September 2009

Ibrahim Sharifi - heroic bravery

Ibrahim Sharifi - heroic bravery

Articulate rape victim flees

Further developments in the case of Ibrahim Sharifi, the 24 year old engineer, one of five brothers from a north Tehran family moderately supportive of the regime, are to be found here. I previously acclaimed his courage (see below) for speaking out in the form of a video interview, watched by thousands.

He is now in Turkey.

He said he fled Iran after a stranger stopped him on the street to tell him his family would be killed if he testified before a parliamentary committee that was investigating the torture and rape accusations … Since he was dumped by his captors on the side of a Tehran highway, he said, he has been terrified of being alone. First, he had trouble sleeping, fearing that the guard who raped him in prison would attack him again. Now he is convinced he is being followed by someone who means to kill him. “I was ready to be tortured to death,” he said, his voice trembling. “But not ever to go through what happened to me there.”

Blake - The Angel of the Divine Presence

Blake - The Angel of the Divine Presence

Unfortunately his account is all too credible.

Human rights groups say that Mr. Sharifi’s account conforms closely with those of other abuse victims. Omid Memarian, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, said he had confirmed the credibility of Mr. Sharifi’s story with people close to Mr. Karroubi. “His narrative is consistent,” Mr. Memarian said. “He has no reason to risk making up a story like that […]”

His is the first public account we have of goings-on in the notorious ─ and now closed ─ Kahrizak prison:

He was on his way back home the afternoon of June 22 when he was grabbed by two men. “I had taken part in every single protest, so I saw this coming,” he said. He said he was handcuffed, blindfolded and, as he later learned, taken to the notorious Kahrizak detention centre in south-western Tehran, where even the government concedes that several detainees were killed. He said he remained handcuffed and blindfolded for four days in a cramped cell with about 30 other prisoners. They were beaten senseless the first day, he said, and periodically after that over the next four days. Urine and blood covered the floor. By the fourth day he was beginning to lose hope of getting out alive. He had trouble closing his mouth and he said he began vomiting blood.

A bubble of green speech

A bubble of green speech

It gets worse:

“I told the guard that he should go ahead and just kill me if he wanted to,” he said, breaking into tears. “Then he called another guard and said ‘Take this bastard and impregnate him.’ ” They took him out of the cell to another room where they pushed him against a wall that had handcuffs and two metal hooks to keep his legs open. The guard pulled down his underwear, he said, and began raping him. “He laughed mockingly as he was doing it and said that I could not even defend myself so how did I think that I could stage a revolution. “They wanted to horrify and intimidate me,” he said, weeping. At that point, Mr. Sharifi said, he passed out. The next thing he remembered was opening his eyes and realizing he was in a hospital with one hand cuffed to his bed. Another young man was screaming hysterically on a bed next to him. He said he heard a doctor tell someone, “Dump him or you’ll have the same problem as the other ones,” meaning that he would die in custody. Two days later, he said, they put him in a car, took him to a highway in Tehran and left him there [beside the road], blindfolded.

Although very ashamed and inhibited about describing the specifically sexual abuses ─ he would weep and shake ─ he eventually told all to Mehdi Karroubi. Bear in mind he had taken himself to a psychiatrist, had tried to report the abuse at a police station, went to see Karroubi, and recorded his testimony on video, uploaded to a Dutch-Iranian filmmaker. He has even made himself available for interview to the world’s media during the Rat’s visit to the United Nations in New York.

I call that brave. He wants to train as a doctor and to get to the USA. Someone should let him in and give him the least his heroism deserves ─ the chance to heal.

Mouse power

Mouse power

Hardness of heart

How many times recently have I had occasion to recall the words of Winston Churchill,

The Middle East is one of the hardest-hearted areas of the world.[1]

It is an area in which the simple, perennial truths of the New Testament have scarcely penetrated.

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.[2]

Blake - A Divine Image

Blake - A Divine Image

Those raping, torturing and killing innocent young people in Iran’s prisons do not see other people as potential images of the divine but as beastly corpuscles with inconvenient opinions. They are the poorer for that.

I have reproduced (above) a painting by William Blake, ‘The Angel of the Divine Presence,’ which gives some inkling of the more nourishing perception of human beings, and relations between the sexes, to be derived from Christianity. It may be viewed here also.

Truncated curriculum

The first day after the opening of the universities for the new academic year there have been large demonstrations in Tehran University. So now they are going to close them again. Due to the spread of Swine Flu, of course.

Some of the protests may be viewed here. And, at Sharif, another university, here and here (crowds about 2000-strong are yelling for Montazeri).


Largest zinc and lead mine in the middle east

Largest zinc and lead mine in the middle east

The largest zinc and lead mine in Middle East, is in Iran (see photo). It has been given to the Basij for 10% of its real value. In the same week it was announced that the Revolutionary Guards have acquired a >50% controlling interest in Iran Telecom.

These people are corrupt, incompetent and keen on sanctions, from which they benefit. Protestors try in vain to maintain boycotts of Basiji-smuggled brands of, e.g., American cigarettes. But the real problem with, in effect, nationalising everything is that, with 26% inflation and 40% youth unemployment, this will soon bring an already pretty dysfunctional economy to its knees. (Perhaps we should be glad.) Already, for instance, subsidised Chinese-grown rice has brought poverty and hardship to large numbers of Iranian farmers in the north and north-east.

