Iran’s goal is to prevent the establishment of any opposition against Iran in Europe, including Norway, the former consul at the Iranian embassy in Norway tells Norwegian public service TV station NRK.

Asylum seekers are subject to recruitment attempts aimed at getting them to spy on the Iranian opposition in Norway. Several asylum seekers who have fled the Iranian regime have arrived at Kasper asylum reception centre in Moss, Norway. In May last year, a man showed up here who asked Iranian and Afghan asylum seekers if they needed help.

They were given a free SIM card and offered help with their asylum cases. Far too late did the asylum seekers realise that the man was in fact working for the Iranian authorities in Norway.

Sound recordings
An Iranian asylum seeker, whom NRK has been in contact with, was one of those who fell into the trap, and who now wishes to tell his story. He was given an offer that was hard to refuse:

“They offered to give me cash and to pay for my legal fees. They told me that if I was not granted asylum, they could send me to another country to seek asylum there. In one of the meetings, they gave me equipment for making sound recordings”, he told NRK.

In return, he was asked to make secret voice recordings of meetings held by the Iranian opposition in Norway. He was also asked to identify those who had important roles in the Norway-based Iranian opposition.

“The embassy can help”
There is no doubt in his mind that the Iranian embassy was behind the attempt to recruit him for illegal bugging operations on Iranian opposition circles in Norway:

“I told them that making sound recordings is espionage, and that it is a criminal offence in Norway. If the police arrest me, who will help me? They answered me that the embassy can help with this part of the job.”

The asylum seeker was specifically told to monitor defected Iranian diplomat Mohammad Reza Heydari, who was previously employed at the Iranian Embassy in Oslo.

Defected Iranian diplomat Mohammad Reza Heydari was to be monitored in particular.

Preventing the establishment of a strong opposition
Heydari now confirms to NRK that Iran carries out extensive espionage operations inside Norway against the Norway-based Iranian opposition by recruiting people who are in a precarious situation.

“The activities that Iran carries out through its embassies include approaching people who are suffering from economic or psychological problems because they cannot travel to Iran. Another method is to identify them and to establish contact with them by way of other people who are in touch with the embassy. These people are then used to implement Iran’s goals, which are to create division and conflict between groups operating in Norway”, he says.

After the re-election of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009, Iran stepped up its surveillance of the opposition operating outside Iran through its embassies. This also applies to Norway, sources in Iranian opposition circles in Norway have told NRK.

“Iran’s policy against its own nationals abroad basically boils down to doing everything possible to prevent the establishment of a strong opposition against the regime outside the country.”

The Norwegian Police Security Service (PST) is aware of this problem too, commonly referred to in Scandinavia as “refugee espionage”. According to information obtained by NRK, PST pays particular attention to refugee espionage conducted by Iran.

“It is important to me that Norwegian society learns about this”, says the asylum seeker interviewed by NRK.

NRK has contacted the Iranian embassy in Oslo with regard to this case. The embassy has stated that it does not wish to comment on the contents of the report for the time being.

Published on Norwegian TV channel NRK on March 30. 2011
Source (Norwegian):
English translation kindly provided by Anusche Noring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The stoning verdict has not been lifted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Ferda Ataman, Andrea Dernbach

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

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

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

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

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

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

For donating and information please refer to

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

SUMMARY TRANSLATION kindly provided by Elli Mee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published on German public service TV channel ARD (broadcast “KONTRASTE”) on 24 June 2010
Source, with video (German):

Only recently, the UN and the EU have again tightened the sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. The federal government also calls for “restraint” on business with Iran. But German companies want continue to expand the Iran business and use the United Arab Emirates as a discreet location for the transactions.

“As annoying as flies” – this is Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s description for the economic sanctions against his country over its nuclear program. “We will resist, ‘he says. There is a reason for his arrogance: despite the most severe sanctions, Iran seems to find ways and means to continue bringing high technology into the country. Via a loophole, German companies also continue to cheerfully do business with Iran.

René Althammer, Benedict Maria Mülder, Susanne Katharina Opalka.

Tehran, June 2009 – Citizens are protesting against the regime’s vote rigging and are brutally confronted and beaten. The pictures of a female protester that was shot dead go around the world. The Federal Chancellor is appalled by the human rights abuses.

Angela Merkel (CDU), Federal Chancellor, 25 June 2009
“I believe to speak on everyone’s behalf when I tell those who want to hold peaceful demonstrations in Iran: We are at your side.”

The dictatorship carries out missile tests to demonstrate their power. Iran relies on nuclear weapons. The Chancellor welcomes the recent UN sanctions.

Angela Merkel (CDU), Federal Chancellor, 11 June 2010
“The key goal of this resolution is to by means of diplomacy prevent Iran from further working on its nuclear program.”

For the native Iranian and MP Omid Nouripour (Green Party), this is merely a lip service, because despite all the protests, Iran still is a huge market for Germany.

Omid Nouripour (B‘90/Die Grünen), MP
“While the Federal Government is doing everything in their power to stop the Iranian nuclear program for the reason that it is a threat, lively trade with Iran is continuing to take place, providing the Iranian government with the required funds and technology it needs to stay in power.”

Dubai City, United Arabic Emirates. This country is currently Germany’s most important trading partner in the Persian Gulf region – and at the same time, it is Iran’s gateway to the world. While previously German exports used to go directly to Iran, since the politcal pressure on the mullah regime has increased, the more unobtrusive route via Dubai is being used more and more often today.

