Saturday, March 20, 2010

Remarks of President Obama Marking Nowruz

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The White House /

Today, I want to extend my best wishes to all who are celebrating Nowruz in the United States and around the world. On this New Year’s celebration, friends and family have a unique opportunity to reflect on the year gone by; to celebrate their time together; and to share in their hopes for the future. One year ago, I chose this occasion to speak directly to the people and leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and to offer a new chapter of engagement on the basis of mutual interests and mutual respect. I did so with no illusions. For three decades, the United States and Iran have been alienated from one another. Iran’s leaders have sought their own legitimacy through hostility to America. And we continue to have serious differences on many issues. I said, last year, that the choice for a better future was in the hands of Iran’s leaders. That remains true today. Together with the international community, the United States acknowledges your right to peaceful nuclear energy – we insist only that you adhere to the same responsibilities that apply to other nations. We are familiar with your grievances from the past – we have our own grievances as well, but we are prepared to move forward. We know what you’re against; now tell us what you’re for. For reasons known only to them, the leaders of Iran have shown themselves unable to answer that question.

You have refused good faith proposals from the international community. They have turned their backs on a pathway that would bring more opportunity to all Iranians, and allow a great civilization to take its rightful place in the community of nations. Faced with an extended hand, Iran’s leaders have shown only a clenched fist. Last June, the world watched with admiration, as Iranians sought to exercise their universal right to be heard. But tragically, the aspirations of the Iranian people were also met with a clenched fist, as people marching silently were beaten with batons; political prisoners were rounded up and abused; absurd and false accusations were leveled against the United States and the West; and people everywhere were horrified by the video of a young woman killed in the street. The United States does not meddle in Iran’s internal affairs. Our commitment – our responsibility – is to stand up for those rights that should be universal to all human beings. That includes the right to speak freely, to assemble without fear; the right to the equal administration of justice, and to express your views without facing retribution against you or your families.

I want the Iranian people to know what my country stands for. The United States believes in the dignity of every human being, and an international order that bends the arc of history in the direction of justice – a future where Iranians can exercise their rights, to participate fully in the global economy, and enrich the world through educational and cultural exchanges beyond Iran’s borders. That is the future that we seek. That is what America is for. That is why, even as we continue to have differences with the Iranian government, we will sustain our commitment to a more hopeful future for the Iranian people. For instance, by increasing opportunities for educational exchanges so that Iranian students can come to our colleges and universities and to our efforts to ensure that Iranians can have access to the software and Internet technology that will enable them to communicate with each other, and with the world without fear of censorship.

Finally, let me be clear: we are working with the international community to hold the Iranian government accountable because they refuse to live up to their international obligations. But our offer of comprehensive diplomatic contacts and dialogue stands. Indeed, over the course of the last year, it is the Iranian government that has chosen to isolate itself, and to choose a self-defeating focus on the past over a commitment to build a better future. Last year, I quoted the words of the poet Saadi, who said: "The children of Adam are limbs to each other, having been created of one essence.” I still believe that – I believe it with every fiber of my being. And even as we have differences, the Iranian government continues to have the choice to pursue a better future, and to meet its international responsibilities, while respecting the dignity and fundamental human rights of its own people.

Thank you. And Aid-e-Shoma Mobarak.

US Shipping Bombs for Attack on the Iranian Regime

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Scotland’s Sunday Herald /

A report by a UK newspaper has reignited speculation that the US is preparing for an imminent attack on Iran. Scotland’s Sunday Herald reported that “hundreds of powerful US ‘bunker-buster’ bombs are being shipped from California to the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean in preparation for a possible attack on Iran”. Although Diego Garcia is part of the British Indian Ocean Territory, it is used by the US as a military base under an agreement made in 1971. The paper quoted a cargo manifest from the US navy and interviewed experts who said the bombs were being put in place for an assault on Iran’s controversial nuclear facilities. Speculation has been mounting in recent months that the US military is preparing for such an attack, should diplomacy or sanctions fail to persuade Iran against continuing with its reported nuclear weapons programme.But the US has experienced a number of setbacks in past weeks in its strategy to “isolate” Iran as China, Russia, Brazil and other powers rejected a call for tougher sanctions against Tehran.

