• Support a Democratic, Secular, Republic and Non-Nuclear Iran

Iranian Civil Activists Imprisoned Again for Speaking About Their Tortures

Blog

  • Iranian Civil Activists Imprisoned Again for Speaking About Their Tortures

    21 Jan – Iranian civic activist Sepideh Qolian and labour leader Esmail Bakhshi, who were tortured during their imprisonment last year, was arrested again on Sunday.

    In a short tweet, Qolian said: “I’ve been arrested.”

    Since their release from prison in December, Qolian and Bakhshi, who was initially arrested along with several striking sugar mill workers in mid-November, have been speaking out about their torture in custody. The activists’ case regarding their torture is still open in Susa, southwestern Iran.

    On Saturday, Iran’s state TV broadcast videos of Qolian and Bakhshi, as well as activist Ali Nejati who is still imprisoned, in which they said that they were not being treated badly in prison and confessed to being linked to a foreign-based Marxist group. Human rights watchdogs have repeatedly condemned Iran for forcing inmates to make “confessions” that are then broadcast on state TV.

    Qolian had previously said that the torturers forced her to make the video and threatened to release the video if she ever told people that she had been tortured in jail. Following its release, she said she was more determined than ever to expose the government for torturing her.

    She tweeted: “Even if you bring 5,000 Haft Tapeh Sugarcane workers in front of the camera for forced confessions with lashes and batons, it will not make the fact that you are corrupt and cruel any less significant… The images that were broadcasted of me proves what I said before that I was tortured during my incarceration. I will follow up my torture accusations more seriously and now that my confessions were broadcasted, I demand that my court be held publicly.”

    Bakhshi’s defence lawyer denied the Iranian Prosecutor General’s statement that the activists could not have been tortured in prison.

    He said: “Some officials are trying to terminate the torture case by saying that violence against workers may have been exercised outside the prison when they were being transferred to jail.”

    He explained that this violates the supposed impartiality of judicial officials, advising that everyone, including the prosecutor, is barred from passing judgements on a case before the court issues its verdict.

    Regarding his torture, Bakhshi said: “I was beaten up and tortured to death for no reason. I was so badly battered that I could not move for 72 hours in my solitary confinement cell. The pain was so unbearable that it made sleeping impossible. Weeks after my release, I still feel intolerable pain in my broken ribs, left ear, and testicles.”

    While more than 1,300 activists and workers in Iran and abroad have signed a petition in support for Bakhshi and other workers, demanding that Bakhshi is given the chance to publicly protest and complain against what happened to him in jail.

  • Amnesty Calls for Justice for Victims of 1988 Iran Massacre

    Amnesty International has exposed the shocking scale of the 1988 Iranian massacre in a new report, which denounces the mass-murders as a crime against humanity, condemns the harassment of those seeking justice, and calls for those responsible to be held to account.

    By Pooya Stone

    In the summer of 1988, 30,000 political prisoners, mainly members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), were executed by the Iranian Government on the fatwa of then-supreme leader Ruhollah Khomeini.

    Their bodies were then buried in anonymous mass graves, some of which have since been destroyed by the Government to cover up evidence, and the families of the victims were left in the dark about the fate of their loved ones. Despite overwhelming evidence presented by human rights groups, the Iranian opposition, and even some Government insiders, the Government has systematically denied the massacre to the Iranian people and the international community.

    They’ve even gone so far as to launch a massive crackdown on those seeking the truth.

    No one has faced justice for their crimes and, worse still, many still have influence in Iran today, like current Minister of Justice Alireza Avaei, the Minister of Justice until 2017 Mostafa Pour Mohammadi, the current head of the Supreme Court for Judges Hossein Ali Nayyeri, and 2017 presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi.

    Amnesty wrote that the failure to bring the criminals to justice, in this case, makes the 1988 massacre an ongoing crime against humanity and so the international community is obligated to seek justice on behalf of the victims.

    It is therefore imperative that the United Nations and the International Criminal Court work together to ensure independent criminal investigations.

