upon arriving in Tehran from Azerbaijan.Soltangamid Melikov, the chairman of the Committee to Protect Aliyev, told RFE/RL that SEIC President Abbas Iftihari had offered $100,000 in bail to the Iranian court to secure Aliyev's release, but that the court rejected the offer on November 13.

Melikov said no explanation was given by the court. Aliyev is in Tehran's Evin prison and has been allowed to speak to his family once a week. Aliyev, a top physicist at Baku State University, worked for the SEIC from 2006 to 2008.

He was invited to Iran by the SEIC last month when he was arrested. Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman Elkhan Polukhov said it has sent an official note to the Iranian Foreign Ministry asking for an explanation of Aliyev's arrest but has received no response. The Iranian Embassy in Baku has refused to comment.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Gaurdian: Iran moves to silence opposition with internet crime unit




Iran has moved to block the last remaining outlet of expression for the country's political opposition with the launch of a special force to police the internet.
A 12-member team reporting to the chief prosecutor will scour websites with a view to pressing charges against those judged to be "spreading lies" and "insults" against the Islamic system. Members will include police and personnel from other, unspecified, parts of Iran's security apparatus.
The move is seen as partly targeting Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, the two defeated reformist candidates in June's disputed presidential election, as well as political activists.

Colonel Mehrdad Omidi, the head of the web crime unit, said cyber-crimes would be treated as seriously as armed robbery. He pledged to intervene in "political matters on the internet, should there be an illegal act".

"Given the spread of internet use, police must confront crimes taking place in the web atmosphere," the Iranian media reported him as saying. "A special committee has been set up to monitor the internet and deal with crimes ... such as fraud ... insults and the spreading of lies."

While vowing to tackle internet crimes in general, the unit's political nature is indicated by the emphasis on "insults and lies" – a term often used to describe opposition statements since the election.

Mousavi and Karroubi have used newly established websites to continue their criticism of the violent crackdown that followed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's victory, which they say was obtained through fraud. The Mousavi-linked Kalemeh and the Karroubi-affiliated Tagheer have continued voicing their views even after newspapers supporting them were closed. Pro-regime hardliners have repeatedly demanded the arrest of the pair for statements published online in their names.
They have also begun posting filmed interviews online to overcome a lack of access to state-controlled television.

In a statement posted on yesterday Mousavi called for the release of all political prisoners. "We want guarantees for healthy elections. We want freedom of the press and speech. ... Islam is the religion of logic, not the religion of breaking pens and mass closures of newspapers," he said.

Access to the internet is already restricted in Iran. An estimated 10m websites deemed socially or politically offensive have been blocked – prompting the Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders to list Iran as one of the world's 13 worst internet "black holes".
A registration system has also been introduced for bloggers, many of whom have been arrested and jailed. Three years ago, the government banned high-speed broadband internet for home users in an attempt to prevent the downloading of western films and pornography.

But the new crime unit represents a significant escalation of a clampdown on cyberspace that has intensified since the mass streets protests that greeted Ahmadinejad's re-election.

In the days after the June poll, internet speeds were reduced to a crawl while Facebook and Yahoo Messenger – used by many activists to communicate – were blocked. At the same time, it was disclosed that Iran had purchased equipment jointly produced by the German electronics firm Siemens and Nokia, the Finnish mobile phone manufacturer, to closely monitor internet and email communications.
The revelations prompted a consumer boycott of the companies by pro-opposition demonstrators.

VOA: Iranian Police Set Up 'Internet Crime' Unit









By Edward Yeranian


A top Iranian police official says that a new police unit has been set up to combat what he calls "Internet crime". Analysts, however, are interpreting the move as another step by the government to crack down on the opposition, which uses the Internet heavily to communicate and spread its message. Iran's top police chief, Brigadier General Esmail Ahmadi-Moqaddam says that his organization is setting up a "cyber police division" to combat what he terms "Internet crime.

"Fars News Agency reported that Ahmadi-Moqaddam complained that "Internet crime" was on the rise and that the Iranian police must "increase its capabilities to counter such violations."Iranian law mixes activities such as theft, fraud and forgery, with more subtle and often political activities lumped together under the categories "defamation and mischief."

The latter two categories have analysts worried.Police Colonel Mehrdad Omidi, who runs the Internet crime division, stated in the Iranian press, Saturday, that what he calls "insults and spreading of lies," would be fought vigorously.He also noted that a 12-member commission would now be involved in policing "political matters on the internet." He said , given the spread of Internet use, police must confront crimes taking police in the Web atmosphere.Most Iranian opposition Web sites, including those of top leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Ayatollah Mehdi Karrubi are considered illegal and are now blocked inside Iran.

Reza Moini of Paris-based NGO Reporters Without Borders says that Iran's Revolutionary Guards are increasingly taking over internet surveillance from other government agencies:He says that there are several points to stress: notably that when the Iranian parliament ratified the Internet law there were several institutions put in charge of surveillance, but now, with the opposition movement continuing unabated, the regime is concerned that the Internet is playing a key role in informing people and spreading information.

This, he says, is where the police are becoming involved, and he says, by police, what is meant is the "Guardians of the Revolution," who are increasingly trying to seize the lead. The Intelligence Ministry has clamped down on both the Internet and on mobile phone communications during opposition demonstrations to disrupt communications.

