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Yazdi Released; Mousavi, Karroubi Children Write Letter to Nation

20 Mar 2011 23:00Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Iranian press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

Iran Standard Time (IRST), GMT+3:30

Dr. Ebrahim Yazdi. Mir Hossein Mousavi, Dr. Zahra Rahnavard, Fatemeh Karroubi, Mehdi Karroubi.

11:00 p.m./March 20 Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's interview with a Spanish reporter who lacked any form of hejab has stirred controversy in Iran. Ahmadinejad, who has overseen the imposition of countless hejab restrictions on Iranian women since he became president, came under fire from all sides for failing to ask the reporter to fix her hejab or put it back on. Jahan News said the interview was reminiscent of the one given by Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, Ahmadinejad's chief of staff, to the Turkish Sabah daily in which he told the reporter it is not a problem if foreigners do not observe hejab. Mashaei later denied ever having conducted such an interview.

Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following news items and commentary:

Dr. Ebrahim Yazdi, 80, secretary-general of the Liberation Movement of Iran, was released from jail. He was arrested on October 1, 2010. He was first imprisoned and then transferred to a "safe house" controlled by the Ministry of Intelligence. His trial was postponed three times, and his arrest had generated a wave of protest by intellectuals, political and human rights activists, and others, both in Iran and abroad. In addition, a number of former heads of state had protested his arrest. He had been charged with "taking part in illegal Friday Prayers." It was never explained how holding Friday Prayers in a country whose government is supposedly based on Islam can be illegal. While in jail, he was reportedly under pressure to stop his political activities. IRNA, the state news agency controlled by the hardliners, reported Yazdi's release while claiming that he had resigned from his position as the Liberation Movement of Iran's secretary-general. Members of Yazdi's family who live outside Iran have issued a statement confirming his release. They said, "Our prayers for the [Iranian] new year is that all the imprisoned people return to their families, and that the issue of political prisoners in Iran becomes a historical one."

In a poetic message to the nation, the children of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi wrote,

"The Iranian year of 1389 that is ending has been a year of patience, resistance, waiting, concern for the imprisoned loved ones of the people, and looking for those who are missing. It was also an epic year for all of us [Iranians], a year that we wept in our mourning for losing those loved ones whose red blood has made our lives green and has cleansed our sadness. The memory of 1389 is [like] a long and cold winter that took on a different color due to the resistance of our fathers and mothers and the loss of lives by those who died while standing.... This year is ending like all those terrible years that had, however, green springs. The cold winter also taught us how we can stand by our fathers, mothers, comrades, and compatriots by virtue of a beautiful patience, strong faith, and resistance...."

Mojtaba Vahedi, a former senior adviser to Karroubi who stays in close contacts with his family, provided new details about the recent visit of Karroubi's second son, Dr. Mohammad Taghi Karroubi, with his parents. He confirmed that the visit took place in the Karroubis' home, but that no one knows for sure where Karroubi and his wife, Fatemeh, had been held between the visit and the time when they disappeared. Even the younger Karroubi did not know where he was supposed to visit with his parents. Vahedi said that, in order to control Karroubi and his wife, the security forces expelled, in violation of both civil and religious law, other families who lived in the same apartment building and replaced all the locks. They took away all of the Karroubis' medications, and did not allow them access to any for two weeks. They also took away all books, paper, pens, and pencils, fearing that they would be used by the Karroubis. The security forces gave the Karroubis a television only right before they met with their son, probably for propaganda purposes. The most important aspect of the visit according to Vahedi was that, in the presence of the security agent, Mehdi Karroubi courageously declared, "If I am released right now, I will continue my struggle more vigorously than ever, because I believe more than ever in the righteousness of what I have been doing."

Behnoud Ramazani Ghara.

Behnoud Ramazani Ghara, 18, a student of mechanical engineering at Noshirvani University of Technology in Babol, was killed Tuesday evening in Tehran. A report by Daneshjoo News indicate that Basij forces attacked a group of people who were celebrating the last Tuesday evening of the Iranian year, an old tradition. Ramazani Ghara was apparently carrying some fireworks that are commonly used the celebration,which exploded during or after the Basij attack. He was taken to a hospital and passed away there.

