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

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

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

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

Boobquake day was born.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Nathalie Besèr, Dagens Nyheter correspondent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daimler's chief Dieter Zetsche (Photo: ap)

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When I remind her of this, she replies heatedly:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ghogha shakes her head.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published on the website of German weekly newspaper “Die Zeit” on 23. March 2010
Source (German):
English translation kindly provided by Josh Manning

Beijing is buying less oil from Iran and increasing its business involvement with Iraq. The aim could be to protect themselves from the damage of the UN sanctions against Tehran, says an observer.

Oil field in China. Because its own supply is not enough, the country deals with the Middle East. ©Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

by Frank Sieren

The Chinese are changing their oil strategy with the Middle East. For over a year, China has been buying less oil from Iran. During February last year, the rate of oil import by the Chinese amounted to 16.5 percent and since then has continued to sink steadily to only 8.5 percent.

However, Chinese shares have increased with all other major oil suppliers. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has become China’s major oil supplier, selling almost twice as much oil to China as Iran.

The Saudis are even supplying less crude oil to the US than they are supplying Iran with, according to a study by the James Town Foundation: “China has reduced its dependency on Iranian oil”, said Israeli Professor Isaac Yitzhak Shichor, author of the study. Iran is still a major oil supplier but “in light of UN sanctions, the Chinese are no longer so dependent on Iran”. The Chinese are preparing for the possible scenario in which it is no longer favorable to place themselves against the rest of the world.

At the same time, China is heavily involved with neighboring Iraq and its development of new oil fields. Out of the ten fields that were auctioned off since June last year, China was able to grab hold of the largest share. According to the Iraq Oil Report, China will also sign contracts for the Missan complex this week which will contain three additional smaller fields. Talks with a Japanese-led consortium, which were until recently still in the race, were abandoned.

Thus the Chinese were able to further extend their lead. They now have over 26 percent of the auction secured reserves. The Russians came out with 14 percent. The US achieved only 12 percent which is less than half than the Chinese. The remaining shares went to other European and Asian countries.

Published by Austrian daily newspaper “Der Standard” on 20. March 2010
Source (German):–und-TV-Zensur-stoppen
English translation by @germantoenglish

An export ban on equipment of Siemens and Nokia is considered possible

EU calls on Iran to halt censorship

The European Union is considering measures against Iran for disturbing the transmission of programs of foreign broadcasting agencies, such as Deutsche Welle and BBC. “The EU calls on the authorities in Iran to immediately halt the jamming of satellite transmission and the censoring of the internet”, it says in a document that was made available to Reuters. Otherwise the EU member states will reserve their right to take counter measures, the statement adds. The document will be presented at a conference of the foreign ministers of the EU on Monday.

Initially, it was not clear which measures the EU could take. According to an article recently published in the French newspaper “Le Figaro”, an export ban on technology provided by companies like Siemens and Nokia that enabled the Iranian government to filter e-mails and eavesdrop mobile phone calls could be a possible move. Moreover, the French satellite operator Eutelsat, which is particularly affected by the jamming, could block the transmission of Iranian programs to other countries.

In December 2009, Iran started to jam foreign satellite transmissions, and increased the jamming prior to the celebrations on the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in February. At that time, nearly 70 foreign radio and television stations that transmit via Eutelsat were jammed.


Published on the website of German weekly magazine “Focus” on 19. March 2010
Source (German):
English translation by @germantoenglish

(Picture: Archive)

The opposition in Iran is not coming to terms with the disputed re-election of President Ahmadinejad. While their leader, Moussavi, imploringly addressed his supporters, another opposition member was detained.

On Friday, Mir Hossein Moussavi prepared his supporters for a “year of persistence” in the struggle against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. A withdrawal would be tantamount to “treason against Islam, the nation, and the blood of the martyrs”, said Moussavi in a message published on his website on the occasion of the Persian New Year, the festival of Nowrooz. Considering the “justified demands” of the people after the disputed re-election of Ahmadinejad in June, the opposition will continue to face “problems”. Moussavi questions the official outcome of the presidential elections in which he was defied by Ahmadinejad.

Khatami calls for more freedom of opinion
Reformist former president Mohammad Khatami called on the government to release political prisoners on the eve of the Iranian New Year, which will begin next Sunday, and to allow criticism within the regulatory framework. “We should learn our lessons from the recent events and take a new direction” the former president, who supports the Iranian opposition movement, was quoted by the website

In the mass protests against Ahmadinejad’s re-election last June dozens of government critics were killed, several thousands of protesters were detained. The Iranian judiciary issued ten death sentences and several heavy prison terms in connection with the protests.

