Published in Bild am Sonntag on January 2, 2011
English translation kindly provided by Elli Mee

Link to German article:


In October 2010, two German journalists were arrested in Iran after they had entered the country on tourist visas, and had tried to cover the backgrounds of the stoning sentence against Sakineh Ashtiani. Now, Bild am Sonntag newspaper published statements from 100 prominent figures from politics, entertainment and sports calling for the release of the two reporters.


Here is what three of them said:


Wolf Biermann – poet, singer-songwriter and former East German dissident
It does not take a prophet to predict that on one beautiful day, the dictatorship in Iran will be overthrown – most suitably by the Persian people themselves. Until that day, I am trembling in fear of the next stoning of an innocent woman. And I am scared of the final nuclear bomb directed at tiny Israel – the announced attempt to stone the Jewish people in Israel with modern technology.

I take sides with those who defend the two German reporters. These two journalists have done nothing else than what is described by the Latin word ‘reportare’: to bring back, give an account, describe – the contrary of lying, inventing, fabricating on purpose. They had a modest intention: carrying some words to Europe, directly from the mouth of the son whose mother is to be murdered.

When a stoning is carried out, those fundamentalist bigots often try to abuse the close male relatives of the abused woman – fathers, brothers, husbands or sons – and make them throw the first stone. The son of Sakineh Ashtiani must be a courageous man. Apparently he does not want to throw stones, instead he only throws a few words of truth. This is, in my eyes, the true Islam: devotion to God, respect of all people and love for one’s mother.


Herta Müller – winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature
Two journalists have taken a risk. They did not observe the press laws of the Islamic dictatorship, which are no more than a censorship tool. This is held against them – but does it justify their incarceration? Of course not. The two journalists have dared to describe the inhumane sentence against Sakineh Ashtiani, the barbaric stoning, not only as a scandal of justice. They did not accept that her son is condemned to silence – her son who is of course despaired about the arbitrariness in Iran, the cynicism that forces his mother to incriminate herself.

The situation reminds me of the show trials in the Stalinist dictatorships of Eastern Europe. Back then, just like today, the attention of the West was crucially important. Until those regimes collapsed, dissidents were reliant on courageous journalists from Western countries. The truth about the mistreatment of people [in communist countries] came out on secret paths. We can only hope that Iran will not use the two journalists as a pawn for its own interests. They have already spent far too much time in prison for violating press laws. And today, no one can be forced to look away.


Ferdinand von Schirach – criminal defense lawyer and writer
Dear president Ahmadinejad, during your inauguration you promised to engage in a free and open dialogue. But the reality in your country is that journalists are arrested, newspapers are banned, and people are jailed for expressing their opinion. Remember that those who trample freedom of speech in their own country will not be heard in the free world. During the opening of the Iranian Cultural Festival in Weimar in 2009, your ambassador said that the cultural relations between Germany and Iran had their highlight in the spiritual relationship between Goethe and Hafez. This is true, but both Goethe and Hafez always despised fundamentalism and racism. Both were worshippers of freedom. Therefore I ask you to release the two journalists in the name of freedom.

Published in German daily “Welt” on 26 September 2010
Source (German):
English translation: @germantoenglish

By Richard Herzinger

The leaders of the Islamic Republic use the same trick over and over again. First, they stun the odious West with an aggressive rhetoric. Then, while the West is busy figuring out how to translate its outrage into diplomatic terms, the regime in Tehran quickly insinuates its readiness for more talks in the endless struggle over the Iranian nuclear program.

And indeed, it works out time and again. Obediently, Western governments and diplomats instantly start to scrutinize the alleged offer from Tehran, trying to discover nuances and semitones that indicate whether the offer can be taken seriously this time or not.

The same thing is now happening again. When president Ahmadinejad in his brazen appearance at the UN General Assembly warmed up the old conspiracy theory saying that parts of the US government orchestrated the attacks of 9/11, all Western diplomats could think of was to walk out of the audience. Why, one wonders, don’t those heroes just right away spare themselves the tirades of hatred uttered by the Iranian junta head?

No matter what Ahmadinejad says – whether he calls for the extinction of Israel, denies the Holocaust, seriously takes the fun around Paul the Octopus during the Fifa Worldcup as an evidence for the intellectual corruption of the West, or declares that Iran is the second world power next to the U.S.A. – none of his statements seems to be crazy enough to deprive the West of its vague hope that he is a rational person who might eventually change his mind. Thus, German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle was once more eager to announce that Ahmadinejad’s declared willingness for new negotiations are a “positive signal”. In fact, there is nothing left to negotiate, unless the Iranian regime suspends its nuclear enrichment and admits widespread control of its nuclear plants – as it was bindingly claimed by the UN Security Council many years ago.

Far beyond the fulfillment of these minimal demands, talks and discussions are just part of the procrastinating tactics that Tehran has used ever since to gain time for further advancing Iran’s technology to build nuclear arms.

However, the possibility that Iran could soon be in possession of nuclear arms, the fact that Iran destabilizes the Middle East by exporting terror, and is the major obstacle for peace in the Middle East are not the only reasons why the Islamic Iranian regime at present is the greatest threat and shame for civilized mankind.

Not only can a system that classifies internal critics as “enemies of God”, punishes them with systematic torture and executes hundreds of them, sentences women to death by stoning on charges of adultery and publicly hangs homosexuals, not be a “normal” partner for diplomatic talks. It is also impossible to have “non political” business- and trade relations with such a system. Especially Germany must be asked why German exports to Iran have despite sanctions increased by 14 % in the past 6 months, and why the European-Iranian Trade Bank in Hamburg has not yet been closed down.

For decades, well-intentioned strategists of détente have been dreaming of a gradual “liberalization” of the ruling system of the Islamic Republic. The opposite has come true. Iran’s religious totalitarianism has, if at all it had softened in the past, returned to the bestiality of its beginnings. This regime must finally be internationally isolated on all levels. The sanctions that have been imposed so far are not sufficient. The Iranian regime must be systematically cut off from all monetary flows, and there must be not one official contact with Iranian representatives in which they are not confronted with the crimes of their regime against human rights and human dignity.

These crimes, and not just the Iranian nuclear program, are the reason why the Islamic Republic must be forced to face consequences. If their destructive potential, that becomes even more unpredictable as the system is declining, can not be curbed, the Islamic Republic will hurl the Middle East – maybe even the entire world – into a disaster.

Published in German weekly “Die Zeit” on 5 September 2010
Source (German):
English translation kindly provided by Joul

4 000 Iranians have fled to Turkey last year. 50 of them were now granted asylum in Germany. We spoke to 3 of them.