    However, it is equally important that bodies like the European Union do not ignore these atrocities, especially not when using the flimsy excuses of trade or the nuclear deal. EU High Representative Federica Mogherini should be less concerned with building a relationship with the mullahs and more concerned with helping the people of Iran, who are advocating for the overthrow of the mullahs.

    Alejo Vidal-Quadras, president of the Brussels-based International Committee in Search of Justice and former vice president of the European Parliament, wrote: “We, in Europe, know that bringing justice to the victims of a crime against humanity not only means justice for those affected but a lesson of history for all to remember. We bring justice not only to close a case but also to remind us and the next generations that crimes against humanity cannot be under any circumstances left unpunished so that they never ever could happen again.”

  • Hundreds of Christians in Iran Arrested Ahead of Christmas

    21 Dec – Over 150 Iranian Christians have been detained in the past month and arrests are expected to continue over the Christmas holiday.

    Those arrested include Amir Taleipour, 39, and his wife Mahnaz Harati, 36, who were arrested in front of their 7-year-old daughter during a raid on their home in Mashhad. The couple has not been allowed to speak with relatives or lawyers since the arrest.

    Sources explain that these arrests in the officially Shia Muslim country normally spike during December when more Iranians are attracted to Christianity, as Iran hopes to intimidate potential converts away from the religion. However, arrests have been especially severe this year, with some speculating that security branches who fear losing money in the new budget are trying to show how effective they can be.

    Miles Windsor, advocacy and development manager at Middle East Concern (MEC), said: “The current situation has been described by some as unprecedented. There are a huge number of arrests and detentions. Recently it seems there is definitely a coordinated and determined campaign to decimate the Christian community and to spread fear and intimidation.”

    While Shia Islam is Iran’s official religion and bases its laws on the mullahs’ interpretation of Sharia, the constitution recognizes Zoroastrianism, Judaism and Christianity as official religious minorities. However, according to the US State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report, it also specifies the death penalty for “proselytizing”, attempting to convert Muslims, “enmity against God”, and “insulting the prophet [Muhammad]”.

    Further Arrests

    Other Iranian Christians recently arrested include:

    • Sisters Shima, 27, and Shokoofeh Zanganeh, 30, who is beaten in prison in Ahvaz on or after December 2, after a raid on their home

    • Farzad Behzadi, 30, and Abdollah Yousefi, 34, who was arrested at the same time as the sisters, but whose whereabouts are unknown

    • 70 Christians in Karaj on November 30, including Jamshid Derakhshan, 64, whose whereabouts is still unknown

    Windsor said that these continuing arrests are increasing fear and limiting the flow of information, noting that most Christian arrestees are falsely charged with vague national security crimes, including espionage. These charges, often followed by sham trials, carry prison sentences of 10-15 years.

    He said: “There is no doubt that it’s the Christian faith of these individuals that is the reason behind their arrests and detentions.”

    The US State Department yet again listed Iran as a Country of Particular Concern for severe violations of religious freedom earlier this month. Despite the crackdown, Christianity is growing in Iran with estimates of between 800,000 and 1 million Christian Iranians.

  • Sugar Mill Workers in Iran Continue Protests Even as Riot Police Arrive at Factory


    22 Nov – Protests at the Haft Tappeh (Tapeh) sugar mill, once a source of national pride that has been struggling financially since it was privatized in 2015, continued as workers stayed with their strike on Saturday, according to reports by labor rights groups in Iran. Periodic strikes and workers’ demonstrations have become a fixture of life at the mill. Workers say they are often not paid their salaries for months at a time and their wages and benefits have been cut since privatization.

    Families accompanied the workers as they marched in Shush, southwestern Iran, to draw attention to their demands, ending the march near the governor’s office.

    Reports also say that some three busloads of security forces arrived in Khuzestan province, and anti-riot police were stationed in and around the complex on Saturday. In their social media posts, labor organizations worry that the arrival of anti-riot forces signal a plan to break the workers’ strike.

