Arseh Sevom — Prison furloughs have been given to a number of prisoners of conscience even as Sakharov Prize winner Nasrin Sotoudeh was called back to prison after just three days. Public executions spark debate. Iranian State Television airs an “exposé” of CIA spying. Parliament debates restricting foreign travel for all women under 40 while the continuing house arrest of former presidential candidates is called into question. Finally the Iranian Coalition for Peace reaches out to President Obama.
Brief Furlough for Nasrin Sotoudeh: Three Days
Human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh was temporarily released from prison, The Guardian [en] reports. It was her first furlough since she was jailed in September 2010.
The award-winner lawyer caused anger among authorities after representing several political activists in recent years and highlighting the execution of juveniles in Iran. Many believe it was her specific representation for Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian Nobel peace prize laureate who is living in exile, that upset the Iranian authorities the most. She was arrested in September 2010 and initially sentenced to 11 years in jail for “propaganda against the regime” and “acting against national security,” but an appeals court later reduced it to six years, which she is serving in Evin Prison.
As International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran [en] reports, Sotoudeh returned to prison on Monday, January 21, after just three days. Authorities had earlier told Sotoudeh and her family that the furlough would be a long one. After publication of news on Sotoudeh’s temporary release, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesman Rupert Colville said: “We hope that the temporary leave will be extended and that Ms. Sotoudeh will soon be indefinitely released”; the same hope her family had before she left her children with tearful eyes.
Several other political prisoners have also been released on furlough over the past few days, including student activist Bahareh Hedayat; journalists Bahman Ahmadi Amouee, Ahmad Zeidabadi, Mahsa Amrabadi, and Massoud Bastani, and lawyer Mohammad Ali Dadkhah.
Public Execution: A Ceremony to Watch
Despite criticism and campaigns, Iranian authorities deliberately conducted public executions of two young men involved in a mugging that was caught on video about 50 days earlier. On Sunday, Fars News Agency [fa] reported of two men being publically executed in Artist Park (Park-e-Honarmandan) in downtown Tehran.
The video of the mugging had been posted on social-networking websites with criticism of the police for not acting to prevent crime. In a break from Iranian criminal law, the two men were tried in revolutionary court. They faced Judge Salavati who has become known as the hanging judge in Iran. The two men were convicted of the crime of moharebeh (waging war against God).
There were around 100 onlookers watching the hanging process. New York Times journalist Thomas Erbrink was one. He wrote:
Mr. Mafiha, in tears, laid his head on the shoulder of one of the executioners, who placed his arm around him. After the nooses were placed around their necks, both men were pulled up by the two cranes. They died silently as many in the crowd shouted in protest, while others used smartphone cameras to record the scene.
“This is not fair,” said one young man, crying loudly while being dragged away by another friend. “If they hadn’t been caught on camera this would have never happened to them.”
In a similar event, on Wednesday, January 16, a man charged with rape was executed in public in the city of Sabzevar in Khorasan Province. The venue used fwas the Sabzevar Sports Complex. Hundreds of “spectators” attended the public hanging, women included. The question on the minds of many in Iran is why it is acceptable for women to attend a public execution but not an actual sports event?
There have been a number of arguments against public execution, such as the negative effects on the mental health of onlookers and a likely increase in the general level of violence in society. Yet, as Radio Zamaneh [fa] reports, some parliament representatives still support public execution.
Hooman Askary has the response from netizens at Global Voices.
Meanwhile Arseh Sevom has joined a group of 30 organizations calling for a halt to the execution of five Ahwazi Arabs who are being persecuted because of their dissent. Read the statement here.
Spy Games: The Hunter in the Trap
Bashgah-e Khabarnegaran [fa] and Fars News Agency [fa] were among the news websites reporting on the broadcast by Iranian state television of the film “The Hunter in the Trap.” The film described the process of capturing alleged “CIA spies” by the intelligence services. The fact that the story was reproduced virtually verbatim on numerous websites is indicative that it has most likely been circulated by the Ministry of Intelligence itself, Al-Monitor [en] suggests.