Detention and ban on political activity for supporter
Apparently, an ally of reformist ex president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has now also been imprisoned. According to Mir Hossein Moussavi’s website, Hossein Marashi was transferred to Tehran’s notorious Evin prison after an appeals court confirmed his one-year prison sentence on charges of “propaganda against the Islamic Republic.” He also received a six year ban on political activity. Marashi belongs to a political group that endorsed Moussavi in his election campaign.

Published in German daily newspaper “Tageszeitung” on 17. March 2010
Source (German):
English translation kindly provided by Josh Manning

Violent confrontations broke out between the opposition and security forces in major cities nationwide. In Tehran, 50 people have been detained.

Seen at a demonstration in Budapest (Picture: Reuters)

Violent confrontations took place on Tuesday between opposition activists and security forces in the capital of Tehran and throughout major cities. According to statements by the police, fifty people were taken into custody in Tehran alone. The festival Chaharshanbe Soori is held every year on the eve of the last Wednesday before the year’s end. The Iranian New Year starts on March 21st. The festival dates back to pre-Islamic times 3,000 years ago. According to the custom, one must jump over seven piles of burning kindling at dusk and repeat: My paleness belongs to you, your redness belongs to me. Songs are then sung and sweet foods are enjoyed.

In the past year, the festival has been increasingly politicized. Particularly the youth have taken up the occasion to vent their frustrations over the unbearable conditions in the country. This year, the festival was another opportunity for the opposition to continue their protests.

The regime had taken numerous precautions. After more than 30 years, it supposedly came to revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s mind that Chaharshanbe Soori was incompatible with Islamic principles. He released a religious directive known as a fatwa, saying that the festival originates from the time of fire worship and thus is “directed against reason”.

Moreover, police, Revolutionary Guards and Basij-militias had deployed maximum security measures to control important roads. Starting in the early afternoon, helicopters were circling around the capital. At some crossroads, even tanks stood ready. The commander of the Revolutionary Guard’s security in Tehran, Hossein Sadjedinia, explained on Monday that his troops were preparing for a maneuver that would be practiced should they be placed on high alert. “We will deliver harsh punishment to anyone who causes unrest”, he said.

Some were discouraged and stayed home. However, this did not prevent them from celebrating the festival with firecrackers and fireworks in the streets outside their homes. Additionally, they rose to the rooftops to shout “Allahu Akbar” and “Down with the dictator”. Others took up the battle with the security forces, wich resulted in warlike conditions in some urban districts. Regarding the number of injured, there is no information.

Published in German daily newspaper “Süddeutsche Zeitung” on 15. March 2010
Source (German):
English translation by @germantoenglish

by Stephan Handel
The protesters are outraged: “Down with the Islamic Republic!”, “Democracy for Iran!”, they shout. T-Shirts and banners carry slogans like “Stop executions in Iran” and “We demand freedom of the press”. About 80 Iranian exiles – the police later spoke of 45 – gathered on the Promenadeplatz opposite the hotel “Bayerischer Hof” Friday night. “We would rather get closer, but the police did not allow us to”, says a protester. It is evident that the hotel is under tighter security than usual. Tonight the Iranian Consulate invited to a reception to celebrate the Persian New Year. “We want to make it clear that there is no space for this in Munich”, says the protester.

They contacted the hotel management, saying that the Iranian regime denies the Holocaust, is a dictatorship, and a regime of injustice. They asked the hotel whether it really wishes to harm its good reputation. The kind, but brief response of Innegrit Volkhart, member of the hotel management, said: The hotel maintains good contacts to all consulates of internationally acknowledged states, and holds a politically neutral position. Moreover, from a legal point of view it was impossible to cancel the concluded contract. The protesters are scandalized: “They would have had to pay a small fine at the most.”

Thus, they decided to at least be present on the spot. This is the first time that different organizations of expat Iranians gather for an event: “Münchner Hilfe für Iran”, the “Solidarity movement for Kurdistan”, the Monarchists, and others. And it becomes evident ho difficult it is to efficiently consolidate the protest: If, for example, the monarchists display their flag, the others refuse to be in the same photo with them.

122 names are being read out – names of people who were convicted and executed after the elections. At the same time, on the other end of the square, about 100 invited guests are arriving; the press is not wanted. Further information is not available.

