Thursday, May 28, 2009

Human Rights: Ba-Humbug?

The mixed up muddled up shook up world of Human Rights politics

In oppositional politics, there are different ways of arriving at 'what is to be done', both practically and theoretically. In the U.S., one frequently practiced method is to watch the mouths of the imperialists and their ideologues and wait for them to say something or make some declaration, and then say the exact opposite and call that an anti-imperialist position; analysis is then retrofitted to justify the position.

The other way is to start from principles, observe the changes in reality, study the history of the social forces involved in those changes, and derive your own positions and demands, based on where you stand in the course of your struggles.

A lot of alarms have been ringing for the past four or five years, regarding interventionist strategies taken up by imperialist planners, in which under the guise of 'democracy building', truer aims of the American power elites (regime change where needed) are furthered by the CIA or any of the sixteen assorted intelligence agencies run by the U.S. (see: The Burbank Digest, for exposes on these people, especially George Soros, like this one on Moldova).

Large sums of money have been and are being spent on creating seemingly spontaneously grown citizens' organizations that shape and give direction to dissent among the populations over-lorded by governments not liked by the U.S. Such 'revolutions' as the 2003 Rose Revolution in Georgia, the 2005 Orange Revolution in Ukraine, or the 2005 Cedar Revolution in Lebanon -- are sighted as examples of this 'democracy movement' type of moving of pieces by imperialist game planners. It is natural that, in these half-covert operations, human rights are used as a wedge issue.

Because of this push by the right into the discursive and practical area of 'human rights', some western leftists have abandoned this area of advocacy when it comes to countries they perceive as being under attack by the imperialists, and therefore most talk of human rights violations in such countries has become taboo, since it allegedly paves the way for the continuation of the imperialist interventions, and subjugation of more natives around the world.

Leaving aside the unjustifiable presuppositions of such a stance, this position completely yields, uncontested, a major domain of class conflict to the dictates of the right wing ideologues, and leaves it completely up to the right wing fanatics to frame this issue. Though it seems easy to forget, it is important to bear in mind that most of the 'natives' have been living under brutal social conditions for a long time, otherwise imperialists would never be able to exploit their misery in the first place (and here I am talking about places where supposedly the imperialists are not the direct and immediate over-lords).

Ironically, the more militant members of what I call the 'Human Rights? Ba-Humbug!' faction, actually fight most vehemently against the advocates of human rights in countries like Iran! So we have a situation where Iranian secularists -- secular liberals, democrats and radical democrats, social democrats and socialists, supporters of student activists, labor and women's rights activists, and all others -- who for the past thirty years have been fighting for more rights in Iran, not only have a medieval theocratic setup with vast oppressive capabilities to fight, but now have the western leftists to fight as well!

This effectively amounts to the first ever anti-solidarity movement I know of, sort of launched by the western left! (It's only 'sort of', since none dares give it formal expression!) An innovation in 'socialist' surrealism!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Students Tortured, Beaten to “Fabricate Evidence”

From International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

Detained Students Tortured and Beaten to “Fabricate Evidence”

Intelligence Officials Halt Release of Detainees/ (photo: Mehdi Mashayekhi, left, and Abbas Hakimzadeh)

(26 May 2009) Six students from Amir Kabir University who have been released on bail following a group of student detentions on 5 February and 24 February, have reported being harshly interrogated, beaten over long periods of time, and tortured in an effort to force them to confess to illegal activities.

They were coerced to confess to relations with the United States, Israel, and the Mojahedin (MEK) opposition group, which was formerly an armed group considered a terrorist organization, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

Three students remain in detention. Abbas Hakimzadeh and Mehdi Mashayekhi remain in prison on intelligence officials’ orders and are reportedly in dire condition, while no information has emerged about Masoud Dehghan.

“No one can accept that innocent students acting within their internationally protected rights have been illegally arrested, detained, ill-treated, and tortured in an effort to extract confessions of major national security crimes,” said Aaron Rhodes, a spokesman for the Campaign.

“These students have been denied access to legal counsel, and intelligence officials have interfered with the process. The Iranian state and the responsible officials must be held accountable for the health and safety of these young people,” he added.

The mother of Abbas Hakimzadeh, who was allowed to visit him twice in the past 10 days, told the Campaign that her son had been tortured and beaten and was in poor physical and psychological health. Hakimzadeh suffers from a spinal problem and had an operation before he was arrested and also has a speech impediment. According to his mother, he was unable to communicate at all due to ill-treatment he had suffered. He remains in solitary confinement in ward 209 of Evin prison, where he continues to be interrogated.

