Saturday, 28 January 2012

HRW: Iran: Authorities Defiant on Rights Record

(New York) - Iranian authorities in 2011 carried out more than 600 executions and imprisoned more journalists and bloggers than any other country, Human Rights Watch said today in issuing its World Report 2012 Iran chapter. Iran’s judiciary works hand-in-hand with security and intelligence forces to harass, imprison and convict opposition and rights activists, despite increasing international condemnation of the country’s rights record.

In March the United Nations Human Rights Council appointed Ahmed Shaheed to be the first special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran since 2002. Since Shaheed’s appointment the Iranian government has refused him entry to the country, executed more than 400 prisoners – including people convicted of committing crimes when they were children, and prosecuted dozens of outspoken lawyers, journalists, and rights activists for their peaceful speech and associational activities. In February the authorities placed the 2009 presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi under house arrest, where they remain.

“The Iranian government crushes all voices of opposition while scoffing at the international community’s growing concern over human rights,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
In its 676-page World Report 2012, Human Rights Watch assesses progress on human rights during the past year in more than 90 countries, including popular uprisings in the Arab world that few would have imagined. Given the violent forces resisting the “Arab Spring,” the international community has an important role to play in assisting the birth of rights-respecting democracies in the region, Human Rights Watch said in the report.

In Iran, the authorities carried out more than 600 executions, according to several rights groups, even though the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and four UN experts pressed Iranian officials for an immediate moratorium on the death penalty, “particularly for drug-related and juvenile cases.” Government sources announced only around 350 of these executions. The vast majority were for drug-related offenses, including trafficking and possession. The pace of executions accelerated following the entry into force in December 2010 of an amended anti-narcotics law, drafted by the Expediency Council and approved by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Despite the hundreds of executions, Yuri Fedotov, executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), made no mention of the wave of executions taking place in Iran for drug-related offenses and praised the country’s anti-drug efforts during a visit to Tehran in July. The UNODC has provided up to $22 million since 2005 to support training projects for Iran’s anti-drug forces, and the European commission, European Union member states, and several other governments including Japan, Norway, Australia and Canada, provide money, technical assistance, and legislative support to Iran’s anti-drug efforts.

Iran also led the world in the reported execution of people convicted of offenses they allegedly committed before age 18, despite the prohibition on such executions under international law. Iranian law allows capital punishment for people who have reached puberty, defined as age 9 for girls and 15 for boys. The judiciary allowed the execution of at least three children in 2011.

Authorities have executed at least 30 people since January 2010 on the charge of
moharebeh (“enmity against God”), for alleged ties to armed or terrorist groups. On January 9, 2012, a revolutionary court in Tehran sentenced Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, an Iranian-American, to death on charges of moharebeh, “corruption on earth,” and espionage. The judiciary sentenced Hekmati after authorities detained him for more than four months without providing him access to a lawyer, his family, or the Swiss consular officials who represent American interests in Iran.

As of December 42 journalists and bloggers were in prison in Iran, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. More than 60 journalists were forced into exile in 2011 alone, and authorities have shut down at least 40 publications since 2009. On January 17, 2012, Iran’s Supreme Court confirmed the death sentence for blogger Saeed Malekpour, a Canadian resident who was convicted of “insulting and desecrating Islam” in October 2011. At least two other individuals have been sentenced to death by the judiciary on internet-related charges. The government blocks certain websites that carry political news and analysis, slows down internet speeds to hinder web access, and jams foreign satellite broadcasts.

In January 2011 a revolutionary court sentenced Nasrin Sotoudeh, a prominent rights lawyer, to 11 years in prison and barred her from practicing law and leaving the country for 20 years on charges of “acting against the national security” and “propaganda against the regime.” The judiciary later reduced her sentence to six years and a 10-year ban on travel and practicing law. The
judiciary prosecuted, convicted, or sentenced several other prominent lawyers to prison terms and bans on the practice of law. Earlier in the year Sadegh Larijani, the Head of the Judiciary, warned lawyers that they should refrain from giving interviews that damage the government’s reputation.

On January 10, 2012, the Interior Ministry’s election commission disqualified several dozen candidates from running in the upcoming March 2 parliamentary elections because of their “lack of adherence to Islam and the Constitution.” The disqualified candidates include several incumbents who were critical of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government. In November and December reformist and opposition activists, some of whom are currently serving prison terms, issued several statements calling the parliamentary elections a sham and concluding there was no reason to field candidates. In December the Iranian judiciary announced that anyone calling for a boycott of the upcoming parliamentary elections would be subject to prosecution.

Mousavi and Karroubi were placed under house arrest in February 2011 after they called for mass protests. Several days earlier, beginning on February 8, security forces had arbitrarily arrested dozens of political opposition members in Tehran and several other cities.

“The continued detention of Mousavi and Karroubi, not to mention the dozens of reformist candidates arrested after the disputed 2009 presidential election, is a reminder to all of us that Iran’s human rights crisis is linked to the demand of citizens to participate in free and fair elections,” Whitson said. 

CNN: Iran must stop persecuting minority religions

(CNN) -- In March 2009, when I was detained in Evin Prison in Iran, two evangelical Christians were arrested. I never met them but spotted them a few times through the barred window of my cell as they walked back and forth to the bathroom down the hall.

I would later learn that Maryam Rostampour and Marzieh Amirizadeh had converted from Islam to Christianity and faced charges of spreading propaganda against the Islamic Republic, insulting religious sanctities, and committing apostasy. They resisted severe pressure to renounce their faith, and in November 2009, after an international outcry, the two women went free.

