Tehran beating on the drums of war

Tehran is becoming more aggressive by the day. This heightened level of aggression is manifested in incessant taunts which are meant to elicit some form of aggressive response from Tehran’s enemies which can generally be categorized as Saudi Arabia, the US, Israel, the PMOI (Iranian resistance in exile) and anyone who supports them. It’s not that any of this is totally new to Tehran but the levels of aggression have risen sharply over the past few weeks. Examples of Tehran’s increased aggressive behavior can be found on many levels:

  • Increased anti-Saudi rhetoric
  • Increased anti PMOI rhetoric and military maneuvers
  • Increased military maneuvers in the Persian Gulf
  • Increased military presence in Syria and in Iraq
  • Increased talk of Russian-Iranian military alliances
  • Increased hardline speeches by Iranian “moderates”

Tehran will probably not be the first to take these aggressions to military level against any of its enemies since it prides itself on not starting wars but the increase in aggressive behavior from Tehran points to one direction: Tehran is willing to taunt enough people in order to be attacked and it feels safe enough by Moscow’s side to say and do whatever it wants.

 

More anti-Saudi rhetoric

Last week, Khamenei relaunched his tirade against Saudi Arabia with a vengeance as it became clear that neither Riyadh nor Tehran were ready to get over their differences in regards to the agreements needed to allow Iranian pilgrims into Saudi Arabia. Khamenei’s rant represented a distinct escalation and was vicious even by his standards: The Saudis, he ranted, are “oppressive”, “arrogant”, “faithless”, “blaspheming” “murderers” who are in collusion with the US and Israel and have made Saudi Arabia “unsafe” for pilgrims and for that reason, he called on Muslim countries to “fundamentally reconsider” Saudi Arabia’s management of the holy sites, although he didn’t offer any advice on how such a “reconsideration” is to take place.

Rouhani echoed Khamenei’s rant and called for Muslim unity (“the “Hajj period should be regarded as a chance to safeguard the interests of the Muslim Ummah and foster unity within the Islamic community”) against Saudi Arabia by calling on Muslim countries to “take coordinated actions to resolve problems and punish the Saudi government”. But he didn’t stop only at the issue of the Hajj: “If the existing problems with the Saudi government were merely the issue of the hajj… maybe it would have been possible to find a way to resolve it…Unfortunately, this government by committing crimes in the region and supporting terrorism in fact shed the blood of Muslims in Iraq, Syria and Yemen”. Finally, he added his own thoughts on his favorite subject, terrorism: “Regional stability depends on ending support for terrorism…everyone knows which countries are assisting them from inside and outside the region and which countries are supplying terrorists with weapons and armaments”. Of course, Rouhani doesn’t mention how Iran and its terrorist proxy, Hezbollah, are shedding Muslim blood in “Iraq, Syria and Yemen” nor does he mention how Iran is supporting terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah, an organization designated by the western world and the Arab League as terrorist but designated as “shining freedom fighters” in Tehran.

And what about Javad Zarif, Tehran’s star diplomat? He joined the attack and sounded more like Khamenei than Khamenei himself: “Saudi rulers are brazen enough to openly express alliance to the Zionist regime; they have abused and taken hostage sacred Islamic shrines in line with their petty, malicious, and sectarian extremist policies in serving their imperialist and Zionist patrons; ‘stupidity,’ ‘fanaticism,’ ‘intransigence,’ and ‘unlimited wealth’ have rendered the Saudi family callous and capricious rulers unfit to rule the sacred lands, with a penchant for ‘beget, foster, and spread terrorism’ to plague the world and larger parts of the Middle East including Iraq, Syria, and Yemen with the most pernicious and abominable acts of atrocity in the history of nations and to infest them with extreme levels of hatred spewed by its unexperienced rulers”. This is the same Zarif who had told an Omani minister only one week before to “abandon the illusion of rivalry” in the region. “Illusion of rivalry”? Mr. Zarif, this is no “illusion”, this is a reality in which a “cold war” developed into a series of “proxy wars” and is now in danger of developing into an all-out frontal war which is bound to engulf the whole region in flames.

The recalling theme of Riyadh’s ties to the “Zionist” cause is partly true: the main reason that Israel is warming up to diplomatic and other ties with the Gulf States is the mutual fear of Tehran. Of course, the Saudis and the Arab League will not openly endorse a firm relationship with Israel as long as the Palestinian issue isn’t dealt with but the Arab States are also cooling a bit on the Palestinian issue specifically because Tehran’s influence on Hezbollah and even Hamas continues to grow. If the gulf States are more open to dealing with Israel, Tehran can only blame itself…or perhaps, that’s exactly what Tehran wanted from day one – to place Saudi Arabia with Israel against the Palestinians.

In any case, the guys in Tehran didn’t get the support they needed from the Muslim countries, specifically, the members of the Arab League who joined Saudi Arabia’s call to Tehran to stop politicizing the Hajj. Tehran reacted in the expected manner and called again on the Arab League to pressure Saudi Arabia to stop funding terror and to stop killing civilians in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain, without mentioning, once again, its own supports for terrorist organizations and its own responsibility for the deaths of Syrians, Iraqis and Yemenites.

But Tehran didn’t give up yet: Both Khamenei and Ali Larijani, the head of the Iranian parliament, called for an international “fact-finding” commission to investigate last year’s disaster in Mina. But then again, no one in his right mind in Tehran would support an international fact-finding commission in regards to the 1988 systematic massacre of 30,000 political prisoners by the regime.

 

More military actions and rhetoric

But Tehran’s aggressive mood isn’t aimed only at Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies and the chances of the Tehran-Riyadh conflict evolving into an open war seem slim despite the constant taunts from both sides. Tehran’s enemy of preference remains the US and it has backed its fiery rhetoric against the “Great Satan” with some military taunts as well.

Tehran seems to have made a strategic decision to harass the US Navy which sends out regular patrols to the Persian Gulf. Unlike the case last year in which the Iranian navy boarded a US Navy vessel which mistakenly entered Iranian territorial waters, the Iranians are now harassing US navy ships and planes in international waters and air-space: It sent some of its boats to harass US cruisers until the Americans fired some warning shots and it warned Navy pilots that they would be shot down even though they were flying in international air-space.

This may sound like a storm in a tea-cup since no harm was done, but the rhetoric from Tehran is just as taunting: the Iranians denied overstepping international laws and claimed that “the (American) claims are not only untrue, but stem from their fear of the power of the Islamic Republic’s soldiers”.

