Omid Memarian

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Iran's War of Words
The nation's young population struggles to safely express its voice.

By Omid Memarian
Posted March 21, 2007
"As a journalist for Hayat-e Nou, one of Tehran's most popular reformist papers, I understand that certain topics are taboo regardless of the relevance importance or reliability of facts and sources. In Iran, what was untouchable was untouchable and "freedom of speech" was a rare experience."

"...A Tradition of Censorship

The main challenges for media in Iran include old and inefficient press laws, lack of understanding of the true role of media, the domination of "conspiracy theory" toward journalists and censorship. Since I started my writing career in 1999, I have experienced three forms of censorship in my professional work: self-censorship, editorial and governmental." (Read the rest of the article here.)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Who Wins in Iraq?

I think it is a little bit early to answer this question. The Foreign Policy has marked the 10 winner in this conflict by 10 authors. Vali Nasr, the author of "The Shia Revival" says Iran has achieved more than the other countries, organizations and individuals. When it comes to the Middle East story, it is not easy to see who is going to win. For Iran, in particular, it depends on its nuclear program destiny. Just two days ago another UN resolution has adopted against Iran and the war rhetoric is still frightening. Also, the seizure of Britain soldiers by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard forces can make turbulence in the region.

Iran’s defiance on pursing the enrichment of uranium can take to region to another conflict, this time worse the others…. Relatively, Iran could be the winner of the two major conflicts in the region, if the Iranian government finds out a way to convince the international community to follow its nuclear plan and re-build their trust. However, it not the case at this moment; the crisis is deepening more that ever and the prospect for a peaceful solution toward this crisis is becoming gloomy.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

On Israel, America and AIPAC

I found this piece quite interesting. George Soros, in this article discuss the Israel-Palestine conflict in a very precise and comperhensive way:
"The Bush administration is once again in the process of committing a major policy blunder in the Middle East, one that is liable to have disastrous consequences and is not receiving the attention it should. This time it concerns the Israeli–Palestinian relationship. The Bush administration is actively supporting the Israeli government in its refusal to recognize a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas, which the US State Department considers a terrorist organization. This precludes any progress toward a peace settlement at a time when progress on the Palestinian problem could help avert a conflagration in the greater Middle East." (Read the rest of article here)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Iranian New Year and My Haftseen Table...

Today is Iranian New Year starts. This is the second year far from the family. We used to get together and celebrate
Norouz. My Mom loves all the Iranian traditions and more than the others Norouz. Just a few hours ago we talked on the phone... My mom asked me to send her a picture of My Haftsin table...and I here it is....

Saturday, March 17, 2007

U.S. City Takes Stand Against War With Iran

For many People, how Amazing it was! That's why many people love Berkeley and its lifestyle. There are many people who have come to this city just for studing and never left it. After, the Chaharshanbeh Souri tradition on Tuesday, I talked to Mayor of the city and here you can find more about what I inspire about him, city and the other things...
BERKELEY, United States, Mar 16 (IPS) - As thousands of Iranians in northern California celebrated the Persian tradition of "Chaharshanbeh Souri" on Tuesday, the Berkeley City Council adopted a resolution opposing the use of military force against Iran and urging that Congress attach an amendment barring such action to the Pentagon's 93-billion-dollar supplemental funding request.
(read the rest of the story here)

"U.S. Funding Armed Groups to Overthrow

Here is my interview with Reese Erlish about his last trip to Iran, Northern Iraq, and the support of opposition groups bu the US government....
BERKELEY, United States, Mar 16 (IPS) - Author of the upcoming book "The Iran Agenda: the Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Middle East Crisis", due for release in September from Polipoint Press, Reese Erlich recently spent three weeks investigating Kurdish resistance organisations in Iran and Iraq's Kurdish region. He tells IPS that "the United States is officially funding armed groups to overthrow the Islamic government" in Tehran. In an interview with IPS's Omid Memarian, Erlich, who has covered the Middle East as a freelance journalist for the past 20 years and co-wrote 2003's "Target Iraq", says that Washington's strategy is primarily focused on media propaganda -- such as websites and satellite television and radio stations -- but also includes covert military training. (Read the rest of interview here)

Friday, March 16, 2007

What Do I think About "300"?

Here is the BBC News piece on the Iranian's opinion about the movie "300". Below is my compelte answers to the reporter's questions:

Omid: The movie has a great amount of historical discrepancies and errors to the point of almost fictitious. Not only does it give the wrong outcomes to battles, it grossly misrepresents the Persians and their civilization.

It is unfortunate that very few curriculum in the US cover world history and it is very easy to misdirect the general public on historical facts. The Persians are renowned for being brave warriors with tremendous amount of chivalry and bravery whether in victory or defeat—they have always been very just (let’s not forget that Cyrus the Great drafted the first Declaration of Human Rights in 539BC, freeing thousands of Jews from slavery!)

They have never been ‘savages’ or ‘barbaric’; most often they have been in put in the position to protect their land rather be the aggressor. All the director needed to do was visit the city of Shiraz and view the ruins of Persepolis left by the others Therefore, it makes perfect sense for Iranians to be upset of the way history is being rewritten erroneously, especially at a time when there is already tremendous amount of skewed media coverage on Iran and anti-Iranian rhetoric has escalated in the US, largely fueled by ignorance and lack of proper knowledge or understanding.

The misquotes and wrong impressions given in media coverage are only exacerbated by movies such as “300”. Unfortunately, although media has the power to disseminate information, it does not mean that it always correct. What has happened to the social responsibility that Media holds?

It is never good to take action which is ill-intended; however, at times when there is limited action that can be taken, the peaceful means of ‘google bombing’ a website is solely a reflection of the level of aggression Iranians feel toward a mis-portrayal of their history, culture, and heritage.

Bashful Deceptions or Responsible Assertiveness?
Behind the Arrests of Women: In Response to the Allegations of Judiciary's Spokesman

Dr. Alireza Jamshidi, who recently abandoned his lectures, research, and his academic position, and has been promoted from his position of Judicial Development Deputy with the Judiciary Branch, to the Speaker for the Branch, in his recent press conference and in reply to questions about the condition of Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh and Shadi Sadr, the two prisoners in custody after last week’s protests by women, has said:
“In this assembly, the Police tried to address the issue in a peaceful and non-military fashion. These ladies seemingly had gathered by the Revolutionary Court to protest a trial scheduled for that day. Their assembly was a planned illegal gathering, and of course they were gently confronted.”
These words are uttered by the very author of Citizen’s Rights Guidelines, The Proposal for Elimination of Solitary Confinement, The Law for Alternative Punishment, and other legislature and bills within the Judiciary Branch. Though it is understood that the Speaker has to tread sensitive waters, it is expected that he won’t lose sight of justice. How is a congregation of 40 friends and colleagues of five accused in last July’s gathering by the Court House, and their peaceful attempt to convey a message through silence and devoid of any noise, through standing on the street, illegal? Which article of Iranian Constitution supports Mr. Speaker’s words? Is the country under a martial law? Should we interpret what he says to mean that national security is so compromised in Iran that intelligence and judicial analysts have arrived at the conclusion that if a few women stand on the street and display placards, our national security is threatened? Then the question becomes who and how is he responsible for having compromised national security over the past several years, such that a citizens’ assembly is now so threatening?

The other point he raised is the “planning” in this gathering. All evidences indicate that these were the closest friends and colleagues of the five women on trial. The five women were on trial on the charge of “Actions Against National Security by Participation in Illegal Gatherings.” The ones gathered outside were attempting to attest to a fine point, a contradiction, in the treatment and confrontation of the Judiciary (or intelligence, or security, or whatever), and that fine point was that we, too, had participated in that assembly! There was a hidden message in this gathering, a message worthy of contemplation by anyone who cares about justice and citizenship rights.