The Campaign has also received reports that Mehdi Mashayekhi, also still in detention, is suffering from psychological problems as a result of being ill-treated.

Read complete report here ...

Friday, May 22, 2009

Remembering Omid Reza: The March 18 Movement

Found at Uruknet.

Let the first blogger to die in prison be the last
The March 18 Movement

The March 18 Movement was born out of a tragedy. On this day in 2009, Omid Reza Mir Sayafi, Iranian blogger and journalist, died in Evin Prison in Tehran. The December before his death, he was sentenced to two and half years in prison for allegedly insulting religious leaders, and engaging in "propaganda" against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Omid Reza was the first blogger to die in prison and his death reveals that getting censored is far from the worst thing that can happen to a blogger.

The irony is that, as more members of both the public and the media praise the ability of bloggers to inform, the more these de facto journalists around the globe become victims in fact. The March 18 Movement aims not only to make sure that Omid Reza is remembered, but also that other persecuted bloggers around the world do not disappear into interrogation rooms and prison cells. The March 18 Movement would like to become a voice for bloggers everywhere who are in risk of being crushed under the heavy machinery of repression.

This day, in memorial to Omid Reza, is dedicated to all bloggers around the world who run real risks simply to tell the truth as they see it. The March 18 Movement seeks to actively expand our sense of self to encompass those of us who are in danger and to extend the protections normally accorded to journalists to all those who spend their time and intellectual capital in sharing information about our world.

Spread the Word/original source here ...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Saberi is freed: How about the others?

The case of Roxana Saberi attracted international attention as a cause célèbre for free-speech rights activists around the world: the photogenic Iranian-American freelance journalist working for BBC and NPR, who had worked in Iran for the six years prior to her arrest in January, and who famously celebrated her 32nd birthday in prison recently, while serving an eight year sentence for espionage charges handed her after an hour-long closed-door 'trial'. Saberi has now been freed, after an appeals court suspended her sentence on Sunday, May 10.

My own guess was that Saberi would be released as a 'show of good will', and as it turned out, she was released on May 11, and her release was called by Obama a 'humanitarian gesture'.

There are, however, plenty of other cases that have not received their deserved international attention. The case of Hossein Derakhshan, for example, is equally indicative of how politicized the Iranian judiciary is. Derakhshan is known as the 'godfather of blogging in Iran' (under the blogger name, Hoder). His politics is pretty much aligned with the reformists' platform, though he has also written approvingly of Ahmadinejad's policies (see his blog: 

Yet, he has been in detention since November 2008. The charge against him is quite an unfounded one of spying for Israel. The apparent reason for his being in prison is a trip to Israel in 2006 on his Canadian passport, to build 'people-to-people' understanding between the two countries, a trip used by the authorities as the excuse to bring the espionage charges. It must be said that additional motivation for bringing such absurd charges against him could have been provided by Derakhshan's ideas for some very mild reforms for more free expression than currently allowed, and his gentler criticisms of the wilder aspects of the theocratic-obsessive policies of the state.
*  *  *

In light of the international attention being paid to Roxana Saberi's case, we must use this moment of attentiveness to bring to the attention of the international community the plight of other political prisoners in Iran, and point to the general poverty of the judicial conditions there.

To the Iranian authorities: In this spring of renewals, why not free ALL political prisoners?

I) Women's Rights Activists
Free imprisoned 'One Million Signatures' campaigners!
According to Change for Equality (see here), "Nearly 900 women’s rights and civil society activists have signed a petition requesting the judiciary to immediately and unconditionally release Khadijeh Moghaddam and Mahboubeh Karami and drop the charges against all the 12 activists arrested on March 26th, while meeting up on a street corner to go for visits of the late Dr. Zahra Baniyaghoob’s family, on the occasion of the Iranian New Year."

Further, Change for Equality states: "Twelve women’s rights activists were arrested on March 26, 2009, on Sohrevardi Avenue in Tehran, while meeting up to go for New Years visits of families of imprisoned social and political activists. Ten of those arrested are members of the One Million Signatures Campaign. The Campaign members arrested are: Delaram Ali, Leila Nazari, Khadijeh Moghaddam, Farkhondeh Ehtesabian, Mahboubeh Karami, Baharah Behravan, Ali Abdi, Amir Rashidi, Mohammad Shourab, and Arash Nasiri Eghbali. Also, Soraya Yousefi and Shahla Forouzanfar were arrested."

We also urge action on the cases of Ronak Safazadeh (see here) and Parvin Ardalan (see here).