But it’s not only about military actions. Javad Larijani, Iran’s chief of human rights, advised Tehran to begin developing a nuclear bomb within 48 hours and not be worried about sanctions: “we must know that we do not fear and that we are ready”. Ready for what? For more sanctions? For a war? A world war?

Up until now, Tehran has always placed great emphasis on the fact that its army was for defensive purposes and as such, strengthening the army’s capabilities was a natural right since it’s meant to defend itself. This frame of thought is in tune with Tehran’s pride in not initiating a war or invading a country in centuries but this logic comes apart in regards to the numerous long-range missile tests and the numerous countries in which Iranian armies or its proxies are actively fighting – specifically in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Tehran’s military activities in all these countries is growing, not diminishing as can be viewed from the growing number of Iranian troops fighting in Syria and in Iraq and from the continuous presence of Qassem Suleimani, Iran’s star chief of its elite Qods unit, in the battlefields.

And then, But Khamenei issued a statement in which he stressed that Iran’s “defensive and offensive capabilities” is an “inalienable and clear right”. The addition of the “offensive” to the “defensive” was a first for Khamenei. Why did he choose to stress the offensive capabilities of Iran’s army now?

 

Why now?

Timing is everything and now seems to be an ideal time for Tehran to become more aggressive.

On the one hand, Tehran is frustrated with the ongoing wars in Syria and in Yemen which do not seem close to a victorious end for Iran but on the other hand, Tehran enjoys an unparalleled support of Russia in many levels – both of which explain the rise in aggressive behavior.

Furthermore, Tehran’s growing conflict with Riyadh is creating a situation in which all countries with any connection to the region have to take sides and on the whole, the Arab countries chose to ally themselves with Saudi Arabia.

And then there’s the issue of the West’s support of the PMOI, the growing exiled Iranian resistance which is creating a lot of tension within the regime.

Finally, Tehran is gearing up for the next presidential elections and Khamenei’s hardline tone is being echoed by hardliners like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who is calling for a redefine “revolutionary ideals” and is forcing Rouhani to become more hardline if he wants to win a second term.

But perhaps the single element which is most instrumental in increasing Tehran’s aggression is Khamenei himself, or more specifically, the legacy that Khamenei wants to leave after his death. The nuclear deal that Rouhani brokered together with Zarif might have achieved its initial purpose in lifting nuclear-related sanctions and allowing Tehran to openly ally itslef with other countries.

But the nuclear deal did not sit easily with Khamenei who kept on stressing his “red lines” only to watch some of his “red lines” crossed. The further complications with non-nuclear sanctions only increased Khamenei’s distaste for signing a deal with the “Great Satan”.

And then, there is his cherished vision of a “Global Islamic Awakening” and a “New Islamic Civilization” which is slipping away from him at a time when his health is deteriorating and his death is approaching. For Khamenei, now is the time to instill in Iran the pride of his Revolutionary Ideals and take on the world because the last thing that he will want to be remembered for is that Tehran capitulated to the Western powers under him..

Will Iran finally unleash its aggression? Will it attack Saudi Arabia or make a run for a nuclear bomb? Will Russia continue to support Tehran in these cases? No one really knows but one fact is certain: Tehran has had enough of being aggressive under cover and too many people in Tehran are itching for a war…specially its Supreme Leader, Khamenei.

 

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The 1988 massacre that continues to haunt Tehran

Last week, an audio-file was added to the website of the late Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri, the man who was set to succeed Khomeini as Supreme Leader but instead was forced to resign as a result of his voiced objections to the systematic and institutionalized massacre of thousands of political prisoners between July and October 1988.

The 1988 massacre was ordained by Khomeini himself through a fatwa (religious edict) whose victims were imprisoned for being members of “dissident” organizations who criticized the regime – mostly members of the Mujahedin Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) also known as the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) and mostly Sunnis (as opposed to the Shiite regime). The men and women were imprisoned for crimes as small as distributing pamphlets and some were meant to be freed within the next few months.

During those five fateful months, a total shut-down of communications between the prisons and the outside world was implemented: TV’s and radios were confiscated, family visits and phone privileges were abruptly stopped people within 100 meters from the prison could be shot. During this time, tens of thousands of political prisoners underwent short, on-sight, interrogations following which they were either executed, tortured, flogged or exempt from the fatwa. The executions were held within hours of the interrogation, hanging six prisoners at a time in order to carry out the fatwa more efficiently. The bodies were then transported by trucks to mass graves. Firing squads were used on some occasions, but the noise of the shots only resulted in increasing the tension in the prisons. By November, the authorities began informing the victims’ families while warning them not to carry out funerals or wakes and in most cases, the authorities did not divulge the burial sites of the victims.

What made the massacre so horrifying was the planned madness of it all and the fact that the victims of this massacre died for simply being affiliated to a “dissident” political organization or for not being Muslim enough. The issue of the audio file and Montazeri’s ardent objection to the massacre have brought to light another shameful episode in the history of the regime’s brutal, secretive, systematic and deadly behavior to anyone who it deems as an “enemy of the state” or an “enemy of Islam”.

Within days of the issuing of the fatwa, Montazeri wrote three public letters in which he vehemently protested the massacres. He beseeched Khomeini to recall the fatwa because it of the great injustice it would cause, calling it “the biggest crime in the history of the Islamic Republic, which will be condemned by history, happened by your hands”. In the audio files, he also claims that he could not have kept silent because if he had, he would “not have an answer on Judgment Day and I saw it as my duty to warn Imam (Khomeini)”. He also worried about the effect of the executions on the families of the victims and the criticism of the world since the act would be interpreted as an act of revenge or of unchecked exasperation. According to Montazeri, somewhere between 2,800 and 3,800 people were executed although eye-witness testimonies point to a much higher number (5,000 – 6,000) and the MEK claims the real number was closer to 30,000. He “resigned” (more like forced to resign) in March 1989.

Three days after the sharing of the audio file, the son of Montazeri received a phone call from the Ministry of Intelligence requesting that the audio-file be deleted from the site. He agreed to do so.

To date, the regime in Tehran has refused to talk about the massacre, to take responsibility for it and/or to recompense the families of the victims. To date, the regime continues to execute political prisoners simply because they believe in ideals which diverge from those of the regime. To date, there are still family members and survivors who are afraid to share their tales of suffering and oppression, knowing full well how the regime treats people who do.

