Published in German weekly “Zeit” on 30. April 2010
German Source
English translation provided by @germantoenglish

by Jörg Lau
When hundreds of thousands of Iranians peacefully protested against the rigged elections in Tehran last summer, they could count on the world’s sympathy – all the more so after the regime sent out its thugs to shoot into the crowds, and finally incarcerated thousands of Iranian citizens.

Even the judiciary works against Iran's opposition: Dissidents on trial in Tehran (© /AFP/Getty Images)

Angela Merkel was among those who condemned the brutal crackdown of the security forces against the people. She expressed her “deepest sympathy” to the families of the victims.

What’s the value of the German government’s sympathy? This is a question that those who had a narrow escape from death, torture and imprisonment in Iran must ask themselves today. For months, human rights activists have been seeking to ensure that the Federal Government admits at least some of those opposition supporters who are traumatized and at particular risks.

Mehran Barati and Farin Fakhari, two exiled Iranians and opponents of the Shah regime and the mollahs, who have been living in Germany for many years, together with the Berlin professor Hajo Funke established contacts between the refugees and German authorities. Among the refugees are students who were raped with batons while in detention. One of them has had several vertebrae smashed as a result of beatings. Another one was subjected to severe psychological terror – he was forced to eat faeces, and as a result he suffers from asthmatic attacks of anxiety.

Turkey tolerates these people who live in poor satellite cities in the southeastern border area of the country, where they struggle to survive – without income and appropriate medical care, in constant fear of the Iranian intelligence service.

Already in January, the Federal Government received a list with about 80 names and case histories, among them those of many journalists, bloggers and student activists of the “green movement”. The German authorities, however, started by attempting to reduce the list of candidates to a maximum of 20. Officials in the Interior Ministry do not even want to confirm this low number.

For comparison: Last year, the USA alone accepted 1169 Iranian refugees from Turkey. Canada accepted 255, Australia 89, and Sweden 45 refugees. On 8 March, it temporarily seemed that things would start inching forward. Prior to the federal press conference, a spokeswoman of the Interior Ministry announced that Germany would admit “a certain number of refugees in substantiated individual cases”. Seven weeks later, the Ministry in identical wording responded to a request of “ZEIT”, stating that “in agreement with the Foreign Office, it was decided to admit a certain number of refuge seeking Iranian citizens from abroad, especially from Turkey, to Germany”. In other words: Nothing happened.

Political scientist Hajo Funke’s impression is that the strategy of the Interior Ministry aims to discourage the refugees as well as those who support them. Apparently, the message is that “a restrictive policy will be continued” – according to the Ministry this is for the reason that Germany during the regime of the Shah and later Ayatollah Khomeini accepted many Iranian refugees. Now other nations are to be considered first. And by the way, the willingness of the federal states is a precondition for accepting refugees.

In Funke’s view, all this is nothing but shabby excuses: Not only do other nations pursue a much more open-minded approach – Norway, for example, is ready to accept 140 Iranians. Also, three German federal states have already indicated that they are capable of accepting a total of well over 20 refugees. “Is the Interior Ministry thwarting interior ministers who are all too willing?” Funke asks. Are they trying to avoid the impression that the current liberal-conservative government is practising a generous asylum policy?

Ruprecht Polenz, foreign affairs politician of the [conservative Christian-Democratic Union] CDU, advocates the cause of the Iranian refugees on grounds of not only human rights. For him, the credibility of the German Iran policy is at stake. Germany should send a clear message to the judges and prosecutors in Iran who contributed to the suppression of the opposition, to make it clear that “we will not accept their shameful sentences”, says Polenz.

According to Polenz, Germany should participate in the resolving of the refugee problem in order to let Iran know that its nuclear plans will not distract Germany from dealing with the human rights violations.

Since 2008, the Federal Republic in an unbureaucratic act has accepted almost 2500 refugees from Iraq. Obviously, this was related to the letter “C” [standing for “Christian”] in the name of the governing political party. Initially, Germany intended to accept only Christians who were subjected to exceptionally brutal persecution in Iraq. From legal – and moral – points of view, however, this approach was questionable:

Is it “christian” to help only Christians? Consequently, entry permits were extended to Iraqi citizens of other religious adherence. Iranians, however, can not expect this to happen to them. Even the low figure of 20 refugees of the “green movement” is sparking knee-jerk defense reactions.

Next week this could prove to be a real embarrassment. On 7 May, Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari will accept the Henri-Nannen-Award – the most important German journalism award. He will be representing his Iranian peers who, according to the rationale, “are facing most severe repression in their country”. This is an appealing gesture for Bahari, who himself was arrested and was allowed to leave for London only after vehement protests.

