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Stuck on Death Row in Iran? Memorize the Quran and Earn Your Freedom

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Four Iranian criminals are hanged in public in the southern city of Shiraz, 950 kms (590 miles) south of Tehran, 05 September 2007. Iran executed today 21 criminals in a single day, the latest of a growing number of executions in a crackdown which officials say is aimed at improving security in society. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)

vocativ.com

AUTHOR: Eric Eyges

POSTED:Feb 17, 2014 11:04 EST

Iran just let 15 death row prisoners go free because they were able to memorize the Quran.

If ever there were a time to find your way off death row in Iran, it’s right now. Judicial executions have sped up dramatically under President Hassan Rouhani. Despite his outwardly friendly appearance, he seems particularly fond of sending his citizens to the gallows. But if you’re a death row convict in the Islamic Republic, a little rote learning could be your path to freedom, because Iranian prisoners are seeing their sentences commuted, or even earning their release, by memorizing and reciting holy text.

According to Reza Sadeghi, head of Isfahan Province Endowments and Charities, 16 death row prisoners held in Central Isfahan Prison—five women and 11 men—were pardoned after they successfully memorized the Quran. Of those pardoned, 15 were released entirely, and one prisoner had his death sentence reduced to 15 years imprisonment.

Effectively, this is time off for good behavior, and entirely discretionary. At present, the policy of Quranic reprieve is more de facto than de jure; there is no law on the books in Iran specifying sentence reduction for memorizing the Quran. In reality, the decision on who among the hufaaz(a term used by modern Muslims for those who’ve memorized the entire Quran) receives a pardon may depend on a variety of factors, namely the nature of the crime and the political will of the authorities. For example, convicted rapists and political saboteurs probably have less chance of gaining their freedom than burglars or even murderers whose crimes involved no distinct political motive. According to the International Federation for Human Rights, the following crimes are punishable by death in Iran: murder, rape, child molestation, sodomy, drug trafficking, armed robbery, kidnapping, terrorism and treason…

Read full article: Stuck on Death Row in Iran? Memorize the Quran and Earn Your Freedom

Iranian Democratic Activist: I am going back to the prison tomorrow

Monday, January 6th, 2014

I am going back to the prison tomorrow By Heshmat Tabarzadi</p><br />
<p>I am going back to the prison tomorrow. A year has passed since my prison recess. Based on my calculations, of the eight years prison verdict, still 4 years are remaining. I have already been 7 years of my life in prison and Every year since 1999, I have spent some time in prison. Today, the prosecutor office called and ordered me to report back to the Rajai-Shahr prison. As I have repeatedly mentioned, because of my mother’s situation, I had agreed to be freed with the condition of remaining silent, and I maintained my silence until a few days ago.</p><br />
<p>However, the situation of the people and my country is such that I could no longer keep quiet and therefore I broke my silence. During the one year that I was out of jail, I acquired a more accurate understanding of the conditions of the Iranian society. Unfortunately, the regime has brought the nation and the country to regression as the power struggle (within the regime) continues, and the regime is responsible for the current situation.</p><br />
<p>Some of the Iranian opposition has become attached to the president Rouhani’s government, claiming that they are worried about Iran and want to avoid Iran falling in the same paths as Syria and Libya. By doing so, they have tied their own fate to the fate of the Islamic Republic. The western powers hope to bring the regime to the international community and to force it to adhere to the international principals, including human rights. The economic situation of the regime is such that it has no choice but to enter in such direction. I do not consider it impossible for the regime to be forced to follow this path. Although the ruling oligarchy shows tenacity and will not easily give up, but with the Geneva talks, it has already taken the first step. A government that does not give in to the demands of its own people has no other option but to oblige to the will of foreign powers. That is why the ruling regime subscribes to no logic but force and oppression.</p><br />
<p>Meanwhile the primary task of us Iranians is to free ourselves from the current situation and to establish human rights and secular democracy in our country. However, the ruling oligarchy with all its power is trying to avoid this path, yet it has no choice but to consent to the internationally recognized rules of law.</p><br />
<p>I also have noticed that the secular democracy movement in Iran is rapidly growing. Despite the enforced limitations on me, many secular democrat organization and individuals have contacted me, which is a sign of the growth of this movement and their kind attention to this small soldier of freedom. I believe recalling me to the prison in because of the regime’s understanding of this growth, attention and perseverance.</p><br />
<p>I am deeply committed to this cause and ask the movement to step in the direction of the staged demands such as “No to Executions and Freedom of the political prisoners”. Naturally, avoiding conflicts with one another and agreeing on common demands are necessary pre-requisites for the staged and final victories. In order to rid ourselves…, this is a serious alternative for the Iranians. Join this movement.</p><br />
<p>I understand my presence outside the prison is to the advantage of the democracy seeking movement and also would have liked to be with my family, especially next to my elderly mother, a kind and courageous lioness, but being detained along with my comrades, in another trench of struggle is also comforting. Especially that after this new imprisonment, some hypocrites can no longer claim to the international community that after the emergence of President Hassan Rouhani, Iran's human rights situation has improved. Obviously, this is my wish and I know that the present pressures has forced the regime to a step-by-step retreat, But that time is yet to come.</p><br />
<p>Presently I am in perfect health, and as long as certain conditions are not imposed on me, I am not intending to resort to hunger strike. However, if anything happens to me, be aware that its responsibility directly lies with Khamenei himself and the rulers. Once again, I ask the respected lawyers to seriously consider and follow up with the complaint against Seyed Ali Khamenei that I filed in 2011 while in prison.</p><br />
<p>I understand that with the situation facing us, and the role that this soldier of freedom has assumed, I may face serious dangers and that my well-being will depend on the efforts of all the human rights defenders.</p><br />
<p>May the chains of tyranny break , Long Live Freedom and democracy</p><br />
<p>Heshmat Tabarzadi</p><br />
<p>Chairperson of the Iranian Democratic Front</p><br />
<p>Spokesperson for the Solidarity Movement for Democracy and Human Rights in Iran</p><br />
<p>January 5, 2014 http://iroon.com/irtn/blog/3439/