This was confirmed by the Vice-President of the Iranian Business Council in Dubai. He is satisfied that the business is booming despite all opposition.

Morteza Masoumzadeh, Iranian Business Council, Dubai
“Many German business people conduct their business with Iran through Dubai. Iran is a big country, it has many buyers, and they all want to do business.”

The German-Emirati Dubai Chamber of Commerce promotes the expansion of this business. The then Minister of economics, Guttenberg, even traveled to the Gulf for the grand opening in May 2009. A few months later, the Chamber invites to the high-class Monarch Hotel. The guests: 15 Iranian and German business representatives. The topic: German-Iranian trade relations via Dubai.

A protocol that was made available to KONTRASTE documents the course of the talks. Particularly noteworthy: one participant suggested, given the current situation a more “unorthodox way of thinking should be exerted, particularly when it comes to financial transactions…” and recommended “to make use of Iran’s presence here in Dubai” in order “to establish contacts.”

KONTRASTE contacted Peter Göpfrich, managing director of the Chamber of Commerce, to find out what exactly was the meaning of “unorthodox”. Göpfrich declined an interview. In writing, he told us: unfortunately, an “incomplete and misleadingly formulated protocol resulted in wrong conclusions… and does not on every point reflect the position of Chamber of Commerce.”

Omid Nouripur has doubts about this interpretation.

Omid Nouripour (B‘90/Die Grünen), MP
“The representatives of the Chamber are interested in doing business, because they know as well that politicians do not usually take very close looks. Thus, it is all the more important that the federal government watches the business via Dubai to Iran very carefully and no longer looks away.”

Looking away – this is exactly what the ministry of economics, which co-funds the Chamber with taxpayer’s money, is doing. The explanation about the allegedly “misleading protocol” is enough to satisfy the ministry.

More than 4,000 Iranian companies have their headquarters in Dubai. Many work directly for the mullahs’ regime. They use the sixth-largest port in the world on the outskirts of Dubai City – a huge loophole to evade the sanctions against Iran.

Omid Nouripour (B‘90/Die Grünen), MP
“Dubai is a wonderful transshipment point to avoid the sanctions of the UN as well as those of the EU.”

This view is backed by the Federal Criminal Police Office. In an assessment, it warned some time ago that the Emirates are being used as “circumvention territory” for armaments – meaning that smuggling is prospering.

The Iranians are trying to buy advanced technology for their missile and nuclear programs, because the sanctions prohibit delivery.

At the Customs Criminal Office in Cologne. Here, the nationwide investigation into illegal shipments to Iran is being coordinated. The investigators have an accurate picture of what the Iranians are particularly interested in.

Wolfgang Schmitz, Customs Criminal Office, Cologne
“When we look at the focus of Iran’s attempts to obtain [sanctioned goods], we see that they are particularly interested in uranium enrichment, meaning that they are after constructing an atomic bomb. The second part is linked to the field of missile technology – we repeatedly noticed that Iran tries to increase the range of their missile program by using technology from Western Europe.”

These confiscated tubes were destined for Iran as well. They are important components for the gas ultra centrifuge for uranium enrichment – just like this high-purity graphite.

Wolfgang Schmitz, Customs Criminal Office, Cologne
“In the preliminary proceedings of the past – also in proceedings that are being brought to court right now – we observed that suppliers, or agents, or intermediaries acting on behalf of Iran, frequently propose a seemingly uncritical corridor for goods transport via Dubai, where, with the help of front companies, it is quite simple to disguise the actual routes.”

The Iranian nuclear and armament programs as well as the oppression of the population would hardly be possible without the booming trade through Dubai.

Omid Nouripour (B‘90/Die Grünen), MP
“In terms of security policy, of human rights policy, and economic policy it is short-sighted to allow this business to go on like that.”

Published in German weekly trade journal “Computerwoche” on 23 June 2010
Source (German):
English translation: @germantoenglish

Zhila Bani Yaghoub, Iranian blogger and journalist

The Iranian female blogger Zhila Bani Yaghoub received this year’s “Reporters without Borders Award”. The regime in Tehran recently sentenced her to one year in prison and a 30 year professional ban.

According to the verdict of the 26. court of the Tehran Revolutionary Court Bani Yaghoub is guilty of “propaganda against the state leadership”. Bani Yaghoub was informed about her sentence on June 8. She is going to file an appeal against the verdict.

Bani Yaghoub, journalist and human rights acitivist, runs the blog “We are journalists”. The blog takes a critical look at the situation in Iran. On June 22 the human rights organization “Reporters without borders” awarded her for her journalistic activities in [the German city of] Bonn.

Bani Yaghoub was not allowed to leave the country to attend the award ceremony on June 22. Her speech (see below) was read out during the ceremony. She states that “more than 40 other journalists and bloggers are imprisoned in Iran” apart from herself. Some have been sentenced to six or even nine years imprisonment, others are facing similar sentences.

In 2009, Reporters without Borders (ROG) has counted 60 countries in which the internet is being censored – twice as many as the year before. The “Open Net Initiative” (ONI), supported by the renowned universities of Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge and Toronto, has counted about 40 countries. For comparison: In 2002 only two countries implemented restrictions of internet freedom, according to ONI.

About 120 bloggers are currently imprisoned world wide, among them 72 internet dissidents in China, says the report “Enemies of the Internet” that was published on Thursday.

