Category Archives: Human Rights Violations

Non-Muslims, women, political dissidents, and homosexuals have been favored targets of human rights abuse by the Iranian regime. The government has denied and abused the civil, political, and sexual rights of these groups.

Iran Blocks Virtual U.S. Embassy Just Hours After Being Launched

The latest brainchild of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is the virtual U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Not actually an embassy at all (i.e. it offers no consular services whatsoever) the site is clearly at attempt to promote the United States and American democratic values to millions of Iranians.

The Iranian authorities were none too pleased about the site (which is in English and Farsi) being up and managed to block it within a matter of hours of the site being launched.

The semi-official Fars news agency commented on the blocking of the U.S. website, saying, “A decisive reaction by Iranian authorities has neutralized another sly plot by the Americans. ”

“In accordance with the cybercrime law, access to this website is not possible,” read a notice to anyone inside Iran trying to visit iran.usembassy.gov.

The White House condemned the effort by Tehran to control “what the Iranian people see and hear,” and said it remained committed to engaging in dialogue with the Iranian people. “Through this action, the Iranian government has once again demonstrated its commitment to build an electronic curtain of surveillance and censorship around its people,” it said. The United

States has had no diplomatic relations with Iran since its embassy in Tehran was stormed in 1979 — the year of the Islamic Revolution — and its staff held hostage for 444 days. Washington has since sought to isolate Iran, leading international sanctions against nuclear activities it believes are aimed at making the atom bomb — a charge Tehran denies. The website was launched one week after British diplomats fled Iran after their embassy was stormed by radical youths, bringing Tehran’s relations with Europe to a new low.

All is not lost however. Many Iranians will still be able to access the site by using a virtual private network, or VPN — software that can subvert the government filter and is essential for the millions of Facebook users in the Islamic state. The State Department said it believed Iranians would still have access to the website through VPNs or other means.

Go Hillary.

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Iranian Women Activists Fight Controversial ‘Polygamy’ Bill

An Iranian government bill which has been sitting on the back-burner of legislation for  years has resurfaced and if passed through parliament and enacted will only further impinge on women’s rights in Iran – a country which already regards women as second class citizens.

The Iranian government calls it the Family Protection Bill, but activists call it the “Anti-Family Protection Bill.” It would give men the right to take a second wife without the permission of the first, and it would enshrine a man’s right to have an unlimited number of temporary marriages, which can last from 10 minutes to 99 years. Those arrangements come from Shariah law and have always existed in Iran, but the Family Protection Bill would make them official.

Two groups – the International Coalition Against Violence in Iran, and the Association of Iranian Researchers – arranged a press conference in London last week to raise awareness of the issue.

Women opposed to the articles in the bill that pertain to polygamy went on a brave and creative odyssey more than a year ago to confront it, traveling around Iran to talk to women whose lives have been adversely affected by their husbands taking second wives.

The women wrote their stories on pieces of cloth; if they were illiterate, they had someone else write them down. Then they sewed the pieces together into a quilt.

The quilt is still in Iran, but a digital image was smuggled out.

“Most of the stories are from around Iran, not from Tehran. They are sad stories,” said Rouhi Shafii of the International Coalition Against Violence in Iran.

Here is

a translation of one of the stories:

“A few years after my marriage, my husband started telling me, jokingly, that I looked like an old woman. I was five years younger than he. He began beating me and broke my hands several times. When he talked of taking up another wife, I took it as a joke. He wouldn’t do that, I thought. We have two children. But one day he married a young girl and wanted to get a two story building to bring his bride to live with us. I made him swear on the Koran not to do that, and he took his child bride elsewhere. He forgot about us and spent all his earning enjoying his bride. I was providing for the children by working at people’s homes or hairdressing salons. My younger son says: ‘when I grow up, I will kill my dad.’”

A group of women activists also gathered 15,000 signatures from women opposed to the law – signatures complete with their addresses – a very brave action in Iran where so-called “dissidents” are often interrogated, arrested and jailed or worse. The activists brought the signatures and the quilt to Parliament last year, to try to stop the legalization of the polygamy articles as part of the new law. Parliament accepted the signatures, but would not take the quilt.

The ‘Chehel Tikeh’ banner tour is aimed at raising awareness about the discriminatory bill

The activists say they discovered that at least 65 male members of the country’s 290-strong parliament had two or more wives. This is despite the fact that polygamy contravenes the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Iran has ratified. Article 23 stipulates that states must ensure that men and women have equal rights when marrying or at the dissolution of marriage.

Unfortunately, the activists could not count on female Members of Parliament for support as many are as conservative as the men, and support the legislation.

