Geneva is Playing Host to a Summit for the International Labor Organization

The Defenders of Workers Rights, an Iranian organization recognized by the ILO, wrote an open letter to the organization documenting the situation of workers in Iran. In the letter, they state they cannot attend the summit because they have not been given permission to travel. The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has sent its own delegation to the summit.

In the detailed letter, The Defenders of Workers Rights reports the following:

  • Their leaders are imprisoned;
  • More than 200,000 Afghans work under harsh conditions in Iran;
  • The unemployment situation is critical and those who do have work do not get a living wage;
  • Many factories have been shut down as a result of sanctions;
  • Official policy punishes the working poor
  • More than 2.5 million children work.

At the labor summit, a letter from union representative Reza Shahabi was distributed. Shahabi is a board member and secretary treasurer of the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Vahed Bus Company. He faces a six-year sentence, fine, and a five-year ban on his activities. Amnesty International is currently sponsoring a letter-writing campaign on his behalf.

What crime have I committed to be incarcerated for six years and banned from any trade union activity for five years? Are demands for wage increase and benefits according to international standards and cost of living adjustments a crime? Is collecting membership dues from members in our syndicate a crime? Is asking for implementation of laws protecting workers from hazardous work environment a crime?

Is demanding job classifications illegal? Is asking for equality between women and men, and abolition of child labor a criminal act? Is compliance with health and safety codes and educating others in labor relations a crime? Is aspiring to have a dignified honorable human life compatible with international norms and standards illegal?

Pepsi Logo on the Moon, Hoax or PSYOPs?

Most eyes were fixed on the sky in Iran last week. First, of course, there was news of the transit of Venus, and Iranians joined millions all over the world to observe the once in a lifetime event. Shargh newspaper published reports of sightings of “strange lights” and “luminous objects” in the sky over a number of towns, which in the past have turned out to be drone sightings.

Last but not least, an internet hoax was taken seriously by many, including official news agencies, in Iran. Apparently, an unfounded report on the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) was the source of a rumor that Pepsi had managed to launch its latest promotional craze by beaming its logo onto the moon. Reports from Iran confirmed that thousands showed up on rooftops to watch the launch of the project for themselves. The hoax started a conversation within the Iranian blogosphere with many finding the incident reminiscent of 1979 when people all over Iran were convinced they saw Ayatollah Khomeini’s face in the moon. Iran Green Voice opposition website wrote [in translation]:

“Almost 33 years ago, at a time when there was no sign of either ‘the international internet’ or ‘the national internet’…word of mouth and common beliefs led many Iranians to seek the reflection of Ayatollah Khomeini’s face in the moon.… Today and after 33 years, when science and technology have advanced significantly, and coincidentally during anniversary days of Ayatollah Khomeini’s passing, reports from Iran confirm that hundreds of thousands of naïve Iranians ‘looked up at the moon to find Pepsi’s face this time’. But the Pepsi was apparently drunk on Earth and did not make it to the Moon.”

A BBC Persian commentary observed, “People’s credulity in face of suspicious news and hoaxes can serve as useful pieces of information for experts as well as security and intelligence apparatuses of a country. [They] can be manipulated at times of crisis and within psyops [psychological operations] and media projects.”

Nashr-e Cheshmeh Banned for “Insulting Imam Hussain”

The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance had already banned the well-known publisher, Nashr-e Cheshmeh for undisclosed wrong-doing. Late last week, however, cultural deputy of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Bahman Dorri, finally gave the reason behind the decision pertaining to revoke Cheshmeh’s permit.  Mr. Dorri stated that Nashr-e Cheshmeh’s permit was revoked for “insulting Imam Hussein, and this publisher cannot submit any new books to the ministry [for publication approval].” The cultural deputy insisted that persistence of the “offenses” by Nashr-e Cheshmeh and “posting explicit and immoral content on their website” led to the Ministry bringing charges to the judicial authorities to create a criminal record for the publisher.”

The cultural deputy of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance elaborated that around 120 works were unpublishable and described the number as “a sign of persistence on offense.”

Finalized: Uniform for University Students 

In the weekly review of May 7, 2012, Arseh Sevom reported on plans to launch a student uniform. This week the deputy Interior Minister of the Islamic Republic, Alireza Afshar, announced the official decree of the dress code, stating, “We hope the execution of the plan will make a suitable ground for the propagation of the hijab and the culture of modesty at universities.” Afshar told the Iranian Mehr News Agency, “The plans will be strongly pursued within educational, culture and art, media and civic promotional campaigns.”

New Academic Program: Islamic Jurisprudence and Environment

Back to Iranian universities, last week ISNA posted news of the introduction of a the graduate field of “[Islamic] Jurisprudence and Environment” which is to be administered both at the Masters’ and PhD levels in coordination with seminaries of Qom, Isfahan, and Shiraz.

Police Commander Slams Cinema

The female star of Asghar Farhadi’s academy award winner, A Seperation, attracted international attention when she shed tears before Euronews camera. (You may read our related story in Persian and English)

She is now receiving unwanted attention from the Social Deputy of Iranian Police, Bahman Kargar, who slammed the Iranian cinema industry threatening its members with the closure of “any festival, ceremony or movie” where “they do not observe the Islamic hijab and modesty.”  The police deputy described Leila Hatami’s recent Cannes festival dress as “obscene” and lamented, “An actress shakes hands with unrelated men in her obscene dress and shows up in foreign festivals like that. How could such a person be a role model for our youth?”