“Dear Journalists and Bloggers from all over the world”

first of all, I would like to tell you that I am writing this note to you after I was recently sentenced to one year in prison – and banned from practicing journalism for 30 years – by the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Revolutionary Court. One of the reasons they named for handing me this harsh sentence was the articles I wrote on my weblog, the weblog that Reporters Without Borders chose as the best blog from among Deutsche Welle’s International Blog Awards, The BOBs. On this blog I wrote about people’s protests against the disputed presidential election in Iran last year.

Currently, more than 40 journalists and webloggers are imprisoned in Iran. Some of them have been sentenced to six or even nine years in prison, and still others are expecting similar court sentences. These prisoners did not commit any crime; they simply pursued the career and duties of a journalist.

One of these imprisoned journalists is my husband, Bahman Ahmadi Amouee. He was arrested during the post-election crisis. My husband was sentenced to 34 lashes, along with seven years and four months in prison. His greatest crime was publishing critical articles about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government on his personal weblog and in Iranian dailies. For one year now, he has been held in prison – alongside many other journalists – for no legitimate reason.

I would like to thank Reporters Without Borders for awarding me this prize, and I would like to dedicate my prize to my imprisoned husband, Bahman, and to all imprisoned Iranian bloggers, especially Shiva Nazar Ahari. Thank you so much.”

Bani Yaghoubs Persian blog provides latest information on the situation in Iran, focusing on social and women-related issues, writes media service “Meedia”. “Zhila is a pioneer for freedom of opinion in her country”, said Lucie Morillon, head of the ROG department “New Media” during the proclamation of the winners of the “Best of the Blogs” competition.

According to ROG, more than one year after the contested victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the presidential elections of 2009, the extent of repression and prosecution of critical voices in Iran is dramatic: More than 170 Iranian journalists and bloggers were arrested in the past 12 months. 38 of them are still in prison. More than 100 media professionals left the Islamic Republic since the presidential elections. (jm)

Published on the website of German weekly magazine “Spiegel” on 17 June 2010
Source (German):,1518,701302,00.html
English translation kindly provided by Elli M. and Thomas Adolf

Filmmaker Darioush Shokof, who is living in exile in Germany, claims that he was kidnapped by Iranian secret agents. The police doubts his statement. However, Shokof does not accept to be silenced and wants to publish his film “Iran zendan”, in which he criticizes the Iranian regime, in the Internet.

Filmmaker Shokof: Kidnapped by mullah supporters? (AFP)

Hamburg/Berlin: The story of the Iranian filmmaker Darioush Shokof, who disappeared for some time without a trace, sounds like a bizarre spy tale from the Cold War. Whereas the filmmaker claims that he was kidnapped, the police says that they are investigating in all directions. The Cologne-based newspaper “Kölnische Rundschau” cites an investigator who believes that the filmmaker has possibly staged his own kidnapping: “He has great financial problems.” Shokof in turn demanded that the investigations be steered “in the right direction”.

Now, the director has announced that he will publish his film “Iran zendan”, in which he criticizes the Iranian regime, on the Internet. The 70-minute production would become available soon for a small fee, said the 57 year-old man in a press conference in Berlin on Thursday. “Iran zendan” deals with the abuse of political prisoners in Iranian detention centers. Initially, Shokof had planned to launch his film for cinema screening.

He would not bend to the mullah regime, said Shokof. The director who lives in Berlin believes that he was kidnapped by followers of the Iranian regime. Earlier, there had been some unusual incidents. There was a housebreaking into the apartment of a friend who lived in Shokof’s house. Shokof’s passport had been stolen and someone had told him that his life was in danger.

The filmmaker says that several Arabic-speaking men forced him into a car on the evening of 24th May, and then drove him to an apartment where he was held for several days. According to Shokof, the kidnappers told him that he insulted the Iranian regime with his films and asked him to prevent the screening of his work. Shokof suddenly resurfaced almost two weeks later. He supposes that his liberation was due to the considerable media attention for his case.


Published in German daily “Welt” on 4 June 2010
Source (German):
English translation provided by @germantoenglish

With his disputed re-election in 2009 Iran “actually broke the world record in democracy”, says the Iranian president.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during a rally (photo: dpa)

Harsh criticism and threats: The Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has condemned Israel’s attack on the aid convoi to Gaza as “insane”. In a speech he delivered on occasion of the 21. anniversary of the death of Revolutionary Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, Ahmadinejad also targeted the opposition inside the country, warning them to not stage any protests on the anniversary of the disputed presidential elections. “Those who oppose the Islamic system will not survive”, he said at the Imam-Khomeini shrine in Tehran on Friday.

He referred to his last year’s re-election, that was criticized inside and outside the country, as “the most democratic election in the world”. “Actually, with this election we broke the world record in democracy”. The Iranian opposition claims Ahmadinejad won the June 12 election through massive vote fraud, and rallied against the election results for weeks. Dozens of people lost their lives in the protests.

Referring to the attack of Israeli forces on the Gaza flotilla that left nine activists dead earlier this week, the Iranian president described this act as a result of “weakness and insanity”. The attack showed that Israel has “lost the last bit of reason”, said Ahmadinejad.

He affirmed that he expects Israel to collapse soon. In the past 60 years, this country has committed “inhumane crimes” and will be “erased” by its neighbors after it collapsed, Ahmadinejad added.

At the same time, he warned the West to not support Israel further. “All countries that still support this criminal regime should stop, otherwise they will be brought to court as war criminals”. Several tens of thousands of people had gathered at the Imam-Khomeini Shrine in South Tehran on occasion of the commemoration for the Revolutionary Leader.