At this point, the two articles of the bill that deal with polygamy are on hold, but they have not been canceled out of the bill. Shafii believes activism has kept those bills from being passed so far.

Take Action!
To learn more about the important work of the International Coalition Against Violence in Iran visit their website.

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After 20 Years, Iran Finally To Be Reviewed by UN Human Rights Committee

Not that we should be all that surprised at the woeful inadequacy of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, but it’s taken them close to 20 years to review the appalling human rights record of Iran. That’s right – Iran was last reviewed by the committee in 1993 when its experts condemned “the extremely high number of death sentences that are pronounced and carried out, in many cases after a trial where the guarantees of a regular hearing were not applied in an appropriate manner”. The council equally denounced the application of extreme disciplinary measures, including flagellation and stoning.

Clearly, their condemnation was not all that strong given how long it has taken for the committee to address the extremely serious situation in Iran where there has been a disturbing rise in the incidences of human rights abuses and freedom of speech for many years now, but particularly since the fraudulent re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009.

Starting today, Iranian officials will face questions from the 18 independent experts who make up the UN committee that monitors implementation of the International Covenant

on Civil and Political Rights among state-parties. The review is set to begin with the presentation of a 224-page report produced by the experts and will wrap on Tuesday when the committee presents its conclusions.

Perhaps the committee’s recommendations will be reviewed in another 20 years?

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FREE! US Hikers Finally Released

After spending more than two years in an Iranian prison, accused of spying for the United States, American hikers, Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer were finally released yesterday on

$1 million dollars bail.

They were released into the custody of the Omani envoy, and were then flown to Oman, which is an ally of the US and has friendly ties with Tehran. A third American in the group at the time of their arrest, Sarah Shourd, was freed in 2010 on bail.

Mr Fattal said: “We’re so happy we are free,” while Mr Bauer added: “Two years in prison is too long.” Mr Bauer said he hoped their release from jail will also bring “freedom for political prisoners in America and Iran”.

US President Barack Obama called it “wonderful, wonderful news about the hikers, we are thrilled. It’s a wonderful day for them and for us.”

Many are seeing the release of the hikers as thinly-disguised publicity stunt to gain US and international favor by Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is currently in New York to attend the UN General Assembly.

Watch news clip here.

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Iran Arrests 6 Filmmakers Accused of Working for BBC

Iranian authorities have arrested a group of 6 filmmakers accusing them of working for the BBC Persian service and seeking to portray a negative image of the Islamic state , which is banned in the country. The arrests came a day after the service showed a documentary on Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

Few western journalists are permitted to work in Iran where the government views much of the foreign media with suspicion. The BBC’s Farsi-language TV news service is only available to owners of illegal satellite receivers and its signal is often jammed. BBC Persian broadcasts live news, documentaries and entertainment programmes aimed at Farsi speakers, mostly in Iran and Afghanistan. Terrestrial

Iranian television is completely controlled by the state.

Iranian newspaper Resalat said five men and one woman had been arrested, identifying them only by their initials. “They were members of a network which supplies information, produces films and clandestine reports for the BBC Persian programme, aimed at portraying a bleak picture of Iran,” Resalat said.

In London, the BBC said in a statement that the six filmmakers arrested in Iran were not BBC staffers but “independent documentary filmmakers whose films have been screened in festivals and other venues internationally.” The BBC’s language service chief Liliane Landor said the arrests were part of the “ongoing efforts by the Iranian government to put pressure on the BBC” to influence its impartial and balanced coverage of its Farsi-language TV broadcasts.

Tehran denies the charge, saying it allows free speech. Iranian journalists say they have to tread carefully in their reporting to avoid having their publications closed.

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Big Brother Iran

Google has warned users in Iran to “secure their accounts” following an unidentified hacker who generated fake website verification certificates that may have allowed the Iranian government to spy on its citizens – including dissidents – by intercepting communications.

The company highlighted five separate steps, beginning with changing passwords and verifying account recovery options to ensure that alternate e-mail addresses and phone numbers are updated. It went on to advise users to make sure unfamiliar apps and Web sites did not have access to their accounts and that e-mails were not being automatically forwarded to suspicious, unknown addresses.

Google was not the

only website affected. The hacker also produced fake certificates for sites such as Skype and Facebook.

This blatant abuse of privacy is yet another indication that Iran is beefing up its “Big Brother” bullying tactics on its citizens. From arresting Iranian youth for having a water pistol fight, to banning newspapers and now, spying on people’s private communications, you have to wonder when the people of Iran will simply say, “enough!” and start to really fight back.

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Could Iran be on the verge of revolution?

Leon Panetta, the recently appointed U.S. Defense Secretary, and former CIA director, has predicted that revolution in Iran appears to be a matter of time.

