Saturday, 25 December 2010

Los Angeles Times: IRAN: A daily balancing act as energy subsidies are removed

Ordinary Iranians just trying to make ends meet had to contend with sharply increased costs for fuel and other goods this week.

Authorities removed decades-old subsidies as part of an attempt to reduce the government's budget in the face of hard-hitting sanctions over Iran's nuclear program.

The removal of the subsidies has increased prices for a range of goods -- diesel as well as bread -- and is expected to jack up shipping costs for virtually everything else.

Authorities describe the plan as an attempt to remove subsidies that benefit Iranians of all economic classes and redirect money toward those who really need help.

The plan may work eventually, but for now it has created economic uncertainty among the middle and working classes.
-- Los Angeles Times

Photo: A woman in the southeastern Iranian city of Ahvaz balances a fuel cylinder full of natural gas on her head. Credit: Mohammad-reza Dehdari / Fars News Agency

Guardian: Iran poised to execute student accused of being Kurd terrorist

Habibollah Latifi's family say he is not member of separatist group but is being punished for his political activism

A 29-year-old Iranian student activist is facing execution tomorrow unless an international campaign launched by human rights groups can persuade authorities to quash his conviction.

Habibollah Latifi, a politically active student of civil engineering at Azad University, in the south-western province of Ilam , is scheduled to be executed in Sanandaj prison tomorrow, following what his lawyer has described as an unfair trial.

His family is pleading with the international community to urge Iran to stop his execution.

"We do not have any other hope than reaching out to the international community," Latifi's sister Elahe told the Guardian. "Please help my innocent brother not to be executed while people of the world are celebrating Christmas."

Latifi, a member of the Kurd minority in Iran, was arrested on 23 October 2007 in Sanandaj, the capital of Kurdistan province, and was taken to prison where he has been kept for the past three years and two months.

Iran says he was a member of Kurdish Independent Life party (PJAK), an armed opposition group and has convicted him of Muharebeh (enmity against God) but his family denies his connection with PJAK and claims the charges were fabricated .

"This is nonsense, they're just angry with his political activities as a student and have charged him with the false claim that he was a member of PJAK, that's absolutely a lie, it's just an excuse for them to execute him," his sister said.

According to Amnesty International, his trial was held behind closed doors and his lawyer was not allowed to be present to defend him. His death sentence was upheld by the appeal court in Sanandaj on 18 February 2009.

Human rights advocate Peter Tatchell, who has campaigned in defence of Iran's ethnic minorities, said: "Iran has a long history of persecuting its Kurdish ethnic minority population, including framing peaceful, lawful Kurdish rights activists on false charges.

He added: "Habibollah Latifi was sentenced to death after an unfair trial in a closed court, where he had no legal representation – clearly in violation of articles 10 and 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

"The Iranian authorities should, at the very least, revoke the execution order and schedule a new trial where Latifi can have legal representation, call witnesses and submit forensic evidence in his defence."

Amnesty's Middle East and north Africa director, Malcolm Smart, said: "We are urgently appealing to the Iranian authorities to show clemency, halt the imminent execution of Habibollah Latifi, and commute his death sentence. "

He added: "It is clear that Habibollah Latifi did not receive a fair trial by international standards, which makes the news of his impending execution all the more abhorrent."