By Vera Gaserow

Sepehr Atefi, Ali Kantouri and Hesam Misaghi in Berlin (photo: Tobias Kruse)

The apartment in the center of Berlin is hired. Ali gets the biggest room. Sepehr takes the brightest one. Hesam is happy with the smallest one that is overlooking the courtyard. In return he wants the corner of the corridor, because “that’s where the bar will be” – “No, that’s the place to meditate”, Sepehr jokes.

The three men take possession of their new home, they mark their territories – typical flat sharing rituals. While Hesam is opening the window he says: „When the Iranian intelligence shows up we can escape over the balustrade.“ All three of them start laughing – now that they are safe. They have started coming back to live after months of fear and uncertainty. They made it to Germany.

In summer of 2009, a controversial presidential election took place in Iran. The opposition movement is calling it a fraud. Powerful protests started in the streets of Tehran, until the government at last managed to crush the Green revolution movement. Activists were persecuted. 4 000 Iranians fled to Turkey where they now live in miserable conditions.

The UN refugee agency suggested to allocate them to other countries – but their proposal has virtually evoked no response. At first, the German federal government announced it would accept only 20 human rights activists, journalists, bloggers and students. By now, after all, the number has been increased to 50. Ali Kantouri, Sepehr Atefi and Hesam Misaghi are among the first refugees who arrived in Germany.

Hesam Misaghi still remembers the day when he arrived in Berlin. It was the 29th of July 2010. „I had a feeling of freedom that I never knew in Iran. It is the first time I can start to think of my own life and future again.“

At that time Hesam – a lanky student of Anglistics, whose dark glasses seem to dominate his appearance – had already gone through an odyssey for months. In his hometown, he had worked with the Committee of Human Rights Reporters. Sepehr Atefi, his friend, a high-school graduate, was active there as well. They were aware that it was dangerous to report about human rights abuses in Iran on their website.

When several of their combatants disappeared behind prison walls after the presidential election last summer, the two friends went into hiding. For a high amount of money, bootleggers helped them to cross the border to Turkey in winter, on impassable mountain trails. “Turkey was hell”, said Hesam Misaghi. They were five in a small apartment in the suburb of a satellite town, jobless and always in fear of the Iranian intelligence service.

The fear of being discovered – Ali Kantouri does not want to talk about it. The 29 year old prefers to talk about politics, about the lack of rights of Iranian workers, about the suppression of women. Hesitantly, he describes what he has lived through in the past years. “They did to me what they did to all of them.” The past makes him unable to breathe, causes him headaches, deprives him of his sleep.

Two and a half years ago, before the Green revolution movement came to life, the Iranian intelligence services had incarcerated him in the notorious section 209 of Tehran’s Evin prison, because he was a political and human rights activist. He was interrogated for several days and nights, blindfolded, beaten and humiliated by five men. They singed the genitals of his friends in front of his eyes. They forced his little brother to listen to his cries of pain on the phone.

Ali Kantouri talks about his sudden asthma attacks, and mentions that he has lost 15 kg of weight; he was dangerously ill. Only after his family paid 150.000 US dollar on bail he was finally released. His parents registered their entire estate as a guarantee for him. Now his family might lose everything, because he has fled from his 18 year imprisonment to which he was sentenced by the court for the charge of rioting.

His knees start moving restlessly under the table. It visibly exhausts him to talk about what he has been through. “Enough for now”, he says. Apart from that, it’s no big deal, he says. “I’m fine.” He now undergoes therapy at the center for treatment of torture victims in Berlin.

Ali Kantouri was lucky, and he knows it. He enjoys “this atmosphere of profound freedom” in his exile. “I am glad to be here in Germany, but it makes me sad that there are thousands of others who do not have this chance.”

That’s why every Friday evening he and his friends set off to the Brandenburger Tor where the Berlin Vigil for Iran has been demonstrating solidarity with the Green Revolution movement throughout the past year. One of their demands is to admit more Iranian refugees to Germany. The activists read out a list of names: “Missing in Iran since 8th of August 2010” – “Detained and tortured in Iran for fifteen months”.

Ali Kantouri, Hesam Misaghi and Sepehr Atefi are no longer on the list. They can make plans for their future now. Hesam Misaghi wants to study social sciences or “something related to films”. Ali Kantouri, who used to be a successful karate fighter, is going to resume practice for the first time in years. Sepehr Atefi wants to study and be a writer. They all dream of returning to Iran, one day.

Now they have to get acquainted with life in Berlin. “Wohnberechtigungsschein”, “Job Center” – these are their first bits of German officialese. German bureaucracy seems to be impermeable, but German and Iranian friends help them to cope with it. Moreover, they have a letter of recommendation from the Berlin senate. They were granted a special residence permit that allows them to work and study. And now, they even have an apartment.

Two weeks ago, the job center of the employment agency granted them an amount of money to be used to furnish their flat – “for a good start in Germany”, as the helpful lady at the job center said.

And what about the language? Sepehr Atefi learned that food in Germany tastes “lecker” [delicious]. Ali Kantouri likes the word “romantisch” [romantic]. Hesam Misaghi added a new phrase to his vocabulary this summer which his two friends know too: “Ich bin optimistisch” [“I feel optimistic”].

Edited by @germantoenglish

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 “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 at German public service TV channel “ARD” in their news broadcast “Tagesschau” on 13 June 2010
Source (German):

On the anniversary of the disputed re-election of Iran’s President Ahmadinejad, exiled Iranians protested in many places around the globe. Allegedly there were no protests inside Iran, although many people were arrested. The police commander announced 91 arrests, but did not disclose the reasons.

By Ulrich Pick, ARD Radio Studio Istanbul

This picture shows a protest staged by exiled Iranians in Tokyo on the anniversary of the disputed election. Pictures from inside Iran are not available. (Photo: AFP)

It is official since this morning: Again many people were arrested yesterday on the anniversary of the disputed presidential election in Iran. This was reported by ISNA news agency with reference to police commander Hossein Sajadinia, who announced that 91 people were arrested. Deputy police commander Ahmad Reza Radan confirmed this, adding that “despite the propaganda of the enemy” there have been no demonstrations or riots.

Demonstrations of the Opposition Banned
Initially, opposition leaders Mir Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi had called for silent marches and officially requested for authorisation. But no permission was granted by the authorities, whereupon Moussavi and Karroubi called off the protests in order to not put lives and health of protesters at risk.

On Saturday, an increased presence of security forces was observed in all major squares. The Revolutionary Guards had previously warned they would strictly confront any protests. Several days ago reports circulated saying that the government recruited more than 1 million volunteers to disrupt and disperse any protest, if necessary, by force. In a press conference by opposition websites, Moussavi and Karroubi demanded more freedom and democracy for the country.

