Thursday, 28 January 2010

IMHRO: Mass grave discovered in south west of Iran near city of Ahwaz

Iranian Minorities’ Human Rights Organisation (IMHRO)



Fears growing as mass grave discovered around city of Ahwaz. Local people reported Iranian security service immediately sealed the area and moved the bodies to unknown location.

Four men who discovered the grave while digging for installing water pipe also arrested and transferred to unknown location. Sources told IMHRO that Iranian Security service also raided their house searching for camera and any media record of mass grave.

Many Ahwazi Arabs since 1979 disappeared and authorities never explained what happened to them.

Similar stories are reported in Kurdish, Baluchi, Turk and Turkmen area and also among Jews, Christians and Bahá’í communities.

IMHRO asks international community to put pressure on Iranian government to investigate this matter and bring those who are responsible to justice.

“Many disappeared in minority’s area and Iranian government do not take any responsibilities for it, we should never close our eyes on such things” said Reza Washahi a researcher on minorities Iran.

Back ground

Kidnapping campaign always were tools of Iranian government inside and in foreign policy.

In 1980 Iranian took American embassy staff in Tehran as hostages.

Many foreign nationals still are in prison in Iran and in past and present they used as deal for political bargain for Tehran’s benefits.

VOA: U.S. Condemns Iranian Executions

Looking back, the pictures of 2 people from last summer's massive show trial in Tehran are haunting: a gaunt teenage boy and a middle aged man testifying under pressure – like scores of others tried with no respect for due process since Iran's post election demonstrations in June.

Now Arash Rahmanipour and Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani are dead, executed for being "enemies of God" and for plotting to overthrow the Iranian regime. Because the Iranian government did not exercise due process or make public the evidence against the 2, facts of the case will remain unclear.White House Deputy press secretary Bill Burton called the hanging of the 2 Iranians "a low point in the Islamic Republic's unjust and ruthless crackdown of peaceful dissent. Murdering political prisoners who are exercising their universal rights," he said, "will not bring the respect and legitimacy the Islamic Republic seeks.

It will only serve to further isolate Iran's government in the world and from its people."According to the semi-official FARS news agency, a senior Iranian judiciary official has said that 9 more people sentenced to death by Tehran's Revolutionary Court since the election will be executed soon.Last month, in its annual world report, Human Rights Watch called Iran's post-election crackdown "a human rights disaster."

Human Rights Watch said Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Basij militia and police arbitrarily arrested thousands of peaceful protestors and dissidents in a clear effort to intimidate critics and stifle dissent. The number of deaths caused by government-sponsored violence is unknown, but is believed to be significantly higher than the 3 dozen or so that have been confirmed by the regime.

Human Rights Watch also noted that in addition to the human rights crisis following the elections, security forces systematically harassed members of religious minorities and carried out a campaign of arbitrary arrest against Kurdish, Azeri, Baluch and Arab civil society. In November, Human Rights Watch condemned the execution of a young Kurdish Iranian cultural activist who was hanged amid reports of torture and a grossly unfair judicial process. More than a dozen Kurdish Iranian political activists are currently on death row.

After the January execution of Arash Rahmanipour and Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said the United States "will continue to speak out on Iran regarding [its] relationship with its own people, and what we see as serious human rights concerns and abuses. ... We believe Iran should change course and respect the rights of its own citizens."

amnesty: Iran religious minority members facing 'show trial'

Amnesty International has urged the Iranian authorities to release seven members of the Baha'i religious minority who appear to be facing a "show trial" in Tehran on a collection of spurious charges.The five men and two women, who were arrested almost two years ago, could face the death penalty if they are convicted of crimes including "espionage for Israel", "insulting religious sanctities" and "propaganda against the system”.

"The seven are prisoners of conscience, held solely on account of their beliefs or peaceful activities on behalf of the persecuted Baha'i community, and must be immediately and unconditionally set free," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme.

The trial of the seven Baha'is has been postponed three times since they were arrested between March and May 2008 - but finally began in closed session in a Revolutionary Court on Tuesday.Lawyers for the seven – who have rarely been able to visit their clients – were initially denied access to the court room, but managed to persuade court officials to allow them to enter.

The Iranian authorities have blamed the Baha'is, among other groups, for orchestrating much of the unrest that took place on the Ashoura religious holiday in December. At least 13 Baha'is have been arrested from their homes in Tehran since the demonstrations. The Baha’i community denies any such involvement and have refuted the authorities' claims that firearms were found in the houses of those arrested."The authorities are seeking to make the Baha'i minority scapegoats for the recent unrest, when there is no evidence that they were involved," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

“The authorities should allow peaceful demonstrations of those with opposing views, not lock up without good reason those of a different faith to their own.” The Baha'i faith was founded about 150 years ago in Iran and has since spread around the world. Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, the Baha'i community has been systematically harassed and persecuted.There are over 300,000 Baha'is in Iran, but their religion is not recognized under the Iranian Constitution, which only recognizes Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism.

Baha'is in Iran are subject to discriminatory laws and regulations, which violate their right to practice their religion freely.The Iranian authorities also deny Baha'is equal rights to education, work and a decent standard of living by restricting their access to employment and benefits such as pensions. They are not permitted to meet, hold religious ceremonies or practice their religion communally.