The fact that at the same time Bahari’s fellow sufferers – to whose articles, videos, blogs and tweets the German public owes all their knowledge about the green revolution – are being abandoned by the German government would be a bitter irony.

Published on the website of German weekly magazine “Spiegel” on 28. April 2010
Source (German),1518,691638,00.html
English translation provided by @germantoenglish

Mehdi Karroubi in an interview with Dieter Bednarz

Although he is placed under surveillance by Iran’s regime, reformist cleric Mehdi Karroubi is not to be intimidated. In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE, the prominent opposition leader talks about torture and rape in prisons, and also about renewed protests on the anniversary of the rigged election.

Mehdi Karrubi: The prominent reformist cleric is being consistently isolated from visitors

[Part 1]
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr Karroubi, until just now, two guards were standing in front of your house. Has the regime placed you under house arrest?

Karroubi: I would not put it this way. I am still allowed to leave the house. But they have dissolved my political party “Etemad-e Melli” (“National Trust”) and my office, my newspaper of the same name was banned. And I am always surrounded by police. Whoever wants to visit me – be it members of parliament, intellectuals, friends – will be registered, questioned, and must expect to face consequences.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Are your activities being monitored by the intelligence service?

Karroubi: The Persian language has a nice metaphor: The walls have mice, and the mice have ears, therefore, the walls are able to listen. Apart from that, the regime has seconded 14 people to ensure my so-called safety. They are supposed to “protect me from terrorists”, as I was told. However, the real purpose is to gather information. In case I will be killed, I highly recommend to check whether the perpetrator belongs to the circle of my protectors.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Despite the repression of the past months you have not lost your sense of humour.

Karroubi: Should I allow my opponents to wear me down? No. I was imprisoned under the Shah, I fought for this revolution together with Imam Khomeini. This state is my child that I will not abandon as long as I live.

“They severely abused my youngest son”

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Many people are not able to stand as firm against the pressure of the regime as you do. They are very afraid.

Karroubi: Yes, our people bear a great burden, and there is great fear. The people know the massive presence of police and militias that is ready to confront them. They know what to expect when they dare to revolt: They lose their jobs, their posts, their future. They face beatings, arrests, interrogations, and even worse things. This is the reason for the calm.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Do you still stick to your claims that arrested opposition supporters were tortured to death?

Karroubi: Of course I did not personally witness these incidents, but I trust the sources who provided the information. I know of four deaths that were caused by torture.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The regime, that is flying the flag of virtue, was especially annoyed by your claim that even rapes took place.

Karroubi: I know of five cases: Three women and two men who were raped. Whatever they threaten to do to me: I stick to what I said. I was physically assaulted for this during a Friday prayer. But should I renounce my conviction because of this?

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The situation in the prisons is dismayingly reminiscent of the terrible times under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

Karroubi: There are two differences: Under the Shah, torture was carried out systematically, by “experts”. Today it is different. The cases of torture are excesses, breaches of some individuals who did not act on behalf of the leadership. Unlike today, though, at that time people were at least allowed to publicly grieve for the victims. This was beneficial for their souls.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Do you fear to become a victim of those torturers yourself?

Karroubi: No. We don’t have a system of torturers. Apart from that, I am a disciple of Imam Khomeini who had only three guiding principles: Steadfastness, honesty, and readiness to fight.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Isn’t it merely a matter of time before they will arrest you as well? Most of your staff have already been arrested.

Karroubi: They have taken away so many that I am unable to give an exact number. I estimate that about 50 of my combatants were captured, among them many important helpers, like the manager of my weblog. My youngest son Ali, 37, was severely abused.

SPIEGEL's editor Dieter Bednarz met with Karroubi in his house in Tehran.

Part 2: “Sanctions mean further hardships for the people”

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Does the former Prime Minister Hossein Moussavi, who like you ran against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the presidential elections of June 12 and whom many regard as the true winner, continue to stand at your side?

Karroubi: We still are in close contact, exchange letters, talk on the phone. At least once a month we meet for private talks. Our aides meet much more often, though. Mr. Moussavi and I work for the same goals: We do not want to change the system. Our constitution does guarantee freedom of opinion and democracy. We want those rights to be implemented.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: But the reformist movement has quietened down.

Karroubi: The streets are quiet. But don’t let yourself be fooled. Every day the ideas of reform continue to spread. The people are just waiting for a spark.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: And you are going to light that spark?