The opposition still accuses the government of massive ballot fraud and refuses to acknowledge the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. After the disputed vote one year ago, Iran had faced the most widespread demonstrations after the Islamic Revolution of 1979. 30 people died according to official announcements by the government. The opposition names at least 79 proven cases of death, although in fact up to 200 could possibly have been killed.

EU Representative for Foreign Affairs: After 2009 the situation has significantly deteriorated
Approximately 4000 people were arrested during and after the protests, about 200 of them were already sentenced – among them numerous journalists and bloggers, but also former reformist ministers. Catherine Ashton, EU representative for foreign affairs, expressed concern about the situation in Iran. The human rights situation in Iran has significantly deteriorated after the elections of June 2009, she said.

Published on the website of German public service TV channel “ZDF” on 12 June 2010
English translation provided by @germantoenglish

First anniversary of disputed presidential election in Iran

(ZDF, Anja Carmanns)

By Halim Hosny

One year ago, Iranians elected a new president. This day is a special day in the history of the Islamic theocracy, because it marks the beginning of an unprecedented wave of protests against the leadership of the Mullah regime.

To the great dismay of many, the state-run TV on the very night of the election day announced a landslide victory of the ultra conservative incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. His opponent Mir Hossein Moussavi lagged far behind. Until the last minute, election observers had predicted a neck-and-neck race. The opposition has not the only one to talk of massive vote fraud since. The event was followed by peaceful protests of hundreds of thousands of people throughout the country. Green, the color of the campaign of reformist candidate Moussavi, dominated the streets.

Ruling with an iron fist
Even senior mullahs protested. Although the critics around the powerful chairman of the Expediency Council Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani are still a minority, the sole fact that the inner circle of the leadership is experiencing rifts is in itself an evidence for the deep crisis that the Islamic Republic has been going through since last year.

The elderly revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is the supreme authority in the theocratic state. His word is law. From the very beginning, he ostentatiously backed his political pupil Ahmadinejad. He called for a severe confrontation of all daring to protest against the leadership. With mass arrests, show trials, torture, rape, and executions the regime cracked down on the supporters of the reform movement.

Who is the reform movement?
It seems as if this strategy bears fruit. Many young people avoid the streets as much as possible. Recently the moral police has returned to the streets, searching for polished nails or improper hijabs. Those who get caught will be arrested or have to pay heavy fines.

The majority of the 3.5 million students, large parts of the middle class, and intellectuals form the backbone of the movement. They long for more freedom. And Mir Hossein Moussavi, the otherwise rather uncharismatic politician, has become their figurehead. With creative actions and protest marches they repeatedly managed to be present in the streets and in the headlines. Meanwhile, however, this seems to be over. The regime seems to have prevailed, at least for now.

A weakened movement?
The fact that Moussavi and other spokesmen of the opposition have called off the planned countrywide protests on this anniversary on short notice shows that the continuous repression has not failed to be effective. The movement is weakened, and some believe that it is also defeated. Their protests have long withdrawn to virtual spaces – the internet is their network.

The children of the revolution are lively, creative, and imaginative. Whether this is enough to challenge the vast power apparatus again seems questionable today. In order to succeed, the opposition depends on the support of the rural population and the poor. The latter have so far backed Ahmadinejad, and until today this has not changed.

Fewer and fewer people believe in a victory of the green movement. More and more people instead try to flee. The wave of emigration could reach a new peak this summer. The unpopular president will surely not mind.

Published in Austrian daily “Der Standard” on 11 June 2010
Source (German):

Green is the color of the Iranian opposition - these women identify themselves as reform supporters by their green headbands. Demonstrations on the anniversary of the election have been banned.

Saturday marks the anniversary of the disputed presidential elections – protests were called off.

But the opposition is as strong as before. It is avoiding confrontations and playing for time.

On the eve of the anniversary of the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, the Iranian regime had planned to demonstrate force and unity. The elections that took place on June 12 of last year had caused the largest protests in the 30 years after the Islamic Revolution, and the celebrations on the 21. anniversary of the death of Revolutionary Leader Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini came at just the right time to stage a celebration of unity. But it did not turn out that way.

Revolutionary Guards units from all over the country were ordered to travel to Tehran with kith and kin to gather at Khomeini’s tomb. They were supposed to be millions, but only around 100,000 showed up. When Khomeini’s grandson was greeting the guests at the shrine of his grandfather, supporters of Ahmadi-Nejad heckled him to prevent him from delivering his speech. The reason: After the disputed elections he had openly sided with the opposition and described the presidential elections as rigged. He cut short his speech, his family left the event in protest.

For the opposition, this incident of last week, that was broadcast on TV live, was another opportunity to declare that the president still has a problem of legitimacy. Despite arrests and executions, the opposition has gained ground in all strata of the society.

By the regime is now very aware about how strong the opposition is, despite all repressions. For days now, the regime’s nervousness is apparent. Armed security forces are patrolling all intersections in Tehran and other cities, trying to prevent people from gathering in groups.

Protests planned by eight opposition groups were banned. Opposition leaders MirHossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi called off a planned major demonstration in order to prevent bloodshed. Zahra Rahnavard, Moussavi’s wife, in an open letter called on the government to change its course and accept the people’s wish for more democracy. She also demanded the release of arrested protesters who have been imprisoned for months.

The opposition purposely avoids all confrontation and plays for time. And indeed, the differences among the conservatives seem to be bigger than ever. The leaderships of the government and the parliament accuse each other of violating the constitution, each group refers to itself as the true advocate of Khomeini’s heritage.

Since the family of the founder of the Islamic Republic sided with the opposition, the spiritual leader and his entourage have lost their exclusive right to Khomeini’s heritage. After the dissent on the anniversary of his death, the rifts among the conservatives became apparent even to ordinary people in the most remote areas of the country.

A founding member of the Imam-Khomeini shrine hit Mostafa Najar, the Interior Minister, in the face – in front of the eyes of thousands of pilgrims and the cameras, when the latter attempted to prevent Khomeini’s grandson from delivering his speech. Even though the Saturday protests were called off: It is going to be a hot summer in Iran. There are enough reasons to fuel new confrontations.

(N. N.* from Tehran/DER STANDARD, printed edition of June 12, 2010)

* For security reasons we can not disclose the name of our correspondent.