II) Labor Rights Activists
Free Osanloo!
(also, see his bio at:

Further, besides Mansour Osanloo, the following are either in detention or else their cases are still pending, meaning they are subject to random state harassment:

1) Labor unionists associated with Haft-Tapeh Sugar Cane Co. Syndicate: Jalil Ahmadi, Fereydoon Nikoofar, Ali Nejati (released on bail, but 'case still pending'), Ghorban Alipoor and Mohammad Heidarimehr. (see, in Farsi only:

2) Labor unionists associated with Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers' Organizations: Ghaleb Hosseini and Abdullah Khani (held in Sanandaj Central Prison after being arrested for participating in activities, including strikes, on the occasion of May 1st of 2008). (see:

III) Student Activists
Free jailed university student activists!

As announced by Amnesty International, on 1 April 2009, urgent action was called on the Iranian government to ensure that Nasim Roshana’i, Maryam Sheikh and Mohammad Pour-Abdollah [all university student activists in Tehran's Evin prison] are protected against torture or other ill-treatment and are allowed immediate access to their family, legal representation and any medical attention that they may require." (see:
(see AI's appeal here)

Also of concern is the fate of the following: Alireza Davoudi, Amin Ghazaei, Shabnam Madadzadeh (all university students in Tehran).

Other students unjustly detained, according to AI: Esmail Salmanpour, Majid Tavakkoli, Hossein Tarkashvand, Kourosh Daneshyar, Mehdi Mashayekhi, Nariman Mostafavi, Ahmad Ghasaban, Abbas Hakimzadeh, and Yasser Torkaman.

* * *
Iranian President
His Excellency Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, The Presidency
Palestine Avenue, Azerbaijan Intersection
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Salutation: Your Excellency

Iranian Head of the Judiciary
Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi
Howzeh Riyasat-e Qoveh Qazaiyeh / Office of the Head of the Judiciary
Pasteur St., Vali Asr Ave., south of Serah-e Jomhouri
Tehran 1316814737, Islamic Republic of Iran
Email: the subject line write: FAO Ayatollah Shahroudi)
Salutation: Your Excellency

Related ... 

Thursday, May 7, 2009

US: No regime change in Iran

"And I say unto you, you kooky Newt: No, we can't!"

US in no mood for regime change in Iran
May 7, 2009

Press TV - Political heavyweights in Washington say they no longer seek a "regime change" in Iran, urging the country to begin engagement with the US in earnest.

Two days after former US House speaker, Newt Gingrich, openly advocated regime change in Iran in an address to the 2009 AIPAC policy conference, Senator John Kerry, a Democrat, said that Washington is not in a 'regime change mode'.

"Our efforts must be reciprocated by the other side: Just as we abandon calls for regime change in Tehran and recognize a legitimate Iranian role in the region, Iran's leaders must moderate their behavior and that of their proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas," said Kerry, who currently chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Kerry said his panel would release a report this week on Iran's nuclear issue, which would underline the need for diplomacy backed by the threat of tougher sanctions.

Former top US negotiator, Nicholas Burns, backed Kerry's remarks, saying that decades-long attempts to isolate Iran and topple the Tehran government had "not worked".

"I think it would be helpful if the American administration was to say overtly and clearly that [regime change] is not our policy," said Burns, who served as the number three official in the US State Department under the Bush administration.

He, however, warned that Iran should expect harsher sanctions, if it goes on with its uranium enrichment activities.

Israel and its Western allies accuse Tehran of developing nuclear weapons -- a charge rejected by Iran.

Burns rejected the notion of a military attack on Iran, saying that Washington has learned the hard way that war has "unintended consequences".

"We learned in Iraq that sometimes when you start a war you don't know where it's going to end, and that's certainly the case with Iran," he said.

Iran-US back-channel deal on natural gas

First spotted on Uruknet, from Gerson Lehrman Group (a consulting firm).

Back-channel discussions between the United States and Iran show agreement on southern export terminus for Iranian natural gas sales free of Russian pipeline dominance
May 6, 2009

US and Iran agree to cooperate in how Iranian gas exports will be made available to western markets

It is a new gesture and one that has been on close hold for some time. It was likely given added impetus owing to the Saturday announcement by the respective governments of Abkhazia and south Ossetia requesting for the presence of and endorsing the use of Russian Border troops to patrol inside their nation's borders. These troops are the legacy of the old KGB border troops wearing the distinctive green and blue peaked caps. They are now under the control of the KGB successor force FSB. Their significance is that they receive similar training as Russian Alpha troops and Spetznaz special force units. This development is a worrisome sign of an already tense bilateral relationship between Georgia and Russia.

