Urgent Plight of #Iran’s Journalists and #HumanRights Activists in #Turkey

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Respected United Nations General Secretary, UN High Commissionaire for Refugees and Respected Foreign Ministers of Countries who Support Human Rights :

Iranian journalists are amongst those who have become victims of human rights abuse, as a result of their work in promoting human rights in Iran and have been oppressed by Iran’s security agents and judiciary. Journalists’ writings and ideas for peace have made them targets for human rights abusers.

In recent years, some very disturbing stories have been reported on the status of independent media and journalists, which require urgent attention. The International Federation of Journalists and other human rights organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have described the situation of journalists in Iran to be worrying and complicated and they have stated the intimidation of journalists in recent years has been the worst ever.

Reporters Without Borders have said Iran continues to have the largest number of journalists in prison and have named Iran as the biggest prison of journalists.

The increasing pressure on journalists by the security agents follows no laws and rules and this has forced many of them to leave their motherland, against their will, to seek refuge in neighboring countries and ask for asylum from UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Many are currently incarcerated and those seeking asylum face heavy sentences if they return to Iran.

It is with much sadness that I have learned many Iranian journalists who have fled to Turkey are living under very difficult conditions there. Many Human Rights and political activists as well as journalists face the same uncertainty.

Iranian security agents have threatened some of them on numerous occasions and caused them anxiety.

Lack of security in Turkey has caused me to write this letter to you, so that Iranian journalists and human rights activists who are residing in Turkey can be helped by whatever means possible and transferred to safer countries.

If we can support human rights, then we must support human rights activists too, who truly have paid the price for their beliefs with their lives and freedoms to make the voices of the victims of human rights abuse heard.

It is very sad that the renowned Iranian Journalists, Hadi Nili, who for years has been harassed and interrogated by the intelligence ministry agents, has remained in Turkey for over two years and has not been able to reach freedom.

Truly, the ongoing uncertainty and overdue stay of such people and others, whom I will name below, in an unsafe country for them, like Turkey is just, added torture for them.

Behrooz Samad Beigi has been living in a worrying condition for more than 13 months.

Hamid Mafi and his wife, Maryam Akbari, have been living in terrible conditions for more than 10 months and have been threatened on numerous occasions.

Ehsanollah Mehrabi and his wife have been exiled to a village near Syria and their situation is very worrying.

Mehdi Tajik Ghashghaei, one of the seasoned Iranian journalists has got to wait for his first UN interview until July 2013.

Alireza Firouzi, a young tireless human rights activist has to wait until February 2013 for his case to be heard by UN officials.

Also Mr. Farhad Nouri Koochi entered Van in Turkey on 09/21/2011. Subsequent to his 
registration with UNHCR on 09/16/2011, his first interview was 
scheduled for 12/16/2011. However, due to the earthquake in Van, his 
interview was cancelled.  Unfortunately, Mr. Koochi still has NOT 
heard anything from UNHCR regarding rescheduling his interview date.

 Mr. Koochi is a human rights activist and an active member of the
Nematollahi Gonabadi Dervishes, and administrator of  Nematollahi Gonabadi Order News Site “Majzooban Noor”,  a recognized religious minority Sufi 
group that has been subject to mass arrests and persecution in Iran.

Unfortunately there are a lot of Human Rights activist, like Mr. Babak Ejlali and Homayon Naderifar, who need to your help.

Let me emphasise again, if we are able to defend the rights of journalists and Human Rights activists, we should defend them wherever and whenever we can. Today these people need our help. I ask you to help these people by transferring them to a safe country and improving their situation, so that they can continue to help improve the situation of their people.

With much gratitude,

Mohammad Mostafaei

Human Rights Lawyer and Activist

 

cc: Amnesty International

Human Rights Watch

Reporters Without Borders

International Pen

Committee to Defend Journalists

International Federation of Journalists

 

via Urgent letter about five journalist and several Human Rights Activist in Turkey.

News and Comments 6 Feb 2012

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Activists protest outside #Syria’s embassy in #Mauritania

A young female activists addresses the crowd, voicing their demands for an end to the killing in Syria and that Assad and his brutal regime should step down.