News headlines are now highlighting the plight of another Iranian Christian accused of apostasy, or abandoning one's religion. When Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was 19, he converted from Islam to Christianity. In 2010, a provincial court sentenced him to death. This year, Iran's Supreme Court ruled that the case should be reviewed and the sentence overturned if he recants his faith -- a step Nadarkhani, 34, has so far refused to take.

Now, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Iran's judiciary has ordered the verdict to be delayed, possibly for one year. But Nadarkhani's supporters hope sustained worldwide pressure will lead to his just and immediate release.

As international criticism has mounted, an Iranian official has alleged that Nadarkhani is being prosecuted not for his faith but for crimes including rape and extortion. Nadarkhani's attorney, however, says the only charge the pastor has faced is apostasy, and court documents support this assertion.
Although Iran's penal code does not include a specific provision for apostasy, judges are given a fairly wide degree of latitude to issue rulings based on their own interpretation of Islamic law. In the past this has led to punishments ranging from imprisonment to death. The last person officially executed in Iran for apostasy was Hossein Soodmand, a Pentecostal minister who converted from Islam before Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution and was hanged in 1990.
Iranian officials often say their country's recognized religious minorities (Christians, Jews, and adherents of the ancient Persian religion of Zoroastrianism) enjoy freedoms equal to their Muslim counterparts. Iran's constitution gives these three religious minorities certain rights, such as five seats in the 290-member parliament and the freedom to perform their religious rituals.

The constitution's articles, however, are all set within the boundaries of Islam, and Islamic codes grant superior legal status to male Muslims.
Many non-Shiites in Iran have also complained of limits on education, work, and exercising their faith. Critics accuse the Islamic regime of having monitored, harassed, abducted, detained, tortured, and killed citizens based upon their religion. Since 1999, the U.S. State Department has designated Iran a "country of particular concern" because of religious repression. The State Department has focused on the treatment of Sufi and Sunni Muslims, Protestant evangelical Christians, Jews, Shiites who don't share the government's official views, and Baha'is, whose faith is not recognized by Iran's regime.

Christian leaders in Iran have usually blunted their criticism of the regime, in part to avoid tensions. When I attended Christmas Eve Mass in Iran four years ago, I saw a few dozen worshipers, but I also heard that they had to get government permission to hold the service and were not allowed to proselytize. They had a Christian school, but it had to have a Muslim principal. They could print Christian texts but only with the authorities' approval.

A number of Iranian Christians who recently left Iran have told me that since the country's 2009 disputed presidential election, pressure on their communities has intensified, prompting many more Christians to emigrate. In April, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom reported a rise in Iranian authorities raiding church services and harassing worshipers.
Evangelicals and other Protestants have been particularly targeted. Unlike Iran's traditionally recognized Christian minorities, such as Armenians, Assyrians, and Chaldeans, evangelical churches hold their services in the Farsi language. Iranian authorities accuse them of spreading Christian writings in Farsi to convert Muslims.

"They are tough on us because we educate others," a former pastor of an underground evangelical church in Iran told me on condition of anonymity. "They call it proselytizing, but we don't proselytize. We discuss the realities that Jesus Christ talks about in the Bible, and we never speak about the Islamic Republic."

Shortly after their release from prison, Maryam and Marzieh, the two Christian converts detained down the corridor from me, left Iran. If they stayed, they may have shared the tragic fate of the Rev. Mehdi Dibaj.
Dibaj, a Christian convert from Islam, was jailed for a decade and released in 1994 after international appeals. Soon afterward, he went missing. The authorities reported the discovery of his corpse in a wooded area west of Tehran. Iran's government blamed an anti-regime group for the murder.

If the Iranian regime wants to tout religious freedom, it should respect its citizens' right to decide one of life's most personal choices: their spiritual path. A regime that claims to observe human rights and base its actions on the peaceful nature of Islam should also explain how peace would be attained by executing a man whose only crime is his faith.

By releasing Youcef Nadarkhani before Christmas, Tehran would take an important step toward respect for human rights and would give his wife and children an unforgettable gift.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Alarabiya: Iran arrests prominent Ahwazi Arab singer and his brother

By Mousa Sharififarid
Al Arabiya

Iranian authorities have arrested prominent Arab singer, Ghalib Manabi, and his brother, Hassan, from the Arab-majority city of Ahwaz, the capital of the Khuzestan Province.

Ghalib and several members of his family are known for their activism challenging various government programs designed to alter the demographic structure in the region and reduce ethnic Arabs to a minority group.

Members of Ghalib’s family were previously arrested in 2005 during an uprising by ethnic Arabs against a government program that called for requisitioning of land from Arabs in al-Ahwaz and a government-directed migration plan of non-Arabs into the region.

Local sources told Al Arabiya that about 60 Arab-speaking activists were arrested since November 2011.

Kazem Mojaddam, member of the Center against Anti-Arab Racism in Iran, told Al Arabiya, “The government of Iran does not allow the Ahwazi people to practice their cultural activities although the Iranian constitution gives this right to all the people of Iran.”

Mojaddam added that the Ahwazi people were being threatened by the Iranian government, “which tries to undermine the Arab identity and culture through imprisonment and killing of Arab artists and writers.”

“The government also does not allow Arab-speaking Iranians to name their children after non-Shiite Arab names,” Mojaddam added.

Khuzestan is the source of 90 percent of Iran’s oil production, but people in the province complain of marginalizatio, poverty and the lack of adequate social services.

Besides, the province often takes the lion’s share of executions in the country. In 2007, Iranian authorities executed 22 activists in Ahwaz after they were accused to supporting the secession of the region from Iran.

