Brazil Must Stop Siding With Oppressive Regimes

Brazil’s recent history of siding with some of today’s most oppressive governments must end. As we watch the events in Tunisia and Egypt unfold, Brazil’s track record of supporting and befriending today’s most powerful dictators is downright shameful.  This position is not only contrary to the country’s desire to become a leader in global human rights, but also irresponsible.

Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s apparent willingness to greet and negotiate with oppressive regimes was counterproductive to the world’s development.  Current President Dilma Rousseff has an opportunity to break with this trend by living up to the country’s humanitarian aspirations and expectations, as evidenced in the nation’s involvement with the world’s most respected humanitarian organizations.

Brazil became a member of the UN Human Rights Council when the multilateral body was created in 2006.  Brazil’s involvement with the organization has served as a platform for Brazil to contribute to important human rights matters, including resolutions offering access to medicines combating pandemics such as HIV / AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.  Brazil also introduced and championed initiatives to protect children rights and to combat discrimination by defending the incompatibility between democracy and racism.

Although such initiatives are noteworthy, Brazil has been less than helpful with other matters of global importance.  In 2009 it stopped supporting the Council’s resolutions dealing with North Korea’s human rights violations.  Brazil also refrained from standing up to the international crimes committed under Sudan’s regime. Additionally, Brazil supported Sri Lanka’s resolution, in which the massacre of over 70 thousand people during 25 years of civil war was not recognized.


I Am Neda

By Mikel Jollett and Nazanin Boniadi for The Neda Project

Actress Nazanin Boniadi and The Airborne Toxic Event's Mikel Jollett

The tragic death of Neda Agha-Soltan on June 20th, 2009, sent a shiver down the cumulative spine of all freedom-loving people across the world. She quickly became the face of the human rights movement in Iran and has given a voice to the voiceless around the world.

In honor of her and in solidarity with the people of Iran, The Airborne Toxic Event and Amnesty have teamed up for the Neda Project. The song “Neda” is released on iTunes today (Tuesday, June 8th) with ALL proceeds from sales to benefit Amnesty International.

In addition to the iTunes release, we have made a web-based video retelling the historic events around Neda’s death. The purpose of the video is to tell the story to people of the world who may not be aware of the Iranian struggle for freedom and to send a message to people living inside Iran that we stand with them and support their brave efforts.

What you can do:

1.  Watch the video

2.  Send out a message via your various social media, alerting others to the video. If you use twitter include this text:

I am Neda. #neda r/t

3.  Change your Facebook/Myspace/Imeem status to “I am Neda”

4.  Upload a picture of yourself holding a sign saying “I am Neda”

5.  Visit to learn more about the struggle for human rights in Iran and to participate in specific political actions that Amnesty has crafted urging the release of political prisoners.

Why Neda?

We believe that the viral video of Neda’s death was a sea-change in political power in the world. It was the first viral video to change the course of history, a symbol that the power of broadcasting is no longer simply in the hands of governments and corporations, but in the hands of people. It is in the hands of anyone with a cell phone camera and an internet connection. It is in your hands right now.


In Solidarity with the People of Iran

naz250The first charter on human rights was authored by Cyrus the Great over 2500 years ago. As Iranians we are heirs to a proud tradition of human rights and tolerance. Sadly, the Iranian authorities have not lived up to this legacy, as can be seen by the mock trials, false imprisonments, torture, child executions, and lack of equality for women in Iran today.

For the past 30 years the Iranian government has barred Amnesty International from entering the country, affording us no transparency in regards to its human rights record. However, advances in technology and the internet are allowing brave Iranian activists to share direct eyewitness accounts of what is happening on ground zero in the post-election crackdown: brutal attacks on and murder of peaceful protestors, wrongful imprisonment without access to an attorney or fair trial, forced confessions obtained under torture and duress, rape used as a weapon of torture in prisons, and the lack of freedom of assembly as seen in the case of the ‘Mourning Mothers’ whose only “crime” was gathering for an hour each Saturday in a peaceful vigil near the place and time of the killing of protester Neda Agha-Soltan.

Despite the dangers posed to protesters, Iranians continue to take to the streets in hundreds of thousands to demand their universally recognized rights. The movement has grown beyond simply contesting the results of the presidential election. It has morphed into a Civil Rights movement of the magnitude seen in the United States in the 50’s and 60’s, uniting Iranians across a broad spectrum of political ideologies, bridging our differences for the first time in 30 years, with a single goal in mind: Freedom.

Today, I stand in solidarity with the people of Iran in demanding a fair and democratic society where the 30 articles of the UN Declaration of Human Rights are fully realized. Together we can ensure that their pleas for freedom are not going unheard by the international community, that their struggle is not in vain, and that they will prevail.

– Nazanin Boniadi

A message from Sting

We sent this moving message from Sting earlier today to our email list.  In light of the recent startling developments in Iran, we’re also sharing it with you here on our blog:

Dear Supporter,

I was shocked to hear reports that Iranian security forces arrested 29 mothers and their supporters who were silently mourning children killed in post-election violence this summer.

