Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Please sign this petition to the UN and pass it on to others:

Open Letter Against Deadly Government Violence in Iran
The Islamic Republic of Iran under the Ahmadinejad administration and at the behest of Ayatollah Ali Khamenie is increasingly clinging to power through the use of repression and military force against all civil and constitutional laws of Iran.

The Iranian regime has engaged in all imaginable uncivil behavior and actions including outright killings, mass arrests, torture, and rape of Iranian citizens who have participated in peaceful civil demonstrations or in grieving for deaths of their loved ones.

Major media have reported that on Saturday and Sunday Iranian government security forces opened fire into crowds of protesters who gathered for commemoration of Tāuso’ā and Āshurā, killing at least 10 people, wounding 100s, and arresting over 1000 at this time. The use of violence against peaceful civilians exercising their human rights is against any international rule of conduct and against the Islamic Republics’ own civil and constitutional laws.
We, the undersigned:
• Unequivocally and vociferously condemn the use of violence, killings, and mass arrests of Iranians.
• Support the inalienable rights of Iranians and demand an immediate stop to the use of violence as well as arbitrary arrests.
• Wish to bring this urgent situation to the attention of the international community, civil rights, religious, and civic organizations around the world.
• Extend our deepest condolences and sympathies to all Iranians, especially families that have lost loved ones, and mourn their loss.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Video with full statement in Persian and complete English transcript  here

Interviewer's comments:

Interviewing a former Iranian Basij militia member

Since the election last June, hundreds, maybe thousands, of opposition protestors have been beaten and gaoled. Human rights groups have documented persistent reports of rape within the police stations and gaols.

Now, for the first time, we’ve spoken to a member of the Basij militia – the group said to be responsible for many of the abuses.

He was a broken man, seeking refuge in Britain, and from his own conscience.

I feel pain and the shame in front of people and before God. I’ve lost my world and my religion,” he wept, as he recounted his story.

Aged 27, he had been a member of the Basij for as long as he could remember, born into a deeply religious family, utterly loyal to the Islamic Revolution and above all to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamanei.

For “Sayyed”, as we’ll call him, Ayatollah Khamanei was the incarnation of the 12th Imam, the equivalent of the Messiah in Shi’a Islam. Not far short of God, in other words.

So he didn’t question it when commanders told his Basij unit, months before the election, that the Supreme Leader had decreed that Ahmadinejad should win. Nor even when they were told to ignore the desires of illiterate voters and vote for Ahmadinejad on their behalf.

He had a twinge when he realised they were simply “disappearing” the ballot boxes with the votes of young people, who mainly voted for the opposition.

As he described how they were armed with batons, cables and other weapons and told to attack protestors, he started to cry.

He says he stood by, but his colleagues killed people on the streets of his city. But the local Basij, it seems, were not performing well enough. So when about a hundred young people were arrested and put in shipping containers, Basij from the provinces were brought in.

At this point in the interview, Sayyed sobbed, tears dripping down his anguished face. He walked around, but he said he wanted to come back and finish telling his story.

From the containers, he said, they heard the desperate cries of men and women, boys and girls, being raped by the Basij from outside the town.

It was 20 June. He gave us the name of the police station where he says the assaults took place, and identified the mullah in charge of the basij in his city. We’re not revealing any of the details which could identify him, but which we needed to know to authenticate his story.

He spoke in the elaborate, religious Persian used by many Basij volunteers, and while he was willing to talk to us, he refused to shake the hand of a woman, another sign of his religious background.

Maybe the most convincing authentification we have is that his story confirms the reports we’ve had from victims and human rights groups, who say rape has been used all over Iran in the brutal months since the June election. That and his desperation. Rarely have I interviewed someone so distressed.

I am ashamed in front of people, even to say that I was mistaken, and I am ashamed in front of my religion,” he said. “I committed crimes, knowingly and unknowingly. Now I’m left with my conscience punishing me for what I did.”

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Today's the birthday of Ahmad Shamlou....


Ahmad Shamlou, Iran's great poet of love and freedom, was born in Tehran on December 12, 1925, died there on July 24, 2000... after having been persecuted for his works and words under both the Shah and the Islamic Republic:

In this dead-end (July 1979)

They smell your mouth
To find out if you have told someone:
I love you
They smell your heart

Such a strange time it is, my dear

And they punish Love
At thoroughfares
By flogging.

We must hide our Love in dark closets.

In this crooked dead end of a bitter cold
They keep their fire alive
By burning our songs and poems;
Do not place your life in peril by your thoughts

Such a strange time it is, my dear

He who knocks on your door in the middle of the night,
His mission is to break your Lamp
We must hide our Lights in dark closets

Behold! butchers are on guard at thoroughfares
With their bloodstained cleavers and chopping-boards

Such a strange time it is, my dear

They cut off the smiles from lips
and the songs from throats

We must hide our emotions in dark closets

They barbecue canaries
On a fire of jasmines and lilacs

Such a strange time it is, my dear

Intoxicated by victory,
Satan is enjoying a feast at our mourning table

We must hide our God in dark closets.


I think my heart
Has never been
So warm and red:

I feel
In the worst minutes of this murderous night,
Thousands of sun-springs
Gush in my heart
Out of certitude.

I feel in every corner of this salt-marsh of despair
Thousands of fresh forests
Suddenly sprout
Out of the ground.

Oh lost certitude, you fleeting fish,
Slipping through the mirror's pools, fold by fold!
I am the lucent lagoon, lo!
Through the magic of love
Find a way towards me from the mirror's pools!