Karroubi: We are calling for another peaceful gathering on the anniversary of our mass demonstration of 15. June, when about 3 million people protested against the manipulation of election results. We have already applied for authorisation.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The regime has issued a ban on demonstrations because it fears a show of force of your movement. It is very unlikely that this ban will be lifted on occasion of this anniversary.

Karroubi: It is important that we encourage people to continue protesting. Without violence, but with full determination.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: This means that new bloodshed is preprogrammed.

Karroubi: This government is brilliant in increasing the people’s dissatisfaction. Therefore, the people despite all misgivings will sooner or later revolt against the aggressive foreign policy, the lousy economic policy. I feel sorry for every single further victim. You can not imagine how much this affects me. But what else can we do? Give up? No, the people would be very disappointed if we urged them to stay home. They want us to encourage them, to tell them: Take to the streets, be brave.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: How much influence do you and Mr. Moussavi have on the movement today?

Karroubi: What has happened was a result of accumulated anger. The protestors share our call for freedom, they merely demand what is rightfully theirs.

“Ahmadinejad is a calamity for the people”

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Other demands have been voiced that go beyond that, though: The system must be abolished, the revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei must resign.

Karroubi: Very few people go as far as that. The vast majority says: We had a revolution, that’s enough. We don’t want a radical change, we want our prior course to be corrected.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The UN Security Council will most likely issue another resolution for stricter sanctions soon, because the regime does not cooperate on the nuclear issue. Do you welcome that?

Karroubi: Absolutely not. Sanctions mean nothing but more hardships for the people. If foreign countries wish to help us, they should demand that human rights be respected. However, we don’t actually need the foreign countries. We have learned to stand on our own feet.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Should the world actually talk to this president at all?

Karroubi: This man is a calamity for the people. However, since he is in office, you can’t ignore him.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Do you accept Ahmadinejad as the president?

Karroubi: No. The election was rigged. But he is holding this position, and thus he must be held accountable for what is happening.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The revolutionary leader has declared that the election was legitimate. Thus, who questions Ahmadinejad’s presidency at the same time questions Khamenei’s authority.

Karroubi: You may interpret it whatever way you like. I am not commenting on the revolutionary leader.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Do you expect the leadership to give in?

Karroubi: I don’t see a chance for Ahmadinejad to complete his four year term. Every day he causes new unrest. Even this conservative parliament has conflicts with him. No, it can’t go on like this.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Do you still believe in the future of the theocratic state?

Karroubi: I do, but I don’t believe in the theocracy of Dr. Ahmadinejad. In my theocracy people are free, and the government is elected by the people.

Demonstration in Tehran (photo from December 2009): 'The people would be disappointed if we urged them to stay home'

Translator’s note:
“Spiegel International” has also published an English article about this interview

Published on the website of German weekly magazine “Spiegel” on 25. April 2010
Source (German),1518,691129,00.html
English translation provided by @germantoenglish

Because an Iranian cleric said that natural disasters are caused by improperly dressed women, US student Jen McCreight suggested on her blog that women should dress bawdily in order to prove that boobs do not cause earthquakes. The idea for Boobquake Day was born. It will take place on Monday.

Actually, Jen McCreight explained in an interview earlier this week, the whole affair started as a joke. After the absurd statement delivered by the Muslim cleric Kasem Sedighi during a prayer in a mosque in Tehran she had wanted to respond in an even more absurd way. The cleric had claimed that earthquakes are caused by women who dress lewdly.

McCreight’s answer: Let’s prove to this man that boobs don’t cause quakes – with an experiment: On Monday, 26 April, as many women as possible should dress as daringly as they are able to.

Boobquake day was born.

The small comment on McCreight’s blog soon developed a life of its own, went around the world, made it into the media. Soon a Boobquake event page was established on Facebook. Less than 24 hours after the comment was published, a five-digit number of women had declared their solidarity. More and more people picked up on the appeal and disseminated it.

Two days after the initial idea, first regional support groups were established to raise the number of participants. Meanwhile, about 155.000 women have announced they will wear wonderbras or low-cut clothes in spite of the risk of earthquakes. Even real demonstrations are part of the program: In the Canadian city of Vancouver 50 women have announced to be holding a Boobquake protest.

Silly form, serious protest
Although for McCreight the whole affair started off as a joke, it did not accidentally turn out grim and provoking. The 22-year-old atheist believes that her sarcastic comment so quickly grew into a worldwide campaign because more and more women, just like herself, are “fed up with ridiculous anti-science and anti-women claims like the one made by Sedighi, and sometimes light-hearted mockery is the best solution.”