AFP: Iran to execute nine protesters 'soon': official

TEHRAN (AFP) - Iran will "soon execute" nine people arrested during anti-government protests for seeking to topple the Islamic regime, Fars news agency reported on Tuesday quoting a senior judiciary official.

"The two people executed and another nine who will soon be executed were definitely arrested in recent riots and each were linked with counter-revolutionary movements," deputy judiciary head Ebrahim Raisi told a meeting in the holy city of Qom late Monday.

"They had participated in riots with the aim of creating disunity and toppling the system," he added.
Iran executed two people on Thursday on charges of seeking to topple the regime.

Compass Direct: Iran Detains Christians without Legal Counsel

Half of those arrested in recent months could face apostasy charges.
ISTANBUL, January 28 (CDN) — At least 14 Christians have been detained in Iranian prisons for weeks without legal counsel in the past few months as last year’s crackdown has continued, sources said. Three Christians remained in detention at Evin prison after authorities arrested them along with 12 others who had gathered for Christmas celebrations on Dec. 24 in a home 20 kilometers (12 miles) southeast of Iran’s capital, Tehran, according to a source who requested anonymity. While the others were released on Jan. 4, remaining at Evin prison were Maryam Jalili, Mitra Zahmati and Farzan Matin, according to the source. Jalili is married and has two children.

Matin sounded ill in a short phone conversation this week to his family, the source said. “Maybe he caught a cold, maybe it’s something else, but for sure they are under heavy pressure,” the source said. “They are not allowed visits from family. It doesn’t seem good.” Security forces went to the homes of all the detainees and confiscated their books, computers and other literature, according to Farsi Christian News Network. None of the Christians have had access to legal counsel or representation.

“Normally they eventually release them,” said an Iranian source of the Dec. 24 arrests. “They never keep one person forever … but we don’t know when. We are used to living with this kind of government. Therefore we try our best and seek what God will do, and pray that they don’t keep them so long.” The source said authorities have promised the release of the three Christians arrested Dec. 24 but have yet to let them go. “They called their families, and they were told they would be released after bail … but then they didn’t [release them],” he said of the three Christians held in Evin.Within days after the Dec. 24 arrest, Jalili’s sister, Mobina Jalili, and another Christian were arrested in Isfahan. The source said these two have had no contact with their families. The location and conditions of their detainment are unknown.

Apostasy Charges

In the southwestern city of Shiraz, seven Christians were being detained as of Jan. 11, another source said, and most of them may face charges of apostasy, or leaving Islam. Family members who have spoken with the arrested Christians said authorities have told the detainees – with the exception of one who was not born a Muslim – that they are guilty of apostasy, the source said. The names of those detained in Shiraz are Parviz Khaladj, Mehdi Furutan, Roxana Furouyi, Behrouz Sadegh-Khanjani, Abdol Reza Ali Haghnejad, Iman Farzad and one identified only as Mahyar. Another Christian in the northern city of Rasht, Davoot Nejatsabet, also has been arrested. And Yousef Nadarkhani, who was arrested last year on Oct. 13 in Rasht, remains in prison.

The source said the government was in crisis with so many of its citizens continuing to openly protest against it, and that this was an opportune moment to lash out against Christians. “They see that the West is keeping quiet about Christians,” said the source. “But the Christians should mobilize about what is happening.”Arrested Christians are regularly denied legal counsel.

Often Christians are charged with other crimes, such as espionage or disrupting public order, because of their faith. The charged political climate in Iran has made it nearly impossible for Christians to find appropriate defense lawyers they can afford, a source said. Many of Iran’s human rights lawyers have either fled the country, the source said, are in prison or are otherwise unable to take up Christian cases. Under sharia (Islamic law), apostasy is one of several “crimes” punishable by death, although Islamic court judges are not required to hand down such a sentence. No converts to Christianity have been convicted of apostasy since international pressure forced officials to drop the death sentence of Christian convert Mehdi Dibaj in 1994.

In the years following the convert’s release, however, Dibaj and four other Protestant pastors, including converts and those working with them, have been murdered. The murderers of the Christians have never been brought to justice, and government officials are suspected of playing a role in the killings.

Governmental and non-governmental agencies say that Christian converts are regularly placed under surveillance, arrested, imprisoned without due process and tortured. Muslim-born Iranians who have embraced Christianity are legally prohibited from practicing their newfound faith.

BBC: Iran 'executes two over post-election unrest'

Iran has executed two men arrested during the period of widespread unrest that erupted after June's disputed presidential election, reports say.

They had been convicted of being "enemies of God", members of armed groups and trying to topple the Islamic establishment, Isna news agency said.

The executions are believed to be the first related to last year's protests.

Millions demanded a re-run of June's poll at the largest demonstrations in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Opposition groups said it had been rigged to ensure the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a charge the government denied.
At least 30 protesters have been killed in clashes since the elections, although the opposition says more than 70 have died. Thousands have been detained and some 200 activists remain behind bars.
Last month, eight people were killed in clashes at demonstrations on Ashura, one of the holiest days in the Shia Muslim calendar.

"Following the riots and anti-revolutionary measures in recent months, particularly on the day of Ashura, a Tehran Islamic Revolutionary Court branch considered the cases of a number of accused and handed down death sentences against 11 of those," Isna said, quoting a statement from the Tehran prosecutor's office.

"The sentences against two of these people... were carried out today at dawn and the accused were hanged," the semi-official agency said, adding the sentences had been confirmed by an appeal court.

