Mass arrest of trade unionists in Karaj

Yesterday, Friday 15th of June at 12 noon 60 members of the Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers’ organizations and a number of labor activists were arrested in the city of Karaj.

According to the latest news, Mitra Homayooni, Vafa Ghaderi, Reyhaneh Ansari, Khaled Hosseini, Mahmoud Salehi, Saeed Moghaddam, Cyrus Fathi, Ghaleb Hoss are amongst those arrested.

Arash Sadeghi and Hossein Ronaghi on Hunger Strike – Solidarity needed

Free all political prisoners!

Below is an article which appeared on the Iranian website Eshterak reporting on the barbaric treatment of two political prisoners.

On Thursday May 24th, Arash Sadeghi, Iranian student and political prisoner finally was allowed to receive a visit from his grandfather after 130 days of detention. This visit took place in section 209 of Evin prison in Tehran and lasted less than 5 minutes in presence of the interrogator.

According to Arash’s grandfather, they had shaved all his head. He seemed so slim and weak, that he first couldn’t recognize Arash. During his short visit Arash told his grandfather that all this time he had been kept in solitary confinement and in order to slow the process of his case have limited his interrogations take place only every 20 days. During the visit Arash announced that he had launched a hunger strike on May 24th to support Hossein Ronaghi until his rightful demands are not met.

Hossein Ronaghi is an Iranian political prisoner and blogger who suffers from severe kidney disease and according to doctors needs immediate surgical attention. Despite this, the Iranian authorities have refused to allow him to receive medical treatment. To protest against such inhumane situation Hossein Ronaghi has gone on hunger strike. Doctors say a hunger strike would seriously endanger his life and could be fatal to Hossein.

Hossein Ronaghi-Maleki (Babak Khorramdin) Iranian blogger, human rights activists and one the members of Iran Proxy, was arrested on December 13, 2009, but under pressure exerted by intelligence agents, his family and his friends had been forced to keep the news of his arrest secret.

Throughout his detention, Ronaghi-Maleki has been subjected to excruciating physical and psychological torture techniques by his interrogators who want him to participate in televised confessions. He has gone on hunger strike to protest the harsh conditions of his detention and unlawful actions of the intelligence and judicial authorities. On May 24 he was placed in solitary confinement in Tehran’s Evin Priosn, 3 days after he started a hunger strike.

Please sign the petition here: http://www.gopetition.com/petition/36771.html

Clandestine gay rights rally in Tehran

‘It’s not easy to be gay in the Islamic Republic of Iran. A recent United Nations report decried “harassment, persecution, cruel punishment and even the death penalty.” Because Islamic law requires four adult male witnesses to prosecute sodomy, Iranian police typically seek confessions, often through torture. Women, easier to convict, are given 100 lashes for each case. Outside of the legal system, LGBT Iranians face widespread and socially accepted discrimination, bullying, and an elevated risk of suicide, according to a UK-based study. “Loneliness is killing me,” a 27-year-old man from Qazvin told researchers.’

More photos and comment from the Atlantic magazine:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/05/photos-of-a-clandestine-gay-rights-rally-in-tehran/257500/#slide1

We demand the immediate release of Dr. Fariborz Raisdana!

Fariborz Raisdana

We demand the immediate release of Dr. Fariborz Raisdana!

On Monday the 20th of May, Dr Raisdana – academic, leftwing economist and writer – was arrested and sent to the notorious Evin prison. He is a well known intellectual, economist, social activist and member of the Iranian writers’ association. He has published several books and articles on political economy and sociology. He is well known as a leftist socio-economic expert who always considers the plight of the Iranian working class in his economic analysis. Dr. Raisdana’s field of expertise is econometrics. He has tried hard to disclose how workers and wage earners have been affected by the relations of political economy in the turbulent Iranian society and how they have been increasingly suffering.

He has consistently criticised the Iranian government socio-economic programmes and often points out how social and political oppression is implemented to impose policies such as the unfair plan to abolish/reduce the allocation of national subsidies. There is no doubt that military economic planning has reduced social welfare and added  pressure on the poorer classes. Dr. Raisdana has always been their voice in the society and it is his stance against unfair economic policies that has landed him in jail.

HOPI condemns Dr. Raisdana’s arrest and demands his immediate and unconditional release.

A letter by death row prisoners Zanyar and Loghman Moradi for May 9

“They need sacrificial lambs and they have chosen us” - Loghman Moradi

Execution is a weapon of choice for the Iranian regime when dealing with trade unionists, leftists, and  Iran’s ethnic minorities. Below we link to a letter by death row prisoners Zanyar and Loghman Moradi, of Iran’s Kurdish minority. After a trial lasting 20 minutes,  the pair were convicted for allegedly assassinating the son of a senior cleric. False confessions were procured by torture during a 30-month imprisonment.  Zanyar and Loghman maintain their innonence, and Amnesty International has highlighted their case.

