Published in German daily “Frankfurter Rundschau” on 17 August 2010
Source (English):
English translation provided by Elli Mee

Due to the scandal around the Iranian taekwondo fighter Mohammad Soleimani at the Olympic Youth Games, sport has become a minor issue.

The ugly face of politics has once again dominated a sportive event: “We are still verifying the facts. So far, no concrete steps have been taken [against the Iranian team], but the keyword is up to now” – said IOC vice-president Thomas Bach after the éclat around the Iranian athlete Mohammad Soleimani, who had withdrawn from the taekwondo final against Israeli Gili Haimovitz at the Olympic Youth Games in Singapore.

An influential IOC member, who did not want to be named, said: “For 31 years, the Iranians have been straining our patience. They boycott matches against Israeli opponents at every major tournament, and we can do nothing about it. This must finally change.“ IOC member and former vice-president Kevin Gosper (Australia) could barely restrain his anger: “You may cite me as saying that I am very disappointed.”

Thomas Bach added: “We have checked the medical certificate. The athlete is indeed injured and was taken to hospital for an X-ray. There have been similar incidents in the past, but one should not just generalize them.”

Since the 1979 revolution, Iran is giving the cold shoulder to Israel, which it does not recognize as a state. The Islamic Republic has even threatened to wipe Israel off the map. On Tuesday, the Israelis asked the US government for help because of the threat posed by the Iranian nuclear program.

The Iranian government’s interference in sport lead to a major scandal during the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Back then, judo world champion Arash Miresmaeili did not attend a match against the Israeli Ehud Vaks, allegedly because of overweight.

( sid)

Published in German daily “Frankfurter Rundschau” on 6 August 2010
Source (German):

43 year old Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is sentenced to death by stoning. Her last hope: increasing protests.

I imagine: I am a defendant in an Iranian courtroom. I am not heard. The judge is issuing the verdict.

The prison cell turns all women into friends. Sometimes it’s noisy. Sometimes I feel a sense of consolation. Sometimes I am strong and comfort others. Some are staring at others too much. The prison cell turns friends into foes.

Fear is spreading through my body. My stomach wants to press the fear out of me. My stomach is too small to hold all this fear. In some nights, loneliness moves through my head in steady circles. Sometimes it just dully moves back and forth. Having reached my left ear, loneliness turns around and drags itself to my right ear. This goes on as long as a fly can fly.

At dawn, the prison gate opens. Am I relieved that it is finally happening? A white cloth is being wrapped around my body and my face. The last trace of life I see is a fresh twig with a blushed apricot hanging from it. Do you really look up when the end has come? The last thing that will catch my eye will probably rather be a lace at some shoe. Shoelaces. Darkness.

The car. The potholes. My body shakes with every move of the car. After the ride, a walk. When you are blind you realize how uneven the earth is. “Go.” A push by an unknown person is the last touch of my life.

Does the direction matter? Does my face have to face East? Does God nod back? Did the judge in charge climb into the pit earlier, to make sure everything is correct?

I feel my feet touching the ground, getting a firm hold as the sand is clinging tightly around my legs. It is still early in the morning, and the sand feels fresh on my skin. Will I really realize this? Maybe I will not notice the tight embrace of the sand, because my thoughts are elsewhere now? As if the earth did not manage to swallow me entirely, only my breasts, shoulders and head are sticking out.

Then: The first Allah-u Akbar. Chapter after chapter, the Kadi scrupulously processes the punishment. Stone after stone, he watches over the law. The sensation of pain is delayed. The sand is holding me too tight. The sand makes it impossible for me to escape the stones. Each stone hits me with full force. Maybe for an hour, maybe for two. The veil sticks to my nostrils, fills my mouth. Sand gets caught under the cloth, sanding the angles of my eyes. Since I can’t use my arms to defend myself, all I can do is press the pain out of my body from between my legs. Every breath I take is held back by a stone. The pressure creates creaking sounds within my ear. Further down, in my chest, my breath just gets stuck. Fortunate whose self leaves before his body. After four hours, before the twitching heap of my body finally surrenders, it bows to life for the last time, leans towards the blood-soaked earth, and falls down motionlessly. Then, finally, the noise will stop. For they have been yelling and screaming and praying the whole time. They bragged to God. They think God is watching approvingly.

She is supposed to be next: Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani. Age: 43. Charge: Adultery. Sentence: Death by stoning.

Her two children, 17 year old Farideh and 22 year old Sayyad, desperately ask for help:

Mely Kiyak

Mely Kiyak is a freelance author

English translation provided by @germantoenglish

Published in German daily “Hamburger Abendblatt” on 7 August 2010
Source (German):

4500 women, members of the Zonta Club in Germany, have now joined the campaign against the stoning sentence for Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani.

