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In Iran, Journalism is an “Anti-State” Activity

 

www.theinvestigativefund.org

In its December 8 report, the Committee to Protect Journalists announced that Iran was the worst place in the world for journalists in 2011. According to this report, 179 writers, editors, and photojournalists have been imprisoned around the world this year, an increase of 34 from 2010. Iran is at the top of the list with 42 journalists behind bars; last year it shared the worst offender status with China, both with 34 imprisoned journalists.

CPJ notes: “For the first time in more than a decade, China did not lead (or jointly lead) the list of countries incarcerating journalists.” But the numbers in China didn’t decrease; Iran simply surpassed China in incarcerating journalists.

As an Iranian journalist, I wasn’t surprised. Last year, the French organization Reporters Without Borders, named Iran “the world’s biggest prison for journalists.”

As of January 2010, Iran had 42 journalists in prison. Even scarier, “36 parliamentarians who support President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad presented a bill under which detained government opponents would be regarded as “mohareb” (enemies of God) who should be executed “within a maximum of five days” of their arrest.” Since 2000, Iran has shut down more than 100 publications, accusing many of being “pawns of the West.”

But my lack of surprise about Iran’s terrible record on the safety of journalists and freedom of the press comes from personal experience.

Over a three-month period in the fall of 2004, security forces arrested a handful of journalists for online journalism. I was among them. We were the first group of Iranian journalists to use the Internet and to blog. For the past three years, I had my own blog in Farsi, I was then the editor at the political desk of Etemad, a reformist newspaper based in Tehran, and had been writing for various websites. The sites are no longer live, but they included Emrooz and Gooyanews. One of the eight charges against me was being anti-state, a common charge thrown at journalists detained in Iran and at everybody who is critical of the state. They leveled such heavy charges against us — “membership in illegal groups,” “spreading lies,” and hilariously, “having non-Islamic relationships with women” — that we thought we were likely to face a long-term prison sentence and that our dreams were ruined. I was placed under severe physical and mental pressure in prison. After two months in solitary confinement, I was so isolated that I broke and agreed to write the confession the security forces wanted me to write, apologizing and repenting for my deeds.

For my temporary release from prison, I had to declare my “repentance” and publish it in a public newspaper. The prosecutor kept my three friends in prison as hostages until I wrote and published the letter. I did as I promised and he then released them, one by one. Of course, they had to write their own repentance letters as well. The prosecutor also filmed us both in and out of prison and broadcast our confession on state television. Everything took place under great pressure, including threats to our families and to us.

After leaving prison on bail, in 2005 my friend Omid Memarian and I decided to reveal what had happened to the Truth-Finding Commission set up by President Mohammad Khatami and a team from the judiciary to investigate mistreatment of detainees. Once we visited Ayatollah Shahroudi, then the chief of Iran’s judiciary, the security forces sent us a message that we could all be killed in a car accident, just like so many others were.

Human Rights Watch, which released this statement in January 2005, four days after I testified to the commission, said:

Since their appearances before the commission, Saeed Mortazavi, chief prosecutor of Tehran, has threatened each of these former detainees with lengthy prison sentences and harm to their family members, as punishment for their testimony. Mortazavi continues to issue numerous subpoenas for the journalists without specifying charges. His operatives also harass the journalists by phone on a daily basis.

And:

The journalists’ testimonies exposed Mortazavi’s role in authorizing their torture to extract confessions and in compelling them to appear on television to deny their mistreatment while under detention.

After my release, I stayed in Iran for two more years waiting to be called back to prison at any minute. During that time, I tried to continue my work as a journalist, but the security forces did not allow it. I would be hired, and soon after, fired when the heads of publications were pressured to let me go. It was a struggle to support myself, and eventually, I left Iran in summer 2006 to go to Paris and then, later that year, New York, where I have been ever since.

Practicing journalism in Iran is very difficult. For example, investigative journalism is almost impossible. Perhaps as a result of the danger, there have been a few investigations into the intimidation, imprisonment, and execution of journalists and other dissidents in Iran during the last two decades. One was carried out by two prominent and award-winning Iranian investigative journalists, Emad Baghi and Akbar Ganji, during the first term (1997-2005) of the reformist president Mohammad Khatemi, which ended in their long-term imprisonment. Furthermore, the plight of Iranian journalists grew even worse after the 2009 post-election crackdown.

The list of arrested journalists during the past two years is so long, and there was a new wave of arrests of journalists and activists this past September. I can strongly say that all of my former colleagues are either in prison or temporarily free on bail, banned from journalism, or forced to leave the country. It is really sad and I don’t think the situation will get any better soon. I hope I see Iran some day at the top of the list of free countries that care about truth and dignity. In Iranian culture we have an expression: “It is not wrong for youth to wish big!” Sadly, safety for Iranian reporters is a very big wish. May it come true one day soon.

