July 2, 2012

Prices Sky-Rocket, Concerts Cancelled, Show Us Your Papers, #SaveNarges

The Price of Chicken

The price of chicken went up 30% last month alone, while the Financial Times reports that grain is up 55.8%; fruit 66.6%, and vegetables 99.5%.

Economic sanctions against Iran have made life more complex. There is more and more news of pressure on vulnerable classes shared on social media and from sources inside Iran.

Aftab News writes [our translation]:

“Although the government has always spoken of the positive effect of the subsidies in reducing the gap between classes and reducing poverty, the reality in present day Iran reveals a different trend. In his latest announcement, the head of the Competition Council stated that urban households with a monthly income of less than 946 thousand tomans (almost 480 USD) fall below the poverty line.”

This announcement is based on data collected two years ago. The cost of living has risen significantly since. ISNA also posted the news on July 2.

Currency trader in Iran

A Mere “Typo”

The National Iranian Competition Center, the higher official entity to the Competition Council (both affiliated with the office of the president) issued an amendment stating that the figure 946,000 was actually in rials and not tomans and not “per household per month” but “per capita per month.” According to the amendment, the Iranian urban poverty line for the latest announced year (1389) is 946,000 rials (48 dollars per capita per month) and 580,000 rials in rural areas (29.5 dollars per capita per month).

With the price of a chicken rising to more that 150,000 rials and the cost of utilities rising, it’s hard to imagine surviving on this amount.

Speaking Out on the Economy from Evin Prison

Four labor and human rights activists currently serving sentences behind bars at Evin prison in Tehran have warned the Iranian government over “sky-rocketing prices” while condemning the recent arrests of labor activists. The four voiced their solidarity with the 10,000 signatories of the petition protesting the implementation of the second phase of targeted subsidies (mentioned in Arseh Sevom’s weekly review of June 25, 2012). An excerpt of the open letter of the four activists reads [our translation]:

“No commodity is left from the basic shopping of the people that has not been subject to 20 to 50 percent price increases…the sky-rocketing prices and undeniable inflation has brought workers, the retired, and wage earners to their wits’ end…” The activists then add: “We, the imprisoned labor and human rights activists…demand that workers’ and pensioners’ income be adjusted according to the real inflation rate and the current high prices and that workers have the right to form their own associations and independent syndicates.”

The four signatories are:

  1. Behnam Ebrahim Zadeh, Member of the Coordination Committee and a board member of the Committee to Pursue the Establishment of Labor Unions
  2. Reza Shahabi, Member of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company Syndicate
  3. Fariborz Raies Dana, Member of Workers’ Rights Defense Center
  4. Mohamad Sadigh Kaboudvand, Human Rights Activist

In a related report, families of the labor activists recently detained in Karaj gathered last week to protest.

“Afraid of Men and Women Mingling”

The long procession of cancelled concerts continued this week with the cancellation of a concert by popular singer Ehsan Khajeh Amiri that was to be held in Noor in Mazandaran province. According to Shargh Newspaper, the authorities ordered the organizers to “segregate the audience based on sex.” The singer rejected the condition, “We should not separate family members, and I will definitely not take part in such a concert.”

In recent weeks, concerts of Homayoun Shajarin in Tabriz, A Guitar band in Booshehr, Hossein Alizadeh and Pejman Haddadi in Neyshabour, and Mohsen Yeganeh in Bojnourd were all cancelled.

Photos of the Hezbollah vigilantes known as “Pressure Groups” in Iran have been shared on social media. The photos show similar bearded faces wearing un-tucked shirts in front of concert venues.

Explaining the reason for canceling Yeganeh’s concert a Bojnourdi official said, “We are afraid of men and women mingling together in an enclosed place.”

Neck-ties and Heavy Make-up Not Tolerated

Despite the ban on neck-ties in governmental offices, many places could still be found in big cities where ties were customary for the staff, some private hospitals included. The Deputy Commander of the NAJA (The Islamic Republic Disciplinary Forces), Ahmadreza Radan announced, “The police will confront private companies and hospitals who [encourage] wearing ties for men and heavy make-up for women in an organized manner.” This is yet another step in the new phase of the so-called social security project that has been pressuring women to observe stricter hijab and raiding public events.

UN Special Rapporteurs Condemn Executions 

Three United Nations Special Rapporteurs on Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, Christof Heyns, and Juan E. Méndez, issued a statement condemning the executions of four members of Iran’s Ahwazi Arab population. They also expressed their “regret” over the frequent application of the death penalty despite numerous calls for a moratorium. The statement points out that between 140-220 executions have taken place since the beginning of 2012, adding that the majority of these are for drug-related offenses, which are not considered capital offenses under international law.

The three stated:

“Executions in public add to the already cruel, inhuman and degrading nature of the death penalty and can only have a dehumanizing effect on the victim and a brutalizing effect on those who witness the execution.”

Read the full statement here.

Show Me Your Papers

According to the opposition site Kaleme, transportation services, supermarkets, bakeries, and taxis have been directed by governmental authorities to abstain from providing foreign nationals with services or selling them goods.

