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Ashtiani Lives Another Day; 'Security Cleansing' for Subsidy Cut Obedience

04 Nov 2010 13:35Comments

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Iran's Stoning Woman: 'No Final Verdict'

Sky News | Nov 3

Iran's foreign minister is insisting no final decision has been made about a woman who could be stoned to death for adultery, amid reports her execution is imminent.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said in a statement he has spoken to his Iranian counterpart about Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, whose case has sparked an international outcry.

Mr Kouchner says Manouchehr Mottaki assured him that a final verdict in Ms Ashtiani's case has not been issued yet and reports about her eventual execution do not correspond to reality.

Iran has temporarily suspended the stoning verdict and suggested Ms Ashtiani might be hanged instead.

Iran's official IRNA news agency quoted Malek Ajdar Sharifi, a top local judiciary official, as saying that Ms Ashtiani was in good health in a prison in Tabriz, northwestern Iran.

Mr Sharifi didn't say if she will be executed or not but said her case is being investigated and is undergoing administrative procedures.

The German-based International Committee Against Stoning said she was due to be executed by the end of November 3.

"The authorities in Tehran have given the go-ahead to Tabriz prison for the execution of Iran stoning case," the group said on its website.

The group would not provide details on where its information came from, but its report raised alarm in Western capitals.

Iranian Plans to Execute Woman for Adultery Unclear

VOA | Nov 3

[H]er lawyer tells VOA he believes the information [that her execution is imminent] is incorrect. And French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner also says he has received assurances that there are no immediate plans to execute the woman.

Ashtiani's son and daughter attracted the attention of Western news organizations to their mother's sentence, complaining it was unjust and urging Iran to review it. Then Brazilian President Ignacio Lula da Silva even offered Ashtiani asylum in his country if Iran would accept.

Last July, Iranian TV tried to justify the sentence, interviewing Ashtiani, who claimed to be guilty. In the interview she even begged Iranian authorities to hang her. Both her family and her former attorney Mohammed Mostafaei insisted that she had "confessed" under "extreme duress."

Attorney Mohammed Mostafaei, who lives in exile in Norway, tells VOA he contacted a number of Iranian judiciary officials recently and was told a report that Sakineh Ashtiani would be hanged soon was not correct.

"This news was wrong. I called my friends in Iran ... I have some friends in the Iranian judiciary in Tabriz and I talked about this news and they said the news is not true and they informed me that there is not any hanging execution in Sakineh's case. There is only a stoning punishment," Mostafaei said.

Hadi Ghaemi of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran says the Iranian judiciary had "stepped up its executions" at Mashhad's Vakilabad prison, but he has been "unable to confirm" reports Ashtiani was about to be hanged. He said at least 23 prisoners were reportedly hanged in recent days, without any announcement by Iranian judicial authorities.

Ghaemi says Iran has "doubled the number of executions it normally conducts" in recent months and is now second only to China in its per-capita execution rate.

Iran Responds to Alarm on Woman Sentenced to Stoning

New York Times/The Lede | Nov 3

France's foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, said that his Iranian counterpart had assured him on Wednesday that Iran's judiciary has not yet decided to execute a woman sentenced to death by stoning.

Mr. Kouchner explained, in a statement posted on the French foreign ministry's Web site, that he called Iran's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, to express his "dismay" at the possibility that Ms. Ashtiani would be executed and his counterpart "assured me that Iranian legal authorities had not yet reached a final verdict in the case of Sakineh Ashtiani and that the information regarding her execution did not correspond to reality."

Reuters reported, "Officials in Iran were not immediately available to comment."

Mr. Kouchner added that he told Mr. Mottaki of the international community's "incomprehension" at Iran's decision to also arrest Ms. Ashtiani's son and lawyer, for giving an interview to two German journalists who entered Iran without permission last month.

He also pledged to continue France's efforts to save the life of Ms. Ashtiani.

During a visit to the West Bank city of Ramallah on Wednesday, Britain's Foreign Minister, William Hague, told reporters: "I think this is a barbaric punishment, I think it will damage Iran in the eyes of the world. It would be much better not to proceed with it. I think many people across the world are outraged by the punishment and by the prospect of being, of it being carried out. I would urge them to desist from it."

Petition to Stop Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani's 'Imminent Execution'

Guardian | Nov 3

The global civic advocacy network Avaaz.org responded to the reports by launching an online petition urging people "to send an emergency message directly to the leaders of Turkey, Brazil and key UN nations who could sway Iran to halt the execution". The petition has already attracted more than 275,000 names and has seen "Ashtiani" become one of the most widely discussed subjects on Twitter.

The EU high representative, Lady Ashton, was said to be "deeply concerned" about the reports. "She demands that Iran halts the execution and converts her sentence," a spokesman said.

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it had been unable to confirm whether the reports of Mohammadi Ashtiani's imminent execution were true, but the minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt, yesterday pressed the Iranian chargé d'affaires for an update.

Human Rights Watch says Mohammadi Ashtiani was first convicted in May 2006 of having an "illicit relationship" with two men following the death of her husband and was sentenced by a court to 99 lashes. She was later sentenced to death by stoning.

In August, Mohammadi Ashtiani was put on state-run TV where she "confessed" to adultery and involvement in the murder of her husband, but her lawyer, Houtan Kian, said she had been tortured beforehand.

At the end of August she was subjected to a mock execution, according to her 22-year-old son, Sajad Ghaderzadeh. The following month, she was allegedly given 99 lashes after a British newspaper ran a picture of an unveiled woman mistakenly identified as her, Kian said at the time.

Iran Lashes Out at West over Ashtiani Stoning Outrage

The Times (via The Australian) | Nov 4

Responding to a new wave of demands by Western governments that Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani be spared, the Foreign Ministry in Tehran accused Europe and the US of portraying a criminal as a human rights victim to embarrass Iran.

"They have become so shameless that they have turned the case of Ms Ashtiani, who has committed crime and treason, into a human rights case against our nation," Ramin Mehmanparast, the ministry spokesman, said.

"She has become a symbol for Western feminists who are impudently demanding her release and using this ordinary case as a pressure lever against our nation.

"The other side is only looking for pretexts against the Islamic establishment and if...we give in to their demands there will be nothing left of the revolution and the establishment."

The regime hit back after a claim that Ms Ashtiani faced imminent execution caused protests on Tuesday from Britain, America and the EU.

Dilma Rousseff, the president-elect of Brazil, one of the few major countries that has good relations with Tehran, told a press conference in Brasilia: "I find the stoning of Sakineh a very barbarous act." Maureen Harper, Canada's First Lady, called Ms Ashtiani's case "an affront to any sense of moral or human decency".

The claim of her imminent execution came from Mina Ahadi, the co-ordinator of the International Committee against Stoning, who said that she had learnt that Tehran had approved Ms Ashtiani's execution and that it could take place as early as Wednesday. When Ms Ashtiani was not executed yesterday Ms Ahadi claimed that the protests had worked.

