Keep the pressure on: Kambakhsh has to be released immediately

Around 200 people marched to the United Nations office in Kabul on Thursday to protest the death sentence of 23-year-old Perwiz Kambakhsh, an Afghan reporter and journalism student, accused of blasphemy. He had downloaded from the Internet and distributed articles that were said to question some of the tenets of Islam, including those related to the role of women. Afghanistan’s senate on Monday issued a statement endorsing the death sentence but seemed to backtrack later as a result of local and international opposition and outrage saying he had the right to an appeal and lawyer (which wasn’t available to him at his trial).

We have to keep the pressure on till he is released.

Atrocious acts of brutality must stop in Iran!

Open letter to:
UN Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon
President of the European Parliament, Mr. Hans-Ger Pöttering
Amnesty International

It is with deep sorrow that I have to inform you of the following horrifying news. Mr. Ebrahim Lotfollaahi, student at the University of Sanandaj in Iran, was kidnapped by the agents of the Ministry of Intelligence of Islamic Republic of Iran after having completed an exam on December 6, 2007. Except for a short visit with him in prison, his family had no knowledge of his whereabouts until January 16, 2008, on which day the news of his killing spread throughout the prison. His family was informed by the Ministry of Intelligence of his burial place. They were at the same time warned that not they not exhume his body and refrain from spreading the news of his death. Ebrahim was murdered under torture without having committed a crime, or even being put on trial, and his family was threatened to keep it secret.

Ebrahim’s murder is not the first of its kind. You are presumably aware of the execution of Maakwaan Mowludizaade, for the simple reason that Ayatolaah Khamenei’s representative in Saqez, Kurdistan, thought the youth in that town had become too impertinent and must be taught a lesson.

You are presumably aware of the murder of Dr. Zahra Baniyaghub who was raped and killed in the city of Hamadaan after being arrested in a park for walking and talking with her fiancé in public.

You are presumably aware of the fate of Zahra Kazemi, the Iranian-Canadian photo-journalist who was tortured, and killed by “some rogue agent in the Ministry of Intelligence” in Evin prison, as the Iranian regime later confessed under international pressure.

These are not exceptional examples of the brutal treatment of the youth by the Islamic regime in Iran but indicative of a trend which, if not thwarted, will turn into the rule.

What adds to the above concerns and becomes particularly disturbing is that, for instance (and I am sure you are informed about this) there are forty-odd students currently held incommunicado in solitary cells and subjected to all kinds of physical and emotional torture for the “crime” of celebrating Students’ Day (December 7th) by holding peaceful protest rallies at the universities.

The above-mentioned instances of murder, besides a track record showing a 29-year-long history of suppression, execution, torture, cutting off limbs, gouging eyes, stoning, and constant harassment and persecution of the people even in the streets, are strong indications of immense potentials of the ruling Islamic regime for committing crimes of the most unthinkable and unspeakable sorts. It is simply such facts that have been the source of serious worries for the life of the jailed students, and political prisoners at large, among the families as well as among the nation in general.

Therefore, on behalf of all the youth, women and working people of Iran who condemn such murderous conditions, I urge you to exert pressure on the Islamic Republic to release all political prisoners, including the recently arrested students, immediately and unconditionally, and to bring to justice all those responsible for the killings of the youth in the country.

Navid Minaai
Secretary of the Youth Communist Organization
January 19, 2008

Upcoming Events

To find out more about upcoming events I will be speaking at, click here.

In the next two weeks I will be at the following:

  • Life after leaving Islam at Cambridge University Atheist and Agnostic Society on January 30, 2008 at 7:30pm.
  • On whether western nations take action against Iran, Philosophical Society, Trinity College, February 7, 2008, Dublin, Ireland also in the evening.

Week of Action in support of jailed political prisoners

To international labour and human rights organisations

Week of Action in support of jailed students and political prisoners in Iran (2–9 Feb 2008)

The news on the condition of over 50 jailed students in Iran is very worrying. Last week Ebrahim Lotfollaahi was killed under torture in the city of Sanandaj. Nearly two months since their arrest and detention, many students continue to be held incommunicado. Reports from prisons speak of long and severe interrogation sessions by the feared Information Ministry officials, with many students being tortured and kept in solitary confinement.