According to state-run television, a major demonstration against Israel was scheduled to take place after the ceremony. Ahmadinejad highlighted Khomeini’s role in the revolution, saying that Khomeini never gave in to political pressure of imperialist powers. “The Imam (Khomeini) started a new movement that will continue until it has become globalized”, said Ahmadinejad.

The atmosphere got agitated when Khomeini’s grandson Hassan entered the podium. He is close to the opposition reformists and is regarded as a critic of Ahmadinejad. Right from the beginning, his speech was interrupted several times and eventually completely stopped by regime supporters. Ayatollah Khomeini was the driving force behind the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran that toppled the Shah.


Published on the website of German weekly newspaper “Die Zeit” on 4 June 2010
Source (German):
English translation provided by @germantoenglish

On the 21. anniversary of the death of Khomeini, the founder of the state, Iran’s hardliners issued harsh threats against the opposition. The opposition leaders were not present at the ceremony.

by Martin Gehlen

Threats against the opposition: Revolutionary leader and hardliner Khamenei (in front of a photo of Khomeini, the founder of the state) - © /AFP/Getty Images

One week prior to the first anniversary of the controversial presidential election, Iran’s revolutionary leader Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have delivered severe warnings to the opposition. During a commemoration ceremony on occasion of the 21. anniversary of the death of the state’s founding father Ayatollah Khomeini, Khamenei accused the green movement of trampling the ideals of the Islamic Republic. Referencing the Quran, he described the protests as “a rebellion” and for the first time threatened the opposition leaders with the death penalty.

In his speech, that was broadcast live on state television, Khamenei recalled that some of Khomeini’s associates who were on the airplane with him when he traveled from Paris to Tehran in 1979 were executed only months later for their betrayal of the Revolution. “The same standards still apply today.” He wished to point out especially to the youth that all attacks against the Islamic Republic of the past 30 years could not in the least shake the foundations of the state.

Ahmadinejad described his re-election one year ago as “hundred per cent democratic”. Those who deviate from the Imam’s path will be banished by the people, he said in the presence of the entire leadership, while the crowd chanted “We will not leave you alone”. Among the audience were former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, who is close to the green movement, and Ahmadinejad’s conservative opposing candidate Mohsen Rezai. Mehdi Karroubi, Mir Hossein Moussavi, and ex president Mohammad Khatami were not present. With last year’s elections “we broke the world record in democracy”, Ahmadinejad said, adding that the Iranian government is the most democratic in the world.

Shortly thereafter, however, Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of the late Ayatollah Khomeini, was forced to abandon his speech after a few minutes as he was heckled by chants of “Death to Moussavi” from the regime-organized crowd. The 38-year old cleric is the director of the shrine of his grandfather, that is situated on the outskirts of Tehran. He is regarded as a supporter of Mir Hossein Moussavi. Last year, he and the entire Khomeini family demonstratively stayed away from Ahmadinejad’s official inauguration.

The Iranian leadership announced that it gathered 2 million people from all over the country to attend the ceremony today. According to the head of the Tehran traffic police, about 50.000 buses and minibuses were used. Apparently, hundreds of thousands of the deployed basij militas are to remain in the capital until next week in order to thwart any attempt of the green movement to stage new protests against the rigged re-election of Ahmadinejad on 12 June.

Thursday evening, hardliners threatened opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi when he was visiting the shrine. According to Fars news agency, the attackers chanted “Death to the hypocrites”. Karroubi’s bodyguards escorted the cleric back to his car to take him to safety.

(An article taken from Tagesspiegel)

Published in German weekly newspaper “Zeit” on 2 June 2010
Source (German):
(An article from Tagesspiegel)
English translation provided by @germantoenglish

With the anniversaries of Khomeini’s death and the disputed presidential elections ahead, the regime in Tehran is facing a new trial of strength with the opposition.

They called for a protest rally in Tehran: Iran's oppostion leaders Mir Hossein Moussavi (left) and Mehdi Karroubi

by Martin Gehlen
Recently during prime time, in the state TV program “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow”, an Iranian regime cleric sneered at the Green Movement, claiming that it resembles a “trampled snake”. “Currently it is calm. But it is waiting for the next opportunity.” Indeed: A leaden calm has descended on the country. Opposition leaders Mir Hossein Moussavi, Mehdi Karoubi and Mohammad Khatami are maintaining a low profile.

The regime seemed to once and for all have gained the upper hand in the worst domestic crisis since the founding of the Islamic Republic. Now, however, reformist politcians are getting ready for the next trial of force that could present Iran with a second politically hot summer.

Friday will mark the anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the state. The week after that, on July 12, follows the first anniversary of the disputed re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This week, the regime plans to rally 2 million supporters for a huge celebration on the premises of the Imam Khomeini shrine near Tehran – a new opportunity for the green supporters to be present. Ali Khamenei himself will lead the Friday mass prayer, almost a year after his last public appearance in the central prayer hall at Tehran University, when he unconditionally defended the results of the presidential election and openly threatened the opposing candidates Moussavi and Karroubi.

They, however, still seem unimpressed, even though all of their closest staff members have meanwhile been detained. They called for a protest rally in Tehran on June 12 and applied for a respective permit with the provincial governor. Together with former president Khatami they call for fresh elections, release of all political prisoners, and free media.