“I think the reform movement in Iran is learning one hell of a lot from what’s happened in Tunisia and Egypt and Libya and Syria,” Panetta said. He also pointed to the unprecedented use of social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter as playing a key role in the revolts that have taken place in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya as well as the fact that these movements are largely being led by Arab youth, who lacked hope for the future.

When discussing the mass protests in the wake of Iran’s disputed 2009 elections that saw the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Panetta responded: “I think we saw in evidence of that in the last election in Iran that there was a movement within Iran that raised those very same concerns that we’re seeing elsewhere, and I think in many ways, it’s a matter of time before that kind of change and reform and revolution occurs in Iran as

well.”

With the Iranian government cracking down on everything from the sale of water guns to freedom of speech, the world is indeed watching carefully for those very first signs of major revolution.

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Upcoming Iranian elections spark fear of national unrest

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has voiced his concerns that next year’s parliamentary elections could pose a threat to the country’s security and has called for national unity.

Speaking to worshippers at prayers marking the end of the Muslim month of Ramadan, Khamenei said “compared to elections in other countries and those so-called advanced countries where so much betrayal, malevolent acts, conflicts and even murder happen, thank God in our country it is not like that, but still it is a challenge,” he said

in the televised address.

After the contested re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009 when huge protests were crushed by security forces, Iran’s ruling elite is keen for the voting next March to pass off without similar unrest. The losing reformist candidates in that election, Mehdi Karoubi and Mirhossein Mousavi, have been under house arrest since February when they called for the first “Green Movement” opposition demonstrations for more than a year.

Human rights groups estimate that more than 100 people were killed in the 2009 unrest, a figure the Iranian government fiercely denies.

Given the current power struggle in Iran, it will be interesting to observe the upcoming elections and see if this time around, the Ayatollah Khamenei endorses yet another stint in government for Ahmadinejad.

Read more here.

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Iranians boycott electricity bills

Fed up with the soaring cost of living, the Iranian people are hitting back with a silent, and so far highly under-reported protest by refusing to pay their utility bills.

As temperatures soar, the Iranian government is so far keeping the lights on and the air-conditioning running, despite suggestions that vast numbers of people have stopped paying their bills. It’s hardly because the government is philanthropic, but rather they want to soothe tempers and prevent the protesters from taking to the streets. To date, the demonstration has been passive,

but as the world has witnessed before in Iran, it can easily become an active one.

Utility prices spiked drastically as a result of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Subsidy Smart Plan, which he announced in January, to dismantle a $100 billion government subsidy system that cost the Iranian government about a quarter of its GDP to stabilize food, fuel and electricity prices. As a result, gasoline prices have spiked by 75 percent and increased utility bills five times to 20 times the average, making basic electricity out of reach for up to 70 percent of Iranian families.

A Tehran resident posted online that her two-month bill increased from 80,000 rials (about $80) to 5 million rials ($5,000). ‘Out of every 10 people you ask, six to eight say they haven’t paid their bills,’ a blogger from Tehran wrote. ‘The government has promised to make monthly installments possible. But how do you do that for a monthly bill? How can those who can’t pay their gas bill this month pay it in the coming months?’ Apartment complexes frequently have one meter and one bill for the building, prompting unfriendly exchanges between neighbors who say they are conserving and refuse to pay for those who waste.

The exact extent of the boycott is unknown since the regime is ignoring the non-payments and very little media attention has been given to the issue. Citizens, however, are talking among themselves and even encouraging one another to stop paying the bills.

In fact, some believe that recently reported tensions between President Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei over the arrest of  Ahmadinejad’s political allies could be an attempt by the Iranian government to divert the people’s attention from the rising prices and steadily worsening economy.

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The Ultimate Irony

In what is surely one of the most blatant ironies to hit the headlines in a while, Iran’s leaders called yesterday upon Britain to show “restraint” with the rioters and looters

currently rampaging across London.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry also called for the British government to open a “dialogue” with demonstrators and for human rights groups to investigate the behavior of the London police.

Yes, the same Iran that just arrested 17 kids for having some fun with water pistols in Tehran last week. The same Iran who has the second highest rate of executions in the world (after China) and who has so far this year executed more people than it did in all of 2010. And yes, the same Iran that rigged a presidential election so as to ensure the continuance in power of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and then launched a brutal crackdown against demonstrators who took to the streets of Tehran in protest.


As one of the world’s most brutal and repressive regimes,  and one with a record of blatant human rights violations, it is the height of hypocrisy that Iran believes it has the right to play the role of the ‘moral watchdog’ with Britain.

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