Link to resource

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2011 in Notes, Personality, Reports

 

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Iran: Four Journalists Sentenced to Prison, Floggings

 

 

Four Years After Arrests, No Public Investigation of Abuse Allegations

 

(New York, February 10, 2009) – The sentencing of four Tehran bloggers by Iran’s Judiciary Court on February 3, 2009, to prison terms, fines and flogging, despite the head of the judiciary’s admission that they had been coerced into confessing, violates their right to a fair trial, Human Rights Watch and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said today. The four said shortly after their arrest in 2004 that they had been tortured during interrogation, but there has been no public investigation into these allegations despite a high-level promise to do so.

 

Authorities arrested Omid Memarian, Roozbeh Mirebrahimi, Shahram Rafizadeh, and Javad Gholamtamimi in September and October 2004, and detained them without charge. The four said that they were subjected in detention to physical and psychological abuse, as well as prolonged periods of solitary confinement in a secret detention center without access to counsel or family. Three of the men subsequently described the abuse at a meeting with Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, the head of the judiciary. On April 20, 2005, a judiciary spokesman said that an official investigation confirmed that their confessions had been coerced. “The interrogators and prosecutors committed a series of negligent and careless acts in this case that led to the abuse of the detainees’ words and writings in producing confession letters,” the spokesman said.

 

“These sentences are shocking, given that the head of the judiciary himself admitted the evidence had been obtained by coercion” said Joe Stork, deputy director of the Middle East division at Human Rights Watch. “The judges should be investigating and prosecuting abusers, not their victims.”

 

Human Rights Watch and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran called on the Tehran Appeals Court to overturn the sentences, and on the government to investigate the torture claims.

 

The four journalists were released on bail in late 2004. Memarian, Mirebrahimi, and Rafizadeh subsequently left Iran and are living abroad. Gholamtamimi resides in Iran.

 

Judiciary authorities informed lawyers for the four on February 4 that Branch 1059 of Tehran’s Judiciary Court sentenced them each to prison terms of up to three years and three months, and to be flogged. Memarian was also fined 500,000 tomans (US$520). The known charges against them include “participating in the establishment of illegal organizations,” “membership in illegal organizations,” “propaganda against the state,” “disseminating lies,” and “disturbing public order.” Gholamtamimi was also charged with treason.

 

The lawyers for the four include the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi, who told Human Rights Watch and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that they would “definitely appeal” the sentences.

 

Memarian, Mirebrahimi, and Rafizadeh met with Ayatollah Shahroudi on January 10, 2005, and described physical and psychological torture at the hands of a specific interrogator, whom they said identified himself as “Keshavarz” (farmer). They said the magistrate in charge was known as “Mehdipour.”

 

“We trusted Shahroudi,” said Mirebrahimi, who worked as a consultant with Human Rights Watch in 2008. “He told us, ‘Don’t tell anyone what happened to you in prison and I promise I will solve the problem.’”

 

The apparent purpose of the abuse was to extract confessions that implicate reformist politicians and civil society activists in activities such as spying and violating national security laws (http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2004/12/19/iran-judiciary-uses-coercion-cover-torture ). According to the three men, both the interrogator and the magistrate repeatedly delivered messages and threats to the detainees on behalf of the chief prosecutor of Tehran. Shahroudi’s spokesman announced on January 12, 2005 that, “Shahroudi has issued a special order to investigate and probe these [detentions]. If any of the detainees’ allegations, at any level, are true then we will prosecute the violators.” To date, the government has not made the full findings of any investigation public, nor has it announced any penalties or prosecution for the abuse.

 

“Either the Iranian judges are not listening to Ayatollah Shahroudi, or he has reneged on his promise to investigate the torturers and not the bloggers,” said Hadi Ghaemi, coordinator of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “These brave journalists stood up for their rights. It’s high time the Iranian judiciary stood up for justice.”

 

Human Rights Watch and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran have documented extensive patterns of forced confessions, arbitrary detentions, and prison torture against opposition political activists, journalists, and anyone perceived as a critic. (http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2008/01/06/you-can-detain-anyone-anything-0 )

 

To read the Iran country chapter of Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2009, please visit:

http://www.hrw.org/en/node/79223

 

For more of Human Rights Watch’s work on Iran, please visit:

http://www.hrw.org/en/middle-eastn-africa/iran

 

For more of the work of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, please visit:

http://www.iranhumanrights.org/

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2009 in Article About Me, Interview, Reports

 

8.5 Years Prison, 124 Lashes!‎

Interview with Convicted Bloggers – 2009.02.09

Roozonline: 

A criminal court in Tehran sentenced 4 bloggers to a total of 8.5 years of prison terms ‎and 124 lashes. Bloggers Javad Gholam Tamimi, Shahram Rafizadeh, Roozbeh Mir ‎Ebrahimi and Omid Memarian received the sentences four years after their release on ‎bail.‎

 