[1] Quoted in: Anthony Montague Browne: Long Sunset: Memoirs of Winston Churchill’s Last Private Secretary. London: Cassell, 1995, p. 166.

[2] Matthew 25:40, King James Version.


Security Council meeting

I’m afraid a bland exhibition of good intentions was the official outcome of the special meeting of the UN Security Council, chaired by President Obama.

Green Utopia

Green Utopia

The five permanent members, plus Germany, had to propose a way of dealing with a defiant Iran, whose nuclear weapons development is sticking like a fishbone in the throat of the democratic world community. Nothing much was said, however, and no-one was mentioned by name.

At least one leader spoke more plainly:

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, came close to mocking his American counterpart for the good intentions, which Mr Obama had heralded as an “historic” step towards nuclear abolition, even though it set no specific targets or fresh mandates.

“We live in a real world not a virtual world,” the Frenchman told the 15-member council. “And the real world expects us to take decisions. “President Obama dreams of a world without weapons … but right in front of us two countries are doing the exact opposite. Iran since 2005 has flouted five security council resolutions. North Korea has been defying council resolutions since 1993. I support the extended hand of the Americans, but what good has proposals for dialogue brought the international community? More uranium enrichment and declarations by the leaders of Iran to wipe a UN member state off the map,” he continued, referring to Israel.

Even Gordon Brown

said it was time to “draw a line in the sand” with Tehran, intensifying the pressure on Iran’s leaders to make concessions at a key meeting with major powers next week. “Iran must not allow its actions to prevent the international community from moving forward to a more peaceful era,” he said. “And as evidence of its breach of international agreements grows, we must now consider far tougher sanctions together.”

The nuclear dance

Silence is green

Silence is green

But simultaneously, it emerged that Iran is building a second uranium enrichment plant, somewhere near Qom. This has caused a major ruckus. Obama and his S5+1 (or E3 + 3 … the algebra varies) friends stood on the steps of the Pittsburgh summit and demanded instant access for inspectors.

Western officials are in little doubt that the underground site’s primary purpose is to enrich uranium for nuclear bombs. It is only capable of manufacturing 3,000 centrifuges a year, enough for one bomb, whereas a nuclear energy facility requires at least 50,000 centrifuges. Mr Obama said the “size and configuration of this facility is inconsistent with a peaceful programme”.

Obama managed to get in a reference to the population: ‘The Iranian people deserve better’ (than isolation and sanctions).

The Guardian gives more detail:

The Qom uranium enrichment plant first appeared in 2006 … North-east of the domed mosques of Qom, the theological heart of Iran, the revolutionary guard had established an anti-aircraft missile battery at the base of the mountain, western officials said. This alone drew attention, as intelligence analysts tried to discover what the missiles were there to protect; satellite imagery began to reveal intensive activity at the side of the mountain. “There was extensive excavation and construction work underway,” a western official said […] .

Green finger-heart

Green finger-heart

French, British and US intelligence agencies uncovered the uranium enrichment nature of the site, of a size that makes a military purpose unambiguous, during the summer. After the Iranians agreed to a ‘wide-ranging’ meeting in Geneva, further action was stalled in order not to seem to scupper this meeting. But the Iranians became aware that they had been outed and pre-emptively wrote a letter to Mohammed El-Baradei and the IAEA confessing to the second enrichment plant on Monday 21st September. The Russians and Chinese were not told until Thursday ─ after Medvedev has signalled a change of intent regarding sanctions. At his press conference with Time the Rat’s body language says it all: a cunning, shame-faced rodent who has been well and truly caught out. His foreign policy is, though shaken, to keep on grinning.

So what is the next move in our attempt to address what Con Coughlin calls “the world’s most explosive issue.”

Hidden Russian hand?

Con Coughlin in the Telegraph observes that

While Mr Medvedev gives a good impression of being in charge of his own country … it was Mr Putin who dispatched planeloads of security experts to Tehran this summer to help Mr Ahmadinejad suppress the post-election anti-government demonstrations.

This is a deeply disquieting revelation. Does anybody know anything further about this?

Star of the small screen

Ratty gives interviews and press conferences, tight-lipped and grinning, but sweating no doubt. Unfortunately the CBS interviewer is not sufficiently well-informed, for instance about the random criminal attack on an Egyptian woman in a German courtroom which the Rat always brings out, to engage with him in any sort of argument. Wisely, also, no doubt, as his cognitive system is fantastically tangled as it is. More people are killed by US police each day than in the entire period since the Iranian election. Angering slightly, Katie Couric attempts to confront him with photos of corpses from the holocaust, but as any psychiatrist knows, one does not challenge a delusional system directly. As with his Boss, the Supreme Leader or rahbar, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, rumoured to be the driving force behind Iran’s bid to acquire nuclear weapons, the signs of rambling are strongly suggestive of a poverty of intellect that might make any rational engagement fruitless in any case.