Following the two week war last August the Russian's annexed the former Georgian loading port at Poti on the Black Sea and have built a major ongoing naval presence there that now forces Georgia to export crude oil transiting its borders from Kazakhstan Azerbaijan as well as natural gas via Turkmenistan and the other former CIS "stans" via the terminus at Tuapse. BP, the operator of the pipeline allowing for crude oil transit from Chevron's Kazakhstan and other producers in Azerbaijan was forced to shut the line down for almost three weeks last August. In another parlous development twelve people were murdered last Friday at the Oil Academy in Baku by forces yet unknown- but who may have been contracted by the Russian "organs" for some wet work to stir up the pot so to speak. Far from harmonic the convergence of these events perhaps led the USG to speed up its announcement of favoring Tehran's use of the Nabucco outlet which, as I understand it, was on the agenda of the ongoing backroom discussions between the USG and RGI. Certainly a nod in this direction is favorable to US interests in the G2K region, as the Russian's used the Georgian conflict to steal a march on its real coup- that being the Assad government in Damascus rush to grant Russia a permanent naval facility for the Russian Navy at Banias and Tartous.

Read the complete analysis here ...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Iran: Teacher unionist detained after National Teachers’ Day

From Education International.

Iran: Teacher unionist detained after National Teachers’ Day demonstration

Shortly after the May Day crackdown on Iranian workers’ rallies, teachers organised gatherings to celebrate National Teachers’ Day on 4 May. The teacher association TTA invited members to gather in front of the Education Ministry in Tehran and in front of the Education Department offices in the provinces.

The meeting in Tehran started at 1pm with more than 100 teachers present. Before the gathering, police officers in plain clothes and in uniform patrolled the area, attempting to compel teachers to leave. When teachers resisted, the police assaulted and beat them. The police tried to arrest teachers, but they resisted.

Eventually, the police managed to arrest Rasoul Bodaghi, a member of the TTA in Tehran. He was transferred to the Revolutionary Court on 5 May. Bodaghi had been detained in 2007 and sentenced to a two-year suspended prison term after his participation in teachers’ protests. At that time he was held for 16 days in solitary confinement and was released on bail. He also suffered a one grade demotion and a deduction of salary. This latest arrest within the two-year suspension means that he is automatically detained.

Teachers’ gatherings in some provinces were also violently dispersed but the full news has not yet reached EI.

During May Day rallies, independent trade unionists and labour rights activists faced heavy repression by security forces. About 130 women and men were arrested and are currently still incarcerated in section 204 of Tehran’s Evin Prison. EI has protested the arrests of independent trade unionists in Iran.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Iranian Activists Detained on May Day

From Payvand Iran News.

More Than 100 Iranian Activists Detained In Tehran on May 1st
by Golnaz Esfandiari/May 4, 2009
(photo: Jelveh Javaheri, one of the detained)

More than 100 Iranian labor activists and several members of the One Million Signatures Campaign against discriminatory laws were detained in Tehran on May 1 as they gathered in the city's Laleh Park to mark International Workers' Day.

Witnesses told RFE/RL that police violently attacked activists and workers who had gathered at the park and detained them even before they had started protesting.

Among the detainees is women's rights activist Jelveh Javaheri, whose husband, Kaveh Mozafari, was also detained at Laleh Park.

Javaheri was detained at the couple's home. Security forces searched the house, confiscated personal files and computers, and took Javaheri with them.

According to Javaheri's mother, authorities have set a high bail for her release. She said her daughter has not been able to make the payment.

The daughter of another activist, Maryam Mohseni, who was also detained at Laleh Park, said that her mother is being held at Tehran's Evin prison. She said her mother has been fighting for May Day celebrations to be allowed in Iran for the past 20 years.

Charges against the detainees are not clear.

The families have called on authorities to release their loved ones without any conditions.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Delara Darabi, Juvenile Offender, Executed

From Int'l Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

Delara Darabi, Juvenile Offender, Executed in Rasht
May 1, 2009

Delara Darabi, who was charged at the age of 17 with murder, was executed today in Rasht. Darabi was 22 years old. Authorities did not inform her lawyer, Abdolsamad Khorramshahi, that her execution was being carried out. According to Iranian law, lawyers must be given 48 hours notice of impending executions.

“The execution of Delara Darabi is an affront to human rights values and is in bold violation of Iran’s obligations with respect to international rights standards and covenants,” said Aaron Rhodes, a spokesperson for the Campaign. “What is more, her rights were trampled in an unfair trial.”

Darabi confessed to the murder of her father’s cousin to protect her friend, who assured her she would not be executed because she was a minor. Her trial and appeals have been riddled with complications and her case was sent back to Rasht by the Iranian Judiciary for review. Her father, in a taped interview, said that when he handed Delara over to police, he placed his trust in the judicial system. “I truly thought there would be some sort of justice,” he said.