Some military analysts dismiss the likelihood of a US military attack on Iranian nuclear facilities because of broader repercussions that such a strike might have, while others point out that the recent setbacks make “confrontation more likely”. “They are gearing up totally for the destruction of Iran,” Dan Plesch, director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at the University of London, told the Sunday Herald. “US bombers are ready today to destroy 10,000 targets in Iran in a few hours,” said Plesch, co-author of a recent study on US preparations for an attack on Iran. The preparations were being made by the US military, but it would be up to President Barack Obama to make the final decision. He may decide that it would be better for the US to act instead of Israel, Plesch argued. “The US is not publicising the scale of these preparations to deter Iran, tending to make confrontation more likely,” he added. According to Ian Davis, director of the new independent thinktank, NATO Watch, the shipment to Diego Garcia is a major concern. “We would urge the US to clarify its intentions for these weapons, and the Foreign Office to clarify its attitude to the use of Diego Garcia for an attack on Iran,” he told the Scottish paper.

New Efforts on Iran Sanctions Run Into Familiar Snags

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The New York Times /

It was Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton who, nearly a year ago, fired the Obama administration’s first warning shots about imposing “crippling sanctions” against Iran. Then came President Obama’s declaration that if Iran did not respond to his overtures for a negotiated end to its production of nuclear fuel by the end of 2009, he would quickly add a “pressure track” to his diplomacy. At the beginning of this year, American and European officials predicted a sanctions resolution at the United Nations Security Council — the fourth in four years — by February to pave the way for much stronger crackdowns by individual countries. Now, all those projections look optimistic. The French are predicting no action until June. Many other Western allies agree. No one in the Obama administration has used the word “crippling” in public in a long while; instead, the new line is that taking time and maintaining unity — code words for Chinese and Russian cooperation — are more important than rushing ahead amid international divisions over how best to convince Iran that the cost of continuing uranium enrichment will be prohibitive.

The delays and the potential for a substantially watered-down resolution, Mr. Obama’s allies say, have put the administration’s credibility on the line in one of its biggest foreign policy challenges. But it also highlights the difficulty he has encountered demonstrating results from the underlying argument of his engagement with Iran: that if he made a bona fide effort to negotiate and was rebuffed, it would be a lot easier to win meaningful sanctions. Mr. Obama has stopped talking about timing, but he insists that he is driving toward sanctions far tougher than anything the Bush administration won. “We’re going to go after aggressive sanctions,” he said in an interview with Fox News on Wednesday. “We haven’t taken any options off the table,” he said, repeating the line that presidents use to hint that military options are still possible, though the Pentagon leadership has often said it believed that option could start a cascade of events that could spill out of control. (Read more...)

Sohrab’s Mother Sends New Year Message

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Persian2English /

Visiting the graves of loved ones on the last Thursday of the [Iranian] year is considered by us as a national and religious responsibility, and it demonstrates our closeness to those we have lost. I regret that I am not in Tehran to perform this duty. Our dear slain children are not next to us on the [Iranian] New Year’s eve, but their memories shall live forever. I hope that those prisoners whose empty place is felt strongly by their families are released and returned to the arms of their loved ones. As a mother with an aching heart, I take refuge in God’s grace. What crime did our children commit that they should be subject to such injustice?

Our youth only demanded to have the same rights every human being is entitled to. Once again, as a mother, I wish peace, freedom, joy, and health upon everyone. My son wanted the same thing, but he was….Student activist Sohrab Arabi, 19, was killed at Evin prison due to severe torture. His death was announced to his mother on July 11, after 26 days of frustration. He became one of the symbols of the Green Movement. Sohrab was detained on June 15 during 2009 presidential election unrest.

Dorsa Sobhani Prohibited from Visitation

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Committee of Human Rights Reporters /

Committee of Human Rights Reporters - Dorsa Sobhani’s family is prohibited from visiting their detained daughter in the days leading to Norooz, the Persian New Year. Dorsa’s lawyer’s visit to the judiciary has proven ineffective, as authorities have prohibited visitation even to her lawyer. In the previous days, Dorsa’s family have written several letters to the Tehran Prosecutor, the Article 90 Commission, and the Judiciary Commission of National Security, requesting much more investigation into Dorsa’s case.

It is reported that authorities at the Revolutionary Court have refrained from redirecting the inquiries to the head of the judiciary, and have insisted that the efforts of Dorsa’s family are ineffective. The reasons behind Dorsa’s arrest are still unknown. Dorsa Sobhani, the 20 year old member of the One Million Signatures Campaign and activist for educational rights was arrested on March 8, 2010 during an assault on her home by 12 security agents. On the evening of March 2nd her father’s house was raided and her personal belongings were confiscated. March 2, 2010 marks a day of widespread assaults and arrests for a large number of civil and human rights activists in various cities across Iran. Translation by: Xan I. |

Koohyar Goodarzi’s Sentence Extended Two Months

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Committee of Human Rights Reporters /

After the last meeting with CHRR member Koohyar Goodarzi, his mother reported that his sentence has been extended two months.