In addition to the jailed students, many labour and women’s rights activists continue to be detained and persecuted. There are grave concerns over the health of labour leader Mahmoud Salehi, who is still being held in prison despite a life-threatening kidney condition. Mansoor Ossanlou, the leader of Tehran’s bus workers’ union, is still in prison following his violent abduction last July by the security forces. Ali Reza Hashemi, a teachers’ leader, has just been handed a three-year prison sentence for trade union activities, and many of his colleagues are being persecuted for last year’s strikes and protests over pay and conditions.

Iran under the Islamic Republic is literally a huge prison for workers, teachers, women, students and all dissidents.

To mobilise support for the jailed students in Iran, their families have called for a Week of Action from 2nd to 9th of February. This is an important opportunity to show support not only for the jailed students in Iran, but also to renew the call for the unconditional and immediate release of Mahmoud Salehi, Mansoor Ossanlou and all other imprisoned activists and political prisoners in Iran.

Your union and organisation is requested to support and join this Week of Action in any way you can – from publishing the news of the campaign and sending protest letters to joining the demonstrations and other actions planned for this week across Europe and North America.

Please see our forthcoming Week of Action bulletins for further details of the events.
International Labour Solidarity Committee of the Worker-communist Party of Iran
24 January 2008

Head office:
Co-ordinator: Shahla Daneshfar
Public Relations: Bahram Soroush

New TV programme called Secular Society

Watch Fariborz Pooya’s new weekly TV programme called Secular Society. In this week’s programme, he interviews Hamid Taqvaee on the role of state in a secular society and the question of neutrality of state towards religion and Maryam Namazie on the comments made by Bishop of Rochester, Nazir Ali, on the question of ‘no go areas’ in Britain.

Call for the Immediate Release of Afghan Journalist Parwiz Kambakhsh

January 17, 2008

The criminals who are in power in Afghanistan have imprisoned Parwiz Kambakhsh, a young journalist, since October 2007 in Balkh province – Northern Afghanistan. He is threatened to be hanged by the dark-minded and ignorant judges in the medieval courts of Afghanistan. The accusations are so ridiculous and injudicious that they make any freedom-loving person want to stand and say enough is enough. Mr. Kambakhsh is accused of printing/distributing an article from the Internet, which points out controversial verses of the Quran regarding women’s rights. The book “Religion in the History of Civilization” (by Will Durant) taken from his living room has been kept as an evidence against him in the court!

In a country where for the last six years there are many claims regarding “democracy”, “human rights”, and “freedom of press”, the religious fascists have their grip on justice and try every possible way to mute anyone who criticizes or comments about the Northern Alliance criminals.

Imprisonment of Parwiz Kambakhsh is not only for his enlightening articles in a local newspaper, Jahan-e-Now (The New World), but also because of his brother Yaqub Ibrahimi, who is a well-known, brave and realistic reporter and exposed many criminal faces from Jehadi mafia in Northern Afghanistan to the world public.

The Jehadi criminals, who could not silence Ibrahimi, now try to pursue a traitorous agenda by unlawfully imprisoning his brother in order to hush him.

The Religious Scholars Council of Balkh province who have never condemned the criminal acts of the fundamentalist warlords in the north, now disgracefully issued a verdict for the execution of Parwiz Kambakhsh.

Above everything, the shocking detention of Mr. Kambakhsh is a great disgrace for Mr. Karzai and his Western patrons who decorated the notorious criminals in pants and ties and brought them in power under the guise of “democrats”. Now Mr. Karzai says he is not as powerful to control them.

RAWA kindly asks all freedom-loving individuals and organizations who believe in human rights and democracy to stand up against the unjust imprisonment of Parwiz Kambakhsh, and ask for his immediate release. Only your strong support for justice and freedom can stop the mediaeval acts of the Afghan government and its allies, which are in the style of the brutal Iranian regime.

Please email your protest letters to:

Join a week of protest calling for the release of jailed students in Iran

During the past month-and-a-half a large number of university students have been arrested at universities or towns throughout Iran for the “crime” of defending human rights and humanist values through organising or taking part in December 7th (Student Day) actions. They are currently held in prisons, suffering various forms of abusive treatment. During this period, some of their families have been permitted only one short visit with their children. The families have also been under constant, intense emotional stress, while at the same time protesting the detention of their sons and daughters and demanding their immediate release.

Despite all the efforts made to free the jailed students, a large group of them are still held in solitary cells under inhuman conditions, and some of them have not yet been allowed any visitation with their families – not even a phone call.