Netanyahu holds up minutes of secret Nazi Wannsee Conference of January 20, 1942 to plan extermination of the Jews

Netanyahu holds up minutes of secret Nazi Wannsee Conference of January 20, 1942 to plan extermination of the Jews

Netanyahu has responded with dignity to the holocaust claims, or anti-claims, here and here, also at the United Nations. The video of this is obtainable with difficulty (search for ‘Have you no shame?’ and put up with the advertisements) at Fox News or, more easily, embedded in Google news aggregates (search for ‘Netanyahu holocaust’).

The origins of violence

What is so characteristic of this regime – in everything it does – is the extortion of evidence to support a particular view of reality. The psychology of this is properly attributable to George Kelly, as summarised here:

You can try to make reality match up with your constructs. [George] Kelly[1] calls this aggression. It includes aggression proper: If someone insults my tie, I can punch his lights out, in which case I can wear my tie in peace. … Again, when our core constructs are on the line, aggression may become hostility. Hostility is a matter of insisting that your constructs are valid, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

The villa at 56-58 Am Grossen Wannsee, where the Wannsee Conference was held. Today it is a memorial and museum.

The villa at 56-58 Am Grossen Wannsee, where the Wannsee Conference was held. Today it is a memorial and museum.

Examples might include an elderly boxer still claiming to be “the greatest,” a nerd who truly believes he’s a Don Juan, or a person in therapy who desperately resists acknowledging that there even is a problem.

This extortion of evidence and an almost pathological antipathy to a supple, inclusive view of the world exactly describes the Iranian government’s definition of Islam. And this regardless of the derisive, sophisticated, twenty-first century outlook of most of the Iranian population. Benjamin Netanyahu is right to decry this “ninth century primitivism” (wrongly subtitled by Fox News as “19th century”), and to identify the struggle as one between civilisation and barbarism.

[1] Author of The Psychology of Personal Constructs (1955).

Tarnishing the holy state

Some detail of how Iran’s security services are actively trying to suppress rape allegations is apparent here. Ibrahim Sharifi

recorded his testimony by video on his camera phone and sent the file to a renowned Persian filmmaker in Holland, Reza Allamehzadeh.

Victory en route to the Caspian

Victory en route to the Caspian

The results may be seen on YouTube here, with commentary added by Allamehzadeh. As of today, it has been viewed more than 130,000 times. (Farsi language only.) Sharifi continues in hiding from the Iranian government.

Election results ─ a new look

Word here that a poll of 1003 Iranians reveals that 81% accept Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the legitimate president, with only 10% considering him illegitimate. Nevertheless 62% thought the election was valid, with 13% thinking otherwise. (This leaves rather a visible fraction of people willing to accept the Rat as president on the basis of invalid results.)

This seems more than a little surprising, so we need to ask what the method of polling was. And, of course, what percentage of Iranians consider the poll valid.

Curvy mannequins

Here we go again:

Iranian police warned shop owners Wednesday against displaying female mannequins wearing underwear or showing off their curves as part of a government campaign against Western influence. In a letter published in the state-owned IRAN daily, the authorities also stated that men should not sell women’s underwear, and advised shopkeepers against showing models with neckties and bow-ties, which are considered Western and un-Islamic.

The vital Farsi word gharbzadegi is often translated as West-mania or West-toxification and refers to the sort of obsessional hold, especially over the fashionable young, that the West exercises. Equally suggestive, really, is this sort of anti-West-mania. What is the origin of the pathological condition that this seems to be?

In Arabic, too, there is a word, mustashrak, that means ‘one who seeks the East’. One would think such a benign and outward-looking interest would be welcome. Not a bit of it. The word also implies ‘spy’.

Islamic societies tend to be both backward and closed. They see themselves as living on another planet, just as women in Islam seem to be from another species. The sense of inferiority, at least during the last half-millennium, in relation to the ‘West’s’ dynamism of political, intellectual and scientific progress is a very sore point.

And yet it is precisely to Islam, the source of their inferiority, that Moslems cling all the harder in the face of such adverse comparisons. More books are translated into Spanish each year than have been translated into Arabic in the entire history of Islam. This is a world of fantasy, insulated in the cotton-wool of dogma, isolated from the universal, circumambient civilisation, hostile to free thought and, like Iran at the moment, trying in vain to make whole populations more like themselves ─ turbans filled with sawdust.

Letter to the Ministry of Health and Hospitals

Letter to the Ministry of Health and Hospitals

Crimes against humanity?

As Ratty heads for the United Nations today to display his halo, it is suggested here that the International Criminal Court should arraign him on grounds of crimes against humanity. This is a more constructive issue, for pro-democracy activists, than nuclear weapons capability.

The rot did not start on June 12th this year:

The stage for terror – the purge of leftists in 1988 and reformists in 2009 – was set with the summary execution of monarchists by Khomeini’s revolutionary tribunals in 1979. In 1982, Mehdi Bazargan, Khomeini’s first prime minister, asked: “What has the ruling elite done in nearly four years, besides bringing death and destruction, packing the prison and the cemeteries in every city?’’ In 1988, Ayatollah Montazeri denounced the judiciary’s mass murder of more than 3,000 leftist detainees, and condemned as un-Islamic prison guards raping virgins before their execution. It is Khomeini’s medieval and murderous system of justice that remains etched in the Iranian constitution and enshrined in Evin prison

according to the Boston Globe. Is there anyone listening in the General Assembly?

