Posts Tagged ‘Iran’

Dreams about a referendum to end the mullahs’ regime in Iran?

February 13, 2018

 on 13 February, 2018 carries an article: “Calls in Iran for UN-Sponsored Referendum

Nobel Peace Prize-winning Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi. (AFP)

Following calls by Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani to hold a popular referendum to end political gridlock within the country, 15 prominent human rights defenders and activists from several groups issued Monday a statement demanding that a referendum indeed be held in the country , but adding that it should be done under the sponsorship of the United Nations. [Rouhani had originally made the proposal to hold a popular referendum during a speech marking the 39th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution on Sunday.]

One of the signatories, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the activists’ statement is an answer to the popular demands and calls voiced by demonstrators in the last protests that erupted across Iran against the dire internal situation “Iranians want to peacefully transfer authority from a Wilayet el-Faqih regime to a secular parliamentary democratic system,” she said. The activists’ statement had accused the authority of exploiting religion, hiding behind religious concepts, ignoring public opinion, violating people’s rights and freedoms and being greatly incapable of solving the political, social and economic crises in the country. However, Ebadi said that the activists’ statement was “independent” from the president’s speech.

She said that the 15 activists who signed the statement include Iranian film directors Jafar Panahi and Mohsen Makhmalbaf, lawyer Nisreen Stouda, of Iran’s Human Rights Defenders Center in Tehran, lawyer Narges Mohammadi, political activist Hassan Shariatmadari, political figure Abulfadl Qadiani and human rights activist Mohammad Nourizad.

—–

Interesting to note is that at the same time there was a conference in Tehran (as reported by the Tehran Times) in which Mohammad Javad Larijani, secretary of the High Council for Human Rights  in Iran, has said that Iran is seeking close cooperation with the United Nations on issues related to human rights. “Islamic Republic is willing to work with international HR bodies, especially Human Rights Council,” Larijani told the conference attended by a number of foreign diplomats based in Tehran.

According to the newspaper ..”Double standards and selective approaches should be avoided in the area of the human rights. The special rapporteurs are obliged to be professional and neutral and avoid their political motivations affect their mission. Unfortunately, the special rapporteurs to Iran have mostly refrained to respect these principles and made claims far from realities. The special rapporteurs should have methodology and should not simply publish what they receive from unreliable sources. There are impediments to hold a constructive talks on the issue of human rights at the international level. The first impediment is double standards which are destructive. The second is using the human rights as tool to reach political motivations and the third is terrorism and supporting terrorists as defenders of human rights.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/02/02/larijani-brothers-iran-attack-un-rapporteur-and-human-rights-defenders/

https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1173806/calls-iran-un-sponsored-referendum
http://www.tehrantimes.com/news/421204/Tehran-says-seeking-co-op-with-UN-on-human-rights

Iran unexpectedly releases ‘Inqlab’ street woman who took off her scarf

January 29, 2018

The woman, 31-year-old, Wida Mowahed stood in the middle of Tehran’s “Inqlab” (revolution) street raising her scarf on a stick and waving it like a flag. (Supplied)

I hope that she will not be harassed or abused by the judicial authorities because of a simple act that is considered her basic and natural right,” she said. The woman, 31-year-old, Wida Mowahed a mother of a 19 month old daughter, stood in the middle of Tehran’s “Inqlab” (revolution) street raising her scarf on a stick and waving it like a flag. A video of the protest was widely shared a three days before the outbreak of the popular protests in Tehran on December 27. After police arrested Mowahed activists initiated a hashtag through social media #Where_is_She.

http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/01/28/Iran-releases-the-Inqlab-street-girl-after-popular-pressure.html

Human Rights defender Fakhteh Zamani comments on Iranian developments

January 3, 2018

For the past ten years, Fakhteh Zamani has resided in Norway, given that her return to Iran at the moment is fraught with risks. Zamani is in daily touch with her friends living in Iran’s Kurdish provinces and human rights defenders in the Mashhad. Hetq interviewed Zamani via the internet and published the following on 3 January 2018 (under the title : Iranian Human Rights Activist – People in Iran Want Change, not Reforms):

It’s difficult to receive credible information regarding events now taking place in Iran. .. How do you receive information from Iran? ..

Yes, social networks are being filtered. My human rights defender acquaintances in Mashhad and elsewhere are able to break through the barriers and get information out. The Iranian government has tried to monitor the populace for the past forty years. The populace has long since found ways to transfer information. This is how we get our information, by using our contacts on the ground.