Iroon.Com

Published: January 05, 2014 – 12:39 PST
Last Edited: January 05, 2014 – 12:39 PST

By Heshmat Tabarzadi
I am going back to the prison tomorrow. A year has passed since my prison recess. Based on my calculations, of the eight years prison verdict, still 4 years are remaining. I have already been 7 years of my life in prison and Every year since 1999, I have spent some time in prison. Today, the prosecutor office called and ordered me to report back to the Rajai-Shahr prison. As I have repeatedly mentioned, because of my mother’s situation, I had agreed to be freed with the condition of remaining silent, and I maintained my silence until a few days ago.However, the situation of the people and my country is such that I could no longer keep quiet and therefore I broke my silence. During the one year that I was out of jail, I acquired a more accurate understanding of the conditions of the Iranian society. Unfortunately, the regime has brought the nation and the country to regression as the power struggle (within the regime) continues, and the regime is responsible for the current situation.

Some of the Iranian opposition has become attached to the president Rouhani’s government, claiming that they are worried about Iran and want to avoid Iran falling in the same paths as Syria and Libya. By doing so, they have tied their own fate to the fate of the Islamic Republic. The western powers hope to bring the regime to the international community and to force it to adhere to the international principals, including human rights. The economic situation of the regime is such that it has no choice but to enter in such direction. I do not consider it impossible for the regime to be forced to follow this path. Although the ruling oligarchy shows tenacity and will not easily give up, but with the Geneva talks, it has already taken the first step. A government that does not give in to the demands of its own people has no other option but to oblige to the will of foreign powers. That is why the ruling regime subscribes to no logic but force and oppression.

Meanwhile the primary task of us Iranians is to free ourselves from the current situation and to establish human rights and secular democracy in our country. However, the ruling oligarchy with all its power is trying to avoid this path, yet it has no choice but to consent to the internationally recognized rules of law.

I also have noticed that the secular democracy movement in Iran is rapidly growing. Despite the enforced limitations on me, many secular democrat organization and individuals have contacted me, which is a sign of the growth of this movement and their kind attention to this small soldier of freedom. I believe recalling me to the prison in because of the regime’s understanding of this growth, attention and perseverance.

I am deeply committed to this cause and ask the movement to step in the direction of the staged demands such as “No to Executions and Freedom of the political prisoners”. Naturally, avoiding conflicts with one another and agreeing on common demands are necessary pre-requisites for the staged and final victories. In order to rid ourselves…, this is a serious alternative for the Iranians. Join this movement.

I understand my presence outside the prison is to the advantage of the democracy seeking movement and also would have liked to be with my family, especially next to my elderly mother, a kind and courageous lioness, but being detained along with my comrades, in another trench of struggle is also comforting. Especially that after this new imprisonment, some hypocrites can no longer claim to the international community that after the emergence of President Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s human rights situation has improved. Obviously, this is my wish and I know that the present pressures has forced the regime to a step-by-step retreat, But that time is yet to come.