While fighting the threat of war on Iran, the left in this country should give no succour to such a regime, which uses those threats to clamp down on internal dissent. HOPI demands the immediate release of all political prisoners and the abolition of the death penalty in Iran.

Read the letter below (English & Farsi)

http://persian2english.com/?p=23852

Stop press: Majid Tamjidi to speak at Hopi school

Majid Tamjidi

The veteran labour activist and political analyst Majid Tamjidi, who now lives in exile, will be joining our weekend school on Saturday April 21 at 2.30pm.

He will address the vital issue of ‘How sanctions and the Islamic regime destroy the Iranian working class’.

His intervention comes at a time when thousands of jobs are being lost. Many people have returned from the New Year holidays on April 1 to be told that their jobs have gone. Others haven’t been paid for many months. We know of  many people who now have to move out of their homes, because they cannot pay the rent anymore.

The Iranian theocracy has played a big part in destroying the once so mighty Iranian working class – but the sanctions are doing the rest. Some believe that sanctions are an alternative to war. But in reality, they are a form of wardesigned to soften up a country for regime change from above. But the ruling elites in the US, the UK and Israel have no interest in establishing genuine democracy in Iran – or their own countries, actually. The interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan brutally underlined this.

The official rate of unemployment in Iran stands at 12% (although most commentators estimate it is at least double that) and the pressure on the Iranian car industry perfectly illustrates how sanctions impoverish the working class:

  • Iran Khodro (one of the country’s three major car manufacturers) employs 150,000 workers and most of these are now at risk. At the end of the Iranian new year holidays (April 1), large numbers of workers in the industrial/manufacturing sector who returned to work were sent home. Sanctions impact on the economy, but Iranian bosses also use them to discipline their workforces.
  • Workers from Shahab Khodro car manufacturers, some with 20 years experience, were told their jobs had simply disappeared when they came back from the holidays.
  • In Iran Khodro, 30% of contracts have not been renewed (the overwhelming majority of Iranian workers are now contracted labourers thanks to the theocracy’s willingness to follow the dictates of the IMF/World Bank).
  • Iran’s car manufacturing industry is also facing a serious crisis after Peugeot Citroen, fearing the enforcement of US-led financial sanctions, stopped its trade in February. Iran was Peugeot Citroen’s second-biggest market in 2011 in terms of trade volume. However it came under increasing pressure after a US lobby group, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), called on the US Congress to investigate the French car company’s transactions with the Islamic Republic.
  • At the same time, the theocracy increases the pressure on labour activists and oppositionists. For example, Vahed bus drivers’ union executive member Reza Shahabi has been sentenced to 6 years in prison and a further five year ban from trade union activism. He has also been ordered to return around secen million Toman’s which had been raised in solidarity to help imprisoned trade union activists. This is after two and a half years in prison for being arrested on charges of  “propaganda activities against the regime” and another five years for “collusion to act against national security.” These are the typical charges activists face for standing up against oppression and fighting for the working class.

Protest against extradition to Iran of two labour activists!

Bina Darabzand, a leading member of the Consistency Committee to Establish Workers’ Organizations in Iran, and his son Oktai, a journalist and blogger, have recently fled Iran due to threats by the Islamic Republic regime against their lives and security. They have sought refugee status in Turkey; however, they remain under pressure from the Turkish authorities to return to Iran. Given the serious and continuing risk to their lives, we urge UNHCR to expedite the processing of their cases, grant them refugee status as a matter of urgency, and quickly facilitate their resettlement to a safe third country.

Bina Darabzand
Bina Darabzand is a prominent activist who has been politically active from the age of 15, first against the Shah’s dictatorship, and then against the Islamic Republic regime. In addition to being a leading member of the Consistency Committee to Establish Workers’ Organizations in Iran, he has also re-started his political blog, http://salam-democrat.com.

Numerous labor activists with the Consistency Committee to Establish Workers’ Organizations in Iran have faced persecution and imprisonment for exercising their fundamental rights to organize, and for demanding workers’ rights, including unpaid back wages, fair pay, and benefits. Behnam Ebrahimzadeh, a member of the same Committee, is a political prisoner serving a 20-year sentence for his membership in this organization. Nearly all members of the Committee to Establish Workers’ Organizations have been arrested, beaten, or persecuted by regime authorities in Iran including Shahrokh Zamani and Muhammad Jarahi, who are now serving 11- and 10-year prison sentences, respectively, in Tabriz Prison. Others have been released temporarily and only on the basis of having paid multiple hundreds of millions Tomans in bail.

Oktai Darabzand
Bina’s son, Oktai Darabzand, is a journalist with a focus on political and human rights issues. Six years ago, Oktai established a weblog called “Aseman Daily News,” which published the news of political prisoners from jail as well as other human rights violations by the Islamic Republic regime. The blog also included social, economic, and foreign news sections. Journalists and bloggers covering human rights news in Iran are routinely persecuted, tortured, sentenced to lengthy prison terms, and even sentenced to execution in Iran; Reporters Without Borders provides an overview of the risk faced by such journalists and bloggers in Iran (link).

During the 2009 uprising, Oktai’s weblog was blocked on the orders of the Judicial Power. Immediately, with funding from his father, Oktai opened a website with the same name (http://asemandailynews.com),  continuing with his activities.

However, in April of 2011, Oktai’s website was designated by the regime as “a PMOI site.” Many members of PMOI (Peoples’ Mojahedin of Irani, or Mojahedin-e Khalgh) – and those accused of affiliation – are condemned to brutally harsh prison sentences and execution. Jafar Kazemi, Ali Saremi, and Mohammad Ali Haj Aghaei are only 3 recent and well-known examples of those accused of PMOI membership who have been executed on that basis.

Although Oktai has no political affiliation or contact with any organized group; however, because of his journalistic activities, and because the Islamic Republic has designated his site as being affiliated with PMOI, his life is at clear and unquestionable risk in Iran.

Situation in Turkey
Bina and Oktai entered Turkey and registered with the UNHCR. However, they were soon informed by the Ankara Police (Foreign Citizens Bureau) that the Turkish Ministry refused to recognize their status as asylum-seekers; they were given until 8 February 2012 to leave Turkey and return to Iran. Thanks to pressure from Iranian and European supporters, UNHCR accelerated the interview process and contacted the Turkish Interior Ministry and Police, requesting that they respect Bina and Oktai’s status as asylum-seekers whose case is pending review.

The Turkish police demonstrated their anger at the pressure that had been exerted on them to accept the Darabzand’s appeal. Ultimately, Bina and Oktai were required to leave Ankara and go to a small town that has no facilities, not even a bus terminal, 3 hours from any city. They are to wait for a response from UNHCR there, but they remain at elevated risk of deportation at any moment. Should they be illegally deported to Iran by the Turkish authorities, not only would they face certain imprisonment and torture, but both of their lives would be at risk.

TAKE ACTION NOW:
There is an urgent need for people to write to UNHCR in Turkey and request that UNHCR expedite the processing of the Darabzand’s cases, grant them refugee status as a matter of urgency, and quickly facilitate their resettlement to a safe third country. A sample letter follows; we ask everyone to use the sample letter, or write a letter of your own, and send it to UNHCR in Turkey, with copies to the Turkish Interior Ministry, asking UNHCR to take urgent action, given the threat to the Darabzands’ lives, and their current insecure situation in Turkey.

Sample Letter and Addresses:

Addresses:
To: turan@unhcr.org
cc: mustesarlik@icisleri.gov.tr; gsekreter@icisleri.gov.tr; diab@icisleri.gov.tr

To the UNHCR office in Turkey:

I am writing with regard to the urgent cases of Iranian asylum-seekers Bina Darabzand (UNHCR case #385-11C08824 ) and his son Okatai Darabzand (UNHCR case #385-11C08827).

Bina Darabzand is a well-known life-long anti-regime political activist and leading member of the Consistency Committee to Establish Workers’ Organizations in Iran – an organization whose members have all been subjected to beatings, persecution, and lengthy jail sentences. Members who are not currently political prisoners have been forced to flee Iran to save their own lives. Yet leading activists like Bina remain at risk even in Turkey.

Oktai Darabzand is a journalist covering human rights and other news in Iran. He is without political affiliation, yet his website has been designated by the Islamic Republic authorities as belonging to anti-regime organization PMOI. The Islamic Republic regime’s notorious brutal repression of journalists and its ongoing persecution of members of PMOI underscore the need for Oktai Darabzand to be granted to asylum and protection.

Both Bina and Oktai Darabzand have legitimate claims of asylum, and both remain in danger as long as they remain under their current insecure situation in Turkey.

I urge UNHCR to expedite the processing of the Darabzands’ cases, grant them refugee status as a matter of urgency, and quickly facilitate their resettlement to a safe third country.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]
[Country of Residence]

Recommended readings by Iraj Seif

Iraj Seif is an Iranian economist and blogger.

His recent articles include:

– The risk of famine in Iran:  http://www.viewpointonline.net/risk-of-famine-in-iran.html

– A dangerous game in Tehran (about the conflict between Khamenei and Ahmadinejad: http://www.viewpointonline.net/a-dangerous-game-in-tehran.html

– The political economy of contemporary Iran: http://iranistudies.blogspot.com/2011/09/political-economy-of-comtemporary-iran.html

More articles on http://iranistudies.blogspot.com/