While the international media is reporting that the poor socio-economic situation and inflation have fueled the protests, President Hassan Rouhani has accused Saudi Arabia of inciting the situation….

You know that all dictators are accustomed to blaming outside governments for their failures. While it’s true that Iran and Saudi Arabia have always had tense relations, those who are protesting are demanding their fundamental rights. …There is no justification for blaming outside governments. People are hungry. Many go without being paid for weeks and months. Food prices are increasing, and wages are decreasing. People are disgruntled. Yesterday, I was talking to a wealthy businessman in Iran. He said that even though he makes money, he still can’t afford certain things. So, just imagine the plight of those working for others.

Given the sporadic information reaching the outside, is it correct to assume that the protests lack leadership? ….

Yes, there are no leaders. People are organizing themselves. Organizing demonstrations in Iran isn’t easy. The government spends millions to form groups designed to crush any opposition. Those taking to the streets, in revolt, have violated the law and face serious retribution. The protesters have spontaneously taken to the streets.

What are your predictions on the protests? What will follow?

Honestly, I can’t make specific predictions as to what will come next. But I already see the end of the Islamic Republic of Iran. While the government has introduced some reforms in the past twenty years, people have realized that these reforms haven’t benefitted them. In contrast to the 2009 protests, the current protesters are demanding that the regime steps down, to be replaced by democratic rule. People are also tired that their taxes are being spent on proxy wars in the Middle East. People in Iran want real change, not reforms. This is evident from the slogans they use.

You have left Iran due to your political views and activities. Would you return is serious changes take place?

I would return to expand my actions in the name of democracy and a better life. Furthermore, I would have to be certain that the rights of national minorities are placed on the back burner.

2017 was a grim year for imprisoned technologists

December 29, 2017

Prison Hands

Since its founding, EFF has highlighted and defended cases of injustice and fearmongering perpetrated against innocent technologists. We advocate for unjustly imprisoned technologists and bloggers with our Offline project. In 2017, we continue to see fear being whipped up against those who oppose oppression with modern tools—as well as those who have done nothing more than teach and share technology so that we can all use and understand it better:

Dmitry Bogatov, software developer and math lecturer at Moscow’s Finance and Law University. Bogatov ran a volunteer Tor relay, allowing people around the world to protect their identities as they used the Internet. It was one part of his numerous acts of high-tech public service, which include co-maintaining Xmonad and other Haskell software for the Debian project. For his generosity, Bogatov has now spent over a hundred days in pretrial detention, wrongfully accused of posting extremist materials that were allegedly sent via through Tor server. Law enforcement officials around the world understand that data that appears to originate from a particular Tor machine is, in fact, traffic from its anonymised users. But that didn’t stop Bogatov’s prosecutors in Russia from accusing him of sending the data himself, under a pseudonym, to foment riots—and added new charges of “inciting terrorism” when a judge suggested the earlier charge was too weak to hold Bogatov in pre-trial detention.

Ahmed Mansoor, of the United Arab Emirates. Mansoor has been a tireless voice for victims of human rights abuses in the United Arab Emirates. In 2011, amidst the Arab uprisings, he was one of five Emirati citizens to be sentenced to prison for his social media postings. That case provoked international condemnation, and the group was soon pardoned. Mansoor was subsequently targeted with sophisticated government spyware on his iPhone; he recognised and passed on the malware link to experts, which led to the discovery of three previously unknown vulnerabilities in Apple’s iOS. In April, Mansoor was seized by the UAE authorities again. On the day of his arrest, the UAE’s official news agency saying that he had been arrested on the orders of the Public Prosecution for Cybercrimes and accused of using social media to promote sectarianism and hate, among other charges. Mansoor’s family did not hear from him for two weeks, and he has been denied access to a lawyer. Just a year ago, Apple was able to roll out a security fix to their users because of Mansoor’s swift, transparent, and selfless actions. Millions of people are safer because of Ahmed’s actions, even as his family fears for his own physical and mental safety. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/28/ahmed-mansoor-under-arrest-emirates-under-pressure/]

Alaa abd el-Fattah ran Linux installfests across the Middle-East and was a key online voice in the Egyptian uprising. Since then he has been jailed, in turn, by the democratically elected Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, and then when Morsi was overthrown in a coup, by incoming President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. Alaa’s appeal against a five year prison sentence for protesting—widely seen as a means to silence him on social media—was refused in November of this yearAmnesty and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention have both condemned Alaa’s continuing imprisonment.