ai: Iran executions by stoning

executions by stoning
© AP
“We have to work to eradicate stoning
wherever it happens in the world: it is a
brutal and inhuman act… through which
the authorities are attempting to control
society [and stop] people enjoying their
right to a private life.”
Shadi Sadr, Iranian lawyer, anti-stoning campaigner
and women’s rights activist
Ja’far Kiani was buried up to his waist and
stoned to death on 5 July 2007 in Iran’s
north-western province of Qazin. He had
been convicted a decade earlier of “adultery
while married” with Mokarrameh Ebrahimi,
with whom he had two children and who
was also sentenced to death by stoning. Her
life was later spared.
Stoning is mandatory under the Iranian
Penal Code for “adultery while married” for
both men and women – conduct that the
vast majority of states do not criminalize, let
alone punish with death.
Stoning is a particularly repugnant and
cruel form of execution. Iranian law
specifies that the stones must be large
enough to cause injury and eventually
death, but not so large as to kill the victim
immediately. This form of execution is
therefore deliberately designed to prolong
the suffering of victims.
The most common method of execution in
Iran is hanging, and hundreds of men and
women are put to death this way every year.
Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979,
Amnesty International has documented at
least 77 stonings, but believes the true
figure may well be higher, particularly as
it was not able to record figures for all the
years between 1979 and 1984.
Those sentenced are frequently poor or
otherwise marginalized members of society.
Most of those sentenced to death by
stoning are women for the simple reason
that they are disadvantaged in the criminal
justice system, and face wide-ranging
discrimination in law, particularly in regard
to marriage and divorce. However, in recent
years more men are known to have been
stoned to death than women.
In 2002, the then Head of the Judiciary
declared a moratorium on stoning. However,
Iranian law gives judges wide discretionary
powers when deciding on sentencing, and
since 2002 at least five men and one woman
have been stoned to death. Additionally, at
least two men and one woman sentenced
to stoning have been hanged instead. In
January 2009, the Spokesperson for the
Judiciary stated that the directive to judges
on the moratorium had no legal weight and
that judges could ignore it.
In June 2009, the Legal and Judicial
Affairs Committee of Iran’s parliament
recommended the removal of a clause
permitting stoning from a new draft revision
of the Penal Code. This remains under
discussion in parliament.
A draft submitted for comment to the
Council of Guardians, which checks
legislation for conformity to the Constitution
and Islamic law, is reported to omit any
reference to the penalty of stoning.
However, either the parliament or the
Council of Guardians could reinstate the
clause on stoning. In addition, even if
the penalty is removed from law, stoning
sentences could still be imposed by judges
under legal provisions that require them to
judge cases by their knowledge of Islamic
law where no codified law exists.
Amnesty International opposes the death
penalty in all cases as a violation of the right
ExEcutIonS by StonIng
amnesty international December 2010 Index: mdE 13/095/2010
Death by stoning is the manDatory sentence for “aDultery
while marrieD” in iran. EvEn though a moratorIum on Such
ExEcutIonS waS announcEd In 2002, StonIngS contInuE.
amnESty IntErnatIonal IS workIng alongSIdE thE many IranIanS
who arE campaIgnIng to End Iran’S rESort to thIS partIcularly
abhorrEnt mEthod of ExEcutIon.
to life and the ultimate form of cruel,
inhuman and degrading punishment. A
cornerstone of its campaigning is that laws
and judicial proceedings should conform to
internationally recognized human rights
standards and that governments must abide
by their international human rights
Iran is a state party to the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
(ICCPR). The government is therefore
legally bound to observe the provisions of
this treaty and to ensure that they are fully
reflected in the country’s laws and
practices. Death by stoning violates Articles
6 (right to life) and 7 (prohibition of torture
and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
or punishment) of the Covenant.
The Special Rapporteur on torture, the
Human Rights Committee, the Committee
against Torture and the Commission on
Human Rights have all said that stoning –
a form of corporal punishment – is contrary
to the prohibition of torture and other cruel,
inhuman or degrading treatment or
punishment and should not be used as a
method of execution.
In addition, international human rights
standards require that death sentences
must only be imposed after trials which
fully meet international fair trial standards.
These include the right to adequate legal
assistance at all stages of the proceedings,
the right not to be forced to testify against
oneself or to confess guilt, and the right to
appeal to a higher judicial body, as laid out
in Articles 6(2) and 14 of the ICCPR.
Amnesty International has long expressed
concern over the fairness of trials in Iran,
including the routine use of torture or other
ill-treatment to extract “confessions” and
denial of access to lawyers during pre-trial
interrogation, as well as provisions that allow
the judge in some instances to use his
subjective “knowledge” of the case as the
sole basis of conviction.
Index: mdE 13/095/2010 amnesty international December 2010
ExEcutIonS by StonIng
‘The size of the stone used in
stoning shall not be so big as
to kill the person by one or two
throws, nor so small that it
cannot be called a stone.’
article 104 of Iran’s Islamic penal code
dIScrImInatIon agaInSt womEn
‘Stoning is a method of capital punishment primarily used for crimes of
adultery and other related offences, of which women are disproportionately
found guilty, which is inconsistent with the prohibition of discrimination on
the basis of sex enshrined in all major human rights instruments.’
manfred nowak, un Special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, 15
January 2008
the punishment of death by stoning in Iran has a disproportionate impact on women. one
reason is that women are not treated equally before the law and courts, in clear violation of
articles 2, 3, 14 and 26 of the Iccpr. In court, in relation to some offences including adultery, a
man’s testimony is worth that of two women, and testimony by women alone is not accepted.
In a country where the literacy rate of women is lower than that of men, women are more
susceptible to unfair trials as they are more likely to sign false “confessions” that they have
not understood. they are generally poorer than men as their job opportunities are restricted,
which means they are less able to obtain good legal advice. women from ethnic minorities are
less likely than men in their communities to speak persian, the language of courts, so they
often do not understand what is happening to them in the legal process or even that they face
death by stoning.
discrimination against women in other aspects of their lives also leaves them more susceptible
to conviction for adultery. men are allowed four permanent wives and an unlimited number of
temporary wives, but women are only permitted one husband at a time. they also have a limited
right to divorce, unlike men who have the right to divorce at will. many women have no choice
over the man they marry and many are married at a young age.
women face strict and discriminatory controls on their behaviour, such as an officially enforced dress
code that requires them to be veiled, and limitations on their freedom of movement, which are
imposed and/or policed by the state. despite such controls and some gender segregation, when
women come into conflict with the law they are usually arrested, interrogated and judged by men who
are unlikely to be sensitive to gendered aspects of the case or who may be prejudiced against women.
finally, even the stoning procedure specified in law discriminates against women – men must
be buried in a pit up to near the waist; women up to near the chest. this has added
significance as the law also states that if a condemned person escapes from the pit, they
cannot be stoned again if their conviction was based on a confession.
conDemneD to stoning
At least 10 women and four men are
believed to be at risk of death by stoning,
although several cases are still under review
and alternative sentences may be imposed.
At least one other woman, Maryam
Ghorbanzadeh, originally sentenced to
stoning (see picture below), is facing
execution by hanging for “adultery while
The case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani
has generated widespread international
attention. She was convicted in 2006 after
an unfair trial for “adultery while married”.
She was also separately convicted of
murder, later reduced to complicity in
murder for which she was sentenced to five
years’ imprisonment.
A 43-year-old mother of two from Iran’s
Azerbaijani minority, she speaks Azerbaijani
Turkic and has limited knowledge of
Persian, the language used by the courts.
She did not know that the Arabic loan word
rajm used when she was sentenced meant
stoning, and fainted with shock when fellow
inmates explained.
She was found guilty by three of the five
judges who heard her case. Although she
told the court that her “confession” had
been forced out of her and was not true, the
three judges convicted her on the basis of
“the knowledge of the judge”, a provision
in Iranian law that allows judges to decide
on subjective grounds whether or not a
defendant is guilty even if there is no clear
or conclusive evidence. In May 2007 the
Supreme Court confirmed the stoning
sentence. Later still, the Amnesty and
Clemency Commission twice rejected her
requests for clemency.
Since her case became the focus of
widespread international campaigning, the
Iranian authorities have made several
unclear and sometimes contradictory
statements relating to her legal status and
likely fate. The authorities appear to be
attempting to deflect criticism by portraying
her as a dangerous criminal who deserves
to be executed. She remains on death row
in Tabriz’ Central Prison and has been
denied visits by her children and lawyer
since August 2010.
Another woman from Iran’s Azerbaijani
minority, 19-year-old Azar Bagheri, was
sentenced to stoning. Married at 14, she
was no more than 15 when arrested. An
appeal court subsequently changed the
sentence to flogging, but her lawyer remains
concerned that stoning may be re-instated
by the Supreme Court, which is currently
reviewing the case.
Iran Eskandari, a woman from the Bakhtiari
tribe in the south-western province of
Khuzestan, was sentenced to stoning for
adultery and five years in prison for being
an accomplice in the murder of her
husband, verdicts upheld by the Supreme
Court in April 2006. According to reports,
she was talking to the son of a neighbour in
her courtyard when her husband attacked
her with a knife. She was left bleeding and
unconscious on the floor. While she was
unconscious, the young man allegedly killed
her husband. When police interrogated her,
she reportedly admitted to adultery with her
neighbour’s son, a “confession” she later
retracted. In June 2007 the Discernment
Branch of the Supreme Court overturned
the stoning sentence and sent her case
back for retrial before a criminal court in
Khuzestan. That court reimposed the
stoning sentence. Her case has been with
the Amnesty and Clemency Commission
since February 2009. Iran Eskandari
remains in Sepidar Prison in Ahvaz city.
Also in Khuzestan, Khayrieh Valania was
sentenced to death for being an accomplice
to murder and to execution by stoning for
adultery. According to reports, her husband
was violent towards her and she was having
an affair with a relative of her husband, who
then murdered her husband. Khayrieh
Valania confessed to adultery but denied any
involvement in the murder. Reports indicate
that the verdict has been upheld and the
case sent to the Head of the Judiciary for
permission to carry out the execution.
amnesty international December 2010 Index: mdE 13/095/2010
ExEcutIonS by StonIng
Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, who has lived
with the fear that she may be stoned to death
for more than four years.
© Private amnesty International opposes the
criminalization of consensual sexual
relations between adults and considers
those imprisoned for such acts to be
prisoners of conscience who should be