Kooyhar Goodarzi is reportedly under continuous pressure to reveal the passwords to his email account and the CHRR website. According to Article 38 of the Iranian constitution: “All forms of torture for the purpose of extracting confession or acquiring information are forbidden. Compulsion of individuals to testify, confess, or take an oath is not permissible; and any testimony, confession, or oath obtained under duress is devoid of value and credence. Violation of this article is liable to punishment in accordance with the law.”

While 90 days have passed since the arrest of Kooyhar Goodarzi, many other prisoners of conscience have been released in recent days. Journalist and human rights activist Kooyhar Goodarzi was arrested on December 20, 2009, along with Shiva Nazar Ahari and Saeed Haeri. Also, with pressures from security forces, Koohyar Goodarzi was expelled from Sharif University of Technology. Translation by: Teni K. |

Mir Hossein Mousavi's Nowruz (Persian New Year) Message

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Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi vowed a "year of perseverance" in his fight against the government in an Internet message on Friday to mark the Persian new year. Mousavi has mostly maintained silence throughout much of the political crisis since last June's controversial Iranian presidential election, commenting from time to time in an effort to galvanize the opposition. The leader of the opposition Green Movement took the occasion of the Persian New Year to once again invoke his message of resistance. Mousavi said that election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was fraudulent and that the often violent response by the government to the Iranian people has been a disgrace and a disappointment. "The unbecoming and unislamic response of the government to [last June's] election created an ugly picture in the minds of our people and spawned more ugly events," Mousavi said. "That response does not befit the grandeur and pride of Iran. The crimes committed by the regime against the people on many occasions have been a shock. The government should have solved political problems by political means," he reasoned. Mousavi vowed, above all, to continue his struggle to uphold Iran's constitution, which he claims the government has ignored, and to make this coming year a "year of perseverance":

"Iran's constitution is a national covenant without which there would be chaos and darkness." he said. "After the numerous problems following the election, people realize that the best solution is a return to the constitution, with no political interference," he stressed, adding that this is his firm demand and he will not abandon it. The popular opposition leader, who has also taken the cautious approach of insisting that he will continue his struggle within the framework of Iran's Islamic Republic also criticized the government's repression and clampdown on the press. "The Iranian nation is great, progressive and civilized and must not be treated like ignorant, uncivilized people for whom decisions must be made," Mousavi said. He demanded that the government respect freedom of speech and freedom of the press so that everyone may express his thoughts freely and in public . "Then, and only then, will Iran become a progressive society imbued with freedom and justice," said Mousavi. Both Mousavi and fellow opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi have repeatedly demanded that the government end its limits on the press and free hundreds of political prisoners. He has also been locked in a personal struggle with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who has warned him not to question his authority.

Monday, March 15, 2010

EU Considering Unilateral Sanctions on IR Iran

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AFP, AP, Reuters, VOA & Deutsche Welle /

France's foreign minister says European states could impose unilateral sanctions on Iran if the United Nations fails to pass its own sanctions. Bernard Kouchner told reporters in Finland Sunday that efforts should first be devoted to passing a resolution in the U.N. Security Council. But he said if that does not happen, France may propose sanctions on Iran's banks and insurance companies, and on travel permits for specific people. Kouchner spoke to reporters outside a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in northern Finland. On Saturday, his Finnish counterpart, Alexander Stubb, said there was enough agreement within the EU to impose unilateral sanctions on Iran. Western members of the U.N. Security Council support a fourth round of sanctions against Iran, but veto-wielding China is urging more diplomacy. Western nations accuse Iran of seeking a nuclear weapon. Tehran says it is working on nuclear energy projects.

Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb said the EU remained committed to seeking a UN resolution on sanctions against Iran, but lacking that, the 27-nation block would take action on its own. He was speaking after an informal meeting with EU Foreign Policy Director Catherine Ashton and seven other European foreign ministers in Finland on Saturday. "If we have succeeded in driving a common line one particular issue, I would pinpoint Iran," he said. Germany, Britain and France have previously stated that they agree on the need for a fourth round of sanctions to restrict Iran's nuclear ambitions, but in the past some smaller EU members have expressed reservations. The details of any such sanctions package would therefore still have to be finalized. Without going into detail, Stubb said that member states had suggested a variety of supplemental sanctions which included restrictions in the energy and financial sectors.