    For nearly a year, the Haft Tappeh workers have staged intermittent strikes and protests. They are angry over the mismanagement of the privatized complex, late payment of wages, and lack of production by the factory. They demand an end to the private ownership. They desire a takeover by workers, or a combination of ownership in which they can have a voice in running the business. They say they haven’t been paid since August and are demanding answers about the future of the industrial complex.

    The complex was once profitable before it was privatized in dubious circumstances. The Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Mill is the only factory of its kind in Iran. It was built nearly half a century ago during the reign of last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The agro-industrial complex was always lucrative until the Islamic Republic decided to sell it to the private sector in a murky transaction in 2015.

    The complex, built on a 2-hectare area, was sold to the private sector for a down payment of roughly two million dollars. It is not clear if any further payments have been made. In fact, its current owner seems to be on the run from the authorities for non-payment of loans from government banks.

    In the 1950s and 1960s, Haft Tapeh became part of a large sugar cane plantation. In the course of leveling the land for planting, some of the archaeological remains were destroyed and others exposed.In the 1950s and 1960s, Haft Tepe became part of a large sugar cane plantation. In the course of leveling the land for planting, some of the archaeological remains were destroyed and others exposed.was an archaeological site in Ḵūzestān province, in the southwestern alluvial plains of Persia, its seven hills, a prominent feature of the flat plain, led to it being called the “Seven Mounds”. In the 1950s and 1960s, Haft Tapeh became part of the large sugar cane plantation.

  • For the 65th Time, UNGA Condemns the Iran’s Human Rights Violations


    19 Nov – Iran has been condemned by the 3rd committee of the United Nations General Assembly for its blatant human rights violations. Thursday’s condemnation marks the 65th time that Iran has been called out for its human rights record at the international level.

    A draft resolution, which was introduced by Canada was adopted by the committee following a vote of 85 to 30. However, 68 countries abstained from voting. There will be a general vote at the UNGA in December.

    The resolution warns against the “alarmingly high frequency” of the use of the death penalty — especially against minors, as well as “the widespread and systematic use of arbitrary detention,” poor prison conditions “deliberately denying prisoners access to adequate medical treatment,” and “cases of suspicious deaths in custody.”

    Iran does not adhere to international judiciary and human rights norms, stressed the resolution.

    Last year a similar resolution gained 81 positive votes to 30 negatives. Four additional states joined other countries who are vocal about their discontent about the human rights situation in Iran.

    Iran also lost several traditional United Nations allies. In fact, Brazil and Mexico, in what is believed to be an attempt to distance themselves from the government in Tehran, abstained from the vote this year.

    Javaid Rahman, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights situation in Iran, presented his report on Iran’s human rights situation to the UN in September. He wrote that he was concerned about continued human rights abuses by Iran. The resolution adopted on Thursday is in reference to Rahman’s report, which has caused worries for the rulers of Iran.

    In his yearly report, UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutierrez discussed his ongoing concern regarding the human rights situation in Iran. The government was angered by Guttierrez’s remarks, and used propaganda to attack the UN authority.

    Bahram Ghassemi, spokesperson for Iran’s foreign ministry, called Thursday’s resolution unacceptable. He said that the Islamic Republic is based on “republicanism” and is against “any kind of discrimination or politicization of human rights,” but did not address any of the issues raised by the resolution.

    Welcoming the UNGA’s draft resolution in condemnation of the Iranian government ’s human rights violations, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, NCRI president said, “Condemning the systematic and gross violations of human rights by the theocratic system ruling Iran, the UN resolution once again confirmed that the government blatantly tramples upon the Iranian people’s most fundamental rights in all political, social and economic spheres.”

    The NCRI pointed out in a statement, other areas that need to be addressed, including “systematically assassinating opponents abroad, and depriving the people of Iran of their rights to decide their country’s fate, to enjoy the rule of law, to have access to fair trials, to have free access to information, and to form independent syndicates and unions for workers, students and government employees.”

  • Environmentalists Face Death Penalty in Iran


    17 Nov – Five imprisoned Iranian environmentalists are now facing the death penalty after the ridiculous charges against them were changed from “espionage” to “Corruption on Earth”, according to one of the former lawyers of the accused.