 

The fatwa that led to the massacre

The summer of 1988 was tense in Iran: the eight war with Iraq had taken its toll and on July 18th, Khomeini had finally accepted to “swallow the poison” and to a cease-fire which was to come into effect in August. On July 22nd, Iranian dissidents fighting from within Iraq, members of the MEK, launched another attack onto Iranian soil but were forced to retreat by July 29th. At some time during this week, some believe on the July 28th, Khomeini issued a fatwa which would lead to one of the worst cases of systematic executions of political prisoners in the history of the world:

(In the Name of God, The Compassionate, the Merciful,)
As the treacherous Monafeqin (a derogatory name by the regime for Mojahedin meaning “hypocrites”) do not believe in Islam and what they say is out of deception and hypocrisy, and
As their leaders have confessed that they have become renegades, and
As they are waging war on God, and
As they are engaging in classical warfare in the western, the northern and the southern fronts, and
As they are collaborating with the Baathist Party of Iraq and spying for Saddam against our Muslim nation, and
As they are tied to the World Arrogance (Western countries, specifically the US/UK), and in light of their cowardly blows to the Islamic Republic since its inception,
It is decreed that those who are in prison throughout the country and remain steadfast in their support for the Monafeqin (Mojahedin) are waging war on God and are condemned to execution.

This fatwa, issued in the name of a God who seemed to be anything but “Compassionate” or “Merciful”, sealed the fate for thousands of Iranians, men and women who were imprisoned for being members of the MEK or other “leftist” (read “secular” and “communist”) organizations.

The MEK was designated, until today, as a terrorist organization but one should note that the MEK was instrumental in helping Khomeini rise to power until a fall-out between the regime and the MEK occurred in 1980 when it refused to take part in a plebescite on the new constitution, being disillusioned by the growing power of hardliners in the regime who advocated harsher Islamic rule and more power for the unelected regime. During 1981, the MEK did carry out terroristic activities but within the year, the MEK was outlawed and the string of terrorist attacks was brought to an end with the executions of about 2,000 MEK members.

Montazeri claims that Khomeini was not only sick at the time (he would die within one year of issuing the fatwa) but that he was emotionally dejected from having to accept the cease-fire with Iraq but whatever the case may be, the fact remains that in Iran, a Supreme Leader can seal the fate of his citizens without the need for the political or popular support of his government or his people. The situation remains the same today under Khamenei.

 

The systematic organization of the massacre

The systematic nature of this massacre cannot be ignored and points to preparations long before the actual fatwa was issued. For months preceding the fatwa, interrogations took place within prisons to isolate the members of the MEK, member of “leftist” organizations, secularists and atheists etc…Nothing was done except to herd the prisoners together according to their “crimes”, ie, their beliefs.

But once the fatwa was issued, the machinations of the massacre went into high gear: field trials headed by a three-man “death committee”, an Islamic judge, a revolutionary prosecutor and an intelligence ministry official, “interrogated” the prisoners and decided on the spot (some interrogations lasted less than two minutes) who would be executed, who would be tortured and who would be exempt from the fatwa.

At first, the “death committee” focused only on Mojahedins. The interrogation was based on a number of questions, the first being the political affiliations of the prisoner. If the prisoner answered that he or she was a “Mojahedin”, the interrogation was abruptly ended and the prisoner would unknowingly be escorted out to his or her death. If the prisoner answered “Monafiqin”, a derogatory word meaning “hypocrite” used by the regime to call the Mojahedins, the prisoner, would then have to answer an onslaught of questions not knowing that one “wrong answer” would mean a death sentence. The first set of questions were meant to weed out the hard-core dissidents from those who were willing to cooperate: “Are you willing to denounce former colleagues? Are you willing to denounce them in front of the cameras? Are you willing to help us hunt them down? Will you name secret sympathizers? Will you identify phony repenters? Will you go to the war front and walk through enemy minefields?”.

By August, the “death committee” widened their focus to include all dissidents: leftists, Marxists, secularists, atheists etc…Here, the interrogation was more religious in nature and prisoners were asked if they grew up in religious Muslim families or not and then they believed in the Koran, if they prayed, if they believed in Heaven and Hell etc…What they didn’t know was that the first question, the level of religion in their family split them up into two distinct groups: those prisoners who grew up in religious Muslim families but moved away from Islam, “murtad-i fitri” and those who grew up in non-religious families “murtad-i milli”. The prisoners who grew up in religious families and who answered that they were secular or atheists were, once again unknowingly, singled out for execution on the same day. Those who had grown up in secular families were then given a choice: become a practicing Muslim or get flogged five times a day (in coordination with the five times of prayer for devout Muslims).

In most cases, the prisoners were herded to their interrogation blindfolded and remained so until they were herded back to the groups of prisoners outside, not knowing that their fates had been sealed. There were numerous mix-ups as prisoners joined the wrong groups or when wardens would try to punish or protect a prisoner by sending him/her to another group. Most of the surviving prisoners speak about being beaten and tortured during their interrogations. Those that weren’t were usually the ones who were sentenced to death from the first question.

In all cases, there were no defense lawyers, no application of international and Iranian laws, no fair trial – only an interrogation followed by an execution, floggings or a miraculous exemption.

 

The cover-up of the massacre

The details of the massacre remain hazy to this date. The massacre was carried out under a heavy cloak of secrecy with on-site executions and disposal of the bodies under the cover of darkness. Some of the survivors, as did the families of the victims, shared their ordeals but most preferred to remain silent for fear of retribution by the regime. Political opposition leaders remained silent as well after seeing what happened to Montazeri who was the second most powerful Iranian leader at the time. Human rights organizations were in any case not allowed into prisons and those that did condemn the massacre were ignored by Tehran. The men who carried out the massacre on an administrative or physical level went on with their lives and some rose to prominent posts, such as Khamenei who was president at the time.

For all intents and purposes, the massacre was presented by the regime as a minimal punishment to enemies of the state, as Khamenei so eloquently explained: “In the Islamic Republic, we have capital punishment for those who deserve to be executed … Do you think we should hand out sweets to an individual who, from inside prison, is in contact with the munafiqin who launched an armed attack within the borders of the Islamic Republic? If his contacts with such an organization have been established, what should we do about him? He will be sentenced to death, and we will execute him. We do not take such matters lightly deemed as punishment”. The fact that these prisoners had little contact with the MEK in Iraq was meaningless since they were guilty by association.

