Published in German weekly magazine “Stern” on 30 July 2010
English translation kindly provided by Elli Mee

Picture of Sakineh Ashtiani, sentenced to death by stoning, displayed by human rights acitivist during a protest in London. © Carl Court/AFP

Sakineh Ashtiani is still under threat of stoning, as the verdict against her has not been lifted. Instead, her lawyer and his relatives are now being prosecuted.

Last Saturday, Mohammad Mostafaei was summoned to Tehran’s Evin prison. The lawyer and human rights activist was interrogated for four hours, partly about a bank account he had set up for his clients. In Iran, it is common practice to obtain pardons by paying blood money to the victims, and these payments are processed via the lawyer’s bank account.

The interrogation marked the beginning of a series of harrassments by the Iranian regime. Mostafaei had barely left Evin prison on Saturday when he received a telephone call: he was told to come back immediately. At the same time, agents of the security forces were trying to arrest him in his office. Since they didn’t find him, they arrested his wife and brother-in-law. Both relatives are still being held in prison – as hostages.

In a telephone call, Mostafaei’s wife told her family that she will only be released if her husband turns himself in to the authorities. Supporters outside Iran have received no news of the lawyer recently. His current state and whereabouts are unknown.

“We want to let him know that he should not report to the authorities under any circumstances”, said Mina Ahadi, president of the International Committee against Stoning. This would be far too dangerous for the well-known human rights advocate who in this case could face many years in prison or even death.

The stoning verdict has not been lifted

The case of Sakineh Ashtiani, an Iranian mother sentenced to stoning, has became known around the world during the past weeks. It was Mina Ahadi who had published a desperate appeal by Ashtiani’s children. Her son Sajad described how he had to attend the public flogging of his mother – a provincial court had sentenced her to 99 lashes for adultery.

Then, a higher court imposed stoning to death, in addition to the first sentence. As Ashtiani’s lawyer, Mostafaei criticized the judgement, calling it arbitrary.

As the details of Ashtiani’s case were published, protests became louder. Apparently, the Iranian regime felt at a loss to explain – in a press release, the Iranian embassy in London declared that the stoning verdict had been adjourned. Moreover, it says, although Iranian law foresees the possibility of stoning, this punishment is “rarely” practiced. However, the organization “Iran solidarity” in London presented a compilation of cases showing that dozens of people were stoned to death in recent years, often in secrecy on remote cemeteries in order to avoid protests.

Ashtiani’s lawyer made it clear that the verdict against Ashtiani can only be lifted by a court – and not by an embassy. This has not happened so far. Iranian state television tried to play down the sentence, claiming that Ashtiani had murdered her husband.

Ashtiani’s letter: “Who can be so cruel?”

But Ashtiani has never been sentenced for murder. Today, at a press conference in London, Mina Ahadi presented the written judgment, in which the court acquitted her of murdering her husband. The stoning sentence was imposed for adultery without witness evidence. Instead, three out of five judges declared that they “believed she had committed adultery”. In Iran, court sentences can be based on the judges’ assessment if important evidence is missing.

In recent days, however, Iranian authorities did not confine themselves to harrassing Ashtiani’s lawyer. Her son’s mobile phone was disconnected, and family members of Mina Ahadi were asked to reveal Ahadi’s address in Germany. Human rights activist Ahadi has received death threats. She says: “The Iranian regime is trying to intimidate us. Likewise, stoning is not a punishment, but a means to terrorize the population.”

Ashtiani wrote a letter from prison in which she thanks her supporters. She also writes that she is afraid of dying, and describes how she was mentally broken when authorities flogged her in front of her son. “When I received the stoning verdict, it felt like I was falling into a deep hole. I fainted. Now I ask myself every night: “Who can be so cruel as to destroy my face and arms with stones? And why?”

Published in German daily “Tagesspiegel” on 29 July 2010
Source (German):
English translation: @germantoenglish

By Ferda Ataman, Andrea Dernbach

They have experienced most horrible tortures. Now they arrived in Berlin, where they are to be integrated. Erhart Körting, Berlin’s Senator for the interior, is one of the people who are advocating for them and their concerns.

They were beaten by the authorities, raped, tortured with electroshocks, and shot at. Now Germany offers a new home to 50 Iranian human rights activists, ten of them will stay in Berlin. Not all of them have arrived yet, the eighth refugee arrived in the German capital on Tuesday, two others are to follow within the next days. “Some well-known human rights activists are among them”, said Hajo Funke, a professor of political science at the Free University who takes care of the traumatized Iranians in the newly established association “Flüchtlingshilfe Iran” (“refugee aid Iran”).

Some of the refugees are students and people with no history of political activity, who protested following the rigged presidential elections that took place about one year ago, and were therefore persecuted by the authorities. Thousands of refugees fled Iran after the 2009 unrest. In late 2009, more than 4,200 refugees in need for protection were registered by UNHCR in Turkey. Although Turkey does not deport the asylum seekers from Iran, the Turkish government does not feel responsible for them. Their situation in Turkey is precarious.