released immediately and unconditionally.
under international human rights law, nonviolent
acts such as sexual relations
between consenting adults should not be
punishable by death.
Ashraf Kalhori (or Kalhor), aged about 40
and a mother of four, was sentenced to
death by stoning for adultery and to 15
years’ imprisonment for taking part in the
murder of her husband in April 2002. Her
previous request to divorce him had been
rejected by a judge. She says that the killing
was accidental, but police accused her of
having an affair with a neighbour and
encouraging the attack. She was reported
to have “confessed” to adultery under
police interrogation, but later retracted her
statement. She was scheduled to be stoned
before the end of July 2006, but her
execution was stayed temporarily. On 23
February 2009, it was reported that the
Amnesty and Clemency Commission had
rejected her plea and that her sentence
could now be implemented at any time,
although on 2 June 2009, the
Spokesperson for the Judiciary said that
the Amnesty and Clemency Commission
had not yet reached a decision in her case.
Kobra Babaei and her husband Rahim
Mohammadi, who have a 12-year-old
daughter, were sentenced to stoning for
“adultery while married” in April 2008 by a
court in Eastern Azerbaijan Province. The
court also convicted Rahim Mohammadi
of “sodomy” for which the penalty is
execution, “the method to be specified by
the judge”. In April 2009, the Supreme
Court confirmed all the sentences.
According to their lawyer, the couple had
turned to prostitution after a prolonged
period of unemployment. In July 2009, the
Spokesperson for the Judiciary denied that
the couple’s sentences were final, but
Rahim Mohammadi was nevertheless
hanged on 5 October 2009. His lawyer, who
had not been informed of the execution
beforehand, as is required by law, said
afterwards that there was no evidence of
“sodomy” and that he believed this charge
was brought to allow the authorities to hang
Rahim Mohammadi, rather than stone him
to death.
Other women reported to have been
sentenced to stoning in Mashhad but about
whom little else is known are “M. Kh”
(convicted in 2008 and whose case is
believed to be connected to Houshang
Khodadadeh who was stoned to death in
Mashhad in December 2008), and a
woman known only by her family name of
“Hashemi-Nasab”. Their fate remains
A 21-year-old woman and a man, Abbas
Hassani, 34 and a father of two, were both
sentenced to stoning in Mashhad by Branch
5 of the Khorassan-e Razavi General Court
in late 2009. Their sentences were upheld
on appeal, and confirmed by the Supreme
Court on 14 June 2010. They were accused
of “adultery while married” after the
woman’s husband made a complaint after
he found mobile phone pictures in his wife’s
possession. Abbas Hassani is reported to
be at imminent risk of execution as his
sentence has been sent to the Office for
the Implementation of Sentences.
Index: mdE 13/095/2010 amnesty international December 2010
ExEcutIonS by StonIng
© Private
© Private
Sajjad Qaderzadeh (top), the son of Sakineh
Mohammadi Ashtiani, and (below) Javid
Houtan Kiyan, a lawyer in several cases
involving sentences of death by stoning, have
both been harassed by the authorities.
“Since I am a rural, illiterate
woman and I didn’t know
the law, I thought that if I
confessed to a relationship
with the dead man, I could
clear my brothers and husband
of intentional murder.”
Shamameh (malek) ghorbani, who was sentenced to death
by stoning for adultery, in a letter to the court
amnesty international December 2010 Index: mdE 13/095/2010
ExEcutIonS by StonIng
© N. Azimi
Above: Maryam Ghorbanzadeh, aged 25,
was tried in East Azerbaijan province in
September 2009 for “adultery while married”.
In August 2010, at the height of the
international protests about the stoning
sentence against Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani,
Branch 12 of the provincial General Court
sentenced her to stoning but in the same
verdict changed the sentence to death by
hanging based on “the general policy of the
Judiciary and directives to change [stoning]
rulings… to execution by other methods”.
Her lawyer, Javid Houtan Kiyan, submitted a
request for a judicial review, but meanwhile it
is feared that Maryam Ghorbanzadeh could be
executed at any moment.
Left: An Amnesty International protest in
Brussels, Belgium, September 2010, on behalf
of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, who faces
death by stoning in Iran.
© Private
Another woman and man – Sarieh Ebadi
and Vali or Bu-Ali Janfeshan – had stoning
sentences against them upheld in August
2010, according to reports. It appears that
at no stage of the legal process were they
allowed lawyers of their choice. They are
said to have been held in Oroumieh
Central Prison, West Azerbaijan province,
since 2008.
Among the men sentenced to stoning is
Mohammad Ali Navid Khomami.
According to a 7 April 2009 report in the
Iranian newspaper Ham Mihan, he was
convicted of “adultery while married” in the
city of Rasht, Gilan province in northern
Iran. No further details are available. Fears
for his life increased after the Spokesperson
for the Judiciary confirmed on 5 May 2009
that another man had recently been stoned
to death in Rasht. This was believed to be
30-year-old Vali Azad from Parsabad,
executed in secret in Lakan Prison on
5 March 2009.
According to an August 2009 report in the
Iranian newspaper Sarmayeh, Naghi
Ahmadi was sentenced to stoning in Sari,
Mazandaran, also northern Iran, in June
2008. His lawyer said that he and a woman
were sentenced after they confessed to
“adultery while married” after Naghi
Ahmadi had gone to the woman’s house
one night when her husband was away.
The woman was apparently not sentenced
to stoning. The reason for this may relate to
Article 86 of the Penal Code, which states
that if “adultery” occurs when a spouse is
away due to “travel, imprisonment or other
extraneous circumstances” the person will
not be stoned to death.
Requests by Amnesty International to the
Iranian authorities for further details about
these and other cases have not received
campaign against stoning
The campaign against stoning has been
spearheaded from inside Iran by extremely
brave activists. The campaign began on
1 October 2006, when a group of Iranian
human rights defenders, lawyers and
journalists, led by lawyer Shadi Sadr and
journalists Mahboubeh Abbasgholidzadeh
and Asieh Amini, along with other activists
outside Iran, such as Soheila Vahdati, all
horrified at the resumption of stoning in
May that year, launched the Stop Stoning
Forever campaign to abolish stoning in law
and practice. Their courageous efforts have
been supported by international human
rights organizations, including Amnesty
International, and many individuals around
the world.
Since then, at least 13 women and two men
have been saved from stoning. The include
Hajieh Esmailvand, Soghra Mola’i, Fatemeh
A., Shamameh (Malek) Ghorbani,
Mokarrameh Ebrahimi, sisters Zohreh and
Azar Kabiri-niat, a woman known only as
“Hajar”, Kobra Najjar, Leyla Ghomi, Zahra
Rezaei, Gilan Mohammadi and Gholamali
Eskandari who were sentenced in the same
case, and a couple, Parisa A. and her
husband Najaf. Others have been granted
stays of execution, and some cases are
being reviewed or retried.
In the case of Shamameh (Malek) Ghorbani,
an Iranian Kurd condemned to stoning for
adultery in June 2006, her sentence was
overturned after retrial and she was instead
Index: mdE 13/095/2010 amnesty international December 2010
ExEcutIonS by StonIng
© Jorn van Eck / Amnesty © Iran Emrooz International
Top to bottom: Shadi Sadr, a lawyer and
journalist; Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh,
a filmmaker; and Asieh Amini, a journalist.
All three have played a prominent role in the
End Stoning Campaign and as a result of
their human rights activities have been forced
to flee Iran because of threats or persecution
and now live in exile.
amnesty international is a global movement of 2.8 million supporters,
members and activists in more than 150 countries and territories who
campaign to end grave abuses of human rights.
our vision is for every person to enjoy all the rights enshrined in the
universal declaration of human rights and other international human
rights standards.
we are independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest
or religion and are funded mainly by our membership and public donations.
sentenced to 100 lashes. Her brothers and
husband had allegedly murdered a man they
found in her house, and nearly killed her by
stabbing. The Supreme Court rejected the
stoning sentence in November 2006 and
ordered a retrial, citing incomplete
investigations. Shamameh Ghorbani had
apparently confessed to adultery, believing
that this would protect her brothers and
husband from prosecution for murder.
Success in preventing stonings has come
for a variety of reasons, including local and
international campaigning and the actions
of lawyers. For example, lawyers have told
Amnesty International that using Islamic
arguments to challenge the legitimacy of
convictions resulting from the “knowledge
of the judge” have been effective in some
cases, as well as obtaining fatwas (religious
rulings) from senior Muslim clerics that
stoning sentences should not be passed.
However, the campaign has faced
repression in Iran and its supporters have
been intimidated and harassed. Some,
including Asieh Amini, Mahboubeh
Abbasgholizadeh and Shadi Sadr, have
been forced to leave the country for their
own safety and now live in exile.
Many lawyers who have represented people
in stoning cases have reported being
threatened and harassed to discourage them
from publicizing the cases. Mohammad
Mostafaei, one of the lawyers linked to the
case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, had
to flee Iran for his safety in July 2010 after
his wife and another relative were detained to
put pressure on him to present himself to the
authorities for questioning. Another lawyer in
the case, Javid Houtan Kiyan, was stopped
by security officials at Tabriz airport in late
August and forcibly taken to his office, where
they removed files. Ten days earlier, security
forces had raided his house in Tabriz and
taken away property, including his laptop
that held information about several stoning
cases. In October 2010, he was arrested
along with Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s
son, Sajjad Qaderzadeh (pictured), as they
were giving an interview to two German
journalists. The journalists, who had not
entered the country on journalists’ visas,
were also arrested. Amnesty International
fears that these arrests may be intended to
limit the flow of information to the outside
world about Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s
case. In particular, the arrest of her lawyer
leaves her defenceless and at the mercy of
an arbitrary justice system.
Amnesty International is calling on the
Iranian authorities to:
n Reaffirm and fully respect the
moratorium on executions by stoning,
including by ensuring that all individuals
sentenced to stoning will not face execution
for “adultery while married” by other means.
n Enact legislation that bans stoning as a
legal punishment and ensure the draft Penal
Code does not permit the use of any form of
the death penalty or flogging for those
convicted of “adultery” or other crimes.
n Release anyone held solely on the
grounds of consensual sexual relations;
Amnesty International considers such people
to be prisoners of conscience.
n Decriminalize consensual sexual
relations between adults.
n Allow lawyers defending stoning cases to
carry out their work without fear of
n Review all legislation in Iran under
which a convicted person may be killed by
the state, with the immediate aim of
progressively restricting the scope of the
death penalty, and with a view to the
eventual abolition of the death penalty.
ExEcutIonS by StonIng
“The vast majority of the Iranian people are vehemently opposed
to stoning. There is no history of stoning ever taking place in
Iran before the 1979 Islamic Revolution and most Iranians find
the practice revolting. While many Iranians believe that adultery
is morally wrong… they do not believe that it should be
considered a ‘crime against the state’… In Iran, adultery carries
a harsher punishment than murder, and this offends the
sensibilities of [many] Iranians.”
the global campaign to Stop killing and Stoning women, July 2010
Index: mdE 13/095/2010
december 2010
amnesty International
International Secretariat
peter benenson house
1 Easton Street
london wc1x 0dw
united kingdom