A number of political prisoners have been granted furlough for Nowruz. They include Dr. Leila Tavassoli, Farid Taheri, Dr. Mohsen Aminzadeh, Fayyzollah Arabsorkhi, Hoda Saber, Ali Jamali, Milad Asadi, Dr. Arash Alaei, Mehdi Karimian Eqbal, Parvin Javadzadeh, Babak Dashab, Zahra Jabbari, Hamzeh Karami, and Mohammad Reza Moghiseh.

Tavassoli, a dentist, is a human rights activist and senior member of the Liberation Movement of Iran. She is the daughter of Mohammad Tavassoli and a niece of Ebrahim Yazdi's. She is serving a two-year jail sentence. Taheri, also a member of the Liberation Movement of Iran, was arrested in January 2010 and sentenced to three years in jail. Aminzadeh was deputy foreign minister in the Khatami administrations. Like Arabsorkhi, he is a senior member of the Organization of Islamic Revolution Mojahedin, a leading reformist group that has been outlawed. Both he and Arabsorkhi are serving six- year jail sentences. Saber, a journalist and nationalist-religious activist, was arrested in July 2010 and sentenced to five-and-a-half years in jail. He has been imprisoned many times over the past three decades. Jamali is a former university activist and member of the leadership council of Advar-e Tahkim-e Vahdat (Organization of the Graduates of Islamic Iran). He was given a two-year jail sentence and released after posting $400,000 bail. His furlough is for three days only.

Asadi is a member of the central committee of Tahkim Vahdat (Office for Consolidation of Unity), the umbrella organization for most Muslim university student associations. He was sentenced to seven years in jail. Alaei is a medical doctor who, together with his brother, has worked on AIDS cases in Iran for years. They were both arrested in July 2008, accused of "having links with foreign powers," and sentenced to six years in jail. Karimian Eqbal was arrested on November 3, 2009, and given a four-year jail sentence. Javadzadeh is a young woman who was arrested in December 2009 during the Day of Ashura demonstrations and sentenced two years and two months in jail. Dashab was arrested with her and sentenced to five years in jail. Jabbari was arrested during the Quds demonstrations of 2009 and given a four-year jail sentence. Karami, a journalist, was arrested on June 19, 2009, and given a sentence of 16 years after being forced to "confess" in a show trial. Moghiseh, editor of Bist Saleh Haa (The 20-Year-Olds) magazine, was arrested on October 13, 2009, and given a prison sentence of six years. Compared to last year, many fewer political prisoners were granted furlough.

Emad Bahavar, Esmail Sahabeh, and Saeed Nour-Mohammadi, three political prisoners who were denied furlough, have sent a message to the nation on the occasion of the Iranian new year that begins on Monday. It reads: "We begin the year 1390 full of hope, a spring that we know will bring Green changes for the Iranians. Although it is not possible to be with you in the celebration of the new year, our hearts and memories are with you. Please accept our congratulation message from inside Evin [Prison]." Bahavar, leader of the youth division of the Liberation Movement of Iran, has been given a ten-year sentence.

Another Iranian cargo plane was forced to land in Turkey. The plane had taken off from Damascus, Syria, and was flying to Iran, but was made to land by the Turkish air force so its cargo could be inspected.

Mohammad Reza Yazdi, deputy Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander for legal and parliamentary affairs, claimed that all the economic activities of the Revolutionary Guards are completely transparent. He also said that due to an order by the Guard commander, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, Khatam-ol Anbiya, the Guards' engineering arm, will not work on any project that other Iranian companies can -- an attempt to justify the huge no-bid contracts that the Guards have received from the Ahmadinejad administration.

Cleric Mohammad Gharavi, member of the Society of Teachers of Seminaries of Qom, said that Qom still supports Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, despite the adversarial environment that has been created against him. Gharavi also said that many leading clerics want to criticize the Ahmadinejad administration, but will not do so due to political considerations.

Journalist Behrouz Samad Beigi disappeared on Tuesday and there has been no information about him. He had been summoned to the court, and thus it is possible that he was arrested. Samad Beigi is the deputy editor of the monthly Sanat o Toseh (Industry and Development). He was previously the editor of the social news section of Karhozaraan, a reformist daily that is now banned.