Another long-term case is that of Saeed Malekpour, who has been in jail in Iran since 2008. Malekpour returned from Canada to visit his sick Iranian father in October of that year, at a time when the Iranian Revolutionary Guard was starting to target technologists and Internet experts. As an open source coder, Malekpour had written a free front-end image management utility for websites. The Guard found this software on a Farsi pornography site, and used it to as a pretext to seize Malekpour from the streets of Tehran, charge him with running the web site, and sentencing him to death. Malekpour’s death sentence has been anulled twice following international pressure, but a change of government in his home country of Canada risked reducing the level of support for Malekpour. A campaign to encourage the new Trudeau administration to continue to advocate for Malekpour, even as Canada seeks to normalize relations with Iran, seems to be working. One of Malekpour’s advocates, former Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, has said that the Canadian government is now working on the case. The continuing monitoring of Malekpour’s life sentence is a small consolation, but better than the alternative.

Peter Steudtner and Ali Gharavi travel the world, teaching and advising Internet users on how to improve their privacy and digital security online (Ali was an advisor for EFF’s Surveillance Self-Defence project). The two were arrested in a raid by Turkish police on a digital security workshop in July in Istanbul, along with Amnesty Turkeys’ director, Idil Eser, and eight other human rights defenders. The two technology consultants have been accused of aiding terrorists, despite the long history of both as peaceful advocates for secure online practices. After months of detention, concentrated diplomatic and public pressure led to both being released to join their families in Germany and Sweden. We’re delighted that they are free, but their unjust prosecution—and that of their Turkish colleagues—continues in the Turkish courts. 

Bassel Khartabil, the Syrian free culture advocate. Before his arrest and torture in 2012, Bassel was the driving force behind countless projects to turn technology for the public good in his country. He founded a hackerspace in Damascus, translated Creative Commons into a Middle Eastern context, and built out Wikipedia and Mozilla for his fellow Syrians. Bassel’s generosity brought him notability and respect. His prominence and visibility as a voice outside the divided political power-bases of Syria made him an early target when the Syrian civil war became violent. Bassel was killed by the Syrian government in 2015, shortly after he was removed from a civilian prison and sent into the invisibility of Syria’s hidden security complexes.

 

https://personalliberty.com/grim-year-imprisoned-technologists-2017-review/

Imprisoned Human Rights Defender Narges Mohammadi awarded APS’ Sakharov Prize 2018

October 28, 2017

Only yesterday I referred to the fact that there are 3 international awards with Sakharov in the name [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/27/european-parliaments-sakharov-prize-awarded-to-venezuela-opposition/], and now I see that on 27 October 2017 the American Physical Society (APS) has awarded Iranian human rights defender Narges Mohammadi its Sakharov Prize 2018. For more on the award see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/andrei-sakharov-prize-aps. Praising Mohammadi, APS has averred that she was awarded the prize “for her leadership in campaigning for peace, justice, and the abolition of the death penalty and for her unwavering efforts to promote the human rights and freedoms of the Iranian people, despite persecution that has forced her to suspend her scientific pursuits and endure lengthy incarceration.” [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/narges-mohammadi/

An Indian researcher, Ravi Kuchimanchi has also been awarded the prize “for his continued research in physics while simultaneously advocating for global policies that reflect science; for leading sustainable development, human rights, and social justice efforts; and for creating a vibrant international volunteer movement that learns from, works with, and empowers communities in India.”

In 2011 Mohammadi won the 2011 Per Anger Prize for defending human rights in Iran. In September 2016, the Tehran Appeals Court upheld a 16-year prison sentence for “membership in the [now banned] Defenders of Human Rights Center,” “assembly and collusion against national security,” and one year for “propaganda against the state.”

Prominent human rights organizations have repeatedly called for Mohammadi’s immediate release.

