Friday, December 4, 2009

Iran students prepare for Monday protests under government repression

Last update - 23:12 04/12/2009       
Iran cracks down on dissent in universities
By The Associated Press
As they gear up for a major anti-government protest Monday, Iranian students are besieged by a clampdown in the universities, with a wave of arrests and expulsions. At the same time, authorities are intensifying enforcement of Islamic morals on women's dress and men's hair length as a way to punish political dissent.
They say authorities have cracked down at campuses nationwide to prevent the demonstrations from becoming widespread and that students recruited by the pro-government Basij militiamen are on the watch, informing on classmates suspected of being pro-opposition troublemakers.
On Thursday police warned of a tough response, especially if demonstrators try to move outside campuses into the streets. "Any gathering or ceremony outside the designated places will be considered illegal and police will take necessary steps," a statement said.
In telephone interviews from Beirut with more than a half-dozen students in Tehran, the crackdown was described as part of a government campaign to control not only security but ideas at universities, strongholds of the reform movement that took to the streets after the disputed presidential election in June.
Some courses seen as too Western-based have been replaced with more Islamic ones, students say. Since classes began in October at Tehran's prestigious Sharif University of Technology, members of herasat, a feared force of guards and morals police in universities, have been stopping women at campus gates for wearing clothes that are too colorful or not all-covering enough.
A herasat official uses a cell phone to photograph male students with long hair or those wearing colorful T-shirts, said Kouhyar Goudarzi. "If a student complains, he grabs his student card and says 'when you look like a human being, you will get your card back,'" he said.
"Student dissatisfaction has reached a point where it's about to explode," he said.
Goudarzi, a 23-year-old aerospace student, said he was expelled because he spoke to the BBC's Persian TV service about a campus demonstration in October.
Six months later, the fire is still burning, said Atieh Vahidmanesh, a 24-year-old economics post-grad at Sharif University. "We are under aggressive surveillance."
Pro-government students recruited by the Basij militia are on the watch, turning in classmates whose loyalties are suspect.
It's difficult to judge how big Monday's protests will be, whether they will be confined to campuses or spill into city streets and squares. While calling for thousands to turn out at campuses, leaders acknowledge the crackdown may reduce the numbers.
"Our sympathizers who are not active themselves are afraid to come to the protest," said one student leader at Tehran's Allameh Tabatabei University who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of persecution.
"We are not calling on others to participate because we don't want to pay a high price," he said by telephone from Tehran.
Some on campus dismiss such talk. "The media are used to exaggerating issues," said Mahdi Eslami, a pro-government student. "I don't feel there's been any change in the atmosphere of universities."
Ahmad Bakhshayesh, a political science professor at Tehran's Allameh Tabatabaei, a leading humanities university, said it's not a police atmosphere at the university. Students are controlled, but not openly.
"For example, new students are put in separate dorms to shield them from older, more politicized students," he said.
Iranian universities have historically played a leading role in times of turmoil.
Students were a powerful force in the 1979 revolution that overthrew the pro-U.S. shah but later became a bastion of dissent against clerical domination.
Dec. 7 is a traditional day for rallies commemorating the killing of three students during a 1953 anti-U.S. protest. Since the late 1990s they have served as pro-reform protests, often bringing clashes with security forces.
The June vote sparked demonstrations by hundreds of thousands claiming President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election was fraudulent. Security forces crushed those marches, and the opposition has had little success in reviving them.
But students have kept their movement alive with small demonstrations on many campuses every Tuesday.
Opposition Web sites say the government has brought hundreds of security forces to Tehran from the provinces to crack down on any demonstrations Monday.
Nearly 100 student leaders have been detained in the past weeks, human rights groups say. Many have faced Revolutionary Courts, and several have been ordered jailed for up to eight years, human rights groups say.
Amir Eslami, in the midwestern city of Hamadan, was jailed, released and went into hiding, but his body was found several days ago, according to the opposition Jaras Web site. The government has not confirmed the death.
Students now meet clandestinely and distribute newsletters by hand to avoid seizure by the universities' herasat, said Mehdi Arabshahi, a 28-year-old postgraduate student.
"We're in a state of war," he said. "On the one hand, they're trying to prevent us from protesting, on the other, the students go right ahead and hold gatherings and publish their newsletters."
Arabshahi said he hid for a month after the election to avoid arrest, but was detained in October for 48 hours for meeting with students in a Tehran park. Arabshahi and two other student leaders were summoned to the Revolutionary Court on Wednesday to have their case looked at.
Goudarzi said the Basij militia has increased salaries for students, offering up to $400 a month plus $250 for every incriminating photo or piece of evidence against a student.
In the past, morality restrictions such as those on women's dress have been somewhat more lax on campuses. But this semester, the herasat increasingly stop students and force them to sign forms admitting they broke the rules, said Elmira Ali Husseini, a physics postgraduate student at Sharif University.
Their signature can be used later by the prosecution if they are involved in protests, she said.
Female students are barred from campuses for wearing bright colors or too short a manteau - the overcoat that hides the female form, said Vahidmanesh, the economics student. She said her friends were turned away for wearing striped sweat pants under their overcoats - stripes are considered sexually provocative.
Another acquaintance was detained at a campus protest under the pretext that her hair showed from under her scarf - and then she was forced to sign a pledge to stay away from rallies, Vahidmanesh said.
Some classes considered too Western - such as Marxism - have been replaced by such courses as God and Philosophy, or Islam and Social Theory - ominous echoes of the cultural upheaval after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, when books showing Western influence were banned and thousands of students and lecturers purged. In some English departments, the writings of the Islamic Republic's founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, are required courses.
"They're just a waste of time and cost money, otherwise they are of no use to us," said Nazzi, a student who declined to give her last name for fear of retaliation.
"The changes in the curriculum," said Arabshahi, "will take the university back years and lead to another cultural revolution."

