Archive for June, 2011

Dear All,

Last week was an important week in Iran. Monday, June 12 was the anniversary of the 2009 fraudulent elections which led to Ahmadinejad’s continued presidency for the second term. Before I get to a report on the commemoration of the anniversary. I’d like to honor another victim of the Iranian prison, journalist Reza Hoda Saber. Hoda Saber died after ten days of hunger strike at Evin Prison protesting what he called “the murder of Haleh Sahabi” at the funeral of her father.

Cellmates say Reza Hoda Saber was beaten up severely on the 8th day of his hunger strike

A letter signed by 64 Iranian political prisoners says Reza was severely beaten after being taken to the infirmary – to be cared for! – on the 8th day of his hunger strike. These prisoners who clearly put themselves at extra risk by signing the letter describe Reza’s condition after being returned to Ward 350 of Evin Prison where they are all kept. Read more  You can learn more about Reza Hoda Saber, the journalist, translator, and political activist here.

More Hunger Strike

Immediately after Hoda Saber’s death, the American based news site, Gooya News, reported three more political prisoners who were on hunger strike to express opposition to the death of Haleh Sahabi are continuing their hunger strike to attract attention to the death of their cellmate Reza Hoda Saber. They are Mahdi  Khodaie, Arash Sadeqi, and Ahmad Shahrezaie. Read more. Since then, the number of the political prisoners on hunger strike has reached 12.

Dictator Greet the End!

Iranians are risking their lives in different ways to get out the message that they won’t tolerate dictatorship any more.  On June 12, a large sign which read “Dictator Greet the End!” hung from a bridge over Sadr Highway near Shari’ati Street. A similar sign was used a few months earlier. Take a look at the latest:

Eyewitness Account

“The city was turned a garrison. The Vali-e Asr Square was filled with anti-riot police, all kinds. We are moving forward. All the stores on Vali-e Asr Street have been closed down. In a way this is symbolic of what the regime has done. It has closed down the country all together for the past two years…Despite the fact that the shops have been forced to close down, the pavement is filled with the crowd, people who calmly walk. The street is taken over with motorcycles. Plain clothes security forces lurk among the crowd. A friend who is with me is speaking on his mobile and in answer to “where are you?” says “Vali-e Asr, Hemmat Bridge.” A plain close police says “Are you inviting people to come here?” arrests and takes him inside a van. We rush there and try to explain he has simply explained where he is, all of us explain this very carefully, particularly to our wives when they call us (perhaps we should be careful not to do that within the earshot of plain clothes police!)…eventually, we manage to take him back after one Basiji joins us in interceding on his behalf (the fact that he is wearing a beard is not without effect). Initially, he is the second person pushed inside the van, but buy the time we are done two vans parked under the Hemmat Bridge are filled with arrested people. You can imagine how many people have arrested all through the Vali-e Asr Street.”

Mr. Khazali has an important observation about the arrest of  young women:

“In the ten minutes that I am standing next to the anti-riot police waiting for my friend to be freed, they arrest many people mostly girls! I try to focus hard and understand the criterion for the arrests, but I can’t. Everyone is walking slowly and quietly. All of sudden someone is picked and let to the van. The gut feelings of the anti-riot police seems to be the only criterion, and perhaps the beauty of the women to be arrested. I am not joking, I am recording what I saw with my own eyes. They are arresting young and beautiful girls. Perhaps they saw them as a kind booty in a war! Or wanted to spend the interrogation time with a beautiful girl! I saw this painful fact with my own eyes, arrest of innocent people who had not even chanted a slogan. Perhaps they were going home, or to a party!”

And another observation which reveals people’s feelings about the regime:

“An old man faints and falls on the pavement. A young Basiji approaches him with a kind smile to help him get up. As soon as the man gains his awareness and notices the Basiji he cries out “No, no, I am fine, I am perfectly fine.”  The Basiji who sees the fear in the old man’s eyes moves away. A young man from the crowd steps in and helps the man walk away.”

You have been reading my translation of Mr. Khazali’s account in his Persian blog. Read the original here.

Paris Flash mob for the Greens

On June 12, 2011, to mark two years since Iran’s disputed election, United4Iran and Move4Iran coordinated a flash mob in a Paris metro station to draw attention to the ongoing human rights abuses Iran’s citizens continue to face. I is quite well done:

Three Gang Rapes – a new violence against women

In the months of May and June, three gang rapes have taken place in Iran. This is a new and worrisome crime pattern the victims of which are mostly educated and less traditional women. In one case, the victim was a physician, and in another women partying with friends and family in a private garden. Predictably, the authorities (while condemning the rapists) have exploited the occasion for blaming the victims dressing and socializing habits. Women rights activists fear that these incidents, which make the public space less safe for women, may not receive the necessary legal attention from the authorities. Fortunately, the public are expressing outrage against the aggressors. Websites and other news sources are keeping the debate alive and demanding full legal attention to it.

Baghi Released from Jail

Emadeddin Baghi, Iranian Journalist, Human Rights Activist and founder of the first Iranian organization in support of political prisoners was release from jail yesterday!

For supporting political prisoners, Emadeddin Baghi spent more than half of the past decade in jail himself

Baghi who had been arrested last September, was sentenced to 6 years in jail for “propaganda against the regime” and “conspiracy to overthrow” the government. An appeal court overturned the second accusation. Baghi, was one of the twelve political prisoners on hunger strike whom I mentioned earlier in today’s blog. Yesterday, on his third day of strike, he was release. On the way home from Evin Prison, Mr. Baghi stopped by the residence of the Sahabi and Saber family to express his condolences for the death of these two political activists. You can read about him here.