Published in Austrian daily newspaper “Der Standard” on 16 May 2010
Source (German):–Farhad-20
English translation provided by @germantoenglish

Despite a wave of executions, the authorities are unable to control the situation

Symbolic photo: A woman making a phone call in Tehran's Evin prison

She wanted to go to school and later study at the university. He was a teacher and loved his work. Shirin and Farhad. They never met, but they are connected by their death. Shirin and Farhad – these names are familiar to all Iranians:They are lovers in a poem of the great Iranian poet Nezami, and they lose their lives through defamation.

Now, 800 years later, it is again Shirin and Farhad, two young people who – together with three other Iranians – died for freedom in Evin prison, sentenced to death on the basis of unproven accusations. Their names are a new source of inspiration for the opposition.

Despite the executions, the authorities are unable to gain control of the situation. Noticeable uncertainty is spreading on all government levels, causing the rulers to act in comedy-like ways. An example: Recently, two public holidays on occasion of a conference in Tehran were ordered, then canceled, then confirmed again.

Comedy, however, is not at all befitting the execution of five young people. The hangings that took place shortly before the anniversary of the disputed presidential election are a warning for the opposition, political observers say. More executions are expected to take place in the next days. The opposition hopes that they will at least draw widespread international attention.

However, these executions have, for the first time after the Revolution 31 years ago, resulted in a general strike in the Kurdish areas of Iran. In many other Iranian cities, students in an act of solidarity refused to attend school lessons.

Students held protests in Tehran as well as in other Iranian universities, and the entire country was hit by a wave of sympathy for the families of the executed. The authorities, fearing that the funerals might trigger more unrest, have still not delivered the bodies of the executed to the families. They even prohibited a meeting of the bereaved that was supposed to take place at Tehran University. Yet people gathered outside the homes of the families to honor their new martyrs.

Shirin and Farhad, Neda, Sohrab, and many more names of those killed after the presidential elections that took place almost one year ago, will never be erased from the memory of the Iranian people. The list of names, however, is still getting longer.
(M.M. from Tehran,, 16.5.2010)

Published in German daily “Tageszeitung” on 2 May 2010
Source (German):
English translation provided by @germantoenglish

by Bahman Nirumand

Protesting against the regime in Iran is punishable by imprisonment and corporal punishment. Film director Jafar Panahi, for example, has been imprisoned since March.

2006: A Silver Bear for filmmaker Panahi at the Berlin Film Festival

“I did what I had to do”, said Iranian film maker Jafar Panahi in an interview with BBC just after he was barred from leaving Iran for Germany, where he intended to participate in the Berlin International Festival “Berlinale”. At the international film festival in Montreal, Panahi as the chairman of the jury had walked on the red carpet wearing a green scarf, and declared his solidarity with the Iranian opposition, the “Green Movement of hope”. Moreover, he had participated in a memorial service for the student Neda Agha Soltan who was killed in the protests.

Two weeks after the travel ban, security officials raided Panahi’s house, where Panahi had invited 15 colleagues and dissidents for a professional discussion. Everyone present – including Panahi’s wife and daughter – was arrested. Since that day, the 1st of March, Panahi is being held in solitary confinement in the notorious Evin prison.

Initially the prosecutor announced that Panahi’s detention was not politically motivated; Panahi allegedly was arrested for a “criminal act”. Only several weeks later, Minister of Culture Mohammad Hosseini declared that according to information provided to him, Panahi had intended to make a film about the events following the disputed re-election of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The rigged election had triggered massive protests.

Panahi, aged 49, is one of Iran’s internationally most renowned film makers. At the 2006 Berlinale he received a Silver Bear for his movie “Offside”. His film “The Circle” was awarded with a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2000. In 1995, his film “The White Balloon” won the award for the best debut film in Cannes. This year he was invited to Berlin as an honorary guest. “We are worried and deeply regret that an internationally awarded filmmaker was detained on grounds of his artistic work”, the festival management stated after the arrest.

Post-election protests
Panahi, however, is not the only filmmaker and artist who suffers from the effects of repression against dissidents. The massive protests that followed the elections, and the role that creative artists had in them, drew the regime’s attention to the fact that the impact of culture and art on the development of a society is far bigger than the effect of political slogans, and that this impact is hard to control and prevent.

Indeed: Already during the election campaign, and even more so after the mass protests, art, music, and literature have flourished amazingly. Elaborate posters were designed, songs were composed, poems were written, films were produced, anecdotes and jokes were spread. The green-color-compositions were so imaginative that hardly any observer could restrain from participating in the uprising. Today, the song by popular singer Mohammad Reza Shajarian is as well-known in Iran as the national anthem. “Come with me, don’t stay alone, our common pain will not be healed in solitude”.

Also, the role of tens of thousands of bloggers, website operators, and journalists should not be underestimated, who with much wit and fantasy disseminated the demands of the movement and, despite rigorous censorship, made information available to the public in- and outside the country. While foreign journalists and agencies were banned from covering the protests, Iranian videographers provided foreign media with reports on the events. They will receive this year’s Henri-Nannen-Award, the most important award to honor the work of journalists.

In Iran, however, they were severely punished for this work. Hundreds of artists, writers, film makers, bloggers, and journalists were arrested, tortured in the prisons, forced to make false confessions and handed severe sentences in show trials.

58 year old filmmaker Mohammad Nourizad is one of them. From the viewpoint of the authorities, he seemed to be above all suspicion – for years he had been loyal to the regime. He made documentaries and wrote articles for the ultra-conservative daily “Keyhan”. When he observed the brutal actions of the security forces against dissenters during a protest, however, he dissociated himself from the rulers. He wrote a letter of protest to revolutionary leader Ali Khamenei, urging him to apologize for the violent crackdown on protesters. In his most recent of all in all four letters to the leader he writes: “I see fewer and fewer people around you. To be the leader of a small minority is nothing to be proud of.”

Slandering the Islamic Republic
Nourizad was sentenced to three years and six months in prison and 50 lashes. According to the presiding judge, the sentence comprises of one year for propaganda against the state and slandering the Islamic Republic, two years for insulting the revolutionary leader, 91 days for insulting the chief of the judiciary, 91 days for insulting the president, and 50 lashes for insulting the Friday prayer leader in the city of Mashhad.

Fatemeh Nourizad, his wife, recently reported after a prison visit that her husband was severely tortured during interrogations and filed a complaint with the judiciary on the issue. He fasted for 106 days to protest against the way he was treated.

In late March, forty film makers and writers in an open letter called for the immediate release of their colleagues from detention. It is part of the vested rights of any artist and writer to freely exercise their professions and freely express their views, the letter stated.