Published in Swiss daily newspaper “Neue Züricher Zeitung” on 15. March 2010
Source (German):
English translation kindly provided by Josh Manning

The federal court categorically denies legal aid to the regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran. (Picture: Reuters)

Swiss Federal court issues a firm no because of the precarious human rights situation.

The federal court categorically refuses any legal aid to the regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran. The judges in the city of Bellinzona in Switzerland did not believe Iran would respect human rights even if Iran was to explicitly guarantee this.

(sda) The Islamic Republic will receive no legal aid from Switzerland. This was decided by the federal court which justified the decision with the human rights situation in Iran. However, the Federal Office of Justice would have granted legal aid under clearly defined conditions.

In 2006, the Islamic Republic had requested legal assistance from Switzerland in a fraud case. The case goes back to a Portuguese man who lives today with his family in Cyprus. He was supposed to have received 120 million U.S dollars from the Iranian government so he could purchase an Airbus.

According to statements in Iran’s plea, he put the money in his own pocket and used it to pay bribes. The funds were transferred through different accounts and partially delivered to his family members.

List of Court Demands
Switzerland was asked for documents relating to bank accounts of those affected and for the blocking of the accounts. The federal prosecutor agreed to give legal aid in 2009 but left it up to the Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) to demand guarantees from Iran if necessary.

As a result, the FOJ created a list of demands. Iran should ensure the physical and mental integrity of the detained persons be preserved. Moreover, neither physical punishment nor the death penalty be imposed on them, nor will they be trialed in a special court.

The presumption of innocence in criminal procedures and the right of the accused to defense were to be protected. Additionally, Swiss representatives should be able to visit defendants at any time. The Federal Criminal Court has upheld a complaint from the Portuguese man and his family. Since then, any continuation of legal aid was categorically prohibited.

Swiss Sanctions Hardly Deterring
According to the decision by the judges in Bellinzona, it is clear that serious human rights violations are occurring in Iran. The UN had found cases of torture, physical abuse, enforcement of the death penalty, arbitrary arrests, and unfair prosecutions.

Not even the submission of a guarantee bond could reduce the risk of violations of human rights to a tolerable level. It should be observed that Iran does not abide by the Non-Proliferation Treaty, of which it is a signatory, and does not recognize its international obligations and instructions given by the UN Security Council.

Iran even accepts the risk of possible embargos on various goods. With this history, it seems questionable whether any measures taken by Switzerland in case of violations of the guarantee bond would have a deterring effect. Thus, Iran’s plea can by no means be approved. What was left out of the decision were the considerations of the FOJ that a refusal of legal aid will not help improve the Iranian human rights situation, and Switzerland most likely just contributes to the fact that those who benefit from corruption will go unpunished.

Broadcasted on German public service TV channel „ARD“, news broadcast „Tagesthemen“ 10. March 2010
Source (German): (click on link to watch the video)

by Stefan Buchen

In Turkish cities like this one, one finds the forgotten heroes of the protest movement against the Iranian regime.

We meet three Iranian students who have fled to Turkey. They wear the marks of the torture they endured in Iranian prisons, and out of concern for their families in Iran, they do not want to be identified.

When one of them was beaten up in the prison of torture, several of his vertebrae were smashed. This was his punishment for participating in the demonstrations against Ahmadinejad’s regime.

„I am in great pain when I stand, when I lie down, and when I walk it is absolutely unbearable. I don’t know what to do anymore“. He then shows us the torture marks on his legs. He was beaten with electrical batons, he says.

Turkey will not grant them asylum. Western governments and media celebrated people like them last summer, because they took to the streets in protest against Ahmadinejad.

This student is barely able to talk since he was tortured in detention. „I had to take off my clothes“, he says, stuttering, in a trembling voice. „The prison guards beat me up and then put a bucket in front of me, filled with excrements. ‚Eat that!’ they told me.“

After some minutes he has to stop the interview. All he wants is to get some fresh air.

The names of the three students and about 60 other Iranian dissidents who fled to Turkey have been presented to the Federal Government months ago. For a long time all international appeals to Germany to get involved and help remained unheard.

On Monday, a surprising announcement was made during a press conference of the Federal Government. „We decided to accept Iranian citizens from abroad in Germany. This applies to a series of substantiated individual cases, by an agreement with the Foreign Office.“

However, who exactly these individual cases are, and how long it will take, remains entirely unclear even after the announcement.