"Once again, the Islamic Republic of Iran clearly saw the widespread global reaction to its decision to execute Ms Ashtiani and did not go ahead with her execution," she said, but she warned that "the danger remains and it could happen at any time".

Iran Tightens Security as Subsidy Cuts Loom

Wall Street Journal | Nov 4

Iranian authorities are taking extraordinary security measures ahead of cuts to energy and food subsidies this month, in an effort to prevent unrest by a public upset about rising expenses and inflation.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cautioned the public on Wednesday against politicizing the economic reforms and threatened to severely punish businesses that raise prices of consumer goods in reaction to subsidy cuts.

In a nationally broadcast speech to a rally in the northeastern city of Bojnurd, he said government agents would "catch and fine anyone who abused the situation and make them regret it forever."

The government, in a five-year phaseout plan, seeks to eliminate up to $100 billion a year in food and energy subsidies that keep costs down for consumers. About 65 million Iranians, out of a population of 75 million, will receive cash payments of about $40 a month to ease the economic pain of lost subsidies. Cash payments in some provinces have already begun.

Last week, the Revolutionary Guards' commander in chief for Tehran, Brig. Gen. Hussein Hamedani, said a task force was created to deal with potential demonstrations and to make sure the opposition doesn't create "economic havoc."

Thousands of police officers have been dispatched to 2,000 locations in Tehran armed with riot gear, such as batons and tear gas, setting up temporary bases in major squares and traffic junctures, said Tehran's police chief, Hassan Sajedi.

On Tuesday night, police rounded up 100 people under the age of 30 as part of what the police called a "security cleansing" project, according to official news agencies.

On Wednesday, Mr. Sajedi said up to 400 more people would be arrested and "paraded" in the coming days to set an example for anyone planning social unrest. He said some would be charged with "moharebeh" or "war against God," a charge that carries the death penalty and is typically handed to political dissidents.

The cuts are due this month, but many details of the plan remain vague, such as an implementation schedule and goods to be affected. The government says it has withheld details to prevent public panic, but worried consumers in Tehran and other cities have been buying up dried goods such as rice, beans and oil in anticipation of rising prices. Beef prices have risen about 5% in the past week, residents say.

"If this plan is for the good of the people then why are so many police in the streets?" said a mother of three in Tehran.

The government ordered media organizations this week to refrain from analyzing the subsidy cuts or publishing critical comments about the plan, according to media reports.

Businessmen, industrialists, shopkeepers and high-level managers have been warned against speaking out against the cuts. They say they were told by security officials that they stand to lose their business permits and their jobs if they raise prices or incite public protests.

"More and more this economic reform plan is starting to look like a security operation," said an analyst in Tehran.



US Designates Iran's Jundallah as Terrorist Organization

CNN | Nov 3

The United States has officially designated Iranian extremist group Jundallah as a foreign terrorist organization, the State Department said Wednesday.

Jundallah, also known as the People's Resistance Movement of Iran, operates primarily in the Iranian province of Sistan-Baluchestan, which borders Pakistan.

The State Department said Jundallah "has engaged in numerous attacks resulting in the death and maiming of scores of Iranian civilians and government officials. Jundallah uses a variety of terrorist tactics, including suicide bombings, ambushes, kidnappings and targeted assassinations."

Most recently, the Sunni group claimed responsibility for suicide bombings in July at the Zahedan Grand Mosque. The attacks targeting Shiite worshipers killed 27 people. Iranian leaders said the United States was behind the attacks.

The State Department also accuses Jundallah of a mosque attack in May 2009 and an October 2009 bombing that killed more than 40 people. It said the group reaffirmed its commitment to terrorist activities after Iranian authorities captured its leader, Abdul Malik Rigi, in February. The group quickly announced a new leader, Al-Hajj Mohammed Dhahir Baluch.

The designation means that individuals, property and interests linked to Jundallah are prohibited in the United States and it is illegal for Americans to provide any material support -- including donations -- to the organization, according to the State Department.

US Sides with Iran in Denouncing Rebel Group

Washington Post | Nov 3

A State Department spokesman said adding the Jundallah organization to a terrorist list that contains 46 others -- including al-Qaida, the Iranian-backed Hezbollah and the Pakistani Taliban -- was not intended as a conciliatory gesture.

But some experts said the timing could still help smooth relations in advance of a new round of negotiations over Iran's uranium enrichment program, the central source of tension between Tehran and Washington. Those talks are expected to resume before the end of this month.

Suzanne Maloney, an Iran expert at the Brookings Institution, said that the designation could be seen by Iran as a "real important confidence-building measure," and offers at least some hope that the coming nuclear talks will be productive.

She added, however, that Iran's rulers may be inclined to view it as "too little, too late," given a sense in Tehran that the threat posed by the group has diminished.

Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the designation is not likely to stop Iran from claiming U.S. interference in its internal affairs.

"This designation helps counter claims that America is actively trying to foment ethnic unrest in Iran," Sadjadpour said. "I strongly doubt, however, that the Iranian government will cease making such claims."

Alireza Nader, an Iran specialist at the RAND Corp. think tank, said the Iranian government in the past has accused the U.S. of supporting Jundallah, despite public U.S. denunciations of terrorist bombings blamed on the organization.

"The fact that it's being treated as a terrorist group could potentially be interpreted by the Iranian government as a signal of U.S. efforts to ease tensions with the Iranian government," Nader said.

'Nuclear Fuel Swap Must Only Be Based on Tehran Declaration'

Tehran Times | Nov 4

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has said Iran will negotiate on nuclear fuel exchange only based to the terms of the Tehran Declaration, emphasizing that the Islamic Republic will not accept any new proposal for fuel swap.

On May 17, 2010, Iran, Turkey, and Brazil issued a declaration, according to which Iran was to ship 1200 kilograms of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey to be exchanged for 120 kilograms of 20 percent enriched nuclear fuel to power the Tehran research reactor, which produces radioisotopes for cancer treatment. According to the agreement, the exchange was to take place in Turkey under the supervision of the IAEA and Iran.

"Fuel exchange has its own formula which is the Tehran Declaration," Mottaki told the IRNA news agency on Wednesday.

Iran and the 5+1 group (Five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) have expressed readiness to resume talks in mid-November. It would be the first such meeting in more than a year. The exact time and the subjects to be discussed are yet to be determined.

"If, after a break, the Vienna Group (which consists of the IAEA, the U.S., France and Russia) is ready to continue talks about fuel exchange exactly based on the Tehran Declaration" then negotiation will be possible, Mottaki explained.

Also on Tuesday Tehran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency Ali Asghar Soltanieh dismissed a U.S. suggestion that Tehran should agree to tougher conditions than those it rejected last year for a possible nuclear fuel swap.

The United States along with the European Union trio (Germany, Britain and France) have claimed that any new deal must be updated to take into account Iran's increased holdings of low-enriched uranium (LEU) material, and its work to enrich to higher levels since February.

"I'm afraid there is no logic for these kinds of statements," Soltanieh told Reuters when asked about a U.S. media report that Iran would be required to part with some two metric tons of its uranium stockpile under a revised proposal.