First, Mr. Speaker should also explain in what ways the Police attempted to “in a peaceful and non-military fashion” address the situation? What kind of peaceful attempt is utilization of foul-mouthed individuals, inattentive to basic manners, individuals who destroy the image of the Police? Secondly, what is the meaning of arresting people without warrant, transferring them to Vozara Complex, delaying reading of their charges, and sending them to Evin Prison for four nights? Does Alireza Jamshidi believe that arresting these women for an assembly, but questioning them about their private life and their friends’ professional and business affairs is a peaceful confrontation? Is it peaceful to ask some individuals questions about their moral values and about their boyfriends?

In many countries, even when police intervene in gatherings—meaning large gatherings where police use tear gas and water pumps to disperse the crowds—if some of those involved in the protests are arrested, within a few hours they are released, because the objective is to disperse the crowd, not to treat the crowd violently. But it should be pointed out to Mr. Speaker that prior to the arrests of 33 women’s rights activists, imprisoning them between 48 hours and 11 days (thus far), repeated interrogations, talk about financial support for their activism, their trips abroad and such matters, there had been other precedents, and neither those precedents, nor the recent arrests were peaceful. On the contrary, it is obvious that a segment of our security-judicial system, which sees the world through a very small viewpoint, instead of strengthening its policing and intelligence methods through which national security is increased, uses simple-minded methodologies, and creates a great liability for citizens.

Additionally, he may be a newcomer to the Judiciary, but everyone knows about the kingdoms and fiefdoms of Evin Prison. Mr. Speaker is aware that in the past, no authority could question goings on of sections of this same prison. Such kingdoms and fiefdoms are still on in this locale. Maybe they have better coordination. News of three-shift interrogations and keeping political prisoners in the Death Row Ward, and those interrogated round-the-clock by separate teams is reminiscent of memories to some.

Furthermore, it is expected that Mr. Speaker would elaborate on what exactly a “soft confrontation” is. Is it the kind different from the one Zahra Kazemi received? Or the kind dealt Saeed Emami’s wife? What are the characteristics of this confrontation? Is it by “words” alone? Or is it “environmental?” For whom and for what reason and to what end is such a confrontation prescribed? Doubts and suspicions about the announcements of the Judiciary’s educated newcomer pick up momentum when we remember that only two years ago, in a meeting with District Attorneys of the country, Ayatollah Shahroodi, Head of Judiciary, spoke words which are completely different from the words expressed today. Let’s review his words:

“They acquire a permit to interrogate, they take the prisoners to private prisons, without a judge or clerk in attendance they conduct their interrogation, and then they tie this with the Prison System. It is only the judge’s responsibility to question [the accused]. Any confessions acquired this way are not considered confessions. We have revived the
Local District Attorney system to prevent this type of treatment. Local courts must not dodge this responsibility, because one of the reasons for revival of local courts was to revive the role of the judge, previously performed by the police….Types of questioning, types of interrogation must be made clear, for example sometimes we see that they arrest someone for financial issues, but during the questioning, he is asked about moral issues, family matters, photographs, and family trips. This is not right, because it has nothing to do with his charges…Have you ever seen how they get people into cars* some cases we observe that the types of behavior displayed resembles what Americans do to terrorists in Abu Ghoraib Prison. Therefore we must be cognizant that in regular crimes this type of confrontation is not performed…A local court which behaves in this way is better closed than revived.”

We ask Mr. Jamshidi, Judiciary’s Speaker, how things have improved over the past two years, since Mr. Ahmadi-Nejad and his team have come to power? What genetic and super-human evolution has taken place in the “better closed than revived” Judiciary, rendering its confrontations “non-military” and “peaceful?” Please tell us why Mr. Shahroodi assimilates the interrogators’ behavior to that displayed in Abu Ghoraib Prison? What did he mean by that and how have things changed? Please give us some examples of the Abu Ghoraib-like treatment! Tell us that during questionings of recent years, some prisoners have had to shower naked in front of cameras. Tell us of the sick interrogators, themselves in dire shape, “peacefully” asking prisoners to write details of their sex life. Thanks to Islamic Republic of Iran’s Broadcasting Organization, we all know what happened in Abu Ghoraib.

It is no secret how vulnerable some of the prisoners shoved behind the doors of solitary confinement are. Only a few people have ever been able to navigate through the many layers surrounding high authorities, keeping information from reaching them, to tell stories, attesting to the truth about what happens with the District Attorney’s Office and the interrogations and such, and this is how the Head of Judiciary was moved to say the words that he did, the same man who upon taking power, had called the Judiciary “in ruins.”

Even if we are sure that such treatment is spared the arrested women, the question is why are you going to such lengths to hide the truth? Why are you hiding facts about a situation over which you and the Head of Judiciary have the least amount of control? Or have you slowly reached a peaceful ground with parts of the Judiciary about whom even your boss is angry?

Arrests of women on the pretense of an assembly, prolonged interrogations about their personal and professional affairs and beliefs and such, is starting another project for which Kayhan is salivating, so that once again using the written interrogation reports, editorials are produced. This will neither increase your and Mr. Shahroodi’s prestige, nor will it improve the reputation of the Judiciary. The honest dedicated segments of the Judiciary, who work day and night to uphold justice, are watching these events with concern. All human rights activists are sure that segments of the Judiciary and the Cabinet can return peace of mind to our citizens. Your conservative and non-exact opinions implicitly support the unacceptable behavior of certain individuals within the Judiciary, emboldening them in their illegal behavior. We expect differently from Mr. Shahroodi…You will be indebted to history if you can’t stop the tears of children of those imprisoned. Welcome to the important position of Speaker. Bashful deceptions or responsible assertiveness?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Another Civil Society Organization has Been Shut Down in Iran

Dr. Sohrab Razzaghi, director of Volunteer Actors (Koneshgaran) Institute has confirmed that the security agents have shut down the two offices of Koneshgaran on Thursday. He is among the few Iranian academics who have been completely involved in the civil society. SHutting down this powerful NGO is a very bad sign for the Iran's weak civil society and indicates a serious round of suppression against activists in Iran. Razzaghi was a political science professor at Allameh University in Tehran. I will update my blog about this event soon...Just two weeks ago Sussan Tahmasebi, a board member of Volunteer Actors and a prominent women activist was arrested in the massive arrests of women. She released after four days, but still two other women are in jail.

Iran's Crackdown on Women

Jailed and interrogated for Women's Day activism.

"While the world was preparing to celebrate International Women's Day last Thursday, women activists in Iran were facing one of the most challenging and trying periods they've experienced in a decade.
On Sunday, March 4, government security agents rounded up more than 30 women, who had gathered in front of Tehran's Islamic Revolutionary Court in support of five women who were on trial inside the courthouse.
...Women have been at the forefront of Iranian society in challenging the country's Islamic laws in recent years, while the Ahmadinejad administration has raised the political cost of social activism, perceived as a way for Western countries to wield influence in Iran's Islamic society, possibly opening the doors to revolution...." (read the rest of my article here)

Monday, March 12, 2007

Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh’s Daughter:
Worrisome accusations change the direction

Over nine days have passed since Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh and Shadi Sadr; two Iranian women’s movement activists have been arrested. Worrisome news of the case progression is filtering out, revealing new charges, and the possibility of psychological pressure for achieving untrue confessions. Some Judicial authorities are trying to seek assistance from highest levels within their system in order to release the women. New charges create a new path for this case, however. Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh’s daughter, Maryam Ommi talked with me about her fears and worries about her mother’s arrest, investigation, and pertinent follow-ups. (The Farsi text in Roozonline)

During the several days since your mother’s arrest, have you heard from her directly?