Death to Hippocrates

A document is circulating in which the Commander of the Revolutionary Guards instructs all hospitals not to release any information on patients who have been tortured or injured while in imprisonment.

It is reproduced on this page.

The rat and his bomb

The empty chairs were listenening, Mahmout

The empty chairs were listenening, Mahmout

Nothing much is being reported regarding Ahmadinejad’s appearance before the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York. Some protests there were, in the streets around the UN Building. But the manoeuvring of nations seems to have been rated as of higher importance than events on the floor. Indeed there were mostly empty seats when the Rat spoke (see photo).

In short, as noted here recently, Russia is edging towards a pro-sanctions vote, while it is thought unlikely that China would exercise a veto against the explicit wishes of all the other members of the Security Council. Obama is personally and unusually chairing today’s meeting of the Council and has already uttered warning rumblings against nuclear proliferation. It even seems possible that at long last the civilised nations have got wise to the savage Iranian regime’s twistings and twinings, wrigglings and feints.

Naughty Israeli girls

Naughty Israeli girls

The clock is ticking for the Rat, who in place of the showdown negotiation on his nuclear weapons program (which he states is non-negotiable) has agreed only to very general, wide ranging talks about the nice weather in Geneva.

Meanwhile all his rebellious students return to university tomorrow, Friday.

Rape – the back story

It is pointed out here that rape has always been used as a tool of policy in the Islamic Republic, sanctioned at first by Ayatollah Khomeini and then, in the 1980s and 1990s, by Mousavi and Karroubi:

The opposition leaders Karoubi and Mir-Hussein Mousavi are trying to give the impression that the rape of prisoners is something new. While it is now taking place on an even more shocking scale, the systematic rape of prisoners first became government policy when Mousavi was prime minister in the 1980s and continued when Karoubi was the head of parliament in the ’90s. And it could not have been initiated or continued without the direct or indirect approval of the regime’s founder, Ayatollah Khomeini. It was so widely used that Ayatollah Ali Montazeri, who at that time was slated to succeed the Supreme Leader, wrote to him on October 9, 1986 asking, perhaps rhetorically, “Do you know that a large number of prisoners have been killed under torture? Do you know that in Mashhad around 25 girls had to have their ovaries or wombs removed because of what happened to them in prison? Are you aware that in some of the Islamic Republic’s prisons, the young girls have been forcibly raped during the interrogations?”

My silence is not out of contentment

My silence is not out of contentment

The practice of this crime continued over the following decades. One of the most infamous cases was that of Zahra Kazemi, the Iranian-Canadian journalist murdered in custody in July 2003. Lawyers who followed this case believe that judge Saeed Mortazavi ordered and directed her torture and murder. Another is that of Zahra Baniyaghoub, a medical doctor arrested by security forces in Hamedan. After she was raped and murdered, the authorities announced that she had committed suicide. Then there is the case of Atefeh Rajabi, a 16-year-old girl raped by the judges in the northern town of Neka. Despite her age, the judge Hadji Rezai hastily hanged her for “adultery” personally to cover up the crime. Rezai and a number of security forces officers were arrested in connection with that case, but most of them were released shortly after.

The naughty club crumbles

In what the Iranians, if they have antennae at all, must construe as an ominous development, the Russians have dissociated themselves from the Rat’s holocaust remarks:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s statement that the Holocaust was “a myth” is “totally unacceptable”, the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement Saturday. “Such statements, wherever they come from, contradict the truth and are totally unacceptable,” ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said in the statement. “Attempts to rewrite history, especially as the 70th anniversary of the start of World War II is being marked this year, are an offence to the memory of all victims and all those who fought fascism,” he added. Nesterenko said Ahmadinejad’s comment “does not contribute to creating an international atmosphere that would foster a fruitful dialogue on issues concerning Iran.”

The context is that Obama has scrapped plans for deployment of anti-missile stations in Čzech Republic and Poland, and the Russians understand they are expected to make a quid pro quo. Hitherto Iran has relied upon China and Russia to put commercial policy ahead of anti-nuclear policy in the Security Council. But China is seriously displeased with North Korea, chief member of the bad boys’ club, while Russia’s vote is clearly shifting towards the “crippling sanctions” that will alone preserve Iran from a pre-emptive strike on its nuclear installations.

Whistling in the wind

Rat congratulates Hamid Karzai - one thief to another

Rat congratulates Hamid Karzai - one thief to another

President Rat has stepped forward to congratulate President-re-elect Hamid Karzai of neighbouring Afghanistan on his superbly managed re-election. At least observers from the UN and Europe were thick on the rather dangerous ground this time. The Europeans reckon that about a third of the votes were fraudulent.

So why not briskly disqualify all doubtful votes, hand the presidency to Dr Abdullah Abdullah and send a few shock waves around these corrupt Islamic dictatorships?

Same tune, different words

Choral chanting seems to be a manifestation of political life in Iran, rather like the Madiba shuffle in South Africa, but with less innocent goodwill. ‘Death to America!’ the mullah-cantor cries; ‘Death to America!’ the crowd roars back. ‘Death to Inglees!’ he shouts . . . and so it goes on.