Children of The Depths

They thrive
In the town of no street
In the stale web of dead-end lanes
In the bath of smoke, drug and pain
Talisman in the pocket and stones in hands
The children of the depths
The children of the depths
They thrive.


The cruel swamp of fate in front
The curse of drained fathers on their back
Ears filled with their tired mothers’ blame
A void of hope and future in fists
The children of the depths
The children of the depths
They thrive.


They flourish
In the forest of no spring
On the trees of no yield
The children of the depths
The children of the depths
They chant with a bleeding throat
They hold a long invincible flag in their hands
The children of the depths
The Kaveh* of the depths




The English translations of "In this dead end..." and "Fish" quoted above are from http://shamlu.com, that of "Children of the depths" is from http://www.ahmadshamlou.com/ - both sites contain a rich collection of translations of Shamlou's poems together with biographic information.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Al Jazeera English - Focus - 'My torturers deserve pity'

 Al Jazeera's Anita McNaught interviewed Ebrahim Mehtari, an Iranian pro-democracy campaigner, who says he was held for two weeks in a detention centre run by the Revolutionary Guards Intelligence section in East Tehran.
He says he was beaten, tortured, and sexually violated.
He is now living in Turkey under the protection of the government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)


You say you were injured quite severely in jail and have had to have surgery in Turkey. What happened in that jail cell?

I don't have the mental strength to describe to you what they did to me, but the reality is this: For a long time Iran's rulers have spoken a great deal about morality - and to be fair, part of this ruling system was genuinely moral - but today my country is infected by a disease of lying and immorality, and this sickness is spreading throughout the state.

The people shouting in the streets whose blood is spilled, who are tortured and raped in the prisons or killed, or suffer other hardships at the hands of the system – everything they endure is the result of a disease called "the lie", and the loss of morality.

And at the same time, President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad can - blatantly - sit on that chair, stand on that platform at the UN and announce that "I am coming from a country where people are very hospitable".

When those men can sit in front of cameras and stand on platforms and say: "We are all moralists, we are the sacred Islamic Republic system …" perhaps they should delete the word "sacred".

He and his cabinet spread nothing but superstition, lies, insults and immorality.


What is happening in Iran right now?

My country is like a dormant volcano that has been heating up for a long time. My country is growing and developing. The Iranian people who are calling for a return to constitutional law and democracy, are merely trying to grow and develop, too.

Iran is a big country and its people are very decent. But unfortunately the country has been ruled by inadequate men who have abused their people's hearts. People today are trying to choose leaders with the same stature as themselves. The people who have taken to the streets have endured batons, torture and prison.

This shows that they're ready to pay the price to achieve a greater goal: Freedom for their country - not freedom for oppressive regimes.

For me, it's been a long time since you could genuinely find either the concept of a republic, or of Islam in Iran. Perhaps those people protesting in the streets are doing so because of these two missing concepts, or at least one of them…

According to Article 27 of the Constitutional Law of the Islamic Republic of Iran, all gatherings are permitted if you are unarmed and do not disturb the public order.

My friends in the streets ... and those in prison – what crimes have they committed? These are our crimes: First: We participated in a presidential election and tried our best to uproot the lie in Iran. The second big crime was that we took to the streets asking for our rights, and the third crime was that we didn't keep silent about Ahmedinejad's lies.

A journalist friend of mine tells this joke: We have freedom of speech in Iran, but we don't have post-speech freedom! We can speak one sentence freely, but after that, no-one can protect us.


If you could face your torturers again, what would you say to them?

It's a difficult question, but I feel they are more tortured than me. Now when I look back on it, I feel those men deserve pity. And need help. Because these guys - knowingly or unknowingly - have become part of a system which has turned them into machines of torture and death.

If you had asked this question immediately after my release, or after the things which they did to me, I might have talked about killing them, but today - look, I don't want to pretend to be all intellectual about it - my impression is that dictators are miserable people.

And dictatorship is a disaster. I don't wish the deaths of dictators, but I wish for the death of dictatorship.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


An Iranian activist explains the protest movement and its objectives:

We shouldn’t forget that ordinary people have been scared with all rights to speak up their minds in over 30 years. They need some time and encouraging examples to defeat that and it is exactly what’s happening in Iran since the Election. Iranian people have once again refound their so long lost self-confidence. People have desperately looking for a change during the last 28-30 years and any attempt for more freedom has been crushed. (...) The reformist movement in Iran is very complex and includes so many ideas and interests, for its survival it can’t deny the “Valihe Faghih” but been pushing the limits since death of Khomeini. The Students are womens' rights movement, human rights activists, socialist and etc… Students are probably most radical supporters of Reformist movement and have paid a high price for that. Elderly people who experienced the Rev 79 & Iran – Iraq war are more cynical, most of them didn’t even want to vote the last 3 presidential elections but each election younger has tried to involve them. The reformist movement has helped to regroup and reorganize a solid opposition at the grassroots level in Iran which has grown day by day despite the crackdowns, arrests and many disappointments.

I can’t speak for everyone but now after 5 months fight with the coup I am certain that majority of the people lead by the students want to have a secularism Iran. Majority of people have desired a secular democracy in Iran for a long time but now they (Greens) know that they can achieve it and the way to do it has been through reformist and will be for some more time and anything else would be stopped quite easily & violently by the coup-maker even more violent than now. You can just hear it through the chants and slogans in every protests that things are changing in Iran. Each slogan includes a powerful message to the Coup, the world but mainly to the other people in Iran. Don’t be afraid we can do this.. Velayate Faghih’s time is over. We passed the red line June 2009. No return no surrender.We must just keep fighting patiently until the day... The victory will be ours soon …