It named them as Mohammad Reza Ali-Zamani and Arash Rahmanipour.
"The sentences for the other nine of the accused in recent months' riots are at the appeal stage... upon confirmation, measures will be undertaken to implement the sentences," Isna added.

'Show trial'

There has been no independent confirmation of the executions or the names, but opposition groups had previously said Mr Ali-Zamani was sentenced to death in October.

He and one other person were believed to have been convicted for ties with the Kingdom Assembly of Iran (Anjoman-e Padeshahi-e Iran), a banned monarchist group.

At his trial in August, prosecutors accused Mr Ali-Zamani of plotting political assassinations with US military officials in Iraq before returning to Iran "aiming at causing disruption during and after the election". He is said to have admitted his guilt in court.

The Kingdom Assembly of Iran confirmed it had worked with Mr Ali-Zamani, but dismissed the allegations and insisted he had been forced to confess. The group said he had played no role in the post-election protests and had merely passed on news to its radio station.

Human rights activists also noted the indictment stated that Mr Ali-Zamani had been arrested before engaging in any actions relating to the protests.
Nasrin Sotoudeh, a lawyer for Mr Rahmanipour, also denied he had played any role in the unrest and dismissed his "show trial" in July.

"He was arrested in Farvardin [the Iranian month covering March-April] - before the election - and charged with co-operation with the Kingdom Assembly," she told the AFP news agency.

Ms Sotoudeh said her client had been 19 when he was arrested, and that many of the charges related to the time when he was a minor. "He confessed because of threats against his family," she said, adding that his family had not known the appeal had failed.

In 2008, the Iranian authorities blamed the Kingdom Assembly of Iran for an explosion at mosque in the south-western city of Shiraz which killed 12 people and wounded more than 200.

Correspondents say the executions may further increase tension in Iran ahead of possible new anti-government protests next month.

Messages have been circulating on the internet about demonstrations on 11 February, the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution.

On Wednesday, Iran's state media reported that two German diplomats had been detained and accused of playing a role in last month's anti-government protests.

A deputy interior minister was quoted as saying they were detained on 27 December, the day after the demonstrations. He also said a close aide to the opposition leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi, was being held for alleged contacts with German intelligence agents.

Germany's foreign ministry said it had no knowledge of the detentions and categorically rejected the accusations.

Friday, 15 January 2010

amnesty international: Iran: Halt executions of 17 Kurdish and other political prisoners

Public Statement

12 January 2010
AI Index: MDE 13/007/2010

Amnesty International is calling on the Iranian authorities not to execute at least 17 members of Iran’s Kurdish minority, including one woman – Zeynab Jalalian - who are on death row after their conviction of political offences. The organization fears that they could be executed at any time, particularly in light of the execution of two other Kurds in Iran in recent months, most recently Fasih Yasmini in Khoy on 6 January 2010.

All were convicted after unfair trials for moharebeh (enmity against God) for membership of banned Kurdish opposition groups, mainly the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (known by its Kurdish acronym PJAK), an armed group, and Komala, a Marxist organization. Some are reported to have been tortured in detention and to have been denied access to a lawyer.

The executed man, Fasih (Fateh) Yasmini was arrested during clashes between PJAK and Iranian security forces in the village of Hendavan, near Khoy, in or around February 2008. It is not clear whether Fasih Yasmini was involved in these clashes or not. He was reportedly among a number of villagers arrested, including five girls, his father Hossein Yasmini, and another man Fahim Reza-Zadeh, who are said to have been taken to a Ministry of Intelligence detention facility in Khoy, where Fasih Yasmini was reportedly tortured. His family had no news of him for about two months.

Hossein Yasmini is currently serving a two-year prison sentence, while Fahim Reza-Zadeh was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment to be served in exile. Fasih Yasmini’s death sentence by the Khoy Revolutionary court is believed to have been upheld on appeal by Branch 10 of the Appeal Court of West Azerbaijan Province and by the Supreme Court and he was executed without his lawyer being informed – a requirement under Iranian law – on 6 January. Fasih Yasmini’s family have not been given his body, possibly to prevent them holding a funeral or memorial service for him. Amnesty International condemns this execution.

Ali Saremi (or Sarami), aged 62, was sentenced to death for moharebeh on 29 December 2009 after being convicted of membership of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), an opposition group based in Iraq. He was arrested in September 2007 after speaking at a commemoration at the Khavaran cemetery in Tehran for the victims of the 1988 “prison massacre” and has been held since. Amnesty International issued an urgent action on his and six other’s behalf in November 2007 (see

Held without trial for many months, mostly in Evin Prison, his final court session took place on 16 November in Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court. Two days after demonstrations against the government on Ashoura on 27 December 2009 were violently repressed by security forces, he was told that he had been sentenced to death. The Iranian authorities have blamed various groups for organizing the demonstrations, including the PMOI and a “Marxist grouplet”. Ali Saremi has a son in the PMOI who lives in Camp Ashraf, Iraq, whom he has visited. Ali Saremi has spent 23 years in prison for his political activities both before and after the Islamic Revolution in Iran.


Since the unrest which followed the disputed presidential election in June 2009, Amnesty International has documented an increase in the number of executions in Iran, and the Iranian authorities have threatened to try demonstrators for moharebeh, moves which appear designed to dissuade people from participating in demonstrations against the government.