Or did. Not any more. Here a frustrated mullah says his usual chorus lines ─ but the crowd is stubbornly dissident: ‘Death to Russia!’ they respond. ‘Ya Hossein!’, he tries again. ‘Mir Hossein!’ [Mir-Hossein Mousavi] they call back. He has to pack up and go home.

This sort of thing is hugely embarrassing to the dictatorship. Vast and entirely free expressions of public hostility and contempt ridicule the pretensions of the regime before the world. Hence the holding of popular football matches behind closed doors. People continue to express dissent, of course, on public transport and in the Metro.

The Rat in disgrace

Adolf Hitler with Himmler

Adolf Hitler with Himmler

Many Iranians seem to think the Rat will not in fact appear in New York tomorrow, at the General Assembly of the United Nations. The possibilities for humiliation and disgrace are too great. The opposition is well-prepared and will be very public.

On the other hand, he is keen to play the internationally isolated bad boy and tell everybody

The anger of the world’s professional killers is (a source of) pride for us

before he is put in the naughty corner.

Personally I am hoping against hope to see the reappearance of the little halo which Ahmadinejad claimed hovered over his head the last time he spoke there. This time it might be filmed, so that we can all examine the lettering inscribed around its rim: R-A-P-E.

Perhaps when the Twelfth Imam climbs at last out of his well, where he has been occluded for centuries, and gratifies Ahmadinejad and his other faithful, evangelical disciples, he will be seen to have a little bottle-brush moustache and will be recognised as a reincarnation of Adolf Hitler.

Sepah overheard

Fervent believers

Fervent believers

Someone has posted here a recording of the secure communications during last Friday’s protests of the Basiji and Pastoran policing the demonstrations. Ill-spelt English transcripts are cunningly superimposed in red over the street scenes being referred to.

One patrolman gets very excited: “There are thousands of Green Wave supporters,” he exclaims, “and they are shouting, ’Death to Russia!’ and ‘Doorooghoo’ [liar].” His boss tones him down, telling him not to give actual numbers for the estimated crowds ─ “but just say, ‘Many’ or ‘Few’.”

The donkey keeps digging

One had thought that there was nothing left for the regime to do sufficiently stupid to further expedite its own downfall. One had been wrong.

To mark the end of Ramadan, the Donkey has made a well-publicised statement about torture. Torture is okay, he says. But obtaining the names of people by means of torture is not okay.

This has caused further outrage. To privilege people who are merely in the offing, as possible suspects, over those you are presently torturing is absurd. In any case, if you may not use the information extracted, why are you torturing people in the first place?

A soldier has noted three years ago Time 11.15 pm, On duty, damn military service, it breaks the heart. My girl friend has become a mother, and I am still a soldier!

A soldier has noted three years ago Time 11.15 pm, On duty, damn military service, it breaks the heart. My girl friend has become a mother, and I am still a soldier!

People are not fooled. It is a consistent characteristic of the regime that they seem to think everybody is as stupid as themselves. When Khamenei was first seen here in public, with the media invited to cover in full his long rambling Friday prayers speech to the nation, in which he mentioned both his impartiality and his preference for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, I could see that this was a fool, a revered but somewhat gaga old man, who belonged in a rocking chair on a veranda somewhere. No less dangerous for that, of course, but nevertheless a head full of sawdust. I commented at the time that the regime should institute IQ testing for its senior figures in future.

Too late. The damage has been done. Things are slipping away from the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Sullen monotony of black

Today’s Economist reports on

She supports Mousavi, wears a short sleeve T-shirt instead of the dark robeThe handsome stone bulk of the Royal Atheneum, a once-elite state school [in Antwerp] with a 200-year history, [which] has produced legendary free-thinkers and radicals in its day. Now, however, it is enjoying unhappy fame: as the centre of an experiment in multiculturalism wrecked by intolerance.

After the September 11th 2001 attacks, there were arguments in the playground. The head, Ms Heremans, pursued a doggedly liberal policy of multiculturalism, but

Antwerp’s [other] schools began banning religious clothing, leaving just three that allow scarves—among them the Atheneum. Ms Heremans soon noticed Muslim girls moving to her college. Between 2006 and 2008 the proportion of Muslim pupils at the Atheneum rose from half to 80%.

What do you do in a polarising situation, when the middle ground is constantly being  redefined?

“At the beginning, I didn’t see a problem,” she explains. But then, a number of “very conservative” families moved their daughters to the school. By 2007 about 15 girls came to school wearing all-concealing robes and gloves, with only their faces showing. Ms Heremans confronted them. “I said: ‘You’re stigmatising yourselves. You’re breaking with society by wearing those clothes.’” The girls replied that she was stigmatising them. Pupils began donning longer scarves. Others started covering up at school, even though teachers saw the same girls walking in the streets unveiled. When questioned, such girls said they felt uncomfortable at school without head coverings. In 2007 it proved impossible to organise a two-day school trip to Paris—a longstanding annual treat for 15-year-old pupils. “Suddenly it was a problem for girls to stay overnight. Their older brothers had to come too,” Ms Heremans says. Most of all, an oppressive, “heavy” atmosphere hung over the schoolyard.