The deprivation of these rights has driven numerous Iranian writers, artists, and journalists into exile. Some of those who are still in Iran and whose works can not be published inside the country, try to publish their works abroad. Last year alone, three renowned Iranian writers – Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, Shahryar Mandanipour, and Amir Hassan Cheheltan, published their novels in German translations. The originals were submitted to the censorship office in Tehran long ago. Film director Abbas Kiarostami has been living abroad for several years. “I have long since lost hope to ever be able to work in my home country again”, he writes.

The regime, however, tries to deprive them even of this sad option. Like Panahi, numerous other artists and writers are forbidden to travel. One easily gets suspected of “collaboration with foreign enemies” and cooperation with foreign intelligence services. The regime attempts to spread fear and mistrust. For this reason, it is not unusual that creative artists resort to self-censorship.

“Everybody needs to have a license”
Meanwhile, the deputy Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Javad Shamghadri, came up with a new idea: Film makers should produce only films that are in line with Islamic faith and moral, express the contents of the Quran, and tell the “glorious history of Islam”. They are allowed to engage in politics – by educating the nation about the “soft war” staged by foreign powers, the struggle against imperialism, and the “holy resistance of Muslims”.

The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance will decide who is allowed to work as a film maker in the future. “Everybody needs to have a license”, says Shamghadri. “This is the bottleneck that everybody must pass. It is like the first night at the grave.” But the new regulations do not grant equal rights even to those who overcome these obstacles. In the future there will be four categories of film makers. Those in the first category are allowed to make three films per year, those in the second category two films, those in the third category only one film. The rest will not get a permit at all. The rest – that goes without saying – comprises of all those who make films that are critical of the society.

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 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 by German daily newspaper “Die Welt” on 13. March 2010
Source (German):
English translation by @germantoenglish

By Wahied Wahdat-Hagh

Although the International Women’s Day is prohibited in Iran, Iranian women on the occasion of 8. March have again raised their voices. Inside and outside the country the day was marked by peaceful protests against the politics of gender-related apartheid.

An Iranian protester demonstrates outside the embassy in Sweden (Picture: AFP)

The lawyer, women’s rights activist and publicist Mehrangiz Kar says that for Iranian women, the 8. March is not only the International Women’s Day, but also a day of civil and peaceful protests against the human rights violations of a regime that has grown out of the Revolution. [*]

The 8. March 1979 marked the beginning of the protests of Iranian women, targeting the forced hejab ordered by Ayatollah Khomeini. These protests never stopped, until after 30 years they evolved into a civil movement.

Mehrangiz Kar reminds us that Iranian women under conditions of “religious despotism” have for years celebrated the 8. March in private. Under the presidency of Mohammad Khatami, the women’s movement took to the streets, and under Ahmadinejad it became so strong that it even caused former intelligence minister Mohseni Ejei to say that this movement pursues a “gentle and velvet revolution”, and the feminist movement with its demands for equal rights was just a pretext.

According to Mehrangiz Kar, many Iranian women have been educating and informing themselves in private throughout the years in order to develop the movement into a social movement. Their demands for reforms have gradually grown during the years preceding the presidency of Mohammad Khatami, and when he became president, the women started to express those demands in public. For many years, the women had silently and in private circles argued against the forced hejab and denounced the discriminating family laws.

Kar criticizes the rule of the Iranian “Aghas” – men who described the day of 8. March as illegal and against the Sharia law. They claimed that by means of violence, repression and censorship it should be possible to cripple the demands of Iranian women.

Unequal and unfair laws
In a statement, the Association of Iranian Writers also recalled that Iranian women had repeatedly opposed against “erroneous conventions and self-deception” .

In the past three decades, Iranian women “more than everyone else felt the pressure of executions and stonings”. They “more than ever before were caught in the claws of unequal and unfair laws”, since sometimes they are not even as much as the second gender, but their worth is close to nothing. Women have become mere objects whose hair represents a collective nightmare. Their clothing and their bodies are guarded by the police. Nevertheless, women courageously revealed the “rapes occurring in the prisons and torture chambers”. They “unveiled the abhorrent face and the brutish behavior of the suppressors.”

On the occasion of 8. March, the Association of Iranian Writers congratulated all women around the globe and expressed hope that the demands for freedom and equality will reach the common awareness in order to pave the way for a free society without discrimination and repression.

Iranian mothers demand the release of al political prisoners
Mothers who demonstrated for their detained daughters and sons outside the prisons ended up being detained themselves.

Even some of the supporters of those mothers got arrested. Other mothers and their friends continue to demonstrate. There is no rule of law, just arbitrariness. The detained mothers are incarcerated in the infamous ward 209 of Evin. Their only crime was to demonstrate for democracy, human rights and women’s rights, the release of innocent people from the most horrific prisons of the world. This is the reason why they get abducted, they disappear, or are officially arrested. Iranian mothers in a statement demand freedom and human rights and declare that they are “the mothers of this country” and as such demand “unconditional freedom” for all political prisoners.

Tahereh, a historic symbyol
One of the most significant symbols of the Iranian feminist movement is Tahereh, a supporter of the Babi movement who rid herself of the veil in the middle of the 19th century. She is one of the heroines of the Iranian feminist movement, and she had to pay for her courage with her life. For the Iranian ruling Qajar dynasty could not tolerate a female poet who even dared to lead debates with the scholars of Iran. When she was held in the house of a minister, she told him: “You can kill me whenever it suits you, but you will not be able to stop the liberation of the women.” She was eventually strangled to death.

On March 8, Ayda Fajr in an article for Roozonline wrote that already in the beginning of the Constitutional Revolution of 1905, Iranian women organized themselves in feminist groups and were actively involved in the social movement.

In the 19th century, there were no group activities.

Ayda Fajr recalls the Islamic Revolution of 1979 in which women took part as well. In the years before the revolution, the awareness of those women had increased, a process which was, last but not least, enhanced by several laws that granted women more rights than ever before in the traditional Islamic society. Ayda Fajr also reminds us that the Shah was able to implement his new laws to improve the family situation of women only with the approval of Ayatollah Hakim in Iraq – a cleric who was obviously much more progressive than the ayatollahs living in Iran.

Although Ayatollah Khomeini, at that time still part of the opposition, dismissed the voting right for women in Iran in 1961, he could no longer oppose to it in 1979. The women were not willing to give up this right they had been fighting for.

Ayda Fajr says that after the Islamic Revolution, Iranian women lost all the rights they had achieved in the previous decades. However, Khomeini still claimed he believed in equality of women and men. He obviously had a different understanding of the issue.

Nevertheless, in the protests of the past months Iranian women have proved that they are ready to fight for their rights. They now started to gather in private again, reports Ali Shirazi.