(Translated from Arabic by Mustapha Ajbaili)

Jpost: Christians in Iran, Syria face rising persecution




Iranian pastor Nardakhani refuses to renounce Christian beliefs in exchange for release from prison.

 There has been a wave of violence targeting Iranian and Syrian Christians over the past month, say Christian news reports.

In addition, Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who has been on death row since 2010 for seeking to register his home-based church, refused to renounce his Christian beliefs in exchange for his release from prison. He was also jailed for questioning the role of Islam as the dominant form of religious instruction in his children’s school.

'Hezbollah acting in Syria against protesters'

According to a report on the website of the International Christian news agency BosNewsLife, “Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has rejected an offer to be released from prison if he publicly acknowledges Islam’s prophet Mohammed as ‘a messenger sent by God,’ well-informed Christians and rights activists said” earlier this month.

While Iran’s opaque judicial system coupled with the lack of access for most Western media makes it difficult to verify the new coercion against Nadarkhani, the reports are considered reasonable in light of the Iranian regime’s intense crackdown on its Christian population over the years.

In an e-mail to The Jerusalem Post on Sunday, Giulio Meotti, an Italian journalist with Il Foglio and author of the book A New Shoah, wrote “After the ethnic cleansing of Jews in 1948 from the Arab countries, Islamic fundamentalism is now trying to push away the Christians from the region. They want to establish a pure Islamic environment and the mass exodus already began under our noses.”

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Christian Post wrote last week on its website, “The Christian community in Syria has been hit by a series of kidnappings and brutal murders; 100 Christians have now been killed since the anti-government unrest began. A reliable source in the country, who cannot be identified for their own safety, told Barnabas Aid that children were being especially targeted by the kidnappers, who, if they do not receive the ransom demanded, kill the victim.”

The Pakistan Christian Post website noted “Two Christians were killed on January 15 as they waited for bread at a bakery. Another Christian, aged 40 with two young children, was shot dead by three armed attackers while he was driving a vehicle.”

The Post could not independently verify these allegations.

Meotti, the Italian Journalist who has written extensively on Christians in the Mideast region, told the Post “In Syria Christians will be persecuted after Assad’s eventual fall, since they were the most loyal allies of the Baathist regime. Christians will be slaughtered or squeezed. From Cairo to Damascus, Arab Christian era is near to its end everywhere.”

Many critics of Assad’s regime, however, view Assad as exploiting sectarian conflicts in Syria to solidify his repressive security apparatus, which has resulted in the killings of over 5,000 pro-democracy supporters in Syria.

“Of course Assad is using the power of fear to manipulate the Christians. He is directing these bishops and patriarchs to say what suits him,” Pascal Gollnisch, a Catholic priest and director of l’Oeuvre d’Orient, told the French news organization F24 in December.

The Paris-based organization seeks to shield Christians from persecution mainly in the Middle East region and is part of the Archdiocese of Paris.

Christians make up 10 percent of Syria’s 22 million population.

Clifford D. May, the president of the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former New York Times reporter, has long argued the persecution of Christians in numerous Muslim-majority countries is the most pressing news story ignored by the mainstream media.

He told the Post “If the situation were reversed, if such a war were being waged against Muslims, it would be the top story in every newspaper, the most urgent item at the UN, the highest priority of all the big-league human-rights groups.”

The US-based media watchdog organization the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) held on Saturday a conference titled “The Persecuted Church: Christian Believers in Peril in the Middle East.”

 Dr. Richard Landes, an associate professor of history and director and cofounder of the Center of Millennial Studies at Boston University, who spoke at the CAMERA event, wrote the Post on Sunday: “there’s a bizarre, eery, indeed terrible (a-)symmetry between the nearly hysterical concern of the media and the ‘progressive’ NGOs etc. about Israeli violations of the Palestinian ‘human rights’ and the nearly total silence about the horrendous things happening to Christians in Muslim majority countries, not necessarily at the hands of their neighbors but of Salafists, Jihadis, etc.”

Landes added that “it all illustrates Charles Jacobs’ notion of human rights complex – the thing that gets western ‘human rights’ folk indignant has nothing to do with the victims of their sufferings, but the [perpetrators]. If white, hysteria; if of color, embarrassed silence.

“There’s a racism inherent in this – we don’t expect anything from people of color, we hold whites to a much higher standard – and the result is that truly horrendous stuff gets ignored.”

Benjamin Weinthal is a research fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies


VOA: An Update On Iranian Stoning Case

It’s been over a year since the Islamic Republic of Iran, after a fierce outcry from the international community, appeared to drop plans to stone to death Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani for adultery.

Governments and human rights monitors decried the lack of due process the Azeri-Iranian woman was accorded during judicial proceedings in which she was found guilty, and the punishment itself was denounced throughout the world for its barbarity. The stoning sentence was suspended, and there was a suggestion by an Iranian official that Ms. Ashtiani’s life might be spared.

The U.S. government continues to closely monitor this case and calls -- in concert with the international community -- for Ms. Ashtiani to be granted a fair trial or released.

Ms. Ashtiani has remained in prison, not only because of the adultery charge, but also for another crime -- complicity in the murder of her husband – - to which she confessed under circumstances many believe were coercive. One of her lawyers, Mohammad Mostafaei, was forced to flee Iran; the other, Javid Hootan Kian, is in prison; reports are he has been severely tortured.

After months of silence, an Iranian official recently spoke out about Ms. Ashtiani’s case. The head of the judiciary in East Azerbaijan province reportedly said that facilities where she is held are not adequate to carry out a stoning sentence, so authorities are investigating whether it will be religiously acceptable to execute her by hanging instead.