Opposition activists complain that internet speeds were brought to dismally slow levels and that they were forced to use proxies to prevent their IP addresses from being detected.Still, many popular opposition sites, like Mir Hossein Mousavi's Facebook Web page, get thousands of visitors daily and put out up-to-the-minute bulletins of opposition activities.One well-known young opposition activist, Mohammed Reza Jalaiepour, who was later arrested by the government, placed this emotional confession about why he joined the opposition on Mousavi's Facebook Web site.

Reza Moini says that there are a handful of Internet activists and website creators who have been arrested by the government and are now languishing in prison.Police Colonel Omidi insists that Iranian government authorities will intervene in political matters on the Internet if there has been an illegal act.

Iranian intellectuals and opposition activists remain in contact with each other and with the outside world by posting comments and information about their activities on Web sites both inside and outside Iran. Many complain that they live in fear of being detected by the government and arrested.

AFP: Iranian woman awarded Dutch rights prize







THE HAGUE — Iranian lawyer and journalist Shadi Sadr was awarded a Dutch human rights prize Monday, worth up to 110,000 euros, for her fight against stoning as punishment, the Dutch foreign ministry said.

She received the Human Rights Tulip from Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen at a ceremony in The Hague.

"Shadi Sadr receives the Human Rights Tulip for her extraordinary courage, determination and work in a climate of... repeated human rights violations," said a ministry statement.

Sadr is a co-founder of the advocacy group Stop Stoning Forever, it said, which seeks to protect women against this form of punishment for having extra-marital sex.

She has been repeatedly threatened and arrested for her work as a critical journalist and womens' rights-focused family lawyer, added the ministry.
The award comes with a 10,000 euro (15,000 dollars) cash reward, on top of which the Dutch state would sponsor a project of her choice to the tune of another 100,000 euros.
Receiving her prize, Sard urged western governments to put pressure on Iran.
"It is necessary that the issue of human rights in Iran remains on the table of negotiations alongside the issue of nuclear energy," she said in a prepared speech.

Also, "all those who have ordered the widespread and systematic violation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran should be prosecuted and tried.

"Western governments, including the Dutch government as the host of the International Criminal Court, can ask the UN Security Council to pursue the issue of crimes against humanity through setting up an international court for Iran," she said.

HRW: Iran: Revoke Death Sentences for Juvenile Offenders












Three Men Await Execution for Alleged Homosexual Conduct When Children

November 4, 2009

Iran should immediately halt the planned executions of three men under charges of male homosexual conduct allegedly committed when they were children, Human Rights Watch said today.

Mehdi P., from Tabriz; Moshen G., from Shiraz; and Nemat Safavi, from Ardebil, were accused in separate cases of committing homosexual acts when they were under age 18. No date has been set for their execution yet, but the lawyer representing two of the men fears that it could happen any day.

"Killing people for what they did as children is wrong and repellent, and killing them for alleged homosexual conduct is just as wrong and repellent," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "The Iranian government has flouted its most basic human rights obligations in allowing these cruel death sentences."

Mehdi P. and Moshen G. denied the charges, and no witnesses testified against them. Safavi was arrested at the age of 16 in 2006, and tried by a court in Ardebil, where he is being held.

The courts sentenced all three to death despite the requirement in Iran's shari'a-based criminal code that sexual offenses require a confession repeated four times or the testimony of four male witnesses. However, the code allows judges to use their "knowledge" in determining guilt where no such evidence is available, a dangerously elastic provision. Judges relied on such discretionary "knowledge" to sentence Mehdi P. and Moshen G. No information is available on the source of evidence for the third judgment.

Iran leads the world in executing juvenile offenders - at least seven in 2008, and at least three so far in 2009. The execution of another juvenile offender, Safar Angooti, who was charged with murder, was scheduled for October 21 but postponed at the last minute for a month. In February, the United Nations General Assembly called on Iran to abolish the execution of persons who were under age 18 at the time of their offense.

The juvenile death penalty is prohibited in international law, and the prohibition is absolute. Both the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) specifically prohibit capital punishment of persons under 18 at the time of the offense. These provisions reflect the reality that children are different from adults, and lack the experience, judgment, maturity, and restraint of an adult. Iran ratified the ICCPR in 1975 and the CRC in 1994.

Lavat - consummated sexual activity between males, whether penetrative or not - is punishable by execution in Iranian law. Article 111 of the Code of Islamic Punishments or Penal Code states that "Lavat is punishable by death so long as both the active and passive partners are mature, of sound mind, and have acted of free will." Tafkhiz - the rubbing together of thighs or buttocks or other forms of non-penetrative "foreplay" between men - is punishable by one hundred lashes for each partner, according to Articles 121-122 of the Penal Code. Recidivism is punishable by death on the fourth conviction.

In addition, Article 123 of the Penal Code further provides that "If two men who are not related by blood lie naked under the same cover without any necessity," each one will receive 99 lashes. Articles 127 to 134 stipulate that the punishment for sexual intercourse between women is 100 lashes and if the offense is repeated three times, the punishment is execution.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that nations that have not abolished the death penalty must only impose it for the "most serious crimes." The Human Rights Committee, which authoritatively interprets the covenant, has said that should mean the death penalty should be a "quite exceptional measure." In its 1994 landmark decision in the case of Toonen v.