The Association of Teachers and Scholars of Qom, a clerical organization that supports the Green Movement, has sent a letter to the secretary-general of the Article 10 Commission protesting its decision to outlaw the group. The commission accused the group of calling for people to demonstrate and of such technical violations as not holding elections for its central committee. In response, the organization noted that a new central committee must be selected only if its by-laws have been changed, which is not the case in this instance. In addition, the organization said that it has never encouraged people to demonstrate or march against anyone in Iran, and that it only called for people to do so in support of the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. The letter ends by declaring that the organization will continue its activities, because it believes that it has not violated any law and considers the commission's decision to be illegal.

The youth division of the outlawed reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front has issued a statement on the occasion of the Iranian New Year and the 12th anniversary of the group's founding. Referring to a declaration Mousavi made a year ago, the group says, "The year that is ending was indeed a year of patience and resistance. The illegal, inhumane, and anti-Islamic arrest of the leaders of the Green Movement and the subsequent presence of the people out on the streets sent the positive message that the Green Movement does not depend on just one person to continue its path, because it is a collective movement that will continue along its path despite all obstacles.... We do not believe that the continuation of the arrest of Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and their wives is in the interest of the nation. Therefore, we demand their immediate release."

Grand Ayatollah Yousef Sanei, the progressive cleric and Green Movement supporter, has issued a statement condemning the crackdown on the people of Bahrain by its government and the intervention there by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The grand ayatollah says, "The governments of Bahrain, Libya, and other dictatorial regimes must be aware that, although they may be able to put down the protests of their nations, after a short time the blood that has been spilled unjustly and the voices of that have been suffocated will create a movement that will destroy the foundation of oppression and injustice. The people of Bahrain, especially the Shia part of the population, must be aware that the creation of divisions between the Shia and Sunni Muslims is a tool of their government to strengthen its own rule. Therefore, the protesters should unify, regardless of their ethnicity or religion."

The Majles recently passed legislation that allows the government to investigate the assets of the officials and how they have gained them -- though it excludes members of the cabinet and many other high officials. This was supposedly done in response to the vast corruption that even the judiciary has acknowledged. The Guardian Council declared that the legislation transgresses both Islam and the Constitution.

The planned trip to the United States by Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei has been canceled. He was supposed to take part in the celebration of Nowruz, the beginning of the new Iranian year, at the United Nations. Hardliners in the Iranian regime had opposed the trip. In related news, the Society of Combatant Clergy of Shiraz has demanded the cancellation of all celebrations of Nowruz planned by Ahmadinejad and Mashaei to take place in Persepolis near Shiraz.

The office of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in Najaf, Iraq, announced that he had canceled his religious classes, and has asked people to protest the slaughter of the people in Bahrain by its government. The grand ayatollah has also condemned the intervention of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in Bahrain, and in a message to Bahrain's king has warned him against the consequences of what is going on there.

Amin Ahmadian, husband of university and human rights activist Bahareh Hedayat, was finally allowed to see his wife after three months. The meeting lasted 15 minutes and took place in the office of Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi. Ahmadian described his wife's health and morale as very good. Hedayat is serving a nine-and-a-half-year sentence in Evin Prison.

Amin Khosravi, a student activist at the University of Yasouj, has been suspended for another two semesters. Khosravi was a member of Karroubi's presidential campaign committee in Yasouj, and had already been suspended for two semesters. He has been arrested twice, once by the intelligence unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps shortly after the 2009 presidential election, when he was jailed for a month. He was arrested again in November 2009 by the Ministry of Intelligence, tortured for two weeks, and then detained for another 25 days before posting bail.

Arman Rezakhani is a 20-year-old mathematics genius who has already discovered two important theorems, both named after him, and is responsible for several inventions. He is fluent in English and Italian, and also knows Russian. After the 2009 election, Rezakhani was arrested and spent months in jail. For a while he was the cellmate of journalist and documentary filmmaker Mohammad Nourizad, who has been imprisoned for writing several highly critical letters to Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei. Rezakhani's father was murdered by Jalal-olddin Fari, a high official in the early days of the 1979 Revolution and a candidate in the first presidential election of Iran in 1980. Farsi claimed that the murder was an accident because he was trying to hunt birds, and was never prosecuted.

In his fifth letter to Khamenei, Nourizad wrote about Rezakhani, "This young man in my cell was in solitary confinement for 60 days, and was beaten by the rude interrogators. This young man's father was murdered by Jalal-olddin Farsi, and he has been waiting for justice for 17 years given to him by our invented Islam. The same Islam that did not compel Farsi to pay anything to the young man, and has let him be free."