MirEbrahimi, who has already spent several months in solitary confinement received a 2 year ‎and 2 day prison sentence plus 84 lashes. “We will appeal the verdict within the ‎designated time period one hundred percent and reveal necessary facts about this case. ‎This verdict has no merit and is based only on previous confessions which were extracted ‎under torture and in solitary confinement,” he told Rooz.‎

 

When asked whether he expected such a harsh sentence four years after meeting with the ‎head of Iran’s judiciary Ayatollah Shahroudi and his promise to rebuke guilty officers ‎and judges in the case Ebrahimi responded, “We have till today not announced the full ‎details of this case and our meetings with officials, thinking we could trust the promise of ‎an official of Ayatollah Shahroudi’s stature. But the sentence that we heard today was ‎completely contrary to what we believed.” Mir Ebrahimi added, “Developments in this case ‎in the past four years, especially replacing four judges in the case pointed to deviations in ‎the process of examining the case.” ‎

 

On the other hand, journalist and blogger Omid Memarian, who is sentenced to 2.5 years ‎behind bars and 10 lashes, told Rooz, “I was shocked to hear about the sentence because ‎after our meeting at the Constitutional Oversight Committee and explaining the events ‎that transpired during our detention in a meeting we had with Ayatollah Shahroudi, the ‎chief judge promised us to close the case and that he would rebuke individuals who had ‎committed illegal and in certain cases perverted actions during our detention.” ‎

 

According to Memarian, “Mr. Shahroudi asked us to refrain revealing to the media the ‎details of what had transpired during our detention and that he would resolve the case. ‎Apparently though Mr. Shahroudi lacks the power to implement his orders and our trust ‎in him was unwarranted.”‎

 

Recalling tortures and psychological pressures imposed on him by detention officers, ‎Memarian said, “The officers who interrogated me and extracted the confessions that ‎they wanted while I was held in solitary confinement under all kinds of physical and ‎psychological pressures were sexual and mental abusers.”‎

 

Memarian emphasized, “I told Mr. Shahroudi that not just in my case, but in no one’s ‎case should these individuals be left alone in the room with anyone, because they are ‎mentally unstable and capable of doing things that no mentally sane and stable person is ‎able to do. After two months of being subjected to torture in solitary confinement, our ‎lives have never returned to its initial condition because of that dark time’s psychological ‎pressures.” ‎

 

Details of the Sentence

 

The sentence, signed by “Judge Hosseini” and forwarded to some of the attorneys of the ‎bloggers and journalists, provides that defendants in the bloggers case are charged with ‎‎“authoring and publishing articles in counter-revolutionary blogs and websites.”‎

 

The verdict refers to defense arguments put forward by Shirin Ebadi, Mohammad ‎Seifzadeh, Nasreen Sotudeh and Nemat Ahmadi (who represented the four bloggers ‎individually) as “unconvincing defense by attorneys” and announces that in accordance ‎with “defendants’ confessions” and “evidence presented in the case” the following ‎verdicts are issued for the four defendants: first defendant Javad Gholam Tamimi is ‎sentenced to 3 years and 3 months in prison and 10 lashes for “membership in illegal ‎groups,” “treason against country,” “propaganda against regime” and “spreading lies;” ‎second defendant Shahram Rafizadeh is sentenced to 9 months in prison and 20 lashes for ‎‎“membership in illegal groups,” “propaganda against regime,” “spreading lies” and ‎‎“disrupting public order;” third defendant Roozbeh Mir Ebrahimi is sentenced to 2 years ‎and 2 days in prison and 84 lashes for “membership in illegal groups,” “propaganda ‎against regime,” “insulting supreme leader,” “spreading lies” and “disrupting public ‎order;” and fourth defendant Omid Memarian is sentenced to 2.5 years in prison, 10 ‎lashes and 500 thousand Tomans in fines for “membership in illegal groups,” ‎‎“participation in illegal groups,” “propaganda against regime,” “spreading lies” and ‎‎“possession of playing cards,” which the judge refers to as “gambling tools.” ‎

 

Case History

 

Shahram Rafizdeh, Roozbeh Mir Ebrahimi, Omid Memarian and Javad Gholam Tamimi ‎were arrested in September 2004 along with 17 other individuals and spent several ‎months in secret detention facilities in solitary confinement and forced to confess under ‎pressure by Tehran’s Prosecutor General Saeed Mortazavi.‎

 

Following their temporary release, brought about by widespread protests from the ‎Association of Iranian journalists, international human rights organizations and the-then ‎president Mohammad Khatami, the bloggers revealed the account of their tortures and ‎met with the head of judiciary on October 6, 2004.‎

 

The details of that meeting have not yet been published but Mohammad Khatami’s ‎deputy, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, wrote on his blog at the time that, after hearing the ‎details of tortures the bloggers were subjected to and threats received by their families, ‎Ayatollah Shahroudi was visibly shaken and ordered for officers in charge of the case to ‎be prosecuted.‎

 

A day after the meeting, Jamal Karimi-Rad, former judiciary spokesperson said that ‎Ayatollah Shahroudi has ordered the case to be taken away from Tehran’s Prosecutor ‎General and appointed a 3-man committee to investigate the matter.‎

 

The next month, the head of Tehran’s court system, Abasali Alizadeh, told ISNA and ‎IRNA, “Certain officers and judiciary’s officials committed violations throughout the ‎case, including in extracting confessions from defendants.”‎

 

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2009 in Article About Me, Interview, Reports

 

Two years imprisonment and 84 lashes

On Wednesday February 4 , 2009 a division of court in Tehran (# 1059) sentenced four journalists and bloggers to eight and a half years imprisonment and 124 lashes.

