Monthly Archives: May 2010

Jafar Panahi released on bail – but the struggle continues!

Hands Off the People celebrates the fact that Iranian film maker Jafar Panahi has been released from prison after more than two months. For the last week, he has been on hunger strike to protest against the conditions in the notorious Evin prison that he and his fellow prison mates had to endure.

A picture of Panahi taken yesterday

A picture of Panahi taken yesterday, May 25

He was arrested in March, apparently over plans to make a new critical film about the protests that sprung up in Iran after the rigged presidential elections in June 2009.

International pressure, including the protests staged at the Cannes Festival, as well as the campaigning work of organisations like Hopi (which, amongst other things, organised solidarity screenings of Panahi’s film ‘Offside’), have clearly played a role in him being freed. Panahi’s family and friends have told us how heartened he was to see that there were people fighting for his freedom.

He was released on a bail of $200,000 (£140,000).

A picture of Panahi taken yesterday

A picture of Panahi taken yesterday, May 25

But the struggle continues: his case has been referred to a revolutionary court, and he will still face trial, the official Irna news agency said. And hundreds of activists still remain behind bars. At least nine have been sentenced to death, and two have been executed already.

Hopi will continue to fight for the release of all political prisoners in Iran. Sanctions and war are not the answer to deal with the theocracy in Iran. Real democracy must come from below, from the workers’, the students, the women and unemployed in Iran.

Support Hands Off the People now. Join the campaign or make a donation: http://hopoi.org/

Panahi stages hunger strike

panahi picBen Lewis reports on the campaign to free the outspoken film maker imprisoned by the Iranian regime

Activists in Hands Off the People of Iran have been informed that Jafar Panahi, the internationally acclaimed film maker who has been incarcerated for over two months, has begun a hunger strike in Evin prison.

This is the latest brave step by Panahi, who is increasingly becoming a symbol of resistance. The solidarity he can generate is of grave cause concern for the Islamic Republic, despite its jails, armed thugs and reactionary militias. Panahi fully realises this, and he is using his standing to exert as much pressure on the regime as possible. He has refused offers of bail, saying that he will only accept it when all other political prisoners are released. Like him, the overwhelming majority of these prisoners were arrested as part of the shocking wave of repression unleashed by the regime in response to the enormous protests on the streets of Iran following last June’s rigged presidential elections.

As we have reported previously, Panahi has been subjected to rigorous interrogation in jail. The Evin interrogators appear to be pursuing the tried and tested approach of bombarding him with the same questions over and over again in order to force inconsistencies in his answers, backing this up with the soul-destroying conditions and humiliating treatment for which Evin prison has become infamous.

Last Saturday the authorities kept all inmates in his wing of the prison outside their cells in the open air for the whole night. Next morning he was interrogated once more, this time being accused of secretly working on a film from his cell. He is particularly concerned about some of the new threats that have been made against his family.

There is clearly a lot of work for us in the solidarity movement. We must do what we can to publicise Jafar Panahi’s brave stance, not least using his wonderfully human films. He – and indeed all the other political prisoners in Iran – cannot be allowed to suffer without an outcry. Holywood directors Martin Scorscese, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola and Robert Redford have issued forthright statements demanding his release. At this week’s 63rd Cannes Film Festival there were countless expressions of solidarity. One of the nine chairs for jury members remained empty in his honour. Given Panahi’s reputation internationally, it is quite striking that his case has hitherto been subjected to what John McDonnell MP has described as a “media blackout” in Britain, and we must break through this.

Simultaneously, it is vital ensure that the brutal actions of the Iranian state and its callous treatment of dissenters and critical figures of all kinds should not in any way be misappropriated by the US or UK governments to cover their designs on Iran and the region more generally. At a time when the permanent members of the UN security council – US, UK, China, Russia and France – have agreed on new proposals for a fresh round of sanctions, and when the rightwing Israeli politicians hypocritically hark on about the danger of a “second holocaust”, this is of the utmost importance.