Tehran continues to oppress, imprison, torture and execute any person or group which voices criticism against the regime or simply belongs to a minority viewed as harmful to the regime. Fair trials are the exceptions and not the norm and hardliners continue to press for harsher punishments and for a stronger adherence to Islamic and Revolutionary ideals.

At the same time, this same regime continues to claim that critics of its human rights are politically motivated and complain about atrocities carried out by other countries, specifically the US and Israel. What’s clear is that this particular atrocity is more horrifying not only because it was carried out by the regime in the name of the regime but because, for all intents and purposes, it is still being carried out today, alebit on a smaller scale.

 

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How To Talk Human Rights with Iranian Leaders

Last week, I came across an article in Iran Wire which seems to have been long overdue called ‘How to Talk to Javad Zarif About Human Rights“. The article outlines 8 specific points that journalists interviewing Iran’s foreign minister on the issue of human rights and hopefully some journalists will actually implement these suggestions. These suggestions were meant for journalists who want to interview Zarif but they are also relevant for interviews with other Iranian leaders such as President Hassan Rouhani, speaker of the Majlis Ali Larijani, chief of human rights in Iran Javad Larijani and chief of the judiciary Sadeq Larijani, to name a few.

The issue of human rights in Iran is a slippery one because any accusation of problems in human rights in Iran is usually met with dismissals, denials, “sugar-coating”, hypocrisy and lies as well as counter-accusations of politicization of the issue and problems of human rights in the US or in Israel.

Let’s face it, the state of human rights in Iran will never be on par with the Western world simply because all issues of human rights in Iran are subject to Shariah laws as would befit an Islamic State as is explained by Sadeq Larijani: “We only accept the Human Rights that is based on our religious teachings…we cannot abandon the Quranic teachings for the sake of your human laws that are being implemented in European countries”.

But pressure form outside Iran on improving human rights does work: Once Tehran realizes that horrid human rights impede political and economical ties with the West, change is possible. In order to do so, one has to understand how to speak about human rights to the Iranians.

How do Iranians leaders view human rights?
According to many Iranian leaders,  Iran doesn’t even have a problem with human rights. Here are a few quotes by these leaders regarding human rights that exemplify the massive hypocrisy surrounding problems of human rights in Iran.

  • In Iran, “the government follows the people, not the other way around”.
  • “The will of the people shall be the basis of authority of the government”.
  • Tehran “genuinely and meaningfully” involves its citizens “without any discrimination of any kind”.
  • Iran creates and maintains the “necessary measures for the protection of the rights of the vulnerable groups” (especially women and children).
  • All Iranian nationals are “equal before the law”, “have the right to choose their own lawyers” and can count on “the presumption of innocence”.
  • Tehran has “continuously worked for the promotion of human rights ” (with the UN).
  • Tehran continues to “fully participate” for the “promotion and protection of human rights”.
  • Tehran adheres to a full separation of powers (executive, legislature, judiciary).
  • The Iranian police has a “most immaculate record” and is “free of racial discrimination and ethnic impartiality”.
  • Tehran prohibits the use of torture and arbitrary arrest.
  • “Iran doesn’t jail people for their opinions”.
  • Tehran never “targets Baha’is just because they are followers of this faith”.
  • “If an individual commits a violation, it has nothing to do with Shiites, Sunnis, or others in Iranian society”.
  • There are no forced legal marriages of children in Iran.
  • “That they say we execute homosexuals is not more than a lie”.

All of these statements do not reflect the dire truth in Iran in any way and are an affront to all the victims of human rights abuses in Iran. In Iran, criticizing the regime, the regime’s operating bodies such as the IRGC/Basij, Islam, the Supreme Leader etc… is a “sin” which leads to vague but harsh charges of “insulting Islam/the Prophet/the sanctities/the Supreme Leader”, “spreading propaganda against the regime”, “collusion to commit crimes against national security”, “spreading corruption on earth” etc…These charges hold penalties that range from long jail sentences (12 years in jail for cartoonist Atena Farghadani who lampooned the Iranian members of parliament) or execution (Sohel Arabi for sharing a criticism of the regime on his facebook page).

 

How to prepare for an interview?

Here’s the list of suggestions as well as some more tips.