US Department of State: UN General Assembly Resolution on Iran's Human Rights Violations

Press Statement
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
December 22, 2010

The United States welcomes the UN General Assembly resolution calling on the Government of Iran to fully respect its human rights obligations. This resolution also reiterates the need for Iran to permit credible and independent investigations of all allegations of human rights violations.

The international community is deeply concerned about ongoing human rights abuses in Iran and the plight of Iranian citizens facing persecution at the hands of their government. Yesterday’s UN resolution recognizes the severity of this troubling situation, particularly the continued harassment, persecution, and violent repression of political opponents, human rights defenders, and a wide variety of civil society representatives. It reflects our concern that an increasing number of Iranian political prisoners have had to undertake life-threatening hunger strikes in order to invoke their minimal due process protections. These rights are enumerated in Iran’s own constitution and called for under Iran’s international treaty obligations.

To all those Iranians struggling to lift your voices and speak up for fundamental freedoms and human rights, you are not alone. The United States and the international community stand with you.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

BBC: Iranian film-maker Jafar Panahi gets six-year sentence

The acclaimed Iranian film-maker Jafar Panahi has been sentenced to six years in prison, his lawyer says.
Farideh Gheirat said Mr Panahi had been convicted of working against the Iranian system, the semi-official Isna news agency reported.
She said her client had also been banned from making films, writing scripts and travelling abroad.
Another Iranian film-maker, Mohammad Rasulov, also received a six-year sentence on similar charges.
"Mr Panahi has been sentenced to six years in jail on a charge of (participating) in a gathering and carrying out propaganda against the system," said Ms Gheirat.
"He has also been banned from making films, writing any kind of scripts, travelling abroad and talking to local and foreign media for 20 years."
She described the sentence as "heavy" and said her client would be appealing.
According to a statement released in Italy in November, Mr Panahi had gone on trial in Iran accused of making a film without permission and inciting opposition protests after the disputed 2009 presidential election that led to months of political turmoil.
In his statement to the court, Mr Panahi said he was a victim of injustice and called one of the charges against him "a joke", Reuters news agency reported.
Hunger strike
Mr Rasulov was making a film with Mr Panahi before his arrest. His lawyer, Iman Mirzadeh, said he planned to appeal.
Mr Panahi spent more than two months in custody after being arrested in March, before being released on bail after going on hunger strike in protest against his detention.
The Iranian authorities maintained that his arrest was not political.
Mr Panahi has been a vocal critic of Iran's strict Islamic law and government system, while his films are known for their social commentary.
He is a winner of many international awards, most recently for his film Offside, which won the 2006 Berlin Film Festival's Silver Bear award.
He was due to be acting as a member of the jury at this year's Cannes Film Festival in France. He was also prevented from attending the latest Venice film festival in September.
American film director Steven Spielberg and French actress Juliette Binoche have been among those who have spoken up for him.