By Heike Mundzeck
For several weeks now, the Western press has been discussing a case that in the 21st century seems unfathomable. An Iranian widow and mother of two was sentenced to death by stoning – for alleged “adulterous relationships with two men”, a crime for which “eyewitnesses” – according to Iranian law a prerequisite for issuing a verdict – have not been found until today.

In 2006, 43 year old Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani had been punished for this very “crime” with 99 lashes, but has been kept in detention since. Although the execution of her stoning sentence was suspended due to international protests, her death sentence was by no means annulled.

Initiated by the Zonta Club “Hamburg-Alster”, more than 4500 women from all 130 German Zonta Clubs of the union have now issued a letter of protest to the Iranian authorities, demanding that Ashtiani’s death sentence be lifted, and calling for a fair trial for the defendant. Furthermore, the “Union of German Zonta Clubs” calls to abolition of the death penalty by stoning as a punishment for adultery. Also, they protest against consensual sexual contacts to be regarded as crimes.

In the past 31 years, more than 100 people – women and men – were stoned to death, most of them for adultery. More than 20 people in Iranian prisons are still facing death by stoning.

The Zonta Clubs act on local as well as international levels. The goal of this union of working women from 66 countries is to improve the situation of women throughout the world by providing services and defending their rights. Zonta gives non-material as well as financial help. “We have to send a signal against mistreatment and torture of women, and for their right to participate in the society and lead a self-determined life”, it says in the resolution for the current initiative on Iran, issued by the board of ZC “Hamburg-Alster”.

On a global level, Zonta International in cooperation with the United Nations is working to abolish violence against women. For example, Zonta supports a project against acid attacks on women in Cambodia, Uganda, and Nepal.

“We consider ourselves responsible to take action wherever action is needed – beyond limits of churches, political parties and state authorities”, Zonta “Hamburg-Alster” describes the goals of the Zonta projects.

To individually support a petition for Sakineh, a widow and mother of two children, and prevent this inhumane death sentence, please refer to or for further information.

Published in German daily “Süddeutsche Zeitung” on 6 August 2010
Source (German):

The West is fascinated by an alleged attack on president Ahmadinejad. However, the regime around Ahmadinejad and Khamenei has – by far – bigger problems.

A commentary by R. Chimelli

When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is around, a firecracker is enough to raise suspicions about a plot. And although Iran is technologically years away from a nuclear bomb – which would be anything else than a firecracker – opinion leaders in the West are equally fascinated by this one topic.

Everybody is talking about the alleged attack on the Iranian president. In reality, the regime is facing quite different problems. (© dpa)

The main problem area for the Islamic Republic, however, is its crisis of legitimacy – not just since the last summer, when the protests against the president’s reelection were broken up violently. The regime may destroy all clinical thermometers, but it cannot lower the patient’s temperature.

Besides all political problems, the data show that the majority of Iran’s 75 million population are not prospering. Unemployment and inflation have reached two-digit numbers. The average life expectation has fallen by six years since the revolution. One third of all marriages are divorced, even on the countryside, where in former times separations hardly occurred. The number of drug addicts is estimated at around 4.5 million, although many drug dealers are executed as a means to intimidate the population.

The opposition movement has lost the battle on the streets. Organized demonstrations do not come about, because police, militia and thug forces are too powerful, and – maybe more importantly – because of the horrible accounts of torture and illegal detention centers, given by those arrested during the protests. Censorship has never been as repressive as today and reaches out to the print media as well as the internet. Iran’s most renowned journalists and its best-known student leader are currently on hunger strike in prison. Hardly noticed abroad, smaller or larger labor disputes are arising everywhere in the country. Union leaders like the head of Tehran’s bus driver union, Mansur Osanloo, have been jailed for several years.

Neither hearts nor minds have been won

Many Iranians are disappointed, but do not want to take risks and retire to private life. However, Ahmadinejad and the spiritual leader Khamenei could not win people’s hearts or minds. There is not a single renowned writer, artist or filmmaker who would take sides with the country’s rulers. The regime is creating a climate of intellectual poverty, and more and more leading clerics are turning their backs to the regime – sometimes so visibly that they are answered with violent attacks.

The regime creates an atmosphere of intellectual paucity. More and more leading clerics turn their back on the rulers. (© AFP)

Recently, hooligans devastated the house of Grand Ayatollah Hassan Sanei, who once said that the Islamic Republic was as far away from Islam as moon from earth. “Death to all who oppose the rule of the jurist”, they screamed while executing their orders.

The rule of the Islamic jurist (velayat-e faghih) constitutes the highest principle of government. It places the Supreme Leader above all institutions of the so-called republic and makes him the absolute ruler. Fewer and fewer Iranians believe that Khamenei – a medium-ranked cleric without theological merits – is “just, pious, brave, adept, in line with the times and capable to run an administration”, as it is required by the constitution. His commitment to the president does not make things better.