A cultural festival in Mauritania was marred by sandstorms

Aziz lack of fashion flair spoiled it for me. What a mess he looks in his robe

Emil Boc resigns after austerity protests, had no idea why Romania signed ACTA

Emil Boc said his government had not taken part in a popularity contest

Romania’s Prime Minister Emil Boc has stepped down to “defuse political and social tension” after a series of protests against austerity measures. Speaking after a cabinet meeting, he said he had given up the government’s mandate as “it is the moment for important political decisions”.
Although Romania’s economy grew last year, the government has been hit by three weeks of demonstrations.
Mr Boc has imposed a 25% cut in public sector wages and a freeze on pensions. Sales tax was also increased to 24%, in a country seen as Europe’s second poorest. Romania said it needed to implement the measures to qualify for the next instalment of a 20bn-euro ($25bn; £17bn) bailout loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Poland put ACTA ratification on hold, and Slovenia apparently regrets its signature, and Emil Boc admitted that he doesn’t understand why the country signed ACTA. It appears that opposing politicians are criticizing the government and promising that they will suspend enforcement under ACTA until there are actual public hearings held on the matter. It really is quite amazing that the folks in the entertainment industry, who thought they could ram this through are now discovering how much they’ve awakened internet users across the globe ever since they shot for the moon with SOPA. ACTA has been on the table for years, and only a few of us “copyright geeks” were paying attention to it. But SOPA really made it clear to huge populations of people just how the entertainment industry seeks to restrict the internet through copyright law… and they’re simply not going to take that any more.

BBC News & TechDirt

Iran arrests several on alleged links to BBC Farsi-language service

Iranian authorities have arrested several people over alleged links to the British Broadcasting Corporation’s Farsi-language service, Iran’s semiofficial Mehr news agency reported. The report said they produced content and reported to the BBC. It said they facilitated training and hiring of some Iranian journalists and arranged trips abroad for them. It quoted an unnamed official as saying they were active since 2009. It did not name them or say how many were arrested.

In London, the BBC said in a statement that the report “should be of deep concern to all those who believe in a free and independent media.” The British broadcaster said it has “no BBC Persian staff members or stringers working inside Iran.”

In October, Iran released two filmmakers who were in jail on similar charges. Tehran has accused the BBC of operating as a cover for British intelligence and of hosting Iranian dissidents. Last week the BBC accused Iran of intimidating staff members of its Persian service by slandering them and arresting relatives.

via AP in The Washington Post

Crime rate soars in Brazilian state of Bahia on fifth day of police strike

The Federal government has sent troops and special forces to cope with the wave of criminal actions

The murder rate in Brazil’s northeastern state of Bahia has soared during a state police strike that on Saturday entered its fourth day. The state’s Public Safety Department says on its website that 51 people have been murdered in and near the capital city of Salvador since the strike began on Wednesday.

The government news service Agencia Brasil says that the murder rate has ballooned 117% increase over the same period last year.

Some 2,000 Brazilian army soldiers and a contingent of 650 elite federal police troops are patrolling the nation’s third-largest city while officials and strike leaders negotiate an end to the strike.

State officials have said that about 10,000 of the state’s 30,000 police are on strike. They are demanding better pay and bonuses.

The city of Salvador registered a total of 29 homicides over a 30-hour span, amid a crime wave caused by a police strike and despite the reinforcements provided by the federal government.

The city has been plunged in a wave of violent crime since late Tuesday, when the 30.000 members of the Bahia state police force went on strike demanding a 50% pay raise.

Though on Thursday a court declared the walkout “illegal” and ordered police to resume their work immediately, the strike continued until Saturday with spokespersons for the police union announcing that it would not be called off until their demands were met.

The Brazilian government after ordering 2.600 soldiers from Army barracks in Salvador sent to other cities of Bahia, announced it was preparing another 4,000 if the situation gets worse.

The troops went on patrol this Friday in the chief tourism centres of Salvador, a city set to welcome thousands of tourists to celebrate Carnival, one of the most spectacular, massively attended in all Brazil.

Brasilia said that Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardozo will travel to Salvador this weekend to personally appraise the situation and decide whether a greater military presence is needed.

Speaking Friday night on regional television, Bahia Gov. Jacques Wagner attributed the crime wave to groups with ties to the police on strike.

via Crime rate soars in Brazilian state of Bahia on fifth day of police strike — MercoPress.

Journalists, monitors, civilians: all #Syria Massacre targets

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Gilles Jacquier covered the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo

French TV reporter Gilles Jacquier has been killed in the Syrian city of Homs, the first Western journalist to die in the country’s current unrest.

He was on a government-authorised trip to the city, the France 2 channel said.

Syrian TV said Jacquier was among eight killed. A colleague said that minutes earlier they had interviewed some people at a pro-government gathering.

Opposition groups say 15 people died around the country on Wednesday, including three in Homs.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has called for full clarification of what happened.

“We vigorously condemn this odious act,” he said in a statement.

The Syrian authorities have severely restricted access to foreign journalists since the unrest began last March.

Observers arrived in Syria in December to monitor an Arab League peace plan, but the killing has continued. Several.Arab League monitors have quit, and one, Anwar Malek, gave an interview revealing his anger at the Syrian regime, saying he can no longer remain silent about what he’s witnessed, and at least one more is threatening to quit.

The league said on Wednesday it was delaying sending more monitors after an attack on an observer team earlier in the week, Reuters news agency reported.