Indeed, given that public opinion is not exactly welcoming the prospect of the further escalation of tension in the Middle East, one of the ways in which the imperialists may attempt to respond is to disingenuously latch on to the cause of Iran’s political prisoners. So there is a danger that the political and cultural establishment in the US and UK could hijack Panahi’s courageous stance for their own nefarious purposes. So we must redouble our campaign for the immediate and unconditional release not only of Panahi, but of all political prisoners, and link this with implacable opposition to imperialist sanctions and threats of war. A fight on two fronts which Hopi has conducted since its inception.

Solidarity success

May 12 saw well over 100 people attend a solidarity screening at London’s Soho Theatre of Panahi’s best known film, Offside, jointly organised by Hopi and the Labour Representation Committee. The event was the first in a series of film showings and solidarity events across the country. The Manchester screening took place on May 18, and there will be a further one in Glasgow on May 21.

The event opened with Soho Theatre’s artistic director, Lisa Goldman, providing a moving account of her work with Panahi on artistic projects in Iran. She was followed by John McDonnell, who outlined the significance of the campaign to free Panahi. “Every movement creates a symbol,” he said. “In refusing bail until all other political prisoners are freed, Jafar is taking a courageous stance that we in Hopi wish to applaud and highlight.” He emphasised the importance of Hopi’s core principles – against war or sanctions on Iran; but no support for the theocracy and unequivocal solidarity with genuinely democratic struggles from below against its rule, especially those of the workers’ movement.

This was a theme British-Iranian comic Shappi Khorsandi took up in her opening remarks to the audience, explaining that is why she “loved” Hopi. Offside was certainly a big hit with the audience: stormy applause followed its closing credits. At the end a message of thanks was read out from Panahi’s family.

PCS welcome

Hopi activists have been present this week at the Public and Commercial Services union conference in Brighton and our stall has had a very good response from delegates. PCS has been affiliated to Hopi since 2008 and the annual conference is always a good time to meet PCS militants new and old. Gratifyingly, the response we had from the delegates this year was particularly warm. We distributed some 400 information bulletins on the Jafar Panahi campaign and have already received over 50 signed postcards, which will be sent off in a special batch to Panahi’s family in Iran. We also raised funds for our campaigning work by selling numerous ‘No to war; no to theocracy’ badges and copies of Panahi’s films.

From Weekly Worker 818

Save the Life of LGBT Activist Kiana Firouz

Kiana-Firouz-Cul-de-Sac1‘Iranian lesbian activist Kiana Firouz is currently seeking asylum in the United Kingdom after a controversy over the upcoming release of Cul de Sac. The film, which stars Firouz and includes explicit lesbian sex scenes, is based heavily on Firouz’s life and struggles as a lesbian in Iran. Directors Ramin Goudarzi-Nejad and Mahshad Torkan posted the trailer on YouTube in December 2009 (below, NSFW) and since then, the Iranian government has attempted to deport Firouz back to Iran to be tried and punished for her crime of homosexuality. Firouz applied for refugee status in the UK, but was rejected.

If she is not granted asylum in the UK, she will be sent back to Iran, where the minimum punishment for homosexuality is 100 lashes. The punishment for “unrepentant” homosexuality, which Firouz’s LGBTQ activism clearly demonstrates, is public execution by hanging.

To sign a petition asking for asylum in the UK endorsed by Firouz herself, click here: http://www.petitiononline.com/kianaf/petition.html

To see the trailer for Cul de Sac, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hp-i-oeFdB4

Send a letter asking for amnesty for Firouz here:
Minister of State (Borders and Immigration) –
Home Office, 2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF
Fax: +44 870 336 9034

Secretary of State for the Home Department –
Home Office, 2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF
Fax: +44 20 7035 0900

A form letter can be found here: http://madikazemi.blogspot.com/2010/04/iranian-lesbian-makes-her-appeal.html’

From: Save the Life of LGBT Activist Kiana Firouz campaign

Join the facebook group by clicking here.

Over one hundred people attend solidarity screening of arrested Iranian film maker Jafar Panahi’s Offside at Soho Theatre.

Comedian Shappi Khorsandi and LRC Leader John McDonnell MP

Comedian Shappi Khorsandi and LRC Leader John McDonnell MP

Over one hundred people attend solidarity screening of arrested Iranian film maker Jafar Panahi’s Offside at Soho Theatre.