Several foreign nationals are named in the film. One of these men, a Czech citizen named “Matti Valuk,” claims that he was hired by a front company used by the CIA for intelligence gathering inside Iran in 2009.
At the end of the documentary, the man called Valuk says that he is regretful if he placed any Iranian in danger as a result of his cooperation with the CIA. At a recent event Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the head of Revolutionary Guards, stated:
“We are committed by all possible means to preserve the accomplishments of the regime and the revolution, we are ever watchful as we move forward on this path toward a brighter tomorrow.”
The film might be in response to the recent US government study on Iran’s intelligence ministry that claimed an exaggerated figure of 30,000 employed by the ministry. After much criticism, that report has been now been pulled for revision.
In the five months left before the next presidential election, it is likely we’ll be seeing more claims of western spies on Iran’s state television. You can view the video on Youtube.
Wanna Travel Abroad? What’s Your Gender?!
In November 2012, Arseh Sevom reported on a bill that would restrict reavel for women. This is getting attention again because it has now left the committee. RFE/RL [en] reports that after much criticism a small change has been made allowing women to get passports without permission. They still wouldn’t be allowed to leave the country without consent of their father or guardian, ISNA reports. Furthermore, a woman’s passport may be confiscated if her guardian changes his mind and opposes her travels abroad. Therefore, the potential confiscation of women’s passport is a new limitation.
Mousavi and Karroubi: Time to End the House Arrest
Leaders of the Green Movement, Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and Zahra Rahnavard have been in house arrest since February 2011. Now, the three are back in spotlight ahead of the next presidential election to be held in June 2013.
Recently, The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) asked the Iranian government to release them. The working group stated that the government has held the opposition leaders without charges or a trial and so “violated international human rights law [and] also Iranian laws.”
As Radio Zamaneh [fa] reports, a representative in Iran’s parliament Ali Motahhari stated that Mousavi and Karroubi should be given the right to speak in an open court and explain the truth:
“If Mousavi and Karroubi are convicted, then the Guardian Council must decide how someone who served as the prime minister for eight years and another who was speaker of parliament in two parliaments turned out this way… they must be heard and judged.”
Habibollah Askar Oladi, a senior Iranian politician, stated multiple times in previous weeks that he does not consider Mousavi and Karroubi as “leaders of sedition,” Iran Emrooz [fa] reports. These statements have caused different responses among authorities. We should wait and see if anything new happens to Mousavi, Karroubi, and Rahnavard before the next elections.
Delicate Attempts to Get Medicine to Iran
Sanctions have had serious effects on a number of Iranian patients. They are in need for life-saving drugs and sanctions are not helping them. Arseh Sevom has discussed the issue earlier, and the effects continue.
In a humanistic and artistic attempt, Canadian and Iranian Coalition for Peace addresses the problem. Watch the video here.
Do your part to lift the pain of sanctions on Iranian families.
Dear Catherine Ashton:
We, the undersigned, are concerned about the effects the implementation of sanctions are having on average Iranians. We are particularly concerned that items that are not sanctioned, such as medication and humanitarian goods are not reaching the people in Iran.
This is a time of great suffering in the region. We want to ensure that we are not further contributing to the suffering because of the denial of access to a payment channel for humanitarian items. We know the intention of the sanctions is to put pressure on Iran’s ruling elite. We worry that this is not the reality.
The brunt of the suffering falls on women and children and the most vulnerable in society. They suffer the consequences in very real ways. They lose their incomes, their homes, and their access to life-saving medication. Some of this suffering can be alleviated by facilitating the seamless implementation of the existing humanitarian exemptions. These include financial transactions related to medications, basic needs, and other items that are currently not sanctioned.
We ask the European Union to create a payment channel to accept transactions from Iran. This channel should be closely scrutinized. This will allow much needed financial transactions for medications and basic needs to take place.
It is crucial at this time when the people of Iran are desperately trying to make their own voices heard that we show we are listening. They went to the polls in an attempt to show their own government that they wanted reform and better relations with the outside world. We need to show we are listening.
Please help to avert a humanitarian disaster. Allow Iranians access to the international banking system to purchase medications and humanitarian goods.