Presently I am in perfect health, and as long as certain conditions are not imposed on me, I am not intending to resort to hunger strike. However, if anything happens to me, be aware that its responsibility directly lies with Khamenei himself and the rulers. Once again, I ask the respected lawyers to seriously consider and follow up with the complaint against Seyed Ali Khamenei that I filed in 2011 while in prison.

I understand that with the situation facing us, and the role that this soldier of freedom has assumed, I may face serious dangers and that my well-being will depend on the efforts of all the human rights defenders.

May the chains of tyranny break , Long Live Freedom and democracy

Heshmat Tabarzadi

Chairperson of the Iranian Democratic Front

Spokesperson for the Solidarity Movement for Democracy and Human Rights in Iran

Iran Steps Up Its Campaign Against Christians

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

Iran christians

Iranian Christians at a worship service. The authorities have been cracking down on Farsi-language believers, many of whom are converts from Islam. (Photo: Barnabas Fund)

January 2, 2014 – 5:35 AM

By Patrick Goodenough

(CNSNews.com) – One of the few Iranian churches still serving Christians who are not from minority ethnic groups – and are therefore more likely to be converts from Islam –reportedly has told these Farsi-speaking believers that they are no longer welcome.

The announcement at St. Peter Church in Tehran, reported by the independent Iranian Christian news agency Mohabat News, is the latest in a stepped-up campaign by the regime aimed at curbing the growth of Christianity in Iran, especially among former Muslims.

Mohabat News said churches in Iran are coming under pressure to stop all activities in Farsi, including sermons.

Critics say that despite the election of a president last year viewed as reform-minded, the situation has, if anything, gotten worse.

“Conditions are at levels not seen since the early years of the [1979] revolution,” U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom chair Katrina Lantos Swett wrote in an op-ed last weekend.

Iran claims to uphold religious freedom in line with a constitutional recognition of five faiths – Shia Islam, Sunni Islam, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and Christianity – whose adherents, “within the limits of the law, are free to perform their religious rites and ceremonies, and to act according to their own canon in matters of personal affairs and religious education.”

The Christian minority has traditionally comprised mostly ethnic minorities which have their own language, Armenians and Assyrians, who attend various Catholic and Protestant denominations.

But the growth in the number of non ethnic-minority Christians, converts from Islam, is viewed by authorities as a worrying phenomenon, hence the attempt to prevent churches from using Farsi. (Most Iranians do not understand the minority languages.)

Mohabat News said that the Farsi-speakers who have been told they may no longer attend St. Peter Church include elders and Sunday school teachers, and that some have been going there for more than 20 years.

“Since 2011, pressure and restrictions on Iranian churches have increased dramatically,” it said. “Many Christians, especially newly converted Christians, have faced imprisonment, pressure and harassment in the past few years. Iranian intelligence and security forces have recently focused their efforts to close down more churches around the country.”

Among those closed was the largest Farsi-speaking church in the country, the Central Assemblies of God Church in Tehran, which was shut down during the presidential election campaign early last year. Assemblies of God U.S. general superintendent George Wood said at the time that closing all Farsi-language churches in Iran “would essentially remove all open witness of the gospel of Christ in the country.”

President Hasan Rouhani, who won that election, pledged while campaigning to improve human rights in Iran, including the conditions faced by religious minorities. Last week, he sent Christmas greeting messages to Pope Francis and to Christians in Iran and around the world.

But the harassment of Christian converts has not stopped. On Christmas Eve, five converts were arrested during a police raid on a house in Tehran where they were meeting to celebrate Christmas.

The Committee of Human Rights Reporters, an Iranian group, reported that security officers had seized Christian books and CDs found in the house, as well as laptops and a satellite TV receiver.

‘An increasing number of Muslims’

In its annual report on people imprisoned for their faith around the world, released this week, the Brussels-based organization Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF) named Iran as one of five countries with the largest number of “freedom of religion or belief prisoners.”

“Evangelical and Pentecostal churches are attracting an increasing number of Muslims, and converts develop missionary activities among their former co-religionists despite the harsh repression and the threat of imprisonment,” says the report, which also recorded Baha’i adherents among those in Iranian prisons.

Of the more than 40 Iranian Christians listed in the report as having been arrested or convicted during 2013, some faced charges including “conversion from Islam to Christianity, encouraging the conversion to Christianity of other Muslims, and propaganda against the regime by promoting Christianity as missionaries.”

Other charges included launching a Christian website, distributing Bibles, attending a house church, and “being in contact with foreign organizations.”

Prison terms handed down ranged from several months to eight years – the sentence given last January to Saeed Abedini, the Iranian-American pastor and convert from Islam convicted of “crimes against national security,” and incarcerated in one of Iran’s most dangerous prisons.

HRWF also cited cases in which Christians were beaten during interrogations and put under pressure to recant their new faith and return to Islam.

“While conversion to or from a faith is an internationally guaranteed right, Iran’s leaders deem conversion from Islam an act of apostasy against Islam and Iran’s character as an Islamic state, punishable by death,” USCIRF chair Lantos Swett wrote in the op-ed for Real Clear World.

“Revolutionary courts also charge converts with political crimes such as harming national security or contact with a foreign enemy,” she said. “These courts apply such unfounded charges to innocent religious activities such as meetings with foreign Christians, associations with overseas Christian organizations or attending Christian seminars outside of Iran.”

In keeping with his campaign pledges to improve rights, Rouhani in November launched a draft “charter of citizens’ rights,” inviting responses and submissions over a one-month period before a revised and final version is released.

Some human rights advocates who studied the Farsi-language draft called it seriously deficient in the area of religious freedom.

The document refers to Iranians enjoying “rights and guarantees” irrespective of race, culture, language, ethnicity, social status, gender or Islamic doctrine – but is silent on minority faith groups.

“A large group of our society follows other religions and beliefs,” Iranian rights activist Narges Mohammadi told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “The main question is whether other than Shia and Sunni, other religious minorities should be deprived of their citizenship rights.”

Spying from the belly of the beast!

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

      

A touching review on my book ‘A Time to Betray‘:

By: Helen E. Faria

www.haciendapub.com

This is one of the most heartrending, and at the same time, enthralling accounts I have ever read of courage, dissimulation and personal suffering in the genre of espionage memoirs. This is the story of a courageous man, who justly betrays and risks his life (and that of his family) to fight surreptitiously against the cruelties and injustices of the ruling government of his native country — Iran. This book struck a personal cord with me because it reminded me of painful and regretful similarities that beset my own family in my native country, Cuba, just before and after of the Revolution that brought to power the dictator Fidel Castro and his brother Raul in 1959.

As a very young child, I remember various members of my family arguing passionately but amicably for and against the dictatorial government of Cuban President, Fulgencio Batista, his coup and dictatorship, his trampling on the legendary Constitution of 1940, the lack of political rights, the cruel imprisonment and even systematic torture of rebels captured while fighting against his regime (an opposition in which my own parents played a clandestine part), etc. I remember one my great uncles arguing and warning us about the malevolent changes the triumph of the revolutionary “barbudos” could bring about — but my parents did not listen, and came to regret it! After the triumph of the Revolution in 1959 and the establishment of communism in Cuba, there was indeed drastic “change,” but this militated change was for the worse — the inception of a culture of deception, oppression, and horror, and there would no longer be friendly political discussions among families, but only mistrust, dissimulation, and fear.

Eerily, the same thing happened in far away Iran in 1979 with the fall of the Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the takeover of Iran by the mullahs and Ayatollah Khomeini, and the inception of a brutal Islamic Republic. Our hero, young Reza Kahlili (a pseudonym) was brought up in a close, prosperous family in Teheran. He remembers the “good old days” of traditional festivities, gatherings, his loving grandfather patriarch defending the ruling Shah of Iran, his ruling dynasty, and the old Persian mores in amicable and engaging conversations among family members. Living in such a warm and jovial atmosphere, Reza, could not have imagine the horrific changes that would be brought about so rapidly in Iranian society with the advent of the “Islamic Republic,” which he joined with excitement after returning to Iran from studying abroad in California.

Nor could he have ventured to guess that most of his family and closest childhood friends would so soon be devoured by the Revolution and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, in which he compliantly served the tyranny. The proverb says “be careful what you wish for; you might just get it.” Alas, that is what happened for those who wanted change in Cuba and Iran, deriding and helping to overthrow Batista in Cuba and the Shah in Iran by revolution. Many of those citizens would end up crushed by Castro and the Ayatollah — who were significantly worse tyrannical figures than their predecessors. And the tragic concatenations that followed in both countries in their wake have not yet ended!

But let us now part from the comparison and focus on Iran and our hero, the subjects of this book. This is an excellent tome, expertly written, personal, passionate, and although it reads fast, like a suspense thriller, it also has interspersed background material recounting brief episodes in the history of Iran that are necessary to the narrative. For example, we learn the Iranians had mixed feelings about (and many resented) the British and Americans, among other reasons, because of interference in their nation’s affair. For example, in 1953 those governments, using the CIA as a vehicle, helped overthrow the democratically elected president of Iran, a (militant) nationalist, Muhammad Mussadegh, who had nationalized the oil industry, and had forced the Shah (a friend of the West) to flee the country.

It is also of historic interest that, as I remember a few years back in 2007, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, defending his country’s right to a nuclear program, stated, “the country of Iran was heir to a great empire and home to a 2,500-year civilization.” I was surprised at the statement, as I always thought the conquests of Mohammed and the religious and cultural revolution of the 7th century, imposed by the victorious Arabs on the conquered Sassanid Persians, had resulted in a new and distinct Islamic nation. Moreover, with the fall of the Pahlavi Dynasty, the last Persian monarchy, the drastic changes brought about by the revolution of 1979, and the inception of an Islamic Republic (a virtual theocracy), had brought about yet another distinct nation. Iranians have a long history as Persians and speak Farsi. Arabs have a more recent civilization, attaining historical distinction with the conquests of Mohammed and speak Arabic. I was gratified that Reza’s loving grandfather and many other more secular Iranians, cognizant of their heritage, agree with my cultural interpretation. These Iranian nationalist and traditionalists think of themselves heir to a distinct but vanishing Persian civilization that had been suppressed culturally by Arab Islamism, and more recently politically with the tyranny of the mullahs and the ayatollahs.

I will not reveal the heartrending stories of cruelty and betrayal, as well as dissimulation and courage, that revolve precariously around our hero Reza, who, as a member of the feared Iranian Revolutionary Guard, courageously spied against the cruel regime he ostensibly served. Suffice to say, the brutality of the regime against his friends and the Iranian people changed him into leading a double life, spying for the CIA for over a decade. Among the information Reza provided to the CIA was vital intelligence that probably prevented the collapse of the Saudi government. The Iranians had planned to use the hajj, the religious pilgrimage that Moslems must make to Mecca, to stage a coup d’etat. Armaments were sent for the hajj, but most of these were intercepted and many of the militants arrested beforehand, foiling the insurrection. Other information was communicated to the U.S. at great peril, but not necessarily used properly by the American government, which was bent on placating the mullahs through various administrations.

The double life took its toll, but Reza persisted in his clandestine espionage with the thought of bringing about genuinely real change for the betterment, the attainment of freedom, and improving the life of his countrymen. How he did his self-appointed mission, and how he survived spying at great personal risk from within the belly of the infernal beast are the enthralling subjects of this book.

Without reservations, this heartrending thriller is highly recommended for those who enjoy non-fiction thrillers, recent history, and passionate espionage accounts. Be ready to stay anxiously at the edge of your seat and hold back irrepressible tears of commiseration, sorrow and outrage! I assign it a 5-star rating.

Miguel A. Faria Jr., M.D. is the author of Cuba in Revolution — Escape from a Lost Paradise (2002) and of other books and numerous articles on politics, espionage, and history, including “Stalin’s Mysterious Death” (2011), “The Political Spectrum — From the Extreme Right and Anarchism to the Extreme Left and Communism” (2011); “America, Guns and Freedom” (2012);”Violence, Mental Illness, and the Brain — A Brief History of Psychosurgery” (2013), etc., all posted at his website haciendapublishingdotcom

***

Also Read:

CIA
The Intelligence Officer’s Bookshelf
Compiled and Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake

Los Angeles Times
Former CIA spy advocates overthrow of Iranian regime
By: David Zucchino / July 6, 2012

CNN
Ex-soldier in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard writes of life as CIA spy
By: Elise Labott, CNN Senior State Department Producer
July 10, 2010

Forbes
Q&A With Reza Kahlili, Iranian Double Agent.
By: Hannah Elliott / May 20, 2010

Washington Post
David Ignatius reviews ‘A Time to Betray,’ the memoir of an Iranian double agent
By: David Ignatius / April 11, 2010

For all reviews on A Time to Betray, please visit: Praise & reviews

Trending in Tehran: Notes from an Iranian Street Style Blog

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

11/20/2013

messynessychic.com

I‘m not sure what I expected Iranian street style to look like. Western media is so busy talking about the country’s political state of affairs and showing us just how much their government hates diplomacy, that not much tends to come our way concerning what the cool kids of Tehran are sporting these days– or indeed if there are any “cool kids” left. Well, it turns out there are, lots of them, and it’s kind of fascinating…

Straight out of Iran, comes an unlikely street style and culture tumblr, The Tehran Times, sort of like their equivalent to The Sartorialist or the Face Hunter– except with the added challenge of the country’s post-revolution dress restrictions (mandatory head scarves, no high heels, no bright colours etc).

