UPDATE: This post has been updated to reflect the news that the tragic death of Manouchehr Eslami was not due to a lack of medication. This turned out to be a lie. Hugh Tomlinson reports that the boy had lost too much blood by the time he reached the hospital to be saved.
It was a tragic week for the families of blogger Sattar Beheshti and Manouchehr Esmaili Liousi. The first died under suspicious circumstances after being arrested for his writings.
The second when his family could not get access to life saving medications. Imprisoned lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh received a long awaited visit from her family. Workers and retirees bear the brunt of the sanctions and poor economy, while airline fares shoot up 65%. Iran’s censors work overtime to cancel permitted performances, and state-sponsored workers’ rights activists meet while the real activists languish in prison.
“Long live Iran and Iranians! My life given for Iran!”
Blogger Sattar Beheshti’s death in detention was widely commented on in social media and other news outlets, forcing Iranian authorities to initiate an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding his death. On October 28, Beheshti, was arrested by the cyber police [FATA] as a result of his blog entries challenging the repression of the regime. He was reported dead some ten days later. As reported by the Guardian [en], his family fears he died in custody under torture for his accusations of activism on Facebook.
Baztab [fa] and Saham News [fa], joined other human rights organizations and activists in reflecting on Beheshti’s fate and urged the authorities to start investigations. Reporters Without Borders [en] urged Iranian authorities to clarify the exact circumstances of the netizen’s death and called on the international community to make sure the crime did not go unpunished. The International Committee for Human Rights in Iran [en] quoted Beheshti’s family under threat of arrest if they break the silence: “Don’t let Sattar’s death be in vain.”
More than forty political prisoners bravely published a statement saying they witnessed signs of torture on Sattar’s body.
Contradictory comments emerged from different official bodies in response to Beheshti’s death. Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the head of Parliament’s National Security Committee said that “preliminary information” showed no signs of beating on the body of Sattar Beheshti, reported Radiozamaneh [en]. The head of the Islamic Republic’s Human Rights Commission announced that the head of the judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, had issued a special order to investigate the case. Iran’s judiciary also confirmed the death Beheshti, acknowledging that five bruises were found on his body, but said the cause of death was still being investigated, the New York Times reported.
Before his arrest, Beheshti wrote on his blog [fa]:
“They threatened me yesterday that my mother would wear black because I won’t shut my mouth.”
The young children of detained lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh were finally allowed to visit their mother in prison on Monday with security forces present. Referring to her mother’s health conditions as a result of the continuous hunger strike, Mehraveh said: “She has lost weight and is taken to the infirmary on occasion.”
Sotoudeh’s husband Reza Khandan wrote [fa]:
“Today, right after he stepped out of the jail’s gate, Nima [their son] took away the kiss from his cheek and put it on mine saying that mom said keep this kiss and give it to daddy when you see him”.
Two days before the visit, Khandan and his two children waited for three and a half hours to visit their wife and mother, but were denied access.
The official inflation rate announced by the Central Bank [fa] now stands at 25%. The reality, however, can be worse than the rate. The economic conditions are having drastic effects on the lives of workers. The wave of dissatisfaction over unpaid wages continued this week when a group of retirees gathered in front of State Pension Fund office in Tehran to claim unpaid pensions. Kalame [fa] reported four months of unpaid wages at the Samand Tile factory in Semnan. The factory’s executive director has said that more than 200 workers have not received their wages and benefits for the past four months. Their insurance has also gone unpaid over the past eight months, he added.
Khaneh Mellat [fa], Iranian Parliament’s news agency warned of problems in the steel industry and wrote that 88,000 workers have gone unpaid.
The fourth workers’ parliament convened last week. According to the Iranian Labor News Agency [fa] [ILNA], attendees were composed of representatives of the Majlis Labor faction, secretariats of state-approved labor houses, foreign guests, and other state-approved political and union activists. Kalame [fa] highlighted the irony that the real representatives of workers are behind bars for their persistence claiming their rights.
The Iranian “resistance economy” led to a ban on the import of 75 luxury goods including cars, household items, mobiles and computers and their parts, toys, cosmetics, musical instruments, microphones, speakers, and CDs last week. This resulted in a sharp rise in prices of household items as well as mobile and computer goods. The ban on the latter was lifted and regulations modified as a result.
The biting sanctions and shakey economy finally hit the domestic airfares, causing a sharp increase of an average of 65%. Aviation officials have criticized the Central Bank for failing to provide the necessary foreign currency for their sector, thus leading to the rise in fares.
The Guardian reports a teenager has died from complications due to haemophilia when no medicine could be found for him. Arseh Sevom has reported on the way that sanctions have made economic transactions impossible thus preventing the purchase of much needed medications. An article in the New York Times paints a more complex picture highlighting corruption and lack of planning as well as sanctions on the banking industry.
After a ban on Stories by award-winning Rakhshan Bani-Etemad, the hyperactive censor apparatus of Iran cancelled Alireza Ghorbani’s concert in Mashad at the very last minute. In an interview with Mehr news agency [fa], Alireza Ghamsari, the head of the musical group Ahang Eshtiaq said:
“Only a half an hour before our flight [to Mashad] we were told that the organizers at Mashad Ferdowsi University had been threatened by anonymous forces despite the fact that we already had all the necessary permits.”
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.