Rezakhani recently left Iran. He has written a public letter to the Iranian nation in which he speaks of the injustice done to him and his family after his father was murdered. Rezakhani says that he believes that informing the people about what is going on in the nation is the best weapon in the struggle against dictatorship. "For years knowledge and being informed has been an offense in the republic that the Islam invented by the rulers is also part of its name. The offender must not know. This is painful for me because being informed is the best weapon against dictatorship," he said in his letter. Rezakhani also said that he is hopeful that the dictatorship will end soon. He says that his father was murdered by Farsi because he did not want him to hunt his birds.

He explains that it was always difficult for him to think that he might be imprisoned in Evin Prison some day, because he thought that Evin was where his father's murderer should be held. But after he was arrested and taken there and saw the others who had also been arrested, he began "feeling proud in my isolation and to be cellmates with great people and young men. It was as if I was taking a few courses in a university [to learn from the arrested people]. It was difficult for me to accept the word 'imprisoned' next to my name. But as Mohammad Nourizad, the man of resistance in jail said, 'The government decided that the murderer [of Rezakhani's father] be free, but his son be in jail.'" Rezakhani ends his letter by quoting a verse from the Holy Qur'an that has been repeatedly invoked by Mousavi and Karroubi: "If someone kills an innocent person, it would be as if he has murdered everyone on earth" (Maedeh Sureh, verse 32).

Ebrahim Mehtari, the young man who was reportedly raped in jail after his arrest in the wake of the 2009 election, was attacked by unknown assailants in Paris and badly injured. When Karroubi declared that young people had been raped in jail, Mehtari testified to the truthfulness of Karroubi's claim. Mehtari has been living in Paris for the past year.

In a brief phone conversation from Evin Prison, where she has been detained for a month, Fakhr ol-Sadat Mohtashamipour, wife of the outspoken imprisoned reformist Mostafa Tajzadeh, said that if she is not allowed to see her husband by Monday, the first day of the new Iranian year, she will begin a hunger strike. Mohtashamipour is being held in Evin's Ward 209, which is controlled by the Ministry of Intelligence.

The Iranian government has been completely silent in response to the several demonstrations by pro-democracy groups in Syria. Reports by various news agencies indicate that at least five people have been killed during the demonstrations by Syria's security forces. This is while the Islamic Republic has protested strongly what is going on in Bahrain, and has loudly supported the uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Yemen. Syria has been Iran's strategic ally ever since the 1979 Revolution.

A comprehensive report was published that details 1,256 confirmed political arrests in Iran during the Iranian year that is ending. Of those arrested, 185 were university students, 165 were religious minorities, 129 were political activists, 129 were Kurdish activists, 40 were Turkish activists, eight were Iranian-Arab activists, 23 were journalists and bloggers, 22 were labor activists, 20 were human rights activists, and eight were women's rights activists. The report states that there were 332 confirmed arrests in Bahman (late January-late February), due to the Green Movement demonstrations.

Journalist and human rights activist Kaveh Ghasemi Kermanshahi, has been sentenced to four years imprisonment. He was arrested on February 5, 2010, and held for four months until he posted $100,000 bail. He was kept in solitary confinement for 80 days and went on a week-long hunger strike.

Seven leaders of the Baha'i community, Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamal-olddin Khanjani, Mahvash Sabet, Afif Naeimi, Saeed Rezaei, Behrozz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Teezfahm, have each been sentenced to 20 years in jail. They were previously sentenced to the same term, which was cut in half in September 2010; the original, two-decade-long sentences have now been restored. Sabet was arrested in March 2008, and the other six that May. The Islamic Republic does not recognize the Baha'i religion. A large group of Dutch legislators has written a letter to the Majles deputies asking Iran to release the Baha'i leaders. In related news, ten people who recently converted to Christianity were arrested in Kermanshah in western Iran. Seven were released after extensive interrogations, but the rest are still in detention.

In an interview with Khabar, the website close to Majles Speaker Ali Larijani, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said that there are serious differences between the various political groups, and such differences are not limited to those between the reformists and fundamentalists. He said that some groups use the differences to advance their own agenda and attack others without any basis.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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