    Mohammad Hossein Aghasi told Radio Farda on Sunday, October 21, that the charges were changed after the examining magistrate received a letter from Iran’s Supreme National Security Council and that the new charge of “corruption on earth” carries the death penalty under the Islamic Penal Code.

    In January, Iranian security arrested eight environmentalists – Niloufar Bayani, Houman Jokar, Sepideh Kashani, Amir Hossein Khaleqi, AbdolReza Kouhpayeh, Taher Qadirian, Sam Rajabi and Iranian-American dual citizen Morad Tahbaz – and accused them of spying for the West, when they tried to monitor an endangered breed of tiger. They were held in temporary custody for months by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ (IRGC) Intelligence Organization, with no formal charges brought against them.

    The founder of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, Iranian-Canadian Professor Kavous Seyyed-Emami, was detained with the eight ecologists, but died in prison shortly after. Iran claims that he committed suicide, but there are serious doubts about that narrative.

    TAKEN OFF THE CASE
    Aghasi who represented Jokar, Qadirian, and Rajabi, was recently taken off the case by the Iranian judiciary, thanks to an “unfair” and unconstitutional clause in Article 48 of Iran’s Criminal Procedure Act, which only allows suspects in national security cases to be represented by lawyers on Iran’s approved list. The list only contains about 20 names and many political cases are being termed national security, meaning that there are not enough lawyers to go around.

    While Aghasi doesn’t know what the letter from the SNSC actually said, he speculated that it could be a response to the Prosecutor-General’s enquiry about changing the charges.

    Although, Isa Kalantari, the head of Department of Environment (DoE), claims that the new charges have not been officially announced, it’s worth noting that the Iranian
    Intelligence Ministry has found no evidence of espionage by the environmentalists, so the government had to find another way to punish them.

    MURDER OF ENVIRONMENTALIST
    In a related matter, many social media posts were created on October 22 concerning the mysterious murder of prominent environmentalist and human rights activist Farshid Hakki, who was reportedly stabbed to death near his house in Tehran, before his body was burnt.

    Abdolreza Davari, the managing director of “Economic Reviews” monthly magazine, where Hakki served as a scientific advisor, tweeted that the news was “shocking” and “tragic” and called for an investigation.

  • Price of Real Estate in Tehran Rose Over 80% in Past Year


    9 Nov – Real estate prices in Iran have risen 83.5% in the past year, according to a report released by the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) in early November.

    The CBI said that house prices in Tehran are based on the benchmark of 86,100,000 rials per square meter of built-in area in October 2018. That’s $575 based on the global exchange rate as sellers can’t get dollars based on the government’s artificial exchange rate.

    This rise is particularly concerning as over the past seven months, when Iran ’s economic crisis was at its worst, the average house price per square meter in Tehran was only 55.5% higher than it had been the previous year.

    As with previous CBI reports on the high cost of real estate, the price increase has meant a drop in sales, which indicates a continued recession. In fact, property sales in Tehran had dropped by nearly a third in October, compared with September.

    FALL OF THE RIAL
    The reason for these high prices and low sales is the massive devaluation of the Iranian currency (the rial), which has been tumbling since the start of the year. Back in February, the exchange rate was 30,000 rials per US dollar. Now, it sits at 150,000, with the exchange rate hitting 200,000 in early October. While this had certainly been helped by the reimposition of US sanctions, the decline began before Donald Trump announced them in May.

    RISING PRICES
    In the past month, the average rental fees in urban areas increased by over 12.6%, while in Tehran they increased by 15%. But these rising prices are not just limited to housing, as food is also becoming increasingly expensive. The cost of tomato paste is 227.8% higher than this time last year, while bananas have increased by 186% and tomatoes by over 147%.

    Also rising in cost are milk and dairy products due to the ongoing drought and a rise in the cost of packaging, but the dairy producers’ association is still trying to regulate the prices.

    While non- industrial manufactured goods have risen 11.5% in the past year, something that will become apparent on retail shelves in coming months. This is due largely to a rise in the cost of imported parts or material, thanks to the exchange rate.

    The CBI and the statistical centre are also reporting an 11.5% rise in the inflation rate compared with the previous month, something considered too high by any standard.

  • Iran and Its Ballistic Missile Program

    9 Nov – The United States has been calling on Iran to stop manufacturing weapons that have the potential of carrying a nuclear warhead. Iran has not paid much attention to the demands and has continued to develop a growing number of long-range ballistic missiles. Furthermore, it has also been firing a number of shorter-range missiles in conflict situations.

    A minimum of 17 people were killed and dozens more injured (many of whom were women and children) when Iran fired several Fateh-110 missiles towards Iranian Kurdish dissident groups based in Iraqi Kurdistan.

    At the beginning of October, Iran fired further missiles into Abu Kamal, a border town in the eastern part of Syria. This intensive missile attack included the use of Zulfiqar and Qiam-1 rockets that were aimed at Islamic State militants.

    While these strikes were being planned and carried out, tensions between Iran and the United States were rising. The United States withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or 2015 nuclear deal as it is known, earlier this year. One set of sanctions had already taken effect, with the rests due imminently.

    The strikes in September and October were actually the most intensive missile attacks that Iran has carried out in almost two decades.

    Iran has a large and varied missile arsenal – one of the biggest in the region. It has thousands of cruise missiles and short- and medium- ranges ones that have the potential of reaching parts of Europe and Israel.

    However, Iran does not have intercontinental missiles that are capable of delivering atomic warheads to much further distances. The United Kingdom, the United States, France, China and Russia have intercontinental ballistic missiles that can be sent across the globe.

    But, earlier this year, researchers in the United States exposed a potential secret test-site for ballistic missiles near a town called Shahrud in the desert. An expert from the UK-based International Institute for Strategic Studies indicated that Iran believes this secret site will enable Iran to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile in the next five to 10 years.

    The Trump administration is working under the theory that sanctions will push Iran into abandoning its ballistic missile program and the development that goes along with it. However, Iran is already under the threat of sanctions and it is not going to give the ballistic missiles up without a fight. Or unless it has some great incentive to do so.

    Perhaps it would be more prudent of the Trump administration to ensure that – for now – Iran cannot access or develop the missiles that will do the most damage. Limiting Iran to a certain range is a lot more realistic, and will be received better, than trying to make it abandon everything related to ballistic missiles.

    Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has already warned: “If we cannot openly trade our commodities, if we cannot get what we want to get from open, transparent international transactions, we will not lie down and wait to die. We will do it. We will do it through whatever means that is necessary.”

  • Iran: Press Ignore the Facts


    9 Nov – A think-tank based in Washington D.C. – the Institute for Science and International Security issued a report at the end of last month with new information related to the Iranian regime’s nuclear activities, in particular its “nuclear archive”. The report shows that, contrary to what it claims, the Iranian regime did not put an end to its nuclear weaponization efforts after 2003.

    A large number of documents have been compiled with regards to Iran’s nuclear activities. The United States has reviewed the documents and declared them as authentic. The documents provide irrefutable evidence that Iran has lied about its nuclear program.

    What makes the information even more concerning is the fact that Iran was actively concealing the work being done on its nuclear program while negotiations were taking place for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or the 2015 nuclear deal as it is more commonly known.

    But what makes the most concerning news was not truthfully reported by the media.

    Several press outlets have said that the documents reviewed and reported on by the Institute for Science and International Security are nothing new. Those that share similar views are supporters of the controversial Iran nuclear deal.

    When the foreign intelligence agency first made its findings public earlier this year, CNN reported that “documents revealed are nothing new about Iran’s nuclear program, experts say” (May 3rd 2018). News outlets around the world, in particular in the West, then repeated the opinions of the so-called experts quoted here. Yet they did not view the large number of documents that had been presented.

