Saturday, January 24, 2009

Iran: Torture for imprisoned Baha'i

(22 January 2009) – The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran expressed grave concern for the situation of Iran's largest religious minority group today. Members of the Baha'i Faith have been targeted with alarming frequency in recent months with 36 Baha'is currently under arrest in Iranian prisons.
"The continued targeting of members of the Baha'i community is indicative of the larger goal of suppressing individual human rights by the Iranian government. All Baha'is detained and arrested, have committed no crime whatsoever," said Hadi Ghaemi, Campaign spokesperson.
On the morning of 14 January 2009, Intelligence Ministry officials raided the homes of 12 Baha'is in Tehran. The officials confiscated books, materials, and photographs related to the Baha'i Faith as well as computers and CDs. The agents arrested Shahrokh Taef, Jinous Sobhani, Didar Raoufi, Aziz Samandari and Payam Aghsani. They are currently being held incommunicado in Evin Prison. Their families have met with the presiding judge but have been unable to see their loved ones.
These recent arrests come on the heels of the raid of 20 Baha'i homes in Semnan on 15 December 2008. Another raid of a Baha'i home in Yazd was carried out on 11 December. Three Baha'is were arrested in Ghaemshahr, Mazandaran the week of 18 November 2008, and one of them, Mr. Masou Ataiyan is still in prison. In October, Ziaollah Allahverdi and his wife Sonia Tebyani were arrested in Behshahr, Mazandaran. Other arrests and raids were carried out in August in Mehrian.

Iran: False televised confessions

Intelligence authorities exploit claustrophobic detainee to coerce sham confession

(21 January 2009) The Iranian Intelligence Ministry's purported uncovering of a CIA-backed "coup plot" is being used as a propaganda tool at the dawn of Obama's presidency, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said today.

"Hard-line elements are using the alleged plot to seize the initiative in Iran-US relations in a period of tense maneuvering by both sides as Obama's administration takes charge," said Hadi Ghaemi, the Campaign's spokesperson.

"The intelligence apparatus is claiming this is a message to the incoming Obama administration that it can uncover any American plots. But, in the process, the rights of physicians who have brought international respect to Iran's AIDS programs and two other people are being ruthlessly abused," he added.

On 20 January 2009, a high-ranking Iranian counter-intelligence official told the official Islamic Republic News Agency details of the prosecutor's case against four Iranians, including Drs. Arash and Kamiar Alaei, accused of working on behalf of American agents to overthrow the state. "Those arrested in connection with this case were the main agents and network leaders who have deliberately and intentionally cooperated with U.S. intelligence agents and were doing whatever they wanted," he was quoted as saying.

The intelligence official said that the evidence is based on the detainees' "confessions," which would soon be televised. He also claimed that the discovery of the plot should be a lesson for the Obama administration in formulating its Iran policy.

The Judiciary has confirmed that internationally renowned AIDS physicians, Drs. Arash and Kamiar Alaei have been sentenced to six and three years in prison respectively. The officials have not provided any clues as to the identity and sentences of the other two defendants.

The Campaign has learned that one of the defendants is Sylvia Hartounian, 33-year-old Iranian-Armenian woman, who worked for the international organization IREX on a project regarding birth methods in Iran. Intelligence agents detained Hartounian around 6 pm on 26 July 2008, the same day that Arash Alaei was detained.

After searching her house, the agents took her to the Esteghlal Hotel in Tehran for interrogations. They questioned her about her medical project and pressured her to admit it was a cover for politically motivated activities on behalf of the US government. Her refusal to admit to any such allegations led her two interrogators, who identified themselves as "Haj Agha," and "the Doctor," to transfer her to Evin Prison's ward 209.

According to a former prisoner who spent days with Hartounian in ward 209, Hartounian suffers from acute claustrophobia. Upon learning of her imminent imprisonment, she suffered a severe panic attack at Hotel Esteghlal. Ignoring her medical condition, the agents transferred her to Evin prison and put her in solitary confinement in cell 25, which is reportedly extremely small and dark.

After ten days of solitary confinement, the interrogators exploited her illness by forcing her to read a prepared written statement, which was videotaped.
She reportedly "confessed" that the CIA and the Pentagon recruited and directed a group of medical experts led by Dr. Arash Alaei to foment unrest in Iran and "widen the gap between people and state."