Uncertainty for Detained Journalists as Nowruz Approaches

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Despite that the families of many detained journalists have secured the bail to release their loved ones for the Persian New Year, there is still no information on the date of their release. There is no news on the release of Akbar Montejabi, Vahid Pourostad, Ehsan Mehrabi, and Somayeh Momeni, seven days after securing bail for the release. According to opposition news agency Kaleme, after providing a bail deposit for the possible release of Mehrabi, Montejabi, Pourostad, and Momeni, the condition of these journalists has intensified, and again they are under interrogation. They have also returned to solitary confinement. Despite the families following up and meeting with prosecutors and the head of Evin prison, there is no word on when the prisoners will be released, even after bail has been secured. The families of the prisoners are under severe mental stress, yet they are hopeful that their loved ones will be released before Nowruz; Persian New Year which takes place this year on March 20th.

80 days have passed since human rights activist Shiva Nazar Ahari was arrested, and her family is still awaiting her release. Shiva Nazar Ahari was previously arrested by security forces at her workplace on June 14, 2009, and she spent 100 days in prison. The CHRR member spent 190 days of the Persian year of 1388 (2009-2010) in jail, 100 days of which was in Evin prison’s solitary confinement cells. CHRR is an independent body that aims to raise awareness and defend the victims of human rights abuses. During its four years of activity, CHRR has published numerous reports, statements, declarations, and articles on human rights violations. The organization has no political affiliations among domestic and foreign activists. Despite this, nine CHRR members have been arrested by security forces in the past year. Additionally, the other members of the committee have not been safe from pressures by security forces.

Identify and Prosecute My Son’s Murderers

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Rooz Online English /

The first day of the trial over the Kahrizak detention facility lawsuit was held yesterday behind closed doors while the real perpetrators of the crimes at the facility continue to hold their posts in the government, military and the judiciary. Meanwhile family members of Ramin Pourandarjani, a resident doctor at the detention facility who had examined some of the murdered detainees there and was himself murdered mysteriously, told Rooz that they demand their son’s murderer to be identified and prosecuted. The public relations office of the judiciary’s military tribunal announced yesterday that the trial of individuals accused of crimes related to the Kahrizak detention facility was being held behind closed doors, without revealing further details or the names of the defendants. In its statement, the public relations office announced, “The indictments for all defendants in the case, numbered at 12, were read and their charges and accusations were explained to them by the judge. Based on the military tribunal’s announcement, Saeed Mortazavi, who was identified by the Majlis special investigative committee as the main accused pepetrator in the Kahrizak case is not among the defendants. Police commanders Radan and Ahmadi-Moghaddam are the other officials who the public views to be the real perpetrators of the crimes committed at the facility.

Some of the individuals who have been released from the horrific detention site have testified that Radan was present at the detention facility during several torture sessions and played a direct role in the horrific crimes at the facility. The two commanders continue to occupy their posts in the Islamic Republic and are not among the defendants in the case. Meanwhile, the Kahrizak case does not include the complaint from the family of Ramin Pourandarjani, a doctor who died mysteriously while serving at Kahrizak. Officials had first announced the cause of death to be a heart attack and then a suicide. The coroner’s office finally announced that the young doctor had been poisoned to death. Ramin Pourandarjani’s father, Reza Gholi Pourandarjani, told Rooz that the latest response he received was the coroner’s report, which the Pourandarjani family view as unclear. He explained, “We filed a complaint and demand that the murderer be identified and prosecuted, and we will follow up on our complaint.” Ramin Pourandarjani’s father clarified, “The coroner’s office has said that Ramin was poisoned to death, but the coroner’s report is very ambiguous and we cannot accept this theory. They must explain how he was poisoned and who poisoned him?”

US 'concerned' at Bahai Persecution in Iran

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Agence France Presse (AFP) /

The United States is "increasingly concerned" over the persecution of the Bahai and other religious minorities in Iran, a State Department spokesman said Friday. "The United States is increasingly concerned about the Iran's ongoing persecution of Bahais and other religious minority communities," spokesman Philip Crowley said in a statement. He added that Washington was also concerned about the ongoing espionage trial in Iran of seven Bahai leaders, who have been denied access to their lawyers. The trial, Crowley added, fails to meet its "obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights." Crowley reminded Tehran that last month it pledged to abide by international law during a review of human rights records of UN member states by the UN Human Rights Council.

"Therefore," he added, "we are deeply disappointed that the Iranian government rejected a UPR recommendation to end discrimination against its Bahai religious minority. "We join the international community in urging Iran to uphold its obligations to protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all its people," Crowley added.Followers of the Bahai faith, founded in Iran in 1863, are regarded in the Islamic republic as infidels and suffered persecution both before and after the 1979 Islamic revolution. The Bahais have a sprawling temple in Haifa, in northern Israel, which is the Islamic republic's arch-foe.