Tales of riots and human rights

Nir Boms and Shayan Arya                                                                        

Following a week of riots across England, the Iranian Foreign Ministry issued a warning to its citizens not to visit the UK. The Foreign Ministry advised Iranians to avoid troubled areas and Sardar Naghdi, the head of Basij units, even offered to send Basiji Brigades to England to help restore order. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who initiated a number of media interviews on the subject, demanded UN intervention.

It is interesting to note that a similar travel warning was not issued for Syria, where over 3000 protesters were killed in recent weeks by Syrian security forces. Perhaps the fact that Iranian weapons were used to “maintain order” in Syria is a good enough reason not to raise the issue. Just last week, Turkey informed a UN Security Council panel that it seized a second cache of weapons that Iran was attempting to deliver to Syria, in breach of the UN arms embargo.

Iran’s President Ahmadinejad will attend the UN General Assembly in September. He will likely take advantage of the opportunity to complain about the lack of international response to the human rights violation in London as compared to the aggressive and unjustified international response to the events in Syria. He may even provide some insight into his method of “restoring order” during street riots. He has extensive experience in that area.

The most significant round of street riots, following the flawed elections of 2009, was indeed restored to order. It took almost a year and resulted in over one hundred dead and many thousands detained, tortured or imprisoned. Today there are over 2000  in jail and the crackdown continues. Since most of the people arrested were activists tracking human rights violations, it is very difficult to keep track of all the prisoners and their stories.

Nevertheless one human rights coalition, “Iran: All Rights Reserve?” produced a list of nearly 650 prisoners who are sitting in jail while Ahmadinejad goes to give lessons to the UN.

One of them is Ahmad Zeidabadi. He was editor-in-chief of the Azad newspaper and a contributor to the Tehran-based daily Hamshahari and to the BBC Persian Service. He was the recipient of this year’s UNESCO Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize for his “exceptional courage, resistance and commitment to freedom of expression, democracy, and human rights” and a former recipient of the Golden Pen of Freedom Award. That in itself is good enough reason for the Islamic regime to reward him with imprisonment. Zeidabadi ‘s current six year sentence is for “plotting to overthrow the Government with a soft revolution.”

Another Journalist is  Bahman Ahmad Amouie, who is famous for exposing economic mismanagement in the Islamic regime. Bahman, along with his wife and fellow journalist Jila Baniyaghoub, was arrested immediately after the 2009 presidential election. Jila was released after spending 60 days in jail but later received a one year suspended sentence and a 30-year ban from any press activities. Bahman is serving a five-year sentence. Their only crime appears to be their loyalty to their profession.

One who just escaped the list is Saeed Pourheydar, a journalist who campaigned for Mir Hossein Mousavi during the 2009 presidential elections. He was arrested in the early hours of January 6th, 2010, and taken to Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. After his release he testified on “beatings, being thrown in a barrel of icy water and lashed with cables on various areas of my body, being tied to a ceiling fan, threats of rape, and being hung from my feet until I accepted false accusations made against me.”

Saeed began interviewing fellow prisoners while he was there. Nineteen of the political prisoners he interviewed were later executed. At one point Saeed’s father was summoned to Evin prison and was asked to tell his son not to give further interviews. On that same day, Saeed’s brother was stabbed in front of their house. This is how order is restored.

Stories about people vanishing on imaginary charges or even on “suspicions of wrong doings” are common in prisons throughout Iran. They are sad yet eternal tales, reminiscent of the Spanish Inquisition, during which innocent people endured years of gruesome torture, imprisonment without charges, and death sentences in the hands of those who claimed to represent God on earth.

The UN should take Ahmadinejad at his word and initiate a serious discussion about Iranian methods of restoring order in the world. The UN must investigate Iran’s handling of civil unrest in its own country and its generous assistance to Syria, which just bombed one of its cities in order to restore civil order. The world is waiting for the outcome of this investigation.

Nir Boms is a co-founder of CyberDissidensts.org. Shayan Arya is an Iranian activist and a member of the Constitutionalist Party of Iran (Liberal Democrat). Both are members of the “Iran: all rights reserve? “Coalition.

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