In her latest monthly report, Shirin Ebadi, human rights defender and winner of Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, has reviewed the human rights situation in Iran during the month of Esfand 1391 [February-March 2013]. In the preface to the report for February-March, Dr. Ebadi has propounded the issue of the behaviour of the Iranian Government’s envoy at the meetings of the United Nations Human Rights Council. In her report, this defender of human rights has described as undiplomatic and impolite the behaviour of Mohammad Javad Larijani, the Iranian Government’s representative at the meetings of the UN Human Rights Council, and has called on the Iranian state officials to replace him with someone more polite.
In another part of her report, which is published in both Farsi and English, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate has set out to review the human rights situation in Iran under three separate sections, namely: “civil and political rights”, “social and economic rights”, and “cultural heritage and environment”.
In her February-March 2013 report, Dr. Ebadi has referred to the arrest of some 21 nonconformist civil and political activists, as well as nine journalists and cultural activists in Iran, and has alluded to the claims about free elections in Iran by the head of the Iranian Government’s delegation at the UN Human Rights Council meeting. She asserted: In addition to the [Guardian Council’s] “executive supervision” law, which undermines the freedom of the election process in Iran, two of the election rivals of the incumbent president have been in prison now for more than two years, without having a trial and without being charged formally. Moreover, up to now, no state organ has accepted responsibility for their arrest.
Furthermore, while referring to the postures adopted by the representative of the Iranian Government at the meeting of the UN Human Rights Council – who labelled as biased the report on women by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran - this human rights defender has made mention of the ban imposed by the Iranian security officials on any commemoration of 8th March, the “Women Day”.
According to the website of the Centre for Defenders of Human Rights, the text of Dr. Ebadi’s report for February-March, which has been published on 21 March 2013, is as follows:
A Brief Report on Human Rights Situation in Iran in Esfand 1391 [February-March]
During the month of Esfand 1391, Mr Ahmad Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights situation in Iran, presented his report to the meeting of the UN Human Rights Council on 21 Esfand [11 March]. In that report, he expressed concerns about the extensive and systematic violations of human rights in Iran. For his part, Mr Mohammad Javad Larijani, the Iranian Government’s representative at the meeting, while rejecting the said report, accused Mr Shaheed of compiling his report by using the American Administration’s financial aid and with the cooperation of terrorist groups.
The undiplomatic and even impolite approach of the Iranian Government’s envoy prompted the reaction of the chairman of the UN Human Rights Council meeting, who took the matters as far as giving the envoy a warning against using insulting language.
A part of the report submitted by Mr Shaheed deals with the unfavourable conditions of the ethnic and religious minorities in Iran. You will also see later in this month’s report that the majority of the arrests, and also most of the death sentences, have been directed against the Iranian minorities.
Mr Larijani cited the issue of cultural relativity as he went on to reject Mr Shaheed’s report about the women of Iran living under discrimination, and labelled that report as biased. This is while in addition to the discriminatory laws approved in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the women of Iran do not have even the right to commemorate the “Women Day” on 8th March. Time and again, several Iranian feminists have been arrested and jailed precisely for that reason, and at the moment, more than 20 people are in prison for the crime of protesting against gender discrimination. Moreover, some new restrictions have been introduced for girls embarking on higher education studies within the framework of a “gender-based quota” system.
The Iranian envoy, furthermore, has announced that elections have always been free in Iran, and on that basis, he said that the report by Mr Shaheed was flawed and lacked credibility. This is despite the fact that in addition to the executive and binding supervision law [exercised by the Guardian Council], which seriously undermines the freedom of the election process, two of the election rivals of the incumbent president have been in prison now for more than two years, without a trial and without being charged formally. Moreover, up to now, no state organ has accepted responsibility for their arrest.
Mr Larijani has also accused the UN Special Rapporteur of promoting homosexuality. This is while on the basis of the Islamic Penal Laws, the act of sodomy is a crime (even when no one is pressing any charges) and can be punished by execution. There have been instances where, in accordance with the court orders, the accused has been placed in a sack and thrown down from the top of a hill, so as to make sure the defendant dies in maximum pain and anguish.