And, thinking of all the women who are still in prison for demanding human and women’s rights, we know that they have payed a dear price.

[* Translator’s note: All links in this article are also referenced in the German source]

Published in German daily newspaper “Tageszeitung” on March 5, 2010
Source (German)
English translation kindly provided by Josh Manning. Edited by germantoenglish.

Commentary by Bahman Nirumand

Following the mass arrests of reformist politicians, journalists, and students, the ruling powers in Tehran have now started to reach out for popular creative artists as well. On March 2, internationally renowned film director Jafar Panahi was arrested along with his wife and 14 year old daughter. After the regime succeeded in halfway quieting the stage with its February 11th national celebration of the 31st anniversary of the revolution, the regime now wants to further demonstrate its strength.

In these days, the streets may have become quieter, however, the situation is ready to inflame the entire country any moment. The millions, who after the elections sided with the protest movement throughout the country and did not give up despite being challenged by substantial force, did not disappear. And they have already accomplished much.

Important members of the elite, journalists, artists, a predominant majority of students, and the civil populace have turned their back on the regime. Almost all of the Grand Ayatollahs have distanced themselves from the establishment, while the conservative camp is experiencing a deep rift. With the disclosure of crimes committed in the past months such as torture, rape, show trials, and forced confessions, the regime can no longer maintain its status as an Islamic state. It has lost its legitimacy. The turban bearing religious men and their civilian companions can now only assert their will by force of arms. This is deadly for a state that calls itself an Islamic republic. It is no wonder the regime had to transport people from the provinces with thousands of buses, trains and trucks in order to simulate broad support from the people. This is a large success for the opposition.

Nevertheless, the opposition is still far from achieving their goal of implementing far reaching reforms or triggering a regime change. The fact that it did not succeed in mobilizing millions for country-wide protests is indeed a setback which forces them back to sober thinking.

The lesson to be learned: Tactics to convert all official celebrations and mourning days into protest days can no longer be continued. If a date is well-known over a long period of time, it gives enough time for the security branches to prepare against it. However, the opposition should not abandon road protests altogether, but rather carry them out in short notice.

But even then, demonstrations are not sufficient in order to bring the regime to concessions. In my opinion, these goals can be reached in two ways: a long and short way. The long-term strategy would be an old-fashioned one. It would consist of winning and mobilizing the broad masses towards the goals of the movement. Much would be won by succeeding in country-wide strikes in production, service centers or in bazaars. The catastrophic economic situation would favor such a strategy with its high unemployment and the lack of rights of workers and employees. Also, it should be easy to get schools and universities, which have already participated actively in the movement, on board for strikes. With this long-term strategy, much like in the times of the Shah, it would be possible to cause a cleavage in the armed forces, even within the Revolutionary Guard and the Basiji militias. Unlike the regular army, the two latter organizations were not founded as government forces, but as a “force of the people” and thus feel associated with them.

The disadvantage of this old strategy is that it requires much patience. It is vulnerable particularly to the young, who are largely the backbone of the movement and lose patience easily while further and further withdrawing themselves.

Mobilization of the Pious
But the special situation in Iran suggests a second path which could lead to results much faster: The acceleration of the process of disintegration of the state, a process that is already quite advanced. If the reformers play this short-term strategy, all the key players, such as Khatami, Mir Hossein Moussavi, and Mehdi Karroubi, will play an important role. They, as accomplished statesmen, were the key elements that triggered the process of disintegration from the inside. For this strategy, there are as many battlefields as there are contradictions in the system. The demand for free elections, which is based on the contradiction between a theocracy and a republic, could be supplemented, for example, by restricting the powers of the Revolutionary Leader, the Guardian Council, and other figures in branches or positions that are not chosen by the people but instead get appointed. Additionally, the demand for an independent ministry of justice would find broad support. The fact that the Ministry of Justice is led by those appointed by the Revolutionary Leader and not by an administration official, scoffs the idea of independence.

Such demands, that have the potential to mobilize not only reformers, but even parts of the conservative camp, could accelerate the increasing isolation of the radicals. Also, the contradiction between the self-concept of Islam and the Islam as it is being practiced by the state, offers favorable possibilities for further mobilization of pious believers such as the Grand Ayatollahs, who form an integral pillar of the Islamic Republic.

If both strategies were pursued at the same time, the goal would come within reach. One year from now, parliamentary elections will take place. If it can be achieved that hardly anyone takes part in these elections, the fate of this state would be sealed.

About Bahman Nirumand
Nirumand was born in 1936 in Tehran. Today he is an author and journalist in Berlin. He has recently published “Iran: the Imminent Catastrophe”, Kiepenheuer & Witsch 2006, and “The Undeclared World War”, a booklet in 2007.

Published in German daily “Tageszeitung” on March 2 2010
Source (German):
English translation kindly provided by Josh Manning

The opposition newspaper “Etemaad” has been banned and the magazine “IranDokht” has had its license revoked. Iranian constitutional principles and freedoms of the press were violated.

The regime seems intent on stifling critical voices

By Bahman Nirumand
Iranian authorities, on Monday, have banned further publishing of a newspaper and revoked the license of a magazine. The newspaper Etemaad and the magazine IranDokht belonged to the few opposition publications that were exempt from the recent wave of censorship.

The publisher of Etemaad, Elias Hasrati, is a former parliament delegate, while the magazine IranDokht is produced by Hossein Karroubi, the son of opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi. The Press Supervisory Board made the decision with total disregard of the principles of the Iranian Constitution. Etemaad accused them of violating the law, so the issue was passed to the office of a public prosecutor.

Etemaad had published on Monday an interview and an article detailing footage which was shown last week on the BBC. The footage was filmed by the Basiji militia, a volunteer group under the Revolutionary Guard, which showed the group assault student dorms during the unrest of summer 2009. It produced a reaction of shock both at home and abroad over the brutality of the militias and Revolutionary Guards. Etemaad suggested submitting the film to the Committee of Investigation which deals with affairs and incidents at the university. The committee would then take a public position on the film.

The interview was led by conservative parliament delegate Dariush Ghanbari, who requested Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani to finally submit the report about the incidents at the university.

The group of editors for the magazine IranDokht primarily composes of young journalists. The Chief Editor himself is a prominent journalist by the name of Mohammad Ghoochani. Ghoochani was the Chief Editor for various reformist newspapers, all of which were banned. He was arrested during the civil unrest of June and spent many months in detention since.

The regime seems intent on stifling critical voices. In past years, nearly over a hundred newspapers have been banned and forms of repression against journalists were also strengthened. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Iran drove one of the toughest campaigns against journalists in 2009. It was stated by the New York based organization in their February 16th annual “Attacks on the Press” report that more than 90 journalists have been arrested. At least 23 of these journalists are still imprisoned.