Visual Delight

With best wishes for Mr. Baqi (including extended freedom from prison), I’ll leave you with two beautiful paintings by Iranian painter Gizela Sinaei. Gizela (born 1967) works mostly with oil on canvas interpreting Persian motifs.

Gizela Sinae - Oil on Canvas

Women have a lively presence in Sinaei's work

Have a great week,


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Dear All,

Greetings, I hope you are well. As the anniversary of the 2009 Iranian general elections approaches, in this window, I’ll try to bring you up-to-date on recent events in Iran. But I must start with the sad news of the death of a women activist, Haleh Sahabi.

Haleh Sahabi

These days, Iranians in and outside Iran, are grieving for Haleh Sahabi, the latest victim of the brutality of the security forces in Iran. Haleh, who died on June 1st during her father’s funeral, was a scholar activist who dedicated her life to social, and especially gender, justice.

Haleh Sahabi was a tireless activist

“Haleh Sahabi, 54, was a distinguished Qura’nic hermeneutician, a religious comparatist, a women’s rights scholar, and a committed activist to the cause of her people’s civil liberties,” writes Hamid Dabashi. She had been sentenced to a two-year prison term after she had joined a rally in front of the Iranian parliament in the aftermath of the contested presidential election of 2009.

Let out of jail briefly to participate in her father's funeral, Haleh died after being attacked by the police

While serving her term in jail, Haleh Sahabi was informed of her father’s impending death. He was the prominent Iranian dissident Ezzatollah Sahabi (1930-2011), a revered democracy activist, known and admired for his mild manner, open-minded generosity of spirit, a liberal demeanor, and a commitment to non-violent activism on a religious-nationalist platform for over half a century. Read the rest of Dabashi’s article here.

With their non-violet powerful presence Iranian women activists like Haleh continue to be the greatest nightmare of the regime

Events continue to be held across the country honoring the achievements of Haleh Sahabi and her father Ezzatollah Sahabi:

Sara Shari'ati, daughter of the reformist intellectual Ali Shari'ati, spoke about Haleh

If you read Persian, visit the face-book page of madrese-ye feministi for a report and lots of pictures from the event held by Mothers for Peace here.

Mousavi and Karrubi, approaching 5th month of captivity

Mir Hussein Mousavi and Mehdi Karrubi the Presidential candidates who objected to the 2009 election results, and emerged as leaders of the Green Movement seeking civil liberties for Iranians, are now approaching their 5th month of captivity. Their situation is usually described as “House arrest” which implies being confined to the spaced of one’s normal home. But the reality of their situation is that all furniture has been removed from their home, the windows fully covered, and all contact with the outside cut. In other words, they are in prison.

Mousavi and Karrubi's homes have been converted into a Prison

Major Clashes between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei

The happy days of alliance appear to be over

Having killed a over a 100 reformists, and tortured and jailed thousands more, the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad are now fighting each other. The tension appears to be over controlling major economic and other power resources between the followers of Khamenei and a military/revolutionary group that wishes to get rid of the clergy step by step. Since negotiation, and compromise, is not part of the political culture of either group, the two camps seem to be determined to eliminate each other.  Today for the first time, in a press conference, President Ahmadinejad spoke of this rift between his government and “senior Islamic figures” in the country, read more.

Verbal Sexual Assault on Women Political Prisoners

On may 28, on the occasion of Iranian Mothers Day, a number of women political prisoners were given an opportunity to meet with their families. They managed to send out a letter which was written on behalf of 32 of them. The letter described horrendous prison conditions, ranging from solitary confinement, deprivation from family visits, and being beaten up. The harshest condition these women speak of is verbal sexual assault with the aim of breaking their resistance and obtaining false confessions from them.  In the letter, the women compare the interrogation sessions to being repeatedly raped.

The Iranian Nobel Laureate, Shirin Ebadi, and  four international Human Rights organizations, have called on the United Nations to send its special envoy to Iranian prisons and prevent these brutalities.

Nasrin Sotoudeh, A Women for All Seasons

Nasrin Sotoudeh, in Solitary Confinement in Evin Since Sept. 2011

I opened this window with Haleh Sahabi, let me close it with the account of  another amazing women, Nasrin Sotoudeh.  Sotoudeh is a lawyer, and her fault is to have defended reformist clients such as Isa Saharkhiz after the the 2009 disputed elections and  advocating for human rights in Iran. She has been sentenced to 11 years in jail, barred from practicing law or leaving the country for the next 20 year. Her accusation: “spreading propaganda against the government and compromising the security of the country.” If you would like to see how the above mentioned verbal assaults fail in breaking the women like Sotoudeh who are fighting for their freedom and dignity, take a look at the picture below:

Handcuffed in court, Sotoudeh looked everything but broken and humiliated

The circulation of Sotoudeh’s court images in Iran caused major embarrassment for the government.

Handcuffs on, She embraced her husband who had come to the court

Read more about her here.  Sotoudeh is a thoughtful, gentle, and unassuming person with a compelling presence. She has consistently guided the women’s movement in Iran toward a balanced and informed approach to others. Do please listen to the clips of her speeches below (has English subtitles) and share with others:

As you see much is happening in Iran. I’ll try to keep you updated as best as I can. For now, we need at least one piece of creative art work by an Iranian woman to close this window… and to celebrate the positive force they are in present day Iran.

Mixed media, by Marjan Razavi on show till June 15 in Elahe Gallery, Tehran

Till the next window!


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