“It is now more than eight days since my mother’s arrest. She hasn’t called us and we are so worried for her. Shadi Sadr has contacted her family twice during the same time, but not my mother. With our experience from her previous arrest [in 2004], we fear that she is under psychological pressure to make unfounded confessions, or she is in such dire health condition that she cannot talk. Last time she served twenty some days in solitary confinement and a few days in a general cell. When she was in solitary confinement, they told us that she was in a general cell. The truth was that she was in solitary confinement under the most insulting conditions. That time she called us after a few days. This time, however, the delay seems suspicious.”

Do you have any information about the charges made against your mother and how the case is being handled?

“First there were three charges, similar to the ones against the other 31 women. However, Judge Haddad added two new charges during his meeting with my mother’s lawyers. Her lawyers say it is illegal to start an interrogation with certain charges, and attempt to find new charges during the interrogation. Over the past few days, they had been using the charge of [illegal] assembly as a reason for the arrests; but it appears that using that charge they have now arrived at new ones. We worry that this case will have new accusations in it. I heard after [my mother’s] last arrest, she has been receiving threats. We worry that in order to thwart support for the arrests, [District Attorney’s Office] might bring up new charges. Judge Haddad has explicitly talked about new charges for which they will be able to continue the detention of the women.”

Have the authorities contacted you, for example for posting bail?

“Not at all. Some members of our family have been intimidated to go and provide information, and they have said in reply that without legal summons they won’t show up. They have been threatened with arrests if they don’t cooperate.”

Have they questioned any detainees about other individuals such as your mother?

“Yes. The interrogators wanted to separate the others from them [these two women]. For example they have told them not to follow these [two] women. Or, they have been asked “what was your relationship with these [two] women? What were you doing for them? Why did you go to their offices?” They tried to tell the others that these [two] women were after self-promotion, but that they are good people, and this type of psychological games.”

What do you, yourself think is the cause of the lengthy interrogation?

“Look, two years ago after much torture and psychological abuse by all, Ayatollah Shahroodi closed the [other] case and exonerated the rest. But the same thing is repeated again in order to pursue the same objectives of the last time. In the face of exoneration by Head of Judiciary, should agents be seeking revenge [on my mother]? They should be admitting their errors. According to authorities, the culpable in the previous case, including interrogators, were supposed to have been questioned and to have been held accountable for their wrong-doing. But the same individuals are again involved in this case. They won’t get far, however, because the feminist movement in Iran is not a political one; neither is it an opposition [force]. These are people who all love their country and can work with any government to create equality and equal rights. Therefore it wasn’t such a good idea to do this under the country’s current conditions…anyway, Mr. Shahroodi must know about what is going on…”

How are your other family members under the circumstances?

“My sister’s psychological situation is very bad and she is very depressed. She has to study for Konkoor [Iranian university entrance examination], but she can’t concentrate. I am a university student in Zanjan but I had to return [home]…My sister is sitting by the telephone …for my mother to call, but she says with the gentlemen’s whispered promises, she is waiting for her to walk through the door. She is waiting any second for my mother to request posting her bail…we can’t sleep at nights, because our father doesn’t live with us and we are alone. We fear the police might pour into our house like the Gestapo, and worry for scenes like this has us restless.”

How was your and Shadi Sadr’s families’ visit with Mr. Karroubi?

I didn’t go to see Karroubi; my family members and those who went have told me that Mr. Karroubi received them with open arms and has promised to deliver the letter to high Judicial authorities. But Mr. Shahroodi cannot take care of this with a telephone call, as Block 209 is not under his jurisdiction. It is in the hands of Mr. Ejehi, Minister of Information….but they are following up…Mr. Baghi, Iranian Bar Association, and others are also following up. Iranian Bar Association is active because Shadi Sadr was performing her duty as a lawyer, leaving the courthouse when she was arrested……

I think under the current political conditions of our country, because of the nuclear energy issue and opposition groups; Iran is not at its most stable right now. We love our country. Instead of destroying those who can help promote a better image for Iran (and in the process destroying the country’s image), we must be thinking about our country. I can’t keep quiet. The newspapers are now keeping silent…The only one who will let me talk is Voice of America. I must talk through them, and I don’t want that to happen…But they won’t let anyone to hear us…”

Do you believe that the silence of media and a lack of coverage of the current arrests were ordered?

“I am sure of it. I talked to a few journalists. They told me that after their coverage of the news, they received orders to completely censor this event…It isn’t like the newspapers don’t want to, they are not allowed to…Though the news agencies also want to cover the issue, they can only write something fearfully, whereas this is really important news. Today Marzieh Mortazi said at Mosharekat Party: ‘A tree is a national resource for our country, and we talk about it at length. But about these two human beings, we say nothing and these two are in prison.’ She said ‘When we were in prison, we found out that they are scheming something for these two, and want to do something to keep them from continuing their work upon release. All that they [these two women] have done has been in the interest of our women…’ “

Photo: Arash Ashoorinia, Kosoof Website

WHy 300 Is Shameful?
It's entirely an overblown visual document with an IQ in the lower 20s

Here is a link to Washington Post Review on the one the most strange movies I have ever heard about. Some of the readers have mentioned this is based on a comic book, but when it comes to talk about the history, it is not understandable the way it manipulate the history...

"300," alas and to its shame, makes no argument at all. It's entirely an overblown visual document with an IQ in the lower 20s...But a bigger question remains, and that's why? Why this movie? It's kind of a ghastly hoot, but it flees from history and it mocks men who gave so much, and while I suppose it does no harm, it also contributes nothing. It's a guilty unpleasantness. I just think some moments, when history turned on guts and
bronze, deserve more than a comic book."

A Comment: We can change this movie's rating in different search engines. Right now it is "-B" on Yahoo movies. Lets make it an "F".Here you can find the addresses to the rating pages.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Detention of Sadr and Abbasgholizadeh Continues

With the Sunday, March 11th Temporary Detention Order for Shadi Sadr and Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh, the two remaining women in custody, a new round of confrontations with Iranian rights activists has commenced. Over the past several days, Iranian newspapers have been barred from reporting on the subject, and as a result except for a few cryptic short lines, the censorship surrounding the events has been palpable. With the Detention Order, hope for release of the two women is thwarted.

Shadi Sadr who is also Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh’s lawyer is now in detention herself. In one of the most unprecedented events of recent years, both client and attorney are in custody. During Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh’s earlier arrest in November 2005, Shadi Sadr was threatened and detained several times by District Attorney’s Office in Tehran, but never like this. During the past several days, some of the released women had reported about a shift in the type and direction of questions asked of them during interrogations, from questions about the gatherings to questions about other individuals, even personal and private matters.

Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh, Editor of Farzaneh Quarterly, remained in jail for a month in 2005, half of which was spent in solitary confinement. Later, during what went on to be called the “Internet Sites and Webloggers” debacle, some of those accused in the case met with Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroodi, head of Iranian Judiciary, and after hearing reports of the treatment of those individuals, he ordered a halt to the proceedings and instructed formation of a three-person committee to investigate the case. After an investigation which took several months, 17 of the 21 individuals named in the case were exonerated. Even though Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh was threatened with further imprisonment should she continue her activities, she continued her efforts in civic organizations. In a statement published just before their detention, Abbasgholizadeh, Shadi Sadr and several other activists had expressed hope for the future on the threshold of International Women’s Day (March 8th). Authorities in Evin’s Block 209 and interrogators have not permitted Abbasgholizadeh to call her family. This has caused concerns for her two daughters.

Her daughter, Maryam Ommi, in an interview with Women’s Field Website has said: “Everyone called their families, but she hasn’t. We are worried for her health and we fear something might have happened to her…memories of Zahra Kazemi poison my mind continually!” Up until a few days ago, I was worried for her hunger strike, worried for Mahnaz Mohammadi for whom I took some medicine and it was rejected [by prison authorities], their promises that prison medical staff were looking after her. I had heard that her feet were motionless, but now that she is out I understand none of those promises were true and she is not well at all. I went to see the last woman released, but she had been in solitary confinement as well, and hadn’t heard about my mother or Shadi Sadr. I only hope that they are healthy.”