  • The first suggestion is that journalists should not worry about angering or embarrassing Zarif in public. Many journalists fear that if they ask hard questions, they will not be allowed to interview prominent Iranian leaders in the future but the point is that Zarif needs the Western media more than the Western media needs Zarif. Unfortunately, The fact that Zarif holds the status of a political superstar in Iran and the world impedes on the journalist’s duties to discover the truth.
  • The second suggestion is to not allow Zarif to pass the blame on to Iran’s judiciary. Unlike Western countries, the government, the parliament and the judiciary are not wholly separated and are in fact deeply intertwined through the regime’s revolutionary bodies such as the IRGC whose powers are evident in all three bodies. The simple fact that the brothers Larijani hold top jobs in parliament, human rights and the judiciary highlights the problem. Many innocent people are imprisoned for their political value such as the house-imprisonment without trial of Mehdi Karroubi  and Mir Hossein Mousavi since 2011, the imprisonment of Iranian Americans such as Jason Rezaian, Saeed Abedini and Amir Hekmati, journalists such as Afarin Chitsaz, Eshan Manazandarani, Eshan Safarzaiee…all jailed for political purposes.
  • The third suggestion seems obvious but most journalists don’t implement it: read up on specific case studies. Questioning Zarif on human rights in general or even the imprisonment of journalists or Baha’is in particular is a sure way of getting nowhere. Journalists have to pose specific questions about specific people – the name of the person, the circumstances of the arrest, the behavior of the interrogators, the list of formal charges, the ability to confer with a lawyer or to have family visits, the length of the trial, the name of the judge sitting at the trial, the details of the sentence, his/her welfare in prison etc…Hard facts and statements by the “criminals” are harder to dismiss then general inquiries.
  • The fourth suggestion is to ask about specific results of so-called improvements in human rights in Iran. Zarif, Larijani (all three of them) and Rouhani like to point out that the state of human rights in Iran is improving but when it comes to specific improvements, they tend to keep it as vague as possible. A case in point is the problem of drug-related executions which represent approximately 80% of the executions in Iran. All of the leaders mentioned above have at one time or another justified these executions as a means to ease the problems of drug addiction in Europe and are eager to point out that some EU countries are actually supporting Iran’s war on drugs financially in order to attain this goal. But when it comes to facts or even estimations regarding the benefit of these executions on drug addiction in the EU, there are never any answers.
  • The fifth suggestion deals with the problem of “double standards” in relation to other countries with bad records of human rights. Iranian leaders faced with accusations of poor human right in Iran are quick to point out that problems of human rights exist in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and, specifically, Israel. While these counter-accusations may hold merit, they serve as an escape route from dealing with the accusations themselves. Journalists should press men like Zarif to choose between positioning Iran as part of the problem or as part of the solution since it is always easy to look good by placing oneself in comparison with others who are worse. Furthermore, journalists should press on about Iran’s double standards: If Iran wants to be compared with countries with worse human rights records, does that not place Iran in a double standard of its own?
  • The sixth suggestion focuses on the Iranian understanding of the word “respect”. Respect is a very loaded word in Iran since the whole essence of the Islamic Revolution is based on being respected and proud. The whole regime thrives on respect but this respect is usually a one-way street. Tehran strives to be respected but it holds no respect for its critics in the UN, the West or within Iran. The multitudes of cases of “disrespect” to critics of the regime is endless and includes arbitrary arrests, imprisonment without formal charges, sham trials, forced “confessions”, inability to meet with lawyers and family members, torture and abuse in prison, lack of medical attention etc…Here’s a small anecdote on the level of respect that the regime holds for its citizens: A judge sentenced an Iranian man to death for drug-related charges which the defendant continued to deny fervently. The judge listened to the defendants pleas of innocence and then reportedly said that the sentence would stand and that if the defendant was really innocent, he would then go to heaven. Respect? None.
  • The seventh suggestion relates to the lack of transparency on the issue of human rights in Iran. A special rapporteur was designated by the UN to oversee the issue of human rights in Iran but Iran has barred its doors to the special rapporteur since 2005 because Tehran felt that the assignment of the special rapporteur was politicized in the first place but that did not stop the rapporteurs from issuing scathing reports through third party information. If the state of human rights in Iran is so good, why doesn’t Tehran open its doors to showcase it? And why does Tehran get into a fuss whenever Western diplomats try to meet with local Iranian activists? And why does Tehran punish prisoners who manage to communicate their predicament to the UN, to NGO’s or to the media? Just as Tehran signed the JCPoA which is based on more transparency on its nuclear activities, why can it not produce the same level of transparency for its judicial system?
  • The eighth and final suggestion is the place of human rights in Iran’s “brand”. Rouhani and his government have worked hard to reposition Iran as a great partner in business, in “fighting terrorism” and in “helping” its neighbors. Iranian leaders are quick to point out how technologically advanced Iran is in many fields and how it is the strongest military power in the region. What the guys in Tehran find so frustrating is that Western businessmen and diplomats eagerly nod their heads in approval for all of these successes but remain critical of Iran’s state of human rights which is well below the standard of Western countries. Western businesses, in general, have grown a conscience which reflects the collectives consciences of their clients who want to minimize the oppression of human rights by choosing to purchase products and services from businesses and countries with strong human rights ethics.

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Salavati: Iran’s Judge of Death


Abulghasem Salavati is a 49 year old Iranian judge who heads the 15th Branch of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran who is also known as the “Hanging Judge” or the “Judge of Death” for his pension to issue death sentences, or incredibly long prison sentences, to Iranians accused of criticizing the regime in any way.

Salavati’s “work” and his career exemplify everything that is wrong with Iran’s judicial system: His loyalty to the regime is reflected in the harshness of his sentencing and overwhelms any effort at managing a fair trial. In fact, his management of his trials and his rulings usually include outright contradictions to Iran’s laws and constitution or the “bending” of these laws while Salavati takes on the role of prosecutor as well as judge. With his rough looks and his “dead” eyes, he has turned into a man who is feared by most Iranians, reviled by most of the world and respected by the members of the regime.

 

Bridging Between the Regime and the Courts

Iran’s judicial system is, according to its constitution, a separate entity from the regime, the parliament and the government. Unfortunately for Iranians, sentences for politically tainted crimes such as “propaganda against the state”, “colluding against national security”, “assembly and collusion”, “insulting the regime”, “insulting the Supreme Leader”, “insulting the IRGC”, “insulting the Prophet”, “spreading corruption on earth” etc… are, on the whole, politically motivated. All of these “crimes” are based on criticism against the regime and its leaders and are taken for granted in the free world as a basic freedom of speech. But the regime doesn’t take criticism lightly – in fact it is considered a sin – and the sentences the Iranian “criminals” receive for criticizing the regime are outlandishly harsh ranging from a few years in jail to execution. These sentences are compounded by the fact that these “criminals” are usually denied bail and therefore are jailed for months until their trial, are usually (illegally) denied access to their lawyers and families, are mistreated, harassed and tortured while in jail, in part as an effort to force them to sign “confessions”, are systematically denied medical care and are rarely paroled on appeal.

The regime requires the services of judges who are ready to punish anyone who is critical of the regime because the alternatives are too problematic. It could simply kill critics of the regime, as it has done on numerous occasions in the past, but witnesses and the families and friends of the murdered “criminal” can create embarrassing situations for the regime. On the other hand, since the regime is not a democracy, it strives to maintain its power through the use of oppression and fear which, paradoxically, weakens its legitimacy and therefore any unpunished criticism can lead to a counter-revolution. Knowing that these two options are not viable for the regime, the only real alternative is to employ people who are 100% loyal to the regime in the army, the police, the courts etc… .

 

Salavati is Notoriously Ruthless

Salavati has handed down tens of death sentences and over 600 years in prison. He works fast (sometimes, a double digit prison sentence can be handed down within minutes), prefers closed door trials without the defendant nor his/her lawyer present and doesn’t distinguish between hard evidence and the “evidence” procured by the ministry of Intelligence, the IRGC or the police. His trials include human rights activist Narges Mohammadi (11 years in jail for “assembly and collusion against national security”), former MP Esmail Gerami Moghaddam (6 years in jail for “collusion against the state”), physicist and activist Omid Kokabee (10 years for “conspiring with foreign countries”), human rights activist Mohammad Ali Dadkah (9 years in jail for “interviews with foreign media”) , blogger Soheil Arabi (sentenced to death for “propaganda against the state”) and many many more.