“The students and journalists are extremely happy that they have escaped the dangerous situation after so many months”, says Funke, referring to the Iranian refugees. They are supposed to be accommodated at lowest possible costs. Currently they are staying at the homes of friends or at hostels, but the goal is to enable them to stand on their own feet soon. The helpers from the refugee aid association are currently obtaining identity cards, filling in forms – “they are bustling day in, day out”, says Funke. Until they are provided with all necessary documents that enable them to lead an independent life in Berlin, the refugees depend on unconventional support. For example, a physician is treating the refugees, who are traumatized and sometimes injured, without a health insurance card. A psychosocial supervisor has offered his help. “Since the refugees arrived, everything has turned out surprisingly positive”, says Funke.

Since January, this political scientist at the Otto-Suhr-Institute together with exiled Iranians has been in touch with politicians, advocating for a solution for Iranian refugees in Turkey. The feedback from Erhart Körting, Senator of the interior, was positive: In March, Körting even urged the conference of interior ministers to admit 50 instead of 20 refugees in Germany. Berlin, Hamburg, and the state of North-Rhine-Westphalia have admitted the highest number of refugees from Iran.

These Iranians are the second group of contingent refugees admitted in the past years. In 2009, Berlin already had accepted 125 Iranian refugees, most of them Christians. Berlin hopes to integrate them by providing good support for them. Both groups will not be listed in the statistics as refugees. They receive a two year residence permit that is to be prolonged.

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Published in popular German daily “Bild-Zeitung” on 26 July 2010
Source (German):

English translation kindly provided by Elli Mee

He agitates against Israel, the United States, and Western countries in general – but now, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (53) gets lost in detail. The crazy Iranian dictator lashes out at Paul the octopus!

The octopus from Oberhausen (Western Germany) correctly predicted all of Germany’s World Cup results, and also picked Spain to become world champion in football. This made the squid from the “Sea Life” aquarium world famous. Even in Iran…

However, Ahmadinejad sees in Paul a symbol of Western propaganda techniques and superstition.

“Those who believe in such things may not rule the nations of the world”, the president said in a speech in Tehran, according to the official Iranian news agency IRNA.

In contrast to this, “the Iranian nation with its love for all saintly values” is going to “create a humane world striving for absolute perfection”, Ahmadinejad added.

(Editor’s note: Please also read Enduring America’s piece on this issue!)

Article published in German daily “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” (FAZ) on 16 July 2010
Source (German):

SUMMARY TRANSLATION kindly provided by Elli Mee

Organizer of the Congress, Haddad Adel (2nd from left), with former presidents Khatami and Rafsanjani, and current president Ahmadinejad (left to right) © REUTERS

The UNESCO’s World Philosophy Day this year will be held in Tehran on 18th November 2010. International scholars have recently criticized the Iranian government which is interfering in the organization of the event. Notably, the German philosopher Otfried Höffe has announced that he will not attend the conference. In the high-profile newspaper FAZ, he explains the reasons for his decision.

Höffe has been an honorary member of the Iranian Institute of Philosophy, which will be hosting the event, since he visited the Institute in 2004. He was invited by the director of the Institute, Gholamreza Aavani, to hold one of the main talks at the World Philosophy Day. Despite the high level of repression in Iran, Höffe initially welcomed the opportunity for debate. After pondering the pros and cons, he decided to give a talk and to also invite colleagues from the United States, Brazil, and Germany to speak at the conference.

To justify this decision, Höffe emphasizes that the academic level in Iran is very high. Moreover, since the event was to be organized by academics, he had expected an open dialogue without censorship and interference by politicians. He had also hoped to inform Iranian students on new developments in Philosophy.

Why did he change his mind now? According to Höffe, the main reason for canceling his participation lies in the fact that Ahmadinejad has recently replaced the head of the organization committee with Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, an insider of the Iranian regime. Höffe states that after this move, one must expect that the Iranian contributions to the conference will be censored. Moreover, the events in Iran since last year’s presidential election can no longer be put aside.

Going more into detail, Höffe highlights that Haddad Adel has threatened critics with a repetition of “Kahrizak”. In the illegal
detention center, prisoners were systematically raped and kept in crowded containers, and some died from the torture.

The philosopher also criticizes the fact that a respected colleague, Mohsen Kadivar, is not allowed to travel to his home country Iran.

Instead of academics like him, the scientific committee of the conference includes Javad Larijani as the head of the human rights council in the Iranian judiciary. According to Höffe, the only work of this council is to spread propaganda and to “systematically deny human rights violations committed in Iran”.

In the concluding paragraph, Höffe states his regret that he will not be able to attend the conference. He emphasizes that no critical voice is currently tolerated in Iran, and that especially academics and intellectuals are targeted by the regime. Finally, he expresses his hope that the current situation will soon “radically change”, so that the cooperation with his Iranian colleagues can be continued.