And this is how it looked like:
“On Monday, April 26th, I will wear the most cleavage-showing shirt I own. Yes, the one usually reserved for a night on the town. I encourage other female skeptics to join me and embrace the supposed supernatural power of their breasts. Or short shorts, if that’s your preferred form of immodesty. With the power of our scandalous bodies combined, we should surely produce an earthquake. If not, I’m sure Sedighi can come up with a rational explanation for why the ground didn’t rumble.”

Soon after that, the ground started rumbling for McCreight. Although the enormous response on the internet and in the media shocked her, and cut her off from communication – her e-mail account was deactivated after thousands of messages arrived. However, she adds some more factual points: It is about sending a signal, not about exposing oneself. Women who do not feel comfortable in a deep neckline could as well show their ankles – even this is regarded as lewd by some people.

Meanwhile, the whole affair is almost impossible to be stopped. The Boobquake event page on Facebook offers various T-shirts (“modestly dressed women seldom make earthquakes”). Hundreds of thousands of Facebook users have been invited to attend, and even key media in the US pick up the issue.

Head wind: Brain instead of boobs
Many women, however, are quite displeased with this. At the end of last week, an event titled “Brainquake” that was established in response to Boobquake captured the negative echo among other feminists best: McCreights action contributes to the sexualization of public space and debases women who are “forced to exhibit their bodies on a daily basis”. Way too many male supporters of the Boobquake events just can’t wait to finally get to see the “tits” of their female colleagues and friends.

Therefore, says Brainquake, to protest Sedighi’s absurd ideas women should rather show their “references, resumes, awards, and prizes” on websites, blogs, Facebook and Youtube. Nothing scares such men more than qualified women.

McCreight understands this point. Her first statement on her blog was merely a sarcastic comment, not a call for protests. If she had known how popular it would become, she would have chosen her wording more carefully, she said in an interview with the Australian news site

McCreight: “I don’t blame women who voice their concerns, since objectification of women is a legitimate thing to be concerned about – especially with the creepy posts some men are making on the Facebook event and blog post. They’re the ones missing the point a bit. ”

After all, Boobquake will provide evidence. McCreight will compare the number and strength of earthquakes on Monday with those in the past. McCreight, who is a student of Genetics and Evolution, of course knows that this is not sufficient to provide a scientific proof. In order to receive valid data it might be necessary to repeat the experiment – or use the earthquake data of Mardi Gras (a form of carnival)


Published in German local daily newspaper “Kieler Nachrichten” on 22. April 2010
Source (German):
English translation provided by @germantoenglish

Hamburg – This year’s renowned Henri Nannen Award of the Gruner+Jahr publishing house will be awarded to oppressed Iranian journalists for their actions to promote freedom of the press. According to a statement released by Gruner+Jahr on Wednesday, the journalist Maziar Bahari as a representative of his Iranian colleagues will accept the award on 7. May in Hamburg,

Many Iranian journalists are subjected to substantial repressions in their country for trying to provide truthful information about Iran. The current situation of the independent press in Iran is defined by illegal arrests and abductions of journalists by police and security forces, government surveillance of the media, violent encroachments and maltreatment.

“It is not an exaggeration to say that Iran is currently one of the biggest prisons for media professionals”, said Thomas Osterkorn, editor in chief of the weekly magazine “Stern”.
“Our recognition and sympathy is owed to our colleagues who are suffering from this regime but do not slacken their efforts to struggle for a free press.”

Published in German weekly magazine “Spiegel” on 20. April 2010
Source (German):,1518,689956,00.html#ref=rss
English translation provided by @germantoenglish

Iran is among the countries most vulnerable to earthquakes worldwide – and a cleric has an odd explanation ready: Women who do not dress properly.

Beirut – An Iranian cleric has found an unusual explanation for earthquakes: Lewd behavior of women. “Many women who do not dress appropriately seduce young men into unchastity and spread adultery in the society, which eventually leads to earthquakes”, said the muslim cleric Kazem Sedighi according to Iranian media reports.

“What can we do in order to not get buried in the rubble?” asked Sedighi during a prayer sermon. “There is no other choice but to seek refuge in religion and adapt our lives to the morals of Islam.” In Iran, women are obliged to cover their body with a veil from head to toe. Many women, however, especially the young ones, wear tight-fitting manteaus and loose headscarves. “A divine authority told me to call upon the people to make a general turnaround. Why? Because disasters are threatening us”, Sedighi was quoted saying.

Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had previously warned of an earthquake in Tehran. The city is situated on top of tectonic plates drifting towards each other. Ahmadinejad declared that a part of the 12 Million inhabitants should move outside the capital. For a long time seismologists have been fearing that a devastating earthquake might hit Tehran, and suggested to relocate the city to a less dangerous region.

Published in German weekly newspaper “Die Zeit” on 20. April 2010
Source (German)
English translation provided by @germantoenglish

Iran’s government has again banned political parties and newspapers, and sentenced several politicians to long prison terms. The reason behind those moves is the upcoming anniversary of the presidential election.

by Raphael Thelen

Iran's Opposition is being oppressed and harrassed by the regime - Photo: © REUTERS/via Your View

The regime in Iran still does not feel save in its own country. Almost one year after the controversial parliamentary [sic] elections and the following mass protests of opposition supporters, the leadership in Tehran again resorts to means of repression.

Two major opposition parties – the Islamic Iran Participation Front and the Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution – had their licenses taken away by the Ministry of the Interior. This was reported by the official Iranian news agency IRNA. This move still needs to be confirmed by a court – which is considered a mere formality, since the government apparently wants to silence their critics ahead of the anniversary of the elections.

The Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization was founded during the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Throughout the years, this party developed a critical stance towards the government. Most recently they endorsed Mir Hossein Moussavi, the presidential candidate of the opposition. The Islamic Iran Participation Front was founded in 1997 after the reformist presidential candidate Mohammad Khatami won the election. It quickly became a major platform for the reformist movement.

The ban did not come as a surprise. Many members and supporters of those parties were arrested and detained during the past months, as the New York Times reports. Apart from those parties, the reformist daily newspaper Bahar was also banned on charges of spreading doubts about the correctness of the election results and criticizing the Islamic system of Iran, according to New York Times. Bahar had commenced its work only three months ago.

Apart from that, three politicians were each sentenced to six years in prison and received a ten-year political activity ban. All three of them are associated with Khatami and were active during his presidency. One of them participated in the seizure of the American embassy in 1979 and later became a member of parliament.

Even Khatami himself is facing increasing pressure. Last week, the government urged him to abstain from traveling to Japan, where he was going to attend a summit on disarmament. Khatami thereupon canceled the trip. Contrary to first reports, no all-encompassing travel ban was issued against him.

The numerous measures taken against the opposition by the government are regarded as a sign for the regime’s lasting nervousness. Although the opposition movement has suffered a significant loss of force, a new flareup of the protests on the anniversary of the elections is not altogether impossible.

Published in Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter on 20. April 2010
Source (Swedish):
English translation kindly provided by Anusche Noring of Iran Elections News on Facebook

Written by Nathalie Besèr, Dagens Nyheter correspondent

On the surface, everything seems quiet, but underneath, Iran is boiling with anger. The mass protests against the regime have taken on a new form.

Tehran, June 2009. Today, the fiercest protests have been stifled and the Green movement appears crushed – or maybe a new phase could be lying ahead.

Instead of violent clashes on the streets of Tehran, protests are now taking place in everyday Iranian life.

“What we are now doing to show our protest is to refuse to pay our water and electricity bills. Many people are calling in sick and are not showing up at work. This is our new way of protesting”, says 24-year-old Mitra speaking on the phone with “Dagens Nyheter”.

She belongs to a group of students who have organised many of the protests that have taken place in the past few months. According to her, young people are now dying their hair blond, and women have been taking off their headscarves to express their dissent.

“We arrange parties in the evenings and meet to devise our strategies. The Green movement is there under the surface and seething. We are just embarking on a different phase right now”, says Mitra.

At the same time, the regime is tightening the noose on the leaders of the opposition, Mousavi, Khatami and Karroubi. According to Hamid Rasaii, a member of the Iranian parliament, 150 MPs have signed a petition to protest against the three opposition leaders, and a travel ban has meanwhile been imposed on them.

Parisa is 22 years old, and she too participates in the protest movement. She tells us that inflation in the Iranian capital is soaring.

“Life has become so expensive. Bread, milk and cheese – everything is expensive, and few people have real jobs to go to. This makes people hate the regime even more”, she says.

She also describes her fear that some of her friends could have been killed by the regime.

“Two of my friends, Maryam Vakili and Shabnam Asadi, have disappeared since the Ashura protests in December. I am afraid that they might have been tortured, raped and then killed. Each day, I go to Evin prison to look for them.

Both Parisa and Mitra are convinced that the protest movement will flare up again.