The U.S. State Department has expressed deep concern that “judicial cases, trials and sentences continue to proceed without transparency and the due process rights enshrined in Iran’s own constitution,” and urged the Iranian government “to halt these executions and to guarantee the rights of its citizens in accordance with its international obligations.”

An activist with the International Committee to Prevent Stoning, Mina Ahadi, said she believes by bringing up Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s case after a year, the Iranian regime “is testing the waters.”

The international community should make clear the waters are not amenable.  The hundreds of people killed in Iran in 2011 in a system lacking due process are now beyond help. But a global chorus should once again be raised in support of Ms. Ashtiani and all other Iranians who currently sit in prison in the shadow of death, convicted in violation of the rule of law and their fundamental rights.

MEMRI: Antisemitic Statements, Publications by Iranian Regime

Alongside the Holocaust denial policy promoted by the Iranian regime, its leaders also make statements and publish writings expressing hatred toward the Jews, especially those in Israel, while denying Israel's right to exist. Regime officials, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, claim that the Jews spread corruption in the world and that they are "evil, greedy, thieves, and murderers," and "filthy criminals who [only] appear to be human."

The title "Jew" is used as a slur in Iranian political struggles. Thus, for example, Mansour Arzi, a critic of Ahmadinejad, called Rahim Mashaei, the head of the president's office, a Jew in order to offend him.[1] Ahmadinejad's opponents acted similarly in October 2009, when they claimed he was of Jewish origin, and that his father had changed his surname to mask the fact.[2]

Formally, the Iranian regime distinguishes between Judaism as a religion, which is legitimate (Jews, being monotheists, are entitled to practice their religion under Muslim rule), and Judaism as a nationality – which Iran totally rejects as non-existent. President Ahmadinejad even claimed that the Zionists are not Jews, but rather infidels[3] or atheists: "They [the Zionists] lie when they say they are Jewish. Judaism has not known a bigger injustice than the Zionists claiming they are Jews."[4]

However, regime officials frequently blur the lines between the Jewish religion and nationality. Sometimes they refer to Jews by their religious affiliation, and sometimes by their national affiliation, recruiting the Koran to justify their claims anachronistically. For example, in August 2011 in Tabas (eastern Iran), preacher Ebrahim Mohajerian claimed that, "according to the Koran, the sons of Israel, the Jews, and the Zionists are the worst enemy of mankind, and especially of Muslims, aside from Satan."[5]

Following are more examples of antisemitic statements and publications by regime officials, and movies screened with its blessing.

Khamenei: "Wherever Evil Jews Existed, They Were Gathered Together [and sent to Palestine]"

In a speech to intellectuals in the city of Kermanshah in western Iran on October 18, 2011, Supreme Leader Khamenei repeated antisemitic notions when claiming that Western media is clearly operated and guided by The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. He said that "efforts by media outlets belonging to the oppressive world order [meaning the West] to highlight deviant and erroneous paradigms draws inspiration from the dangerous aims of the Zionist protocols [i.e The Protocols of the Elders of Zion]. This paradigm, developed by the media, is based in a clear, well-defined policy."[6]

On October 1, 2011, alongside the start of a conference in support of the Palestinians in Tehran, the website of the Institute for the Compilation and Publication of Supreme Leader Khamenei's Works announced the publication of a new book, 416 pages long, titled Palestine in the Viewpoint of Leader Khamenei, which features his statements on the issue, on ways to resolve it, and on the heroes of Palestine, it's defeats, victories, and future.[7] 

In one of Khamenei's sermons appearing in the book, he said that Israel is "a country with no origin or provenance - a fake country, a false nation. Evil men from all corners of the world were gathered together in order to establish an amalgam called Israel. This is a nation? Wherever evil Jews existed, they were gathered together [and sent] there [to Palestine].

"Jews live in most countries [in the world]. Even in Iran, Jews exist and live their lives – they don't interfere with anyone, and no one interferes with them. This is their country and they live in it. [But] those who went to occupied lands [Israel] were evil, greedy, thieves, and murderers gathered from around the world.

"Is that how you establish a nation? The nation and country that was established in that way, called Israel, knows no way but the way of terror. It has nothing substantial to say. At the same time, this entity, despite its lowliness and impurity, wants to besmirch a glorious, proud, and dear nation like Iran in the global public opinion. [However] they themselves are guiltiest of all, the greatest criminals of all, and their shame is greater than that of others."[8]

In a speech in the city of Qom on January 9, 2012, Khamenei addressed Iran's geopolitical situation and the economic sanctions leveled by the U.S., and claimed that, in dealing with the infidel U.S. and its Zionist allies, Shi'ite Iran is facing the same conditions that existed in the time of Badr and Khaybar. These statements refer to Muhammad's massacre of the Jews of Khaybar (628 CE) and the victory of few Muslims (modern Shi'ites) led by the Prophet Muhammad over the wealthy but heretical Quraysh tribe in the battle of Badr (623 CE).