Four years ago these four bloggers- Shahram Rafizadeh, Roozbeh Mirebrahimi, Omid Memarian and Javad Gholamtamimi were arrested , interrogated and detained , each for several months. These case in Iran known as ” Blog writers ” case.
Among the four bloggers , Javad Gholamtamimi is still in Iran – Shahram is in Canada, Ruzbeh and Omid are in US.
Shahram Rafizadeh was allegedly accused of ” participation in illegal socities”, ” propagating against the state “, ” publication of lies” and “public disturbance” . He was sentenced to 9 months prison term and 20 lashes. His two other charges is still under review.
Roozbeh Mirebrahimi was allegedly accused of ” participation in illegal socities”, ” propagating against the state “, ” publication of lies” , “insulting the leader “and “public disturbance”. He was sentenced to two years and two days imprisonment and 84 lashes . His two other charges is still under review.
Omid Memarian was allegedly accused of ” participation in forming illegal societies”, ” membership in illegal socities” , ” propagating against the state “, ” publication of lies”, ” keeping gambling tools” . He was sentenced to two years and six months imprisonment , 10 lashes and 500,000 “Tuman” ( equal to $500 cnd ) fine. His two other charges is still under review.
Javad Gholamtamimi was allegedly accused of ” participation in forming illegal societies”, ” , ” propagating against the state “, ” publication of lies”, “public disturbance”. and ” trason to country. He was sentenced to three years and three months imprisonment and 10 lashes.
 
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Posted by on February 8, 2009 in Article About Me, Reports

 

Position of Elected Institutions in Iran

Roozbeh Mirebrahimi -Roozonline-  2008.05.13

po_rozbeh_mir_ebrahimi.jpg

We read in the news that the head of the Expediency Council, Ali Akbar Hashemi ‎Rafsanjani, said in a speech that “moving forward, the Expediency Council will ‎implement more supervision on the administration’s policies.” ‎

The economically-oriented “Sarmaye” newspaper quoted Rafsanjani on Tuesday, “In ‎implementing Article 44 of the Constitution and the 20-year development plan, a great ‎deal of emphasis has been placed on human capital and expert management, the meaning ‎of which is that the era of trial and error has ended and we must be professional and move ‎according to plans.” ‎

Like always, Ahmadinejad’s opponents, including many reformists, welcomes the news ‎and, most likely, were overcome with joy because, “after all, this administration must be ‎controlled somehow.” ‎

The main point, however, is whether such welcomes are based on consistent analytical ‎foundations, meaning that, because Rafsanjani is now opposed to the administration, this ‎development is acceptable; or vice versa, because we are opposed to Ahmadinejad, we ‎must accept with open arms anything that curtails him. ‎

First of all, I believe that reformists who welcomed the Expediency Council’s supervision ‎have forgotten how loudly they screamed that unelected institutions are curtailing the ‎power of elected institution when similar developments were about to take place during ‎the previous administration’s reign. It does not matter who heads these institutions. ‎What is important is that we should not welcome any development that weakens semi-‎democratic institutions. Rather, we should continually empower such institutions against ‎unelected institutions. ‎

There is much criticism to be made about the undemocratic essence of institutions like ‎the presidency and the Majlis in the Islamic Republic system. Nevertheless, one should ‎never welcome the weakening of elected positions, such as presidency, by unelected ‎institutions headed by the supreme leader. ‎

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2008 in Notes, Reports

 

Death for the sake of Love!

 

Perhaps that morning when she woke up to get ready to meet her fiancé in a park in Hamedan city, she was thinking of many things but no was that only one day after this visit her soulless body will be delivered to her family.

 

Zahra Bani Ameri was a 27-year old MD who was passing her residency and practical training in Hamedan. She was there to cure her patients and free them of their pains. But the Islamic-deeds division of government security guards related to Islamic militia – Bassij – in the morning of October 12th, a day before Eid ul-Fitr (the last day of the month of Ramadan), arrested Zahra along with Hamid, her fiancé; they were walking in park and got arrested under a pretext allegation of illegal and non-Islamic relationship. One day after Zahra’s arrest, on October 13th her body was delivered out of the Bassij station and to her family. 