Sanctions on Iran Aren't Working, Diplomat Says

Los Angeles Times | Nov 2

Western powers' strong new sanctions on Iran have so far failed to push Tehran's leaders toward compromise on their disputed nuclear program, a senior European diplomat said Tuesday.

In a grim assessment, the European official said that while the economic punishments clearly have inflicted pain on Iran, there has been no signal from its leaders that they are willing to yield ground to relieve the international pressure.

Though Iran officially has been calling for new negotiations over its program, the diplomat said he had not seen a single statement to indicate a change in its leaders' political views on the nuclear program. Instead, some voices within Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime insist there is "no way" they will give ground, and that "there is no need for a meeting," he said.

Since the imposition of the latest sanctions last summer, "the whole question has been, 'Is that going to create a new political situation?'" the diplomat told a group of reporters. "We haven't seen anything yet."

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The European diplomat said that in the last five years, Western attempts to negotiate with Iran have fallen into a fruitless pattern: Tehran will be coaxed to meet with foreign diplomats twice, but when a third meeting approaches "it will all peter out." So far, he said, it appears the latest proposed talks may follow the same routine.

The official said he saw no reason to believe that threats of Western military force would change Tehran's thinking. Talk of the military option "hasn't moved in any way the Iranian regime," he said.

Iran Says West's 'Arrogance' Could Doom Nuke Talks

AP (via USA Today) | Nov 3

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's comments, made in an address to a crowd of thousands in northeastern Iran, cast doubt on any possible progress in talks that Tehran has said it is ready to hold with the six powers -- the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany -- sometime after Nov. 10.

"You have only one option: That's recognizing the right and greatness of the Iranian nation," Ahmadinejad said in a speech broadcast live on state television. "Should you choose this path, nations may forgive you ... but if you want to continue the previous path of arrogance ... these people (the Iranian nation) will pursue you until you end up in hell."

Ahmadinejad's crowd, in the city of Bojnord, responded with chants of "death to the U.S."

On Wednesday, Ahmadinejad warned that the new talks will fail if the West seeks to impose tougher conditions than those Tehran rejected last year.

But the Iranian president said a compromise could be reached if Iran is respected.

"The best path for them (world powers) is to respect nations, stop being obstinate, get out of glass palaces and sit down like a polite boy and talk on the basis of justice and respect. If they come like this, they may get results," Ahmadinejad said.

"But if they come with arrogance and deception, the response of the Iranian nation is the same it has already given."

Outgoing Intel Chief: Iran Can Already Produce Nuclear Bomb

Haartez | Nov 3

Iran is busy setting up two new nuclear installations, according to the head of Military Intelligence, Major General Amos Yadlin. Speaking before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Yadlin said that MI has indications that work has began on the installations, but did not comment on the sources.

Yadlin also told the MKs that Iran has sufficient enriched uranium to manufacture a single nuclear device and may soon have enough for making another bomb.

Tuesday was Yadlin's last appearance before the Knesset panel as head of Military Intelligence. He is due to step down after five years in the post.

Yadlin's briefing covered the entire spectrum of the security situation facing Israel and the region. "The recent security calm is unprecedented but there should be no mistake that there are efforts [by elements] in the area to grow stronger. The next military confrontation will not be between Israel and another country, but between Israel and two or three different fronts at the same time. It will not be similar to anything we have grown accustomed to during the Second Lebanon War or Operation Cast Lead," he warned.

Referring to Iran, Yadlin said that there are an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 centrifuges busy enriching uranium to levels of 20 percent. "It is only a matter of time and continuously running the centrifuges until they reach 90 percent enrichment and could make military use of the material," sources who participated in the briefing said.

The Iranian nuclear installation at Qom, which was uncovered by western intelligence a year ago, is still being built under the supervision of inspectors. Iran has declared that it intends to construct 10 more installations, and information is emerging that currently two are underway.

He said that Hezbollah is continuing to grow stronger in Lebanon and has acquired advanced weaponry. Assessments in Israel are that the advanced weapons being transferred to Syria may make their way to Hezbollah in due time.

Yadlin also revealed that a great deal of data collected by the investigators of the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was stolen by Hezbollah when its men attacked investigators who came to question a doctor who had been at the scene of the killing.

'Israel to Launch Cluster War'

Press TV | Nov 3

A future round of Israeli warfare would entail its forces attacking geographically-separate areas and is intended to be of massive scale and lethality, a senior Israeli military official says.

The head of the Israeli Military Intelligence Directorate, Amos Yadlin, said on Tuesday, "The next round won't be focused on one theater but rather, will incorporate two or three."

"One cannot predict the future according to what happened during Operation Cast Lead or the Second Lebanon War," he said, referring to Tel Aviv's offensives on the Gaza Strip at the turn of 2009 and southern Lebanon in 2006.

The bombardments respectively left more than 1,400 Palestinians and about 1,200 Lebanese dead, most of them civilians.

"It will be much bigger, much wider in scope, and with many more casualties," added the former Israeli Air Force general.

Israel claimed existence in 1948, during full-scale military operations against the Arab world. In 1967, it went on to occupy and later annex more Palestinian territories in defiance of the international community's refusal to recognize the act.

The Palestinian resistance movement, Hamas, fought off the Israeli troops in the Gaza War, launched under the pretext of responding to rocket attacks on Israel by the fighters. The home-made projectiles seldom leave any casualties or considerable damage to property.

The Lebanese resistance movement, Hezbollah, defeated the forces in the 33-Day War and Tel Aviv was compelled to withdraw without having achieved any of its objectives.

Hezbollah has vowed to respond with determination to any potential Israel-launched warfare. The movement has publicly announced that it has the capability to hit targets deep into Israel and to strike Israeli Navy vessels even before they reach the Lebanese waters.

Iran Vows to Aid Lebanon against Israel

Press TV | Nov 3

Tehran's Ambassador to Beirut Ghazanfar Roknabadi says Iran will continue to cooperate with Arab countries in order to help Lebanon confront Israel.

Iran will continue to forge relations with Saudi Arabia and Syria and other Arab states that can help Lebanon fight against Israel, Fars News Agency quoted Roknabadi as telling the Lebanese daily As-Safir on Wednesday.

He added that Tehran has contacts with Damascus and Riyadh with the purpose of finding ways to establish stability in Lebanon.

Roknabadi pointed to his meeting with the Syrian and Saudi Arabian ambassadors in the Lebanese capital city of Beirut on Tuesday and described the talks as "very positive."

The ambassador said the three countries want to see the development, growth and reconstruction of Lebanon and have expressed their readiness to provide all-out assistance to Beirut.

He expressed optimism about the future of Lebanon, saying the country has wise leaders who take national interests into consideration.

"They are capable of resolving their problems and our three countries can only help this cause," Roknabadi said.

The ambassadors of Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia discussed the latest developments in Lebanon, particularly issues surrounding the probe into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri as well as regional issues.