The number of arrested journalists rose strongly in January. On February 16th, six international organizations published an open letter to Iran Revolutionary Leader Ali Khamenei requesting that he release at least 60 arrested writers, journalists, and bloggers. They are remaining “behind bars today in violation of the protections guaranteed in the Islamic Republic of Iran’s constitution and in international law”, writes Reporters without Borders, the writer association PEN, and four other associations.

Published in German daily newspaper “Tageszeitung” on 28 February 2010
Source (German):
English translation kindly provided by Josh Manning
edited by germantoenglish

By Bahman Nirumand

The opposition leader declared in an interview that those in power are a “dangerous sect”. However, despite the situation, he continues to aim at the goal of reform

Iran’s opposition leader Mir Hossein Moussavi declared in a widely observed interview on his website “Kalameh” that the rulers are a “dangerous sect”. By ignoring Islamic principles and the rights of the people, they have led the country into catastrophe. In order to see how isolated they are, the rulers should allow the “Green Movement of Hope” to demonstrate freely, and should admit that the country is in a deep crisis that needs fundamental solutions, said Moussavi on Saturday.

On February 11th, the anniversary of the Revolution, the regime had deployed in Teheran tens of thousand of Basij militia, police, and Revolutionary Guards to protect the official celebration and prevent opposition demonstrations. Additionally, numerous people from outside were brought into the capital to take part in the official demonstration. This was done to develop the view that the regime has broad support from the people.

Although the opposition was successful in organizing rallies at different quarters of the city, the participation was small in comparison to earlier demonstrations, which raised the question as to whether past strategies are still useful. In addition, Moussavi reckoned that it was not the opposition, but the regime that has to accept a defeat on February 11. A country that must protect itself with a considerable force against its own people cannot be proud of a manipulated demonstration. The strategy to demonstrate on days of celebration or mourning is only one out of many strategies to resist the regime. “We must make clear our goals to the population, particularly to the lower strata of the society” said Moussavi. “Millions of fellow citizens suffer from extreme censorship, restrictions of freedoms and rights, adventurous foreign policies, economic ruin, and the spreading of lies and immorality. They want change and are no longer willing to abide by the tyranny of a handful of ignorant rulers.”

Mousavi reiterated that the Green Movement demands change within the framework of the constitution. Although there are a few people who wanted to go beyond this framework, the movement all in all has never expressed demands that go beyond the limit of existing constitution.

According to Moussavi, the movement does not demand anything but reforms, but does not necessarily wish to be the executing force to implement them. It would be simpler and required fewer sacrifices if the state tackled these reforms. He pointed out: “I would like to emphasize clearly and openly that every step the government takes towards reform would neither be considered by us as a sign of weakness, nor would we disesteem them for it”.

Published in German daily newspaper “Tagesspiegel” on 22 February 2010
Source (German):;art270,3037731
English translation kindly provided by Josh Manning

UPDATE February 26 2010, “Berliner Morgenpost”:
14 year old boy from Iran may stay in Berlin
An Iranian boy who faced deportation may stay in Berlin and attend school for the time being. This was decided by Erhart Körting, Innensenator [minister of the interior of the senate of the federal state of Berlin] and member of the Socialist Democratic Party. The 14 year old Ali is allowed to stay in Berlin as long as his father stays, said Körting.
[The rest of the article is not accessible without remuneration]

by Hadija Haruna

A 14 year old high school student is facing deportation, but his fellow classmates are protesting against it. Though, their chances are slim since deporting him is not a problem for the authorities.

Arrived: Ali Derakhshan attends a school in the Moabit quarter of Berlin. Photo: Uwe Steinert

“Ali should stay”, states a poster in the classroom of the 8th grade of the Heinrich von Kleist Secondary School. They made T-shirts, started signing petitions, and wrote a letter to Interior Minister Ehrhart Körting asking why their classmate has to be deported to Greece.

Ali Derakhshan’s short life has a long history. In 2001, his father fled to Germany from Iran to seek political asylum. Ali and his mother tried to follow him, but it did not fold out as planned. For this reason, they entered Germany illegaly with a visa for Greece. Six months later, Ali and his mother were deported out of the blue to Greece. The traumatic experience has caused deep anxiety with Ali, who has to undergo therapeutic treatment. “We all wept. My mother had to quickly pack a few things. We had to leave our anguished father”, said the now 14 year old.

The next year, Ali lived with his mother in Greece. They could not go back to Iran, nor were they allowed in Germany. According to Non-EU State Regulations, refugees must live in the first state they entered with their entry pass when relocating to the EU. However, the father is allowed in Germany. Because the mother must sustain herself with temporary jobs and Ali is often left on his own, the parents do everything in their power so that Ali could return back to Germany where his father, grandmother, aunt, uncle, and cousins reside with unlimited residence permits.

It was 2008. Ali had just entered the 5th grade at Heinrich von Kleist. Two years later, the next letter from the authorities arrived: Ali should go back to his mother in Greece. The young boy was fearful that he would be completely alone again in Greece as he had no one there except his mother, who had little time to spend with him in the first place. “They know absolutely nothing of what it will do to us, him, and his family. Our class is like a big family and without him, an important part of it would be missing.”, wrote the classmates in their letter to Körting. Ali’s classmate Selena Bakalios is disheartened: “How does this fall on someone who is so engaged and doing so well in school? He is settled here, speaks good German and simply belongs here.”

As Ali told them his life story, his classmates were appalled. “It’s unimaginable what he has gone through. You can see that he has not forgotten his past sadness”, said Salena. During class, she has observed it again and again. “Ali would have tears in his eyes. We would take him in our arms and continue pushing forward.”

When the news came in that Ali had to part from his friends, neighbors, and family; everyone was shocked. “It was a catastrophic development for him to again have to leave his home”, said his teacher, Sabine Meiners. He is at least allowed to complete the school’s final examination. Alain Lingnao, Ali’s and his father’s attorney since 2007, had tried everything to secure their stay in Germany. “It is now up to the Commission of Cases for Hardship whether he can stay here under humanitarian grounds”, said Lingnao.

Though still the chances are slim. Deporting him to Greece does not flinch the authorities. It doesn’t interest them at all whether the 14 year old is forced from his home. For this reason Commission, member Pater Martin Stark from the Jesuit Refugee Services has brought up Ali’s situation in the Commission of Cases for Hardship. “My aim is to keep him here so he can continue going to school.”