After Eid ui-fitr’s holiday, the students of Bo Ali Sina University who just got back to their daily classes were shock by the news of Zahra’s death: by Bassij’s account she strangled herself in her cell. The universities Internet station spread the news. Soon after this public exposure the contradictory reactions of authorities began.Journalists, social right activists and bloggers came to the front and started questioning those involved. Bassij’s and the state prosecution office’s claim of her committing suicide became a puzzle which did not match the facts.  

Why was she arrested? Was the arrest legal in the first place? Under which basis Bassij kept her under arrest more than 24 hours? If it is true that she committed suicide what was her motives? Base on the forensic pathology report the time of death was at 9 pm on October 13th, but websites and bloggers report that Zahra’s brother had a telephone conversation with her, exactly 30 minutes before her time of death. Her brother says that they talked couple of times and Zahra appeared normal in all of them; there was no sign of suicide or depression on her voice. Why do the authorities’ have divided statements?  Why suddenly after two weeks the forensic pathology’s report changes and declares that Zahra was a virgin contrary to the previous reports?  

All these information were published by the Bo Ali University’s website and couple of other websites concentrating on women’s rights and by women’s right activists. The issue of virginity becomes a crucial concern n this case. It is important because based on some of the reports and rumors Zahra was raped while under arrest.  

The latest news confirm that Shirin Ebadi, Iranian lawyer, human rights activist and the winner of Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 has accepted the case for Zahra’s family and is following the case. Dr. Zahra’s family has filed a lawsuit against the Islamic-deeds division of government security guards related to Islamic militia – Bassij. On of Zahra’s friends and coworker writes on her blog: “ her arrest because of having bad Hijab (Non Islamic Outfit) and wearing too much make up is ridiculous. She always wore a long smock with closed-scarf. She was religious and very devoted. And to slur over her blood in this manner is outrageous. 

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2007 in Reports

 

Students Prepare Questions for Ahmadinejad at Tehran University

By Roozbeh Mirebrahimi

Published in Roozonline - 2007.10.09

 Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was to be at Tehran University to deliver a speech on the first day of the new academic year. There will be questions by students and if they are allowed to freely raise them, Ahmadinejad will have to respond to 20 issues that the central council of Daftare Tahkim Vahdat student organization – the largest in the country – has publicly announced. The central theme of the questions is this: What is the meaning of freedom of speech in your [the President’s] opinion, and where is the manifestation of this “matchless freedom in Iran” that you proclaimed at New York’s Columbia University last month. This event was originally scheduled for last week, but was rescheduled for unexplained reasons. The close timing of the student organization’s announcement of its questions and the initial cancellation of the presidential event, raise the possibility that the two events were related. In the beginning of last week it was officially announced that President Ahmadinejad would speak at the university on Monday. Then Daftare Tahkim Vahdat student organization issued its second open letter in which it again requested to participate in the President’s meeting and announced its 20 questions.The authors of the letter welcomed Ahmadinejad’s invitation of US President to come to Iran and deliver a speech, as they also welcomed any measure that would be effective in reducing the possibility of a dangerous war in Iran. “But how is it that it is okay for the American President to come to Iranian universities, but critical teachers and students do not have the right to express their views at these very universities?” it asked. “Hundreds of requests for permits for speeches have been ignored by the university’s cultural council. What argument supports the notion that Bush can come and speak at our university while our intellectuals are denied the same right? What is the justification for releasing British sailors who were labeled invaders, while our teachers, students, workers and journalists are punished for a single criticism?” continues the letter.“Mr. Ahmadinejad. Since officials are doing their utmost to prevent us from entering the university hall to participate in this event, and even engage in stopping us from organizing a separate gathering outside the presidential event while security agencies make repeated contacts with students to dissuade them from even going to Tehran University on the day of the President’s speech, we will raise our questions now with the hope that we will hear the responses at the meeting and raise other questions at the event”, the letter further reads.

The 20 Questions

The central council of the Daftare Tahkim Vahdat which represents all university organizations of the country presents the following 20 questions to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:

1. Three students with the names of Ehsan Mansouri, Majid Tavakoli and Ahmad Shasaban, who are members of this organization, have been in prison for more than 5 months now over charges of publishing sham publications. Many believe that these fake publications were published by your supporters to avenge the students. At the last court hearing of these three students, the subject of the criticism that was raised against you at Amir Kabir University was brought up. In view of this, how could you claim at Columbia University in New York that the students who criticized you at Amir Kabir University have not been confronted?

2. With the start of the work of the ninth administration, the policy of ranking activist students with stars was launched, and students that received stars have been deprived of their education. This year, this policy was extended to ethnic and religious minorities, and the teacher participants in the national university entrance examinations. As a matter of fact, on what legal, moral, or human basis are students and other dissidents and minorities deprived of their education by agencies under your control?

3. Racial discrimination was practiced at this year’s the national university entrance examinations and a group of women were either denied admission to universities or admitted to institutions in remote regions of the country even though they had higher scores than men participants. This issue was confirmed by the relevant agency, i.e. the Sazemane Sanjesh Amuzesh Keshvar (the National Educational Testing Organization). On what legal basis is such racial discrimination pursued and can it have any meaning other than the blatant violation of women’s rights?