The 17 Kurds on death row for political offences are reported to be:
1. Zeynab Jalalian [f]
2. Habibollah Latifi
3. Sherko Moarefi
4. Farhad Vakili
5. Farzad Kamangar
6. Ali Haydarian
7. Hossein Khezri
8. Rashid Akhkandi
9. Mohammad Amin Agoushi
10. Ahmad Pouladkhani
11. Sayed Sami Hosseini
12. Sayed Jamal Mohammadi
13. Rostam Arkiya
14. Mostafa Salimi
15. Anwar Rostami
16. Hassan Talai
17. Iraj Mohammadi

For further information about Kurds on death row, please see Iran: Worsening Repression of Dissent as Election Approaches, February 2009, AI Index: MDE 13/012/2009 at
and Iran: Death penalty/ torture and ill-treatment, 30 May 2008
Iran: Further Information on death penalty/torture/ill-treatment, 11 July 2008
Iran: Death penalty / torture and ill-treatment, 18 December 2008
Iran: Halt Executions of Kurdish Prisoners, 8 October 2009
Iran: Kurdish man faces execution on 11 November 2009
Iran: Further information: Iranian Kurdish man executed
Iranian authorities must halt imminent execution of Kurdish man, 13 November 2009
For information about the “prison massacre” see: Iran: The 20th anniversary of 1988 "prison massacre", 19 August 2008, AI Index MDE 13/118/2008,

HRW: Iran: Prosecute Mortazavi for Detention Deaths

Parliamentary Panel Finds Former Prosecutor With History of Rights Abuse Responsible

January 13, 2010

(Washington DC) - The human rights crimes of a high-ranking judicial official in Iran go far beyond the scope of the parliamentary panel that investigated his role in the abuse of detainees following the June 2009 presidential election, Human Rights Watch said today.

Human Rights Watch urged the Iranian judiciary to remove the official, Saeed Mortazavi, from his post as deputy prosecutor general and to set up an independent commission to investigate his role, and the roles of other high officials, in violations going at least as far back as 2000.

On January 10, 2010, a parliamentary panel investigating detentions after the disputed presidential election determined that Mortazavi was directly responsible for the ill-treatment of detainees in Kahrizak Prison, outside of Tehran, and for the deaths of three detainees there.

"Saeed Mortazavi is a serial human rights abuser and the parliamentary panel showed courage in naming him," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "His unsavory history goes back many years. The Iranian parliamentary panel should expand its inquiry to include Mortazavi's past abuses as well."

The parliament set up the Special Parliamentary Committee to Investigate the Status of Post-Election Arrestees in July to investigate allegations of torture and abuse of detainees arrested in the post-election crackdown. The panel's report says that Mortazavi claimed that his decision to send detainees to Kahrizak stemmed from a lack of space at Evin Prison, in northern Tehran. But authorities at Evin told the panel that their prison had been ready to accept the prisoners. The panel concluded that Mortazavi's decision to transfer protestors to Kahrizak was "not justifiable even if Evin did not have the capacity" to take them.

The panel found that abuse of prisoners in Kahrizak included beatings; verbal abuse and humiliation; lack of appropriate food and drink; lack of ventilation; and severe overcrowding. It held Mortazavi responsible for the deaths of three detainees: Mohsen Ruhal Amini, Amir Javadifar, and Mohammed Kamrani.

Conditions at Kahrizak Prison had led the judiciary to order it closed more than two years ago, but it remained open until July. On July 27, following Amini's death, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei again ordered it closed. Hamid Reza Katouzian, a member of parliament from Tehran who served on an earlier official fact-finding committee looking into attacks on Tehran University dormitories after the election, said in early August that Esameel Ahmadi Moghaddam, chief of Iran's national police, received daily reports about the Kahrizak prison and thus shared responsibility for what happened there.

"There is reason to believe that others share responsibility with Mortazavi for the terrible things that happened in Kahrizak," Stork said.

In addition to his role in sending detainees to Kahrizak, Mortazavi was in charge of investigating detained reformist leaders and party officials in the aftermath of the disputed election.

In April 2000, Mortazavi, then a judge of the Public Court Branch 1410, led a campaign to silence dissent by ordering the closure of more than 100 newspapers and journals. In June 2003, the Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi died while in the custody of judiciary and security officers presided over by Mortazavi. Lawyers for her family have alleged that her body showed signs of torture, including blows to the head, and that Mortazavi participated directly in her interrogation.

In 2004, Mortazavi organized the arbitrary detention of more than 20 bloggers and journalists, holding them in secret prisons. Human Rights Watch found that Mortazavi was directly implicated in abuses of these detainees, including holding them in lengthy solitary confinement and coercing them to sign false confessions, some of them televised.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Telegraph: Iran bans contact with 60 foreign organisations

The Iranian government has banned its citizens from having contact with 60 organisations including the BBC, Voice of America and Human Rights Watch.

The deputy intelligence minister in charge of external affairs said the 60 blacklisted groups were suspected of being involved in efforts by Western governments to topple the Islamic regime as part of a "soft war" and that it is now an offence to communicate with them.

"Any kind of contact by individuals or legal entities with those groups involved in the soft war is illegal and prohibited," he said. Iranian state media did not give his name.