These Mourning Mothers gather peacefully each week to call for an end to widespread human rights abuses and justice for their dead children.

The disturbing news of their arrest brought to mind profound memories of the Mothers of the Disappeared in Chile and Argentina. Like the courageous mothers in Iran, the Mothers of the Disappeared faced threats and harassment for seeking justice for their children kidnapped during the Dirty Wars in Chile and Argentina.

My song “They Dance Alone” is dedicated to the Mothers of the Disappeared. I had the honor of performing it with them in 1988 during Amnesty International’s Human Rights Now! Tour.

Sting dances 3

Sting dances with the Mothers of the Disappeared during Amnesty's 1988 Human Rights Now! Tour.

Dancing on stage with the Mothers of the Disappeared in Chile and Argentina was one of the most moving moments of my career.

I am heartbroken to see that once again others have to face the anguish that the Mothers of the Disappeared endured. I am compelled to speak out again. I hope you will too.

What gives me hope is knowing that Amnesty International is fighting on behalf of the Mourning Mothers and others threatened with abuse in Iran and around the world.

As you read this, Amnesty International is investigating and reporting on the human rights situation in Iran. It’s publishing the names of prisoners of conscience and documenting the use of brutal force to crush dissent — even as it continues to respond to human rights emergencies across the globe.

The people of Iran deserve to speak peacefully without fear. Show them they are not alone. Donate to Amnesty International today.



Iranian authorities latest attempt to squash dissent backfires yet again

TavakkoliThe latest crude and ham-fisted attempt made by the Iranian government to stifle the legitimate expressions of dissent by its citizens–like all other similar attempts–failed spectacularly.

Majid Tavakkoli, a student leader, was arrested after he gave a speech at Amir Kabir University in Tehran marking Student Day on December 7. The next day, in an apparent attempt to discredit him, a photo of Mr. Tavakkoli wearing women’s clothes was published by the Fars News Agency (linked to the government), which claimed that he had been wearing those clothes at the time of his arrest as he was attempting to sneak away. Not only did the hard line authorities not achieve their goal, but Iranians responded as they consistently have over the last several months, with ingenuity. Hundreds of men posted photos of themselves on Facebook and elsewhere on the internet, wearing women’s clothing, often holding a sign saying, “we are Majid,” thereby both underscoring their solidarity with Majid Tavakkoli as well as rejecting the authorities’ implication that since women are “inferior” then masquerading as one is “shameful.”

The multiple acts of solidarity were also a recognition of the courage shown by the thousands of Iranian women who defiantly poured into the streets to participate in demonstrations. Basij paramilitary forces showed no chivalry and deference to these women protesters; many of them were savagely beaten and numbers of those women who were arrested were subjected to torture and sexual assault (the Basij also did not spare small children and the very elderly). SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

A Year of Seismic Significance in Iran

As 2009 draws to a close we marvel at the extraordinary—and what is sure to be remembered as pivotal—year in Iran. Amnesty International marked International Human Rights Day on December 10 with the launch of its comprehensive report on the post-June 12 election crackdown.

While the litany of gruesome horrors visited upon the Iranian people by their own government’s agents detailed in the report is profoundly upsetting to us, what we come away with is the courage and determination shown by ordinary Iranians who doggedly refused to be bludgeoned into silence. The bravery shown by millions of Iranians: young and old, women and men, middle and working-class, residents of Tehran and many other cities, is truly astounding and a testament to the human spirit. They poured into the streets withstanding savage beatings, arrests and bullets, shouted from the rooftops, wrote slogans on walls and even on currency, painted their fingers green and reported it all to the world.

Even before the June 12 election, 2009 was proving to be a busy year for activists working to improve human rights in Iran. Amnesty International USA presented its first ever Nowruz action in March, asking activists to send Nowruz (Iranian New Year) greetings to directly to three brave human rights defenders: labor activist Mansour Ossanlu, women’s rights advocate Ronak Safarzadeh, and Kurdish journalist Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand. Large numbers of greetings were generated; one activist’s card to Ronak Safarzadeh was even featured on a Committee of Human Rights Reporters web site. Several Amnesty International local groups continued to work on long-term cases of prisoners of conscience: Mansour Ossanlu, Ronak Safarzadeh, writer Arzhang Davoodi, and cleric Sayed Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi.


Iranian Lawyer Shadi Sadr Released!

We’re happy to bring you some good news in the case of lawyer and human rights activist Shadi Sadr.

We’ve all watched with dismay during that last 2 months as Iran has cracked down on hundreds of thousands of people who have poured into the streets to protest the contested results of June’s presidential election. Behind the scenes, Iranian authorities have conducted a campaign to silence dissident voices — like human rights lawyer Abdolfattah Soltani — through arbitrary arrests and detention.

It was as part of this campaign that Shadi Sadr was detained last month. On July 17, Sadr was walking on a road in Tehran when men in civilian clothes grabbed her and attempted to push her into a car. Sadr lost her headscarf and coat in the ensuing struggle but managed briefly to escape. She was quickly recaptured and beaten with batons, and then taken away in the car.