Eleven observers were slightly injured in the attack, in the port city of Latakia.

‘Complete chaos’

At the scene

We were following civilian Syrian people who wanted to show us victims of the terror, of shootings. At a certain time a grenade got at a building – you could see the smoke.

And so most of us and also the Syrian people ran to an apartment building. The moment I got in, my French colleague was around 20m or 30m behind me. I got into the building, I was running up the stairs and other grenades were hitting, and it was very close so the glass got shattered…

I got into one of the apartments and tried to shelter there for a couple of minutes… Then I was running down and I saw the body of Gilles laying there. In the next couple of minutes you could see some other bodies. We just tried to get in a car and out of there because it was really dangerous. I’m quite sure I heard some shooting as well.

Jacquier, 43, was part of a group of 15 foreign journalists being shown around a part of Homs and speaking to locals.

One of his colleagues said they were escorted by soldiers and police, and were in a part of the flashpoint city where street life was relatively normal with some shops open.

A grenade fell close to them minutes after they had spoken to some young people and they fled into a nearby building, he told the BBC. More grenades hit the building causing casualties.

“There was smoke everywhere, people started screaming and yelling. There was complete chaos,” he said.

Jacquier was behind him when he went into the building, but he saw him lying dead a few minutes later, he added.

At least one other European journalist was wounded, reports say. Dutch officials and media said a Dutch journalist was hurt.

The area of the attack is inhabited by members of the Alawite sect and therefore considered to be mainly pro-government. No opposition supporters have given an account of the incident.

Jacquier is described as a veteran award-winning journalist who covered conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo, and between Israel and the Palestinians.

His mission in Syria was to make a documentary film on the protests.

Too much is not good enough

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Handle With Care, Approach With Caution

In the byline of this New York Times article, a reporter in Damascus remains nameless, a sensible precaution, essential for their protection. However, in the text, every tiny sliver of information imaginable is shared about the activists working behind the scenes, and desperately trying to remain undetected. If their identity is discovered they are in grave danger. The data they have with them at any given moment could endanger hundreds. Whatever regime intelligence cam learn about their circumvention techniques – generously revealed in this article, could place thousands at risk. Reports are already being made about people disappearing, houses being searched. The Syrian regime wants to destroy the opposition, and crush its networks. They are looking for their phones, their computers, their friends. The search will widen to teachers, spiritual and social leaders, colleagues, neighbors, lawyers, and rights defenders.

The New York Times is helping the Syrian regime in it’s quest to suppress by listing tactics, and giving vital clues about how the revolutionaries are organising and communicating. They are sharing this inside information because someone in the opposition gave it to them. I find this situation deeply disturbing. Regime overthrow is not exactly an apprenticeship or career-path where one gradually builds experience so that, by their third or fourth regime they have become expert. We can’t expect these freedom-fighters to know everything they need to know. But we can and should demand that any established publication should use their experience, and apply some kind of ethical standard, to do no harm to their sources. I am not singling out the New York Times by the way, their article just happened to be conveniently available.

In my personal opinion, no amount of media coverage, however beneficial to a cause, is worth the price of safety and security of yourself or your fellow activists. Knowing how to handle and prepare for media interviews, how to negotiate with the press about how your information will be used, and how your identity will be protected, is absolutely essential. To blunder in to an interview unprepared, even star-struck and blinded by the exotic scent of exposure, is inadvisable at best, reckless under most circumstances.

If you are likely to be in a situation where your life or those in contact with you could be in danger and you are going to talk to the media, try these links first.

Web Users Are People, Too

The NYT article also features an observer in academia polishing his reputation for the profitable lecture circuit with a cookie cutter quote about how social media is entirely responsible for shifting the balance of power in Syria. I always imagine that people like him use initial capitals and double-quote marks for the phrase “Social Media”.

In the framework of political activism, the majority of social media relationships are fragile, ethereal constructions between total strangers. The lack of physical contact, the underlying truth that you have never and probably will never see this person in the flesh, could make them somehow less like a real living breathing person. This attribution of otherness might explain how commentators are able to assign responsibility for an event as painful and bloody as regime overthrow to “Social Media”. In using the internet to monitor events around the world, have observers inadvertently or even deliberately coached themselves to dismiss the hundreds of unarmed civilians, even children, bleeding to death, and the tens of thousands chanting and screaming in the streets, just because they are conveniently packaged and delivered on video that can be paused or closed with a mouse-click?

Many of the chants are conveniently translated for the myriad spectators and commentators. The one we hear most in Syria is “The people want to topple the regime”. Note that word. People. It is people and their actions that make change. No one is chanting “FaceBook wants to topple the Regime” or “We Will Tweet Our Way to Freedom!”. Mobile phone calls or SMS messages, encrypted email with links to encrypted files for download are not social media. They are electronic communications, and all of them were established long before the advent of social media. To me, the very big difference is that although most items in the above list can work with, or be shared using, social media, they are primarily regarded and used as both private and personal methods of communication. Something Twitter and FaceBook only imitate. And don’t even get me started on the ability of Twitter applications to use the API to access supposedly private Direct Messages; Twitter being forced (reluctantly?) to share private user data; FaceBook, Flickr, and YouTube – to name just three services – making arbitrary decisions about disabling accounts; or evil regimes hacking FaceBook with apparent ease to identify dissidents.

Iranian Embargo

It seems to me, whenever Syria (and Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Iraq, etc…)  is raised as an issue, it quickly turns into a discussion about Iran. Somehow Iran has become the ultimate trump card for all MENA debate. No one is talking about Syria and it’s complicated relationship with the country next door, Lebanon. No one is talking about what might or might not happen with the Golan Heights. Absolutely no one dares to mention Israel. As I write, we haven’t yet reached the inevitable stage of the “power vacuum” rhetoric. Perhaps some enterprising editors have articles on these topics already in draft, simply waiting for the right moment to explain to us how event “X” in country “Y” … is so much like event “A” in country “B” oh and … “Iran” .. “Al Qaeda” … “Muslim Brotherhood”… etc. Actually, they might be able to recycle some earlier articles.

What is depressingly obvious to me, after 2 long frustrating years of trying to get the media to focus on Iran, is that invoking the Iran card cosily blankets the subject with the same suffocating LACK of attention. Bringing Iran into the discussion has an immediate dampening effect. It’s a lose-lose situation.

Revolutionary Reinvention

There is a Syrian opposition of sorts waiting in the wings. I expect they might have a long wait, since the feedback I got when I asked about them is that they are not held in any regard, in fact many see them as simply a different version of the ruling Ba’ath mafia. Yes, that is reminiscent of another situation in another country, and no, we don’t need to talk about that. Back to Syria. Focus, people.

Some ministers and local leaders in Syria have already begun to resign, crossing the magical line from treacherous perpetrator of evil to opposition supporter in one easy headline. No doubt there are other, more shadowy figures preparing for the perfect time to step in and rescue the “youth” of Syria. Because even though we have lists of the dead and detained showing ages from 7 to 70, I get the very strong impression based on recent experience that somehow this will all be painted over as a “youth” movement. Interviews with trendy 30-somethings battling for freedom via iPhone and laptop is of course the perfect backdrop for this framing operation.

Once the pesky hi-tech revolutionaries have been labelled and tidied away into their social pigeon-hole, the reinvented former enemies can emerge, visible and vocal, forming transitional committees, using their influence to meet with representatives of interested governments and big business. All the while they will be quietly, efficiently, side-lining those people known only through social media – and therefore somehow not-quite-real – using their older, more established political and social circles. One or two social media activists might get thrown shiny crumbs of notoriety; a few invites to speak at social media-driven events perhaps, a few mentions in the press. Enough to keep them busy while the big guns make their decisions.

Misery Mathematics

No one knows when any of this might come about. No one is talking about the going rate for revolution in Syria, where the regime thought they could kill 30,000 people in silent secrecy and return to daily affairs as though nothing happened. That was 30 years ago. What is the regime’s threshold today, is there inflationary pressure to out-perform your last atrocity; do murderous regimes feel compelled to compete on death-toll with natural disasters like Haiti, Indonesia or Japan? Equally important, how much more of this insanity is the world in general willing to stomach? Maybe we need to find an academic to tell us they discovered a social media bloodshed threshold, although I am fairly confident that will only happen with the glorious 3D technicolor social media infographic hindsight common to such pronouncements.

While we wait, the unspoken expectations and comparisons gather and hang over the issue like dark clouds. More deaths than that place, but a slower rate of casualties than some other place. Nothing will ever be as bad as such-and-such. We sit and watch for news, for some sign of positive change, trying not to drown in the downpour of displacement, of rhetorical questions that serve to replace actually giving a damn. “Will Syria be another …?”.

Anti-Social Networks

You likely found this post via Twitter or FaceBook. I suppose you read out of interest, or curiosity perhaps. Apart from the stream of tweets, the articles, the X-rated videos, what else have you seen: are there any petitions demanding international aid, intervention, sanctions against the regime and in support the people of Syria? Would you search for them, sign and share the ones you find, even create one if your search was fruitless?

If you are going to be a user of social media, you might as well make some small effort to be social. If you are going to follow activists as a user of social media, don’t make it a free ride, or fall in the trap of hovering over their posts like a vulture to see what you can pick out of the despair of other people for yourself. Yes, journalists, bloggers, and vanity tweeps, I am looking at you. Revolution should not be a spectator sport. Human misery should not be regarded as a way to put food on your table. Find a way to give back, to play your part. To be human.