4. According to authorities at the Ministry of Science, the annual university budget has been reduced this year. This is despite the 25 percent growth in the student body, and in spite of the growing annual rate of inflation. As a result, we are witness to the deteriorating living and education conditions across the universities in the country. Why and on what grounds must we witness the reduction of university budgets while the government’s revenues are astoundingly on the rise?

5. During your 2 years in office, 550 students have been summoned by disciplinary committees, 43 student bodies have been shut down, more than 130 student publications have been banned and more than 70 members of this organization have been detained. And the fault of these individuals, organization and publications is that they have criticized the imprudence and mismanagement exercised by the officials of the ninth administration. Today, there remains no organization that is critical of the government. All such organizations have either been suspended, dissolved or are on the verge of dissolution. So what is the meaning of freedom of speech in your opinion, and where is the manifestation of this “matchless freedom in Iran” that you proclaimed at New York’s Columbia University last month?

6. During your administration more than a 100 nationally prominent university professors have been forcefully retired or expelled under various pretexts. For the first time in the history of higher education a person without a university degree was installed as the president of the university who has used the level of a person’s support for the government faction as the criteria to hire professors. In all honesty, while the overriding majority of experts believe that the country’s universities suffer from a shortage of professors and Iranian universities have no place among the top 2,000 institutions of higher education around the world, what is the meaning of such treatment of professors?

7. Archives of official and government news agencies demonstrate that during 2 years of your administration, workers and many teachers have been imprisoned and have lost their jobs for asking for their professional rights and meager higher salaries. Please provide a response to the question when and how is your support of the deprived low income strata of society going to materialize?8. Numerous publications and news agencies face closure and are banned with any criticism of the government. Iran’s Labor News Agency (ILNA) is filtered because of a protest from the ministry of science and the ministry of the interior; Baztab Internet news site has been shut down because of a government protest; Shargh and Ham-Mihan newspapers faced government objections and were shut down; Etemad and Etemad Melli newspapers currently face government complaints. Journalists who write on human rights, student affairs, ethnic issues, and women’s subjects face various pressures from state security agencies while the ministry of Islamic guidance and ministry of intelligence exert devastating pressure on the managers of the media so that the latter refrain from publishing factual reports. Because of the advice of the Supreme National Security Council the press is banned from writing about various public issues. Iran newspaper has turned into a government bulletin. The managers of Iran’s student news agency – ISNA student news agency – face a double pressure to suppress the unlawful confrontations with the students. What is the reason for such extensive pressure and suppression of the media and news agencies and till when are such tactics going to continue?

9. Political parties that question government policies have faced the strongest pressures during your administration. The offices of Daftare Sazemane Danesh Amookhtegane Iran Islami (Advar Tahkim Vahdat student organization) were sealed through an armed assault. The repeated efforts of its members have not produced any results while no legal justification for this act has been presented. Subsidies to political parties have been ended and the ministry of Islamic guidance refrains from issuing operational licenses to reformist parties such as Jebhe Mosharekat Iran Islami (Islamic Iran Participation Party) and Sazemane Mojahedin Enghelab-e Islami (Organization of the Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution). This is while all modern societies today accept parties as a foundation of democracy. We request you to explain what you meant by vomit-able democracy that you had recently mentioned and explain what is its difference with the democracy that you defended in America. In your opinion, is democracy even possible without independent and vibrant political parties?

10. While half of the population of the country is made up of women, and in lieu of the sexual discrimination exercised against women participants in the national university testing examinations, the ninth government has blatantly violated women’s rights by presenting a draft to regulate family rights. This measure is undertaken at a time when activists who work on women’s rights issues such as equal blood money, equal inheritance, and opposition to polygyny face the severest punishment and are sent to prison. Our question is what other meaning can this violent confrontation with women activists on one hand and the presentation of a bill to the parliament which is opposed by the Majlis on the other, have than a negative attitude towards women’s rights?

11. You participated in the presidential elections with two promises: bring oil money to the people’s dinning tables and battle discrimination and corruption. But according to reliable sources, corruption among Iranian officials has been on the rise during the last two years and Iran is confronted with a 15 fold increase in corruption. People’s living conditions are shameful. We would like to know that while less than two years are left to the end of your administration, when will the elections promises be fulfilled?

12. Due to rising oil prices which are linked to your policies have increased the country’s oil revenues during the last 2 years to equal the revenues of all the 8 years of the Khatami administration and 8 years of the Rafsanjani administration, announce quantitatively, and not qualitatively, how has this increased revenue been used? How many development projects have begun and how many infrastructure projects been completed?

13. Because of the erroneous policies of the government and despite the huge oil revenues, the economic growth of the country is 2 percent less than the plans in the fourth development plan, which means a loss of 70,000 billion Toman during the five-year period. This means every Iranian has been deprived of approximately one million Toman. Do you know that some of these people cannot make their daily ends meet and cannot even imagine one million Toman revenues and that the benefits of justice that you promised through so much hue and cry is much less than this amount? This is the state of affairs while a meager three hundred billion Toman can meet the budget of all Iranian universities.