“We are only waiting for something new to happen. This could be the local elections, which are due to be held soon. Once that happens, all hell will be let loose again”, Mitra says.

Hundreds of thousands of people protested on the streets of Tehran after the election.

Published in German daily newspaper “Süddeutsche Zeitung”, 16. April 2010
Source (German):
English translation provided by @germantoenglish

The life of a Kurdish citizen who translated writings of Salman Rushdie is in danger

Barmak Behdad is a Kurd, a journalist, and a translator. He left Iran – the country of his birth – nine years ago. He hoped to be able to lead a freer life in Northern Iraq. “The government here is said to be more secular and not religious”, says Behdad. Now, however, the 34-year old does no longer feel safe in the Kurdish region of Iraq after he dared to translate Salman Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses” into Kurdish.

The Kurdish newpaper Khalk, published in Suleymaniya in Iraq, had released a first part of his translation in January, and announced the publication of the next part. This, however, did not happen. All copies of the following issue of the newspaper were confiscated from the kiosks by the police. Several Kurdish websites reported that on 8. March shots were fired at the editor in chief. The man survived.

Since this attack took place, Behdad hardly ever dares to leave his hiding place. In a phone call with Süddeutsche Zeitung he talked of massive threats against him, such as several phone calls from the Iranian embassy. Islamists in Erbil had staged demonstrations in protest against the publication of his translation. Mullahs in Erbil and Suleymaniya have issued death threats against the translator. Meanwhile, he has turned to several Western consulates in the Kurdish region, among them the German consulate, but he was not given any protection. They referred him to the UNHCR, the refugee organization of the United Nations, where he was met with the “reproachful” question why he translated Salman Rushdie’s work in the first place. Barmak Behdad says he wanted to elucidate his people, since he is convinced that the clerics in Kurdistan never actually read Salman Rushdie’s “masterpiece”.

Published on the website of German public service radio channel “Deutschlandradio” on 15. April 2010
Source (German):
English translation provided by @germantoenglish

The Iranian film director Jafar Panahi was arrested. Minister of Culture Mohammad Hosseini claimed that according to information provided to him, Panahi had planned to make a film about the events in the aftermath of the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The outcome of the poll had caused massive protests throughout Iran. Panahi’s wife denied that her husband had been working on such a movie project. The 49-year-old director is one of the most renowned film makers in Iran. He received awards at festivals in Berlin, Venice, and Cannes. Because of his support for the opposition he was not allowed to leave Iran for the past several months.

Published in German daily newspaper “Handelsblatt” on 14. April 2010
Source (German):;2561619
English translation (excerpts) by @germantoenglish

Daimler has finally started to take politics into account: The car maker will reduce business activities in Iran to a minimum, following the example of other German major companies.

Daimler's chief Dieter Zetsche (Photo: ap)

HB BERLIN. “The policy of the current Iranian leadership requires that we put our business relations with Iran on a new footing”, said the chairman of the management board Dieter Zetsche on Wednesday at the annual general meeting in Berlin. The Stuttgart-based Group will liquidate its share in a subsidiary of the auto maker Iran Khodro, and for the time being will cease to supply trucks for civilian use to the Islamic Republic. However, according to Zetsche , it is not being planned to completely abandon business with Iran – all existing contractual obligations will be fulfilled.

The announcement of the German model company comes at a politically sensitive moment. At the conclusion of the nuclear summit in Washington, US President Barack Obama had advocated for a speedy implementation of UN sanctions against Iran. Daimler is the first German car maker to announce a withdrawal from Iran. Recently, the insurance companies Munich Re and Allianz had stated they would halt their Iran business. Siemens will not accept any new orders from Iran anymore.

The decision to cut down business with Iran was met with applause by the shareholders.


Published in Swedish daily “Sydsvenska Dagbladet” on 14 April 2010
Source (Swedish):
English translation kindly provided by Anonymous, edited by Anusche Noring of “Iran Election News” on Facebook

by Kinga Sandén
Rapper Ghogha never wanted to be political. The Iranian regime forced her to change her mind. After having performed in the southern Swedish city of Malmö in February, she applied for asylum in Sweden.

20-year-old Ghogha had been writing, rapping and studio recording in Tehran for several years. Never under her real name, and never before an audience.

In the darkness behind the stage at Kägelbanan in Stockholm on 4 February, she had a thick lump in her throat. Outside she heard the murmur of hundreds of spectators. She had always wanted this. Now she was just terrified.

The tour leader of the Iranian hip-hop festival, Safoura Safavi, squeezed her hand and said:

“Remember why you are doing this and think of all the people you love. Focus on what you have to say. And say it.”