Also yesterday Hassan Nilchian, Shadi Sadr’s husband who pursuant to earlier news regarding release of remaining prisoners had gone to Revolutionary Court to post bail and release his wife, was told that she is now in official Temporary Detention.

Nilchian told Women’s Field Website that yesterday morning he went to the Court and met the Judiciary’s representative in Block 209. “After a conversation with Tehran District Attorney’s Securities Deputy, the Judiciary’s representative in Block 209 of Evin Prison announced that they have received a Temporary Detention Order for Shadi Sadr. Their file has now been sent to court for review. For now, there are no prospects for their release over the next day or two.”

According to Article 33 of Criminal Review Law, a temporary detention order is issued by the Judge, and is approved by Head of local Judiciary field (District Attorney, or his Deputy), and is possible to appeal in the Appeals Court within 10 days. A review by the Appeals Court will be done on an emergency basis, and within a month of detention, a resolution to the case must be reached. If the Judge determines that the temporary detention must continue, he will issue appropriate orders.

Some civil rights activists will issue a communiqué today, voicing their objections to the continuation of the detentions of two women’s rights activists. Over the past year, in step with the “No Stoning Campaign,” Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh and Shadi Sadr have been active in their pursuit for elimination of execution by stoning from Islamic Republic’s laws. Also, over the past few years Shadi Sadr has been one of the several attorneys highly active in stopping executions of several women by stoning, taking important steps towards this goal through her many interactions with judicial authorities. Side by side of another group of women, these two activists have also taken part in writing a Women’s Demands Manifest over the past several months. Subsequent to meetings with other activists and conducting numerous surveys, this Manifest demonstrates women’s demands in a variety of areas.

Arrests of last Sunday followed a peaceful gathering by the court where five other women’s rights activists were being tried. Temporary detention orders of Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh and Shadi Sadr, however, point to a new wave of activities to start a new case, unrelated to the said assembly. It is reminiscent of the arrest of Ali Akbar Mousavi Khoeineeha, who was arrested during last July’s peaceful gathering in Haft-e-Tir Square, which kept him in detention in Block 209 for months.

Women’s Cultural Center, six members of whom were arrested and detained last week, issued a statement in objection to the continued imprisonment of the two women, saying: “We put International Women’s Day behind us with two women’s rights activists, Shadi Sadr and Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh, in detention. Within the framework of law, these two women’s rights activists have been widely active in women’s and social issues for the past several years. Unfortunately, we witness their illegal arrest on March 4th, and their detention. We, of the Women’s Cultural Center, condemn this detention, and request unconditional and immediate release of Shadi Sadr and Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh, and we ask all women’s rights activists to voice their objections to the detention of these two members of the women’s movement.”

During the past several days, Islamic Women’s Association, has also objected to the continuation of arrests, and in a statement has called actions by District Attorney’s Office as “poor judgment and mean-spirited actions” and cause for “deeply hurting public Iranian feelings.” “This poor judgment on the threshold of the International Women’s Day, affects all the fruit of actions of Islamic Republic in alleviating discrimination against Iranian women, providing ignorant foreigners an opportunity to see an offensive act as representative of all Revolutionary values, and provides the grounds for deeply hurting public feelings, which under the circumstances is an immoral act. This poor judgment not only affects critics, but also prepares the grounds for a shift of women’s intellectual efforts into slogans which eliminate the opportunity for thinking and reasonable dialogue.
A feeling of discrimination destroys opportunities for a dialogue with critics, as well as [women’s] self confidence, and destructs a mutual understanding about women’s rights and their position. On the threshold of this international day, we demand an end to these mean-spirited actions which deeply hurt public Iranian feelings, and implementation of values of Islamic Revolution regarding women, and release of those detained. We hope for a human society in which men and women enjoy equal rights based on Islamic teachings.”

Go to Wemen's Field Webiste to follow up the latest news....

Anti War Meeting....

(Left: Dariush Zahedi, Middle: Daniel Ellsberg, Right: Larry Everest)

Today, I attened in an anti-war summit which I have talked about it in the last post. I wrote a piece on this event for
Roozonline. Larry Everest, the author of "Oil, Power and Empire" said despite this week negoatiation between Iranian offcials and the Bush administration on Iraq, itcan be another step toward war prepration. All of the speakers mentioned that the current situation is very alarming. Daniel, said that people should understand the reasons behing talking about the attack against Iran to prepare themselves to prevent it. I wished I could write it first hand in English to put it here. I am looking forward the audio or video file of this meeting to link.....

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Emergency Summit to Prevent War with Iran
Saturday, March 10, 2007 – 10AM to 4PM – UC Berkeley

I am on the way to go there. It is intresting to see how these kind of gathering-seminars work and how these are effective on the policy makers. Daniel Ellsberg, who is one most famous anti-war fans is among the quests. I like his piece at in Harper about Iran : "The Next War?"

"As Congress and the mainstream media are distracted by the new troop escalation in Iraq, little attention is given to the much more consequential reality that we may be only a few months, weeks, or even days away from a new and potentially more horrifying war.

At this summit, a wide range of organizations and activists are coming together to take a serious look at how, together, we may be successful in preventing an attack on Iran. See the end of this message for a partial list of organizations that have confirmed their attendance in this summit.

Even though this summit is primarily for organizations and activists, others are also welcome.In the morning session we will hear from one or more experts on the US-Iran standoff.

In the afternoon session we will work on:

Producing more with less: How can we increase the level of collaboration among our organizations?

Power of many: How can we effectively share our experiences and leverage our resources?
Learning from our successes and mistakes: What has been working and what has not?

Sharpening our message: What are some effective talking points?

Formulating a winning strategyThe good news: Why are the chances of success much better now than the pre-Iraq-war time? "Collaborative action plan

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The movie "300" : Inaccurate and Insulting !?

"To all Iranians, and all those who know and respect ancient Persian history and culture :

A new movie called "300" is opening on March 9th in theatres all over the United States, sponsored and made by Warner Brothers Pictures.It is based on a graphic novel by Frank Miller which portrays the battleof Thermopylae in which King Leonidas and 300 Spartans fight againstXerxes and his Persian army.Upon seeing the previews of this movie, it immediately becomes clear that apart from the actual names used in it, the entire depiction of thisbattle is based on fantasy.Xerxes and his army are shown as monster-like men, with attire andattitudes that can only be seen among demons.It is obvious that attempts have been made to purposefully insult ancient Persians.Please take a moment to sign the following petition to boycott thisinsulting and inaccurate movie, in the hope that our voices may be heard. And please don't hesitate to circulate it among as many people aspossible!"

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

All released except.....

All the women are released except : Jila Baniyaghoob, Mahboubeh Abbasgholi zadeh, Shadi Sadr.... A friend of mine talked to Asieh Amini, one of the arrested women and she confirmed....

Here is a piece about the situation of arrested women a few hours before they released. Although, some of them still are in detention. This piece will publish at Roozonline in a couple of hours with some updated (In Farsi). It gives the detail information about the arrested women and the prison:

Despite release of seven additional women, eighteen social activists who were arrested last Sunday at the Revolutionary Court in Tehran continue to remain in detention at Evin prison. Solitary confinement of four of the women, Manboubeh Abbasgholizadeh, Shadi Sadr, Jelveh Javaheri, and Jila Baniyaghoub, joining Shahla Entesari who has been in solitary confinement since she arrived Evin’s Block 209, now leaves five women in solitary confinement. One of the released women told Rooz that Jila Baniyaghoub was sent to solitary confinement because she refused to use the blindfold during interrogation and when walking around in the block. When she was arrested during last July’s gathering, Baniyaghoub served a week in jail.

Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh, too, served two months in solitary confinement in 2005. The situation of Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani and Sussan Tahmasesbi is not clear at this time. Parvin Ardalan is in precarious health conditions, and without proper and immediate medical attendance, she may face serious health complications. She has been arrested and interrogated numerous times previously, pursuant to her journalistic and cultural activities. Many attribute her poor health to the multiple incidents of interrogation and subsequent imprisonments over the past decade. She continues to push forward with her activities, nevertheless.

Shadi Sadr contacted her husband last night. She also contacted one of her colleagues today, requesting them to post her bail in order to release her. It was expected that several other women would be released today, but this did not materialize. A source who vigilantly follows the recent arrests has said that those who have a long standing record in the Iranian women’s movement are asked a wider array of questions about their social activities, their trips abroad, and their personal lives. As the circle of remaining imprisoned women shrinks in size, it is expected that interrogations take a deeper route, surpassing recent events, reaching into the women’s past activities.

Judiciary authorities have seriously denied news of women’s hunger strikes. However, they continue to provide no information about the reasons they have moved some women to solitary confinement and some others to the general blocks. As far as we know, in anticipation of March 8th, International Women’s Day, authorities have issued a gag order on Iranian newspapers about the arrests.

A women’s rights activist told Rooz that those released have reported that they were interrogated in detail about their planned activities for March 8th celebrations; hence, she believes, that the remaining women will not be released until after March 8th. Many of those detained had in past years been active in pulling large gatherings of women together for March 8th. Last year, several women were called to Ministry of Interior, receiving threats to stop their activities for March 8th assemblies, or prepare to be arrested. They had replied that women’s movement is unstoppable.

Nahid Jafari, Nahid Keshavarz, Mayam Mirza, Zeinab Peighambarzadeh, Somayeh Farid, Sara Loghmani, and Azadeh Forghani were released yesterday, forming the second group of releases. Previously, Parastoo Dokoohaki, Parastoo Sarmadi, Sara and Saghi Laghaee, Nahid and Farideh Entesari, Niloofar Golkar, and Sara Imanian had been released. One of the released women reports that Mahboubeh Hosseinzadeh, a journalist and a member of Koneshgaran Website is suffering psychological reactions to the type and force of interrogations in Evin.

Asieh Amini, journalist and another member of Koneshgaran Website was originally said to be released with the second group, but according to Zanestan, her husband Javad Montazeri, himself a journalist photographer, has said that he was told documents he submitted for her release were not complete. Therefore her release has been postponed to today. Mahnaz Mohammadi’s release has also faced delays, complicating her health situation which one of her friends told Rooz will reach an acute state if she does not receive immediate medical attention.

Earlier it was reported that Parvin Ardalan is in urgent need of medical attention. She continues to experience difficulty in receiving her medication in prison. One of the released prisoners told Rooz that Mahnaz Mohammadi’s health has deteriorated, and one of her feet has no feeling in it, and she couldn’t move it. Fatemeh Govaraee, a middle-aged activist among the group, fights severe migraine headaches and is refused medication. There are no reports about the fate of the individuals who were bystanders during the Sunday protests, and had been arrested along with the protestors.

While it was announced earlier that Maryam Hosseinkhah, Zara Amjadian, and Nasrin Afzali were moved to the General Block of Evin Prison, one of the released women told Rooz that they have been moved to another location which is a lot worse than the General block.

One of the women released in the second group told Rooz: “The interrogators were not impolite; however, conditions inside the prison were not good at all. If we needed something, we had to bang on the door a thousand times and scream to, for example, ask for Parvin Ardalan’s pills.” She said that because all arrested are active in journalism, and their interrogators know from recent experience that each time journalists are arrested and released they go on to tell detailed accounts of their time in prison, they tend to be careful in their treatment of the prisoners.

The unprecedented and comprehensive detention of women is now in its fourth day, and Iranian newspapers are keeping silent about the event. Official Judicial system authorities, and specifically the Judiciary’s Spokesperson, have kept quiet and have not disclosed any information about the reasons for the arrests. In an important move, 620 academics, researchers, lawyers, and journalists have signed and submitted a letter, objecting to the events of last Sunday, requesting Head of Judiciary to release the women.

Save the Date :News Conference: Mass Arrest of Women Activists in Iran

"(Washington, DC, March 7, 2007) – To mark International Women’s Day, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International will hold a news conference calling attention to the increasing persecution and prosecution of women’s rights activists in Iran.

Last Sunday, Iranian security forces arrested 34 prominent leaders of the women’s rights movement in Tehran. Although 15 detainees have been released, 19 women remain in Tehran’s Evin Prison, a notorious site of prisoner abuse.

As well as prosecuting women’s rights activists, the Iranian authorities have also increased their persecution of people who call for reform of the country’s discriminatory laws against women.

Women’s rights activists in Iran recently launched a campaign, “Change for Equality,” to collect 1 million signatures to protest these laws. Another campaign by Iranian activists aims to remove stoning as a punishment from Iran’s legal code. The authorities have responded by targeting campaign volunteers for harassment and denying them the right to advocate peacefully for their cause in public places.

WHEN: 1 p.m. on Thursday, March 8, 2007

WHERE: Amnesty International USA, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, 5th Floor,
Washington, DC

WHO: We will be joined by the following to discuss the women’s movement and
recent detentions in Iran, as well as provide the human rights implications of this

Fariba Davoodi Mohajer, prominent Iranian women’s rights campaigner;

Solmaz Sharif, Iranian journalist;
Hadi Ghaemi, Iran researcher at Human Rights Watch, and
Zahir Janmohamed, Middle East and North Africa advocacy director at Amnesty International USA.
For more information and to schedule interviews, please contact:
In New York, Hadi Ghaemi (Human Rights Watch): +1-917-669-5996; or
In Washington, DC, Sharon Singh (AI): +1-202-544-0200 x289; or

Exclusive: An Interview With one of the Released Women From the Evin Prison

I talked to one of the released women yesterday. She is blogger and also journalist, like many of the arrested women. She described the situation in the detenion for me: “After our arrest on Sunday, we had to wait for eight hours in the Vozara Complex. All this time we were held in a basement. Afterwards, they transported us to Block 209 of Evin Prison in two vans. Up until we reached the Block 209, we could see [where they were taking us]; but just before delivering us to Block 29, they put blindfolds on us. We were 33. They put us into a line and walked us to the cells. We sat against a wall in a hallway with blindfolds on for an hour. For dinner, they gave us bread, cheese, and tea, while still in blindfolds. We objected to this condition, but in reply, we were cussed. Their favorite cuss word which they used repeatedly was: ‘Anti-revolutionary bastards.’ Up to this point, we were only handled by men. They then delivered us to sisters. One of the women recognized Shadi Sadr, attorney-in-law and journalist. She said: ‘How are you, Mrs. Sadr?’ Shadi Sadr who had the blindfolds on said: ‘I can’t see you.’ She then told Shadi: ‘Remove your blindfold.’ Word of mouth through the group had it that this same security police officer was in front of the Revolutionary Court that morning.”

Regarding the conditions in her prison cell, she said: “We were blindfolded in a big room. Then every 4-5 of us were sent to a separate cell, depending on the size of the cell. I heard one of the cells held 6 people. Our cell had a toilette. But I heard that other cells didn’t have toilettes. It looked like it would be a cell used for solitary confinement, but they were using it for several people. I was in a solitary confinement cell for less than an hour when they called me for my interrogation. Interrogations took between 11:30 p.m. until 3:30 a.m. the next day. They interrogated us one by one.”

“During the interrogation, there was no disrespect, at least not to me. Our interrogators were all men. There were no women in the room, and they said nothing about planning to keep us there. I heard they have informed some of the others that they will be released tomorrow (Wednesday).