Monday, 20 December 2010

New Yoek Times: Iran's Ethnic Tensions

Terrorism along Iran’s borders

Regarding the news article “Tehran blames U.S. for deadly suicide attack,” (Dec. 16): From Tehran’s perspective, Western aggression has already started. Its best-known expression is the sanctions adopted in response to Iran’s nuclear program.

The growing number of terrorist attacks such as the recent one in Chabahar constitutes a second front of the conflict. This front spreads through three border regions of Iran inhabited by ethnic and religious minorities: Kurdistan, Sistan-Baluchistan, where Chabahar lies, and oil-rich Khuzestan on the border with Iraq.

Admittedly, there are precedents of occasional unrest in these areas. Over the past couple of years, however, there has been a dramatic and almost simultaneous surge of violence in all three regions. Casualties, among government officials and civilians, are in the hundreds.

Ethnic and religious fires stoked in pursuit of short-term political objectives can easily rage out of control, with unpredictable consequences. Examples abound, from the Western support for the Taliban against the Soviets in Afghanistan to the encouragement given to extremist groups opposing India in Kashmir that have turned into a major destructive force in Pakistan. Any covert assistance to irredentist movements as a means to destabilize the current regime in Tehran may carry grave consequences for Iran and its neighbors long after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s departs.

Francesco Bastagli, Milan United Nations resident coordinator in Iran, 1999 to 2002.

Guardian: From discrimination to death – being gay in Iran

Ahmadinejad caused hilarity when he said gay people don't exist in Iran. But his regime's treatment of them is no joke

It is now more than three years since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made his famous claim during a visit to New York: "In Iran we don't have homosexuals like you do in your country. This does not exist in our country."

His words caused laughter among the audience at Columbia University but – unintentionally on Ahmadinejad's part – they have probably done more than anything else to raise awareness in the west of the problems faced by sexual minorities in Iran.

Unfortunately, the LGBT issue – epitomised by the notorious photograph of two male teenagers being hanged – has also been embraced unscrupulously by some, in the hope of bolstering support for a military attack which has entirely different goals and motives. This, in turn, leads to accusations from the other side that anyone who complains about the treatment of LGBT people is simply picking on Iran and trying to start a war.

Regardless of motives, though, it's a fact that Iran's treatment of sexual minorities is bad and, by international standards, somewhere near the bottom of the league. It is one of only seven countries worldwide that retains the death penalty for consensual same-sex acts (the others are Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sudan and some parts of Somalia and Nigeria).

But disappointingly for those who like to keep things ultra-simple, the picture is not uniformly black. Small numbers of Iranians (mainly in the middle and upper classes) identify themselves as gay or lesbian, and some are surprisingly open about it. There are also embryonic LGBT communities in major cities, such as Tehran, Esfahan, and Shiraz, with well-known cafes, restaurants and parks that serve as meeting places.
Despite what Ahmadinejad says about their non-existence, gay men get official recognition of sorts when it comes to military service. They can claim exemption on grounds of "behavioural disorder" or "sexual deviancy" (without admitting to ever having sex, of course) – and many do. They may be quite pleased about avoiding the military, though of course it's a form of discrimination and the downside is that having "sexual deviant" on their exemption certificate is likely to prevent them from getting a job.

Iran has also been something of a pioneer in the field of gender reassignment operations, which might count in its favour – except that gay men who are not transgendered can be pressurised into having operations in order to avoid punishment.
All this has led to a lot of arguments about what the LGBT situation in Iran is really like – an argument that hasn't been helped, up to now, by a lack of detailed or reliable information.

A report issued today by Human Rights Watch, running to 102 pages and based on testimony from more than 100 Iranians, goes a long way towards remedying that problem. One thing it makes very clear is that the persecution of sexual minorities in Iran is not just the fault of the regime: it happens in homes, schools and society at large – though of course the law helps to reinforce these attitudes.

On the vexed question of how many gay or lesbian people are actually executed, the report does not commit itself, though it does explain why it's so difficult to arrive at an accurate figure.

One reason is that trials on moral charges in Iran are usually held in private and the regime, conscious of the international outrage that its executions cause, tightly controls press reporting of the death penalty. Also, Human Rights Watch says, "the conservative nature of Iranian society and the shame associated with homosexuality (and non-conforming sexual or gender expression generally) often complicate any inquiry into whether the individual charged is actually an LGBT person".

A further complication is that Iranians who have been convicted of lavat (sodomy) and then executed have rarely, if ever, been charged solely with that crime. The report continues:

"In most cases the court also convicted them on other charges, some of which carry the death penalty … In several notable death-penalty cases during the past decade, the government charged defendants with a variety of sexual crimes warranting the death penalty, including, for example, sodomy, adultery, or rape. In at least some cases, Iranian prosecutors have included serious moral or sex charges when prosecuting individuals primarily for political reasons."
Iranian law does not target LGBT people per se; it criminalises all sexual relations outside traditional marriage, though the report says that in practice the law is applied disproportionately to Iran's sexual minorities.
The punishments are severe. Lavat is punishable by death where a judge determines that penetration was involved.

For lesser "crimes" there's flogging. Tafkhiz (frottage) is punishable by 100 lashes for each partner (with death for a fourth conviction). "Lustful" kissing between two men or two women is punishable by up to 60 lashes, while if two men or two women who are "not related by blood are found naked under the same cover without any necessity" each will receive up to 99 lashes.
The punishment for women convicted of lesbianism, or mosaheqeh, is 100 lashes, with death for a fourth conviction.

Regardless of whether such acts ought to be treated as crimes in the first place, correct application of Iranian law should make it very difficult to convict anyone – at least in theory.

Securing a conviction requires four "righteous men" to testify that they have witnessed the act (highly unlikely unless it's done in public in broad daylight). Alternatively, it requires four confessions by the accused in front of a judge (again unlikely unless the confession is forced, and even then there's scope for a pardon if the accused repents) or, finally, a ruling based on the judge's "knowledge" (which is supposedly derived from evidence and not just a personal belief that the accused looks guilty).

In practice, though, "those charged with engaging in consensual same-sex offences stand little chance of receiving a fair trial", Human Rights Watch says. Judges "often rely instead on confessions extracted through physical torture and extreme psychological pressure", while the "judge's knowledge" provision "makes it easy in practice for a judge's individual prejudices toward a defendant's appearance or demeanour [to] sway his rulings".