More: A Message to Obama Based on False Televised Confessions

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

From UAE with Love: Hopeless in Gaza: it didn’t have to be this way

Salute to Sultan Alqassemi! This is the Arab truth, not "Zionist propaganda." Even the biggest enemies of Israel must see the logic of this, unless they are enemies of the Palestinian Arabs as well. 
Sunday, 18 January 2009
Hopeless in Gaza: it didn't have to be this way

I recall as a child being told the old saying: "There's no use crying over spilt milk." On Thursday evening, as I made my modest contribution to the Dubai Cares Gaza campaign by carrying boxes filled with school bags, I suddenly felt my eyes watering up. For I thought to myself that each bag I filled with school equipment and piled on top of the others to be shipped to the helpless children of Gaza represented a child, probably one who had lost his mother, or father or entire family.

For each bag that we filled there was another that we didn't, simply because the child is no longer there. I looked away so as not to embarrass myself in front of the other volunteers. I breathed deeply and continued working. Bag after bag we filled with school materials.

There's this one girl I saw on TV, she lost a limb in the attacks. Precision bombing, Israel calls it. I packed a small eraser for her small hands but these won't erase the terror she endured. "Don't forget the colouring pens," I yelled. Certainly, there are more injured children. "Shall we put bandages in the same bag?" I asked an organiser. Apparently not: there are other bags reserved specifically for medical equipment. Silly me.

In 1994, Yasser Arafat, the PLO leader, arrived in the Palestinian Territories for the first time in decades and declared that he would turn Gaza into the Singapore of the Middle East. Fifteen years later it couldn't be more different. Arafat's prediction of Gaza being used as an example will certainly come true, but not in the way he envisioned. Today, Gaza is more like Somalia than a Mediterranean port. In fact, one day soon people will be using Gaza as the example of a failed state as Somalia continues to fade into distant memory. Thus Afghanistan will be called the Gaza of Central Asia, and Zimbabwe will be the Gaza of Africa.

But it didn't have to be that way, if it wasn't for the fear of certain countries in the region that they would lose the Palestinian cause as a bargaining tool if the Palestinians made their peace with the devil. What would they be left with as negotiating leverage? The idea of using Palestinian youth as an outsourced army to fight the Israelis was too appealing to lose. Setting them up with firepower and turning their dials – fire at will. But it was less their will than that of certain characters who have come and gone in the Middle East. Endless blood and destruction. The Holy Land, indeed: unholy is more like it.

No, it didn't have to be that way at all. It's February 2005. The Israelis announce their withdrawal from Gaza. The occupiers are leaving. Good riddance. Let's build something now, shall we? In walks none other than a Dubai tycoon, the man responsible at one time or another for the most valuable property company in the world, operating in 17 countries with a global portfolio worth more than $100 billion that includes the tallest building on Earth and the biggest mall on the planet, and above all one of the right-hand men of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai. Enter Mohammed al Abbar, chairman of Emaar with all its pomp and glory, to start building. His offer was to pay $56m for the 21 settlements that the Israelis were to evacuate. Finally, we can get started with turning this port city into Singapore, as Arafat wanted.

But wait. How can the sensationalist Arabic press let go of this golden opportunity? Rather than headlines reading "Dubai to spearhead Gaza development", there were headlines that accused the UAE of normalisation with Israel. "Rewarding aggression in Palestine", read one editorial. The horror! Public outcry ensued. Mohammed Al Abbar was forced to appear on Dubai TV and defend his position. "These journalists," he said, "they've so much spare time. They should use it better. Go visit Gaza and see how they live there."

Suddenly the initiative to create Emaar Palestine was no longer there. The result was that the Gazans were left with scant employment opportunities. "The crossings are still controlled by the enemy," was the broken record that Arab patriots played. I say, why not make the best of a bad situation instead of making the worst of it? A few more years of such mentality guaranteed further radicalisation. Good evening, Hamas. Hello, hopelessness. Enter Israeli terror.

Back in the Dubai Cares tent among the 700 volunteers, as we packed 50,000 bags to send to Palestinian schoolchildren, I couldn't help but wonder: what if Mohammed al Abbar had bought these plots of land and developed them? Building houses. Building homes. Creating jobs. Creating hope. Would we be packing these bags at all?

Indeed, I recall that there's no use crying over spilt milk. Nevertheless, I couldn't stop shedding a tear over that little girl's spilt blood.