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Take Action:
Help Free Iranian Women's Rights Leaders: Campaigning for Equality is not a Crime

On Sunday, March 4, Iranian police arrested and jailed 33 women gathered in front of the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran. The women were peacefully supporting five women scheduled to be tried for organizing a demonstration last year. Eight of the women detained outside the court were released on Tuesday, March 6, but 25 women remain in Tehran's Evin Prison.
We are concerned that more arrests could take place on March 8, International Women's Day.
Authorities violently broke up a peaceful gathering in support of women's equality before Iranian law in June 2006, arresting dozens. Five of those arrested are being prosecuted for exercising their basic rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

With your help, we can add to mounting international pressure on the Iranian government to release the 25 activists immediately and to stop arresting peaceful human rights defenders.
Please take action to show your support for women's human rights advocates in Iran.....

For more information click here

A few Links of the women's arrets:

- Human Rights Watch : Release Women's Rights Advocates
- Look at the arrested women's photos here: HRW Slideshow
- Iranian Women Are Arrested After Protests Outside Court, By NAZILA FATHI
Dozens were protesting outside a court where five were on trial for leading a campaign to gain more legal rights for women...

- Amnesty International :Arrests of women may be an attempt to prevent International Women's Day calls for equality
- OpenDemocracy: Women in Iran: repression and resistance,
In claiming their rights, modern Iranian women are building on the country's feminist pioneers, writes Nasrin Alavi

- Global Voices Online: Women Activists Jailed, Teachers on the Street and War Whispers, MA - Mar 5, 2007
United States Policy Towards Iran, US Department of State (press release), DC
- Mass arrests in Iran over security fearsGulf News, United Arab Emirates

Hope for Release of Some of the Detained Women

Yesterday’s inquiries by families of more than 33 women’s rights activists, arrested on Sunday and transferred to Evin Prison’s 209 Block, was faced with silence of judicial authorities who refused to disclose the reasons for the arrests. Evin Prison has again become a holding place for women in peaceful search for their rights. Nevertheless, in late hours of last night, authorities contacted several families and instructed them to appear at the court for bail proceedings.

After a long wait in front of Evin Prison, families of arrested women issued a statement, requesting the authorities to provide information. The statement expresses: “With 24 hours past the arrest of 33 journalists and women’s rights activists, as their families, we continue to have no information about their situation. Ever since the arrests took place, we have been unable to receive any responsible communication about the situation of those detained, and in spite of the cooperative promises of several judicial and police authorities, no news has been disclosed to their families in attendance by Evin Prison. As family members of the detained individuals, we request immediate release of information about their circumstances, and hope to see them released as soon as possible.”

A women’s activist in Tehran told Rooz that interrogation of detainees commenced yesterday, and it appears those who don’t have a previous record will be released today (Tuesday). Those with a previous legal record will continue to remain in prison pending further interrogation. According to this women’s rights activist, herself among those appearing at Evin Prison today, if all arrested women, who have performed no illegal act are not released tomorrow, it will indicate that District Attorney’s authorities have used the peaceful gathering of last Sunday as an excuse to disrupt plans underway for March 8th (International Women’s Day). “Over the past several years, some of the same women were summoned by security organizations just prior to the March 8th gatherings, in order to hamper their activities for this day. Of course those summonses have not worked before, but I think they hope to impede the assembly.”

Tehran District Attorney, on whose orders these individuals were arrested, has not provided any explanation. District Attorney of Tehran has played a pivotal role in arrests of activists in political, internet, women’s rights, and human rights realms. In order to restrict social activities, even peaceful assemblies permitted under Islamic Republic of Iran’s laws have not been tolerated by Tehran District Attorney’s Office. Detainment of 33 women’s rights activists, some of whom have been social activists for decades, is the most comprehensive arrest of its kind.

Sohrab Soleimani, Chief Director of Tehran Prisons has said that families can see the judge in charge in order to seek information about their relatives. According to Prison authorities, should an order for release be issued, families will be contacted.

Free Our Friends

Women’s Cultural Center, a women’s rights organization, which has assumed an active role in informing and addressing women’s issues, in a statement has objected to the arrests. Some of the original members and affiliates of this Center, such as Nooshin Ahmadi Khorasani, Parvin Ardalan, Nahid Jafari, Maryam Hosseinkhah, and Nahid Keshavarz are among those arrested. “Detainment of 33 women’s movement activists on March 4th, displays the special awareness of the legislative and judicial authorities towards women’s rights and their demands on the threshold of the International Women’s Day. Physical abuse by Police forces at the Revolutionary Court, transfer of arrested individuals to Vozara Detention Center for Fight Against Social Corruption, and later to Evin Prison, displays a violent approach by the authorities towards women’s equality movement. Contrary to these efforts, the joint communiqué of various groups, and presence of different organizations active in women’s movement, all objecting to the way these women were arrested and interrogated, has revived the women’s movement.

While objecting imprisonment of their affiliates and six dedicated members of their organization (Nooshin Ahmadi Khorasani, Parvin Ardalan, Nahid Jafari, Maryam Hosseinkhah, Nahid Keshavarz, and Maryam Mirza), and the subsequent uncertainty around their fate, Women’s Cultural Center has demanded immediate release of all prisoners and a hault to summonses, arrests, and threats issued on all those active in women’s movement. Sussan Tahmasebi, Mahboubeh Hosseinzadeh, and Asieh Amini are members of Koneshgaran Institute, and Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh, Shadi Sadr, and Nasrin Afzali are members of Women’s Field Website (Meidan), who are active in social education and promotion of women’s issues. All women are activists, authors, journalists, and lawyers.

Meanwhile, various women’s groups continue to invite all to events related to International Women’s Day on March 8th. An invitation has been issued for an assembly on March 8th, 17th of Esfand, to renew commitment and to express support for elimination of discrimination and inequality and injustice against women, from 2 to 3 p.m. in front of the main gate of Iranian Parliament (Majles).

Kayhan and Obliteration of the Million Signature Campaign

Yesterday’s issue of Kayhan, attacked the One Million Signatures Campaign, which is a peaceful activity in support of law changes in the country, relating it to intelligence services of Holland and US, and announcing it an activity “fed by $57 million and €51 million budgets of Holland and US.” In another section, it unveiled plans against women.

Kayhan Newspaper, which in the case of other arrests had published pieces revealing interrogation questions of Information Ministry of Iran, as well as those of parallel intelligence organizations, has published unfounded accusations which have never been proven in any court of law.

Kayhan says: “The One Million Signatures Campaign, with the slogan of ‘Change for Equality’ began work six months ago, now forms the largest coalition among seculars, liberals, and atheists, and is a convergence to join rebels with those who claim to be reformists, and people like Simin Behbahani, Shirin Ebadi, Shahla Sherkat, Moniroo Ravanipoor, Farhad Aeesh, Jafar Panahi, Farideh Gheirat, and political activists such as Fatemeh Rakeii (Chair of Women’s Faction in Sixth Parliament), Zahra Eshraghi (Counsel of Women’s Affairs to Khatami’s Ministry of Interior), Zohreh Aghajari, Zahra Noori, Fakhrosadat Mohtashamipoor (Head of Mosharekat’s Committee on Women), Azar Mansouri (Deputy Chair of Mosharekat Party) were among them.”

While the unprecedented arrests of 33 social activists for women’s rights is considered total obliteration for the Campaign by Kayhan Newspaper, it continues: “In spite of this haphazard coalition, after six months of activity of this Campaign, and establishment of educational workshops by its principles, signs of the Campaign’s obliteration are apparent on the threshold of International Women’s Day (March 8th).”

This newspaper denies violent actions of the Police, and reports obliteration of the One Million Signatures Campaign, in an attempt to define the main objectives of the raid in between the lines. “After this gathering, opposition media, in their continued efforts to publish false news, have claimed that Police have been abusive in the face of this illegal congregation. With obliteration of the Campaign, and its turning into a ’50 Signatures Campaign!’ currently all opposition media, through aggrandizement of these individuals and discounting the decreasing forces of regime opposition, have planned a psychological warfare and news fabrication with the aim of confronting the people and the Police.”