Teach them death early

That is the atmosphere of Islam itself. Ask the inhabitants of formerly multiethnic and vibrant cities such as Beirut, Alexandria and Istanbul.

As these girls are increasingly excluded (self-excluded?) from all forms of school education, Ms Heremans concludes,

But barring scarves “doesn’t help girls”.

Perhaps she means wearing scarves doesn’t help them.

The fourth case of rape

Praying on newspapers amid the litterIs this the fourth individual case of prison rape laboriously exposed on the internet in full detail including video? This sixteen- or seventeen-year old has been raped repeatedly. Every time they raped her, they would say, “Here is your vote. You wanted back your vote, didn’t you? Here it is.” (Farsi language.)

The evidence lives on

In spite of determined attempts to destroy or discredit evidence of human rights abuses, especially prison rapes (this seems to touch a sore ethical spot), the Iranian regime must now deal with the fact that masses of such evidence is on the internet and, indeed, in the hands of the London Times and the estimable Martin Fletcher. He writes:

The security forces clubbed Amir Javadifar, 24, so badly that he was treated in hospital before being taken to the notorious Evin prison. His father was later called and told to collect his corpse. The security forces ordered his family to say that he had died of a pre-existing condition but medical reports show that he had been beaten, sustaining several broken bones, and had his toenails pulled out. “My son was not involved in politics. He loved his motherland — that’s all,” said Javadifar’s recently widowed father. “I alone mourn him.”

A female inmate at the women's section of Tehran's infamous Evin prison - many say rape has been used by interrogators in Iran for decades

There is no suggestion that this is not the young man’s real name.

The documents suggest that at least 200 demonstrators were killed in Tehran, with 56 others still unaccounted for, and that 173 were killed in other cities. These are several times higher than the official figures. Just over half of the 200 were killed on the streets. They were beaten around the head or shot in the head or chest as part of an apparent shoot-to-kill policy — there are no reports of demonstrators being shot in the legs … They cite instances of security forces storming hospitals and ordering doctors not to treat injured demonstrators, not to record deaths by gunshot and to suppress medical reports indicating rape or torture.

It is gratifying, at least to think that responsible independent investigators are patiently compiling an accurate record. All this wrong will have to be put right.

In Tehran alone, 37 young men and women claim to have been raped by their jailers. Doctors’ reports say that two males, aged 17 and 22, died as a result of severe internal bleeding after being raped … Female rape victims were mostly held for days, not weeks, like the men. Some said that their jailers claimed to have “religious sanction” to violate them as they were “morally dirty”.

The halo dance

Youth is no protection:

Ali Reza Tavasoli, 12, became separated from his father at a demonstration in the Behesht-e Zahra cemetery in Tehran commemorating the murder of Neda Soltan, the young woman whose videotaped death made her an opposition icon. His family stated that he had been killed in a car accident, but two doctors and a police officer have since testified that he died from blows to the head and that Basijis removed his body from the hospital.

September 18th protests

More moving images of yesterday’s protests here. The consensus seems to be a victory on points for the opposition. The Basiji and assorted goons were extensively deployed along what the regime thought were strategic routes. But they had left unguarded Tehran’s biggest avenue. Flexibly all the protesters poured into this and quickly filled it to overflowing. There was a great creativity in new slogans.

Protestor 18-Sep-09 amid swirls of teargas

Protestor 18-Sep-09 amid swirls of teargas

In times to come, it will be seen as an historical irony, and a sign of foresight and bravery, that, as Sky News puts it,

As Mr Ahmadinejad gave a speech at Tehran university declaring the Holocaust a “myth”, protesters chanted “Death to the dictator” in nearby streets.

The contrast – in tempo and mood – between footage filmed in Tehran and in a supporting demo in Vienna is striking. Vienna is comparatively sedate. In Tehran the atmosphere is intense, electric. These people are utterly, uncontainably furious.

Does God hate women?

A new book (by a man and a woman) examines the role of religions in the subordination, control, concealment, and punishment of women, from Vatican lectures on the female nature to sharia-based stoning.Does God hate women

In large parts of the world, a great many women lead lives of misery and sometimes of plain horror. They are often considered and treated as the property of men: as children they are seen as burdens, to be married off as soon as possible, and as adults they are sex tools, reproductive machines, and domestic labour. When things go wrong – when sexual rumours are floating around, when the crops fail, when a child falls ill – they are scapegoats to be punished. They have few if any rights, they are kept out of school as children, they are illiterate, they receive less food than men however hard they work, they are confined to the house or required to wear stifling, movement-inhibiting clothing if they go outside, they are denied medical treatment, they are forbidden to vote or drive cars, and they are whipped or beaten if they disobey.

The book has its own website.

Tehran or Gaza: which one is occupied?

That is what the Farsi title means for the photographs shown at this site. In other words, it is no good marching to support Palestinians and the injustices there when the same, or worse, is happening here, in Tehran.

The Commander of the Sepah ─ Revolutionary Guards ─ has said that the mention of the word Iran in today’s (Friday 18th September) Quds Day march is prohibited. Only the words Israel and Palestine are permitted.

Late on Friday 18th, it is clear that Ratto has again preached against the Holocaust, paving the way for a resurrection of Hitler (if he existed).