In his latest high profile case, Salavati handed out sentences of 5-10 years in jail to reporters who were arrested following the post-JCPoA crackdown. One of them, Davoud Asadi isn’t even a reporter but his brother is. Their official “crimes” were, as usual, quite vague and included the usual “propaganda against the state” and such. Rumors even abounded that they would be tried for spying for foreign media but in the end, it must have been seen as too ludicrous. They have been in jail since November 2015.

Make no mistake, Salavati is not alone in being such a sorry example of a judge – he is one of six judges who specialize in dealing with politicized criminals. As an Iranian human rights lawyer explains, “they impose sentences that do not correspond with the crime committed; they ignore the defense case put by defendants and their lawyers; they approve indictments that have no legal basis; they are unfamiliar with the law and legal matters; and they undeniably come out with erroneous rulings“. These judges include Salavati,  “Mohammad Moghiseh, former justices Yahya Pirabbasi and Hassan Zareh Dehnavi (known as judge Haddad), and appeal judges Hassan Babaee and Ahmad Zargar“.

 

Salavati is Beginning to Lose Ground

Salavati’s problem is that numerous of his cases have reached appeal courts which have drastically reduced the sentences, raising questions on Salavati’s ability to function as a judge.

Take the case of the trial of Mohammad Amin Valian, a protester during the problematic 2009 elections. Valian took to the streets to protest the election of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad because of widespread accusations that the elections were rigged to beat the more moderate candidates. Valian joined the other protesters and threw rocks at the police forces and was subsequently convicted to be executed based mostly on his own “confession” that he had thrown three rocks. On appeal, his sentence was reduced to three years in jail with no new evidence!

More recently, there is the famous case of Atena Faraghdani. Faraghdani is an Iranian artist who posted a cartoon in 2014 which she drew depicting the Iranian members of parliament as animals. The impetus for this drawing was a bill in parliament which was meant to prohibit vasectomies and minimize the sale of contraceptives in Iran. Through her drawing, Farghadani criticized the bill, the MP’s, the regime and the Supreme Leader. She was arrested and was convicted by Salavati to 12 years and 9 months in jail. Nearly two years into her sentence, after being tortured and forced to a virginity test, and following numerous hunger strikes, a court of appeals drastically reduced the sentence to 18 months in jail. From nearly 13 years to 18 months with no new evidence!

Salavati, along with some other judges have been sanctioned by the US, the EU and the UN for his role as the regime’s pawn in punishing critics of the revolution. Hopefully, the Iranian people will one day overthrow them in the hopes of offering every Iranian a fair trial.

 

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Tehran Supports Assad Not Syrians

For years, Tehran has issued a lot of disinformation concerning the purpose, level of support, the deployment of troops, the definition of terrorists, the definition of military presence and the definition of foreign interference in the Syrian civil war:

  • Purpose: includes “humanitarian aid”, “religious, human and ethical duties”, a “moral obligation”, accepting an “invitation” to help, fighting Sunni/Wahabi/Tafkiri terrorists, defending Syria from Zionist plots, defending the Iranian empire, defending Alawites/Shiites etc…
  • Level of support: money, supplying weapons, deploying troops, supporting troops, areal support, military intelligence etc…
  • Deployment of troops: “advisors”, Hezbollah militias, IRGC/Qods troops, Basij militias, commando troops etc…
  • Definition of terrorists: ISIS, al-Nusra, al-Qaeda, USA/UK, Saudi Arabia etc…
  • Definition of military presence and foreign interference: West/Saudis = unwanted foreign interference and military presence, Hezbollah/Iran/Russia = political and military support “at the request of the government

For years, every day could bring a new spin on what, how, where and with whom Tehran is involved in Syria and the next day would bring a denial and another spin.

But one fact has remained steadfast throughout all these years and that is Tehran’s unconditional support for Bashar al-Assad who seems to have more fans in Tehran than he does in Damascus. This fact begs for one very important question: How will Assad repay Tehran for all its “help”? The answer my friend, is blowing in the winds over Beirut and Baghdad.

 

Assad is Tehran’s Red Line

Last week, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s top advisor Ali Akbar Velayati restated thatAssad is an official “red line” for Tehran and that means that Tehran will not accept any solution, political or military, in which Assad is deposed. It is noteworthy that Velayati speaks of Assad and not of Assad’s government even though it isn’t really Assad the person who really interests Tehran but Assad the Alawite/Shiite minority head of a state who could turn Syria into another Iranian vassal state such as Lebanon and to lesser degrees, Iraq, Yemen and even Bahrain. The names of these countries always come up when Khamenei talks about “Exporting the Revolution” or about the saving the “oppressed” and they are, in Tehran’s view, an integral part of the future Shiite Crescent and in the more distant future, the core of a Global Islamic Awakening.

From this perspective, Tehran doesn’t really care how many Syrians are killed, wounded or displaced, how long will the war carry on or even how disastrous this war is for the economy and lives of Syrians. Nor does Tehran really care whether Assad is now the legitimate leader of the Syrian people or even if there still is an encompassing definition of a “Syrian people”. What matters in Tehran is that the person at the head of the Syrian government will continue to be its strategically placed regional ally in the “axis of resistance” against the West and against Israel.

And what about Assad? From his point of view, Tehran, together with Moscow, are “friends from abroad” who have come to help fight Tafkiri terrorists and the “dishonesty of the West” and save Syrians from “inhumane suffering” – of course, he doesn’t mention that over his government is responsible for nearly 95% of the death toll in Syria.

 

Tehran needs Syria

crescent dominationsBefore Hassan Rouhani became president, Tehran was coming under a lot of fire from the West, Saudi Arabia and the UN for its unwavering support of Assad but Rouhani managed to shut most of the criticism by rebranding the civil war in Syria as a war between a legitimate leader against terrorists (ISIS) following his World Against Violence and Extremism (WAVE) proposal to the UN. For all intents and purposes, Tehran was in Syria to help Assad kill terrorists. When Western powers bombed ISIS strongholds, Tehran made it clear that a) they were not successful and b) they had no right to take part in the war since ISIS’s birth was midwifed by the West. But when Russia joined the war, Tehran heaped praises on Moscow for being successful and for being a legitimate partner.

This link between Assad/Syria and fighting terrorism opened up the way to not only shut down criticism (who can criticize people who are killing ISIS terrorists?) but also to take some sort of “ownership” on the destiny of Syrians. No matter how many times Tehran repeated that the fate of Syria lies only within the hands of Syrians, it continued to meddle as IRGC Commander Mohammad Jafari stated: “We will continue to support the survival of the Syrian government and its sovereignty and territorial integrity and will never allow any partitioning of any of Muslim territories“. Why does Jafari care so much about Syria? According to him, the “Syrian frontline” is “an exercise ground for mobilizing the Islamic world against enemies” and “the conditions in Syria, Iraq and Yemen are good and developments are in favor of the Islamic Revolution”.