Kayhan then attempts to drive an opposite meaning to the word “campaign,” saying: “Campaign means battle, attack, as well as non-military and publicity confrontation, and as the movement in this special news bulletin is recognized by the same name among anti-revolutionary groups, we decided not to use an equivalent Farsi word for it.” The article also attempts to tie activities of Iranian women towards achievement of their rights to individuals outside of Iran, in order to provide a foundation for intelligence organizations to retaliate with the named individuals.

(My piece published at Roozonline on Tuesday)

Update: Eight of the arrested women released on Monday. They Confirmed that the others are on a humnger strike.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Women’s Rights Activists Arrested on the Eve of the International Women’s Day

Islamic Republic’s security forces arrested dozens of Iranian women in front of a Tehran courthouse for protesting in support of five women activists on trial there. The five women, Sussan Tahmasebi, Parvin Ardalan, Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani, Fariba Davoudi Mohajer and Shahla Entesari are on trial in connection with a demonstration last June in support of women’s rights. Other than Fariba Davoudi Mohajer, who is visiting her son outside Iran, the activists have all been transferred Evin Prison’s infamous section 209.

Hadi Ghaemi, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, told Rooz, “Arrests of this kind are unprecedented and extremely concerning. They reflect very negatively on Iran’s international image.” In Ghaemi’s view, these arrests send “a warning to all human rights activists; an alarm for more forceful and hurried action on those activists who seek peaceful change,” and demonstrate “an utmost lack of tolerance by the regime towards civil society institutions and women’s rights activists.” Ghaemi adds, “The Human Rights Watch asks Iran to suspend its violation of Iranian and international law, because the regime cannot simply overlook the fact that the demands of Iranian women represent demands of half of the Iranian nation.” In no country in the world, civic elite and leaders of the society are arrested so wantonly and recklessly in one day.” Zanestan, a well known women’s website, several of whose contributors are among the arrested, published a new entry about the incident: “Contradictory news filter out of the Judiciary and the Police, without any clear direction, and this has worried many of those involved and the families of arrested individuals. Since 9:00 a.m. on Monday, many family members, lawyers, and women’s rights activists have gathered across from the Vozara Police Station, and are awaiting the release of the detained activists.” The standoff continued through midnight, with other women’s rights activists scheduled to gather today (Monday) near the Evin Prison to protest the arrests and find out about the fate of those arrested.

While various lists of names of those arrested have been published, Zanestan names the following individuals: Fatemeh Govaraee, Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh, Parastoo Dokoohaki, Nooshin Ahmadi Khorasani, Parvin Ardalan, Nahid Keshavarz, Sussan Tahmasebi, Niloofar Golkar, Maryam Mirza, Maryam Hosseinkhah, Nahid Jafari, Minoo Mortazi, Shahla Entesari, Azadeh Forghani, Jila Baniyaghoub, Mahboubeh Hosseinzadeh, Nahid Entesari, Asieh Amini, Shadi Sadr, Saghi Laghaee, Saghar Laghaee, Elnaz Ansari, Sara Imanian, Jelveh Javaheri, Zara Amjadian, Zeinab Peighambarzadeh, Nasrin Afzali, Mahnaz Mohammadi, Somayeh Farid, Farideh Entesari, Rezvan Moghaddam, Sara Loghmani.

However, a journalist in Tehran, who is following the arrests, told Rooz Online that Evin Prison has taken custody of 33 women. According to this source, authorities have told him that some of those arrested will be released tomorrow after preliminary investigations are completed. This means that some others may not be released until later.

Prominent activists like Parvin Ardalan, Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh, Jila Baniyaghoub, and Nooshin Ahmadi Khorasani are among those arrested. These women have been previously arrested in connection to their social and political activism. Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh was imprisoned by security forces for a month in 2006. Some of the people on the list, such as Sussan Tahmasebi, had their passports confiscated upon return from trips abroad. Parastoo Dokoohaki, Asieh Amini, Mahboubeh Hosseinzadeh, Nasrin Afzali, Maryam Mirza, and Maryam Hosseinkhah are well-known bloggers, dedicated to women’s issues. Like many other families, Dokoohaki’s relatives had no news about the condition of their kin.

During the protests of last July, more than 60 people were arrested. Most of them were released the following days, though Ali Akbar Moussavi Khoeiniha was imprisoned for five months. That gathering was held in protest to descriminatory gender laws in Iran, and took a violent turn after police forces intervened.

During yesterday’s peaceful gathering, 40 to 70 women’s rights activists carried placards reminding the court authorities that they, too, were present during the July protests. Their placards read: “Article 27 of Iranian Constitution provides us with the undeniable right to a peaceful gathering.”

Arrests Becoming a “Normal Routine”

A women’s rights activist who has requested anonymity, told Rooz that demonstrators had gathered to protest the continuous stream of arrests of the past year, which seems to be turning into a “normal routine” for the government. Recently, several women activists were arrested at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Airport while attempting to board a flight to India to attend a journalism workshop. According to this eyewitness, police officers attacked the women, broke their placards, and used insulting tones to threaten them to disperse or “be hanged from trees.” Some police officers repreatedly used insulting words.

Two small buses were dispatched to pick up the arrested individuals. According to various sources interviewed by Rooz, arrests were carried out through physical force. When the court session ended, the four women (Sussan Tahmasebi, Shahla Entesari, Parvin Ardalan, and Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani) left the court and objected to the way in which the protestors were being treated; hence they, too, were arrested. Everyone was then transferred to the Vozara Complex, a police complex dedicated to “fighting social corruption.”

The most violent treatment was handed to Nahid Jafari, whose head was rammed into the side of the bus, causing several of her teeth to break. The police ignored the requests of witnesses to call an ambulance to the scene.

Women Activists Speak Out With the upcoming International Women’s Day on March 8th, some prominent women’s rights activists, who were arrested during yesterday’s event, prepared a communiqué, expressing ttheir hope for the resolution of women’s rights issues in Iran.

“On the eve of March 8th, International Women’s Day, we, women’s rights activists, believe that trial of several activists is a sign of continued oppression against women. We condemn these policies and actions, and warn against the negative consequences of violently reacting to the peaceful civic activities of women. We re-emphasize the democratic and unignorable demands of the Iranian nation, specifically the women’s movement, and show solidarity with five women’s rights activists who have been brought to trial a few days before the International Women’s Day for the role they played in organizing the peaceful gathering of July 2nd in Hafte Tir Square (Shahla Entesari, Fariba Davoodi Mohajer, Parvin Ardalan, Nooshin Ahmadi Khorasani, and Sussan Tahmasebi). [We also support] all activists who have faced abuse, insult, and degradation overf the years; those who were beaten up, summoned, and interrogated (such as Jila Baniyaghoub, Delaram Ali, Alieh Eghdamdoost, Azadeh Forghani, Bahareh Hedayat, Nassim Soltanbeigi, Maryam Zia, Leila Mousazadeh, Fatemeh Haj Hosseini, Massoumeh Zia, and Farideh Farrahi, who were arrested or tried or awaiting trial for their participation in the July 2nd gathering), and those who were arrested and are awaiting trial (such as Talat Taghinia, Mansoureh Shojaee, and Farnaz Seifi, who were arrested at the airport while boarding a flight to attend an educational workshop in India). On Sunday, March 4th, at 8:30 a.m., we will show up in front of the Revolutionary Court (located on Shariati Avenue, Moallem Avenue) to protest the security-judicial confrontation against women’s peaceful civic activities to pursue their rights.”