Former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, in a demonstrative act, once again had the speech he held at the Friday mass prayer that he lead in July 2009 uploaded to his website. The trust of the Iranian people was “lost” and must be “regained”, and “the elections left a bad taste in everybody’s mouths”, he then said in the presence of Moussavi.

“There are still enormous internal political tensions”, says Thierry Coville, French Iran specialist at the Paris-based “Institute for International and Strategic Relations”. A large part of the public services is demotivated, since civil servants don’t see any political perspective, he says. While the green movement as a result of the severe pressure has been put on the defensive, the “the initial discontent amongst the population is still on a high level, and very widespread”, he adds.

Apart from the unresolved political conflicts, the desolate economic situation has also contributed to this. Only recently, Ahmadinejad’s appearance in the oil city and seaport of Khorramshahr was interrupted by a protesting crowd chanting “we are unemployed”. The President’s appearances are usually tightly stage-managed; slogans are limited to “Allah is great” or “down with USA and Israel”. However, inflation has reached double figures, the official unmeployment rate is 11 %, in reality it is more than twice as high. Looming economic sanctions of the UN Security Council could further exacerbate the situation.

Opposition leader Moussavi denounced the social situation saying that Iran is currently witnessing “a decline of investment, increasing corruption, and the spreading of lies and incompetence”. Workers are not being paid, factories are forced to introduce short-time working or are shut down completely. Mehdi Karroubi seconded this on his website, stating that “Ahmadinejad was not chosen, but appointed – he lacks any legitimacy.”

Published in German daily newspaper “Die Welt” on 29 May 2010
Source (German)
English translation provided by @germantoenglish

Concerns are growing Among exiled Iranians in Germany over the filmmaker, painter and philosopher Daryush Shokof. 55-year-old Shokof was last seen Monday at Cologne central station, where he intended to board a train to Paris. However, he seems to have never arrived there – at least he did not keep any of his appointments in the French capital. Neither his wife Taies Farzan, an actress, nor his friends have received a sign of life from him for five days.

Shokof had left Iran – then Persia – under the Shah in order to study in the United States, and did not return to the Iran of the mollahs. He has been living and working in Germany since 1985, and has become one of the most vocal critics of the Islamic Republic. Five years ago he went on a seven-day hunger strike outside the headquarters of the Green Party in Berlin, demanding freedom and justice for his home country. Last year, he went on a four-day hunger strike outside the Russian Embassy in Berlin after Russian President Medvedev had been the first statesman to recognize the official result of the rigged presidential elections in Iran.

Shokof belongs to a radical part of the exiled Iranian opposition whose members are strictly against any contact with the regime in Tehran. In an open letter addressed to the Berlin film festival, he criticized that the organizers invited Iranian films that have an official permit of the Iranian regime to attend the festival. He directed the same reproach to the Cannes film festival. He argued that any invitation of that kind is a “political” one, not a “cultural” one (as claimed by the festival management), because the regime in Iran uses them to strengthen its reputation inside and outside the country.

His own films also became increasingly political. His first movie “Seven Servants” – with Anthony Quinn in one of his last roles – expressed the philosophy of “maximalism”, using all creative energies for the purpose of a united mankind. “Breathful”, created three years ago in Berlin, is a gangster comedy with one important feature: All parts are played by women. With this movie, Shokof pointed out to the mollahs that women can stand their ground in male domains such as gangster movies.

His latest filme “Iran Zendan” (“Iran Prison”) was premiered only three weeks ago in the cinema “Babylon” in Berlin. The movie reflects the protests against the outcome of the presidential election and accompanies detained protesters on their way into the system’s torture chambers.

Since after the rigged elections, Iranian filmmakers are spearheading the protesting creative artists. The annual number of films produced by the Iranian cinema approximately equals that of Germany’s cinema (100 – 150 films). Cinema in Iran is an important cultural factor. Last Tuesday, Iranian film director Jafar Panahi was released from a prison in Tehran after eight weeks of detention.


Note: A short article on this subject was also published in German daily

TV report shown in German public service TV station ZDF’s evening news programme “heute-journal” on Wednesday, 26 May 2010.
Link to video of complete news programme on Neda Soltani:

Link to video of the TV reportage on Neda Soltani:

English translation kindly provided by Anusche Noring, first published on Facebook

News anchor’s introduction:
Neda. This name immediately brings back memories of the pictures and the anger we witnessed last summer. Neda Agha-Soltan was the Iranian student who was shot dead on the fringes of a demonstration against the Ahmadinejad government. A mobile phone video captured the scene of her death, and Neda became the most well-known martyr of this uprising for freedom. Even today, her picture can still be seen all over the Internet, on posters and T-shirts – yet many media outlets are showing the wrong picture, one which they found on the Internet, the picture of a woman called Neda Soltani. This is not only an example of slipshod research, but for the real, living Neda Soltani, it is a tragedy, it placed her between all the frontlines and, eventually, forced her into political asylum in Germany. Kamran Safiarian reports on what is indeed a deeply sad story in every respect.

TV reportage:

These are the pictures that would turn her into the icon of resistance in Iran – Neda Agha-Soltan. The Internet video showing her being murdered spread all over the world, her photograph turned her into a martyr. Neda Soltani, on the other hand, is no martyr. She is now living as a refugee in Germany. Through no fault of her own, she became the double of an icon. To the right, a picture of Neda Soltani. To the left, a picture of the murdered Neda Agha-Soltan.