This family also hopes to be granted refuge in Germany. In August, the journalist Mohammad Zamani with his wife and child fled to Turkey. He had worked for a renowned dissident newspaper, and published articles about the protests against Ahmadinejad, about the brutal repression.

„The security authorities warned me: We know that you write those articles, we know your political past. Watch out that we will not kill you along with your wife and child.“

Zamani shows us the written summonses he received from the Intelligence Service. The last one is from 17. August. His charge: Inciting the rioters. For him this was a signal to flee. But even in Turkey he is not save. „Iranian security authorities called me and threatened me. They said they would not allow that I will ever live in peace.“

The Zamani family, as well as many other dissidents, now hope that Germany will follow through with its announcement to accept them as refugees.

Published in German weekly magazine “Der Spiegel”, 8. March 2010
Source (German):,1518,682361,00.html

The Federal Republic of Germany, as a “sign of solidarity”, intends to grant refuge to Iranians who can not return to their home country for fear of persecution. The Federal Ministry of the Interior expressed deep concern about the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic.

Injured protester in Tehran, December 2009 (Picture: dpa)

Berlin – Germany is going to provide refuge to Iranian opposition members who are not able to return to their home country for fear of persecution. This was decided on Monday, following consultations with the Foreign Office, said a spokeswoman of the Ministry of the Interior in Berlin. The decision applies to “substantiated individual cases”.

In order to ensure security for the persons concerned, the Ministry did not reveal any details about numbers or individual cases. The question who will benefit from this regulation is currently being discussed with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The Federal Republic of Germany is gravely concerned about the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic. The decision is meant to be a “sign of solidarity and support” to Iranians affected by the situation.

After the disputed presidential election in June last year, the opposition in Iran has not ceased to wage protests. Many people were killed or injured in the demonstrations. Numerous dissidents were arrested, and only recently the film maker Jafar Panahi was detained. The opposition accuses President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of massive electoral fraud.


Published in the German daily newspaper “Tagesspiegel” on March 3 2010
Source (German):;art137,3046404

Jafar Panahi, one of Iran’s most important independent film makers, was arrested in his house near Tehran Monday night. He and his wife, his daughter, and 15 guests were taken to an undisclosed location.

Picture: Jens Kalaene/dpa dpa

Among the guests were other film makers, directors, and actors. As reported by Panah Panahi, the son of the film director, on an opposition website, the agents in civilian clothing confiscated computers and personal belongings.

The 49-year-old director who won a Silver Bear for his film “Offside” in 2006 and the Golden Lion in Venice for “The Circle” in 2000, is a supporter of opposition leader Moussavi. He criticized the disputed result of the presidential election in the summer of 2009. Only in February, Panahi was barred from leaving the country to attend the Berlin Film Festival, where he had been invited as a guest of honor and a participant in a panel about the future of the Iranian cinema. For some time now he has been supervised by the Iranian authorities.

About the reasons for the arrest, Tehran’s prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi said that Panahi was not arrested for his work or for political reasons, but for being suspected of having “committed crimes”. He did not name further details.

Last summer, the Iranian-Canadian documentarian and reporter Maziar Bahari was held in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison for 118 days. Whether the arrest of an internationally renowned director like Panahi and a group of dissidents is part of a well-proven method of intimidation – particularly since it happened in the run-up of the Persian New Year in March – or if a new dimension of repression has been reached, depends on whether Panahi and the others will be released soon. Panahi had been arrested before, when he on July 30 attended the mourning ceremony for the shot student Neda Agha Soltan. However, he was released only hours later. Since he, as a member of the jury at the film festival in Montréal, openly showed his support for the Iranian opposition by wearing a green scarf, he is no longer allowed to leave the country. He was also refused a permit to visit the film festival in Mumbai last October.

Jafar Panahi, who started as an assistant to Abbas Kiarostami, has a history with censorship. In 2004, he said the price for independent film making in Iran was that often one does not get to see one’s own films in an Iranian cinema.

When his film “Offside” was shown at the Berlinale in 2006 – a tragicomedy with political subtext about a girl who dresses up as a boy to be able to watch a soccer match in a stadium – he explained: “We have to use tricks in order to be able to shoot. For ‘Offside’ I registered a different film, with a different script and a different director. By the time the authorities found out about it, it was too late to stop the film.” “Offside” is Panahi’s last film so far – he has not been able to shoot since.