According to Khamenei, "The front that stands before us is a front of America and the Zionists, who have tried every plot in waging war against the Iranian nation... so they could weaken the regime and destroy the people's determination... In the infancy of Islam, the enemies thought to lay an economic siege on the Muslims along with the Bani Talib [i.e., the Talib tribe, who were the Prophet Muhammad's wealthy, heretical rivals and besieged him in the city of Madina], but they failed. These wretched people [i.e., Westerners] miscalculated. They think that [today] we are like the Bani Talib... This is not the case. Today we are in the same circumstances [as the Muslims in the battles] of Badr and Khaybar... Our nation [can already] see victory. The nation is close to victory..."[9]
Ahmadinejad: The Jews Who Went to Israel "[Only] Appear to Be Human"
In a speech in the city of Shahrekord (western Iran) on June 16, 2010, Ahmadinejad referred to the Jews who went to Israel as "the greatest criminals, who [only] appear to be human"... "Sixty years ago, they [i.e. the West] gathered the filthiest and greatest of criminals, who [only] appear to be human from all the corners of the earth, organized and armed them on artificial and false pretexts, fabricating information and inventing stories [hinting at the Holocaust]. They gave them propaganda and military backing so that they would occupy the lands of Palestine and uproot the Palestinian nation..."[10]
On December 13, 2010, Ahmadinejad said: "Today it is clear to all that the Zionists are not Jews, Christians, or Muslims. They do not believe in any of the divine religions. They are atheists and are not entitled to man's minimal rights."[11]
In a speech to foreign press on October 29, 2011 in Tehran, Ahmadinejad described the Israeli regime as a many-armed party that controls those holding monopolies of power, wealth, and media, and added: "For 60 years the European people have been paying taxes to the Zionists. The Zionists fund Western election propaganda [and thus] control their affairs. [Therefore] the people and thinkers in the West play no part."[12] According to Ahmadinejad, Israel is the embodiment of the Zionist anti-humanist ideology; the Zionist regime does not obey religion or morality, and only portrays itself as Jewish.[13]
In an interview with Mexican TV on January 21, 2012, Ahmadinejad reiterated his Holocaust denial and claimed that the truth about the Holocaust would prevail: "If the Holocaust is a historical reality, why should it be forbidden to [question] it through research, and why are historians [who do so] imprisoned? I have raised two questions regarding the Holocaust: [one,] if it is real and [indeed] took place in Europe, why must the Palestinian people pay for it? And secondly, why is it forbidden to research the Holocaust? Unfortunately, instead of answering these questions, [the Zionists] use their media outlets to attack [those who ask]. However, such actions certainly will not stand up to the truth because the truth will always prevail."[14]
Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi: The Jews – "Enemies of Islam"
Assembly of Experts member Ayatollah Taqi Mesbah-e Yazdi, who was until recently President Ahmadinejad's spiritual patron, also expresses antisemitic motifs in his speeches. For example, in an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) conference in January 2010, he defined the Jews as "the enemies of Islam," and as "the most devious politicians on Earth." According to Yazdi, "most of the centers of global corruption belong to the Jews and Zionists, who try to infect the other peoples with corruption and take over the world."[15]
Iranian Book: "How to Eliminate Israel?"
On November 23, 2011, the website Rasa News, which is close to religious seminaries in Qom, reviewed a book written by religion students from these seminaries, titled How to Eliminate Israel?, which discusses the question of how to implement the instruction by the founder of the Iranian Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, to destroy the State of Israel.

There are several examples in the book of the authors' confusion between a Jewish identity and an Israeli or Zionist one. Thus, for example, one writer – Mohammad Ebrahim-Nia, said that the book quotes anti-Jewish Koranic verses to explain how to eliminate Israel. According to him, "the Koran has defined this regime [sic. Meaning Israel, which didn't exist in the 7th century CE] as the Muslims' worst enemy, but battling them does not receive apt attention by the Muslims... Along with current translations of Koranic verses, the [book] presents... pictures of Zionists relating to the content of the verse, and statements of Jewish academics regarding the verse."

The cover of How to Eliminate Israel?, featuring a picture of Ayatollah Khomeini

Ebrahim-Nia stated that alongside Koranic verses, the book also relies on a fatwa by the founder of the Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, regarding Israel's elimination, which is "a religious duty." He added that the book also discusses "the study of Israel's ideological characteristics, the crimes of this nation, the Koran's warnings to Muslims against it, the Israelites' weak spots, and ways to combat this nation."

According to Ebrahim-Nia, "more than any other nation, the Koran warns the Muslims of the Israelites, a nation that received unique blessings from God, [but] perpetrated the most unique crimes and whom God [subjected to the worst] tortures. Unlike popular opinion, this nation did not vanish during those centuries, and its remnants can be found today within Zionism, which continues to commit crimes against the Muslim nation and deliver it blows."[16]

New Antisemitic Film in Iran – "Saturday Hunter"

Alongside antisemitic remarks, antisemitic films are distributed inside and outside Iran with the regime's blessing, including such films as "Saturday Hunter" and "The Antisemite."

In recent months, the anti-Zionist film "Saturday Hunter," which is directed by Iranian Parviz Sheikh Tadi and contains antisemitic motifs, was released in Iran. The Hebrew website of the Iranian Broadcast Authority explained that the film takes place in Israel, and "deals with a boy named Benjamin, who suffers mental abuse and is brainwashed by his grandfather, a Zionist rabbi, to become a bloodthirsty, merciless killer willing to spill the blood of innocent Palestinians in order to realize the goals of Zionism...