We hereby appeal to people, institutions and organisations inside and outside Iran to continue their efforts and participate in the International Week of Action for the Release of Jailed Students in Iran during February 2 to February 9, 2008. Actively demonstrate your opposition to the students’ incarceration and abuse. Celebrating National Students’ Day (December 7) is a right, and all imprisoned students must be released immediately and unconditionally.

Please send your letters of support here.

For more information, click here.

Signed by:
A group of parents of jailed students; groups of students at Allaame University, Polytechnic, Chamraan University (Ahvaz), Baahonar University (Shiraz), University of Mashad.

The names of the students:
1- Ali Salem (Masters of Polymers – Polytechnic)
2- Mohsen Ghamin (Polytechnic University)
3- Roozbe Saf-Shekan (Tehran University)
4- Yaser Pir Hayati -sadra– (Shahed University)
5- Milad Omrani
6- Anooshe Azadbar (Tehran University)
7- Elnaz Jamshidi (Communications, Azad University, Central Tehran)
8- Mehdi Gerayloo (Geophysics, Tehran)
9- Nader Ahsani (Mazandaran University)
10-Sayid Habibi (ex-member of the Central Council of Advare Tahkim Vahdat)
11- Behrooz Karimi-zade (Tehran University)
12- Keyvan Amiri Elyasi (Masters, Industry, Sharif Technical University)
13- Nasim SoltanBeygi (Communications faculty, Alame)
14- Mahsa Mohebbi
15- Okhtay Hosseni (Azad University)
16- Sayid Agham Ali
17- Behzad Bagheri (Tehran University)
18- Ali Kalayi
19- Amir Mehrzad
20- Hadi Salari (Rjaee University)
21- Farshid Farhadi Ahangaran(Rjaee University)
22- Amir Aghayi (Rajaee University)
23- Soroosh Hashempoor (Chamran University)
24- Mehdi Alahyari (Sharif University)
25- Bahram Shojaee (Tehran Azad University)
26- Abed Tavanche
27- Saeed Aqakhani
28- Peyman Piran
29- Majid Ashrafnejad (Rjaee University)
30- Mohammad Salehe Iuman
31- Sohrab Karimi
32- Farshad Dostipor
33- Javad Alizade
34- Morteza Eslahchi
35- Anahita Hoseini
36- Soroosh Sabet
37- Mohammad Porabdolah
38- Amin Ghazaee
39- Soroosh Dashtestani
40- Bijan Sabagh
41- Bita Samimi Zad
42- Kaveh Abaseian
43- Morteza Khedmatlou
44- Mosi Shirvani
45- Yaser Goli
46- Hana Abdi
47- Ronak Saffarzadeh
48- Sabah Nasri
49- Hedayat Ghazali
50- Ahmad Ghasaban
51- Ehsan Mansori
52- Majid Tavakoli

Mina and Maryam are women of the year

From the National Secular Society’s Newsline

Mina Ahadi and Maryam Namazie – leading lights in the ex-Muslim movement – have been voted among the top 45 women of year by Elle magazine in Quebec. Both Mina and Maryam have been winners of the National Secular Society’s Secularist of the Year award and Maryam is an honorary associate of the Society.

NSS President Terry Sanderson, said: “As far as we’re concerned, Mina and Maryam are our women of the year this year and every year. Congratulations to them both.”

Meanwhile, another courageous honorary associate, Taslima Nasrin, is still under cruel pressure in India from Muslims and now the Indian authorities. She is in hiding after threats to her life and has revealed that she feels isolated and lonely. Read the latest and more here.

11 January 2008

Help abolish balsphemy law

Parliamentary attempt to abolish blasphemy law
From the National Secular Society

We have been working closely with our Honorary Associate Dr Evan Harris MP, who has identified an opportunity to challenge the blasphemy law in the House of Commons.

On Wednesday, 9 January, Dr Harris will table as an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill. Below is a letter we have been working on with him which will appear in the Daily Telegraph signed by a large number of other Honorary Associates and prominent supporters of the NSS as well as some other worthy names from a religious and other spheres.

The letter itself makes the case forcibly:

“In the light of the widespread outrage at the conviction of the British teacher for blasphemy in Sudan over the name of a teddy bear we believe it is now time to repeal our own blasphemy law.

“The ancient common law of blasphemous libel purports to protect beliefs rather than people or communities. Most religious commentators are of the view that the Almighty does not need the “protection” of such a law. We are representatives of religious, secular, legal and artistic opinion in this country and share the view that the blasphemy offence serves no useful purpose. Yet it allows small partisan organisations or well-funded individuals to try to censor broadcasters like the BBC and to intimidate small theatres, the printed media and book publishers.