The general manager of Foreign Nationals and Immigrants of Fars Province stated,“To ensure foreign nationals are not carrying any infectious diseases, EVERY CITIZEN can ask for their identity documents upon seeing them in public places including buses, public transportation, and in bakery queues. Aliens are obliged to carry their legal permit and ID documents with them at all times.

Afghans are now banned from residing in 31 cities in Iran.

Don’t Use Sanctions to Restrict Access to Technology

United4Iran joined a coalition of organizations in sending an open letter to major tech companies calling upon those companies to make sure their services are not unnecessarily blocked for individuals in sanctioned countries including Iran. The recipients include Go Daddy, Oracle, Google, Apple, McAfee, Geeknet, Adobe, Rackspaces, Yahoo, AVG and Facebook.

The practice is called “reverse filtering.” It refers to the act of preventing actors in sanctioned countries from exercising free speech by denying access to tools. A chart of tech companies unnecessarily blocking access to their software can be found here.

Father Taken Hostage to Force Son to Close Facebook Page

Shahin Najafi’s song Naqhi was deemed blasphemous and resulted in death fatwas against the rapper. Now the father of an Iranian asylum seeker in the Netherlands is being held because of his contributions to a a satirical Facebook page called “Campaign to remind Shi’tes about Imam Naghi.” The 25-year-old  Yashar Khameneh says Iranian security forces have taken his father hostage and are forcing him to relinquish passwords to his Facebook accounts and emails and report the names of other page administrators and contributors. He claims he is not an administrator of the site.

Support for Imprisoned Activist

The imprisoned human rights activist and journalist, Mohamad Sadigh Kaboudvand, is still behind bars on the charges of “acting against the security of the Islamic Republic” and “Propagating against the system” while his son is in critical health condition. More than 40 NGOs and political entities have signed a petition calling for his release and attention to the human and health needs of all prisoners in Iran.

Bahman Ahmadi Amouee Transferred to Solitary Cell

Prisoner of conscience and journalist, Bahman Ahmadi Amouee, has been transferred to solitary confinement in Rajaie Shahr prison of Karaj. No explanation has been given for the move. Previously, Mr. Amouee was taken to solitary confinement while holding a memorial service for the late Hoda Saber with his ward-mates at Evin prison.

Bahman Ahmadi Amouee’s wife, Zhila Baniyaghoob, recounted her own experiences on the third anniversary of their arrest by security forces:

“The first days, I was in solitary. I would be interrogated ten to twelve hours every day, sometimes seventeen-eighteen hours. The interrogator was very active and highly motivated. He would even come to Evin’s Ward 209 for interrogation on Fridays (the weekend in Iran). Some interrogators were gentle; some were rough; some were polite; some impolite …

“But they would all use threats. Some would use threats very gently, smiling while saying: ‘We’ll execute you! You’ll see. This is not like before. This is very different from the other times you’ve been in prison. This time, it’s like the 1980s. You have been waging war [against God].’

“I learned later on that Bahman and many other detainees had also been repeatedly threatened with death.”

#SaveNarges

Image courtesy of Mohsen Naderi


Narges Mohammadi, the deputy head of Iran’s Defenders of Human Rights Center (founded by Shirin Ebadi), is serving an illegal sentence in Zanjan prison. Her health is in danger. She wrote a letter to Tehran’s revolutionary court prosecutor detailing her situation: http://persianbanoo.wordpress.com/ (reported on in last week’s review).

She wrote: “The respected officials who are in possession of my medical records, know very well that keeping me in the stressful conditions of prison, especially where criminals (murderers, death row inmates, drug traffickers, etc…) are held, conditions that, for the good of society I will not describe in detail, is equivalent to intentional murder, for which the officials will be directly responsible.”

A tweet storm was organized for Wed, June 27 to bring attention to the cause of Narges Mohammadi. You can read more about the tweet storm on the site of Vattandoost.

Some of the tweets follow:

#SaveNarges Mohammadi : “The officials are responsible for my slowly dying” http://goo.gl/tYsnw #iranelection @BBCWorld #humanrightsKhoshkeledoc

“@AmisIran: #SaveNarges : “I’m not involved in politics, I’m only a human rights activist” http://j.mp/MtUm0z  @CNN @BBC @Un_women” S.  Tan 三里

Profile | Nationalist, Religious, and Resolute: Narges Mohammadi – Tehran Bureau. #Iran http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2012/05/profile-nationalist-religious-and-steadfast-narges-mohammadi.html#ixzz1yXODXlM2 #SaveNarges Marmar

#SaveNarges Mohammadi Photo of her 5-yr-old twins, Ali & Kiana, staying strong for their mother. http://twitpic.com/a11ya4 @CNN @BBC @Oprahsalmansima

See the full story on Storify.

“Half of the World’s Opium is Consumed in Iran, Yay!”

In Hamshahri, the head of the Asia and Oceania Toxicology Association, Reza Afshari, announced that 50% of all the opium in the world is consumed in Iran. Afshari was quoted as saying, “…Fortunately it is opium that has appeal in Iran and it is less harmful than other narcotics.”

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