14. Because of the government wrong policies we witness a rapid inflation in the housing sector which according to officials of the ninth administration is the result of bad government policies. The results of these policies are so bad that authorities publicly declare that the public should not be even thinking of house ownership in large cities. Do you know that the problem of marriage that many young people face is centered in housing?

15. While the massacre of Jews during World War II is a bitter and undeniable historic event, why do you pursue this issue to this extent? Is the Holocaust the major calamity facing mankind? Even if we assume your goal is to defend the people of Palestine, does this focus on the Holocaust solve any of their problems?

16. What is the purpose of your crises-prone remarks about the nuclear policy which is even opposed by your own comrades in thought is at times in confrontation with the official position of the state which baffles even the diplomacy apparatus of the country?

17. What is the purpose of repeated trips to Latin American countries and the generous but unaccountable promises to the people of those countries? What are the benefits of these to the country?

18. What is the reason for the silence over the extortious demands of China and Russia and the extension of large economic privileges to them? Isn’t it that these wrong policies deplete the country’s only resource, while both countries eventually vote favorably for resolutions against Iran? What is the reason for selling gas to India and Pakistan at prices lower than the minimum going prices?

19. What was the purpose of arresting the British sailors and taking thousands of positions against them and then suddenly releasing them? Why did this happen soon after the threat by the British Prime Minister?

20. The final question is that your comments at Columbia University in New York, and your other statements at foreign press conferences contradict your behavior, goals and positions. What can be the reasons for this contradiction? Can any one conclude other than that these goals and behavior are not defendable and undoubtedly will lead to even more destructive consequences than what has already happened? As a principle, what other conclusion can one reach than that taking the public for being stupid?

Prior to this statement and with the announcement of the news that the president would speak at Tehran University, Daftare Tahkim Vahdat student organization had written a letter to the president and strongly criticized him for the absence of freedom of speech in Iran and requested that just one member of the student group be allowed to participate in the university and ask questions of the president.

Last year, during a similar event when the president was delivering a speech at Amir Kabir University, a group of students changed “Death to the Dictator” and put his portraits on fire. Soon after that, a group of students were arrested on charges of publishing insulting articles. Daftare Tahkim Vahdat announced that the articles were fake and that the arrest of students was a revengeful act by supporters of the president Ahmadinejad in connection with the Amir Kabir University event. 

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2007 in News About Iran, Reports

 

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Ministry of Culture Bans Rafsanjani’s Memoir?

By Roozbeh Mirebrahimi -Roozonline-  2007.09.03

Former president Hashemi Rafsanjani joined the long list of “banned” authors after the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance confiscated and collected from bookstores the latest installment of his multi-volume memoir, entitled “Towards Fate.”

Rafsanjani’s Book

Since yesterday, various news agencies released unofficial reports about the book’s suspension. The Ministry of Culture denied the accusation, but said in a statement that the book will notbe published until an acknowledgement is received from the book’s publisher, the Institute for the Compilation and Publication of Imam Khomeini’s Works. In an unprecedented move, a publishing official asked Ayatollahs Khameni and Mousavi Ardebili along with Mir Hossein Mousavi to confirm the content of Rafsanjani’s memoir.

 The controversy began when hardliner Kayhan’s editor, Hossein Shariatmadi, launched a relentless attack against Hashemi Rafsanjani. Suspension rumors were confirmed after a website close to the administration, Raja News, released a report confirming the suspension of Rafsanjani’s memoir.

Raja News wrote, “In ‘Towards Fate,’ which was published without an official permit from the Institute for the Compilation and Publication of Imam Khomeini’s Works, Hashemi Rafsanjani quotes Imam Khomeini several times. A decision has been made to stop the book’s publication and distribution.”

 

According to Raja News, “The decision will be implemented following the book’s initial publication, because the law makes it clear that any quotes referenced to Imam Khomeini or the supreme leader must be verified prior to publication, by either the Institute for the Compilation and Publication of Imam Khomeini’s Works or the Center for the Complication and Publication of Supreme Leader’s Works.”

 Raja News continues, “As such, the publication of this memoir was ‘illegal’ or ‘beyond law’ in the first place.” Fars News Agency confirmed Raja News by quoting a Ministry of Culture official: “The book ‘Towards Fate’ will not be published unless a verification is received from the Institute for the Compilation and Publication of Imam Khomeini’s Works.”

In a related development, Mir Shekari, who works at the Institute for the Compilation and Publication of Imam Khomeini’s Works, told the Mehr News Agency, “The content of this book is very sensitive, so the supreme leader, Ayatollah Mousavi Ardebili, and Mir Hossein Mousavi must share their opinion about it.”