Neda Soltani: “This is my profile picture from Facebook. After the murder, it was stolen and spread all over the world as being the photograph of the murdered Neda Agha-Soltan. But this photograph here does not show Neda Agha-Soltan, who was killed. This is me, Neda Soltani. And, as you can see, I am still alive.”

Tehran in June 2009. When the 26-year-old student Neda Agha-Soltan was killed, chaos was reigning in the streets. The same was true for many media outlets’ editorial offices. Journalists were eagerly searching the net for pictures of the dead young woman and quickly come across the wrong photo. Posters commemorate the unsuspecting Neda Soltani as a martyr – the beginning of a nightmare.

Neda Soltani: “All of a sudden, photos of me with a black ribbon of mourning popped up everywhere on television and in the papers. I had become a living corpse. That was horrible. I received phone calls by friends and relatives who believed I was dead. They had no idea that the whole thing was just a terrible mistake.”

But things were to turn even worse: Neda was visited by the Iranian intelligence service, and was put under pressure. The regime sensed an opportunity to take advantage of the mix-up to cover up the murder of Neda Agha-Soltan, the student – here some pictures of her funeral.

Neda Soltani: “The intelligence service showed up at my house one week after Neda’s death. They questioned me, they wanted me to confess that I was the Neda who everyone thought was dead. They wanted to use me to cover up Neda’s murder. I just couldn’t take it any more.”

Neda Soltani tried everything she could to clear up the mistake. She deleted her Facebook photo, but this led the opposition to believe in a measure of censorship by the regime. Her photo continued to spread around the world like wildfire, on the Internet and on posters – up until the present day. With the help of her lawyer, she has been fighting for the right to her own photograph ever since.

Neda Soltani’s lawyer: “In Germany, all those who were reprimanded have reacted as far as possible, they have signed declarations of discontinuance [vowing to stop using the picture] and have also changed their visual reporting. In the US, to give you another example, the situation is completely different. In that case, Ms Soltani had initially approached the individual media companies herself and pointed out the mix-up of photos while she was still in Iran, but nobody ever reacted there.”

In the meantime, Neda has fled to Germany for fear of reprisals. But here too, she is met with hostility, with some accusing her of having used the icon Neda to obtain refugee status abroad. Today, she lives near Frankfurt and works as an English teacher. Her only wish is to be able to once again lead a normal life. “I have lost everything in my life”, she says, “my family, my friends, my home country”. Neda has no idea what is going to happen to her in the future. She has given up hope of being able to return to Iran one day.

News anchor’s final comment:
The story of the two Nedas. One that should also serve as a an important lesson to us journalists.

Published in German weekly newspaper “Die Zeit” on 21 May 2010
Source (German):
English translation provided by @germantoenglish

by Martin Gehlen
Mohammad Ali Abtahi, former Iranian vice-president and critic of President Ahmadinejad, was brutally attacked in Tehran. The regime continues to relentlessly confront its opponents.

Mohammad Ali Abtahi in a show trial was sentenced to six years in prison. (Photo: Archive, 2005) © Henghameh Fahimi/AFP/Getty Images

As soon as the former Iranian vice-president left the mosque in Southern Tehran and got into his car, he was attacked by hired thughs. Armed with knives and cables, they smashed the windows of his car, and sprayed tear gas inside. Later, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, still shocked, wrote on his Facebook wall that he “miraculously” managed to escape unhurt. He also posted photos of the damaged white car. It was a “very brutal” attack, nobody came to his help, while the perpetrators were “fearless and confident”, he said.

Abtahi, who is known in the West as the “blogging mullah”, is currently at large. The former representative of reformist president Mohammad Khatami was arrested shortly after the controversial presidential election that took place on 12 June 2009. According to his family, he was tortured and drugged in prison and eventually sentenced to six years in prison during a humiliating show trial. In late 2009 he was released on a 700,000 $ bail and is currently at large until the hearing of his appeal, for which a date has not yet been set.

Even though Sadegh Larijani, chief of the judiciary, stopped the televised tribunals, the relentless persecution and intimidation of dissidents continues. Six protesters, who were sentenced to death on charges of blasphemy, are currently awaiting their execution.

According to PEN center, more than 60 journalists and bloggers are currently imprisoned in Tehran’s Evin prison – almost as many as in China, whose population is 20 times larger than Iran’s. Among the detained is Mohammad Davari, chief editor of the website Saham News that first revealed the rape of young prisoners in the Kahrizak detention center last year. Human rights organizations estimate the number of political prisoners to amount to several hundreds.

Week after week, reports on draconian prison terms or new arrests of human rights activists, professors, artists, teachers, lawyers and students reach the outside world. Just recently, this happened following a failed appearance of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the Campus of Tehran University, where he was met by students chanting “death to the dictator” and “we don’t want a coup government”, preventing him from delivering his speech, and eventually forced him to leave the campus. The following night, intelligence agents broke into the dormitory and arrested Maryam Abbasinejad, a member of the student’s council.

Jafar Panahi, the well known Iranian filmmaker, was detained three months ago. Neither his lawyer nor his family were able to find out about his charges. After he was recently forced to stand in the cold in front of his cell naked while his interrogators threatened they would go and get his daughter, the 49-year old started a hunger strike.

“I am innocent, and I will not sign any confession that was coerced through threats”, he wrote from Evin prison in an open letter that was read out by French cultural minister Frederic Mitterand at the Cannes film festival. He concluded: “Let us not forget the thousands of defenceless prisoners. They, just like me, have committed no crime”.