Hariri was killed along with more than 20 other people in a massive car bomb blast in Beirut on February 14, 2005.

Erdogan Rebuffs Sarkozy over Missile Defense System

Asbarez | Nov 3

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan reportedly told French President Nicolas Sarkozy in a recent telephone conversation that Turkey will maintain its opposition to a NATO missile shield on its territory if Iran continues to be characterized as a threat within the planned system.

Erdogan's remarks, according to an anonymous NATO official were 'firm' and 'harsh.' He, however, did not elaborate exactly when the conversation took place.

The Turkish premier reiterated the principles on which NATO member Turkey bases its approach to the missile shield during a meeting in Ankara on October 28 with a visiting delegation from the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.

According to Today's Zaman, Erdogan recalled those points during his conversation with Sarkozy.

"Possession of nuclear weapons by Iran would be most annoying for us since we are a neighboring country; we have told this to Iranian officials may times. However, Iran says that its nuclear enrichment activities are aimed at producing energy. Producing low-enriched uranium for peaceful purposes is a right for every country," Erdogan told members of NATO PA's Sub-Committee on Transatlantic Defense and Security Cooperation, led by committee chairman Julio Miranda Calha.

Turkey says it is not against the establishment of a missile defense system for NATO's European allies but insists in talks with the US that the project should be built for defensive, not offensive, purposes. Any clear reference to Iran or any other neighboring country as a threat in the proposed missile defense system runs counter to Ankara's chief foreign policy objective of "zero problems with neighbors."

"We know that there are countries within this geography that possess enriched uranium," Erdogan said, in an apparent reference to Israel, which is believed to be the only nuclear-armed power in the Middle East. Israel has never confirmed or denied its possession of nuclear weapons and is not signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

"I also told Sarkozy; we are not going to accept an approach that considers Iran a threat," Erdogan said. "My advice to those who want to locate the missile shield system in my own country: Let them locate it on their own territory first."

A majority of European countries are against the installation of a missile defense system on their own territories, Erdogan said, adding that he believed the European Union is pursuing contradictory policies regarding the missile defense system.

Rasmussen Declines to Name Iran as Threat in Missile Shield Plans

Today's Zaman | Nov 4

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has declined to name Iran as a potential threat that a planned missile shield for Europe is designed to counter, saying instead that there are dozens of countries in the world that could put security of the allies at jeopardy.

"More than 30 countries in the world have missile technology, and some of them can hit targets in allied territory," he said in an interview with The New York Times, published on Tuesday.

The remarks are expected to be welcomed by NATO member Turkey[....] US officials have openly named Iran in several occasions, but Ankara is adamant that no NATO document on the issue should include a reference to Tehran. Classifying Iran as a threat may also sour the political atmosphere at a time when the US and European countries are considering a new round of talks with Tehran on its contentious nuclear program.

'Iran-Germany Trade Prospering'

Tehran Times | Nov 4

The trade between Iran and Germany has increased despite the sanctions imposed on Tehran's nuclear program, the German business daily Handelsblatt wrote.

The daily published an article, titled "Iran embargo not working", on Tuesday, saying German companies are expanding their trade cooperation with Iran despite the tough sanctions against the Asian country.

"German companies' trade with Iran can withstand any political influence and yet still keep growing," a part of the article read.

The paper wrote that even though some German firms have limited their trade with Iran, a large number of companies expect a big leap in their transactions comparing to the last year's figures.

According to Handelsblatt, exports from Germany to Iran increased 11.6 percent to 2.5 billion euros in a time span of roughly eight months -- from January through August.

Moreover, German imports from Iran doubled to 532 million euros against the figure for the first eight months of 2009.

Iran Reports US Human Rights Abuse

Press TV | Nov 4

Iran has released its report on human rights abuses by the United States as Washington gears up for its first public review by the United Nations.

"The United States...contrary to calls by the international community, the United Nations and promises by [US President Barack] Obama...has failed to close prisons at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib," Iran's foreign ministry said in statement on Wednesday.

Washington, it continues, has not even joined "the most important convention on human rights", namely the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The report also expresses concern over the alarming number of deaths following discharges from Tasers within the United States, which Amnesty International puts at more that 300 from 2001 to 2008.

The 47 member states of the UN Human Rights Council will debate Washington's human rights record in their first "Universal Periodic Review" of the country on Friday.

Iranian Official Blasts Human Rights Violations in US

Fars | Nov 2

An Iranian official lashed out at the White House for violating the human rights in numerous cases inside and outside the US, and said while Washington has a black record in committing such crimes, it blames other countries for minor, and sometimes unfounded, cases of human rights violation.

"The US accuses most states of violating human rights but does not mention the violation of human beings' rights in its own country," Head of Tehran City Council's Cultural and Social Commission Morteza Talayee said on Tuesday.

He said while every year a large number of world countries are accused of violating the human rights in the annual report of the US State Department, it is surprising that Washington does not pay any attention to the different cases of the violation of human rights in the US.

Talayee referred to the different cases of the violation of human rights by Washington, and said the violation of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the American people, the deteriorating conditions of the American-Indians, ethnic and religious minorities, people with different skin colors, vulnerable groups like women, children, immigrants and refugees, efforts to spark and spread Islamophobia, violation of the rights of the Afghan and Iraqi people after attacking the two countries and support for terrorist groups and for the biggest violator of human rights, the Zionist regime of Israel, are clear cases of human rights violation by the US.

Secretary-General of Iran's High Council of Human Rights Mohammad Javad Larijani deplored repeated violations of human rights by the US at home and abroad.

"During the last 10 years, the US has very clearly and painfully violated the human rights' documents that it itself has signed and claims to be their advocates," Larijani told FNA yesterday.

US Continues Torturing Jailed Iranian Women, Kids Weeping to See Mum

Fars | Nov 3

Family of an Iranian woman who is illegally held in a US jail voiced their strong protest at the US guards' mistreatment of their mother, and called on US President Barack Obama to give them the chance to see her again.

Shahrzad Mir-Qolikhan was detained in the US in December 2007. Her ex-husband, Mahmoud Seif, had allegedly tried to export night-vision goggles to Iran from Austria.

She was sentenced to five years of imprisonment by a Florida federal court in absentia.

Melika and Melina Mir-Qolikhan, the teenage twin daughters of the innocent Iranian woman, along with their grandmother Belqis Rowshan, appeared on Iranian English language Press TV channel and asked Obama to release their innocent mother.

"We are at an age that we need our mother beside us," they said.

"We haven't seen our mother in three years," Melina said, adding that she would like to ask President and his wife to give her the opportunity to see mother again.

"Our mother is innocent, we know she is innocent and has done nothing wrong," Melika said.

Shahrzad's mother unveiled more details about the horrible condition of her daughter and the way that the US guards treat Shahrzad, and said, "They tell her that you are a terrorist, you are Iranian, you are crazy."

On Monday, Shahrzad told the TV channel via telephone from inside the prison that she is being kept under horrible conditions and is subject to both physical and mental torture.