Monday, November 30, 2009

Back to the middle ages




Iran eyes badges for Jews,

Christians and Zoroastrans



By National PostMay 19, 2006




Human rights groups are raising alarms over a new law passed by the Iranian parliament that would require the country's Jews and Christians to wear coloured badges to identify them and other religious minorities as non-Muslims.

"This is reminiscent of the Holocaust," said Rabbi Marvin Hier, the dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. "Iran is moving closer and closer to the ideology of the Nazis."

Iranian expatriates living in Canada yesterday confirmed reports that the Iranian parliament, called the Islamic Majlis, passed a law this week setting a dress code for all Iranians, requiring them to wear almost identical "standard Islamic garments."

The law, which must still be approved by Iran's "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenehi before being put into effect, also establishes special insignia to be worn by non-Muslims.

Iran's roughly 25,000 Jews would have to sew a yellow strip of cloth on the front of their clothes, while Christians would wear red badges and Zoroastrians would be forced to wear blue cloth.

"There's no reason to believe they won't pass this," said Rabbi Hier. "It will certainly pass unless there's some sort of international outcry over this."

Bernie Farber, the chief executive of the Canadian Jewish Congress, said he was "stunned" by the measure. "We thought this had gone the way of the dodo bird, but clearly in Iran everything old and bad is new again," he said. "It's state-sponsored religious discrimination."

Ali Behroozian, an Iranian exile living in Toronto, said the law could come into force as early as next year.

It would make religious minorities immediately identifiable and allow Muslims to avoid contact with non-Muslims.

Mr. Behroozian said it will make life even more difficult for Iran's small pockets of Jewish, Christian and other religious minorities -- the country is overwhelmingly Shi'ite Muslim. "They have all been persecuted for a while, but these new dress rules are going to make things worse for them," he said.

The new law was drafted two years ago, but was stuck in the Iranian parliament until recently when it was revived at the behest of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

A spokesman for the Iranian Embassy in Ottawa refused to comment on the measures. "This is nothing to do with anything here," said a press secretary who identified himself as Mr. Gharmani.

"We are not here to answer such questions."

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre has written to Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, protesting the Iranian law and calling on the international community to bring pressure on Iran to drop the measure.