 

Damascus to follow Beirut and Baghdad

iraq lebanonIt’s really no secret that Damascus has joined Beirut and Baghdad on being totally dependent on Tehran. It doesn’t make a difference that many Syrians, Lebanese and Iraqis despise this dependence because at the end of the day, Tehran’s rule over these countries is backed by its money, its military and especially its proxy, Hezbollah. Hezbollah has become Tehran’s foreign legion, a legion which ignores borders and nationalities. Without it, Tehran would have to send its own troops which would not only add criticism by Iranians regarding the mounting death toll, it would provoke its regional and global enemies to react openly. But Hezbollah is stateless and can therefore fight for whoever is willing to let them fight. In other countries such as Yemen and even Bahrain, Tehran is still far from its goal thanks to the pressure by Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional nemesis but that doesn’t stop Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei from including them in the list of countries which he wants to “free from oppression“.

But Tehran should listen to the voices of the Lebanese, the Syrians, the Iraqis, the Yemenites and the Bahrainis who don’t want to be “protected” by Tehran – it is their voices that are being heard by the world as proof that Tehran isn’t acting out of compassion for them but is using them as pawns in a global power game which they do not want to be part of.

Rouhani Must Withdraw From Syria

For over five years, Tehran and its terrorist proxy, Hezbollah, have been steadfastly supporting Syria’s minority government leader and self-proclaimed dictator, Bashar Al-Assad. This support includes financial and military aid estimated at $50 billion and a death toll of several hundred Iranians and several hundred Hezbollah troops.

For over five years, Tehran has warned foreign powers to not take an active part in the Syrian civil war that the only solution for the Syrian civil war would be a political one. This warning is loaded with irony since Tehran is the biggest foreign military power in Syria and this irony only grew as the cheers from Tehran rose when Moscow joined the war.

But now, Tehran is at a crossroads: Moscow has checked out of Syria, leaving the battlefield once again to Assad, Tehran and Hezbollah and peace talks have led to a series of cease-fires. Tehran has to decide whether to keep on supporting Assad militarily or follow Moscow’s lead and remove its troops (Iranian and Hezbollah) from Syrian soil. The pressure for Iran to withdraw its troops is building up from three sides: the peacemakers (UN), the regional arch-enemy (Saudi Arabia) and the Iranian people themselves. On all three levels, it makes sense for Iranian president Hassan Rouhani to pull Iranian troops out of Syria.

 

The UN wants Iran out of Syria

syria2The Syrian civil war has claimed a death toll of 250,000 – 470,000 (depending on who is doing the survey) and the displacement of approximately 12 million Syrians. It is noteworthy in this context to know that most of the civilian casualties were hurt or killed by Assad’s government forces and his supporters, namely Iran, Hezbollah and then Russia.

Up until now, the threat of ISIS managed to convince the world that Tehran’s involvement in Syria is based on one issue alone: to defeat terrorism in general and ISIS in particular. This is strange since Tehran’s involvement in Syria began long before ISIS birth in gory rampage in mid-2013 and belies Tehran’s sectarian and geo-military reasons for supporting Assad. On a sectarian level, Assad is an Alawite, a Shiite-like sect of Islam, which is a minority sect in Syria living within a Sunni majority, and Tehran could not bear to lose a Shiite-friendly ally. On a geo-military level, Syria is Tehran is a strategic stepping stone to attack Israel and to arm and train Hezbollah militias. Tehran would love for Syria to become an extension of Lebanon, a country governed by Hezbollah with strings being pulled back in Tehran.

The UN understands that as long as Iranian and Hezbollah forces are in Syria, the chances of a peace process, accepted by the rebels, to develop is nil: the Syrian rebels view Iran and Hezbollah as foreign invaders who are there for one thing only – to save Assad. In order for a peace process to begin, the rebels have to believe that playing field is even which means that Tehran has to leave. Rouhani, who has been courting the UN for the past three years also understands this all too well and should find a way to bring Iranian troops out of Syria.

 

Saudi Arabia wants Iran out of Syria

The animosity between Saudi Arabia and Iran has grown steadily as Iran became less of a global pariah and more of a partner for the West. The JCPoA lifted sanctions from Iran which meant that Iran could now compete with Saudi Arabia more adequately while Tehran’s re-branding as a champion against terror meant that more focus was placed on Saudi Arabia’s part in Sunni-based terrorism. Tehran made a big deal out of the fact that ISIS’s roots could be traced back to support from Saudi Arabia and the US and by placing Sunni-based terrorism on a much higher danger level than Shiite-based terrorism.

Saudi Arabia’s frustrations grew as Tehran supported Shiite-like Houthi rebels in Yemen to overthrow the government and as Iranian troops and “advisers” roamed the Syrian battle-fields freely while Saudi Arabia could only watch on the sidelines and send in limited military supplies to the Syrian rebels.

All this changed when Saudi Arabia declared war on the Houthis and then again, when Saudi Arabia threatened to send in its own armed forces into Syria. Riyadh’s claim is quite simple: If Tehran can freely support Assad, then Riyadh can freely support Assad’s rebels.

The only way out of this stand-off is for Tehran to step down. Rouhani who had called for Islamic unity only six months ago must understand that if Saudi Arabia does deploy its troops in Syria, a regional conflict based on proxy wars can suddenly become an all-out frontal war between these regional arch-enemies.

 

Iranians want Iran out of Syria

Although nearly every Iranian leader has spoken in favor of supporting Assad in his war, criticism in Iran is growing. The IRGC leaders understand the political and military importance of Assad in Syria but every burial of an IRGC soldier killed in Syria increased the pressure within the IRGC to distance itself from sending Iranian soldiers to the Syrian front.

But now, the criticism is reaching a grass-roots level: Iranians who are still suffering from a weak economy are finding it hard to swallow the billions of dollars being invested in a war outside of Iran to decrease the suffering of Assad and his troops instead of investing these funds within Iran to decrease the suffering of the Iranian people. At first, the Iranian populace vented its anger at the burials of Iranian soldiers which seemed OK by the regime since the anger seemed to be pointed at the enemies of Assad but protests have begun in Iran in which the protesters are blaming the regime.

