The Poet Iran Executed

The Poet Iran Executed

The hanging of poet Hashem Shaabani tells you everything you need to know about Iran’s regime.

As Iranian poet Hashem Shaabani was dangling from a noose two weeks ago, desperately grasping for his last breath of air, one wonders what he would have thought about Western leaders who call President Hassan Rouhani a moderate.  What exactly is moderate, Shaabani could have thought, about a regime which brands a poet an “enemy of God” and strangles him to death?

The crazy thing is that by the logic of the Iranian government, Shaabani had to be killed.  He criticized God and the punishment for blasphemy is clear: death.  Technically, Shaabani criticized the regime by speaking out against repression of ethnic Arabs in the Khuzestan province, but since the regime sees itself as the representative of God on Earth, his fate was sealed.  It’s not called a theocracy for nothing.   

Islamic scholar and former Iraqi parliamentarian, Iyad Jamal al Din, once told me of Iran’s Supreme Leader:

Ayatollah Khamenei is a man just like me. He’s a cleric and I’m a cleric. But he says, “I am the representative of God.” From him, these words make me sleepless. You all [in America] sleep normally because you don’t know what that means. I know what it means. He means that he is right and the others are wrong. And wrong must not live. You should be defeated and destroyed.  

President Rouhani and foreign minister Mohamed Zarif are making quite a show of Iran’s supposed moderation.  They speak at ritzy conferences in Davos and Munich, maintain Twitter and Facebook accounts (despite banning them in Iran) and talk of Iran’s commitment to peace and justice.  But behind the soothing rhetoric is a regime which tortures journalists, imprisons bloggers and hangs poets.

As world powers attempt to negotiate an accord with Iran, they would do well to keep Shaabani in mind.  What does the hanging of a poet have to do with nuclear negotiations?  Everything. It gets to the heart of the nature of the regime.

Can the world trust a government which doesn’t even trust its own people?  Can the West rely on a regime which so fears dissidents that it puts them to death?  Can nukes be entrusted to the murderers of Neda, the young Iranian woman whose bloody death was captured on YouTube at a 2009 protest?  

Shaabani, and the more than 300 Iranians executed since Rouhani took power, are powerful reminders that the Iranian government remains as fanatic as it is dangerous.  The scores of students, bloggers and peaceful activists languishing in Evin prison are living testaments to Iran’s ongoing brutality.

When the Iranian government no longer fears its own people, then we will no longer have any reason to fear it.


Iranian TV shows musical instruments for 10 seconds — and religious controversy ensues

Iranian TV shows musical instruments for 10 seconds — and religious controversy ensues

Musical instruments were shown live on Iranian state television for the first time in decades — for 10 seconds — and the airing has caused a religious controversy in the capital.

“[The] spell … was finally broken,” the reformist daily Sharq newspaper ran its front page, the Los Angeles Timesreported.

The incident occurred on a show called “Good Morning Iran,” and now producers are calling the airing a technical error, according to the Times.

Normally, singers are not allowed to stand in front of musical instruments so that the cameras won’t pick up the taboo objects. When the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) is forced to cut away, stock images of the studio or nature are usually shown.

“The footage of instruments which was aired has nothing to do with a change in the approach or practice of IRIB, and it was just an unintentional mistake by us,” the show’s producer Gholamreza Bakhtiari was quoted as saying by Iran’s hard-line Fars news agency, the Times reported.

The mistake has prompted Iranians to wonder whether it was actually a salvo in a larger cultural battle between moderate and hard-line Islamists.

“It seems a decision was made at some level in the management [to show the instruments], but top managers did not dare to … defend the decision, and now they’re recanting,” Sobhan Hasanvand, a Sharq editor, told the Times.

Iran hangs 40 people in two weeks amid surge in executions

Iran hangs 40 people in two weeks amid surge in executions

Iran has carried out a total of 40 executions since the beginning of 2014, with at least 33 carried out in the past week alone, said Amnesty International today. 

“The spike in the number of executions carried out so far this month in Iran is alarming. The Iranian authorities’ attempts to change their international image are meaningless if at the same time executions continue to increase”, said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa. 

The death penalty is a violation of every human being’s right to life and is a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. 

“The Iranian authorities must urgently take steps to abolish the death penalty, which has been shown again and again not to have any special deterrent effect on crime,” Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said. 

Since the beginning of 2014, Amnesty International has recorded 21 executions which were officially acknowledged by the Iranian authorities, as well as 19 additional executions reported through reliable sources. 

In the week since 9 January 2014 more officially acknowledged executions were carried out in Iran than during the whole month of January 2013. 

At least one public execution was carried out on 14 January 2014 in Saveh, Markazi Province, northern Iran, of an individual convicted of murder. 

Public executions in Iran are usually carried out using cranes which lift the condemned person by a noose around the neck in front of a crowd of spectators. 