Khatami under attack, turban knocked off, Quds Day, 18-Sep-09

Also, sadly, it is said that former President Khatami, the closest thing Iranian politics can offer to a non-hard-liner, has been attacked with knives by a group of thugs including the son of the editor of the notoriously hardline Kayhan, government mouthpiece. Though people in the crowd defended him, Khatami is said to have been injured: see the photo on this page and the sequence here.

Last night, Tehran was shaking with rooftop choruses. Today, hordes of protestors turned out, clean-shaven, perfumed and well-dressed, to ‘boo helicopters’, overwhelm rent-a-mob cries of ‘Death to Israel’ with ‘Death to Russia’, defend Khatami and pour through the avenues of Tehran, as may be seen here and in nine lots of footage here. They also shout: ‘Gaza is nothing, Lebanon is nothing. My life is for Iran!’ In the fifth piece of footage, protestors totally drown out the speaker and even Basiji loudhailers with chants of “Ya Hossein, Mir Hossein” and “Karroubi, we support you!”

Palestine is here


Today’s Economist reports that

Since the reopening, the number of visitors to Dover Castle has boomed, as has heritage tourism across Britain. Other sites, such as the tomb of Thomas à Becket (whom Henry unwittingly had killed) at Canterbury Cathedral, are doing well too. English Heritage  properties saw 22% more visitors pass through their doors in July than in the same month a year earlier. The National Trust, English Heritage’s private-sector equivalent, also saw a rise in visitors of 8.3%, and bookings for its holiday cottages were up by 7%. Back at the castle, around a third of visitors become members of English Heritage despite the cost (as much as £75). Members usually renew for several years, says English Heritage, and tend to visit lots of other sites to get more for their money.

Funnily enough, something very similar is happening in Iran, as interest in its pre-Islamic past, noticed on this blog before, has waxed. But there is widespread indignation among the young, who report unprecedented destruction, during the last four years, of natural and historic resources. Why should a country, for instance, as well-endowed with oil and coal as Iran need to cut down vast forests in the beautiful Caspian and Mashhad areas for firewood?

The photo here shows a reverential pilgrim approaching the tomb of Cyrus (‘Kouroush’) on his knees, kissing the ground.Kissing the earth on approach to Koroush's tomb

Wonderful Dutch

I remember hitchhiking across Holland in my twenties and falling into discussion with a driver. I particularly remember his comment, when we spoke of politics and royalty, that: “In Holland, every man is his own King.”

Now the Dutch have brought out a set of stamps, each one green, for 44 cents, with an inscription that reads, “Where is my vote?” (see photo)

The rapes

It is remarkable how evidence of the many prison rapes ─ which of course never occurred ─ is being targeted:

Stamp issued in Holland

The office of the Association for the Defence of Prisoners’ Rights was also ransacked, and evidence of the torture, rape and killing of detainees confiscated. An Amnesty International statement points out that “the seized records contain information which would enable the judicial authorities to identify the former detainees who were prepared to speak out on a confidential basis due to their fear of reprisals and the shocking nature of their ordeal.”

The same thing happed, first, at the office of Mehdi Karroubi, as mentioned two days ago.

The article, by Nazenin Ansari, in the excellent Open Democracy, continues with a first-hand report from ‘an engineer in Tehran’:

Ahmadinejad has to go to appointments in a helicopter as people will tear him apart if he shows his face on Tehran streets….his residence in Pasteur Road is guarded by a large group of machine-gun wielding Basiji ruffians. The unusual thing is that these basijis are now wearing black-cloth masks to hide their identity from passers-by…..previously it was the demonstrators who wore masks but now it is the basijis who are forced to do so – as citizens will beat them up and burn their motorcycles if they catch them alone somewhere.

An Israeli strike before the end of the year?

As mentioned already, a pre-emptive strike by Israeli forces on Iran’s nuclear armaments seems altogether possible by the end of the year. A former, but recent, deputy defence minister is used to voice this threat.

Sabze Ghaba . . . green parrot

United international action (sanctions) against Iran seems beyond reach, since the United Nations is not an organisation consisting only of ‘good’ nations, and Russia and China (both ‘bad’ nations) sit on the Security Council, blocking anything morally unambiguous. Moreover, little jackal nations, like Chavez’s Venezuela, are running around between people’s legs getting in the way and spreading mischief (selling refined petroleum to Iran at very high prices).

Funny how evil regimes all lend each other more than token support (‘hang together’). Why doesn’t America extricate itself from this saloon-bar confederacy and found an alternative United Nations, open only to countries that meet explicit criteria for democracy? Membership should be for renewable ten-year terms.

Would Putin’s neo-fascist Russia qualify? Doubtful. Putin is still justifying the Nazi-Soviet pact and querying the authenticity of the secret protocols that handed the Baltic and East European nations to Stalin on a plate.

Check out the perpetrators, not the victims

Amnesty International has been quiet but effective, on at least a few occasions, during the unrest. Here they make a reasonable point:

Family photoIran is spending more time investigating the victims of torture and rape behind bars than investigating those who committed such abuses, [Amnesty International] claimed Thursday. “The Iranian authorities appear more intent on finding the identities of those who claim to have been tortured by security officials than in carrying out an impartial investigation so that the perpetrators can be brought to justice,” Amnesty International chief Irene Khan said.