"Benjamin is separated from his mother in order to prepare him emotionally for endorsing Zionist ideology. At first he resists, but gradually he submits and adopts the radical Zionist perceptions. The Zionist rabbi... is a sadist, a cheater, and a religious racist, who turns the boy into a bloodthirsty robot in the service of Zionism." According to the website, the film was mostly shot in Lebanon, and shows how "the Zionist rabbis, who are morally and financially corrupt, control Israeli institutions."[17] To watch the trailer of this film, visit; for a brief description of the movie that was broadcast by the Iranian Arabic-language TV channel Al-'Alam, along with commentary by producer Mohammad Qahremani, visit
The movie presents Judaism as a religion that looks down on Christianity and Islam, and the grandfather, "Rabbi Hanan," as a Zionist Jew who uses any form of manipulation to get what he desires – the desire of the Zionist Jews. Al-'Alam TV explained that Judaism is "religious racism" and the character of the Jewish rabbi is "the essence of evil on Earth and the embodiment of deception." In the film, the boy is shown going through religious and military training by the Zionist rabbi, alongside massive brainwashing, which is typical of Zionists, according to the film and the Al-'Alam presenter. The child, dressed in a military uniform, is seen firing indiscriminately in all directions to the sounds of the Tikvah (Israel's national anthem), until he becomes a war machine that carries out orders without emotion.

In the film's trailer, Judaism is portrayed as a religion that degrades and humiliates women, uses members of other religions to satisfy the needs of the Jew, and uses witchcraft and purity rituals to convert people to the Jewish faith. In addition, it is claimed that the correct interpretation of Judaism is that Jews must not be killed, but the blood of members of other religions or nations is forfeit. The rabbi says to the Palestinian Muslims that he and the Zionist Jews are "the sons of Abraham," which grants them alone the control and sovereignty of the land. The Zionist Jew even wonders who those Muslim Palestinians are and refers to them as having no identity. In addition, the film portrays peaceful Muslim Palestinians in their village as victims of the violent, aggressive Zionist Jews who wish to destroy them, which reflects "a daily reality" according to the filmmakers and Al-'Alam TV.

In the Al-'Alam TV clip, the film's producer, Mohammad Qahremani, said that the film would soon be translated into Arabic and will be released in Arab and Muslim countries after being rejected by all international film festivals due to what he called "the pro-Zionist positions of [festival] organizers." According to him, the film is important because it helps explain the importance of the Palestinian presence in Palestine, which, according to Qahremani, saves the world from Zionist rule.[18]

Iran Sponsors Antisemitic French Film "The Antisemite"

The Iranian Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, and Iran's Experimental and Documentary Film Center have sponsored the production of the film The Antisemite, an adaptation of an eponymous play by French comedian Dieudonné' M'bala M'bala,[19] whose works have been censored in France for racial and religious incitement. According to a report published anonymously (apparently by Dieudonné's team) on the website Medialibre, the film tells the story of a man who "nurtures absolute hatred towards anything Jewish." His wife, who has cancer, asks him to seek medical help for his antisemitism, and the latter consults a Jewish psychoanalyst. The film opens with "one of those usual Holocaust propaganda documentaries" playing on TV in the couple's bedroom, the report says. "Horrible pictures are shown. The protagonist turns to his wife and says, sobbing: 'One day, all this will come true.'"[20]

Dieudonné turned to Iran after failing to find a sponsor for his film in France. It should be noted that the Iranian authorities have also agreed to sponsor the production of his film The Black Code, which claims that Zionists were involved in the European slave-trade in the 18th century.[21]

The Antisemite is to be screened at a conference on "Hollywoodism and Cinema" that will be held on the sidelines of Iran's 30th Fajr International Film Festival (1-11 February, 2012).[22] In France, it was screened in Dieudonné's theatre on January 16-22, 2012. (Other French theatres refused to screen it).[23]
[1], August 23, 2011.
[2] Iranologists have stressed that Ahmadinejad does not come from a Jewish family, and that the affair was meant to sully his name in Iranian society.
[3], September 18, 2008.
[4] IRNA (Iran), August 2, 2010. Ahmadinejad distinguishes between Jews, whom he claims to love, and Zionists, whom he does no love: "I love everyone – Jews, Muslims, and Christians. But the corruptor is not Jewish. He is a Zionist. And they [the Zionists] started a political party. Their intentions [when using] the Holocaust was to establish Israel, which is why they fear questions on this matter." Fars (Iran), July 9, 2011.
[5] Fars (Iran), August 26, 2011.
[6], October 18, 2011. 
[7] The website states that the book can be purchased by sending a request to the following email:, October 1, 2011.
[8], October 1, 2011.
[9], January 9, 2012.
[10] Fars (Iran), June 16, 2010.
[11], December 13, 2010.
[12] ISNA (Iran), October 29, 2011.
[13] IRNA (Iran), October 30, 2011. In another speech on November 13, 2011, Ahmadinejad said: "Using lies, the Zionists have erected a 2,500-year-old culture, and they wish to destroy the historic roots of the other countries.", November 13, 2011.
[14], January 21, 2012.
[15] ILNA (Iran), January 5, 2010.
[16] Rasa News (Iran), November 23, 2011.
[17], November 6, 2011.
[19] Tehran Times (Iran), May 23, 2011.
[20], January 9, 2012.
[21]Tehran Times (Iran), May 23, 2011.
[22] Tehran Times (Iran), May 23, 2011.
[23] On Dieudonné, see Special Dispatch No.4313, "Antisemitic French Comedian Dieudonné M'bala M'bala To Release Iran-Produced Film, 'The Anti-Semite,'" November 25, 2011,

RG: Iranian Christians tell of persecution

A young man is forced to squat on the floor of a small, closed room. Soldiers cock their rifles. Bound and blindfolded, the man does not know if a shot will ring out, or if that it will be the last sound he hears.

A young woman is arrested for no reason and held, isolated, in a solitary room, and interrogated for 14 hours straight, not knowing whether she will ever see her family again.

An entire family is on edge as they are warned to not turn off their phones, so they can receive their daily threat of interrogation and incarceration.