Ghogha thought of the other members of her band who had stayed behind in Tehran. She thought about all the violence, all those who had been killed in the streets.

As she walked on stage, the crowd was screaming with enthusiasm. When she started talking the audience went totally quiet. She heard herself saying:

“I come from a country where you are executed for your thoughts. Where women’s existence is forbidden.”

“I felt happy and calm. I did it, ha! I was scared, but I said everything I wanted to say. I got so much energy from the audience, I had tears in my eyes the whole time. I was being myself”, says Ghogha, as we meet at a fast food restaurant in a city which Sydsvenska Dagbladet does not wish to mention for the rapper’s safety.

Almost a year ago, I was planning to travel to Iran to write a series of reports before the presidential election. I wanted to interview a young musician and contacted Ghogha.
She agreed to talk to me. “But I’m not interested in politics”, she said.

When I remind her of this, she replies heatedly:

“When I walk, it is politics. When I talk, it is politics. I just can’t keep quiet anymore.”

After the elections last June, the regime’s repression soared – as did her own frustration.

“There was silence. People spoke with their eyes. There were so many uniforms everywhere.”

She and her friends became more cautious about what they wrote in their e-mails and said on the phone. But they could not help but participate in the demonstrations.

“Each time I went out I was afraid I might be recognised and arrested. Everything around me was totally sick. The police were beating children and old people, they behaved like animals. I cried all the time and became depressed, everybody became depressed.”

“What gave us hope was the support from people outside of Iran. Therefore it was important to me to travel to the festival in Sweden.”

During a demonstration in Tehran in late summer, she saw several plainclothes policemen beating up a young man. A woman went in between – Ghogha shows how the woman was holding out her arms to protect him, with her chador flapping like a black sail.

“They beat her many times on the head and the upper part of her body, but she was still standing. Then one of them pulled a gun. Everybody screamed.”

Ghogha shakes her head.

“I had never seen any firearms before. I was shocked to see that the government could do just anything and that the police were not abiding by any laws.”

The morality police became more zealous too. Ghogha and a male fellow student were interrogated about why they talked to each other at university. Were they related?

The fact that they were part of the same group for a project was not considered a mitigating circumstance. Their identity cards were confiscated.

“Each step we take is wrong. Little things are crimes. The religious police arrest us for the way we dress, for what we do, for breathing. They want to take us to heaven by force.”

Ghogha found it increasingly difficult to control her anger. She dropped out of her engineering studies because she was afraid of accidentally saying something that would get her into trouble.

“My mother and father agreed that it was better that I quit.”

She describes them as free-thinkers, but not politically involved. They supported her plans to travel to the hip-hop festival in Sweden.

A few weeks before the trip plainclothes agents showed up in the studio where she and her band were working. They confiscated some hard drives, the criminal charge being “recording by a female rapper”.

It took some time before she found out about this. No one dared to call her from their mobile phones, fearing that calls might be intercepted.

The owner of the studio managed to bribe himself out of a trial, but the others in the band were scared. They cancelled their Sweden plans. Two days before the trip, the father of the backing vocalist was arrested for something not related to his daughter’s music – yet, she got scared and decided to back out of the trip too.

So Ghogha was alone when she said goodbye to her family at Imam Khomeini airport. She thought she would be performing at a small festival in a distant country where no one cared about hip-hop in Farsi.

Yet, as soon as she arrived she was met by interview requests from all major Swedish news media, the BBC and Voice of America. The demand for hearing a voice from inside Iran was enormous.

“I realised that this was my chance to draw people’s attention to what is happening to my country.”

But she had no other plans than to return home after the tour.

“I just want a free Iran,” she said as she stepped onto the stage at Babel in Malmö on 6 February, the last concert of the tour.

Ghogha spoke quietly and looked tired, gazed down at the floor or somewhere above us, the audience who had come to listen to her. Afterwards, I asked her if she really thought of going back.

She replied that she did not know, and it was true, she says now. She had not yet decided by then.

“Many advised me to apply for asylum. People say that the regime kills for less than what I have done and advised me to hide here, too.”

She submitted her application for asylum in February. Now she is waiting. Sleeping, watching TV, socialising with new friends.

“Right now I’m confused, I do not know what will happen to me in Sweden. I miss my family, my streets, the sun. Emotionally, it is wrong for me to stay, but logically it is right.”

Ghogha has been invited to perform in several European countries, but as long as she is applying for asylum, she is not allowed to travel. She is impatient, she says, her body is restless.