Source: Imprisoned Human Rights Defender Awarded Sakharov Prize

Rouhani’s Iran disappoints massively on human rights

August 23, 2017

Those who held hopes that with the re-election of the ‘moderate’ President, Hassan Rouhani, things would also improve in Iran for the large number of human rights defenders in detention will be disappointed. In fact many of his supporters are frustrated by his failing to enact numerous reforms he promised, including the release of HRDs. Here some of the recent developments:

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Lifetime Achievements in Human Rights: 4 Human Rights Defenders

February 24, 2017

Anna Neistat, Senior Director of Research at Amnesty International, writes in the Huffington Post of 23 February 2017 about 4 Human Rights Defenders who deserve a “Lifetime Achievements” Oscar. Since it’s awards season, Amnesty International is paying tribute to four human rights heroes whose dramatic stories could – and should – be made into movies:

Itai Peace Dzamara

It’s been almost two years since Zimbabwean journalist and activist Itai Peace Dzamarawas dragged from a barbers’ chair by five armed men while he was getting a haircut.  Dzamara, the leader of a pro-democracy movement called “Occupy Africa Unity Square”, had long been considered an enemy of the state by the Zimbabwean government. Just two days before his abduction he had delivered a speech at an opposition rally in Harare, calling for mass action against the deteriorating economic conditions in Zimbabwe. If this were a movie, justice would have been done long ago. Dzamara would have been returned to his wife and children, and the men who abducted him held accountable. But this isn’t Hollywood. This is Zimbabwe, where basic rights and freedoms have been trampled on throughout the long years of Robert Mugabe’s reign. As Itai Peace Dzamara and his family know, anyone who dares to speak out is a target for intimidation, harassment and arrest, and there’s no happy ending in sight. Despite a court ruling ordering state security agents to investigate Dzamara’s disappearance, there were gaps in the investigation and his whereabouts remains a mystery. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/05/05/itai-dzamaras-disappearance-worrying-for-all-human-rights-defenders-in-zimbabwe/]

Berta Cáceres 

GOLDMAN ENVIRONMENTAL FOUNDATION
 

Like the audience of a horror movie, the people around Berta could see that terrible danger was coming her way – but they were powerless to stop it. Honduras has the highest number of killings per capita of environmental and land activists in the world. The vast majority of these killings go unsolved and unpunished. One story that really stands out in this deadly context is that of Berta Cáceres. Berta was the leader and co-founder of an organisation that was campaigning against the construction of a hydroelectric project on the ancestral lands of indigenous communities in Honduras.  In the early hours of 2 March 2016, she was murdered in her own home. Berta knew that she was putting her life in danger, but she was willing to take the risk to stand up for indigenous communities.  Like the audience of a horror movie, the people around Berta could see that terrible danger was coming her way – but they were powerless to stop it. Despite the stark warning that her death served, environmental activists in Honduras say that stopping their work is not an option – no-one else will defend their communities and rights. They continue Berta’s work every day, reminding us that we should never take freedom for granted. It is essential that Berta’s assassination is solved, to show that there is a price to pay for attacking and killing environmental activists. Berta’s story ended in tragedy, but we will not stop fighting until we are sure that other activists will not meet the same fate. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/03/07/exceptional-response-from-ngo-world-on-killing-of-berta-caceres/]

Sirikan Charoensiri

Sirikan Charoensiri, also known as “June”, is a young lawyer who has bravely stood up for human rights during a dark period of military rule in Thailand. In June 2015, she was on hand at a peaceful protest by pro-democracy student activists in Bangkok to monitor the situation and provide legal representation, if necessary.  She now finds herself facing sedition charges and a potential trial in a military court alongside her clients. She also faces charges in two additional cases relating to her defence of the student activists and could be imprisoned for up to 15 years. As the Thai authorities have escalated their crackdown in the name of security, people who stand up for human rights in the country are increasingly falling foul of a government intent on silencing dissent. As June herself put it: “There is now an environment where risk is visible and imminent.” [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/01/international-day-of-women-human-rights-defenders-agents-of-change-under-pressure/]

Narges Mohammadi

Narges is a prisoner of conscience who should be lauded, not locked up, for her human rights work. In Iran, human rights defenders and other peaceful critics are subject to relentless harassment. Over the past year, those jailed after shockingly unfair trials before Revolutionary Courts including lawyers, bloggers, students, women’s rights activists, filmmakers and even musicians.  Human rights defender Narges Mohammadi knows better than most how vengeful the Iranian authorities can be towards anyone who dissents. She is currently serving a total of 22 years in prison for speaking out against issues such as Iran’s prolific use of the death penalty and acid attacks on women. What makes her situation even worse is that she is critically ill and cannot receive proper medical care in prison. Just as cruelly, the authorities have at times denied her access to her young children, who had to leave Iran to live with their father in France after she was jailed. Narges is a prisoner of conscience who should be lauded, not locked up, for her human rights work. We will continue to fight until she is free.[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/06/12/retaliation-against-iranian-human-rights-defender-for-meeting-with-ashton/]

Itai, Berta, Sirikan and Narges are just a handful of the outstanding human rights defenders around the world who deserve recognition, but have instead been silenced by forces of cruelty, injustice and repression.