Published in German daily newspaper “Frankfurter Rundschau” on 21 May 2010
Source (German):

Shirin Ebadi (Photo: dpa)

Bonn. Iranian human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi said she opposes economic sanctions against her home country. The Iranian people is against such steps in the nuclear conflict, said Ebadi, who is living in exile, on Thursday in the German city of Bonn.

According to Ebadi, sanctions will merely provide the regime in Tehran with a pretext for increasing repression, and the anti-regime “Green Movement” would face even more severe oppression. Currently the UN Security Council in New York in the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program is discussing a new resolution on Iran and harsher sanctions.

“In the current situation, our national interest is to deliberately accept the resolutions of the UN Security Council in order to prevent further sanctions”, said Ebadi. She dismissed any economic sanctions that would raise costs for or impede access to food and medication

On the other hand, no economic cooperation should be allowed that supports the government’s anti human rights policy, Ebadi added. For example, Western cell-phone technology enabled the Iranian regime to monitor cell-phone connections, and the EUTELSAT company supported regime censorship: “We are against such business transactions”.

Ebadi added that the “systematic violation” of human rights in Iran is increasing every day. Following the execution of five political prisoners, among them a teacher, the Tehran prosecutor’s office announced that further death sentences have been issued and will soon be carried out.

Ebadi receives Bonn International Democracy Award
Shirin Ebadi said that the detained dissident filmmaker Jafar Panahi has recently started a hunger strike. He has no access to a lawyer. He is accused of having planned to make an anti-government film. “This is a restriction of the freedom of thought”.

Talking to dpa news agency, Ebadi said there are currently thousands of political prisoners; even the regime announced a number of 6000 arrests. “The real number is much higher”. Many of the arrested were released only after posting heavy bails. They are banned from any political activity.

In 2003, Ebadi received the Nobel Peace Prize. Yesterday she was awarded the 2010 International Democracy Award of the city of Bonn. Ebadi, who is a lawyer, represented mostly opposition members and dissidents and was temporarily detained and banned from professional activity in the past.

Today, she continues her struggle for human rights and democracy in her country from abroad. The first person to receive the Bonn award that is endowed with 10,000 Euro was former Czech President Václav Havel. (dpa)

Published on the website of German regional public broadcasting station “WDR” on 20 May 2010
Source (German):
English translation provided by @germantoenglish

On Thursday (20 May 2010), Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi will be awarded the International Democracy Award of the city of Bonn to honor her “unflinching commitment to rule of law and democracy in Iran.”

Awardee Shirin Ebadi

It was obvious that this year’s decision was not a difficult one for the jury of the International Democracy Award Association. In an unanimous vote they selected Shirin Ebadi. For decades, the 62-year-old Iranian citizen has been fighting for human rights and freedom in her home country, in spite of the restrictions imposed on her by the political rulers.

The lawyer, who after 1969 worked as Iran’s first female judge, particularly promotes equal rights for women in public life and the strengthening of children’s rights. In 2003 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her commitment.

Activism with consequences
Ebadi describes herself as a democratic woman of Islamic faith, and promotes the separation of state and religion. As a lawyer, Ebadi for years represented mainly dissidents and opposition members, which repeatedly caused conflicts with the authorities. In 2000 she was indicted for her activities as a lawyer, and spent 26 days in solitary confinement.

In 2006, the Iranian Ministry of the Interior closed her Center of Human Rights that she and other Iranian lawyers had founded in 2002. The Center promoted the rights of minorities and offered legal assistance to dissidents.

And there seems to be no end to the political pressure imposed on Ebadi, who is living in exile in Great Britain. In November of 2009, Iranian authorities cleared one of her bank deposit boxes, confiscated the entire content, and froze her bank accounts. Among the confiscated items in the deposit box were her Nobel Peace Prize certificate and medal.

By awarding Shirin Ebadi, the Bonn International Democracy Award Association “In view of growing internal political conflicts” wants to send a signal and “show solidarity with the democracy movement in Iran.”

Shirin Ebadi in Oslo

Ms Ebadi has confirmed her attendance at the prize-giving in the “Redoute” in Bonn. Federal Foreign Minister Westerwelle will deliver the speech in honor of the awardee. The International Democracy Award which is endowed with 10,000 Euro was first awarded to former Czech president Vaclav Havel in 2009.

The prize is awarded to figures who actively promote democracy and human rights in their home countries, or did so in the past. The Bonn International Democracy Award is initiated by the association of the same name. Among the founding members are two banks and Deutsche Welle.

Published in German weekly magazine “Focus” on 19 May 2010
Source (German):
English translation provided by @germantoenglish

As a matter of fact, Jafar Panahi was supposed to be participating in the jury of the Cannes film festival right now. But the Iranian filmmaker was detained 77 days ago. Now he has started a hunger strike.

The case of the Iranian film maker Jafar Panahi has taken a dramatic turn. “I swear by my belief, the cinema, that I will not stop my hunger strike”, the Iranian opposition website “Rahe Sabz” on Tuesday quoted him as saying. Panahi is apparently prepared to sacrifice his life in protest against the regime in his home country. His last will: He wants his body to be delivered to his family.

Reportedly, during a short telephone call from Evin prison the 49-year old film maker informed his wife that he refuses to eat and drink since Sunday and will not resume eating and drinking until his demands are met. After 77 days of detention he demands to be granted access to a lawyer and “unconditional freedom” until his case will be tried in court.