As terrible and unreal as these three situations may sound, they are regular occurrences for Christians living in Iran in 2012, as testified to by Pouya and Tarsa, two young people presently visiting and ministering in Bermuda at local churches with international missions group, Youth With A Mission (YWAM).

Over the last few years, many in Bermuda have received e-mails or seen posts on the internet requesting urgent prayer for Christians in Iran and for people to sign petitions to encourage the release of release of religious prisoners.

One recent e-mail highlighted the plight of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who was arrested in October, 2009 for speaking out against changes to policies in the Iranian education system, which would force his children to read from the Quran while at school, after he attempted to register his church. After being arrested, the charge against the 34-year-old father-of-two was changed to that of apostasy, and he was also accused of attempting to evangelise Muslims, a crime in Iran.

Then, in June 2010, his wife, Fatemah Pasindedih, was also arrested under pressure to convert to Islam, and the couple were threatened that their children would be taken away and given to a Muslim family if they continued to refuse to convert to Islam. Pasindedih was later released, but the case against Pastor Youcef continued and the court convicted the pastor of leaving Islam and sentenced him to death in November 2010.

Despite appeals against the court’s ruling that apostasy is not a crime under Iran’s penal code, the Supreme Court held in June 2011 that apostasy was still punishable under Sharia law. The court also asked a lower court to review whether Pastor Youcef was a Muslim when he became a Christian at the age of 19.

During the proceedings, which took place in September 2011, the pastor was told he would be given three chances to renounce his Christian faith in order to have the charges removed, which he refused, and on September 26, the court determined that, because he was born into a Muslim family, he was a Muslim, and therefor a national apostate, in spite of witnesses testifying that he never practiced Islam.
Pastor Youcef continues to remain in prison, and in spite of international pressure, including a petition by 200,000 Americans and a call by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton for the pastors release, remains under a death sentence.

Watching world news and hearing about the atrocities that occur, Iran seems a world away from Bermuda. How can Westerners support change in Iran?

Pressure from international news organizations has definitely made a difference in many cases, as world attention has been spotlighted on specific abuses within the country. According to friends of Tarsa, when the world found out about the mass arrest at her church, interrogations decreased from four or five a day, to only one a day.

There have also been far fewer killings, both murders and executions, however torture and sexual abuse still remain rampant within the prisons and detention centres.

“The hope of most local Christians is that their Western brothers and sisters... will continue to put pressure,” on Iranian authorities, according to Pouya.

Learning more about what is going on, such as watching films like, “A Cry From Iran,”, and supporting organizations that support persecuted Christians, like Elam Ministries, which seeks to train, equip and support churches within Iran, are also excellent ways to support persecuted Christians within the country.
“The church in Iran needs practical help,” Pouya explained.
Revival has been taking the country by storm.
According to Elam Ministries: “In 1979, there were less than 500 known Christians from a Muslim background in Iran. Today, the most conservative estimate is that there are at least 100,00 believers in the nation.” (

“We are very strong for evangelism,” Pouya explained, but the church there desperately needs training and discipleship materials.

“Eighty percent of active believers are under 30, and under five years in the faith.”

He suggests that one of the best ways is to bring Iranian church leaders out of the country to receive the Christian discipleship and ministry training they desperately need, and then send them back home to do the work.

However, it is prayer that Christians in Iran most seek from their Western brothers and sisters prayers for boldness in the face of fear, for wisdom and for freedom.

* For her protection, Tarsa’s name has been changed. Some details from Pouya’s and Tarsa’s stories have also been left out, for the protection of family members and church associates remaining in Iran.

Director of Tabriz website Peyman Pakmehr in Evin prison

A Tabriz-based Iranian activist and journalist Peyman Pakmehr has been arrested and taken to Evin prison on national security charges, according to media reports.

Peyman Pakmehr, the editor of the Tabriz News website, was detained by local Intelligence Ministry officials in the northwestern city of Tabriz on 17 January and was reportedly transferred to Tehran’s Evin prison.
According to Iranian opposition website Daneshjoo news, Pakmehr is being held in ward 209 of the notorious prison and has been able to contact his family since his arrest.

Pakmehr was a leading student activist in the nineties and was pursued by authorities following July 1999 student protests in the country.

He has also worked with two newspapers that were eventually shut down by authorities, Nasim-e Sabah and Ahrar-e Tabriz. In July 2003 he was detained hours after giving an interview with Radio Farda about legal protests at Babam fortress near Kaliber.

Pakmehr’s arrest comes amidst a noticeable rise in crackdowns on journalists and activists in recent days. The latest arrest came on Wednesday when security forces took journalist Sahamoddin (Saham) Bourghani to an unknown location after inspecting his place of residence.
In December 2011, a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York based organisation that promotes press freedom and journalist rights, named Iran as the world’s worst jailer of journalists. Eritrea, China, Burma, Vietnam, Syria, and Turkey trailed behind Iran as the world’s worst imprisoners of journalists.

The review suggested that Iran had “maintained a revolving cell door” since its rigged 2009 presidential election, “freeing some detainees on furloughs even as they make new arrests. “Journalists freed on furloughs often post six-figure bonds and endure severe political pressure to keep silent or turn on their colleagues.”
Following the assassination of another Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshani on 11 January, a group of more than 230 opposition activists issued a statement condemning the attack, while at the same time accusing the country's security agencies of being preoccupied with cracking down on dissent rather than ensuring the safety of Iranian citizens.