There are only around 20 Grand Ayatollahs in the Shiite world. They are revered by their followers as “sources of emulation“ and have authority in all questions of faith and conduct. Only two of them were in favor of the leadership principle, which mixes religion and politics in an intolerable way. Other high-ranking clerics did not hold back with their opinion about this practice.

Even for the still religious majority of Iranians the gulf between religion and state is becoming deeper. (© REUTERS)

Before his arrest in 2006, Ayatollah Kazemeini Borujerdi called the Islamic Republic “a conspiration against God and all believers”. Years ago, Ayatollah Djalaleddin Taheri Khorramabadi spoke of a “rule of the corrupted, for the corrupted, by the corrupted”.

To be armed against criticism by more qualified clerics, Khamenei recently sought a fatwa from Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi – a cleric close to the regime – which confirms his sovereignty. According to this decree, even the Grand Ayatollahs must obey orders by the Supreme Leader, who is the highest religious authority and head of state in Iran. The fatwa was reinforced in a statement by Khamenei’s office: he is the representative of the hidden imam of the Shiites, and that of the prophet Mohammad. Khamenei has thus defined his role.

It is foreseeable that such theological absurdities are going to exacerbate the conflict with the Shiite clergy. For the majority of Iranians, who are still pious, the gap between faith and government has become larger. Yet the regime is not going to collapse, for a long time to come. Its hidden credo has long been the following: we hold the power and we want to keep it, including all privileges.

English translation kindly provided by Elli Mee

Published on German-French TV channel “ARTE” on 4. August 2010
Text source and video (German):

(Photo added by the translator)

29-year-old Ali Kantoori is a supporter of the opposition in Iran. He fled his home country, first to Turkey, then to Germany. Two weeks ago he arrived in the Federal Republic. ARTE Journal has met him for an interview.

ARTE Journal, Géraldine Schwarz: “Were you persecuted in Iran?”

Ali Kantoori, Iranian dissident: “If I were to go into detail about what they have done to me in Iran, the interview would definitely blow the frame of this program. In general, however, I can summarize it by saying that in prison I was subjected to psychological and physical torture, as a result of which I lost 15 kg of weight and developed acute asthma as well as severe psychological disorders.”

ARTE Journal: “How were you treated in prison?”

Kantoori: “Interrogations in Iranian prisons always start with the interrogator saying that you will not experience any problems with him, provided you say and sign what he wants to obtain from you, but if you speak your mind, there will be big problems. Often they confront you with allegations that are simply not true, they are fabricated. If you deny them, they treat you with electric batons and beatings. I had to endure everything, but worst of all were the humiliations I and my family were subjected to.”

ARTE Journal: “How has the human rights situation in Iran developed since the green revolution?”

Kantoori: “As far as the social freedoms are concerned, the situation after the green revolution has deteriorated. There is more repression now, and one of the reasons is that the military and the regime’s security forces are better prepared and better organized than before – be it in terms of their presence in the streets, or in terms of their invading people’s private lives, like telephone tapping. However, this should not lead us to believe that the situation will remain like this forever. Even though the situation of the people in Iran in the past year has not improved, but rather deteriorated, I hope that we as soon as possible will be able to save the Iranian society from this repression, and establish a situation where everyone can live in dignity.”

ARTE Journal: “What are your expectations for the future?”

Kantoori: “It’s impossible to make exact predictions for the future. All we can do is speculate. However, when I look at the Iranian’s desire for change, at the degree of awareness in the young generation, I believe that the future will be better than the situation of today. The problem is, however, that these people lack the tools that would enable them to achieve change. Therefore, nobody hears what they are saying. What the Iranians in the streets are saying is quite different from the statements of the official leaders of the green movement. And very rarely have the media reflected the Iranian’s real demands.”

ARTE Journal: “How many Iranians have fled to Turkey, and what is their situation there?”

Kantoori: “The truth is that the refugees in Turkey are in a dreadful situation, and I think everybody should know this. It makes me sad, and I request from the European governments to do everything in their power to accept these people in their countries and take care of those who have problems. The situation in Turkey is really appalling. They don’t have jobs, they have nothing. These people, who have left everything behind, who have fled their country, are facing serious problems. And there is something else that concerns me greatly: I would like to urge my fellow Iranians to consider an escape as a last resort, and to resist this murderous and criminal regime as long as they can. They really should regard an escape as a last step, just like I did.”

ARTE Journal: “How is life in Germany for you?”

Kantoori: “I can say that I am very glad that Germany accepted me. I would like to thank the German government for providing me with this opportunity to live in a free society, continue my studies and lead a normal life.”

ARTE Journal: “Don’t you fear that the Iranian intelligence could be after you?”

Kantoori: “You can not totally disregard this, since the Iranian intelligence has been observing people in Germany in the past. However, fear does not solve problems, so I am not afraid. But there is a risk, no doubt – after all, the Islamic Republic has even killed people here in Germany. On the other hand, you can’t fall into water without getting wet. It’s the price every political activist has to pay.”

English translation provided by @germantoenglish