"The world should not ignore this," said Rabbi Hier. "The world ignored Hitler for many years -- he was dismissed as a demagogue, they said he'd never come to power -- and we were all wrong."

Mr. Farber said Canada and other nations should take action to isolate Mr. Ahmadinejad in light of the new law, which he called "chilling," and his previous string of anti-Semitic statements.

"There are some very frightening parallels here," he said. "It's time to start considering how we're going to deal with this person."

Mr. Ahmadinejad has repeatedly described the Holocaust as a myth and earlier this year announced Iran would host a conference to re-examine the history of the Nazis' "Final Solution."

He has caused international outrage by publicly calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map."

Iran does not yet have nuclear weapons, but Teheran believed by Western nations to be developing its own nuclear military capability, in defiance of international protocols and peace treaties.

The United States, France and Israel accuse Iran of using a civilian nuclear program to secretly build a weapon. Iran denies this, saying its program is confined to generating electricity.


© (c) CanWest MediaWorks Publications Inc


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Ignoring "ridiculous carrot and stick policies" Iran decides to build ten new reactors

An accurate description of Western policy was given by the speaker of the Iranian parliament:
"If you do not stop these ridiculous carrot-and-stick policies, we will in return adopt new policies and seriously decrease cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency," Larijani, an influential conservative, told the assembly.
Thumbing its nose at the world, Iran thereupon decided to build 10 new enrichment plants. No doubt the plants had been planned for a long time and may have been in process of construction.. What was really decided was to make them public.
Carrots and sticks can work on cooperative beasts. When you are dealing with a mad dog that is out of control, there is only one remedy that works.
Reuters News Agency however, seems to be blissfully ignorant of the Iranian constitution, as they wrote:
Parliament has the power to oblige the government to change its cooperation with the IAEA, as it did in 2006 after the Vienna-based agency voted to report Iran to the UN Security Council.
Final say on all legislation is that of the "Council of Experts" - the Ayatollahs, who can veto any parliamentary legislation as "un-Islamic."
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 17:36 29/11/2009       
Iran approves plan for 10 new nuclear plants
By Reuters
Iran warns it will cut cooperation with UN, two days after IAEA votes to rebuke Tehran over secret enrichment plant.
The Iranian government on Sunday approved a plan to construct 10 new uranium enrichment plants, just two days after the International Atomic Energy Agency voted to rebuke the Islamic Republic for building an enrichment plant in secret.
Iran's parliament speaker said Sunday that Tehran could move to reduce its cooperation level with the United Nations nuclear agency watchdog if the West continues to pressure the Islamic state over its nuclear program.
The Islamic Republic has already denounced Friday's IAEA resolution, which won rare backing from China and Russia, as "intimidation" which would poison its talks with world powers. 
"If you do not stop these ridiculous carrot-and-stick policies, we will in return adopt new policies and seriously decrease cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency," Larijani, an influential conservative, told the assembly.
Parliament has the power to oblige the government to change its cooperation with the IAEA, as it did in 2006 after the Vienna-based agency voted to report Iran to the UN Security Council.
Friday's resolution by the 35-nation IAEA board was a sign of spreading alarm over Tehran's failure to dispel fears it has clandestine plans to build nuclear bombs, a charge Iran denies.
It urged Iran to clarify the original purpose of the recently-disclosed Fordow enrichment site, hidden inside a mountain bunker, stop construction and confirm there are no more hidden sites.
But it was far from clear whether the West could now coax Moscow and Beijing to join in tough sanctions against Iran, something they have long prevented at the U.N. Security Council.
Iranian Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh on Friday called the resolution a "hasty" step devoid of legal basis, saying Iran would not halt its sensitive nuclear work.
He said Iran would continue to allow basic inspections at its nuclear sites but could stop making "voluntary gestures" of extra cooperation such as when it allowed widened surveillance at its rapidly expanding main enrichment complex at Natanz.
Iran says its atomic energy program is purely for peaceful purposes, aimed at generating electricity.