"I was mistreated horribly by all the correctional officers and more especially at the higher level, the lieutenants, captains and warden," Shahrzad told the Press TV.

Earlier this week, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Consular, Parliamentary and Iranian Expatriates' Affairs Hassan Qashqavi criticized the US for violating the rights of the Iranian nationals due to its feud with Tehran, saying that the US has jailed 65 Iranian nationals mostly on void and baseless charges.

"Our main focus and concern lies on those who have been jailed for political reasons or due to the illegal sanctions resolutions (against Iran) or fake and baseless claims," he added.

Qashqavi pointed out that a number of these Iranians are in US prisons because they have exported some goods to Iran which Americans claim have a dual-use.

He described such accusations as unacceptable and political, and said they are not consistent with the international law and regulations.

Pressures Increase for Students Before 13 Aban

Daneshjoo News (via Persian2English) | Nov 3

With the arrival of 13 Aban (November 4th), many Amirkabir University students have been summoned to the Revolutionary Court.

According to Daneshjoo News, an unknown number of pro-Mousavi activists at Amirkabir University have been summoned to the Revolutionary Court on the commemoration day of the capture of the American embassy by leftists and students following the Imam.

The summoned university students are all either staff members or activists who supported Mousavi in the 2009 Iranian Presidential election. They have all worked for the "Savida" publication at Amirkabir University.

These students were previously summoned and interrogated during the past year.

It seems like the purpose of the summons is to inflict apprehension and fear on the students before 13 Aban and 16 Azar (December 7th). Judging by the previous behavior of the security forces, it is expected that with 16 Azar approaching, the pressures will get more intense.

See also: Original report in Farsi (Daneshjoo News)

More Secret Executions in Mashad: 23 Executed in October

ICHRI | Nov 3

Reliable sources continue to present reports to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, indicating widespread, clandestine group executions of hundreds of inmates. Those executed were charged with transportation and storage of drugs and were held in Vakilabad prison in Mashad. The Campaign has learned that executions were carried out on 5 and 12 October 2010 inside Vakilabad prison. Reliable sources told the Campaign that a total of 23 prisoners, thirteen on 5 October, and ten on 12 October. The executions were carried out without any regard for official Islamic laws or respect for fair judicial procedures. Lawyers and family members were not present nor given prior notice. A number of former prisoners from Vakilabad prison have reported forced confessions under torture and pressure.

The inmates on death row were collected from various wards of Mashad's Vakilabad prison only a few hours before being executed and were taken to the "Execution Hallway" near the entrance area of the Visitation Hall, and executed in a row.

In an interview with the Campaign, Ahmad Ghabel, a theological scholar and well-known student of the late Ayatollah Montazeri, said that in the three months between March 2010 and May 2010 when he was a prisoner inside Ward 6/1 of Vakilabad prison, he witnessed the executions of fifty people up close, and one time even loaned his pen to inmates who were going to be executed in order to write their last will. Also, in interviews with various media outlets, Ghabel said that these executions were in violation of Sharia Law, and distant from justice. He asked "if these execution sentences were without any problems, why were they being carried out secretly?"

The disclosure of these widespread clandestine group executions in Vakilabad prison by Ghabel led to his arrest in September again, and his transfer back to Vakilabad.

At this time, the Campaign is being told hundreds of prisoners on death row are awaiting execution inside Vakilabad Prison.

Ten More Secret Executions in Mashad, Foreign Citizens Among Those Executed

ICHRI | Nov 3

According to information obtained by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, the implementation of death sentences in Mashad's Vakilabad prison continues. Last Tuesday, 26 October, ten more prisoners were executed in a group without any official announcement by the Iranian government. All those executed had been charged with drug trafficking. Among those executed was a Nigerian citizen.

Consistent with previous practices, these executions were carried out without prior knowledge of the inmates, their families, or their lawyers, and therefore families and lawyers were not present. "These executions were carried out without the Supreme Court's confirmation notice and without notifying the families and lawyers about the time of execution. The execution sentences have been summarily and secretively upheld, and execution orders from the Supreme Court were only given to Mashad's Prosecutor and the Chief Prison Warden. Families of those executed were informed on Wednesday, 27 October, and after paying for the rope used for the execution, they picked up the bodies of the executed prisoners from Mashad's Behesht Reza Cemetery," according to a source who spoke with the Campaign.

The rising number of execution sentences within the Mashad Revolutionary Courts have been summarily issued by Judge Khosravi, Judge Soltani, Judge Yasabi, Judge Kavousi, and Judge Kaboli in accordance with Prosecutor General Mohseni Ejei's directive to Provincial Revolutionary Court Prosecutors nationwide.


Journalist Nazanin Khosravani Detained

RAHANA | Nov 4

Nazanin Khosravani who is a contributor for the reformist newspaper Sobh-eh Emrouz, was detained at her house this morning.

According to the "Iran Green Voice", she was a contributor for several publications such as Nowruz, Shargh, and Eghbal.

Her family is not aware of the reason for her arrest or her whereabouts.

Two Saghez Residents Sentenced to Prison

RAHANA | Nov 4

According to the verdict issued by the 1st branch of the Saghez Revolutionary Court, Ebad Sheikhi has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for anti-regime propaganda and collaborating with anti-regime groups. Nine months of his 18 month sentence could be served as suspended imprisonment.

According to the Mokrian News Agency, their attorney Seyyed Vafa Hosseini stated that "the 1st branch of the Saghez Revolutionary Court has sentenced Kaveh Ghaffari to one year of imprisonment for anti-regime propaganda and the 4th branch of the Kurdistan Appeals Court has upheld the sentence."

Six Year Prison Sentence Upheld for Post-Election Detainee Nezam Hassanpour

RAHANA | Nov 4

The 28th branch of the Revolutionary Court had sentenced Nezam Hassanpour to 6 years of imprisonment for resisting the authorities and acting against national security. The sentence has been upheld by the appeals court.

According to the Committee of the Human Rights Reporters, the 25 year old citizen is a resident of a village in Kouhdasht. He was detained 5 months ago by the Intelligence Ministry agents and the local Basij in his village. He was held in limbo for 4 months in Ward 350 of the Evin Prison.

The authorities alleged that he had been detained for participating in the post-election protests. His picture had been published in a publication that belonged to the police.

His brother was arrested before him and the security organizations had stated that Nezam had to go to the police in order for them to release his brother.

At the time of his arrest, Hassanpour was a student who was completing his last semester as a humanities major. He is the sole breadwinner of his family of 6. He is currently held in Ward 350 of the Evin Prison.


Prominent Attorney Mohammad Seifzadeh Sentenced to 9 Years in Prison

RAHANA | Nov 1

The Revolutionary Court has issued a verdict for Mohammad Seifzadeh, a prominent lawyer and a member of the Defenders of Human Rights Center.

Mohammad Seifzadeh has been sentenced to a 10 year ban from working as an attorney and 9 years of imprisonment for acting against national security and founding the Defenders of Human Rights Center.