Australia, the Human Rights Committee held that laws criminalizing homosexual conduct violate the rights to privacy and protection from discrimination.
In 2008, the Deputy Attorney General of Iran announced that Iranian judicial
authorities would ban the juvenile death penalty for non-murder-related offenses, effective immediately, pending parliamentary approval.

Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment in all circumstances because of its cruel and inhumane nature. Human rights principles and protections are founded upon respect for the inherent dignity of all human beings and the inviolability of the human person. These principles cannot be reconciled with the death penalty, a form of punishment that is unique in its cruelty and finality. The intrinsic fallibility of all criminal justice systems assures that even when full due process of law is respected, innocent persons may be executed.

"These three death sentences violate promises the Iranian government has repeatedly made, to the international community and to its own people, to stop executing people for crimes they committed as children," Whitson said.


AP: Iran sentences 5 to death in postelection turmoil






By NASSER KARIMI (AP)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran has sentenced five defendants to death in a mass trial of opposition figures accused of fomenting the unrest that followed the disputed June presidential election, state television reported Tuesday.

The five apparently include three death sentences announced last month. None of the five have been identified by Iranian authorities.

Iran began the mass trial in August of more than 100 prominent opposition figures and activists, accusing them of a range of charges from rioting to spying and plotting what Iran's clerical rulers have depicted as a foreign-backed plot to oust them from power.

In the weeks following the June 12 election, the opposition led massive street protests that drew hundreds of thousands and supporters clashed with security forces. They claimed fraud after election authorities declared President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the winner of a second term and their anger unleashed the most serious internal unrest in Iran in the 30 years since the Islamic Revolution.

A harsh crackdown ended the demonstrations and a security sweep went far beyond rounding up just protesters on the streets, snatching up rights activists and journalists, as well as pro-reform politicians. Rights groups and opposition figures in Iran have criticized the court proceedings, calling them a "show trial" and saying confessions are coerced.

The opposition says 69 people were killed in the crackdown, while the government has confirmed about 30 dead.

A Justice Department statement said the five sentenced to death were members of "terrorist and armed opposition groups," state television reported.

The statement said courts have sentenced a total of 89 defendants since the process began and 81 of them got prison terms ranging from six months up to 15 years. Three others were acquitted. "So far, 89 of defendants were tried and based on their cases, death sentences were issued for five of them," the statement said.

It said the 81 sentenced to prison terms were charged with a range of offenses from security violations, agitating against the Islamic Republic, violating law and order, damaging public and private property, and assaulting civilians and security forces.

Despite the crackdown, the government has stopped short of indicting the most visible opposition leaders, presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi, but there have been signs in recent weeks that could change. The opposition says Mousavi is the rightful winner of the election.

Three defendants were sentenced to death last month. Two were convicted of membership in a monarchist group seeking to topple the Islamic Republic and restore a monarchy. The third was convicted of ties to a terrorist group for his alleged links to the People's Mujahedeen, an armed opposition group.
Amnesty International identified one of them as Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani, 37.

It said he was convicted of charges including leaving the country illegally to meet with U.S. military officials in Iraq. Amnesty said it was concerned the ruling against Zamani could open the way for more death sentences for those accused of similar crimes, and the rights group appealed to the authorities to rescind the ruling.

Zamani testified in August that he met with a U.S. intelligence agent called "Frank" in Irbil, the capital of Iraq's self-governing Kurdish region, and received money and a phone from him in return for information on the Iranian government and student movements, according to state media reports at the time.

Also last month, Iran ignored appeals by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and rock star Sting and sentenced an Iranian-American academic Kian Tajbakhsh to 12 years in prison for his alleged role in the anti-government protests. He was the only American detained in the crackdown.

At the same time, Iran allowed another defendant to leave the country — Canadian-Iranian Maziar Bahari, a Newsweek journalist arrested in the same crackdown.

Another defendant is a young French academic, Clotilde Reiss, charged with spying. The 24-year-old was questioned before a judge Tuesday but then allowed to return to the French Embassy, rather than prison, a French official said.
In August, Reiss was handed over to the embassy after paying bail but was barred from leaving Iran. A week ago, Iran refused to provide assurances that she would not be returned to Evin prison, where she spent a month-and-a-half following her arrest. France's foreign minister wanted the Iranians to guarantee she would be released after the hearing to the French Embassy.
Last week, Tehran's top prosecutor said the brother-in-law of Iran's top opposition leader Mousavi will be put on trial, months after his arrest over the unrest.

In a separate case, Iran is also holding three Americans — Joshua Fattal, Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd, who were detained in July after straying across the border from Iraq. Their families and the U.S. government says they are innocent hikers who accidentally crossed the border.

Iran recently accused them of spying, signaling Tehran intends to put them on
trial.

(This version CORRECTS Corrects in graf 2 that 5 sentenced to death appear to include three announced last month; ADDS quotes, background, byline, details.)

Times: Suspicions over 'heart attack' death of Iranian doctor who knew too much





Martin Fletcher

Ramin Pourandarjani was a brilliant medical student with a promising future, until he was found dead in a dormitory at Tehran police headquarters last week. He is now the new cause célèbre of the Iranian Opposition, with MPs and Western organisations demanding an investigation into the death of a man who knew too much.