The interesting point is that some [Iranian] civil institutions were taking part in the side meetings of the UN Human Rights Council session. These institutions have been established by the Intelligence Ministry of the Islamic Republic of Iran and are funded by the Iranian Government. However, the representatives of these institutions, who claim to be independent of the Iranian state, tended to attend various meetings to disrupt them by voicing their support for the policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Government and engaging in arguments with the other speakers and contributors. Moreover, at times, by resorting to dramatic postures and tones, they claimed that one of the groups opposing the Iranian regime has been behind the assassination of their relatives. They were unhappy with Mr Shaheed because they said he had failed to mention anything about these events. However, it must be said that regardless of the veracity of the claims by these individuals, in essence, investigating the activities of the opposition groups in previous years is not part of the remit and authority of the UN Special Rapporteur.
It would be better if instead of resorting to insult and slanders against the UN Special Rapporteur, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Government should allow the Rapporteur to travel to Iran, and offer this United Nations official the necessary judicial help and cooperation to compile his report.
Furthermore, following the above issues, what now follows is a summary account of the human rights situation in Iran in Esfand 1391. This report is based on material which have appeared in various media channels and websites, and their accuracy has been ascertained. The report will appear under three sections, and will be available in both Farsi and English.
Human Rights Situation in Iran in Esfand 1391
Section 1: Civil, Cultural and Political Rights
A) Situation of Nonconformist Political and Social Activists
1. During this month, 21 people were arrested, some of whom were released on bail after a few days. The arrested individuals were as follows: Around ten to 12 citizens of Ahvaz, namely: Reza Bavi, Salem Baraje’eh; Mansur Baraje’eh, Abbas Badavi, Amir Badavi, Ahmad Badavi, Mohammad Mazra’eh, Naser Asadi, Ahmad Heydari, Jaseb Afravi, Vali Mas’udi and Khalil Khosrji; a cleric opponent of the regime, Ahmad Qobanchi; the representative of Hamedan in the Sixth Majlis, Hossein Loqmanian, who also heads the Hamedan local branch of the Islamic Iran Participation Front; four political activists from Hamedan, namely: Mohammad Reza Afkhami, Hadi Ehtezazi, Mrs Rahimi and Amin Faridiyan; Eshrat Bastijani, one of the supporters of the Park Laleh mothers, and a caring and philanthropist Tehran lady, together with her daughter Mahsa Reza’i; and Mehdi Mo’tamedi-Mehr and Mohammad bagher Alavi , who is a member of the Iran Freedom Movement.
2. Mohammad Mozaffari was transferred to Evin Prison in order to endure an imprisonment term of six years, three months and one day.
3. Hasan Behzadian-Nejad was sentenced to payment of 30 million Riyals fine, in lieu of imprisonment, as well as ten lashes; Mir Taher Musavi, a university lecturer and former member of the Islamic Majlis, was sentenced to a five-year custodial jail term in Baluchestan, as well as ten years of exile; Mohammad Seyfzadeh, a lawyer and member of the Higher Council of Supervision at the Centre for Defenders of Human Rights – who has been in prison now for nearly two years – was sentenced to six years in jail merely for writing a letter to Seyyed Mohammad Khatami; Hesamoddin Qorbani, a student activist, was sentenced to 20 lashes and a cash fine of 3,500,000 Riyals; and Mostafa Feqh, a Mahabad citizen, was sentenced to four years in jail.
4. Mohammad Parsi, Mohsen Qashqai, Ahmad Reza Ahmadi, Akbar Amini and Pejman Zafarmand have been summoned to the Islamic Revolution Court, while Mamusta Abdol Salam Golnavaz, a Sunni communal prayer Imam, has been summoned by the Special Clergy Court in Tabriz. In addition, Mostafa Tajzadeh, a member of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, who is currently serving his jail sentence, has been summoned by the Magistrate at the Evin Court in connection with a new accusation against him.