In an interview with RadioFarda, he stated that the issued verdict was unlawful based on Article 159 and 172 of the Constitution. He added that such verdict was expected from an unlawful court proceeding.

According to him, based on Article 26 of the Constitution, no license is needed for founding the Defenders of Human Rights Center. Even though they have gone through all the necessary steps for obtaining a license, the State Department has refused to issue a license since Ahmadinejad's government came into power. He added that the conduct of the State Department is illegal.

The Defenders of Human Rights Center was founded in 2002 by a group of prominent Iranian lawyers. It had announced defending the prisoners of conscience, supporting the families of political prisoners, and taking stances on human rights violations as their mission.

Yaser Masoumi Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison

RAHANA | Nov 1

Yaser Masoumi, a technology assistant for many reformist websites has been sentenced.

According to JARS, Judge Salavati, the presiding Judge of the 15th branch of the Revolutionary Court and a famous character in the post-election show trials, has sentenced Masoumi to 5 years in prison and a 5 year ban from membership in political groups and working for publications without disclosing his charges.

It is notable that Masoumi has never been a political activist or a member of any political groups. He has only worked in the technology section of the publications.

He was arrested in winter after being summoned to the Intelligence Ministry and was confined in Evin Prison without indictment. He was released on bail in May.

Reports indicated that he was a technology assistant for the website of the Shargh newspaper and several other publications. He had been detained by the Cyber section of IRGC.

Iranian Scholar Gets UNESCO Award

Press TV | Nov 3

Iranian philosophy professor Karim Mojtahedi has received [the] UNESCO Avicenna Prize for Ethics in Science at the 4th International Farabi Festival.

Paris-based United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will send the gold medal to Tehran to be presented to the Iranian intellectual, Fars news agency reported

The scholar is the fourth Iranian scholar who has received the honor after Fatollah Mojtabai, Ali Shariatmadari and Seyyed Jafar Sajjadi.

Mojtahedi was also awarded a plaque of honor by Iran's Cultural Luminaries Association.

He is a professor at Tehran University and has published over 20 books on philosophy so far.

His latest book 'Hegel's Thoughts' will soon be released by [the] Humanities and Cultural Studies Research Center.

The philosopher is to deliver a lecture in French at the World Philosophy Day Congress in Tehran slated for November 21-23 on the occasion of World Philosophy Day which will be celebrated on November 18, 2010 worldwide.

To mark the 1,000th birth anniversary of the most influential of Islam's philosopher-scientists, UNESCO established commemorative Avicenna Medal in 1980.

At the initiative of the Islamic Republic of Iran, UNESCO established the Avicenna Prize for Ethics in Science in 2002.

The Prize is named after Abu Ali al-Husain ibn Abdallah ibn Sina -- known in West as Avicenna -- who was an eminent scientist and philosopher of the 10th and 11th centuries.


Sakineh, Ahmadinejad, and the 'Insolents'

Bernard-Henri Lévy (Huffington Post) | Nov 3

And so Iran is backing down. The Islamic Republic does it in its own way, tortuously, but it is backing down. And that is what is evident in two stands made public this morning, after the new stay of execution accorded Sakineh under the pressure of public opinion and of the chancelleries.

The first comes from the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Manouchehr Mottaki, telling his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner that "the authorities of justice had not pronounced the final verdict in the affair concerning Sakineh Ashtiani" -- a discreet, to say the least, way of making one (temporarily) forget the letter addressed by the Supreme Court of Tehran to the application of sentences office of Tabriz prison instructing that the young woman be executed as rapidly as possible.

And the second, from M. Mehmanparast, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, reported by the Isna press agency, regrets that the Westerners have the "insolence" to transform "the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, who has committed crimes and is guilty of betrayal, an affair of human rights." What insolence, indeed, M. Mehmanparast insists, to have made of "her case a symbol of the liberty of women" and to "use a simple case (the criminal law case) as a means of pressure against Iran."

Ah, what a lovely way to express things. And how elegantly put the ire of the Iranian government. Fortunate "insolence," in any event! Happy mobilization that has transformed Sakineh's face into a global icon, a symbol, and thus put off, for the time being, the date of her expected death!

For me, of course, the struggle continues. It continues even more than ever. For a stay of execution is not a pardon. And, lamentably, execution of the sentence can still occur, and at any moment. We must keep up the pressure. There must be increasingly more citizens -- signing, for example, the petition of La Règle du Jeu -- who express their solidarity with the young woman unjustly condemned and, of course, with her son, Sajjad.

Let's not give in.

Let's continue to be "insolent."

Ahmadinejad's Unpleasant Surprise

Ali Alfoneh (The American/The Enterprise Blog) | Nov 2

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad woke up to an unpleasant surprise yesterday: Payam-e Enghelab, monthly publication of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), criticizes Ahmadinejad's month-old statements about the executive branch being superior to the legislative power, backs up the parliament's complaints about the cabinet not enacting laws passed by the parliament, and slams Ahmadinejad's use of "Persianism" rather than "Islamism" as the ideological discourse of the government.

Payam-e Enghelab's targeting Ahmadinejad directly heralds a new phase after the June 12, 2009, presidential election. The IRGC has hitherto functioned as Ahmadinejad's natural support base, and the IRGC's media outlets would never criticize Ahmadinejad directly but used to target his associates, especially Esfandiar Rashim-Mashaei, his chief of staff.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's purge of the reformist camp in the wake of the presidential election made Ahmadinejad Iran's strongman, as Khamenei had no other political factions to rely on. However, Khamenei has [...] systematically tried to restore the balance between the political forces by mobilizing the parliament and the judiciary, headed by brothers Ali and Sadegh Larijani and Friday prayer leaders, to attack Ahmadinejad's policies on issues ranging from economic reform plans to social and ideological issues.

Payam-e Enghelab's attack against Ahmadinejad is Khamenei's message to Iranians and foreigners alike about who is in charge in Iran. However, there is no guarantee that Khamenei's balancing act will succeed. Ahmadinejad has earlier shown that he is not a timid type, his social base is better organized than his presidential predecessors Abol-Hassan Bani-Sadr and Mohammad Khatami, and he may fight back much more energetically than Khamenei anticipates. Such a degree of disunity among political elites of the Islamic Republic is bad news for the regime and good news for those who desire to extract concessions from it.

The Human Cost of Sanctions on Iran

Hani Mansourian (Muftah) | Nov 3

The "smart" sanctions recently deployed against Iran are primarily aimed at curbing the economic activities of para-governmental economic entities, with the main emphasis being on the IRGC. Despite this intension, the sanctions will in all likelihood boost the influence of these actors on the Iranian economy.

The IRGC's activities have historically been centered on construction, engineering, and manufacturing, as well as transactions in the black market. The one hurdle standing in the way of IRGC monopolies in these markets has been the existence of competition (however insignificant) from multinational companies and some domestic private contractors. Following the imposition of the latest sanctions regime, multinationals are leaving the country and many private domestic companies are finding it difficult to function in Iran's unstable business environment. Some of these domestic actors are even on the verge of bankruptcy due to major fluctuations in the value of the rial, arguably caused by the sanctions.