The official cause of death for the physician is heart attack but there is evidence that regime officials drove him to suicide or murdered him because he witnessed the brutality used against opposition detainees after the disputed election in June.

Dr Pourandarjani, 26, attended a school for gifted children, graduated with distinction from the University of Tabriz and was doing his two-year national service at the Kahrizak detention centre in Tehran during the June protests.

Many detainees were beaten and at least three died of their injuries, including Mohsen Ruholamini, the son of a senior conservative politician. His death provoked such an outcry, even among the regime’s sympathisers, that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, was forced to close Kahrizak on the pretext that its facilities were sub-standard.

The Supreme Council for National Security set up a special committee to investigate. Its report has not been published but what is purportedly a leaked page has been posted on the internet.

It says that “rape, mental and physical torture, malnourishment and inhuman treatment of the detainees have been confirmed” and it demands that those responsible be punished. The authenticity of the document cannot be confirmed.
Dr Pourandarjani examined many of the detainees, including Mr Ruholamini.


Opposition websites claim that Dr Pourandarjani was detained for a week after Kahrizak was closed and forced to state that Mr Ruholamini had died of meningitis. He was released on bail and ordered to say nothing about what he had seen in the centre. He was threatened with imprisonment and the removal of his medical licence.

One reputable website, Mowjcamp, said that Dr Pourandarjani later told MPs on the special committee that he had examined Mr Ruholamini two days before he died. He said: “He was brought to me after being physically and severely tortured. He was in a grave physical condition and I had limited medical supplies, but I did my best to save him. It was then that I was threatened by the authorities of Kahrizak that if I disclose the cause of death and injuries of the detainees, I will cease to live.”

Dr Pourandarjani told friends that he feared for his safety and the authorities’ subsequent conduct has only fuelled their suspicions.

The official line is that Dr Pourandarjani died in his sleep of a heart attack on November 10 but his family has not been given a coroner’s report and his father, Reza Gholi Pourandarjani, says his non-smoking, clean- living son had no health problems.

The authorities washed and shrouded Dr Pourandarjani’s body while his family were absent and sent it to Tabriz, his home city, under strict surveillance. The funeral took place amid tight security and some of Dr Pourandarjani’s closest friends were barred from attending.

Masoud Pezeshkian, a former Minister of Health, heart surgeon and opposition member of the parliamentary health committee, said it was improbable that Dr Pourandarjani had died of a heart attack.

He said: “We will investigate this suspicious death until the precise cause of death is determined.” The reformist website Norooz stated: “There is no way the doctor could have committed suicide given his high spirits, strong religious faith and emotional links to his family and society as well as the talks he had the night before the incident.” His friends concurred.

Tom Porteous, the London director of Human Rights Watch, told The Times: “The circumstances of Pourandarjani’s reported death raise serious concerns. At the very least there’s a need for a full, independent and transparent inquiry.”

Four months after Kahrizak was closed the special committee’s report remains unpublished and no one has been prosecuted. Mowjcamp said that it was being supressed by the men it blamed for the abuses — Saeed Mortazavi, a former prosecutor-general, and General Ahmad-Reza Radan, the police chief.

Reuters: Iran arrests Sunni cleric in restive province







TEHRAN (Reuters) - Shi'ite Muslim Iran has arrested a Sunni cleric in the city of Zahedan, scene of two deadly attacks this year blamed on a militant Sunni group, a website said on Saturday.

Moulavi Abdolghani, provisional Friday prayer leader in Zahedan, the capital of impoverished southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan province, was placed under arrest on Thursday, the reformist Norooznews website said.

"Following a summons to the Special Clerical Court in the city of Mashhad, (Abdolghani) was arrested and sent to prison on Thursday," the report said. It did not say what the charges against him were.

There was no immediate word on the arrest in official media.

Militant group Jundollah (God's Soldiers), which accuses the government of discrimination against Sunnis, said it was behind an attack on October 18 that killed more than 40 Iranians, including 15 members of the elite Revolutionary Guards.


Iranian media said the group claimed responsibility for the May bombing of a mosque in Sistan-Baluchestan that killed 25 people.

One member of the group was hanged earlier this month, though it was not clear if he was accused of a role in the October attack, which was the deadliest such incident in Iran since the 1980s.

Many minority Sunnis live in the desert area, which has seen an increase in bombings and clashes between security forces, ethnic Baluch Sunni insurgents and drug traffickers.

Iran, a predominantly Shi'ite Muslim country with Sunni minorities, has accused Pakistan, Britain and the United States of backing the Sunni rebel group. London, Washington and Islamabad all denied involvement in the attack last month.

Iran rejects allegations by Western rights groups that it discriminates against ethnic and religious minorities.

by Hashem Kalantari; writing by
Andrew Hammond; Editing by Charles Dick)

BBC: Iran 'executes Kurdish activist'







A Kurdish opposition activist convicted of carrying weapons and working against national security has been executed in western Iran, local media have said.

Kordestan province judiciary chief Ali Akbar Gharoussi told the semi-official Fars news agency that Ehsan Fatahian had been hanged in Sanandaj prison.
Human rights groups said Mr Fatahian no evidence was given at his trial proving he had engaged in armed operations.