The blacklisted organisations include the opposition website Rahesabz and the US-funded Radio Farda as well as American-based pro-monarchist satellite channels, Israeli public radio and the outlawed rebel People's Mujahedeen.

The minister also called on the public to avoid "irregular contacts with embassies or foreign nationals or centres linked to them".

"Citizens should be alert to the traps of the enemies and co-operate with the intelligence ministry in protecting the nation and neutralising the plots of foreigners and the conspirators," he said in allusion to opposition sympathisers who have held repeated protests over the past seven months following the country's dispuite presidential election whiuch returned Mahmoud Ahmahdinejad for a second term in office.

Other blacklisted groups included the Brookings Institution, George Soros's Open Society Institute and the Washington-based National Endowment for Democracy.

On Monday, Heydar Moslehi, Iran's intelligence minister, said several foreign nationals had been arrested at anti-government protests last month that left at least eight people dead.

"They had entered Iran only two days before Ashura [a Shia religious festival]. Their cameras and equipment have been seized," he said, without specifying how many had been arrested or their nationalities.

In late November, the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Iran was in the throes of a "soft war" with its enemies abroad, who he claimed were fomenting the street protests. The claim has become a mantra of regime officials, who are sensitive to criticism from Western leaders and have accused them repeatedly of supporting the opposition.

BBC: Iran Bahais begin spying trials

Seven members of the Bahai faith have been put on trial in Iran.

The defendants face charges of spying for foreigners, cooperating with Israel and "corruption on Earth", a charged which carries the death sentence.

The Bahai religion is banned by the Islamic revolutionary leadership of Iran which considers it heretical.

The group have been held since their arrest in 2008. The US government has condemned the trial, expressing concern about Iran's treatment of Bahais.
"The United States strongly condemns the Iranian government's decision to commence the espionage trial against seven leaders of the Iranian Bahai community," said US State Department spokesman PJ Crowley.

"We are deeply concerned about Iran's ongoing persecution of Bahais and treatment of other members of religious minorities who continue to be targeted solely on the basis of their beliefs," Mr Crowley added.

Iran origin

The group are being tried in a revolutionary court in Tehran.

"All the activities of the outlawed Bahai's sect in Iran is being led by its global centre based in Israel," a statement from the trial, cited by state news agency ISNA said.

"Based on the evidence and the defendants' confessions, they held meetings with ambassadors of different Western countries and discussed information and actions with them," it added.

It is not clear how long the trial of the seven Bahais will last
The Bahai faith was founded in Iran in the 19th Century but it has long been banned in its country of origin.

The Bahais consider Bahaullah, born in 1817, to be the latest prophet sent by God. Followers of the Bahai faith have faced discrimination in Iran both before and after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Bahai groups say some 30,000 members remain in Iran. Hundreds of followers have been jailed and executed since 1979, the Bahai International Community says. Iran denies it has detained or executed people because of their faith.

The religion has a large temple in Haifa, northern Israel, a country which has very fraught relations with Iran.

Asharq Alawsat: Iranian Sunni Religious Leader Talks to Asharq Al-Awsat

By Khaled Mahmoud

Asharq Al-Awsat - Sheikh Abdol Hamid Esmaeel Zehi is a leading religious figure amongst Iran's Sunni community. He is the chairman of Dar al Uloom University in Zahedan and leads the Friday prayer at the Sunni Makki Mosque in Zahedan.
In this interview, he talks to Asharq Al-Awsat about Iran’s Sunni community and its relationship with the Iranian regime.

This is the first interview Sheikh Abdol Hamid has given in months due to the strict supervision that all Iranian Sunnis are subjected to. He has reservations about giving interviews to newspapers and media representatives over the phone. This interview was conducted via email. His brother was imprisoned for four months for publishing photos of attacks on a Sunni school last year in the Baluchestan province.

Q) What is the population of Sunnis in Iran and where do most of them live?
A) They live along most of Iran’s borders. The [Sunni] residents who live on the eastern, south-eastern and north-eastern borders belong to the Hanafi school of thought.

The residents along the north and south western borders belong to the Shafey school of thought whilst most Sunnis in Al Ahwaz are Hanbalis. Due to where they are situated geographically, the population there is made up of diverse communities such as the Baloch people, the Kurds, the Turkmen, the Persians, Arabs and the Talysh. Each of these communities has its own language, but the official language of the state is Persian. The Sunnis constitute at least a quarter or a fifth of the country’s population, estimated at more than 15 million out of Iran's entire population of 70 million.

The Sunnis are mainly based in the city of Zahedan, the capital city of the Sistan province. Baluchestan is home to Makki Mosque, Iran’s biggest Sunni mosque, and Darul Uloom University, the country’s biggest Sunni centre of education. The university comprises of a large number of students from all over Iran and from neighbouring countries. In these two religious centres, the important political and religious issues concerning Sunnis are being dealt with and whenever the Sunnis encounter problems or pressure, complaints would be filed there.

Q) Are there any official centres for Sunnis?
A) Unfortunately, there is no official centre or institute in Tehran to follow matters that concern Sunnis with the exception of the Sunni representatives in the Shoura Council, who number nearly 20 out of 280 representatives. Without doubt, this is a very small number bearing in mind the number of the Sunni population. Actually there should be over 40 representatives. The reason the number of Sunni representatives is so little is that the Guardian Council of the Constitution often rejects most Sunni candidates even if they are experienced and competent.