To take one example of the IRCG's economic rise, in early October 2010, the single largest road construction contract in Iran was granted to Khatam al-Anbia, a subsidiary of the IRGC. Worth approximately $13-15 billion, the contract calls for the building of a 1,100-kilometer road connecting Qom to Mashad, the two most important religious cities in Iran. In order to facilitate investment activities like these, the IRGC has also been focusing its efforts on building its internal financing capabilities; in September 2010, the Council of Finance and Credit announced that Ansaar Financial Institute, a subsidiary of the IRGC, would become a full-blown bank. As the sanctions continue to strangle Iran's business environment, we are likely to continue witnessing an unprecedented expansion of the IRGC's role in the country's economy.

The pseudo-privatization process that started in the 80s -- and entered a new phase in 2006 -- has led to the growth of many para-governmental economic giants including but not limited to the IRGC. Given the semi-governmental stature and economic significance of these actors, sanctions have provided these organizations with economic advantages similar to those of the IRGC. The flight of international investment coupled with a further weakening of the private sector will allow these "state and...semi-private institutions to wield even more influence over the economy."

Given these current realities and likely future outcomes, there can be little doubt that the civilian population of Iran, and not its government, will bear the brunt of the sanctions.

Obama's Hopeless Iran Strategy

Robert Dreyfuss (The Diplomat) | Nov 4

Sometime in mid-November, it's likely that the Iran and the United States, along with the rest of the P5+1 world powers, will sit down in either Geneva or Vienna in an effort to restart talks over Iran's nuclear programme. Unfortunately, it appears that Barack Obama's administration will go into such talks with a strategy almost guaranteed to fail.

Unless the United States is willing to acknowledge that Iran, a signatory to the Non-proliferation Treaty, has the right to enrich uranium on its own soil, there's no chance that the negotiations will work. Years of behind-the-scenes Track II, off-the-record discussions between senior Iranian officials and a number of retired US diplomats of the highest rank have shown that only a win-win outcome can resolve the crisis. The 'win' that Iran needs is recognition that it has the right to enrich, while the 'win' that the United States, the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency needs is Iran's agreement to abide by iron-clad oversight of its work by IAEA inspectors under strict, intrusive new protocols.

Despite his outreach to Iran since taking office in January, 2009, Obama has never once declared that Iran has the right to carry out an enrichment programme. Last June, Senator John Kerry -- who is close to the president and who's advised him since Obama was first elected to the Senate in 2004 -- told the Financial Times that Iran does indeed have that right. In his laudable Cairo speech that same month, in which the president outlined his vision of better relations between the United States and the Muslim world, Obama said that Iran retained the right to peaceful use of nuclear energy.

At the time, I was in Teheran, meeting with Ali Akbar Rezaie, the director general for North and Central Americas at the Iranian foreign ministry, who'd read the Cairo speech very carefully. 'President Obama didn't say that we have the right to enrich uranium. But he also didn't say that we do not have that right. It's not clear to us whether he omitted that point intentionally or not,' Rezaie told me. 'We don't know what's in his mind.'

Sometimes, in diplomacy, creative ambiguity can be helpful. But, in the looming showdown over the Iranian nuclear programme, it's time for some plain speaking.

Will the Elections Change Obama's Iran Policy?

Tony Karon (Time) | Nov 3

[E]ven if Obama is inclined to resist any temptation to rally a more hawkish post-election legislature by ratcheting up confrontation with Iran, he'll find it even more difficult, after the election, to compromise with a regime so widely reviled on Capitol Hill. And without compromise, a diplomatic solution remains unlikely.

U.S. officials are prudently avoiding portraying Iran's agreement to a new round of talks, to be held either in Vienna or Geneva, as a victory for their sanctions strategy. That's because while they believe sanctions have been more effective than Tehran had anticipated, they're aware that Iran still has plenty of trade and investment from its neighbors and key players such as China, and it's unlikely to arrive at the table in a conciliatory mood. Indeed, among the topics the Iranians have insisted be discussed is the West's attitude to Israel's undeclared nuclear weapons capability -- a clear signal that they aim to demonstrate what they see as Western double standards.

The U.S. is also not approaching the talks in a compromising mood. Administration officials are reportedly weighing a new fuel-swap proposal more onerous in its requirements of Tehran than the one initially accepted and then nixed by Iran a year ago -- and revived last spring by Turkey and Brazil. Western officials are said to want a 50% increase over last year's proposal in the amount of uranium that Iran would be required to ship abroad in exchange for reactor fuel -- in recognition of the fact that Iran has substantially increased its stockpile over the last year, and the deal's purpose is to restrict the material available to Iran should it seek to enrich to weapons grade.

Iran would also be required to suspend enrichment by 20% for a research reactor that produces medical isotopes, which it began doing after rejecting last year's fuel swap deal -- although some Iranian officials have hinted they might be willing to concede that point. But there's some debate in the Western camp over any deal that could be taken as de-facto acceptance of Iran's ongoing enrichment to the 3.5% level for energy purposes. Such enrichment is currently in violation of a U.N. suspension order, although once transparency concerns have been satisfied, Iran would be allowed, under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, to resume. But the U.S. and its closest allies are unwilling to trust Iran to exercise that particular NPT right -- although many Western officials, and even the likes of former Secretary of State Colin Powell, have warned that this position is untenable, and the best that can be achieved is agreement to tighten the scrutiny and safeguards against Iran weaponizing nuclear material.

Opinion: The Worst Post-Election Advice Ever

Barbara Slavin (AOL News) | Nov 3

Of all the bad advice offered to President Barack Obama to contend with the Democrats' post-midterm losses, one recommendation stands out for its ignorance and irresponsibility: that Obama should go to war with Iran.

On Sunday, veteran Washington Post columnist David Broder was the latest to put forward this idea. George Friedman of Stratfor has also proposed attacking Iran, albeit conceding that the move would have considerable risks.

Broder suggested that Obama would have strong Republican support for the military option and that the nation "will rally around Obama because Iran is the greatest threat to the world in the young century."

There is so much that is wrong with this analysis that it's hard to know where to begin. For starters, Iran is not the greatest threat -- the anemic world economy is. Launching a third Middle Eastern war would add billions of dollars to the U.S. debt, strain a military that is already at the breaking point and give Iran a perfect justification to attack American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan -- thereby making it harder for the U.S. to withdraw from those continuing conflicts.

In terms of U.S. politics, it is by no means clear that new Republican members of Congress -- especially deficit hawk tea partiers like Rand Paul, the new senator from Kentucky -- would rush to embrace such a dangerous and expensive new foreign adventure.

Iran is a menace, to be sure, but mostly to its own people, who were cheated out of a less bellicose and repressive regime by fraud in 2009 elections. The best way to ensure that the current leadership endures is to attack Iran. Most Iranians, including members of the opposition Green Movement, will surely rally against a foreign attack that will inevitably kill civilians. Iranians, like people everywhere, are patriots.