May 12 saw a well-attended solidarity solidarity screening of Jafar Panahi’s best known film, jointly organised by Hands Off the People of Iran (Hopi) and the Labour Representation Committee. The event is part of a series of film showings and solidarity events across the country to raise the profile of Jafar Panahi and others incarcerated for political ‘crimes’ in Iran.

Panahi was arrested on March 1 as part of the Iranian state’s crackdown on the pro-democracy movement sparked by the rigged presidential elections in June 2009. He has refused bail until all political prisoners of this  movement are freed.

The event opened with Soho Theatre’s artistic director Lisa Goldman providing a moving account of meeting Panahi in Iran. She was followed by John McDonnell MP outlining the significance of the campaign to free Panahi.

“Every movement creates a symbol” he said. “In refusing bail until all other political prisoners are freed, Jafar is taking a courageous stance that we in Hopi wish to applaud and highlight”. He emphasised the importance of Hopi’s core principles – against war or sanctions on Iran; but no support for the theocracy and unequivocal solidarity with genuinely democratic struggles from below against its rule, especially those of the workers’ movement.

Hopi 3 Shappi

Shappi Khorsandi

This was a theme British-Iranian comic Shappi Khorsandi took up in her opening remarks to the audience, explaining that she “loved” Hopi precisely because of this principled stance. Her acutely observed act then interlaced anecdotes drawn from her own background as the daughter of an Iranian activist who had also been persecuted by the Iranian theocracy with observations on the eccentricities of British society from an ‘outsider’.

Panahi’s moving film was a huge hit with the audience; stormy applause followed its closing credits.

Mark Fischer, Hopi national secretary said:

“Tonight was a real success. We are fighting to raise the profile of Jafar Panahi, who in spite of his international prominence as an artist, has been largely ignored by what John McDonnell dubbed in his speech a ‘media blackout’. He – and all political prisoners in Iran – must not be forgotten”.

Panahi’s family sent thanks to the organisers of the event. Hopi has plans for more solidarity events in the near future.

ENDS

Additional Information

Contacts:
Yassamine Mather – 07738 828 540
Mark Fischer – 07950 416 922
Ben Lewis – 07890 437 497

Supporters of Hopi include (for a full list, visit www.hopoi.org/supporters.html):
ASLEF – train drivers union
PCSU – Public and commercial services union
Green Party
Communist Party of Great Britain
Diane Abbott MP – Labour
John McDonnell MP – Labour
Caroline Lucas MP – Green Party
Dr Derek Wall – male principal speaker, Green Party
Bill Bailey – comedian
Haifa Zangana – writer
Ken Loach – film maker
Naomi Klein – author

John Pilger – campaigning journalist
Professor Alan Macfarlane – University of Cambridge
Professor Moshé Machover – King’s College, London
Professor John McIlroy – Keele University
Professor Bridget Fowler – Glasgow University
Professor Christine Cooper – Strathclyde University
Dr Terry Brotherstone – University of Aberdeen UCU
Dr Adam Swift – University of Oxford
Professor Phil Taylor – University of Strathclyde
Professor George Joffe – King’s College, London & University of Cambridge
Peter Jowers – University of the West of England
Professor Guy Julier – Leeds Metropolitan University
Victor Kattan – Research Fellow, British Institute of International & Comparative Law
Dr Gerry Kearns – University of Cambridge
Professor Jeremy Keenan – University of Exeter & University of Bristol
Dr Andrew Cumbers – University of Glasgow
Dr Rolf Czeskleba-Dupont – University of Roskilde
Professor Bill Bowring – Birkbeck College, University of London
Professor Hamid Dabashi – Columbia University
Professor Moataz Fattah – Cairo University

Hopi is a campaign established in 2008 around the central slogans ‘No to imperialist war! No to the theocratic regime!’ As well as British activists, the organisation centrally involves a large number of Iranian exile organisations and individuals who have been forced into exile to avoid arrest and imprisonment.