In another part of this communiqué, the group says, “We feel the pressure of the international community on our shoulders, which is adding threatening us with sanctions and nightmares of war on a daily basis. We, a group of women’s rights activists, on the eve of the International Women’s Day on March 8th, announce our objection to all patriarchal policies, whether as an inappropriate interpretation of Islam, or in the name of human rights or democracy, and believe that the international community should instead focus upon instituting democracy and human rights, not nuclear power. The latter issue must be solved through diplomatic dialogue, not war and destruction.”

An Eye Witness Account

An eyewitness, who was present at the protest, wrote about her experience on “Zanan-e Solh” [Women of Peace] website. “After picking up the placards, police officers and plain-clothed vigilantes began showing up gradually. Police officers approached us and asked us to leave because we didn’t have a permit. One of the participants told them that, based on the Constitution, peaceful gatherings do not require a permit. They started arguing that our presence disrupted the traffic and things got heated. Then Colonel […] began tearing apart the placards and hitting people with his radio…. Colonel […], who had gained more confidence with the addition of new forces, shouted, ‘hurry up, go get lost!’ and attacked the crowd. The people moved to the sidewalk but did not leave. Another colonel, who was more polite, asked us to walk on the sidewalk instead of standing around; but our friends were smarter than that.”

“If they had walked,” she continues, “it would have become a ‘demonstration,’ and the police would have found a legal excuse to arrest us. Then the mean colonel started threatening us, saying that if you don’t leave I will dispatch the buses to come take you slimes away. In the next attack of the colonel and his forces, some of our friends were separated from the rest. Their separation caused them to be pushed onto the street. Our remaining friends (about 40) decided to sit on the ground next to each other. Our separated friends went to the top of the street and several police officers were assigned to avoid them from joining our group. The rest of us just sat there. Slowly there were more and more plain-clothes officers. Two white vans (the same as the ones used in the July 2nd arrests) arrived at the Revolutionary Court building and waited there. About 11 a.m. Shadi Sadr, Nooshin Ahmadi, Parvin Ardalan, and Sussan Tahmasbi left the court building. As soon as they walked out, and the plain-clothed man arrived, it appeared that the ‘order’ was received.”

“The police,” she continues, “used force to pick up and shove those who were sitting into the two vans and drove them away. First, it was announced that they were taken to Vali-e-Asr Army Base, but they weren’t there. Those who had cellular phones called others. Jila said it is really hot in the van and they are suffocating. Twenty adults were shoved into a van. Someone else said that they are just aimlessly driving on the streets. It was almost 1 p.m. when it became clear that they had been taken to Vozara. Mahboubeh said ‘they are keeping us in the courtyard of Vozara Monkarat.’ Finally, half an hour later they told us in their last telephone call that they were being ‘delivered.’ ‘We are 36,’ they said. It was Sunday, February 4th, at 1 p.m.”

The Court Proceedings

All of this was heppening while the court was reviewing charges against Nooshin Ahmadi, Parvin Ardalan, Sussan Tahmasebi, and Shahla Entesari at the Sixth Branch of the Revolutionary Court. They were accused of undermining national security and participating in an illegal gathering. Mohammad Sharif, Nasrin Sotoudeh, and Mohammad Dadkhah were their attorneys.

Mohammad Sharif, Fariba Davoodi Mohajer’s lawyer, who is one of the primary individuals accused in the July 2nd case, told ILNA: “As my client had left the country for a familial visit prior to being served the court summons, I have requested a re-scheduling of her court date, and the Judge will need to make a decision about that. Nevertheless, I delivered my power of attorney to the court on March 1st and requested to review the file, but the Sixth Branch of the Revolutionary Court advised me that in addition to my power of attorney, we had to present the Court with a separate contract between myself and my client. Since such a contract does not exist between myself and Ms. Davoodi Mohajer, and the Court insisted on having this document, I could not access the case file. It is, therefore, unknown to me on what basis the charges have been made.”

Sharif further explained that as he could not review the file, he could not defend his client. He said his client is accused of “publicity against the regime,” and “congregation and collusion to commit a crime against national security.” He said he hopes the Court will grant a permission to reschedule and waive the requirement for a separate contract between him and his client, in view of the fact that he has not been able to review the case file. He said he hopes to be able to defend his client at a later court meeting.

Nasrin Sotoudeh, attorney for Parvin Ardalan and Nooshin Ahmadi, others accused in this case, told ILNA, “the court session was held in absence of my clients, as they were arrested in the gathering outside the Court.” Sotoudeh said that Ms. Ebadi’s deposition in support of the accused activists wa presented to the court on Sunday. “I and Leila Karami, another attorney on the case, delivered our verbal defense. The defense’s closing argument regarding Nooshin Ahmadi’s case was heard by the Court, and since we have not been able to review the case file, we requested a re-scheduling.”

Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, attorney for Sussan Tahmasebi, another individual charged in this case, said, “in this session, the charges against my client were read, and we presented our defense against the charges. We also submitted our closing arguments.” He said that the charges lacked legal foundation and said: “Since, according to our Constitution, peaceful gatherings are allowed, these charges lack legal legitimacy.”

Many analysts believe that the arrests are related to the approaching International Women’s Day on March 8. They recall that, in recent years, the regime has been very sensitive about celebrating the women’s day in Iran, and has exerted a great deal of pressure on women’s right activists to prohibit them from organizing demonstrations. They believe that some of the arrested women will be kept and monitored in prison until after March 8.

Update: We felt we should support all those who were arrested, summoned, or interrogated recently

Sunday- In an interview with BBC Persian, Mansoureh Shojaee, journalist and women’s rights activist in Tehran was interviewed. The gathering was in protest to the trial of five other Iranian women’s rights activists, Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani, Parvin Ardalan, Shahla Entesari, Fariba Davoodi Mohajer, and Sussan Tahmasebi, who were arrested in Tehran in June in a gathering in Tehran’s Hafte-Tir Square. Different sources report the number of arrested to be more than 30. It is reported that some of the protestors were beaten by security officers during their arrest and transfer to holding stations.

The arrests take place a few days shy of March 8th, the International Women’s Day. Mansoureh Shojaee, a women’s rights activist who was present during the gathering was interviewed.

Ms. Shojaee said: “Pursuant to a communiqué several women’s rights groups organized together, in order to show our support for the five women who were to be tried today, we gathered together. Their court date was scheduled at the threshold of March 8th, and we felt we should support all those who were arrested, summoned, or interrogated recently We were supposed to get together at 8:30 a.m. this morning in front of Revolutionary Court on Moallem Avenue. The five women went in. The police came and asked us to disperse. Our friends had placards. They tried to disperse us. But we didn’t disperse. We went and sat on the pavement. While sitting on the pavement, the police engaged with the group again. They kept telling us to get up and go. They said ‘why are you sitting here?’ Then vehicles were brought in and they started arresting some of us. The rest of us are now here, in front of Vozara [complex], waiting to see when they will release our friends.”

Asked by the BBC interviewer whether those arrested were chanting slogans or doing anything disorderly, Ms. Shojaee said:
“No. No. No. No. No slogans were chanted. Only the placards in our friends’ hands which said that according to Article 27 of Iranian Constitution, a gathering is our right. This was the most prominent slogan on the placards. No one, no one was chanting slogans. There was no noise. Everybody was sitting on the pavement. There was no ‘incident.’ It all happened in one moment. First they verbally abused the group, and then they beat them up. One of our friends’ teeth are broken. Mrs. Shadfar, a 67-year old woman received such a blow to her back, that she can’t straighten up now.”

The interviewer asked Ms. Shojaee how she knew where the arrested individuals were taken. She said:

“They pushed those arrested into a small bus and several large vans and took them. Since many of them had cellular phones [which as yet had not been confiscated], they managed to call and tell us the roads they were taking, and we followed them here. From what we know, we have 33-34 names of those who were arrested. Families of those arrested are gathering one by one, and now we understand that there might be 38-40 people arrested. All the families are here now. We are going to sit here until we know the fate of our friends.”
Photo: Arash Ashoorinia's Website, Kosoof