5. The conditions of some prisoners of conscience are still reported to be unsatisfactory. In that connection, one can mention the intense and unlawful pressures that Mehdi Khoda’i, an inmate in Ward 350 of Evin Prison, has been subjected to in connection with the process of his dispatch to the prison infirmary – a process which has been blocked by the Prosecutor General of Tehran.
6. Mehdi Khazali, a political prisoner, is still on hunger strike, and he is severely ill and desperately needs medical treatment. Mir Taher Musavi, a university lecturer, who is currently serving a prison sentence, has started a strike refusing to take his medical drugs in protest against the behaviour and policies of the security officers. In addition, a group of citizens of the city of Ahvaz, that is to say Hashem Sha’bani-Nejad, Hadi Rashedi, Mohammad Ali Amuri-Nejad, and Jaber and Mokhtar Albushukeh, who have been sentenced to death, as well as Rahman Asakereh, who has been sentenced to 20 years in prison, have all started a hunger strike in protest against their conditions.
7. Ziya Nabavi, who is currently serving a jail term, has been transferred to the solitary confinement prison of the Intelligence Directorate General Office of Ahvaz.
8. The 200 million Riyal bail that was set for Mas’ud Nur-Mohammadi – one of the defendants in the events following the 2009 presidential elections in Iran – has been confiscated after he left Iran.
B) Situation Regarding Books, Media, Writers and Journalists
1. In this month, in addition to the nonconformist political activists who were mentioned under Section A above, nine more writers, journalists and cultural activists were also arrested, but some of them were released on bail after a few days detention. The arrested individuals were named as: Six newspaper journalists: Mohammad Javad Ruh, Ehsan Mazandarani, Mas’ud Kordpu, Khorsro Kordpour, Alireza Aqa’i-Rad, and Qasem Ahmadi; two writers and cultural activists: Keyhan Azizi and Davud Qaffari; and Mohammad Mehdi Emami-Naseri, the managing editor of the Maghreb newspaper.
2. Newspaper journalist Abbas Darvish Tavangar was interrogated, while Mohammad Nurizad, writer and documentary film-maker, was summoned to the court.
3. The Press Supervisory Board has revoked the publication licence of Maghreb daily newspaper.
4. An evening concert and the “Sport and Leisure Festival” were prevented from being held in the city of Bushehr. Furthermore, Fatemeh Mo’tamed Arya, film actress, was prevented from attending a meeting with the local film-makers in Bushehr.
5. The passports of Kambuzia Partovi and Maryam Moqaddam, two Iranian film-makers, were confiscated on their arrival back in Iran on their return from the Berlin Film Festival. Both these film-makers have now been barred from foreign travel.
C) Other Instances Of Human Rights Abuse
1. During the month of Esfand, 14 people were executed in Iran. The supervisor of the Public Court in Torkmanchai District has reported the execution of two people in the said town. This judicial official said the two had been convicted of murder. The Revolution and Public Prosecutor of the city of Sari has reported the execution of one person. According to this judicial official, the person had been convicted of possession and trafficking of narcotic drugs. Furthermore, L.J, N.Sh, A.N, H.A, P.M, H.A, A.M and A.T were executed in Shiraz, while R.Kh met with the same fate in Semnan. Media organs affiliated with the Iranian Government – including Mehr News Agency – said these individuals had been found guilty of drug possession and trafficking. Also, S.J, Sh.R, K.A and Y.B were executed in the town of Gachsaran. Media affiliated with the Iranian Government reported that these individuals had been convicted of rape.
2. Mohammad Zamiran and Ehsan Shari’ati were prevented from teaching at the Science and Research Unit of Azad University in Hesarak district. Furthermore, Seyyed Javid Al-e Davud, the chairman of the Society for Protection of Animals, was sentenced to a three-month suspension from employment because of a final academic dissertation he had submitted and also on grounds of taking part in interviews with domestic and foreign media.
3. Payam Shakiba has been barred from continuing his studies at the master degree level. Moreover, Seyyed Ahmad Hosseini has been expelled from the university.