CFP: The “Palestinian” Arabs and the Forgotten Iranian Arabs

 By Steven Simpson  Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Islamic Republic of Iran—which would be better known as the Islamic Occupation Regime—has for over thirty years championed itself as the “Palestinian” Arabs greatest supporters in the Islamist quest to extirpate the State of Israel from the world. Yet, while the non-Arab, Persian Shi’ite regime demonizes Israel and “Zionists” twenty four hours a day, it aligns itself with the Arab Sunni fundamentalist terror gang called Hamas, while also aligning itself with the Arab Shi’ite terrorist gang - Hizbullah - which has a strangle hold on Lebanon. 

However, a dirty little secret unknown to most of the world, is Iran’s ethnic cleansing of its own minority Arab population. The ignorance and silence of the world—particularly that of the twenty two member League of Arab States—is absolutely blinding, appalling, and the epitome of hypocrisy. It is long overdue for the selective “poster child” of oppression (the “Palestinians”) to cease to exist, as the world’s cause célébre, and that if real peace is to come in the Middle East, then all Middle Eastern conflicts must be addressed. Whether it is the Arab-Israeli dispute, the Kurds, the Copts, the Maronites, Kashmir, or Iranian territorial designs and its nuclear program, all of these problems must be addressed equally. Regardless, this article would like to concentrate on the plight of the Arabs of Iran, a small quiet minority that has been oppressed for decades with no one to speak for them.

Arabs living in the Persian Gulf area goes back to antiquity, and certainly pre-dates the rise of Islam by centuries. Two major Arab tribes played a role in the great wars between Rome (and later Byzantium), and Parthia (Persia). These were the predominantly Christian Lakhmid tribe—which aided the last pre-Islamic dynasty in Iran and the Ghassanid tribe, also Christian, but who were allies with Persia’s deadly enemies, Rome, and later Byzantium. Many historians believe that the bloodletting between Parthia/Persia and Rome/Byzantium led to the power vacuum that would give rise to Muhammad and the religion of Islam. Indeed, the Persians and Romans had so bloodied themselves over the centuries that it didn’t take much for a small Arab army infused with a new religion to bring down both severely weakened world powers.

Arabs conquered Sassanid Iran in the 7th century

Regardless, when the Arabs conquered Sassanid Iran in the 7th century, Iran became Islamized and Arabized. Luckily, they were able to resurrect the Persian language (albeit, written in Arabic characters), but they were not able to throw off the yoke of Islam. As the Arab invasion, deracination, and decimation of Iran continued, Muslim Arab settlers joined the Arab tribes in the area and began to settle down in parts of what today constitute Iran.
The majority of Iranian Arabs are of Shi’ite background and live in the Iranian province of Khuzistan with its capital of Ahwaz (or Ahvaz). Thus, they are known as Ahwazi Arabs .  It is in this province and city that deadly force has been used by Iranian Pasdaran and Basij against the Arab inhabitants for years.

Unconfirmed rumors have even spoken about Arabic speaking Basij with Lebanese accents taking part in these massacres. Which of course would only show how the Iranian/Hizbullah axis has reached across the Middle East.
The reports of expulsions, killings, jailing, land confiscation, “Persianization,” banning of Arabic, and general persecution of Iran’s Arabs are well documented by the National Liberation Movement of Ahwaz, the Ahwaz Studies Center, and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization. Unfortunately, due to the severe and deadly crackdown of the Islamic regime against its own people over the last year and a half, ongoing events out of Iran, let alone Khuzistan, has been severely curtailed.

Why the silence of the world—especially the Arab world—to Iranian atrocities against its Arab minority?

Yet, the questions remain. Why the silence of the world—especially the Arab world—to Iranian atrocities against its Arab minority? (Not to mention world silence against the Iranian people in general.) Granted, Persians and Arabs have despised one another since the Arab Muslim Conquest, yet all are united under the banner of Islam (even with Shi’ite—Sunni and ethnic differences). 

Certainly, the Islamic regime, Hamas, Hizbullah, the PLO, and the Arab League are united in their ultimate goal of seeing the dissolution of Israel. Yet, why the double standard when it comes to so-called “Arab Palestine” as opposed to the rights of the Ahwazi Arabs? Why no talk of “self-determination,” “inalienable rights,” and “autonomy,” for the Khuzistani Arabs? Are these slogans nothing but claptrap and mantras only to be used against Israel? Why no world protests over the plight of the Iranian Arabs and other minorities living under the Islamic regime? And how ironic that the man who currently occupies the Oval Office is totally silent on Iranian atrocities against its own citizens, while excoriating Israel at every opportunity.

While most of the world knows about the Arab-Israeli dispute, and the “Palestinian plight,” most people have probably never heard of Khuzistan, Ahwaz, or the fact that not only are there Iranian Arabs, but that they are being systematically oppressed and murdered. One can only compare the two scenarios with that of selective criticism to the exclusion of all else. No matter what Israel does—or does not do—it is excoriated, vilified, denounced, and delegitimized. Yet Iran goes happily along giving the finger to the world as it continues with its oppression of its own people, boasts of its nuclear might, and threatens to complete Hitler’s job on the Jews of Israel.

This article is not meant as a slap against the Iranian people who have suffered for over thirty years from a bloodthirsty regime. And this article is certainly not advocating a twenty third state in the Arab League. (“Palestine” is counted as one of the twenty two states of the LAS.) Yet, it is ironic that while non-Arab and even non-Muslim countries have been invited to have observer status at the Arab League (Venezuela, Brazil, India, and Eritrea) - no such observer status - let alone membership - exists for Khuzistan (or as the Arabs calls it, “Arabistan.”) Ironically, even the Republic of Turkey will soon become an observer to the Arab League.

While the Khuzistan Arabs would probably eschew any kind of support from Israel, it would be most interesting if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli government had the intestinal fortitude to call Iran on the carpet in regard to the treatment of its own people and own minorities. Even Israel merely criticizing Iranian treatment of its Arab minority would no doubt infuriate and shame the Arab and Muslim world. While Arabs sit in the Israeli Parliament and Arabic is an official language of Israel, no such accommodations exist for the Arabs of Iran.

It would be a most interesting scenario if a secret poll could be taken amongst “Palestinian” Arabs and Iranian Arabs. The question to ask is how many Iranian Arabs would rather be living under the “Zionist regime” and how many “Palestinian” Arabs would rather be living under the Islamic regime. The world knows the answer to this question. Unfortunately, it is a question that will never be asked.

In the meantime, the leftist liberal establishment (including the media) would do itself justice if it ceased its fixation on the “Palestinians” and began to concentrate on issues such as the Iranian oppression of its own peoples and all of the other ethnic and religious conflicts in the Middle East. Until all of these issues are addressed, peace will never come to the Middle East—or to the world at large.

BBC: Iran hangs 11 Jundullah Sunni militants

Iran has hanged 11 members of a Sunni militant group Jundullah for murder and terrorism, the country's justice ministry said.

The men were executed at dawn in Zahedan, the capital of the south-eastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan.