His colleague Rafi Pitts, who currently lives in Paris and whose contribution for the Berlinale, “Time of Wrath”, will be in the cinemas on 8. April, told the “Tagesspiegel”: “It is ridiculous to arrest film makers, artists, writers or journalists, who do nothing but look at their society and comment on what is happening. They do something constructive, nothing destructive. Our government must understand that they can not prevent anybody from raising their voices. No matter how hard they try, they will not succeed.”

Since Ahmadinejad took office in 2005, several directors deplore the worsening working conditions. That is why there is a growing number of underground film makers who work without a permit and face great risks. Furthermore, many directors have boycotted the official “Fajr” film festival in Tehran that took place in February.
chp (with Reuters, dpa)

Published in Swedish daily Sydsvenska Dagbladet on Thursday, 4 March 2010.
Source (Swedish):
English translation kindly provided by Anusche Noring

By Björn Sjö and Ulf Clarén
Published on 4 March 2010, 9:08 am. Updated on 4 march 2010, 9:14 am.

Malmö is set to become the safe haven for Iranian writer and human rights activist Parvin Ardalan. The city is offering to pay for her housing and living expenses for a period of one of two years.

On Wednesday, the executive board of the city of Malmö adopted a decision to provide a grant amounting to 300,000 Swedish kronor to offer refuge to a writer who has been forced to flee from his or her home country. In doing so, the city of Malmö joins the ranks of 26 cities of refuge around the world which offer protection to writers living under threat.

“There is still a formal application that needs to be signed, so I cannot announce the name yet”, says Anna Lyrevik, interim cultural director of the city of Malmö.

According to information obtained by Sydsvenska Dagbladet, the person in question is the Iranian writer, human rights activist and winner of the Olof Palme Prize Parvin Ardalan.

She is currently attending the United Nations Women’s Conference held this week in New York. Sydsvenska Dagbladet has not succeeded in reaching her for a comment.

Her Swedish-Iranian writer colleague Azar Mahloujian has also learned that Parvin Ardalan is to become the first writer to be offered refuge by the city of Malmö.

Azar Mahloujian is the spokeswoman of the Writers in Prison Committee and a member of the board of directors of Swedish PEN. International PEN is one of the organisations that decide on which individuals are in need of protection.

“This is very good news for Parvin. She will be given the opportunity to work in Malmö for an entire year without having to be afraid of the [Iranian] authorities and censorship”, Azar Mahloujian tells Sydsvenska Dagbladet.

She reports that Parvin Ardalan has been staying in Sweden ever since she arrived in the country last autumn to receive the Olof Palme Prize which she was hindered from collecting in 2008, when Iranian police arrested her after forcing her off her Stockholm-bound plane at Tehran’s airport.

A few months later, she was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for writing and publishing articles on how Iranian legislation discriminates against women.

Despite several suspended prison sentences being issued against her, the Iranian authorities have not succeeded in shutting her up.

Malmö’s commitment to serve as a city of refuge implies that the city will provide for the writer’s living expenses and accommodation for a period of one year, which may be renewed for another year. No services are required in return.

“If the writer wishes to simply stay in his or her flat and write, he or she is free to do so. But many will most probably want to do more than that, and if a writer wishes to engage in activities here, we will naturally help him or her to establish the necessary contacts”, interim cultural director Anna Lyrevik says.

The head of Malmö’s public library, Elsebeth Tank, is one of the municipal directors who have declared an interest in helping out in this respect. In an internal memo forwarded to the library’s staff, she stresses the importance of building up a network around the writer and asks for suggestions as to who could imagine being part of that network.

According to Anna Lyrevik, the idea of Malmö becoming a city of refuge has been pushed forward by the city’s administrative staff for several years.

“The most important thing is to provide protection for the writers. But in addition, this can also be beneficial to Malmö’s cultural life, of course.”

1. Film director in Iran abducted: Arrested for wearing green scarf
Published in German daily “Frankfurter Rundschau” on 2 March 2010
Source (German):

Jafar Panahi (picture: dpa)

After the Iranian director Jafar Panahi had previously been barred from exiting Iran to attend a panel at the Berlin Film Festival “Berlinale”, he was now arrested in Tehran Monday night. The surrounding circumstances of his arrest reveal quite a lot about the general situation in Iran: According to information provided to the reformist internet newspaper Rahe Sabz by Panahi’s son Panah Panahi, a private gathering was disrupted by several plainclothes foces (“lebas shakhsi”).