(Appeared in the Tagesspiegel on 2/22/10)

Published in German daily newspaper “Tageszeitung” (“taz”) on 19 February 2010
Source (German):
English translation kindly provided by Josh Manning

Is the West being too soft in dealing with Iranian nuclear ambitions? No, says the Green Party Foreign Affairs Politician Kerstin Müller. Dan Schueftan, an influential academic in Jerusalem, disagrees. The world is becoming dependent on the mad.

Revolutionary Leader Ayatollah Khamenei at an observation post (photo: reuters)

BERLIN taz | The speaker of the German Green Party in the Bundestag, Kerstin Müller, has spoken against using sharper procedures in dealing with Iran. The announcement from Tehran that declared they could enrich uranium by itself was an escalation in the nuclear tensions, she said during the “Debate of the Week”. The option of using military force, said Müller, is certainly in no way on the table: “A second war in the region would have drastic destabilizing consequences. Such saber rattling benefits only the regime and weakens the democratic movement.”

Dan Schueftan, Director of the Center for National Security Studies in the University of Haifa, counter claims that “forceful steps “ are needed. As soon as Iran is a nuclear power, other nations will follow suit. Schueftan feared a “multi-nuclear Middle East” and the development of more nuclear powers. “The day Hugo Chavez comes into possession of an atom bomb, we can say good-bye to civilization.”, wrote Schueftan in the sonntaz.

The tension with the regime in Tehran over their nuclear program has already continued for over a year. Till this very day, Iran insists their uranium enrichment ambitions are purely for civilian purposes but in the West, most governments suspect that President Ahmadinejad is actually trying to build an atomic bomb.

The European Union has in several approaches tried to gear the regime away from their enrichment program though negotiations – without success. At the same time, support for using military options is ever growing in conservative circles in the USA and in Israel.

Also Aaron König, age 45, author of the blogs at, and members of the federal administration of the Pirate Party, warned against the use of appeasement politics. In contrast to Müller, he does not see the Iranian regime opposition movement being harmed should harsher procedures be used: “On the contrary, if we show the Iranian terror regime its limits, this could give the opposition the upper hand.”

Other participants in the discussions during the “Debate of the Week“ are the vice-chairman of the Left in the Bundestag, Jan van Aken, free author Saba Farzan, and political expert Naika Foroutan.

Published in German weekly newspaper “Die Zeit” on 17 February 2010
Source (German)

The Iranian dissident Abdelkarim Soroush considers the Revolutionary Guards the major threat to his country. Yet he believes that a change of power might soon take place.

Iran's opposition is protesting against restrictions of freedom of opinion and the presidential elections which they believe have been rigged (© AFP/Getty Images)

The Iranian oppositionist Abdelkarim Soroush believes that a change of power might soon take place in his country. “I am not a prophet. But I think something big might happen within one or two years”, said Soroush, a prominent religious philosopher and mastermind of the reformist movement in Iran, in an interview with the ZEIT. “Not a revolution, but a change of power. Everyone except the government admits that the country is living through a deep crisis.”

In Soroush’s opinion, the main problem of the country is not President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “It is not Ahmadinejad who poses a threat. He is just a puppet of the Revolutionary Guards. This is why in our manifesto we are calling for the dissolution of their economic enterprises.”

Iran’s opposition movement under the leadership of former presidential candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi accuses the regime of rigging the presidential elections of last summer. On occasion of the anniversary of Iran’s revolution on January [sic] 11, the movement had called for rallies to protest against the regime. The turnout, however, was by far lower than expected.

The Revolutionary Guards were formed after the Revolution of 1979 to safeguard the Islamic Republic. Today, they are regarded as the pillar of the Islamic System, and as a major recourse for the controversial President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The troop of 125,000 men operates a network of companies, banks and other facilities, and is said to be the key player in Iran’s disputed nuclear program. Apart from that, the elite force of Iran’s armed forces plays a leading role in the crackdown on the protests of opposition supporters against Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election.

At an international level, Iran is suspected to carry out secret research aimed at the construction of an atomic bomb. Shortly before the pending decision about new UN sanctions against Iran, the US government had harshened their tone in addressing the leadership in Tehran. During her visit to the emirate of Qatar, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed that the Islamic Republic is drifting toward a military dictatorship, with the Revolutionary Guards as the major players who are in the process of gradually seizing the Iranian system.

Published in Austrian daily newspaper “Der Standard” on February 14 2010
Source (German):

Mehdi Karroubi – formerly a member of the establishment, today a member of the opposition

Mehdi Karroubi (72) is the visible proof of the fact that in Iran there is no such thing as “the mullah regime” on the one side, and a secular opposition on the other. Karroubi is a turban bearer, and he is the most outspoken opponent of Mahmoud Ahmadi Nejad’s presidency. The latter, by the way, is the first layman to hold the office of president of the Islamic Republic.

While Karroubi, the former chairman of the parliament and presidential candidate, in the early days of the protests following the elections in June was outshone by Mir Hossein Moussavi, the candidate who was more likely to win the election, he has long started to stand out as the more fearless personality. With powerful eloquence he phrases his outrage about the “savages” that the regime unleashes on the people of Iran. Not even the Shah would have dared to shed the blood of his own people on Ashura, the holiest Shiite holiday – says a man who participated in the revolution of 1979. And it was Karroubi who revealed the regime’s crimes against detainees. Recently, even his own son Ali fell victim to abuse.

Which is a clear warning: Karroubi has meanwhile virtually been outlawed. Again and again, attackers appear from nowhere, just like last Thursday, on the sidelines of the ceremonies of the anniversary of the Revolution. His bodyguards have been removed, he depends on his family and friends to protect him. Karroubi’s wife Fatemeh, just like his other sons, publicly supports him.

Karroubi, who was born into a clerical family in Lorestan/Western Iran, was imprisoned 9 times under the Shah. As a member of the Islamic leftists, he headed several associations and foundations after 1979. He was a member of parliament, and in 1990 became its chairman for the first time, fighting many a battle with President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani who, in Karroubi’s view, with his policy of economical opening deviated too far from Khomeini’s path.

In 2000, he was once more elected chairman of the parliament – to the displeasure of the reformists who in 1997, when Mohammad Khatami became President, had begun to see their chance. However, Karroubi turned out to be one of them. In 2005 he for the first time ran for presidency. The winner’s name, however, was Ahmadi Nejad, and Karroubi already then accused him of trickery. In protest, he stepped down from his post in the Expediency Council, and dedicated himself to his party Etemad-e Melli. In 2009 he ran for presidency again – and the farce turned into a tragedy.

(Gudrun Harrer/DER STANDARD, print edition of 15. February 2010)