Officials said they belonged to Jundullah, which said it was behind an attack on a mosque last week which killed 39 people.

But it is not clear whether those executed were involved in that attack.
In June, Iran killed Jundullah's leader, but attacks have continued.

"The people of Sistan-Baluchestan province, in their continuing campaign against the elements of cruelty and insecurity, hanged 11 people at Zahedan prison," the justice ministry said in a statement on Fars news agency.

Ebrahim Hamidi, head of the provincial justice department, told state news agency Irna that the group had received a fair trial and had been charged with "corruption on earth, fighting against God and the Prophet and confronting the sacred regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran".
Deprived province The deadly suicide bombing outside the Imam Hossein Mosque in the city of Chabahar on 15 December killed and wounded scores.
Founded in 2003, Jundullah (Soldiers of God) says it is fighting for the culture and faith of the ethnic Baluch people.

The majority of Iran's ethnic Baluchi population live in Sistan-Baluchistan and adhere to the Sunni branch of Islam. They claim that as a minority in a Shia state, they are persecuted by the authorities.

Sistan-Baluchistan is one of Iran's most deprived provinces and its location also makes it a key route in the international drugs trade.

Iran caught Jundullah leader Abdolmalek Rigi while he was on a flight from Dubai to Kyrgyzstan in February, and executed him in June.

HRW: Iran: Discrimination and Violence Against Sexual Minorities

(Amsterdam) - Discriminatory laws and policies against homosexuals and other sexual minorities in Iran put them at risk of harassment, violence, and even death, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Iran's sexual minorities, especially those who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT), are victimized both by state and private actors in part because those actors know they can get away with it.

The 102-page report, "We are a Buried Generation: Discrimination and Violence Against Sexual Minorities in Iran," based on testimony from more than 100 Iranians, documents discrimination and violence against LGBT people and others whose sexual practices and gender expression do not conform to government-endorsed socio-religious norms. Human Rights Watch analyzed these abuses within the context of the government's violations against its general population, including arbitrary arrests and detentions, invasions of privacy, mistreatment and torture of detainees, and the lack of due-process protections and fair-trial guarantees.

"Members of sexual minorities in Iran are hounded on all sides," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "The laws are stacked against them; the state openly discriminates against them; and they are vulnerable to harassment, abuse, and violence because their perpetrators feel they can target them with impunity."

Iran's security forces, including police and forces of the hard-line paramilitary basij, rely upon discriminatory laws to harass, arrest, and detain individuals whom they suspect of being gay, Human Rights Watch found. The incidents often occur in parks and cafes, but Human Rights Watch also documented cases in which security forces raided homes and monitored internet sites for the purpose of detaining people they suspected of engaging in non-conforming sexual conduct or gender expression.

The report also documents instances in which police and basij allegedly ill-treated and in some cases tortured real or suspected LGBT people, both in public spaces and detention facilities. Several individuals interviewed made allegations that members of the security forces had sexually assaulted or raped them.

Navid, a 42-year-old gay man who owned a café outside Tehran, told Human Rights Watch about an attack he suffered in 2007 at the hands of two plainclothes agents whom he later discovered were members of the local basij. He said they picked him up as he was leaving work, handcuffed him, and drove him to his home. He said they pushed him out of the car, beat him, and forced him inside, where they sexually assaulted him.

"[One of them] forced his penis inside my mouth," he said. "I threw up and dirtied myself. They dragged me into the bathroom and washed me down with cold water. The whole time they continued to beat me all over."
He described how the agents then took him to another residence, where they locked him in a foul-smelling and dirty kitchen full of cockroaches.
"[One of the agents] took my clothes off," he said. "He then raped me with a flashlight and a baton. He just pushed me down to the ground and raped me. The other two joined in."

The report also documents serious abuses, including due-process violations that occurred during the prosecution of sexual minorities charged with crimes. Those charged with engaging in consensual same-sex offenses stand little chance of receiving a fair trial. Judges ignore penal code evidentiary guidelines in sodomy cases and often rely instead on confessions extracted through physical torture and extreme psychological pressure. Both Iranian and international law consider such evidence inadmissible.

In other cases, courts have convicted defendants of sodomy charges solely on the basis of "the knowledge of the judge" as "derived through customary methods." This evidentiary provision of Iran's penal code enables judges to rely on tenuous circumstantial evidence to determine whether a crime has occurred even in the absence of other evidence or in the presence of exculpatory evidence.

Iranian law reflects the state's hostile attitude toward sexual minorities. The penal code criminalizes all sexual relations outside of traditional marriage. Same-sex "crimes" are subject to hudud, punishment fixed under Sharia or divine [Islamic] law, where the claimant is deemed to be God. Punishments are severe. Under the Penal Code, lavat (sodomy) is punishable by death where a judge determines that penetration was involved.

Other forms of non-penetrative sex between men are punishable by 100 lashes for each partner and death on the fourth conviction. Same-sex relations between women, or mosaheqeh, bring similar punishments.

Under the penal code, "lustful" kissing between two men or two women is punishable by up to 60 lashes, and two men "who are not related by blood ... found naked under the same cover without any necessity," is punishable by up to 99 lashes. A host of other morality laws enforce sexual and gender conformity, including those barring, organizing, or participating in an "immoral" or "corrupt" gathering, or encouraging others to engage in "corrupt" and "obscene" acts. The penal code also criminalizes the production, use, and dissemination of material considered immoral under Iranian law, including LGBT websites, literature, and other paraphernalia.

Iran is one of only seven countries with laws allowing executions for consensual same-sex conduct. The others are Mauritania, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen.

Iranian newspapers and media outlets have published many accounts since the Iranian revolution in 1979 of executions for same-sex conduct. The overwhelming majority of those executed or on death row are males charged with sodomy, including juvenile offenders who were under 18 when they allegedly committed the act. The Iranian government maintains that most of these individuals have been charged for forcible sodomy or rape.

Because trials on moral charges in Iran are usually held in camera, it is difficult to determine what proportion of those charged and executed for same-sex conduct are LGBT and in what proportion the alleged offense was consensual. Because of the lack of transparency, Human Rights Watch said, it cannot be ruled out that Iran is sentencing sexual minorities who engage in consensual same-sex relations to death under the guise that they have committed forcible sodomy or rape.

"Iran is not only one of the rare countries that imposes the death penalty for consensual same-sex relations, it also has people sitting on death row who allegedly committed sodomy as minors," Whitson said. "Every time the Iranian judiciary issues a death sentence for consensual sex, or against a juvenile offender, it is violating its international legal obligations."

Both the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights categorically prohibit capital punishment of people who were under 18 at the time of the offense. Iran ratified the ICCPR in 1975 and the CRC in 1994.

