July 16, 2012

Iran Civil Society: Confessions, Covering Up, and Chicken in the News

In this week’s review, a former IRGC general writes a letter (1) which reads like a confession and covers the mass executions of the 1980s, the nuclear issue, and the flawed 2009 presidential elections. International sanctions combined with economic mismanagement are causing pain in Iran as families find themselves on the streets (2), paychecks go unpaid, workers strike (3), and projects “sleep.” Reporters without Borders protest the detention of journalists in Iran (4) and the 12-year-old daughter of imprisoned lawyer Nassrin Sotoudeh receives notice that she cannot travel abroad (5). Iranians campaign against mandatory hijab (6) and a young woman writes a letter to an Ayatollah questioning its purpose: “Does this covering mean that I cease to exist in the society?” (6) The chief of the morals police calls for an end to state tv programming showing people eating chicken (7) while one mosque encourages its members to voluntarily give up their satellite dishes and receivers (8).

Activists Protest for Release of Iranian Journalists 

A demonstration organized by activists from Reporters without Borders outside Iran Air office in Champs Elysees Street in Paris attracted lots of attention and, once again, raised questions about the well-being of the jailed journalists in Iran.

Activists in Paris used mock injuries and shackles to express solidarity with their Iranian peers behind bars.(Click to tweet)

The Tools of Crime

On her Facebook page exiled Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad praised the protest, observing:

“This photo is the epitome of the suffering of Iranian journalists.

Bravo for the camaraderie of the activists.” Alinejad adds, “Look at this photo, all the tools of crime tools are seemingly there: computer, camera, pen, newspaper and…”

12-Year-Old Girl “Threat to National Security” 

Mehraveh Khandan, the 12-year-old-daughter of the prisoner of conscience, Nasrin Sotoudeh, has received an official memo banning her from leaving the country.(Click to tweet)

This follows last week’s report of the 95-year-old political activist, Ahamd Sadr Haj Seyed Javadi, receiving a similar verdict.

In both cases the recipients announced they had no intentions of leaving Iran and that they were surprised when they received the verdict.

Covering Up for What?

Khabaronline posted the story of Iranian Shi’ite cleric Ayatollah Safi Golpayegani’s response to a 21-year old woman who expressed her doubts about mandatory hijab.

Her letter reads [our translation]:

My name is Fatima. I am 21. I have seen you many times in Mashhad and think of you as a spiritual father. Sir, I am a ‘bad-hijab’ girl. To be honest, I don’t know what hijab is. Why is it mandatory for us? Why is it deemed a value? Is the veil a holy piece of precious cloth? What does a nine year old know of the veil?  Why is it only enforced in our religion? You mean other prophets had no idea about it?! 

Does this covering mean I cease to exist in the society? (Click to tweet)

How can I serve my society like that?

The senior cleric responded by writing of the hijab as a virtue and asking her to witness how horrible it is in “The West” where, in his words, “they have become incapable of resolving the ensuing mischief caused by the lack of hijab” and “48% of babies are born without a father’s name registered in their birth certificates.”

“No to Mandatory Hijab”

At the same time an online campaign was launched on Facebook with the title Na be Hejab-e Ejbari [No to compulsory hijab].(Click to tweet)

Many are sharing their photos online.

Examples are posted here.

Secret Letter from IRGC General

Mohammad Nourizad, a former pro-regime journalist who became a dissident in the wake of the 2009 presidential elections is in the news again.

Nourizad whose open letters to the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khamenei, gave rise to a letter-writing campaign, published a letter written by an ex-Revolutionary Guard General that was passed to him during a public event. The letter contained a confession and a rare insight into how some think within one of the most trusted arms of the regime.

Excerpts of the ex-General’s letter posted by Nourizad on his website read [our translation]:

I, along with a few other colleagues, were dismissed from the IRGC over the past 2-3 years. [After the green movement]

I want to tell you how we were brainwashed so that for long years we believed our betrayal was pure service… (Click to tweet)

Now that I look back I see how the judgment of normal people in the streets was more sound than ours…

Now I understand that bringing out one truckload filled with the corpses of 18 and 19 year olds from Evin prison during the 80s was nothing less than an atrocity…During those years I witnessed the scene myself but justified it as a revolutionary obligation. At that time I was blind, I had eyes that could not see the truth. I justified the atrocity as a necessity, and now I feel I put my foot in the blood of the people’s children…

There are many pure human beings within the IRGC who neither wish nor will allow their hands to become tainted with blood.  

Read more on The Guardian.

300+ Workers Strike in Southern Iran

More than 300 workers of an Iranian marine company, called Makindarya,  targeted by US sanctions, went on strike to protest the non-payment of their wages for more than four months.

Police Chief: No Chicken on TV!

(Click to tweet)
Esmaiel Ahmadi Moghadam, the chief of NAJA, Iran’s police, is well-known for his controversial remarks. Last week he demanded that the Islamic Republic’s Broadcasting organization (the IRIB) stop showing “people eating chicken” in the movies and on TV programs since state TV is “not supposed to function as a window shop for the display of all unattainable items.”  Ahmadi Moghadam backed his ruling with a social analysis and elaborated that “some people might not be able to afford [things shown on TV] and seeing this class gap between the rich and the poor, they might grab a knife and think they will get their own rights from the wealthy.”

Nearly all the sites and newspapers that have reported on the abovementioned speech by NAJA’s chief used Mehr News Agency in Iran as a source. The report has now been edited eliminate his comments about taking chicken off television. Not surprising, right?

Eggplant, the Chicken of the Poor

The police chief’s anti-chicken rhetoric comes after chicken prices skyrocketed. Hamshahri newspaper published in Tehran describes the situation as “out of control” with “normal people, officials, and statesmen” all complaining.

Euronews reported that many in Iran are becoming vegetarians by force:

A retired teacher from a small town says he has not bought any meat produce for the past three months. “I used to pay 92,000 rials (4 euros) per kilo of chicken and it’s now 140,000 per kilo (6 euros). The same is true for red meat. We’ve turned to aubergine, the chicken of the poor,” he jokes…

The opposition website Kaleme has even charted the rise of chicken price increase in Iran.

Phase 2 of the Targeted Subsidy Project Postponed

Meanwhile, the Iranian government postponed plans to start the second phase of targeted subsidy project as a “rational” decision “in light of the level of inflation.”

According to the new decision, the second phase of the subsidy reform project will begin next year at the start of the Persian New Year (21st of March 2013).

Homelessness on the Rise

Economic sanctions aimed at limiting Iran’s nuclear plans combined with bad economic policy are causing anguish. Trading and manufacturing companies are facing possible bankruptcy at worst or, at best, substantial layoffs. Unemployment is on the rise. Reports out of Iran tell of more and more families forced from their homes. A photojournalist for Mehr News captures a day in the life of one family forced into the streets by high prices.

De-Westoxifying

A report on Entekhab shows authorities in Iran introduced some innovation in their ongoing battle against the westoxicating effects of satellite television. Officials at one mosque in the capital, Tehran, have asked for satellite dishes and receivers to be handed over “voluntarily.” According to those officials 175 sets have been collected.

VACATION
Yes, even we take vacation. Next Monday there will be no weekly review. Look for news from us again on July 30th. And if you have civil society news to share with us, write to the editor (editor @ arsehsevom.net).

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