Q) How would you describe the situation of Sunni Muslims in Iran at present?
A) Before the revolution, the royal secular regime was concerned only with maintaining power so it did not see any difference between the Sunnis and the Shia, and the doctrine [one followed] did not play a part in employment or appointment to state positions. As a result, the Sunnis and the Shia equally used to assume government posts, and the Sunnis used to hold senior posts in the police forces as well as in the army. Therefore, the level of concern and confusion about discrimination and inequality was much lower and could hardly be felt.
However, after the revolution, the Shia doctrine dominated and the Shia ideologists took control in the country and were concerned only about the doctrine, therefore, the Sunnis had to confront different problems.

It is worth mentioning that with regards to some construction and development issues in the past thirty years, the new regime provided services to the citizens equally and in all places, and the Sunnis are not worried about these particular issues. The main issue that concerns the Sunnis now is the discrimination in the field of employment within official and major posts. The Constitution stipulated that the official [state] doctrine is Twelver Shia Jaafari Islam and that the President of the Republic must be a Shia. It is for this reason that the Sunnis cannot run for presidency in the elections.

Though the constitution does not forbid the appointment of Sunnis to government positions, not one Sunni has ever been appointed vice president, minister, deputy minister, ambassador or governor. What is even stranger is that they hardly participate in the administration of governorates with Sunni majorities. Therefore, there is clearly sectarianism when it comes to choosing Sunnis for state positions. Even if Sunnis are qualified for the presidential post, or ministerial or government positions, they are deprived of this because of their adherence to their doctrine and ideological opinions.

As for jobs in the police force, the Sunnis were appointed for a short period only following the revolution, and the Sunnis now have no presence in the army. Because of this discrimination, the Sunnis are feeling concerned, tense and isolated.

The second problem faced by the Sunnis concerns doctrinal freedom. Though the constitution stipulates freedom for the followers of all doctrines, there are bodies and institutions that are putting pressure on the Sunnis with regards to educational and doctrinal issues. Consequently, Sunni activists are experiencing serious problems with regards to educational issues in some Sunni areas and Sunni children in some areas are being educated secretly.

The Sunnis do not have one mosque in Tehran, Isfahan, Kerman, Yazd or any other cities with Shia majorities. Furthermore, our Sunni brothers in Tehran were prevented from performing the Friday or the Eid prayers at the school affiliated to the Pakistani embassy recently, and now they if they want to pray they can only do so in some houses. Likewise, in other big cities where there are only a few Sunnis, they take part in the Friday and the Eid prayers in houses, and they are facing real problems in this regard. The Sunnis in cities with Shia majorities are the least fortunate of all Sunnis in terms of ideological issues. They face real problems in building mosques, educating their children and in other religious issues. The complaints filed to state officials are not responded to and are not solved.

A resolution was issued recently by the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution forcing the Sunnis to delegate authority over Sunni religious schools and educational centres to the government. In this manner, the government is seeking to take control of Sunni mosques and schools and the Sunnis consider this a disaster and are now uniting against this resolution and objecting the executive measures of this resolution. The state’s success in implementing this resolution would mean depriving the Sunnis of doctrinal freedom all over the country.

In brief, the Sunnis in Iran have two major problems: doctrinal freedom, and the lack of equality in assuming government and administrative posts. For their part, the Sunnis never relinquish their rights, they monitor [their rights] through peaceful means, and demand the government acknowledges their legitimate rights and stops depriving them of their rights because of their beliefs.

Q) What about relations with the Iranian government on an official level?
A) The Sunnis have no official relations with the government, except through the Shoura Council representatives. Sometimes there are visits to Shia clerics and Marjas during which we talk to them about the problems the Sunnis are encountering and we exchange opinions regarding issues that concern the Sunnis.
A) What is your position on the continuous controversy between the Reformists and the Conservatives?
Q) The fundamental motive behind the current controversy is the lack of freedoms stipulated by the constitution such as freedom of the press, freedom of expression, freedom of political parties and political components and other legitimate rights. The ongoing controversy is about these issues as well as the validity of the recent elections. What further aggravated the controversy was a set of other social and political issues in the country. If the government does not take the initiative and make amendments and changes to the ruling regime’s structure, the controversy will have consequences that will affect the regime’s foundation. But if it takes initiative and responds to the people's legitimate problems then we can expect reconciliation between the two sides. If the government adopts a broader vision of these issues, problems will be solved and the regime will remain.

Q) Do you receive Arab or Islamic support?
A) As Iranian Sunnis, we are yet to receive any kind of Arab or Islamic support. The claims made by extremist parties that Sunnis receive support from Muslim and Arab countries are all baseless and incorrect.
Q) What are the doctrinal disputes between the Sunnis and the Shia?
A) Igniting doctrinal disputes [between the Sunnis and the Shia] will not benefit Islam and Muslims, as the differences are made up by people who have had the door shut [in their face] and their political ambitions blocked. Due to the fierce international campaign against Islam and Muslims, the essence of Islam has been seriously jeopardized recently therefore it is our duty to avoid doctrinal disputes.
Q) Have the attempts made by some Arab and Iranian circles to settle doctrinal disputes been successful?
A) The conferences held in Iran and in other Islamic countries that we hear a lot about are limited in their activities to applause and mere propaganda and in reality they accomplish no tangible achievements. Evidence of this is that they have never been successful at achieving the goal that they set out to reach i.e. settling disputes. There are still doctrinal disputes that are yet to be settled, and the conferences were of no benefit to the Ummah. They did not bring together the Sunnis and Shia in Iran nor did they solve the problems concerning the Sunnis. It would have been more beneficial to the Ummah if these conferences had been held out of sympathy.
Q) To what extent has the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad influenced society in comparison to his predecessor Mohammed Khatami?
A) Under Khatami, political freedoms, political components and the freedom of expression were more protected and the standard of living of the Iranian people was higher under Khatami.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Compass Direct: Iran Arrests, Coerces Christians over Christmas Season

Authorities threaten to take ailing daughter from parents.