    Former spokesperson for the National Security Council (NSC) during former President Barack Obama’s time in office, Ned Price, said that the newly discovered information is not new at all. He claimed that the United States knew everything that was disclosed more than 10 years ago and that the intelligence community had made some of its findings available in 2007. However, ironically, the intelligence information that Price is referring to – the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) – explicitly states that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons development in 2003.

    Despite this major contradiction in his claims and statements, many news outlets failed to see that Price’s views are far from accurate. Worryingly, some of the new outlets that failed to carry out their research include the influential New York Times and the Post.

    These news outlets, if they had carried out their research, would have been able to verify claims about the NIE’s assessment in 2007. The NIE was described as a “political sensation” that was used by politicians. It has been said that the NIE was just one more example of the Bush administration’s politicisation of intelligence information.

    Furthermore, the Iranian President at that time, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said that the NIE assessment was a victory for Iran because it disrupted any plans for the United States to recommend harsher sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

    It is clear that some news outlets print what matches their narrative and ignore any of the facts that would make their reporting accurate and professional.

  • Iran: Khamenei Calls for Fight Against ‘Enemy Infiltration’ via Internet and Social Media


    29 Oct – In a speech on Sunday to officials in charge of cyber defense, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called for the stepping up of efforts to fight enemy “infiltration”, according to reports on state television. “In the face of the enemy’s complex practices, our civil defense should … confront infiltration through scientific, accurate, and up-to-date … action,” he told civil defense officials, including those involved in cyber defense.

    Western cultural influences, such as entertainment, social media, and the Internet are seen as a threat against Islamic and revolutionary values by officials.

    Stuxnet, a virus which was deployed nearly ten years ago by U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies was used against a uranium enrichment facility. At a news conference marking Iran’s Civil Defense Day, Brigadier General Gholamreza Jalali, head of Iran’s Civil Defense Agency, was quoted by the semi-official ISNA news agency on Sunday as saying, “Recently we discovered a new generation of Stuxnet which consisted of several parts … and was trying to enter our systems.” He said that his country is in the process of cutting off internet access, launching instead a national network as the November deadline for the US re-imposed sanctions draws near.

    Observers believe the move to be an effort by the Islamic Republic to control the possible protests due to further deterioration of economic and living conditions.

    “After November 4th, with the start of the second round of US sanctions, we will move on to the national network of information that will respond to the basic services of the people,” Fars news agency quoted Jalali as saying.

    Jalali added that in sites and apps on social media, Iran is facing threats. He said, “They are tools in a psychological warfare against Iran on the cultural, political, secyrity and economic levels.” He added, “The threat of the complexed social media is our top priority and we are dealing with it as a threat to national security,” and warned,“United States wants to instigate the Iranian people against the government through media, phones and internet.”

    The popular protests that began at the end of last year and continue to erupt, have Iranian authorities scrambling to uncover activists and contain protests, in which social media applications and networks, play a major role.

    Abulhassan Firouz Abadi, head of the Supreme Council for Cybersecurity, along with other Iranian officials, like Abdul Samad Khoram Abadi, head of the Internet Crime Investigation Committee, and TV and Radio Authority chief Abd Ali Askari, have all been classified under recent US sanctions for their role in human rights violations, as well as blocking and monitoring the Internet, imposing surveillance on peaceful activists, and suppressing recent protests.

    The Iranian government is attempting to replace the foreign and international applications with national ones — replacing Telegram with Soroush — but some Iranian lawmakers and activists have protested this, because Iranian citizens don’t trust national apps, as they are under the control of the Islamic Republic’s Intelligence Unit and Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp.

    Last month, Firouz Abadi, head of the Supreme Council for Cybersecurity, threatened to block Instagram as he did Telegram, if the company does not provide details on the users in cooperation with the Iranian government. However, according to a survey done between May 20th through June 20th of this year, even with the block on Telegram, 79 percent of Iranian users continued connect to it through other mediums.

    In fact, 46.7 percent of Iranian social media users connect to international and foreign apps, compared to the 3.9 percent who use national applications. Some 14.1 percent of Iranians use both mediums.