This article first appeared in The National newspaper on Sunday January 18th 2009

Sultan Al Qassemi is a Sharjah-based businessman and graduate of the American University of Paris. He is the founder of Barjeel Securities in Dubai.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Gaza war's outcome determined in first 4 minutes /// US-Egyptian Red Sea hunt for Iranian ship carrying 60 tons of arms for Hamas

Gaza war's outcome determined in first 4 minutes
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report
January 19, 2009, 9:12 PM (GMT+02:00)
F-16 fighter-bomber
The Israel air force demolished two key Hamas war systems in the first 4 minutes of its massive offensive on Gaza Saturday morning, Dec. 27, DEBKAfile's military sources report. The bombers destroyed six mosques in Gaza City which held the terrorists' biggest weapons arsenals and scores of "beehives" containing launchers primed for the simultaneous, automatic release of hundreds of powerful rockets against Israeli cities.
These launchers were rigged for precision-targeting in Israeli town centers. They were operated by a unit of 300 special Hamas operatives trained for their mission at a Syrian military bases under the instruction of Hizballah rocket specialists.
The aerial offensive knocked out 80 percent of the rockets Hamas had prepared to launch and saved Israel's southern cities. The Palestinian Islamists were left only with inferior projectiles. Therefore, 98 percent of the hundreds of missiles they managed to fire in the 22-day war missed their targets and exploded in open ground.
Answering questions about the extreme destruction wrought in Gaza and the high number of casualties - more than 1,300 - Israel commanders described combat conditions as the most complicated they had ever faced: Every second apartment building was booby-trapped and every third building concealed arms caches. Weapons were concealed under children's beds and in basements.. Instead of fighting out in the open, Hamas gunmen by and large avoided engaging Israeli troops, relying on these death traps.
Monday, Jan. 19, the second day of the ceasefire, the second-echelon of the Hamas leadership emerged from their fortified bunkers after three weeks underground, claiming they had vanquished the Israeli enemy. The top leaders remained invisible. The homeless people picking their way through the rubble for their broken possessions were not exactly welcoming.

US-Egyptian Red Sea hunt for Iranian ship carrying 60 tons of arms for Hamas
January 20, 2009, 1:11 PM (GMT+02:00)
Iranian Fajr-5 rocket
US and Egyptian warships were scouring the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea Tuesday, Jan. 20 to waylay an Iranian freighter carrying scores of heavy rockets for delivery to Hamas. DEBKAfile's exclusive sources report they were acting on intelligence that a ship loaded with an estimated 60 tons of arms to replenish Hamas' depleted war stocks had set out from the Iranian Persian Gulf port of Bandar Abbas on Jan. 17.
Our sources reveal that the arms-smuggling vessel started its voyage as the Iran-Hedayat and changed its name in mid sea to Famagustus registered to Panama. The captain was ordered by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to unload its cargo at a smugglers cove on the southeastern coast of Sinai opposite the Gulf of Suez, to be picked up by armed Bedouin gangs and moved to El Arish in northern Sinai. From there the contraband rockets were to be slipped gradually into the Gaza Strip.
The cargo consists of 50 Fajr rockets whose range is 50-75 km, scores of heavy Grad rockets, new, improved launchers whose angle of fire can be precisely adjusted, tons of high-quality explosives, submachine guns, rifles and pistols and armor-piercing missiles and shells (of types used successfully by Hizballah against Israeli tanks in 2006).
The shipment, the largest Tehran has ever consigned to the Palestinian Hamas in Gaza, includes also a large number of anti-personnel and anti-vehicle mines, equipment for assembling roadside bombs and advanced communications and night vision gear.
(The Palestinian Karin-A arms smuggling ship intercepted by Israel naval commandoes seven years ago carried 50 tons of arms for Fatah).
The Iranian ship aroused suspicions when Western spy satellites and surveillance stations spotted its change of registration after entering the Sea of Oman. Closer observation identified the cargo as a huge arms shipment..

Monday, January 19, 2009

Human experience

When the community is in trouble, a person should not say, "I will go
to my house and I will eat and drink and be at peace with myself."

- Babylonian Talmud, Ta'anit 11a
As cited in "Jewish Wisdom" by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

And now they've made the next step

I don't have a choice now but to quote myself, if only for the reason that I haven't seen somebody else saying this. It was regarding the hysterical shrieking by Naomi Klein ("Israel: Boycott, Divest, Sanction") that I have asked a fairly simple question: "Don't you feel some words missing in that headline and clamoring to be added - to continue the list of punishments?".

Now this line (of timidity? of fear to get out of the closet? of breaking a taboo? - I wonder) has eventually been crossed - by quite a few of British "intellectuals" in this letter. It starts with:

The massacres in Gaza are the latest phase of a war that Israel has been waging against the people of Palestine for more than 60 years.
I hope I don't have to explain the significance of the number 60 in this quote.

I don't need to go on about this letter. It's about the need for Israel to lose the war, well - it's in fact about the desirability of a genocide, as David Hirsh explains.

It is not a good time to write more about the impact of this letter. It is a good time only to state that the fog is dissipating and the lines (drawn centuries ago) are coming out in all their blessed vividness.

Fine with me.

Cross-posted on Simply Jews.