4. A large group of medical doctors affiliated with the camp of the regime’s opponents have been disqualified from taking part in the sixth elections for the board of Iranian Medical Society.
5. The security officials of Azad University in Shahr-e Kord have confiscated all the furniture and equipment at the office of the Islamic Students Society at that university, and have taken over the office entirely.
6. The ban on VPNs [Virtual Private Networks] and reducing the Internet speeds in order to impose restrictions on Internet access has been particularly visible and extensive during the past month.
7. The Iranian state officials have prohibited the holding of any kind of meeting or commemorative event to mark the Women Day on 8th March.
Section 2: Social and Economic Rights
1. The economic conditions in the country are still reported to be unfavourable. Official reports indicate that the cost of living at on average standard is currently six times more than the minimum wage of workers. This is to say during the month of Bahman of the current year [21 January to 21 February 2013], the minimum cost of living for a four-member household was in excess of 25 million Riyals. At the same time, the Chairman of the Majlis Health and Hygiene Commission has said that the Health Ministry is currently facing an unprecedented budget deficit of around 45,000 billion Riyals.
2. With regards to the conditions of workers too, one can mention the following cases: Around 2,300 workers at the Saveh Rolling and Profile Mill, and the Safa Rolling and Pipeline Factory have not received their wages for the last three months. The wage arrears of around 1500 workers at the Iranian Marine Industries Company (SADRA) have not been paid in the last four months. In addition, a group of workers at the Ahvaz Sugar Processing and Refinement Plant have not received any wages for around 26 months now.
3. A source in management has reported that a mine worker has set himself on fire in Esfahan Province. Furthermore, the daily newspaper Khorasan has also reported that a homeless young woman aged around 35 years has died due to the cold weather, as she slept on cardboard boxes at the Bagh Alu Park in the city of Mashhad.
4. Ali Azadi, Vafa Qaderi, Khaled Hosseini, Behzad Farajollahi and Hamed Mahmud-Nejad, five labour activists and members of the Coordination Committee for Assistance to the Formation of Workers Associations, as well as Sharif Sa’ed-Panah, a member of the management board of the Free Union of Workers of Iran have been arrested.
5. The judicial officials have not given permission to labour activist, Mohammad Jarahi, to be admitted to hospital and receive treatment following a definite medical diagnosis that he is suffering from malignant cancer.
6. The managers of Fatemeh Zahra School in the town of Marivan have demanded the sum of 1 million Riyals in cash from each of the pupils, but some of the children could not pay because of their poverty, and they have now been barred from continuing their education at the school.
7. The Education Minister has reported that around 25,000 retired teachers and educationalists have not been paid their expected end of service bonuses.
Section 3: Cultural Heritage and Environment
Reports concerning cultural heritage and the environment in the month of Esfand also serve to indicate the presence of unfavourable conditions in these areas.
1. Statistics show that the rate of destruction of Iranian forests has been so high in recent years that the total area of these lands has been reduced from 3.9 million hectares to 1.8 million hectares.
2. Iranian soil is being sold under the name of non-oil exports of the country.
In conclusion to this monthly report, I would like to draw the attention of the officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran Government to this point that they should cooperate with the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran and should allow him to visit Iran. In addition, if the Special Rapporteur is allowed to make this trip, the Iranian Government must guarantee his safety and security. Moreover, the officials should appoint another envoy to attend the meetings of the UN Human Rights Council; someone who is more polite and is familiar with the international laws and conventions, particularly in the area of human rights.
Human Rights Defendant and 2003 Nobel Laureate
21 March 2013
Note: For further information regarding the above reports, please refer to the following news websites: Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA), Fars news agency, Mehr news agency, Young Journalists Club news agency, CDHR website, JARAS, Committee of Human Rights Reporters, Nedaye Azadi, Baztab, HRANA, Ghanoon, Kaleme, Mohebbat News, Sunni Online, International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Majzooban-e Noor, Melli Mazhabi, Nedaye Sabze Azadi, Radio Zamaneh, Radio Farda and BBC.