Officials said he had admitted to being a member of the Marxist group Komalah.

They accused Komalah of waging a low-level insurgency for decades in Iran's northern Kurdish regions, which border Iraq.

The International Campaign for Human Rights for Iran had earlier appealed to the Iranian government to halt the execution of Mr Fatahian, who was originally sentenced to 10 years in jail for conspiring against national security by being a member of Komalah.

Subsequently, the charge of "mohareb", or enmity against God, had been added to his indictment, and his sentence changed to execution, the rights group said in a statement.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Guardian: Iran 'executes Kurdish activist'




Ehsan Fattahian, charged with being an 'enemy of God', had admitted membership of a banned opposition group

Ian Black, Middle East editor

Iran has reportedly executed a Kurdish political activist charged with being an "enemy of God", ignoring pleas from international human rights groups for his
death sentence to be revoked.
Ehsan Fattahian, 27, was hanged today in the western city of Sanandaj, according to Ali Akbar Gharoussi, head of the judiciary in Kurdistan province.
Mowjcamp, an opposition website, cited lawyer Mohammad Mostafai as saying there was no evidence that Fattahian had engaged in violence, as charged. Fattahian admitted membership of the banned Kurdish opposition group Komeleh and said he was tortured for three months. His initial 10-year jail sentence was changed to death by a higher court.

Ezzatollah Fattahian, the defendant's father, told Human Rights Watch that prison officials had prevented the family from visiting his son in prison for the past three months.
Iranian opposition activists have warned that the death sentence was part of an effort by the government to crush unrest following last June's disputed elections, in which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed victory.
Amnesty International had warned before news of Fattahian's hanging that two other Iranian Kurdish men were also feared to be at imminent risk of execution, while at least 10 other men and one woman were believed to be on death row in connection with membership of and activities in support of proscribed Kurdish organizations.
Sanandaj is the capital of Iran's Kurdistan province and in an area which has seen frequent clashes between Kurdish guerrillas and Iranian security forces.
Like neighbouring Iraq and Turkey, Iran has a large Kurdish minority. Iran rejects western accusations of discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities and has often accused the US, Britain and Israel of supporting terrorist attacks by Baluchi and Arab separatists.

Last month, an explosion in the southern province of Sistan-Baluchestan killed at least 41 people, including senior commanders of the Revolutionary Guards. The Baluchi group Jundullah took responsibility for the bombing.

"The Iranian regime is trying to intimidate ethnic minorities from joining the Green Wave," Komeleh leader Abdullah Mohtadi told al-Arabiyya TV, referring to the movement led by Mir Hossein Mousavi, who claims to have beaten Ahmadinejad in the elections. "One of the methods to deter people is stricter sentencing in ethnic provinces such as Kurdistan, Baluchestan and Ahwaz."
Amnesty lists Iran as the world's second most prolific executioner in 2008 after China, and says it put to death at least 346 people last year.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Amnesty: kurdish man faces execution on 11 november











URGENT ACTION

Ehsan (Esma’il) Fattahian, a male member of Iran’s Kurdish minority, is scheduled to be executed in the province of Kordestan, northwestern Iran, on 11 November. Two other Iranian Kurdish men are also feared to be at imminent risk of execution, possibly in reprisal for a spate of assassinations and attempted assassinations of officials which took place in September.

Ehsan (Esma’il) Fattahian’s lawyer has been summoned to attend his execution
on 11 November at the prison in the city of Sanandaj, the provincial capital of Kordestan. Ehsan Fattahian was detained some time between April and August 2008. Reports suggest that he may have been tortured in detention. Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court in Sanandaj sentenced him to 10 years' imprisonment to be served in exile, after a trial in which he was denied access to a lawyer. Both Ehsan Fattahian and the prosecutor appealed against this verdict, and in January 2009 Branch 4 of the Kordestan Appeal Court overturned the initial verdict.
Instead he was sentenced to death for “enmity against God” in connection with his membership of an illegal armed opposition group - believed to be the the Kurdistan Independent Life Party (PJAK. This new sentence is believed to have been upheld by the Supreme Court.

Two other men, Habibollah Latifi, arrested in October 2007, and Sherko Moarefi, detained in October 2008, remain on death row in Sanandaj prison. Fears were raised that all three were at imminent risk of execution after a judge in Sanandaj received orders in October to carry out the executions of these Kurdish prisoners.
The Iranian authorities have a history of executing political prisoners when the authorities believe that crimes have been committed by people from the same group.

PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in Persian, Arabic, English, French or your own language:

n Calling on the authorities to halt the execution of Ehsan (Esma’il) Fattahian on 11 November;
n Urging them to commute his death sentence along with those of Habibollah Latifi and Sherko Moarefi;
n Expressing concern that Ehsan Fatahian was reportedly tortured and was sentenced to death after an appeal after an unfair trial;
n Urging the authorities to impose an immediate and comprehensive moratorium on executions, as a first step towards ending the use of this punishment.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 11 NOVEMBER 2009 TO:
Head of the Judiciary
Ayatollah Sadeqh Larijani, Office of the Head of the Judiciary, Pasteur St., Vali Asr Ave. south of Serah-e Jomhouri, Tehran 1316814737, Islamic Republic of Iran
Email: Via website: http://www.dadiran.ir/tabid/75/Default.aspx 1st starred box: your given name; 2sd starred box: your family name; 3rd: your email address
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
Email: via website: http://www.leader.ir/langs/en/index.php?p=letter (English)
http://www.leader.ir/langs/fa/index.php?p=letter (Persian)
Salutation: Your Excellency

And copies to:
Governor of Kordestan Province
Esmail Najjar
Email: In Persian and Kurdish, send via feedback form on the website: http://www.ostan-kd.ir/Default.aspx?tabId=150&cv=4@0_1 In English, French or other languages, use the feedback form on the website: http://en.ostan-kd.ir/Default.aspx?TabID=59
Salutation: Dear Governor

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives of Iran accredited to your country. Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date. This is the first update of UA 271/09 (MDE 13/102/2009). Further information: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE13/102/2009/en
URGENT ACTION
kurdish man faces execution on 11 november

ADditional Information
Kurds, who are one of Iran’s many minority groups, live mainly in the west and north-west of the country, in the province of Kordestan and neighbouring provinces bordering Kurdish areas of Turkey and Iraq. They experience religious, economic and cultural discrimination. For many years, Kurdish organizations such as the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) and the Marxist group Komala, conducted armed opposition against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Another armed group, the Kurdistan Independent Life Party (PJAK), formed in 2004, continues to carry out armed attacks against Iranian security forces.

No group has claimed responsibility for the spate of assassinations and attempted assassinations in Kordestan, which targeted mainly religious figures and judges between 9 and 19 September 2009. Those killed included the head of Sanandaj city council, a Sunni cleric who had supported President Ahmadinejad’s re-election campaign, and the Kordestan representative to the Assembly of Experts (the body which appoints the Supreme Leader). Two judges were also injured in the attacks. The authorities have variously blamed PJAK, and “hard-line Sunni fundamentalists” linked to foreign intelligence services. According to various Iranian media sources on 28 September 2009, several of those believed to have been responsible for the attacks were arrested at the scene of another attack in which two others were killed.

Amnesty International condemns without reservation attacks on civilians, which includes judges, clerics, and locally or nationally-elected officials, as attacking civilians violates fundamental principles of international humanitarian law. These principles prohibit absolutely attacks on civilians as well as indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks. Such attacks cannot be justified under any circumstances.

The scope of capital crimes in Iran is broad, and includes “enmity against God”, often imposed for armed opposition to the state, but can include other national security offences such as espionage.

At least ten other Kurdish men and one woman are believed to be on death row in connection with their membership of and activities for proscribed Kurdish organizations. They include Farzad Kamangar, Farhad Vakili, Ali Haydarian, Farhad Chalesh (Turkish national), Rostam Arkia, Ramazan Ahmad (Syrian national), Fasih (Fateh) Yasmini, Hossein Khezri, Anvar Rostami, Shaker Baghi and Zeynab Jalalian. For further information on some of the Kurds on death row for political offences, including those named in this UA, please see http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE13/012/2009/en.
In May 2009, three members of Iran’s Baluch minority were executed in public in Zahedan less than 48 hours after an attack on worshippers in a mosque in which up to 25 people were killed. Responsibility for the attack was claimed by the People’s Resistance Movement of Iran (formerly known as Jondollah). The three men had already been sentenced to death, but their executions were linked to the mosque attack. Officials claimed that following renewed interrogations after the bombing, they had “confessed” to involvement into bringing the explosives into the country.

In 1988, thousands of political prisoners, mostly members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) or leftist organizations, were executed in what has become commonly known as the “prison massacres”. The executions took place following the ceasefire agreement between Iran and Iraq and an armed incursion a few days later by PMOI members based in Iraq which was repulsed by the Iranian army. Most of those executed were already detained or imprisoned at the time of the incursion and could not have been involved in spying or terrorist activities as the government claimed. No one has ever been brought to account for these mass killings.

Further information UA: 271/09 Index: MDE 13/119/2009 Issue Date: 09 November 2009

Monday, 9 November 2009

IMHRO: 64 Ahwazi Arab Workers had arrested in Ahwaz

Iranian Minorities’ Human Rights Organisation (IMHRO)

Ref.IMHRO.70

09.11.2009


Arab Workers of Pipe factory in Ahwaz arrested after they set up peaceful process in one of main streets in Ahwaz called Naderi. They protested after many months they did not get any pay and benefits, but factory continued in same time to pay non Arab workers on time.

Witness told IMHRO minutes after protest started anti riot police started to surround attack and arrest them. Some of them severely injured during arrest.

A local Islamic clergy preacher like always accused protesters of being tools of Zionists and west.

At least 64 Arab men arrested, their where abut still not clear. Sources in factory told IMHRO many others who were present at the protest sacked and told by factory manager they could not come back to work from next week. Some workers told IMHRO this order came from Iranian security service directly.

One of the workers called Abdul Nabi, 42 years old, told IMHRO about his life “I have 7 children; this is 2 years that they did not pay me any money, but they pay the non Arab workers on time, 2 of my children are sick and we live on mercy of people, when I complain they tell me you Arabs don’t have any rights. They also threaten me to arrest all of my family if I talk about it. Few years ago I complained to the court about discrimination against the Arab workers once and they sentenced me to 2 years in prison about it. In the sentence they said you waged a war against God, they disqualified my lawyer from practising law who was an Arab too.”