Manchester solidarity demo against executions in Iran

On May 13th around 30 members of Hands Off the People of Iran along, Iranian students and exiles demonstrated in support of the general strike in Iranian Kurdistan and protest the executions of five political prisoners on May 9th in Evin prison. Those executed were school teacher and trade unionist Farzad Kamangar, Ali Haydarian, Farhad Vakili, Shirin Alam-Houli and Mehdi Eslamian. We rallied outside the University of Manchester Students’ Union and the BBC building spreading leaflets and literature on the situation. There were speeches by Iranian refugees who explained the situation in Iran the recent repressive measures in both English and Farsi.

Chris Strafford from HOPI’s national steering committee condemned the executions and the ongoing torture and incarceration of political prisoners within Iran, he also spoke about the negative impact of sanctions and that the key task for socialists in the UK is to oppose sanctions and military threats whilst building solidarity with the truly democratic movements. Afterwards he read out a letter by Farzad Kamangar sent to other prisoners titled ‘Be Strong Comrades’ you can see the videos here and here.

Hands Off the People of Iran demands:

* The immediate end to executions in Iran
* The unconditional and immediate release of all political prisoners
* An end to the sanctions regime and imperialist threats

Below are some pictures of the day:

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Sharif University Student Found Murdered in Dormitory

Iran News Agency – Sharif University of Technology student Hamidreza Abdi was found dead in the campus dormitory on May 5, 2010.

According to his classmates, Hamidreza who also taught Turkish to other students, was an opposition of the “coup” government.

University security office announced that Hamidreza committed suicide by cyanide, while his roommates claim that the apparent injuries on his neck suggest that he was strangled by hand.

Murder investigators have not commented about Hamidreza’s death.

Translation by: Banoo Sabz | Persian2English.com

كشته شدن يك دانشجو در دانشگاه شريف

آژانس ايران خبر – ۱۳۸۹/۲/۱۶

حميد عبدي

از ميان نامه ها ي رسيده به آژانس ايران خبر :

در دانشگاه شريف حميد رضا عبدي اهل تبريز روز چهارشنبه مورخه15/2/89 ساعت 5 صبح در خوابگاه با سيانور كشته شد.

به اظهار همكلاسيهاي اين دانشجو , حميد رضا عبدي ازمعترضين دولت كودتا بوده وزبان تركي را آموزش مي داده است .

حراست دانشگاه اعلام كرده اين دانشجوبا سيانور خودكشي كرده در صورتي كه هم اتاقي هاي اين دانشجو اعلام كردند كه گردن حميد رضا عبدي زخم بوده و او بر اثر فشار دو دست بر گلو خفه شده در حال حاضر اين دانشجو به پزشك قانوني منتقل شده و هنوز دررابطه با نحوه كشته شدن او پزشك قانوني اعلام نظر نكرده است .

Source: Iran News Agency

Iranian regime executes five political prisoners including teacher Farzad Kamangar

Five political prisoners were executed on May 9 2010 in Evin prison in Tehran. Farzad Kamangar, Ali Haydarian, Farhad Vakili, Shirin Alam- Houli and Mehdi Eslamian were members of the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) . They were charged with membership of a Kurdish “anti-revolutionary” and  “moharebe” or waging war against God. Vicky Thompson, Welfare Officer at the University of Manchester Students’ Union posted this on her blog:

Farzad's mother holds up his picture

Farzad's mother holds up his picture

“Is it possible to carry the heavy burden of being a teacher and be responsible for spreading the seeds of knowledge and still be silent? Is it possible to see the lumps in the throats of the students and witness their thin and malnourished faces and keep quiet?

Is it possible to be in the year of no justice and fairness and fail to teach the H for Hope and E for Equality, even if such teachings land you in Evin prison or result in your death?”

– Farzad Kamangar, executed 09/05/10, aged just 32.

Kamangar, a Kurdish teacher activist, was executed today alongside four other political prisoners. Kamangar was arrested in 2006 and sentenced to death by hanging in February 2008 after a trial lasting 5 minutes. He had been tortured and had attempted suicide while in prison. When his family last visited him, he was unable even to walk. Kamangar was sentenced to death for the alleged “crimes” of endangering national security and enmity against god. Once again, this brings shame on those on the left who are – or have been – apologists for the Iranian state and its barbaric catalogue of human rights abuses.