Documenting an ever-growing group of fashion focused people in Tehran and Iran’s larger cities, The Tehran Times gives us a rare insight into the resurgence of a fashion culture. Pushing boundaries and making use of Iran’s huge textile industry and local brands, the young fashion enthusiasts show both courage and creativity in their outfit choices. We’re even going to come across a few fashion victims too, but for the most part, this is one very interesting style scene to keep an eye on…

For an informative little background story on Iranian fashion after the cultural revolution…

In 1979 Iran experienced a revolution that brought an end to centuries of monarchy and established an Islamic Republic. The newly formed Islamic Republic, heavily under the influence of the clergy, ushered huge social changes and started a campaign to uproot Western influence in Iranian culture. The Cultural Revolution closed down the universities for years while it purged the institutions of people it considered against the revolution, banned certain books and music and the consumption of pork and alcohol, and influenced Iranian fashion by making the covering of the hair and body mandatory for women over 9, as well as taking a stance against make-up, nail polish, bright colors, and high heels. The revolution was less proscriptive for men but, for example, discouraged them from certain hair styles. Men also stopped wearing ties, which were seen as too Western. Dress codes were and still are monitored by revolutionary guards and so-called morality police, which fined and arrested people (and still do) for violations.

Over the years Iranian people adapted to their new dress restrictions, as well as found ways to push the boundaries. As the new regime settled in over the years it became seemingly less adamant about enforcing its dress code as strictly as it had just after the revolution. In Tehran, especially in the Northern boroughs where the upper middle class and chic upper class live, coats started getting shorter and tighter, sleeves were rolled higher, pant hems went up and scarves scooted farther and farther back on bigger hair. Iranians started making underground businesses out of importing fashion from Europe, Turkey, China and the States.  … Today Iranians, especially those in larger cities like Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz and the like, are as committed to fashion as they ever were. 

Provided by Veren Valtaan

All images by The Tehran Times

Iranian Actress Sentenced To 18 Months In Prison

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Iranian actress Pegah Ahangarani is the daughter of actress and director Manijeh Hekmat and movie director Jamshid Ahangarani.

Iranian actress Pegah Ahangarani is the daughter of actress and director Manijeh Hekmat and movie director Jamshid Ahangarani.

RFE/RL

October 29, 2013

An Iranian actress and filmmaker has reportedly been sentenced to 18 months in prison on security charges.

According to the state news agency IRNA, the sentence against 24-year-old Pegah Ahangarani was issued because of her social activities and political comments, as well as interviews she gave to foreign media.

Ahangarani’s mother, Manijeh Hekmat, who is also a director, said her daughter’s sentence will be appealed.

Ahangarani was twice detained in the past, although she was released without charge — once during opposition protests over the 2009 reelection of former President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, and the second time in 2011.

She has been banned from traveling abroad.

She has professed her support for new Iranian President Hassan Rohani, a relative moderate who has expressed more tolerant views on social and cultural issues.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP

Iran: Four Christians sentenced to 80 lashes for drinking communion wine

Friday, October 25th, 2013

wine communion

thegatewaypundit.com

Posted by Jim Hoft on Thursday, October 24, 2013, 9:06 PM

Four Iranian Christians were sentenced to 80 lashes for drinking wine during a Communion service.
NCR-Iran reported:

A court in the Iranian city of Rasht has sentenced four members of the Church of Iran denomination to 80 lashes each for drinking wine during a communion service.

The verdict, dated 6 October, charges Behzad Taalipasand, Mehdi Reza Omidi (Youhan), Mehdi Dadkhah (Danial) and Amir Hatemi (Youhanna) with drinking alcohol and possession of a receiver and satellite antenna. They received the verdict on 20 October and have ten days to appeal the sentence.

Behzad Taalipasand and Mehdi Reza Omidi (Youhan) were detained on 31 December 2012 during a crackdown on house churches by the Iranian government.

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), said: “The sentences handed down to these members of the Church of Iran effectively criminalise the Christian sacrament of sharing in the Lord’s Supper and constitute an unacceptable infringement on the right to practice faith freely and peaceably. We urge the Iranian authorities to ensure that the nation’s legal practices and procedures do not contradict its international obligation under the International Convent on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to guarantee the full enjoyment of freedom of religion or belief by all of its religious communities.”