IMHRO is very concern regard of treatment of Arab workers in Ahwaz. We demand their immediate release. This discrimination by Persian workers and managers which authorised through Islamic government of Iran, is inhuman and unjust, this should stop immediately.

Back Ground

Iranian government systematically suppressing Ahwazi Arabs, they are banned from education and speak in their mother tongue.

In recent month many protested in regard of long delay in paying salaries to Arab workers in Ahwaz and demanding equality at work place.

Ahwazi Arabs are banned from working in oil and Gas industry, only they can get job in low level factories. Still in those factories treated with discrimination, long delays in payment and some times after years working they don’t get any payment. They often get the hardest part of Job.

If they protest they mark as tools in hand of foreigners and charged with connection with illegal political parties.

There are no worker unions who could defend workers right and any attempt for gathering is suppressed harshly by government. After arrest they would add them to black list and then they never find any other jobs. Some end up in long term prison. Government also add their family members to black list to be banned from university and higher education.

MNN: Iran continues its religious crackdown












Iran (MNN) ― Christians in Iran are facing even more persecution. International Christian Concern has learned that the Iranian government forced the Central Assemblies of God Church in Tehran to shut down its Friday worship services. The incident took place October 30. Some fear this episode in the beginning of a new campaign of government suppression of public Christian worship gatherings.
According to reports by Farsi Christian News Network, Rev. Sourik, the bishop of the Assemblies of God churches in Iran, resolved to close the church on Fridays, the weekly Islamic day of prayer, after encountering acute pressure from the security network within the Ministry of Information.

Initially, Sourik resisted the government sanction. However, the Revolutionary Guard demanded that the church close Friday public services by October 31, and threatened to shut down all services and close the church permanently. Sourik ultimately submitted to the government's ruling out of concern for the congregation. "The announcement of the termination of the Friday services was received with shock and utter surprise, and resulted in many openly weeping in the church service," reported FCNN. The church leadership affirmed that its Sunday services will remain open.

The Assembly of God Church in Tehran is among the largest church buildings designated for public worship in Iran, a country where the majority of Christians observe their faith in underground house churches. Registered "above ground" churches in Iran have been allowed relative independence to worship freely while being closely monitored by the government. However, ICC sources fear that the closure of Friday services--a heightened trend of government coercion upon "above ground" churches--may commence.

The targeting of registered churches discloses a regression in Iran's policy of toleration toward Christians who choose to worship publicly. "I believe the main reason they closed those service is to send a strong signal to all Christians inside and outside Iran that they will not tolerate Christianity in Iran. Its purpose is mostly to intimidate," said one ICC source.

Historically, it has been the underground church, not the open public churches, that have faced the brunt of government-imposed oppression.

Iran issued no official statement explaining the reasons for its recent crackdown.

Aiden Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, says, "We oppose Iran's resolution to prevent the Christians of the Assembly of God Church in Tehran from fellowshiping freely on Fridays, or any other day of the week. We urge Iran to respect the rights of Christians to practice their faith freely without government interference, or authoritarian rule."

Clay adds, "History has shown us that external persecution actually causes the church to grow."

Clay says that the services have had "great success in bringing in new believers,
converting Muslims to Christ, and I think Iran views that as a threat."

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Queerty: Will Iran Cancel the Death Sentences of 3 'Homosexual Conduct' Criminals?





Iran's Mehdi P., from Tabriz; Moshen G., from Shiraz; and Nemat Safavi, from Ardebil, are all awaiting execution for allegedly having gay sex — when they were under 18. Guilty of "lavat" (i.e. sexual conduct between two men, regardless of penetration), the three boys do not yet have dates set for their state-sponsored murders, but one attorney fears it could happen any day, according to Human Rights Watch.
Lavat is "punishable by death so long as both the active and passive partners are mature, of sound mind, and have acted of free will" — something that not only conflicts with the boys' age at the time of the alleged "offenses," but also a gross violation of international law, which forbids, under any circumstance, the executive of juvenile offenders. Meanwhile: "In 2008, the Deputy Attorney General of Iran announced that Iranian judicial authorities would ban the juvenile death penalty for non-murder-related offenses, effective immediately, pending parliamentary approval."

VOA: Iran - Human Rights Remain A Concern









In testimony before Congress, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg said the possibility of Iran's developing a nuclear weapon endangers international security in multiple ways: "The danger that it [a nuclear weapon] would be either deliberately or inadvertently transferred to a terrorist or non-state actor is a very serious concern; that it would be used to threaten its neighbors would be a concern; that it would be used as a cover for it to engage in more aggressive behavior in the region.

We can think of so many reasons why this is such a grave danger that that's why we put such a high priority on preventing them getting it."But Iran's nuclear ambition is not the only concern the U.S. has about the Iranian government, said Mr. Steinberg; another is how the government treats its own people:
Iranian police sit on motorcycles as they face protesters during a demonstration in Tehran."The Iran[ian] government's terrible repression of peaceful protesters, opposition politicians and journalists following the election revealed to the world much about the character of that government and has increased its isolation."