 The memoir’s most controversial part is a quote on page 173 where Rafsanjani writes: “An MP suggested quitting the slogan ‘Death to America and USSR.’ I said, ‘we have already made that decision and Imam [Khomeini] supports it as well. We are waiting for the proper time.’”

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2007 in Reports

 

University Professors Fired En Masse

By Roozbeh Mirebrahimi -Roozonline, 2007.08.28

This month last year, while meeting with a select group of university students, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, “Today, university students must scream at their president asking why are there liberal and secular professors in universities.” Shortly after, a wave of dismissals and retirements revoked the tenures of hundreds of Iran’s most respected professors.

Last week, dozens of prominent university professors were removed from their posts. Aftab website was among the first domestic source to cover the story. Aftab wrote, “As the new academic term begins, some news reports point to the firing and removal of certain university professors who are critical of the administration’s.”

Various websites reported that Drs. Hossein Bashiriyeh, Saeed Shahandeh, Hadi Semati, and Mir Jalaleddin Kazzazi were among the fired professors who received their dismissal notices from Tehran University President Amid Zanjani.

Dr. Hossein Bashiriyeh is known by many as the father of Iran’s political sociology. His work has been a topic of discussion in Iran’s academic circles in recent years, while many credit his theories for contributing to the rise of the reformists. Many of Iran’s political science professors and theorists have studied under Dr. Bashiriyeh.

International relations professor Dr. Hadi Semati has been an influential figure as a source for understanding and analyzing issues related to Iran, especially in academic circles outside the country. Dr. Saeed Shahandeh is an accomplished professor who specializes in Chinese and East Asian studies.

Interestingly, all three professors had spent a year outside Iran doing research or teaching. Now they all have been fired for their yearlong absence. They have been accused of overstaying their research terms outside Iran for one or two additional semesters.

In a related story, the Ministry of Culture and Higher Education passed a resolution last week requiring professors who plan to travel outside the country to report their travel plans to the university’s security office.

Baztab website reported, “According to recent guidelines, university professors are required to report their travel plans, whether they are going for research or teaching purposes, to their respective university’s security office.”

According to Baztab, traveling professors are required to report their travel plans regardless of whether the trip is paid by the university or not.

The new wave of dismissals follows recent accusations by intelligence and security officers that university professors and academic figures are involved in instigating a “velvet revolution” in the Islamic Republic.

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2007 in Reports

 

Judiciary Orders Students to Solitary Confinement

By Roozbeh Mirebrahimi-Roozonline, 2007.08.23

 

A few days after reporters published the threatening comments of Tehran’s general prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi while addressing the families of three imprisoned Polytechnic University Students, the Islamic Student Association of Amir Kabir (Polytechnic) University issued a statement condemning the general prosecutor’s comments and warning about fatal threats facing the lives of the three students.

The statement blames the treatment of the imprisoned students on factional infighting within the judiciary: “Undoubtedly the situation of the three tortured students has arisen due to the infighting going on within the judiciary branch of the government. Despite the clear orders of the head of judiciary, Hashemi Shahroudi, calling for the immediate release of the students, Judge Mortazavi has not only refused to obey the order but has instead moved the students to solitary confinement and revoked their visitation and phone privileges. Perhaps a new round of torture and intimidation has already begun for these three students at Evin Prison’s ward 209.”

The statement also responds to the remarks of Tehran’s general prosecutor: “Saeed Mortazavi, whose dark background in suppressing and intimidating social and civil activists in Iran in the past years has helped him receive quick promotions in the judiciary’s darkroom and whose role in the murder case of Zahra Kazemi will always remain in people’s memories, yesterday told the tormented families of the three tortured Polytechnic students that their children had not yet been tortured so that they understood the meaning of torture.”

The statement continues, “Of course, in situations where an appointed judge convicts innocent students before investigations even begin, it is also normal for the prosecutor to engage in all kinds of inhuman behavior.”

Following the meeting of the families of students with the general prosecutor, the father of one of the detained students told Radio Farda that while admitting that he had not yet read the case file the general prosecutor had announced his certainty that “the students were behind publishing the insulting material.”

Another part of the statement addresses government officials: “The Islamic Student Association of Amir Kabir University calls on all officials in the judiciary to take adequate measures to change the alarming condition of the three students as soon as possible, and not to allow the outcome of the students’ complaints against the inhumane behavior of Mortazavi and Judge Haddad to be the return of the students to solitary and torture-rooms, rather than confronting the propagators and supporters of torture.”

In a separate statement, the Committee for the Release of Political and Student Activists wrote, “According to the oral and written statements of the Ghassaban, Mansouri and Tavakkoli families, and based on the clear statements of freed students, the three detained students are undergoing severe psychological and physical torture. In addition, despite a clear announcement by the judiciary’s spokesperson that Ayatollah Shahroudi had ordered for the release of the three aforementioned students – which came in response to the repeated letters of the students’ families – the release of the students faces serious hurdles.”

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2007 in Reports

 
 
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