We are relieved to report that after more than a week in custody, Sadr was released on bail, thanks in part to appeals from Amnesty activists worldwide. Amnesty International is monitoring her situation and will issue further updates as they become available.

Update: Iran Releases 140 Prisoners

The Iranian authorities have announced they have released 140 prisoners from Evin Prison in northern Tehran, reports Reuters. Parliament official Kazem Jalali says that 150 prisoners, arrested during the uprising after the June 12th Presidential election, still remain behind bars.

Ayatollah Khamenei has also ordered the closure of a detainment center in Kahrizak after it failed to “preserve the rights of detainees”. Whether the prisoners in that prison were released or transferred elsewhere remains to be seen.

Iran Global Day of Action a Resounding Success

Protests in more than 80 countries, with numbers ranging from a couple hundred to several thousand, took to the streets on Saturday to stand in solidarity with the Iranian people against the government’s brutal crackdown this summer. Among the 1,000 people in Amsterdam was Iran’s Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi who led the crowd in chanting: “We want to live in peace. Long live peace”.

The event will hopefully force the Iranian authorities to display greater transparency regarding election results and provide those imprisoned with their human rights.

“Our message is very simple,” [Aaron Rhodes, an event organizer] said. “We’re supporting civil and human rights in Iran and we’re calling upon the government in Iran to cease their abuse of power, cease the imprisonment of innocent people and the torture of detainees and stop the violence against people who are simply trying to exercise their internationally protected human right to peacefully protest.”

Back in Tehran, opposition leaders Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi and Khatami urged the country’s clerics to intervene to help stop the spread of “oppression” by the authorities. They accused the government of “savagery” and that its “interrogation methods are a reminder of the dark era of the Shah”, who ruled until 1979.

Below are some videos from the various rallies across the world:

Samah Choudhury contributed to this post

Global Day of Action for Iran this Saturday

On July 25, people in more than 60 cities across the world will be standing in solidarity with the Iranian people in their struggle for human rights. Protesters in Iran continue to experience brutality on the city streets while the number of arrests steadily rises– the latest being the detainment of opposition leader Mir Hussein Mousavi’s brother-in-law, Shapour Kazemi.

The global day of action, organized by United4Iran, is organized around the following four core demands:

  1. That member states and civil society organizations of the international community give sustained attention to the Iranian people’s human rights as a matter of international concern, and that the UN should immediately initiate an investigation into grave and systematic human rights violations in Iran, including the fate of prisoners and disappeared persons, unlawful killings, and torture and other ill-treatment;
  2. An end to state-sponsored violence, accountability for crimes committed and no recourse to the death penalty.
  3. The immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience, including politicians, journalists, students, and civil society activists; and
  4. Freedom of assembly, freedom of association, and freedom of expression (including freedom of the press) as guaranteed by the Iranian constitution and Iran’s obligations under international covenants that it has signed.

Supporters include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Shirin Ebadi, Sean Penn, Dariush, Jody Williams, Betty Williams, Mairead Maguire, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Simin Behbahani, Reza Aslan and Ismael Khoi. Dariush will actually be performing at the rally in DC!

Attend an event near you! Visit for a complete listing.

San Diego, California

Rally time: July 24, 6-8pm
Rally location: Balboa Park, (1900 Park Blvd., San Diego, CA, 92101) at the corner of President’s way, on the lawn
More information:
Contact: Stephanie Hanson at 760-230-2936, [email protected]

San Francisco, California

Rally time: July 25, 12pm-4pm
Rally location: City Hall
More information:
Contact: [email protected]

Chicago, Illinois

Speaker: Roxana Saberi

Time: July 25, 12 noon
Place: Federal Plaza, Dearborn and Adams
Rally time: Noon
Rally location: Federal Plaza at Dearborn and Adams Street in downtown Chicago
More information: Facebook or contact [email protected]

New York, New York

Rally time: July 25, 12:30pm
Rally location: Starts at Times Square, 41st and 7th Avenue. There will then be a march to the United Nations.

Washington DC

DC event on July 25 will be in 3 parts:

Part one: Demonstration @ UN Office
Start at 4:00pm, corner of 18th+K. We have requested road closure from DCDOT. Signs, slogans, use of bullhorns.

Part two: March to Rally
March starts at 5:15pm, East on K st one block, South on 17th st (march past WH w/o stopping), Enter Constitutional Gardens at 17th + Constitution St.

Part three: Rally at National Mall Constitution Gardens (on 19th + Constitution)
Jody Williams, Nobel Laureate
Mehrangiz Kar, Human Rights Lawyer
Joe Stork, Human Rights Watch, Deputy Director of Middle East and North Africa Division
Parisa Saeb, Human Rights Activist
Dariush, Prominent Iranian Singer and Social Activist

For more information, contact [email protected].

Samah Choudhury contributed to this post