Deputy Secretary Steinberg said that Tehran's crackdown on dissent after June's presidential election is part of Iran's broader record of human rights abuses, which has grown significantly worse throughout the past year. The U.S. State Department's annual report on human rights in Iran documents the Iranian government's restrictions of fundamental freedoms, said Mr. Steinberg, and it cites multiple instances of the government's use of torture and other forms of inhumane treatment to quell dissent.

Quoting President Barack Obama, Mr. Steinberg said, "The Iranian people have a universal right to assembly and free speech. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect those rights, and heed the will of its own people. It must govern through consent, and not coercion.

Reuters: ANALYSIS-Iran attack exposes sectarian divide, Baluch risks








LONDON, Oct 20 (Reuters) - A suicide bombing in Iran near the border with Pakistan has exposed a deep sectarian faultline in a region already destabilised by the spillover from the Afghan war, drug smuggling and nationalist insurgencies.Analysts say the ethnic Baluch insurgent group Jundollah which Iran blamed for Sunday's attack is increasingly inspired by Sunni Islamist militants based in Pakistan.

And that poses risks both to Shi'ite Iran as well as highlighting the challenges faced by Islamabad in battling Islamist groups which are now threatening Pakistan itself."An ethnic conflict has turned sectarian," said a study by the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment published in July."Extremist groups such as Jundollah are seemingly copying the practices and discourse of Pakistani movements," it said.

Fifteen Iranian Revolutionary Guards and 27 others died in Sunday's suicide bombing in one of the deadliest attacks in years on Iran's most powerful military institution.The bombing happened a week after gunmen attacked the Pakistan Army's own headquarters -- an assault which highlighted the strength of Sunni Islamist militants even as the military battles them in their stronghold in South Waziristan.Jundollah, which analysts say operates across the porous borders between Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and not to be confused with a Pakistani group of the same name, denies any links to regional militant groups.

But its use of suicide bombings and Shi'ite targets -- the bombing of a Shi'ite mosque in Zahedan in Sistan-Baluchestan in May was also blamed on Jundollah -- have underpinned views it follows a sectarian rather than nationalist agenda.Its leader Abdolmalek Rigi has been quoted as saying he wants equal rights for Sunnis and ethnic Baluchis in Iran, but makes no territorial claims.In that respect, Jundollah is quite different from Baluch rebels on the Pakistan side of the border fighting for independence or autonomy for Baluchistan.

"The Jundollah seems to be more a Sunni extremist than a Baluch nationalist organisation," wrote Indian strategic analyst B. Raman in a note on the latest attack in Iran.Analysts have linked it to the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), an anti-Shi'ite Punjab-based group, which works closely with the Pakistani Taliban, or Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP).

Both in turn are believed to have close ties to al Qaeda.Iran has accused the United States, Britain and Pakistan of involvement in Sunday's attack, charges they deny.

TOXIC MIX OF PROXY WARS

The Sunni-Shi'ite faultline in the region, though dating back for centuries, has been dug deep in the last 30 years.After Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979, Pakistan's then dictator Muhammad Zia ul-Haq promoted anti-Shi'ite militant groups and hardline Sunni madrasas to contain Iranian influence.

In doing so, Pakistan won funding from Sunni Saudi Arabia, which has long battled Iran for influence in Central Asia and across the Middle East.The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan at the end of 1979 brought with it U.S. support for mujahideen fighting there, creating a toxic mix of proxy wars and regional rivalries which produced today's Sunni Islamist militant movement.

Islamic madrasas, or religious schools, sprang up along the borders of Pakistan, including in Baluchistan, many of them preaching hardline Sunni Islam in a defensive wall against the spread of Shi'ite influence from Iran.Jundollah is believed to have been heavily influenced by the sectarian agenda of these madrasas.

"The modus operandi of the latter (Jundollah) borrows much from the terrorism of the Taliban and Al Qaeda," Pakistan's Daily Times wrote in an editorial."For instance, the use of suicide-bombing carries the signature of madrasa-based indoctrination even though the Sunni Baloch of Pakistan are strictly secular..." it said.Jundollah, according to the Norwegian paper, follows Deobandi Islam, a traditionalist school of thought which first emerged in British India in the 19th century.The Afghan Taliban, created out of the same madrasa system, are also Deobandis, as are most of the Pakistan-based militant groups -- with the exception of Lashkar-e-Taiba, which follows an ideology more akin to al Qaeda's Salafist views.

BALUCHISTAN CROSS-CURRENTST
he sectarian faultline is not the only issue in the region.Pakistan has long accused India of funding Baluch rebels on its side of the border to offset Pakistani support for militants fighting in Indian Kashmir -- a charge New Delhi denies.The Afghan Taliban, according to Washington, are also based in the Baluchistan capital Quetta, home to tens of thousands of Afghan refugees who first fled after the Soviet invasion.And there are fears more fighters might flee to the region as they are driven out by the offensive in South Waziristan.

But the Sunni-Shi'ite divide, nurtured now into a fresh generation of madrasa-educated boys, may prove the most explosive, souring normally good relations between Iran and Pakistan and leaving both facing determined Sunni militant groups for whom suicide bombing is an essential part of jihad. (Editing by Jon Hemming)