In response, many have posted messages of support for Leila Hatami on a public Facebook page. Expatriate journalist, Masih Alinejad, wrote, “Dressing up and being elegant is the best response for the prejudiced that see femininity and beauty as ugly and an elegant woman as ‘obscene‘ in their religion”.

The Families of Protest Victims Seeking Justice  

Enduring America posted a summary of Masih Alinejad’s article for BBC Persian on the latest situation of families of the victims of post-election protests:

“On the eve of the third anniversary of the 2009 [Presidential] elections, families of the victims of post-election protests, who have filed claims against authorities demanding accountability and are disappointed at the futility of their struggle, speak to us of their plight […] To date 55 families have reported the death of a close relative during the post-election riots, in various media interviews.”

The full article is available in Persian here and English here. The list of victims follows:

The 55 Victims

Amir Javadifar – Mohammad Kamrani – Mohsen Rouholamini – Ramin Aghazadeh Ghahremani – Ramin Pourandarjani – Ahmad Nejati Kargar – Maysam Ebadi – Ali Hasanpour – Sohrab A’raabi – Ahmad Haiemabadi – Mahram Chegini – Ramin Ramezani – Davood Sadri – Soroor Boroumand – Fatemeh Rajabpour – Hesaam Hanifeh – Hossein Akhtarzand – Kianoush Assa – Mahmoud Raeesi Najafi – Mostafa Ghanian – Lotfali Yousefian – Amir Hossein Toofanpour – Bahman Jenaie – Alireza Eftekhari – Saeed Abbasi – Seyed Elyas Mirjafari – Naser Amirnejad – Ashkan Sohrabi – Neda Agha Soltan – Masoud Khosravi Doostmohammd – Kaveh Sabzalipour – Massoud Hasheminajad – Abbas Disnad – Yaghoub Beravayeh – Ali Fathalian – Behzad Mohajer – Mohammad Javad Parnadakh – Mostafa Kiarostami – Fatemeh Semsarpour – Hamid Hossein Baig Araghi – Mohammd Hossein Fayz – Hossein Gholam Kabiti – Amir Yousefzadeh – Seydali Mousavi – Mostafa Karimbaigi – Shabnam Sohrabi – Shahram Farajzadeh – Mehdi Farhadirad – Amir Arshad Tajmir – Shahrokh Rahmani – Mohammad Ali Rasekhinia – Saneh Zhaleh – Mohammad Mokhtari – Behnood Ramezani

Two Prisoners of Conscience Die in Rajaieshahr Prison in Less than Two Weeks

Serious concern over the safety of prisoners of conscience reached a new level this week with the death of yet another inmate at Rajaieshahr [Gohardasht] prison near Tehran. Arseh Sevom’s weekly review of May 28, 2012 cited a report warning that prisoners were on high doses of anti-depressants often combined with narcotics.

Freedom Messenger reports of the death of a Kurdish political prisoner, Mohammad Mehdi Zalieh, who was described as “a sportsman [of] almost 46,” the report adds that Mr. Zalieh’s death happened following  “two decades of imprisonment and torture in Gohardasht prison”

The demise of Mehdi Zalieh, (full name: Mohamad Mehdi Zalieh Naghbandian) follows a similar incident from May 21 when Mansour Radpour, 44, died “after five years of imprisonment and resisting under the most horrific tortures,” The report states that there were bruises on Mr. Radpour’s body and his wife and daughter were arrested after protesting his death.

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) confirms both (1 and 2) reports. Both died of kidney failure.

Kidney Failure Epidemic Among Iranian Prisoners of Conscience

In addition to Mehdi Zalieh and Mansour Radpour, currently there are a few other prisoners of conscience all suffering from kidney failure: Hossein Ronaghi Maleki (dissident blogger), Mohamadreza Pourshajareh (dissident blogger who wrote under the pseudonym of Siamak Mehr), Javad Alikhani (student activist).

Nobel Laureate Appeals for the Health of Iranian Prisoners of Conscience

Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Laureate, along with the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the Iranian League for the Defence of Human Rights and Reporters Without Borders joined in condemning the treatment of Iranian prisoners of conscience. In their statement, they express concern and “firm condemnation” of “suspicious deaths” in Iranian jails. They warn that many are in danger of death including Narges Mohammadi, Mohammad Sedegh Kabodvand and Hossein Ronaghi Maleki:

“The Islamic Republic is taking advantage of the tension in the region and its talks with China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States about its nuclear programme to divert attention from the gravity of its human rights violations.”

Documenting Exectutions

Public Exectuion in Iran photographed by Ebrahim Noroozi

In the New York Times Lens blog, reporter Thomas Erdbrink writes about the photos of Ebrahim Noroozi, an Iranian photojournalist who documents public executions:

“I don’t go to executions for fun,” he explained over tea. “As a journalist I don’t want to pass judgment on whether they are good or bad, but the act itself disgusts me.”

Be the Voice of Syrian Democrats

The student group, Iranian Liberal Students and Graduates, has released a statement voicing its solidarity with Syrian democrats, stating:

“The Iranian Liberal students and graduates ask from all Iranians who fight for democracy to stand alongside Syrian people, who have asked over and over for the help of international community. We urge you to ask for an urgent humanitarian intervention in Syria and do whatever in your power to this end; to remove the Assad regime so that we may finally see the end of displacement, torture, massacre, and crimes against humanity in Syria.”