The police officers, when informed about the incident via an emergency call, claimed that they were not in charge, since it was an operation of the Intelligence Service. During the five-hour-raid of the house, documents and computers were confiscated. Panahi, his wife, his daughter as well as 15 guests are said to have been taken to an undisclosed location.

Reportedly, the filmmaker Mahnaz Mohammadi and the director Mohammad Rasoulof are said to be among the arrested.

While the prosecutor in charge, Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi, claimed that the incident had no political background, other sources report that Panahi’s arrest was related to a planned film project about last year’s unrest. Since official media ignore those events, Iranian filmmakers had been protesting against the tightening censorship and the violent crackdown on protesters by publishing videoclips on youtube, and boycotting major film festivals. Even during the time of the electoral campaign many film directors had supported opposition leader Moussavi with electoral spots.

Jaafar Panahi is one of those critical filmmakers who, while contributing to the good reputation of the Iranian cinema on the international scene, are subjected to censorship in their own country. His multiply awarded films “The Circle”, “Crimson Gold”, and “Offside” were not shown in Iran either not at all, or were limited to special viewings.

49-year-old Panahi, who has never made a secret of his resentment toward Ahmadinejad, had publicly expressed his solidarity with the protest movement and the detained young Iranians by wearing a green scarf during the Montreal Film Festival in September 2009. Already in July, Panahi had been arrested when he, together with Mohammadi and another colleague, Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami, attended a service for the victims of the protest rallies at Behesht-e Zahra, the cemetery of martyrs.

Since such short-term arrests are part of the range of suitable intimidation tactics – especially in the run-up to new announced protests on occasion of the Persian New Year in March – it is to be expected that Panahi will soon be released.


2. The German public radio channel “Deutschlandradio” has published a short news item on its website as well:

Iran: Arrested filmmaker Panahi allegedly committed a crime
The renowned Iranian film director Jafar Panahi has been arrested in Tehran. A prosecutor in Tehran told news agency ISNA that Panahi was arrested neither for his professional work, nor for political reasons. He is suspected of having committed a crime. The prosecutor did not reveal further details.
49-year-old Panahi is a supporter of the Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Moussavi. Online media affiliated with the opposition reported that Panahi was arrested in his house along with his wife, his daughter, and other government critics.
(4 p.m.)


3. Another dispatch was released on the website of German weekly magazine “Focus” today

Film director Panahi arrested

The renowned Iranian film director Jafar Panahi, who had already been banned from attending this year’s film festival in Berlin, has been arrested in Tehran. This was reported by government opponents.

Opposition websites quoted Panahi’s son, according to whom Panahi was arrested Monday night together with his wife, his daughter, and other dissidents.

According to this information, all in all 18 people were arrested during a private gathering in Panahi’s house, and sent to an unknown location. There is no official confirmation as of yet.

49-year-old Panahi had been invited to attend the 60th Berlin Film Festival in February as a honorary guest. He is considered one of the most important independent filmmakers in Iran. In 2000, his film “The Circle” won the Golden Lion in Venice, his film “Offside” was awarded a Silver Bear in Berlin in 2006.


4. The important German weekly newspaper “Die Zeit” has also published an article on this issue, which basically contains the news contained in the above mentioned articles, so I will not translate it here and just give the link to the German source for the sake of making this roundup more complete.

Published in the German local daily for the city of Cologne, “Kölner Stadtanzeiger”, on 28 February 2010
Source (German)
Remarks in square brackets were added by the translator

A total of eight death sentences have [recently] been carried out in Iran. Last year more than 300 people lost their lives after being sentenced to death in Iran, according to human rights organizations.

A total of eight death sentences have been executed in Iran (Picture: dpa)

TEHRAN – Eight death sentences have been carried out in Iran. Local news agencies report that three convicted murderers were hanged in the city of Birjand in the Northeast of Iran. In the city of Kerman in the Southeast of Iran five people were hanged after being convicted of drug trafficking. No information was available on the exact time of the executions.

According to the reports, the three murderers who allegedly had killed several policemen were executed in the presence of the families of their victims.

In Iran, crimes like murder, rape, armed robbery and large-scale drug trafficking are on the list of crimes carrying the death penalty. The Islamic country, along with China, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and the USA, is one of the five countries carrying out about 95 per cent of all death penalties world wide.

As reported by human rights organizations, more than 300 people died in Iran last year after being sentenced to death. Critics accuse the government in Tehran to have an increasing number of opposition members killed by execution under the guise of the law.

China, with an annual rate of about 1700 executions, leads the world wide list of enforced death penalties.(dpa)