ISTANBUL, January 6 (CDN) — A wave of arrests hit Iranian house churches during the Christmas season, leaving at least five Christian converts in detention across northern Iran, including the mother of an ailing 10-year-old girl. Security officers with an arrest warrant from the Mashhad Revolutionary Court entered the home of Christian Hamideh Najafi in Mashhad on Dec. 16.

After searching her home and confiscating personal belongings, including books and compact discs, police took her to an undisclosed location, according to Farsi Christian News Network (FCNN). FCNN reported that on Dec. 30 the Mashhad Revolutionary Court sentenced Najafi to three months of house arrest and ordered that her daughter, who suffers from a kidney condition, be placed under foster care.

Because of the seriousness of the girl’s illness, however, she was left in the custody of her parents – on the condition that they cease believing in Christ and stop speaking publicly of their faith, FCNN reported.Najafi was denied access to a lawyer during this court hearing, according to FCNN. During interrogation, officers told Najafi to return to Islam and to disclose names of Christian evangelists.

FCNN reported that on some occasions the security officers summoned her husband, blindfolded him and threatened to beat him in front of his wife if she would not sign a confession that she was “mentally and psychologically unfit and disturbed.” The Dec. 30 court hearing was quickly arranged after she was coerced into signing this confession, FCNN reported, and on those grounds her child was initially ordered to be taken from her. Najafi’s daughter suffers from a severe kidney and bladder condition. There were no formal charges against Najafi, but she stands accused of contacting a foreign Christian television network, which court officials labeled as a “political” crime, according to FCNN.

Advocacy group Middle East Concern reported that sources believe authorities forced Najafi’s sister to file a complaint against her on these grounds. The officers who came to arrest Najafi said that portraits of Jesus hanging on her wall would be enough to convict her in court, reported FCNN.

Arrests and Harassment

Compass has confirmed that authorities disrupted Christmas celebrations of two house groups in the Tehran area on Dec. 21 and Dec. 29, leaving four in prison. Other members attending the special services were also questioned. In Shiraz, last week at least eight Christians arrested and released over a year ago were called in for questioning about their activities in the past year.

They were all released after a few hours. In Rasht, Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani is still in prison after being arrested on Oct. 13. Nadarkhani is married and has two children under the age of 10. A source told Compass that another Christian identified as Shaheen, who had been in prison since July 31 when a special meeting of 24 Christians was raided in Fashan, north of Tehran, was released in November. He was the last of the six believers arrested at that meeting to be released. Apart from arrests, Iranian Christians continue to endure discrimination.
A source told Compass that one Christian was denied renewal of his truck driving license last week. When he asked why, authorities told him he was an enemy of the state. The Christian had been arrested three years earlier because of his faith.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Examiner: Iran warned by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay

In a statement issued today, Navi Pillay the UN Human Rights chief issued a stern warning to the Iranian government concerning the recent violence in Iran.

Pillay asked Iran to reign in what she deemed excessive use of force to contain the opposition. She said "while the exact circumstances of at least 7 people killed have yet to be determined, preliminary evidence suggests the paramilitary Basij militia and other state law enforcement agents are using excessive force to control demonstrators. The High Commissioner also expressed concern about continuing reports of arrests of political activists, journalists, human rights defenders and other civil society actors.

Iran pro-government supporters staged their own demonstration in Tehran today. It did not have the energy and zest of the oppositions demonstration but thousands did show up. The pro-government supporters are older on average than opposition members.
The UN High Commissioner went on to say "Those who have been arrested, for whatever reason, must be accorded due process that is fully in line with international human rights standards and norms, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights."
Iran is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which states that 'no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention', and everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly.

MNN: Iranian arrested for contacting Christian media

Iran (MNN) ― The reported arrest of a Christian in Iran has at least one Christian ministry concerned.

According to Bos News, Hamideh Najafi, a former Muslim, was arrested December 16 by three officers at her home in the city of Mashhad, 850 kilometres (530 miles) east of the capital Tehran.

FCNN quoted Najafi's husband as saying she would be charged with "contacting foreign Christian television networks" under new legislation regarding "political crimes." Her books, compact disks and hand-painted portraits of Jesus Christ were taken as "evidence," Christians said.

Najafi's family has not been allowed to contact the woman since her arrest, which was ordered by the Revolutionary Court of Mashhad, FCNN added. "There has been no telephone contact or visitation granted to the family."

Najafi was prevented from meeting her family Monday, January 4, nearly three weeks after she was detained by police for allegedly contacting foreign Christian broadcasters.
However, President of
SAT 7 USA Dr. Rex M. Rogers says, "Those kinds of things happen periodically, and the Christian people must be careful in the pursuance of their faith."