The organization is calling on the Iranian authorities to immediately adopt an official moratorium on all executions and commute all death sentences. The Iranian authorities must also end all secrecy surrounding their use of the death penalty.

Most of those executed in Iran had been convicted of alleged drug-related offences. Under international standards, non-lethal crimes such as drugs offences do not meet the threshold of “most serious crimes” to which the death penalty must be restricted. There is also no right to a meaningful appeal for drugs offences under Iran’s Anti-Narcotics Law, contrary to its international obligations to ensure that anyone convicted of a criminal offence has the right to appeal the conviction. 

“In Iran drug-related offences are tried in Revolutionary Courts which routinely fall far short of international fair trial standards. The reality in Iran is that people are being ruthlessly sentenced to death after unfair trials, and this is unacceptable,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui. 

Revolutionary Court trials are frequently held behind closed doors and judges have the discretion to restrict lawyers’ access to the defendant during pre-trial investigations in limited cases. 

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception.

Iran’s reformists frustrated with slow pace of change

Iran’s reformists frustrated with slow pace of change

By Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran

Just one hour before the ceremonies were due to begin at the sometimes controversial annual celebration of weekly reformist magazine Chelcheragh, the judicial order was delivered.

It was time for the journalists, musicians, movie directors and athletes on the 2,000-strong guest list to go home.

Iran’s conservative judiciary had declared that last week’s party was off. “As the news came all the excitement turned into depression,” one attendee said. “We felt those in the main power centres never loosen their grip over power and do not let reformists breathe.” A hardline newspaper, Kayhan, said the artists and athletes were just there to provide cover for a political gathering and that former reformist president Mohammad Khatami had been due to make a speech.

The slow pace of cultural and political change under centrist president Hassan Rouhani has angered reformists, who expect more from the man they backed in last June’s presidential poll, even as they blame fundamentalists for blocking the government’s moves to ease censorship and suppression.

Mr Rouhani owes his unexpected victory to the pro-reform groups and leaders who mobilised people to vote for him. In return, he promised reconciliation with the world through the resolution of the nuclear crisis and better times for an economy long battered by international sanctions.

Since then, Iran has agreed with the six big powers – US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany – to restrict its nuclear work in return for modest relief of sanctions. There have also been some economic gains; inflation has eased to 39.3 per cent from 40 per cent and the rial has stabilised against the dollar.

But reformist hopes for a cultural flowering and an easing of internet censorship have not been met. Since Mr Rouhani came to power, the judiciary has not only cancelled last week’s gathering but stopped reformist journalists from publishing new newspapers. Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter – and from last month VChat – continue to be blocked. Some MPs have criticised government support for women singing solo as propagating anti-Islamic mores.

Last week, Mr Rouhani said he was not scared of “yellow cards” – official parliamentary warnings to arts and culture ministers which can pave the way for their impeachment. “When we tie up art and artists, we in fact pave the ground for the enemies’ planes to land,” he said.

Yet reformists remain frustrated. While some moderate politicians have been appointed to regional governorships, there are few prominent reformists in Mr Rouhani’s administration, a fact that privately irks those who backed him. At the same time, opposition leaders Mir-Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi, key figures in anti-regime street protests after the disputed 2009 presidential election, remain under house arrest. Fundamentalists fear their release would strengthen support for reformists ahead of parliamentary elections next year.

“Other than foreign policy and nuclear negotiations and to some extent the economy, it is difficult to find out what the government’s policies in cultural and political fields are,” said one reform-minded analyst. “It is not right to say it’s still early. But probably because of the huge devastation the government has inherited in all fields, it has decided to focus on foreign policy and economy.”

The pace of change is even slower in the provinces. In Khuzestan, once home to winter cultural events because of its pleasant weather, so little has changed that commentators say it is as if previous fundamentalist president Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad is still in power.

“We expected some dynamism but are getting disappointed that nothing may happen in [southern] Khuzestan province,” one local journalist said. In the northeastern province of Khorasan-Razavi, an analyst said members of parliament have put local officials under pressure not to implement any new policies. “You see a widespread disappointment being shaped among reformists as previous officials are not replaced and no change in policies is seen,” he added.

All this speaks to the fact that Mr Rouhani faces a tricky balancing act, analysts say. Too much reform could anger fundamentalists and jeopardise nuclear negotiations. “Rouhani seems to be even distancing [himself] from reformists to ease the pressure from fundamentalists,” one reformist politician said.

Also on the horizon are the 2015 parliamentary elections. The hardliners’ determination to stop the reformists gaining ground in these polls is evident in their continued reference to the 2009 street protests. Mohammad-Javad Larijani, a senior judiciary official, said western countries “hope to revive those who were involved in the sedition [unrest] in another form in the future”.

Once a sustainable nuclear agreement has been agreed, Mr Rouhani may be emboldened to stand up to the fundamentalists. “If the government comes out of the nuclear crisis triumphantly and eases economic woes, then Rouhani’s hands will be more open in domestic politics,” one reformist politician said. “But if he fails in the nuclear talks and loses the parliamentary election, he will have a very difficult time even for his own re-election.”