Hat Tip Banafsheh Zand

Who let the dogs out? Walking a pooch in Iran is ‘symbol of resistance’

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

Dog owners in Iran are using the walks as a symbol of defiance against authority. (Photo courtesy: The Guardian)

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Al Arabiya

Iranians taking their dogs for “walkies” on the streets of the Islamic Republic has been increasingly seen as a way to defy the government, Britain’s the Guardian reported this week.

Owning dogs has become an growingr trend in Iran’s urban upper class over the past 15 years, despite the practice technically being prohibited by Islamic law.

Ordinances created three years ago have allowed authorities to seize dogs being walked outside in addition to imposing heavy fines from $100 to $500 for the “seditionist” or “un-Islamic” act.

Owning a dog in Iran is also largely seen as conforming to Western norms. (File photo: Reuters)

Now, dog owners are reportedly using the walks in protest of the ordinances. As the legislation is unevenly enforced, according to the newspaper, walking dogs in public has become a de facto symbol of defiance against authority.

While dogs are considered unclean by Islamic law, a conservative Iranian cleric went as far to denounce the activity as exercising “moral depravity,” the newspaper reported.

The act has become something Iranians are testing more and more under its new, seemingly more moderate administration.

Owning a dog is also largely seen as conforming to Western norms, something frowned upon to say the least by conservatives. The bill states that dog ownership “poses a cultural problem, a blind imitation of the vulgar culture of the West.”

In June 2010, Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirzi labeled dog companionship as a blind imitation of Western culture, warning that such behavior would lead to family corruption and damage societal values.

The constant fluctuation within civic life of things permitted and forbidden is common within Iranian society and mirrors the consistently wavering political atmosphere.

Although newly-elected President Hassan Rowhani has made promises of moderation have given hope to some, Tehran is still patrolled by moral police condemning those who violate Islamic dress code.

Iran turns on the charm for international audience, as its bloody clampdown continues at home

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

By Lisa Daftari

FoxNews.com
rouhani.jpg

Sept. 24, 2013: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addresses the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in this file photo. (AP)

While the new Iranian regime is busy trying to convince the outside world it is moderate, Tehran has clamped down even harder on human rights and stepped up public executions in recent weeks.

An estimated 560 people have been executed in Iran this year, including as many as 250 since President Hasan Rouhani took office in August, according to human rights advocates. In the two weeks between Sept. 11 and Sept. 25, Iranian officials hanged a record 50 people, mostly for drug offenses, according to International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

“While Rouhani was promoting a softer image of Iran internationally during his visit to New York two weeks ago, it was business as usual on the domestic front with scores of prisoners put to death following unfair trials,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “Since Rouhani’s inauguration, the increasing number of prisoners being sent to the gallows is indefensible.”

One man who was hanged last month for a drug offense — but survived his first encounter with the rope — was nursed back to health only to be hanged again, this time until he was dead.

“We found him alive again, which made his two daughters very happy,” family members of 37-year-old Alireza M. told state-run Iranian media before the man was executed on the second attempt.

The brutality continues even as the Iranian regime continues its quest to appease the west and to make concessions on its nuclear program to six world powers in Geneva this week. Rouhani ran his campaign as a moderate and vowed to divert his course from the abusive and harsh government of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

This week, Iranian officials met with the P5+1 nations in Geneva to come to a resolution regarding Tehran’s ongoing nuclear program, which the nation still insists is for peaceful purposes.

During the two-day conference, Iran put forth a plan offering concessions over its nuclear program in exchange for economic relief from sanctions imposed by the West. No immediate resolutions were reached, according to diplomats, but follow-up talks have been scheduled for early November.

Last month, Rouhani made his first trip to the U.S., traveling with his envoy to New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly.  Even before landing on U.S. soil, Rouhani had begun a charm offensive, suggesting one-on-one negotiations with the U.S. would be a possibility after three decades. His trip to New York ended with an unprecedented phone call between him and President Obama.

But the phone conversation is not believed to have touched on human rights violations, despite the fact that Iran’s prisons are filled with journalists, bloggers, political activists, Christians and Bahai’s who have been arrested and are being held for compromising national security or going against the teachings of Islam.

Iran currently has the highest rate of executions per capita, putting more people to death annually than any nation except China. Prisoners are routinely denied medical treatment, proper nutrition, and even family visits, according to reports from inside the regime.

This week, many were expecting the prisoners who were held for their involvement in the so-called Green Revolution of 2009 to be released out of clemency for the Eid holiday. However, Iran’s judiciary spokesperson, Mohsen Ejei, announced that prisoners would not be released.