“Iran’s intelligence forces, which have directed all their efforts at suppressing domestic adversaries and stifling the voice of protesters and the media, have proven incapable of dealing with these [security] threats,” the activists said. “Regime officials, especially the Intelligence Minister, must be held accountable for the slackness shown in protecting the lives of Iranian experts and researchers.”

Monday, 9 January 2012

Growing Concern Over Condition of Four Detainees Arrested at Arabistan Church


AHWAZ, IRAN (ANS) -- Following an attack on the Assemblies of God Church of Ahwaz, which resulted in the arrest of a number of Christians and their children, concerns are growing over the conditions of four of these detainees.
According to reporters of Iranian Christian news agency Mohabat News, concerns are growing over the unknown conditions of four of the people arrested during the attack on the AOG church of Ahwaz which took place almost one week ago.

Mohabat News says the detainees include Farhad Sabokroh, the Pastor of the AOG church of Ahwaz, his wife Shahnaz and two other ministers and converts called Naser Zamen-Dezfuli and Davoud Alijani, who is also called David. No reliable information is available regarding their health and conditions in the places where they are being held.

According to Mohabat News, at 11 a.m. on Friday, December 23, security agents of the intelligence ministry raided the AOG church of Ahwaz in a pre-organized manner. All attendees at the weekly service were arrested and transferred by bus to an unknown location.

This report indicates that the security agents, whose faces were covered, showed no mercy to the Sunday school children of the church, apprehending them together with their parents who were present at the church. This incident has caused serious mental injury to these children.

After some hours all detainees were freed once their personal details such as home addresses were recorded, the news agency said.

However, four of the detainees named above, are still being held. The latest report on their condition indicates that Farhad Sabokroh and his wife suffer from varicose veins and their general health condition is not good. They were held in custody in the intelligence office until December 28 and were then separated and transferred to unknown locations and the news agency has received no further update concerning them.

The other two detainees are Naser Zamen-Dezfuli, who is about 60 years of age, and Davoud (David) Alijani, who is 30. Before being arrested, Zamen-Dezfuli had his own business and Alijani was an engineer at a petrochemical site in Mahshahr port. After accepting Christ and applying Christian faith in his life, David was threatened and interrogated several times and was eventually fired from his engineering position.

Mohabat News says the health conditions, whereabouts and fate of these Christians are unknown, but it has been rumored that they might still be in the custody center of the intelligence office of Ahwaz or may have been transferred to Karoon prison of Ahwaz. Their families' efforts to obtain news concerning their whereabouts have yielded no information as yet.

Mohabat News commented: “This lack of news about their situation has resulted in a wave of anxiety among Christians, the detainees' families and especially the leaders of the churches in Iran. It's also being reported that the Ministry of Intelligence has even asked the leaders of the AOG church in Iran to not take any action in this regard.
“We hope that in this Christmas season, which involves celebrations and joy for our Savior's birthday, arrangements for the release of these Christians can be made and they will be released as soon as possible.”

Intense control over churches by security authorities

Mohabat News said this year Christmas Day was on Sunday, and Sundays are work-days in Iran.

“So, Iranian Christians gathered in churches on Friday, December 23 to 
celebrate Christmas, give thanks to God and worship their Lord, as Friday is a weekend day in Islamic countries.”

The agency goes on to say that based on the reports received by Mohabat News, agents of the intelligence office of Ahwaz predicted that large number of people might gather in the church on this date. Therefore they watched all traffic to the church on December 22. Then they attacked the church right at the time of celebration and arrested all attendees.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

UN: General Assembly voices concern over Iranian human rights record

United Nations Member States today expressed deep concern at reports of human rights violations in Iran, including torture, the use of cruel punishments such as flogging and amputations and “pervasive gender inequality and violence against women,” and called on Tehran to strengthen its national human rights institutions.

In a resolution adopted in the General Assembly, Member States voiced deep concern at Iran’s “serious ongoing and recurring human rights violations,” including a dramatic increase in the use of the death penalty, particularly for crimes “lacking a precise and explicit definition,” and the “ongoing, systemic, and serious restrictions” of freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of opinion and expression.

The resolution received 89 votes in favour and 30 votes against. Sixty-four countries abstained.

The death penalty drew particular concern, with the General Assembly noting “the absence of internationally recognized safeguards,” the continued practice of public executions, the carrying out of secret group executions and the imposition of capital punishment against minors.

Member States also voiced deep concern at the practice of suspension strangulation as a method of execution, and the fact that prisoners continue to face sentences of execution by stoning, even though there has been a national directive against it.

In the resolution, Member States also called on the Government to immediately and unconditionally release any prisoners who have been arbitrarily arrested and detained “for simply exercising their right to peaceful assembly and participating in peaceful protests.”

They also strongly encouraged Iran to discontinue the “systemic targeting” of human rights defenders and review the country’s “pervasive gender inequality.”

The text also noted Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s recent report highlighting the deteriorating rights situation in the country as well as the concern expressed by Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, over the alleged targeting of minority groups by the Government.

Arabs, Azeris, Baluchis and Kurds and their defenders have all faced rights violations that at times amount to persecution, according to the resolution, with religious minorities such as Christians, Jews, Sufis, Sunni Muslims, Zoroastrians and Bahá’ís.

The resolution expressed particular concern at Tehran’s failure to launch an investigation into the suspected electoral violations after the 2009 presidential vote and strongly urged the Government “to ensure free, fair, transparent and inclusive parliamentary elections in 2012 that reflect the will of the people.”

Member States further called on Iran to consider ratifying or acceding to the international human rights treaties to which it is not already party while effectively implementing those human rights treaties which it has already ratified.