Source: Lifetime Achievements: Paying Tribute to 4 Human Rights Heroes | The Huffington Post

Sam Zarifi new SG of the International Commission of Jurists

November 4, 2016

 

Sam Zarifi has been appointed to serve as ICJ’s next Secretary General when the current Secretary-General retires next spring. Wilder Tayler will continue to work as SG until the end of March 2017 and Sam will begin in April 2017, although there will be some overlap to ensure a smooth transition in the Geneva based HQ.

Sam is a veteran of the human rights movement, with a most impressive array of experience and contacts, and has done phenomenal work as Director of the ICJ’s Asia and Pacific Regional Programme over the last four years. Prior to joining the ICJ Sam served as Amnesty International’s Director for Asia and the Pacific from 2008 to 2012. He was at Human Rights Watch from 2000, where he was Deputy Director of the Asia division. He was Senior Research Fellow at Erasmus University Rotterdam from 1997 to 2000, where he co-edited Liability of Multinational Corporations under International Law (Kluwer 2000) as well as several other publications on the subject. Sam was born and raised in Tehran, Iran and moved to the United States to complete his education. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Cornell University and his Juris Doctor from Cornell Law School in 1993. After practicing as a corporate litigator for several years, he obtained an LL.M in Public International Law from New York University School of Law in 1997.

Source: ICJ Newsletter – November 2016

Iran: shameful sentences for Narges Mohammadi, Issa Saharkhiz, Arash Sadeghi – no detente in human rights

September 30, 2016

© International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran

There was some hope that with the ‘nuclear agreement’ Iran would relent in its persecution of human rights defenders. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/09/11/human-rights-defenders-squeezed-by-geo-politics-the-cases-of-colombia-iran-and-cuba/#more-6957] It now seems clear that this is not the case:

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Amnesty International, OMCT and FIDH and many others condemned a decision by an Iranian appeals court to uphold a 16-year jail sentence against journalist and human rights activist Narges Mohammadi. Under a law passed last year, she will ‘only’ serve the sentence linked to the most important charge – in this case 10 years for “forming and managing an illegal group” which pressed for an end to capital punishment. Mohammadi, 44, was the spokesperson of the Centre for Human Rights Defenders and campaigned for an end to the death penalty in Iran. 2003 Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi who founded the Centre for Human Rights Defenders, said:  “I condemn this sentence imposed by the Iranian judicial system as Narges’s only crime is to be a human rights defender in a country that flouts these rights“.

Mohammadi went on hunger strike in June after being denied phone contact with her children, who live with their father in France. The authorities relented after 20 days of the hunger strike. [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/06/12/retaliation-against-iranian-human-rights-defender-for-meeting-with-ashton/]

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EU and Human Rights NGOs urge Bahrain to end crackdown – as reported by Iranian news agency

September 15, 2016

The widely-supported call to free Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/nabeel-rajab/]was also taken up by the Iranian Tasnim News Agency (operating in English since 2013). This of course most welcome but begs the question why other such calls for human rights defenders, e.g. in Iran, do not get such attention [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/iran/] or the persist lack of cooperation with the UN is not critically reported [see yesterday’s: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/09/14/un-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-states-may-shut-my-office-out-but-they-will-not-shut-us-up/]

خبرگزاری تسنیم

The explanation is to be found in ‘about us’, where the agency says: Defending the Islamic Revolution against negative media propaganda campaign and providing our readers with realities on the ground about Iran and Islam, specially current wave of the Islamic Awakening in the region are top on our agenda in Tasnim News Agency. The Islamic nature of the developments in the region and similarities between the Islamic Awakening Movement, which swept the Middle East and North Africa since 2011, and Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution have unveiled Islamic Revolution’s inspiring role in the region. The development came despite efforts made by opponents and enemies of Iran to block the country’s growing influence in the region and in the world……Tasnim News Agency will do its best to bring to light the true aspects of events and developments in Iran and in the world, and will also cover the latest developments regarding the Islamic Awakening Movement.

That Nabeel Rajab is Shia may well be relevant.

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