Although some 80 prisoners were released with fanfare just before Rouhani’s trip to the UN last month, cynics now believe that, too, was merely part of the charm offensive of Rouhani, who may not even be in a position to change the nation’s hardline approach. Most of the vital political and religious decisions made by the Iranian regime are ultimately the say of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Also this week, Maryam Naqash Zargaran was sentenced to four years for practicing her Christian faith. She has been accused of “activities and propaganda” against the regime and provoking the public to create unrest by establishing church houses.

Iranian-American Pastor Saeed Abedini is still being held in Iran for practicing his Christian faith. He has been sentenced to eight years and has consistently been denied proper medical treatment for his injuries sustained by regular prison beatings, according to his family and attorneys. Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine, has been sentenced to death for ‘spying for the US’ when he was visiting his family in Iran.

The two Americans are among thousands who human rights advocates say are languishing in prisons for nothing more than their beliefs.

 

Lisa Daftari is an Iranian journalist and Fox News contributor.

 

Students suspicious of young woman’s alleged suicide

Monday, October 14th, 2013

RadioZamaneh

Sun, 10/13/2013 – 17:41

The death of a female student at Bouali Hamadani University has led to a student sit-in at the university, with students demanding accurate information about the incident.

The Kordpa website reports that on Sunday October 13, hundreds of students gathered at the university to call on officials to provide a true account of what happened to their peer.

The university administration has so far reported that Sahar Choveini, a 19-year-old student from Marivan, committed suicide. Kordpa reports that the coroner has not yet released an official report.

One of the students reportedly told a Kordpa reporter that they do not believe the victim committed suicide. The victim reportedly died at the dorm when all other residents were away for the weekend. The student claimed that the facts surrounding the death “remain suspicious.”

Kordpa reports that the victim’s body was discovered by her friends on Friday morning, the day after her death.

Top cleric slams conditions on opposition leaders’ release

Saturday, October 12th, 2013

RadioZamaneh

Sat, 10/12/2013
Karroubi, Mousavi & Rahnavard

Iranian senior cleric Ayatollah Ali Mohammad Dastgheib has criticized placing conditions on the release of Iran’s Green Movement leaders and other political prisoners.

The Masjed Ghoba website, run by supporters of Ayatollah Dastgheib in Shiraz, reports that the senior cleric has heard of the imminent release of MirHosein Mousavi, Zahra Rahnavard and Mehdi Karroubi and other political prisoners on Eid Ghadir next week but he also has heard that conditions have been put on their release.

Ayatollah Dastgheib has been quoted as saying: “Apparently they have promises that on Eid Ghadir, Mr. Mousavi and his wife and Hojjatoleslam Karroubi and other political prisoners, who have been jailed and put under house arrest for years for no reason, will be released. But they have also apparently put some conditions such as people are not to create disturbances and the country should not fall into chaos.” The senior cleric goes on to add: “What have our people done but to pray for this release, and now that their prayers have been answered, the youth, as they should, may want to celebrate and be joyful. This is not throwing the country into chaos.”

Ayatollah Dastgheib is one of the top clergy that, despite his position in the Assembly of Experts, has been very critical of the government’s crackdown on protesters following the 2009 election and he has repeatedly called for the release of Mousavi, Karroubi and Rahnavard, who have been under house arrest since February 2011.

Since Hassan Rohani won the presidential election this year, there has been great hope that the opposition leaders and other political prisoners will be released.

Officials recently announced that the file of the three detained leaders had been forwarded to the Supreme National Security Council, and a pro-reformist figure has been appointed to head the Council.

Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian lawyer and Nobel Peace laureate, has said, however, that this is not a positive development and it will continue to keep these cases beyond the reach of law. She stresses that these leaders should be given the chance to face the charges against them in an open and impartial court.

The leaders have not been formally charged and have been simply cut off from the public and their families by being put under house arrest.

Five Iranian Revolutionary Guards Reported Killed In Kurdish Area

Friday, October 11th, 2013

RFE/RL

October 11, 2013

Areport from an Iranian news agency says five members of the elite Revolutionary Guards have been killed by an armed group.

The Fars news agency said the deaths occurred on October 10 in the Kurdish Baneh region, in the northwest of Iran.

It said that in addition to the five killed, two soldiers were wounded.

No group was named as being responsible for the fighting. No other confirmation of the report was available.

In April 2012, rebel Kurd militants in the same region were blamed for killing four Revolutionary Guards.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP

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