Iranian state-controlled news media have been having an extended field day recently, gleefully reporting on the ever-unfolding news about human rights violations committed by agents of the U.S. government. These include of course the revelations in the recently released CIA torture report and the police killings of unarmed African-American men in Staten Island, Ferguson and elsewhere. Iran’s foreign ministry also recently deplored the United States “flagrant and systematic violation of the rights of its minorities.” SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
Journalists working in Iran face daunting challenges. They are constantly under threat of being suddenly arrested and detained for long periods of time, in inhumane conditions and without knowing the nature of the charges against them.
Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian has just earned the dubious distinction of being the longest-held foreign journalist in Iran. Detained in Evin Prison since his arrest in July, it was just announced that Jason Rezaian’s detention was extended another two months in November. This despite the fact that Iran’s top “human rights” official, Mohammad Javad Larijani, said in early November that he anticipated that Mr. Rezaian would be released within one month. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
When Ghoncheh Ghavami decided to take a stand this past June to protest Iran’s ban on women attending volleyball games, she likely did not figure she’d spend the rest of the summer and fall sitting in a miserable prison cell. Ms. Ghavami, who just turned 26, surely also did not predict that her call for equality would generate hundreds of thousands of supportive voices from around the world. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
Maz Jobrani, the popular Iranian-American comedian, usually makes people laugh. But now he has set mirth aside to send a serious message to the Iranian authorities: they should release noted physicist and prisoner of conscience Omid Kokabee, who is serving a ten-year prison sentence in Iran’s Evin Prison. In his video message, Mr. Jobrani notes that Omid Kokabee was sentenced to his long prison term after a grossly unfair trial in a Revolutionary Court. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
This week marks the announcement of the 2014 Nobel prizes, recognizing the lifetime accomplishments of some of the world’s most extraordinary people. Twenty-eight of these eminent individuals—winners of the Nobel Physics Prize in years between 1972 and 2013—have signed letters to Iran’s Supreme Leader calling for the release of a brilliant young physicist and prisoner of conscience, Omid Kokabee, who is serving a ten-year sentence in one of Iran’s most miserable prisons. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
Going to watch a volleyball game shouldn’t mean having to make a major political statement. It certainly shouldn’t mean arrest and indefinite detention in solitary confinement. But that is exactly what happened to dual British-Iranian Ghoncheh Ghavami, a 25-year-old woman who went to Tehran’s Azadi Stadium in June to watch a match during the International Federation of Volleyball World League games. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
When CBS’ 60 Minutes aired its 8 Days in Tehran program in May 2014, featuring seemingly unfettered access to Iranian officials and frank interviews with ordinary citizens, observers may have been justified in assuming that a new day was dawning for freedom of information in Iran. After all, correspondent Steve Kroft and his crew were able to wander around Tehran freely, without minders, to talk to people in the Bazaar and elsewhere.
Dear President-Elect Rouhani:
I am writing to you to ask you to stop the astounding brutalization heaped upon a young man who has had to pay a horrible price for his mere participation in peaceful political activism.
I welcome your recent statements that indicate your desire to usher in reforms that would lead to greater freedoms and rights for the Iranian people. That is why I hope that you will be able to bring Arash Sadeghi’s years-long ordeal to an end.
Arash Sadeghi is just 26-years-old. He had been studying philosophy at Allameh Tabatabai University until he was banned from continuing his education because of his political activism. A supporter of Mir Hossein Mousavi who was running as a reformist candidate in the 2009 presidential elections, he had been arrested a number of times for participating in demonstrations protesting the outcome of the 2009 election.
As recently as two weeks before Iran’s June 14 presidential election, it seemed as if the issue of human rights was being swept neatly under the carpet. But then, surprisingly, the issue bubbled up; Hassan Rouhani, the man who ultimately won the election, made a number of promises relating to human rights, to address discrimination based on gender, religion and ethnicity, and to protect freedom of expression.
Rouhani’s resounding victory over a field of five other candidates could be seen as evidence that, despite the brutal repression they have experienced over the past several years, the Iranian people still maintain their aspirations for a future in which their basic human rights are respected.
In Iran, the president’s power is restricted; the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei holds the ultimate authority. Since last Friday’s surprising election results, commentators have been debating what this could mean – some wondering why the authorities apparently allowed a moderate to win and whether this could indicate a decision on their part to permit a loosening of the restrictions on freedoms that had been even more stringent in the lead-up to the election.
Imagine—if you can—what it is like to be a political prisoner sitting in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison. You are likely hungry as the food is practically inedible. You are likely sick as the filthy conditions breed illnesses and infections among the inmates. You are likely not receiving adequate health care. You are living in a constant state of fear and apprehension; if you are one of those lucky enough not to be tortured yourself, you have to listen to the cries of others being tormented. You have not received anything that remotely resembles justice. Worst of all, you believe that you have been forgotten.
But now imagine the consolation and hope that you can bring to these prisoners by remembering them at this time of year. Nowruz is the Iranian New Year festival and begins on the first day of spring. It is supposed to be a joyous occasion when family and friends gather and share traditions such as the Haft Sin table, which literally means the seven s’s. Seven items beginning with the Persian letter sin (equivalent to the English s) and which represent spring time are set out.