“I want to give hope to people in Iran. I am here to speak, not to be silent.”

Background information:
Women barred from singing
It is forbidden for women to perform as solo singers in Iran.
Hip-hop is practically illegal after having been condemned as decadent and alien to Islamic culture by leading politicians.
The hip-hop festival “Voices of Change” was part of the Swedish National Theatre’s project showcasing culture from and about Iran. Read more about the tour and the featured artists:

To watch the rapper’s concerts, enter the search term “Ghogha” on

The stage name “Ghogha” means chaos. Sydsvenska Dagbladet does not publish the artist’s real name for her and her family’s safety.

Published on the website of German public radio channel “Deutschlandradio” on 7. April 2010
Source (German):
English translation by @germantoenglish

Rafi Pitts is determined to achieve that his new film will be shown in Iran. Talking to the [German daily] “Süddeutsche Zeitung”, the British-Iranian director said that after the unrest everything has become much more complicated in Iran. There was hardly any space to breathe – for the movie industry as well as for the people. Yet he intends to return to Iran, disregarding all potential consequences, Pitt emphasized. – He made his new film “Time of Wrath”, rather accidentally, shortly prior to the presidential election in 2009 in Iran. The film tells the story of a man who lost his wife and child in times of unrest and kills a policeman. The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance had issued a filming permit.

Published on the website of public service radio channel “Deutschlandradio” on 7. April 2010
Source (German):
English translation by @germantoenglish

The petition to the spiritual leader of Iran was signed by writers and journalists from all around the world. They appeal to Ayatollah Khamenei for the release of detained reporters and bloggers. In a statement published on the internet, the “Committee for the Protection of Journalists” writes that 3,500 people have signed the petition, among them Margaret Atwood, Jonathan Franzen, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Nadine Gordimer. According to information provided by the Committee, they have hopes that an international awareness for their fate will help to encourage those detainees. 34 journalists are said to be currently imprisoned in Iran, 18 more journalists are bound to return to prison after the [Iranian] New Year holidays.

From Swedish public service TV’s newscast “Rapport”, Tuesday, 6 April 2010, 7.30 pm
Link to YouTube video of the newscast:
English translation kindly provided by Anusche Noring

An Iranian businessman in the northern Swedish town of Umeå is currently under suspicion for violating UN sanctions against Iran by channelling large sums of money from Iran to various companies around the world, which subsequently exported banned products to Iran. It is suspected that these could have included parts for an Iranian nuclear arms programme.

UN sanctions against Iran ban exports of technology to Iran which can be used to produce weapons of mass destruction, missiles and nuclear weapons. It is these sanctions that the Umeå-based businessman is suspected to have violated. He is of Iranian origin, and his company in Umeå has channelled more than 5 billion Swedish kronor over the past few years from Iran to various companies around the world.

Björn Rosenlöf, spokesperson for the Swedish National Economic Crimes Bureau:
– Well, we can see that the money comes, as I said, exclusively from Iran, and that it has been spread to recipients all over the world, and I can confirm that a large sum has gone to the US and was intended for purchasing goods covered by the sanctions against Iran. However, in that case, the US authorities managed to stop the export, so the goods never actually left the country.

Patrik Peter, spokesperson for the Swedish Security Service:
– The Swedish Security Service is currently carrying out a preliminary inquiry, and our inquiry is headed by District Prosecutor Ronnie Jacobsson. The suspicions concern violations of international sanction regulations, and the way things look at the moment these suspicions are connected to Iran.

District Prosecutor Ronnie Jacobsson at the unit for security-related cases confirms for Swedish TV’s newscast “Rapport” that he has discovered money transactions in the course of his investigation which are suspected to be connected with illegal trade with Iran. The Umeå-based businessman has been charged with serious accounting fraud at the Umeå district court. That court case will start on Thursday, and it was in the course of this investigation that the police started to suspect that the transactions channelled through the businessman’s company could refer to illegal trade with Iran.

“Rapport” interviewer:
– How does the defendant himself explain these money transactions?

Björn Rosenlöf, spokesperson for the Swedish National Economic Crimes Bureau:
– His explanation is that he has been helping small Iranian companies that wanted to buy goods outside Iran, in Europe, America and Asia.

“Rapport” interviewer:
– But you don’t buy that explanation?
Björn Rosenlöf, spokesperson for the Swedish National Economic Crimes Bureau:
– No, I think it is a tad flimsy.

The businessman’s lawyer, Leif Silbersky, has declined to comment on the suspicions against his client.