Iran is not unique in the region in criminalizing same-sex conduct or in the seriousness of the abuses suffered by its sexual minorities. There is, however, a very noticeable disconnect between Iran's official stance against sexual minorities and the realities on the ground, especially in Iran's larger urban areas. Despite President Ahmadinejad's 2007 declaration that Iran has no homosexuals, thousands of Iranians identify themselves as LGBT and socialize in public and private, and contribute to vibrant and defiant LGBT communities in the Persian-language blogosphere.

Since 1979, the Iranian government has implemented several policies designed to deal with the complex realities of sexual orientation and gender identity in Iran today. On their face, some of these policies may appear accommodating. For example, the state legally recognizes transgender Iranians - as long as they agree to undergo sex reassignment surgery. It also allows gays, transgender males, or men who have sex with men to apply for a "behavioral disorder" exemption from military service if they can establish that they are gay or transgender.

But while these policies may accommodate, or even benefit some, they aim ultimately to control and enforce conformity, Human Rights Watch said. At times they expose sexual minorities to further harassment, abuse, blackmail, extortion, and torture.

"Abolishing Iran's discriminatory laws and policies is critical to ensuring protection of its vulnerable sexual minorities," said Whitson. "Those who perpetrate violence against Iran's sexual minorities do so because they know that their victims have nowhere to turn for protection or justice."
Human Rights Watch calls on the Iranian government to:
  • Abolish all laws and other legislation under the Islamic Penal Code that criminalize consensual same-sex conduct;
  • Immediately rescind any and all convictions and sentences against individuals for consensual same-sex conduct or relations, and immediately release anyone serving sentences for such convictions;
  • Immediately rescind all death sentences imposed on individuals for the crime of lavat (sodomy) allegedly committed when they were under the age of 18, regardless of whether the act was consensual or forced;
  • Prohibit public harassment, abuse, and gender-based violence against sexual minorities by security forces, including the Iran's basij units, and investigate and prosecute members of the security forces who engage in such actions;
  • Cease all targeting and entrapment, including internet entrapment campaigns and home raids, by security forces against sexual minorities or people with non-conforming sexual or gender identities;
  • Prohibit harassment, abuse, torture, and sexual assault of sexual minorities by security forces during detention, and investigate and prosecute members of the security forces who engage in such actions;
  • Prohibit the use of testimony or confessions that appear to have been secured under torture or threat of torture or other ill-treatment in all prosecutions, including those related to same-sex conduct;
  • Provide adequate access to physical and psychological services to transgender Iranians, including hormone therapy for individuals who have undergone sex reassignment surgery.
Human Rights Watch also called on other states and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to implement policies and recommendations to safeguard the rights of Iran's vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers.
During the past several years, Human Rights Watch intervened on several occasions to ensure that countries, including the Netherlands and Sweden, put a stop to the deportation of Iranian LGBT people who legitimately feared persecution if returned to Iran.

Friday, 3 December 2010

RFERL: Iranian Cleric: Female Athletes Should Not Compete Abroad

An eminent Iranian cleric has said female athletes should not compete in sporting events abroad -- days after the Islamic Republic sent its biggest female contingent in recent years to the Asian Games, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

Grand Ayatollah Safi Golpayegani said on November 30 that sending Iranian female athletes to international events is a "disgrace" and should not be allowed.

His comments come after Iran sent 88 sportswomen to China to take part in last month's 2010 Asian Games -- the biggest contingent since the 1979 Revolution. More than a dozen won medals, including Khadijeh Azadpour, who won a gold medal in the women's Wushu competition.

Golpayegani, 91, a Shi'ite source of emulation in the holy city of Qom, is not the first conservative cleric to deplore the participation of female Iranian athletes in foreign competitions.

Ahmad Alamolhoda, the Friday Prayer leader in Mashhad, argued in 2008 that sending Iranian sportswomen to the Beijing Olympic Games and choosing a female rower, Homa Hossein, to carry the Iranian flag at the opening ceremony constituted "waging war on Islamic values."

Denmark-based sports analyst Mehdi Rostampour told Radio Farda that the authorities are concerned by the Iranian women's success in the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou.

Ayatollah Abbas Kabi, a member of the Society of Qom Seminary Teachers, criticized Iranian state television for showing women competing in the event. He said it was "deplorable" and "bizarre."

Analyst Rostampour added that the authorities are worried that they will no longer be able to prevent female Iranian athletes from participating in international events: "They want to uproot this young plant before it grows."

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Guardian: Iran charges two German journalists with spying over Ashtiani case

Pair 'confess' on state TV after interviewing son of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the woman sentenced to death by stoning

Two German journalists have been charged with spying against Iran after interviewing the family of the woman sentenced to death by stoning, an Iranian judicial official said today.
The two women, who were identified only as a reporter and a photographer, were arrested in the city of Tabriz last month after interviewing the son of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani.
Malekajdar Sharifi, the head of the judiciary in East Azerbaijan province, said today that spying charges have been formally lodged against them.
The semi-official Fars News Agency quoted him as saying: "The espionage charge for the two German citizens who came to Iran to stage propaganda and spying has been approved."
According to Iran's English-language broadcaster, Press TV, he added: "These two women are certainly spies and their case will be addressed [in a court of law]."
Sharifi said their behaviour suggested they were spies and that they were trying to create a negative impression against Iran. Germany has said it is doing all it can to secure their release.
The two women appeared on state TV last night to "confess" they had been acting under the orders of the German-based International Committee Against Stoning (Icas) to publicise Ashtiani's case.
Appearing on TV for the third time since her case caught the world's attention, Ashtiani, 43, also accused Mina Ahadi from Icas of spreading her story around the world.
The broadcast, on Iran's Channel 2, portrayed Ahadi as "a communist dissident exiled in Germany", who had taken advantage of Ashtiani's case for her own benefit.
In the broadcast the two Germans admitted "illegal acts". One of them said: "Mina Ahadi sent me to Iran because she knew she would benefit from my arrest and I'll sue her when I get back to Germany."
The sentence of stoning against Ashtiani, for alleged adultery, has prompted international outrage.
The sentence was suspended in July this year, but the Iranian courts have since indicated that they could consider hanging her for her alleged involvement in the murder of her husband. Ashtiani's lawyers insist she is innocent.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

PA: UK dismisses Iran arrests claim

The Government has accused Iran of a "long line of slurs" amid claims four people with links to Britain had been arrested.

Iran claimed it had arrested four people suspected to be members of a British-linked terror cell blamed for at least five killings since 2008.

But a Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokeswoman dismissed the report as "baseless".
She said: "The UK does not support or encourage terrorist activity in Iran, or anywhere else in the world, and this claim will be seen as what it is: another in a long line of slurs against the United Kingdom from the government of Iran."

Iran's intelligence ministry claimed the four men were part of an Iranian Kurdish rebel faction known as Komala, the Associated Press reported.

The group has been accused of launching sporadic attacks for decades in a campaign for Kurdish autonomy.

The arrested men, said to be based in northern Iraq, reportedly received orders from a Komala commander who lives in Britain.