One might add that it is vain offering evidence to representatives of the regime ─ they are the accused parties and are keen to discredit and suppress all such evidence. Rather, offer it to some impartial agent of international order that holds human rights as a cardinal value. The Rat, sorry, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran’s powerful conservative parliamentary speaker, Ali Larijani, may belong to different factions but they both attack the validity of the rape allegations. Let them hang together. So much for the Kennedys. Could the brave but dim Karroubi really have kept vital documents in his office, which was, predictably, raided? Doesn’t he realise who the enemy is?

Muslim Adam and EveThose documents were confiscated during the raids by Iranian security forces, and two members of the reformists’ investigative committee were arrested this week, Moussavi said in a statement posted on his Web site Tuesday.

The documents are malicious forgeries, but we are very anxious to confiscate them anyway! Is this a reign of terror, as at least one opposition figure claims?

Brave girl on a bus

A young girl gets on a bus full of people, and starts reading a flyer about freedom and what happened after the election. She speaks plainly about the human rights abuses. At the end she leaves some flyers and tells people to go for the demonstration on Friday at 9.30 am at such and such a place. What she read was very passionate and moving and brave. Watch here (Farsi).

Karroubi addresses his nation

Well, the old chap has settled down to write an interminable address to the people of Iran, as mullahs will. Because he is braver than your average mullah, we should read it, I suppose. (It is in English here.) The sign reads, Sister, Hejab is for safety and not a limitation. The girls are telling them what they think.He says, amongst other things:

I wasn’t there during the rape to make a film to provide you with, and I wasn’t there when the crime was being committed to pass a [tape measure] to tell you of the distance between them. And did you expect me to provide you with the instruments of crime? I also said that my job is not to collect evidence, and this is not my court, and if I have provided you with evidence, it’s just a clue so that you’d go and investigate further and to bring an end to this injustice.

Islamic law requires four witnesses to give evidence of a crime. How thoughtless of the rapists not to perform in front of a small audience. Why is there is nothing in the Koran about DNA? There seems to be little doubt that Karroubi is appealing to the three-member investigating committee as if he expects justice. If they gave him that, they would all be arrested.

Shark, weasel or toothless lion?

Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, powerful cleric, architect of the revolution and strangely quiet lion-behind-the-scenes, has been prevented from giving the prayers on this coming Friday’s Quds [Jerusalem] day in support of the Palestinians, the Iranian government’s idea of a jolly annual national holiday. He has done so for 25 years, so this is a departure. In addition to the regime’s morbidly growing list of fears, it is trembling at the prospect of well-organised and widespread opposition demonstrations. As far as I can make out, most international opposition planning is concentrated on the Rat’s visit to the United Nations on 23rd of this month, September 09. But anyway.

Opposition supporters have plastered walls in cities and towns with posters calling on opposition supporters to take to the streets, photographs posted to the internet show. “I ask the understanding and intelligent nation of Iran to turn out massively in Friday’s rally in a bid to negate any kind of oppression anywhere in the world,” Ayatollah Yousef Sanei, a high-ranking reformist cleric, was quoted as saying on his website. “Be sure that God watches out for tyrants.”

Instead, Ahmadinejad will speak, sharing a platform with Ayatollah Ahmad (the ‘other’) Khatami. Remember him? He’s the one who wants everyone punished and killed (see apoplectic photo).The other, apoplectic Khatami (Ahmad)

Kill them

I’m always concerned about people, black or green, getting hurt and favour the peaceful change brought about by compromise and ambiguity. I can’t have many readers in Kurdish areas of north-western Iran, where they simply kill the regime’s mullahs. Some of the worst regime atrocities are reported from Tabriz and Kurd-flavoured areas. Let’s have gradual, non-ideological change. But the implacable ignorance of President Rat makes a violent ending seemingly inevitable. His nuclear stance, aimed at Israel, is utterly intransigent and his timescale for sweet talks with Obama is running out. The UN will meet in October. Pre-emptive strikes are pencilled in for December. Don’t forget how long it takes to push over a ramshackle middle-eastern regime ─ about a fortnight.

The shroud

The issue of female Islamic dress seems to me tiresome and overblown. Let people wear what they like. But the issue of male control of women, and Koranically maintained legal advantage, is a live one throughout the Islamic world. It should always be borne in mind that

Abou Omar Alsif with cypherThe Quran prescribes some degree of segregation and veiling for the Prophet’s wives, but there is nothing in the Quran that requires the veiling of all women or their seclusion in a separate part of the house. These customs were adopted some three or four generations after the Prophet’s death. Muslims at that time were copying the Greek Christians of Byzantium, who had long veiled and segregated their women in this manner […][1]

And Karen Armstrong is wildly biased towards the uncritical (and therefore acceptable) view of Islam. Why should women be forced to dress in a manner that, in the West, is reserved for those who voluntarily choose a life of extreme monastic seclusion and spiritual devotion? I have included throughout this post photos that in various humorous ways make much the same point. My favourite is the schoolgirls, with their trainers and jeans. They look quite normal to me!

[1] Armstrong, K. Islam, a short history. New York: Modern Library, 2002, p. 16.

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