While SAT 7 PARS wasn't the organization the Iranian mother contacted, Rogers says many Christians in Iran do contact their ministry. "We get feedback from text messages, from e-mail, periodically for other kinds of contact, and we know, from some individuals who go in and out of Iran, that the church is growing."

Growth is also happening despite political tensions. Yesterday, Iran arrested more than 180 following last month's anti-government protests. Eight people were killed in those posts. Rogers says, "But in the midst of that, God works. He works in times of adversity. He works in times of persecution, and the church advances."

Rogers seems excited about the number of Iranians interested in Christ. He says since Jesus is mentioned in the Quran, "They are open to the Gospel. They're open to Christian truth, and they don't understand, because they've never been taught, about a God who loves and a God who forgives."
SAT 7 depends on people like you to help them broadcast in Iran through SAT 7 PARS, their Persian-speaking broadcast. Funding for air-time for their ministry is greatly needed, as the ministry airs programming commercial-free. Your gift of support can make an eternal difference in the lives of Christians in the Middle East.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Times: Drug-laced salad killed doctor who exposed torture

A doctor who witnessed the torture of opposition detainees in Iran died after eating a drug-laced salad, Tehran’s public prosecutor said yesterday.

The announcement raises the number of official explanations of Ramin Pourandarjani’s death to at least four.

Opposition activists have only one: that he was killed because he knew too much.

Dr Pourandarjani, 26, was doing his national service at the Kahrizak detention centre near Tehran, where hundreds of opposition demonstrators were locked up and beaten after the disputed election in June.

At least three died of their injuries, including Mohsen Ruholamini, the son of a prominent conservative. His death caused such an outcry that the regime had to close Kahrizak.

Opposition websites said that Dr Pourandarjani was forced to certify that Mr Ruholamini died of meningitis.

They said that he appeared before a parliamentary committee and testified that Mr Ruholamini was tortured, and that he had received death threats. After Dr Pourandarjani’s death on November 10, officials claimed that he had been in a car accident, died of a heart attack and committed suicide.

Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam, the Iranian police chief, said last week that Dr Pourandarjani killed himself because he faced a five-year prison term for medical negligence during his time in Kahrizak, and that he had left a note.

Abbas Dowlatabadi, the public prosecutor, said yesterday that forensic tests showed that the physician died from an overdose of propranolol — a drug used to treat high blood pressure — contained in a salad that he had had delivered.
The prosecutor said that the delivery man had been questioned but not arrested, and that it was still not clear if the doctor was murdered or if he committed suicide.

Reza Gholi Pourandarjani said that his son was in good spirits the night before his death.

Masood Pezeshkian, a reformist MP, said yesterday: “It is impossible to accuse him of suicide ... The idea of suicide by someone who had no problems and no serious diseases — and was present during the events in Kahrizak — seems questionable.”
Amnesty International and other human rights organisations have demanded an independent investigation into the doctor’s death.
“If the Iranian authorities have nothing to hide, they should welcome the opportunity to dispel the cloud of doubt and suspicion surrounding the death of Dr Pourandarjani by inviting international experts to participate,” said Elise Auerbach, Amnesty’s Iran specialist.

Dr Pourandarjani’s death has embarrassed the regime, as did that of Neda Soltan, the young student shot dead during a street protest on June 20.

Yesterday the regime continued its efforts to blame Ms Soltan’s death on Iran’s enemies.
It staged a demonstration outside the British Embassy demanding the extradition of Arash Hejazi, the doctor who tried to save Ms Soltan’s life and whom it accuses of being a British stooge. He has fled to Britain.

Monday, 4 January 2010

ABC News: Iran arrests hundreds of dissidents

By correspondent Anne Barker and wires

Iranian forces have broadened their crackdown against opposition protests by arresting hundreds of dissidents, as a senior cleric called for opposition leaders to be put to death.

Security authorities in Tehran have arrested at least 300 people accused of inciting the latest protests against the government.
Security forces are also restricting the movements of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the main opposition leader.

Those arrested include prominent dissidents or their relatives, such as the sister of Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi.

Ms Ebadi said on French radio France Info that Iranian authorities were trying to silence her by arresting her sister.

"This arrest is illegal because my sister is a dentist, she is not in any way active in human rights or politics... and she didn't participate in any protests," Ms Ebadi said.

She said intelligence officials entered her sister's house on Monday night to arrest her without a warrant, rifled through her belongings, and confiscated computers.

Eight people were killed in Sunday's riots.

Yesterday pro-government loyalists staged their own rallies in support of the government and denouncing the opposition.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has accused the United States and Israel of inciting the latest anti-government protest.

Mr Ahmadinejad joined a chorus of Iranian leaders attacking foreign governments for encouraging the latest violent protests against the Islamic regime.

He accused the US and Israel of staging a "nauseating play" by fomenting the unrest.

Iran's foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki summoned the British ambassador in Tehran and threatened his country with a "slap in the mouth" if it didn't stop
meddling in Iran's affairs.

A representative of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says opposition leaders are "enemies of God" who should be executed under the country's sharia law.

"Those who are behind the current sedition in the country... are mohareb [enemies of God] and the law is very clear about punishment of a mohareb," said cleric Abbas Vaez-Tabasi, who possesses ultimate authority in Iran.

Under Iran's Islamic sharia law the sentence for "mohareb" is execution.