“Far from protecting public order — for which other laws are more suited — it actually damages social cohesion. It is discriminatory in that it only covers attacks on Christianity and Church of England tenets and thus engenders an expectation among other religions that their sensibilities should be also protected by the criminal law (as with the attempt to charge Salman Rushdie) and a sense of grievance among minority religions that they do not benefit from their own version of such a law.

“As the Law Commission acknowledged as far back as 1985, when they recommended repeal, it is uncertain in scope, lack of intention is no defence and yet it is unlimited in penalty. This, together with its chilling effect on free expression and its discriminatory impact, leaves it in clear breach of human rights law and in the end no one is ever likely to be convicted under it.

“The Church of England no longer opposes its abolition and the Government has given no principled reason to defend its retention. We call upon MPs to support the amendment proposed by Dr Evan Harris, Frank Dobson and John Gummer (tbc) tomorrow during the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill Report stage proceedings and for the Government — which rightly criticises countries like Sudan for their blasphemy laws — to give it a fair wind.”

If you support the abolition of blasphemy laws, we urge you please to write immediately to your MP, preferably by email, explaining you would like them to support Dr Harris’s amendment on Wednesday and add in your own words why you think this is important. You could perhaps use some of the ideas in the above letter, but please do not reproduce them all.

It is best if you can to contact your MP by email – you can find out details if you don’t know them from this website. This allows you to write to the correct MP by putting in your postcode. Whatever method you use to contact your MP, it is essential to include your name and full address.

If for any reason you would prefer to write by letter, you can send it by fax by phoning 020 7219 3000 and asking for the MPs office and requesting a fax number. Alternatively you could write to them at House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA, but in view of the urgency we would urge you to use email or fax if possible.

The NSS has been fighting for the abolition of blasphemy for the whole of its 140 year history. We have been working with Dr Harris on this important issue for some weeks including over the seasonal break assisting with research and soliciting the support of many influential individuals.

We know you will want to add your support.

Please act straight away, there is very little time.

The fruits of our efforts will not be clear for some considerable time as the Bill has to go through several readings in both Houses of Parliament, but we will keep you informed of its progress through Newsline. We are most grateful for your support.

Terry Sanderson
President

On Benazir Bhutto

The below is a letter to the editor that was not published today by the Observer:

When Benazir Bhutto’s father was executed by General Zia-ul-Haq, no western commentator could have pointed to the Islamist generalissimo as a herald of Social justice and expect to get away with it.

Yet this is precisely how William Dalrymple now explains and apologises for the “rise” of the Islamic right in Pakistan (“Pakistan’s flawed and feudal princess”, 30 December). The Jamaat-e-Islami were Zia’s most fervent and violent supporters; more recently they threatened to resign their assembly seats if Zia’s notorious Hudood ordinances on rape (whereby a rape victim could be stoned if she could not produce four male witnesses) were changed; and today
their totalitarian manifesto includes the death penalty for anyone who leaves Islam.

In any sane political discourse, uncoloured by cultural relativism, this politics is fascistic. The political Islamic movement offers the Pakistani people and the Middle East nothing that they haven’t already suffered under Zia, Musharraf or any pro-western dictatorship.

Maryam Namazie
Spokesperson
Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain

At least 50 and possibly hundreds of Ahwazi Arabs

According to an Amnesty International Urgent Action, on 30 December, at least 50 and possibly hundreds of men from Iran’s Ahwazi Arabs were arrested as they attended a memorial in Ahvaz City, the capital of the south-western Khuzestan province. They were detained following an attack by members of the police and Bassij forces.

Those arrested, whose numbers have been reported by Ahwazi groups to be between 200 and 300, have been taken to an unknown location, and their family members have as yet received no information as to their whereabouts or wellbeing. It is feared that they could be tortured or otherwise ill-treated in detention.

Amnesty International has received the names of 53 people said to have been arrested at the time. The organisation has also been informed that a number of people were injured when security forces opened fire on the crowd. These included 18 -year-old Amir Heydari, who was injured in the leg.

The memorial was being held on the seventh day after the death of Mehdi Heydari at the hands of security forces. An Ahwazi Arab in his twenties, he had been wanted by security forces for some time and had gone into hiding. He had returned home for a short visit, and was shot dead while trying to escape after officials from the Ministry of Intelligence surrounded his house.

To find out more and demand the political prisoners, click here.