Kamangar was executed alongside Ali Haydarian, Farhad Vakili,  Shirin Alam-Houli and Mehdi Eslamian. They were all members of the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), described by the Islamic Republic of Iran as “counter-revolutionary”.  It appears that the executions are intended to quell support for anti-regime protests in Iran. Nonetheless, the families and supporters of those killed will be protesting outside Tehran University tomorrow.

“Mr Judge and Interrogator: when you were interrogating me, I couldn’t speak your language and couldn’t understand you. I learned Farsi in the past two years in the women’s section of the prison from my friends. But you interrogated me, tried me and sentenced me in your own language even though I couldn’t understand it and couldn’t defend myself. The torture that you subjected me to has become my nightmare.”

– Shirin Alam-Houli, executed 09/05/10, aged just 28

Letters of protest can be sent to info@leader.ir, info@judiciary.ir, iran@un.int, office@justice.ir and  eastgulf@amnesty.org

Further reading

To torture a prisoner is to torture humanity- letter from Farzad Kamangar 2007 here

The angels who laugh on Monday – letter from Farzad Kamangar March 2010 here

I am a hostage – letter from Shirin Alam-Houli, written one week ago here

May Day Demands

Iran’s workers will once again use May Day to remind the religious state and ‘reformist’ Islamists alike of their power, writes Yassamine Mather

As May Day approaches, Iranian workers are preparing demonstrations in Tehran and other major cities. Over the last few weeks everyone from ‘reformist’ leader Mir-Hossein Moussavi to president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, from employers to labour groups, agrees that the number of workers’ protests and the radicalisation of their slogans marks a new phase in Iran.

Largely unseen by the world media, thousands of strikes, slow-downs and sit-ins by workers challenge the government’s drive to privatise the economy. Iran’s workers are also aware of their role in the overthrow of the shah and once again they will use May Day to remind the religious state and ‘reformist’ Islamists alike of their power. A recent statement by a coalition of workers’ organisations clarifies this: “We millions are the producers of wealth, the wheels of production. Society moves only because we move it” (The Epoch Times March 25).

Since the start of the Iranian new year (March 21) workers have protested against the setting of the official minimum wage at the equivalent of $303 per month. Six independent workers’ organisations have argued that this is a third of the poverty line, which is actually $900. There is also worker opposition to government attempts to abolish subsidies in line with IMF/World Bank diktat. However, what will distinguish this year’s May Day protests will be the political slogans – already seen on posters and leaflets distributed in Tehran and other major cities in Iran.

Many posters feature the slogan, ‘Death to the dictator’, alongside workers’ demands for the right to organise and the right to strike. Statements issued by workers’ organisation include demands for the freedom of all political prisoners and an end to the use of military and paramilitary forces against demonstrators and protesters. Teachers are preparing for a week-long strike starting on May 1 to demand an end to interference by the religious state in the school curriculum, as well as better wages and conditions.

Over the last few years workers attempting to celebrate May Day have been arrested and prosecuted – some have been sentenced to prison and lashings. The prominent labour leader, Mansour Ossanlou, remains in prison, along with other worker activists, such as Ebrahim Maddadi, Farzad Kamangar and Ghaleb Husseini. This May Day we should do all we can to defend these activists and join Iranian workers in their call for the release of all political prisoners in Iran.

The charter of workers’ minimum demands, jointly issued by Iran’s four main independent trade unions, includes:

  • Unconditional recognition of independent workers’ organisations, the right to strike, to organise protests, the freedom of assembly, freedom of speech and freedom of political organisation.
  • Abolition of the death penalty, and the immediate and unconditional release of jailed workers and other social activists.
  • Immediate increase in the minimum wage based on workers’ input through their representatives in workers’ general assemblies.
  • No abolition of subsidies. All unpaid wages should be paid immediately without any excuses.
  • Job security for workers and all wage-earners; an end to all temporary and so-called ‘blank signature’ contracts; removal of all government-run organisations from the workplace; drafting of a new labour law through direct participation of workers’ representatives elected by their general assemblies.
  • Abolition of all the discriminatory laws against women; the ensuring of full and unconditional equality of women and men in all social, economic, political, cultural and family fields.

From Weekly Worker 815