Missing in the Rise of Islam in Turkey and Iran: A U.S. Strategy

Assad Homayoun, Former Iranian Diplomat, Senior Fellow of International Strategic Studies Association, and President of Azadegan Foundation for Democratic Change in Iran (World Tribune) | Nov 2

The real problem in the Northern Tier and the greater Middle East is that radical Islam is rising rapidly due to the lack of vision and grand strategy of the U.S., and because of the weakness of Europe. According to Eurasianet.org, even in the Central Asian republics the influence of Islam is growing rapidly. For example, in Tajikistan, instead of parents choosing Persian names for their children -- names which mostly came from Shahname Ferdowsi -- such as Jamshid, and Freidoon, they are instead choosing Arabic names. This represents a break with Tajik/Persian culture, identity, and the cultural past of the area.

If nothing dramatic happens -- by which I mean major war (and that possibility is very high) -- political Islam will definitely advance, and, in the mid-21st century, Islam could be in control of Europe. This would lead inevitably to clashes with non-Islamic states and communities. We are living in the most unstable period of human history, with ever-increasing cancerous problems, seemingly without solutions. It is interesting to remember the medicine which Hippocrates, the Greek physician, recommended against the cancer: "What medicine cannot heal, steel heals, what steel does not heal, fire does".

Political Islam, resorting to asymmetrical warfare and terrorism, has already intimidated a tired and perplexed Europe and has frightened the U.S. Even Queen Elizabeth II, during her visit to Turkey, through which she was wearing a headscarf, listened to a recitation of the Quran in the Green Mosque in Istanbul. It seems that the U.S. and the democratic West do not have a sound strategy to deal with political Islam. The West appears to have no strategy or will to prevent a shifting of power, or to guard Western culture, civilization, and democracy.

On the other hand, there are many in the Muslim world who believe that Islam needs to be adjusted to new realities of life in a modern world, and, indeed, to be liberated from literalist ayatollahs and imams. Much of the Muslim world is intimidated by the ferocity of the Islamists and does not speak. Indeed, Islam has been hijacked by radical Muslims who are ready to be killed for their ideology. I am of the opinion that going against a religion -- especially a popular one -- is the height of folly, but criticizing and fighting with extremism is necessary for the cause of peace.


AJC Urges UNESCO Relocation of World Philosophy Day Events from Iran

American Jewish Committee (via PR Newswire) | Nov 3

AJC has urged UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova to relocate events for World Philosophy Day scheduled for the Iranian capital, Tehran, on November 21-23.

The full text of the letter follows:

Dear Director-General Bokova,

We write to express our concern regarding the UNESCO World Philosophy Day scheduled to take place in Tehran on November 21-23. As an organization that was a strong supporter of the U.S. returning to UNESCO and advocates for U.S. presence in the organization, we are deeply troubled by the prospect of this conference. While we note that the main event has been relocated to Paris, we respectfully urge you to move the rest of the program away from Tehran.

UNESCO's stated mission is to "contribute to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information." Sadly, the current regime in Iran works day and night to thwart the very principles espoused in this noble statement.

Moreover, the abysmal human rights situation in Iran has been well-documented and condemned by an array of respected international bodies. The cruel and sadistic methods employed by the government to quell dissent demand that this regime be ostracized by the international community. To hold the World Philosophy Day in Tehran only frustrates these worthy efforts.

Indeed, tragically, UNESCO's World Philosophy Day Conference in Tehran will serve to bolster the propaganda messaging of President Ahmadinejad, who has already announced that, among the participants, will be Mohammad-Javad Larijani, a proponent of execution by stoning. Larijani will be joined by Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, who once referred to the Jewish people as "the most corrupt race in the world." By contrast, the government has ensured that any opposing views will be stifled, having barred the participation of moderate and learned philosophers. In a tragic and ironic twist, just last week, Iran implemented a new round of restrictions on the study of 12 key human social sciences, among them, philosophy and human rights.

In essence, to hold any part of the World Philosophy Day Conference in Tehran would be to contravene the core values of UNESCO. That is something none of us should desire.

David Harris
Robert Elman


Journalist's Lawyer: My Client Was Convicted of 'Writing'

Statement by Attorney Farideh Gheirat (ICHRI) | Nov 2

Following the sentencing of journalist Jila Baniyaghoub to one year in prison and 30-years' ban from any journalistic activity, her lawyer, Farideh Gheirat, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that such a punishment does not exist in Iranian law and the basis for such ruling is unclear. In legal circles, questions regarding the ruling were raised when a lower court announced Baniyaghoub's sentence a few months ago. The case has garnered renewed interest since an appeals upheld Baniyaghoub's sentence due to issues regarding the judicial review of political and media cases. Considering Baniyaghoub's age, her 30 year deprivation sentence effectively terminates her professional journalism career.

Jila Baniyaghoub was arrested immediately after the 2009 presidential election and spent 60 days in prison. Gheirat emphasized that her client has committed no crime other than doing her work.

Unfortunately, despite our request for appeal, the sentence was upheld. There is no such punishment as a '30 year ban on professional work' in our laws and it is not clear based upon which laws this ruling has been made. The important point is that if this journalist has committed a violation, which of course I do not see any violations in her doing her journalistic work, the sentence should have been proportionate to the crime. In our laws, for example, if a doctor commits a violation, his medical license is suspended for some time, but a 30-year deprivation from his professional work, which essentially means a lifetime ban, has never happened and is not addressed anywhere in the law.

Ms. Baniyaghoub is a journalist and reporter. During her life, she has never done any type of work other than journalism, but unfortunately she has been accused of the same charge three times over the past years. Branches 13 and 15 of the Revolutionary Courts and Branch 18 of Tehran General Courts have previously prosecuted her on the same charges. I represented her during those trials, too, and when we provided explanations to the judges, they were fortunately accepted and all three courts acquitted my client. But during last year's trial, she was convicted of "writing." I expressed at that trial again that Ms. Baniyaghoub's cases have ended and that she could not be re-tried on the same charge. A case that has gone to court before and Ms. Baniyaghoub has been found innocent in it, cannot be raised again. But the court did not pay attention, and Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Courts sentenced her to one year in prison and 30 years' ban on journalism.

Regarding what further recourse exists in the case, Gheirat said the only option left is using the "extraordinary means of review" article.

Of course, sometimes this step is accepted as a means of appeal, and sometimes it is not. If we are granted this chance, perhaps we can request a sentence reduction. Of course I was optimistic about the appeals stage, too, and to my disbelief, no reduction was granted.

Jila Baniyaghoub worked for several newspapers including Hamshahri, Sobh-e Emrooz, Azad, Khordad, Fath, Norooz, and Sarmayeh. She also served as Editor-in-Chief of the website Focus on Iranian Women. Baniyaghoub was awarded the "International Freedom of Speech Award" in 2009, and in 2010 won the "Freedom of Speech Award" from Reporters Without Borders.

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