Iranian Leader’s Twitter Account Deletes Controversial Statement Boasting About Nuclear Deal

Iranian Leader’s Twitter Account Deletes Controversial Statement Boasting About Nuclear Deal

The Twitter account belonging to Iranian president Hassan Rouhani has deleted a controversial tweet saying world powers had “surrendered to Iranian nation’s will” in concluding an interim agreement to curb the country’s nuclear program.

The tweet, posted early Tuesday morning EST, stood in stark contrast to Rouhani’s more open approach to the West. By Wednesday morning, the tweet had been deleted.

Asked about the tweet on Tuesday, Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, told reporters the White House believed Rouhani was appealing to his “domestic audience,” where hardliners have at times criticized the deal.

“It is not surprising to us and nor should it be surprising to you that the Iranians are describing the agreement in a certain way towards their domestic audience,” Carney said. “It does not matter what they say, it matters what they do.”

Rouhani’s tweet stoked controversy as the White House attempts to fight off a new billthat would introduce further sanctions on Iran. The interim deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for some sanctions relief is due to begin on Jan. 20.

Iran President Hassan Rouhani tells his country that nuclear deal means ‘surrender’ of Western powers

Iran President Hassan Rouhani tells his country that nuclear deal means ‘surrender’ of Western powers

Associated Press | January 14, 2014 7:31 AM ET

TEHRAN, Iran — President Hassan Rouhani has praised a landmark nuclear deal struck in Geneva as his country’s victory, telling a home crowd it effectively means the “surrender” of Western powers to Iranian demands.

The remarks were part of the moderate Rouhani’s efforts to bring around hard-liners who claim the deal tramples on Iran’s enrichment rights.

Last week, the six-nation group — the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany — and Iran agreed to start implementing the terms of the November deal later this month.

Under the deal, Iran agreed to cap its uranium enrichment in return for some relief from Western economic sanctions.

Speaking Tuesday in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan, Rouhani said the “Geneva deal means the surrender of big powers before the great nation of Iran.”

Iran’s support for terror is the smoking gun…

Iran’s support for terror is the smoking gun…

In recent days, videos were released showing the capture of one boat shipping known Bahraini terrorists to Iran; and another boat travelling from Iran to Bahrain loaded with explosives and weapons.

These led to the discovery of several ammunition stores, loaded with explosives, and the uncovering of a number of bombing plots. This coincides with the submission of evidence concerning the co-ordination of these terrorist operations from inside Iran.

Bahraini national, Ali Ahmed Mafoudh Al Moussawi, based in Iran, stands accused of “planning to commit terrorist acts and plant explosives targeting vital installations and sovereign and security locations in the Kingdom of Bahrain”.

According to this evidence, Al Moussawi was involved in recruitment, training and weapons-smuggling operations, with the objective of committing terrorist acts inside Bahrain.

Surveillance of the actions of Al Moussawi’s group led them to being caught in the act of receiving a boat loaded with weapons and explosives.

The seized items included a large quantity of explosives and detonators, 50 hand grenades, PK automatic weapons and 1,023 rounds of ammunition. Many of these munitions were labelled as being of Iranian and Syrian origin. The homes of some of the accused were found to contain weapons and explosives.

According to the Public Prosecution, the detained individuals testified that they “joined the group to carry out their plans and commit terrorist acts with religious motivations… They also confessed that they had travelled to Iran and received training by Iranian personnel at Iranian Revolutionary Guard camps.”

These detailed testimonies explained the roles of Al Moussawi and Iranian officials in planning and executing these operations; as well as detailing operations to smuggle further weaponries by sea with the use of an Iraqi crew.

“Those instructions also included concealing the smuggled weapons, explosives and tools until the zero hour, to be used at that time in carrying out their plans, targeting vital, sovereign and security installations and assassinating certain figures.”

For those who continue to doubt the role of Iran in stirring up violence, instability and terrorism in Bahrain, the weight of evidence presented here leaves little doubt.

This new evidence follows information submitted about the role of Hizbollah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in backing a wave of terrorist operations during late 2012 and early 2013.

The evidence precisely fits the pattern of Iranian interference and support for terrorist groups in countries like Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.

Senior Western officials, diplomats and security experts have also stated that there is a growing body of evidence in support of Iranian backing for terrorism in Bahrain. We have previously discussed in detail the role of Iranian media outlets in stirring up sectarian violence in Bahrain.

Given Iran’s support for massacres in Syria and recent assassinations in Lebanon, at the very least we should be expecting to see condemnation at the UN Security Council of Iranian terrorism in Bahrain and the region.

If America and the West want to improve ties with Iran, this should not be at the expense of condoning Iranian terrorism in the Middle East.

We will await with interest the international reactions to this critical evidence of Iran’s role in terrorism inside Bahrain.