For most Iranians, the regime’s support of Assad is deemed as acceptable as long as the body-count and the billions invested remain at a low level but once that level is crossed, they are doing what is extremely dangerous to do in Iran: openly criticize the regime. For now, these protests have not spread nationally but it’s just a matter of time if Iranian money keeps being invested and Iranian blood keeps being shed in Syria. Rouhani gains his power form his popularity and if these protests increase, it will surely add more pressure on him to extricate Iran out of the Syrian blood baths.

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Obama Offers “Hope”, Khamenei Offers “Death”

obama khamenei 2In these last few days, Iranians celebrated Nowruz (New Year) and President Obama released a video dedicated to all the “Iranian leaders and Iranian people”. In the message, Obama sounds optimistic, and explains to the people of Iran that this is a time to have “hope” for a better future after a nuclear deal is clinched. Four days later, Iran’s supreme leader Khamenei, responded to that message, with vitriolic rhetoric about how the US was not to be trusted and, “Death to America, of course”.

This is the part where I urge you, the reader, to watch both videos – both just over 4 minutes long. The overwhelming differences between them, once you watch, will make this post redundant.

 

A Different Perspective

obamaObama and Khamenei are as different as the US and Iran: In less than 2 years, Obama, whose mandate of control was given to him by the voters in America, will step down from his office and be replaced by someone else. Khamenei, who was appointed by the Assembly of Experts for an indefinite term, will probably be replaced after his demise.

Obama wants a deal so bad, he is ready to fight congress for it, fight against his main ally in the Middle East (Israel) and veto any new sanctions. Sure, that doesn’t mean that he will sign a deal “no matter what”, but it is obvious to all that he is trying.

Khamenei is at best partial about the deal: During the last year, he changed his mind on the nuclear talks – in November he said that the lack of a deal shows Iranian strength, 3 months after that he claimed that no deal is better than a bad one, and in March he warned the US from spoiling the nuclear deal.

So while the Obama is busy trying to make a change in his limited time in office, Khamenei seems to be doing everything in his power to limit change.

 

“Death to America, of course”

khamenei deathIt’s chilling to see that not only does Khamenei’s crowd automatically go into “Death to America” chants, but that Khamenei, whose President and Foreign Minister are working hard to close a deal with the US, simply adds ” Death to America, of course”. “Of course”? Is calling for the death of a state and its people so trivial that he answers “of course”?

What is his message to the Americans and to the Iranians who look on in hope that a peaceful solution be attained? It certainly isn’t one of rapprochement and of change – it is simply reverting to the dogmatic cries that have kept Iran isolated and under sanctions for so long.

As we outlined in an earlier post, the nuclear deal is not really about centrifuges and degrees of Uranium enrichment: it is about the state of mind and the goals of Iran’s leaders. If you think that the call of “Death to America” sounds horrifying now, imagine hearing the same chant knowing that Iran has a nuclear bomb.

 

If Khamenei hates the Americans so much and he keeps on changing his mind, they why is he allowing his government to conduct negotiations? In short: regime survival, “Money”.

Khamenei’s power as a Supreme Leader is severely tested in times of economic hardships. These economic hardships are a result from his policies. If the Iranians get too hungry, they might hit the streets in an effort to change his policies or change him. The ONLY reason Khamenei is willing to negotiate a deal is to immediately relieve Iran of the crippling sanctions while keeping the nuclear program intact. What happens after that is irrelevant to him since he will be dead.

Tehran’s Choice: Live in House Arrest or Die in Court

choiceIn 2009, Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi campaigned against President Ahmadinejad as reformists.  The election ended with Ahmadinejad winning the presidency again and accusations of vote rigging by Ahmadinejad’s friend and Minister of Interior Sadegh Mahsouli. The results were upheld by Iran’s Guardian Council and within days, a nationwide protest was born and later “killed” in a severe crackdown by Supreme Leader Khamenei.

The two continued to campaign for reform but two years later, following their support of the Arab Spring, both were put under house arrest without a trial. Under house arrest, they have less rights and healthcare than even ordinary prisoners and have no access to news, telephone or internet. They are isolated even from their loved ones and have left their homes only for medical treatment.

To Trial or Not To Trial

questionThey remain accused unofficially of sedition, “corrupting the earth” and an “unforgivable sin”. These accusations might not sound like much to a Western court but the punishment for these crimes in Iran is death. That’s why a lot of hardliners, including Khamenei himself, believe that the house arrests without a trial is an act of kindness and were Khomeini alive, they would both be dead. The crucial issue is that officially, they have not been accused officially of any crime since they are not to be tried in court.

Although it is widely believed that Mousavi and Karroubi are under arrest because of their accusations of rigged elections, some insiders point to their “seditious” behavior during the Arab Spring of 2011.

Judiciary Chief Sadeq Larijani makes no excuses and claims that not only are the house arrests 100% legal, the crimes of Mousavi and Karroubi “the 2009 Sedition was a move against national interests and 100% against our national security“. Larijani has no qualms about putting the two on trial. In fact he believes that there is enough evidence to find both guilty but they cannot be tried because of a mysterious “decree of national security”. And yet, in true Iranian style, his deputy, Mohseni Ejei announced that “if conditions permit”, both would stand trial.

Devil’s Choice

rock hard placeKhamenei seems personally piqued by the fact that both have not “apologized” but insiders believe that even if an apology was issued, “their repentance would not be accepted”. The main issue they are expected to repent on remains their questioning of the election results, an issue which hurt Iran inn Khamenei’s eyes.

Calls to release Mousavi and Karroubi have echoed around the world since then. Even Rouhani called for their release during his election campaign but nothing is simple in Iran: it seems that releasing the two or putting them on trial is not under the jurisdiction of Rouhani. Once again, only Khamenei can make a definitive move here.

Now, calls for a fair and open trial are being heard from moderates and hardliners alike and their trial could turn into a real test for Khamenei, Rouhani and Iran. But more so, it is a test for Mousavi and Karroubi who have to choose between losing their freedom or losing their lives: either they continue to accept their house arrest and live or they go to trial and most probably face the gallows.

One Year of Rouhani – Still No Reason To Smile Over Human Rights

 

One year since Rouhani was elected and human rights have gone from bad to worse despite his promises for change. Rouhnai promised to bring back smiles to his people but in the mean time, the only people who are smiling are politicians.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhXbeLL7ack

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