Panahi is a member of the jury that is currently deciding about the best film at the ongoing film festival on the French Riviera. His colleagues in Cannes put up an empty chair for Panahi in protest against the travel ban against him. The Iranian Ministry of Culture accused the filmmaker of having prepared a film about the protests that followed last year’s disputed presidential election. In 1995, Panahi was awarded the Golden Camera for the best debut film in Cannes for his movie “The White Balloon”.


Published in German at “Spiegel”, printed edition of 10 May 2010 (not available online)

Published in English at Spiegel Online International on 17 May 2010

Photo: AFP

It has been a year since the Iranian opposition took to the streets to protest the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But many dissidents who were forced to leave the country are still in limbo. Germany has still not decided which asylum seekers to accept.

Ali Kantoori doesn’t know what his tormentors look like. Instead, it is their voices that have been burned into his memory. He was blindfolded and stripped naked. “When we’re finished with you,” one of the voices said, “your hair will be as white as your teeth.”

Kantoori, who was a student of physical education, was imprisoned in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison for five months, including 25 days in a completely darkened cell. During the interrogations, the torturers broke several of his ribs and whipped the soles of his feet with electric cables. Sometimes, the 29-year-old Iranian recalls, they forced him and other prisoners to crawl on the ground, lick up the dirt and make animal noises. His family was eventually able to secure his release from that particular hell by paying €120,000 ($152,000) in bail money.

Today Kantoori lives in Nigde, a city in the heart of Turkey. By fleeing Iran in early March, he escaped arrest under a new warrant for engaging in “propaganda against the Islamic Republic.” Although his hair hasn’t turned white, Kantoori now suffers from severe depression and asthma attacks. […]

read full article

Published in Austrian daily “Der Standard” on 11 May 2010
Source (German):
English translation provided by @germantoenglish

Anti government protest in Tehran, 27 December 2009

Only one more month to go until the first anniversary of the disputed presidential elections that has left no stone unturned in Iran’s domestic politics. On 15th of June 2009, three days after the elections, the mass protests against the outcome of the elections broke out, followed by repression, arrests, and new protests.

Meanwhile, the anti government protests have abated due to the government’s brutal crackdown, but resistance is still evident throughout all social strata. Moreover, hundreds of opposition supporters, journalists, students, and other dissidents are still imprisoned without court sentences. By carrying out five death sentences , issued back in 2008 against Kurdish citizens charged with antirevolutionary activities, the regime sends a strong message, signaling that they are ready to use utmost violence.

Media under pressure
The media have been muzzled, the staff of editorial offices consists of people close to the Revolutionary Guards. The smallest hint can lead to the closure of a newspaper, something that only recently happened to the publication “Bahar” – it was forced to close after quoting former president Mohammad Khatami.

The circle of confidants of the regime, however, is shrinking. Many figures who only a few years ago were considered to be absolutely trustworthy have now been excluded from the center of power. One of them is former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Several proceedings have been initiated against his children; his son Mehdi faces arrest on returning to Iran from Europe, where he is currently residing.

Female student quota defeated
However, the rulers are nervous as well. And the measures they take only add to the rage of the Iranians. The idea of introducing a quota for female students – in order to defend male students from the successful women who flock into the universities and outperform their male fellow students – has flopped. Female students refuse to observe gender segregation in the lecture halls. Conservative pro-government ayatollahs now suggested to establish a ministry of moral surveillance.

Mysterious art theft
Also, a cultural revolution is underway: Several weeks ago, monuments on public squares in Tehran started to vanish over night – monuments of renowned Iranian intellectuals, poets, and artists. Nobody really knows who is behind this art theft. The institutions blame each other for not paying sufficient attention. Unknown perpetrators dismantle the monuments at night and remove them, even though some of them weigh more than a ton, and surveillance cameras sometimes capture the incidents.

The public is certain that radical government supporters are behind this cultural attack – backed by the security forces.
(M.M. from Tehran/, 11.5.2010)

Vigil outside the Parliament on occasion of the executions in Iran
Wednesday, 12 May 6-8 p.m.

Published by German public TV channel “ARD” on 9 May 2010
Source (German):
English translation provided by @germantoenglish

Executions in Iran are often carried out in public, and attended by onlookers.

The Iranian Judiciary has executed five members of a Kurdish organization. Four men and one women were hanged in the early morning hours in Evin prison north of Tehran. This was reported by the official news agency IRNA.

Kurds said to have carried out attacks
Farzad Kamangar, Ali Heidarian, Farhad Vakili, Mahdi Islamian and Shirin Elmholi were sentenced to death in 2008. IRNA, referring to information from the prosecutor’s office, reported that an appeals court confirmed the verdicts in March. They were charged with “Moharebeh” – a term describing crimes against the state and Islam.

Also, they are said to have been involved in bombings. Ms. Elmholi was accused of having planted an explosive device underneath a vehicle belonging to the Revolutionary Guards.

According to IRNA, the five executed individuals were members of the PEJAK organization which is considered the Iranian wing of the Kurdish Labour Party (PKK). In recent years, the Iranian-Iraqi border area repeatedly witnessed sporadic clashes between PEJAK fighters and Iranian forces.

Six drug dealers executed on Saturday
On Saturday, six convicted drug dealers were hanged in a prison in the city of Karaj to the West of Iran. The death sentences had been confirmed by the Supreme Court in Tehran shortly prior to the execution. Illegal drug trafficking involving more than 5 kg of drugs carries the death penalty in Iran.