Darabi’s execution was scheduled to be carried out on 20 April, but her lawyer was able to postpone it because relatives of the victim were not going to be present. It is not known whether family members were present today at her execution.

“The continuing barbarity of juvenile executions is a debasement of the rights of juveniles and all the people of Iran, and is an obstacle to Iran’s international relations,” added Rhodes. “The practice needs to be outlawed, in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, of which Iran is a party.”

Read the complete report here ...

Iran: Labor Activists Attacked, Detained

From International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran

Security Forces Violently Attack and Detain Labor Rights Activists Observing May Day
May 1, 2009

Security and police forces violently attacked Iranian workers as they gathered in Laleh Park in Tehran to observe International Workers’ Day on May 1st, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reported. The demonstration had been called by ten independent labor organizations. According to information received by the Campaign more than 100 persons were arrested, and citizens not participating in the attempted May Day observance were among those beaten.

“These brutal and deplorable attacks are emblematic of the Iranian government’s utter contempt for workers and for the state’s international obligations to protect worker’s rights,” stated Hadi Ghaemi, spokesperson for the Campaign.

An eyewitness to the events in Tehran told the Campaign that she saw five police vans full of arrested people. She described the attack as follows:

“It was about 5 pm. Many people were in the Park. Usually on Fridays the park is crowded. Many people were walking around the fountain where the gathering was supposed to be held at 6pm. Without warning, two vans parked and plain-clothes agents came out of them and started to arrest people. Suddenly, I heard the call, “Long live the labor movement!” Two more vans came, and agents attacked and arrested people. As people resisted, they were beaten with batons and punched and kicked. The attack took 15 minutes after which people walked away because the park was full of security agents who would arrest anyone near the fountain.”

One of the detainees reported by cell phone from the police station in Vesal that more than 100 persons had been arrested.

Citizens detained in the incident have been transferred to different police stations and detention centers. According to the Iran Free Trade Union website, some of the well-known labor activists detained include Jafar Azimzadeh, Shahpour Ehsanirad, Maryam Mohseni and Behrouz Khabazzadeh. Other sources and eyewitnesses reported that seven members of the Association to Defend Child Workers are among detainees.

Read the complete report here ...

Friday, May 1, 2009

Happy May Day!

(Poster calling for May 1st marches/rallies, from here)

From U.S. Labor Against the War/April 29th, 2009.

May Day Greetings to the Workers and Labor Movement of Iraq

Sisters and Brothers in the Struggle for a Better World:

On behalf of the 187 labor organizations affiliated with U.S. Labor Against the War and the millions of union members they represent, we extend our warmest fraternal May Day greeting. We are proud to stand with you in a common struggle for peace, social justice, dignity and human rights for all people.

On a day in which the working people of the world celebrate their struggles for dignity, fair treatment, jobs at decent wages, and justice at work, we must take note that for most Iraqi workers these fundamental rights remain out of reach. Such basic needs as clean water, reliable electricity, decent housing, jobs, healthcare and education are still unmet. For a growing number of workers in our own country, these basic rights also can no longer be taken for granted.

We also recognize, that for the working people of both our countries, no serious progress toward meeting these needs can be made so long was billions of dollars are squandered on militarism, war and an occupation that makes impossible the restoration of real sovereignty to the people of Iraq while it continues to destroy lives and the livelihoods of the working people of both our countries.

Last November, the American people voted overwhelmingly for peace and for an end to military occupation and conquest. President Obama campaigned on a promise to end the military occupation of Iraq. We intend to hold him to that promise. On this day dedicated to the struggles and accomplishments of the international working class, we recommit ourselves to end the occupation of your country. The funds now spent on bases, weapons and troops should be used to rebuild Iraq under the direction and control of the Iraqi people, and to meet the basic needs of working people of both our countries.

We also share a common struggle for basic labor rights. We know that no real democracy can exist where workers are not free to organize, bargain and strike when necessary in defense of their interests. We support your demand that the Iraqi government speedily adopt a basic labor law that complies with international standards, including the right to freely organize and join unions of the worker's choice, free of all government interference.

And we shall continue to support your struggle to prevent privatization of Iraq’s basic resources, foremost its oil and gas, and its essential public services and industries. No decisions regarding the long term development of Iraq's energy industry should be made until full sovereignty and self-determination for the Iraqi people have been restored.

We salute your courage and your resistance to injustice. Your movement is an inspiration to us and to working people all around the world.

Long live the Iraqi labor movement!

The Officers and Steering Committee of
U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW)