News from Iran – Week 04 – 2013


Prisoners’ News

A- Transfers


  • Student activist Amir Chamani has been transferred from Tabriz Intel detention to Tabriz prison.
  • Human rights attorney Abdolfatah Soltani was transferred back to Evin 350 from Sina hospital.
  • Mehdi Tahaghoghi transferred to Rejaei Shahr  .


B- Arrests/Incarcerations


  • Reza and Ali Akbari Monfared (father and son) were arrested 2 weeks ago.
  • Mohammad Tavakoli, member of Teachers’ Union of Kurdistan, arrested.
  • Bita Hedayati, Hana Koushkbaghi, Nahid Mahmoudi, Vesagh Sanaei, 4 Baha’i from Gonbad-e-Kavous, arrested.
  • Baha’i Shayda Taeeid was arrested in a raid of her home in Nour.
  • Head of the Kurdistan human rights organization, Mohammad Sedigh Kaboudvand is back in prison, furlough not extended
  • Furlough extension was denied, lawyer and member of banned Human Rights organisation,  Nasrin Sotoudeh returned to prison.




  • Sina Aghdasi, Baha’i, released on bail from Tabriz prison.
  • Journalist Bahman Ahmadi Amouee arrested June 09 released on his first furlough since arrest; wife Zhila Baniyagoub is in prison.
  • 2 journalists, Mahsa Amrabadi and husband Masoud Bastani, released on furlough.
  • Behrooz Ghobadi, brother of filmmaker Bahman, released from prison.
  • Iraj Najafabadi, workers’ rights activist, released on bail in Isfahan.
  • Women’s rights activist and blogger Fereshteh Shirazi has been released from prison.
  • Ahmad Zeidabadi, released on furlough on bail.


D-Other News


  • Hardline cleric A. Khazali met with his estranged son Mehdi Khazali in Evin Prison.

News of injustice in Iran

  • Vahid Asghari’s death sentence was confirmed. Case sent back to the Supreme Court again.
  • Siavosh Ghanbari has been sentenced to 10 months on charges of collaboration with banned Kurdish group
  • Sentence of 1 year in prison upheld by Appeals for Afsaneh Toghi.
  • One public execution in Urmiah on Sunday.
  • 2 public executions in front of House of Artists in Tehran on Sunday.
  • 3 executions in Zahedan on Sunday.
  • Sentence of fingers amputation of a man convicted of burglary was carried out in public in Shiraz using a special machine created for the purpose.
  • 3 executions on Tuesday.
  • One public execution on Wednesday.
  • One execution in Shahroud on Thursday.
  • One execution in Khorramdareh.
  • 3 executions in Chubin prison.

University – Culture

  • Graphic novelist Marjane Satrapi will debut her paintings in Paris this month.


  • Retired workers protest at Abadan Petrochemical Company.
  • Protest rally against layoffs at construction company Nasr Jihad.
  • Wave of large-scale protests at most major oil refineries.

Iran Economics

  • $1 over 3500 tomans again.
  • 87,000 retired steel workers have not been paid for the last 3 months.
  • 17 million Iranians to receive food coupons.

Politics in Iran

  • Ex-president Khatami strongly criticizes absence of free elections and political activities in Iran.
  • Political parties compelled to declare funding sources.
  • Parliament receives notice to impeach the Labor Minister.

Iran  abroad

  • Turkey lifts ban on Iranian cargo plane carrying 1.5 tons of gold from Ghana to Iran.
  • First visit to Iran by Russian interior minister since 1979 Revolution.
  • Majlis Speaker arrives in Sudan. He meets with Sudanese President.
  • China freezes $25 billions Iranian assets; they can be released against Chinese goods paid in Yuan.


  • A 5.5 magnitude earthquake shook Syrch near Kerman, cell communications have been cut, land line disruptions in the area.

#Mauritania: an African slave-state with international support


In a world where the practice has become reviled, an estimated 18-20% of Mauritania’s population,  up to half a million people, are slaves by descent – born into slavery as a condition of birth.

There are laws against slavery in the country, including 10 years imprisonment for holding slaves and two years for promoting the practice. But the laws don’t work and are not enforced. In fact, the state has failed to abolish slavery three times.

Ould Abdel Aziz’s government insists that the practice is officially abolished, and yet still the laws are in place. Recently, yet more laws were introduced to protect “domestic workers”. Slavery, we are told, “no longer exists, because it has been outlawed.”

The only person to be prosecuted under Mauritania’s anti-slavery laws, Ahmed Ould Hassine, was sentenced to two years’ prison in November 2011. On 26 March 2012 his sentence was converted to a fine of MRO 200,000 (about US$6,000) and he was released.  SOS Slaves in Nouakchott discovered this sly move and issued a statement condemning the action on 23 April 2012. Shortly after, there was a book burning protest by members of the abolitionist group IRA in Nouakchott. They were arrested on 28 April and remain in prison at the time of writing, despite appeals from many human rights NGOs for their release, including Amnesty International (click to respond to urgent action appeal).

What is the background to this practice, and why is it still perpetuated?

Slavery of Africans by both Arabs and other Africans has ancient roots in Africa, as does racial inequality and prejudice. These customs and practices are so well embedded into the culture of countries like Mauritania, MaliNiger, Ghana and Sudan, that descendants of those enslaved in a distant era are trapped into present-day slavery in order to survive. Forced expulsions of black Mauritanians from the country in the 80’s – over 70,000 were forced to leave – increased the scale of the problem, as thousands of children left behind were estranged from their parents, with no option other than to become chattels.

The unstable government of Mauritania hasn’t helped: there have been many coup attempts, and the factions attempting to take over haven’t wanted to lose the support of powerful elites by speaking out against slavery. Additionally, if a major slave-owner has 5,000 slaves, as one report claimed, that translates into 5000 votes.

Mauritanian slaves are forbidden from owning property, or having legal custody of their own children. Many do not have their own surname. The majority are uneducated, and their masters convince them that they have no choice or control over their fate, that they are “destined” to a life of servitude. The few that escape or are rescued tell dreadful tales of long days as forced labour, segregation, isolation and physical abuse, including rape.

Through recent efforts by human rights groups and activists, some media attention has been devoted to exposing the present-day realities, but there have been no practical suggestions about how to implement a satisfactory long-term solution to eradicate slavery and liberate those enslaved.

The current president of Mauritania, Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz, has been facing opposition for well over a year in the form of popular protests, including black African Mauritanians protesting marginalization, but the lack of unity between these disparate movements robs them of the power to overthrow him. The state is in a holding pattern: genuine reforms are unlikely as long as Ould Abdel Aziz feels under threat. In addition to sporadic attempts to appease the international community, there are now signs that Aziz is under increasing pressure to conform to some semblance of democracy, and to move ahead with the long drawn-out national voter registration and postponed election process, otherwise his illegitimate government risks isolation.

It would be naïve to imagine that western powers – so obsessed with the domestic issues of Mali and the fabled Sahel terror threat – are likely to be of any real help on human rights issues. In return for ignoring injustice towards the people of Mauritania, these countries get to build their military bases in the desert. They are able to move shipments through the port, launch spy planes and covert missions across borders, and create a silo of humanitarian suffering  by siphoning tens of thousands of refugees from the arid desert wasteland of Mali into an identical arid desert wasteland in Mauritania. Once there, they become the poster-children of yet another poorly managed aid campaign seeking millions, no, billions of dollars to not really solve the problems of famine, poverty and over-population that have plagued the Sahel for decades.

As ever, a nation’s social issues are there for that nation to solve and no one else. Unless of course, you want to trade 20% domestic slavery for being 100% in the thrall of a foreign power and beholden to it in every way for generations. Sadly for Mauritanians, they are already in this unenviable position, as the level of indebtedness to the World Bank and other international lenders and sources of funding is so vast that they will have to empty the mines of Akjoujt and Tasiast to pay it off, with interest. All this could change of course, for example, if the gold and uranium resources of northern Mali could somehow be appropriated. Then Mauritania and its partners could empty the mines of Mali instead to repay its debts to the West, the AFDB and the ISDB.

As long as the Aziz regime can maintain power through foreign funding, while closing ranks to protect itself, and while civil and political opposition fail to find their common purpose in the overthrow of this regime, the practice of slavery will continue in Mauritania, as will all the other social injustices and inequalities that marginalize the poor.

Sole survivor tells of tragic incident off #Libya’s coast, 55 lives lost


A year and a few months after the “left-to-die boat” case lead to international indignation, another dramatically similar incident reveals how, despite the changed geopolitical situation, migrants keep dying in the Mediterranean sea in appalling conditions.
Last year, in March 2011, 63 people who had left Tripoli in the attempt to reach the Southern shores of Italy, died after drifting for 14 days at sea. This incident occurred during the international military intervention in Libya and as such in meticulously surveyed waters. Several damning reports were released on the failures of a series of actors and a legal case was filed in France for non-assistance. Now, despite the fall of the Gaddafi regime and the end of the international intervention in Libya, Boats4People has learned during an interview conducted this morning in Zarzis, Southern Tunisia, about another tragic case that shows once again the dramatic effects of the European migration regime.
Abbas, an Eritrean national who is the only survivor of this incident, was found on Tuesday at 14:30 by a Tunisian fisherman 35 miles off the coasts of Zarzis. He was hanging onto the remains of the rubber dinghy with which he had left Tripoli around 14 days earlier with 56 people on board (20 Somalians, 2 Sudanese and 34 Eritreans), among which his older brother and two sisters. After approximately 26 hours of navigation, the boat, which was in very bad conditions, capsized and only Abbas managed to hold onto the boat, whose engine was nevertheless damaged after falling into the water. He drifted alone for fourteen days in the open sea, occasionally sighting in the distance other vessels. After finally rescued by a Tunisian fisherman yesterday, a patrol boat of the Tunisian “Garde National Maritime” was sent out and took him onboard at 15:30. He was brought to the hospital in Zarzis, where he received treatment for dehydration and extreme exhaustion.
Boats4People denounces once again the policy of border closure that oblige migrants to resort to dangerous means to cross the Mediterranean as well as the criminalization of assistance to migrants in distress at sea, which have de facto transformed the Mediterranean in a cemetery.
In collaboration with researchers of the Forensic Oceanography project at Goldsmiths College, Boats4People will keep inquiring to determine if any measure could have been taken to avert the tragic fate of the passengers of this boat.
Boats 4 People says a video of the interview will soon be made available, and offers more information on the incident, via near-real-time mapping platform WatchTheMed:


This Week in Corruption – Oxford University Press and World Bank education projects in Africa


Children in a classroom in Kenya. Two Oxford press units have been debarred for bribing government officials to win tenders and contracts for World Bank-financed education projects in East Africa. Photo by: Curt Carnemark / World Bank / CC BY-NC

Oxford University Press has acknowledged the “misconduct” of its two subsidiaries that bribed government officials to win tenders and contracts to supply text books to two World Bank-financed education projects in East Africa, according to a press release.

World Bank debarred Oxford University Press East Africa Ltd. and Oxford University Press Tanzania Tuesday (July 3) following OUP’s acknowledgment. This means both units will not be eligible for World Bank-financed projects for three years. They are also in danger of being blacklisted by other multilateral development banks under a 2010 cross-debarment agreement.

The publishing company, meanwhile, has decided to contribute 2 million pounds ($3.13 million) for teacher training and other education-related programs in sub-Saharan Africa, apart from agreeing to pay the World Bank $500,000 for its subsidiaries’ misdeeds.

The two subsidiaries operate in Kenya, Burundi, Malawi, Rwanda, Sudan and Uganda, Reuters reports. Oxford Publishing Ltd., OUP’s publishing arm, has also agreed to pay the United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office 1.9 million pounds in relation to the case.

Apart from the payments, OUP will take “disciplinary action” against those involved, according to a press release.

This is not the first time a publishing company has been subjected to debarment by the World Bank. In 2010, the bank also debarred Macmillan Ltd. after the U.K. publishing group admitted to engaging in bribery in an education project funded through the Sudan Multidonor Trust Fund. The World Bank manages the trust fund.

Read more:


Western Sahara: a South Sudan Suggestion


The New York Bar Association has issued a document recommending that a referendum be held in Western Sahara which follows the same lines as the South Sudan referendum on independence, making references to international law and claiming that such a right to independence is covered by its terms.

The document issued by the New York Bar Association is called The Legal Issues Involved in the Western Sahara Dispute*. The document recommends that the UNO supports a process identical to the one in which South Sudan voted for independence (the Machakos Protocol), which would provide the Saharawi people with the right to vote in favour of autonomy within the occupying power, Morocco, or else go for full independence.

The 107-page legal report drawn up by the New York Bar Association, which has sent a copy to the US Congress, states: “After six years of negotiations on a settlement policy conflict, the people of South Sudan won the right to a referendum with the option of independence. A similar approach for Western Sahara would be supported by international law”.

The report goes further, claiming that international law supports the claim to a right for independence made by the Frente Polisario, representing the occupied Sahawari people: “The people of Western Sahara has clearly the right to self determination under international law. International law requires that the Sahrawis have the opportunity to determine their political status and that determination must include the option of independence”.

It continues: “any plan that eliminates the option of independence of the exercise of self-determination is illegal under international law clearly defined,” while calling on the international community to avoid “imposing” the Saharawi measures contrary to that point.

Also of interest:

UNDRIP is the permanent solution to Western Sahara

extract from a note by rebuilding failed states on FaceBook

The Arab spring revolution and its ‘domino effect’ in North Africa lend urgency in the region to the United Nations’ efforts to resolve the long-festering problem of the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara.   Since 1975, Morocco has asserted its sovereignty over Western Sahara, and for over 37 years, the indigenous peoples of Western Sahara have struggled for independence.

In 1991, the United Nations crafted a solution to the Western Saharan problem in the Minurso mandate. The Plan provided for a transitional period during which the Special Representative of the Secretary-General would have sole and exclusive responsibility over all matters relating to a referendum in which the people of Western Sahara would choose between independence and integration with Morocco. Furthermore, it is intended for the establishment of a long term comprehensive and a just resolution to the conflict with Morocco over its self-determination and full independence.

Full implementation of this mandate has been blocked in the Security Council by Morocco’s ally, France, thus depriving the indigenous peoples of Western Sahara of their basic human rights. Therefore, in order to achieve the lofty objectives of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is fundamentally necessary for the International community to come to a consensus on the question of Western Sahara and find a solution to this thirty seven year old stalemate. Western Sahara is recognized by the U.N and the ICJ as a territory which was inhabited by Indigenous people prior to the Spanish colonization; therefore it is not a terra nullius.  Then, it is necessary for the U.N to adhere the population of Western Sahara under the protection of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, so they too can enjoy the minimum human rights as prescribed by the universal declaration.

A POLISARIO demonstration for the independence...

A POLISARIO demonstration for the independence of Western Sahara, held in Madrid, November 11th 2006 (here: outside the Foreign Office). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The UDHR guarantees “the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family. Yet, these basic human rights are denied to the indigenous people in the occupied territory of Western Sahara thanks to a succession of events, which involve Morocco’s political scheming in the region, and the influence of France in the Security Council.

While everything else has been tried to find a solution to the conflict to only reach a deadlock, it is imperative to add the population of Western Sahara to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, for the establishment of these rights.

There are three steps to this policy recommendation to prove why it is fundamental to adopt the principles of the UNDRIP in Western Sahara. First, it will be on the history of the territory. Then, it will discuss the argument of the ICJ concerning the status of Western Sahara and the illegal claim of Morocco over it; and thirdly it will find the appropriate definition from the many on indigenous people to be applied on the Sahrawi population, and will show which articles should be the basis to this argument.

When other people enjoy “the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family” as mentioned in the Universal declaration of Human Rights, the said human rights are inexistent in the occupied territory of Western Sahara.

Morocco’s political scheming in the occupied territory and its strong hold on the media, which prevents the world from knowing about the suffering of the indigenous people of the last African colony, should be sanctioned. And the influence of its allies in the UN Security Council that tends to be problematic to the mechanism and the function of the Minurso mandate in the territory should be stopped.

Although Western Sahara is recognized by the U.N and the ICJ as a Non Res nullius territory which gives it a legal status; and recognizing the failure of the U.N mandate in implementing its fundamental goal for a referendum, which is intended for the establishment of a long term comprehensive and a just resolution to the conflict with Morocco over its self-determination and full independence, and which only ended in reaching a deadlock. Therefore, and in order to show a sign of good will attention, the U.N should include the population and the territory of Western Sahara under the protection of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, so they too can enjoy the minimum human rights as prescribed by the universal declaration. This solution should be acted upon, by the international community, as a rightful thing to do to show a sign of good will in finding a permanent resolution to the question of Western Sahara.