Debate and Speech in Toronto

To watch the panel discussion on Political Islam, Sharia and Women’s Rights with Maryam Namazie (Spokesperson of Equal Rights Now, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and One Law for All Campaign against Sharia Law in Britain), Tarek Fatah (Founder of Muslim Canadian Congress and Author of “Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State,” Justin Trottier (Executive Director of Center for Inquiry, Ontario) and Issam Shukri (Head of the Organization for the Defense of Secularism and Civil Rights in Iraq), Toronto, Canada, March 14, 2009, click below:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

To see Maryam Namazie’s speech and ensuing discussion on Freedom of Expression and Political Islam at the Centre for Inquiry, Toronto, Canada, March 16, 2009, click here.

The death of an imprisoned blogger inside Evin Prison in Iran

On 18 March, 29-year-old blogger Alireza Mirsayafi died while in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison for insulting the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Mohammad Ali Dadkhah said that although there is not yet an official report about the death yesterday of Omid Mir Sayafi, “officials in the prison said that he committed suicide.”

He demanded “an immediate inquiry and an autopsy into why he died.”

Mr Dadkhah said another prisoner in Evin, a Dr Hessam Firouzi, “had warned officials in the jail of the state the young blogger was in”.

“Dr Firouzi called me from the jail to say he had a slowed heartbeat and he had taken him to the infirmary, but that doctors there did not take this seriously and said he was faking it,” he said.

He added that Dr Firouzi reported that Mr Sayafi had also been very depressed.

The blogger was sentenced in February to 30 months in jail for insulting Khamenei and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Mr Sayafi was first arrested in April last year and released on bail after 41 days before being detained again this year.

Iran has launched a crackdown on bloggers and internet users deemed to be hostile to the Islamic regime.

Those arrested include Hoder Derashkhan, a Canadian-Iranian journalist and blogger detained in Iran last November. Mr Derashkhan’s family is said to have had no news of him since his arrest.

Speaking engagements in Canada

I will be in Canada for the next two weeks on a speaking tour to mobilise support for the One Law for All campaign.

Details of my various engagements are:

March 14, 7:30pm, Toronto
25 Cecil Street, United Steelworkers’ Hall
Panel discussion on Political Islam, Sharia and Women’s Rights with Maryam Namazie (Spokesperson of Equal Rights Now, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and One Law for All Campaign against Sharia Law in Britain), Tarek Fatah (Founder of Muslim Canadian Congress and Author of “Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State,” Khayal Ibrahim (Women’s Liberation in Iraq), Justin Trottier (Executive Director of Center for Inquiry, Ontario) and Issam Shukri (Head of the Organization for the Defense of Secularism and Civil Rights in Iraq).
Entry: $5
For more information: 1-416-471-7138; [email protected]

March 16th 7:00-9:00 pm, Toronto
Centre for Inquiry, 216 Beverley St
Freedom of Expression and Political Islam, a presentation by Maryam Namazie
For more information: www.centerforinquiry.net/ontario/events/maryam_namazie_at_cfi/
$8 regular, $4 students, FREE for CFI Friends of the Centre

Vancouver
March 20, 6:00pm, Vancouver
Student Union Building, Room 214 at UBC
Campus, West Point Grey, Vancouver, near the Bus Loop
Maryam Namazie’s presentation on Political Islam, Sharia and Women’s Rights
Organised by UBC Students for Equality and Freedom In Middle East
[email protected]

Victoria
March 24, 2009
7:00 to 10:00, UVIC
Lecture Hall at Bob Wright Building
Free entry; donations welcome
Maryam Namazie’s presentation on Political Islam, Sharia and Women’s Rights
For more information: 1-250-380-1319; [email protected]

One Law for All Campaign against Sharia Law in Britain’s International Women’s Day was a resounding success

Nearly 600 people joined the One Law for All anti-racist rally against Sharia and religious-based laws in Britain and elsewhere and in defence of citizenship and universal rights in Trafalgar Square and marched towards Red Lion Square in London. Hundreds then joined our public meeting to discuss and debate Sharia, Sexual Apartheid and Women’s Rights. Our protest was met with widespread support and left many feeling inspired and invigorated. It was also covered by the mainstream media, including BBC Radio 4, BBC 5Live, BBC Wales, and the Times.

The rally of several hundred heard a number of speakers denouncing the policy of accommodation and appeasement of the political Islamic movement. A C Grayling in his speech said: ‘Once you start fragmenting society, once you start allowing different groups in society to apply different standards, you get very profound injustices and it is almost always women who suffer these injustices. We have to fight hard to keep one law for everybody.’

Parisa who was refused a divorce from a violent husband said: ‘Ten years of my life is gone because of Sharia law. I want to stop it. Please help to stop it. It is not fair. I had a good uncle who helped me to escape but what about others who don’t have a chance to run away. I saw that many, many times.’

Terry Sanderson, the president of the National Secular Society, said: ‘We do not need another legal system running in parallel… Sharia is creeping into our legal system and society and we must stop it in its tracks and now!’

Fariborz Pooya, head of the Iranian Secular Society, said ‘the introduction of Sharia is a betrayal of thousands of women and children and leaves them at the mercy of Islamist groups.’

After listening to a number of speeches, including from Sargul Ahmad, Jalil Jalili, Shiva Mahbobi, Reza Moradi, Maryam Namazie, Saeed Parto, Sohaila Sharifi and Bahram Soroush the crowd then marched through Strand and Kings Way to Red Lion Square with demands to end Sharia law in the UK and elsewhere. At Conway Hall, they heard live music from the group, Raised Voices, then joined a public meeting and heard a panel of distinguished speakers discuss Sharia Law, Sexual Apartheid and Women’s Rights. The meeting was chaired by Sohaila Sharifi (Central Council of Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran). Speakers included Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (Journalist and British Muslims for Secular Democracy Chair), Naser Khader (Democratic Muslims Founder), Kenan Malik (Writer and Broadcaster); Yasaman Molazadeh (One Law for All Legal Coordinator); Maryam Namazie (Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran, One Law for All and Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain Spokesperson), Pragna Patel (Southall Black Sisters and Women Against Fundamentalism founding member), Fariborz Pooya (Iranian Secular Society and Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain Chair), and Carla Revere (Lawyers’ Secular Society Chair). Sargul Ahmad (International Campaign against Civil Law in Kurdistan Iraq head) also spoke about the situation in Iraq under Sharia and the need for international solidarity.

March 7 was One Law for All’s first warning to the British government and the political Islamic movement. As Maryam Namazie said on the day: “We won’t stand idly by whilst the British government relegates a huge segment of our society to sham courts and regressive rules and appeases the Islamists. And we will bring the political Islamic movement to its knees in Britain in much the same way that people are doing in Iran and elsewhere.” She added: “We will keep growing in numbers and strength until we get rid of Sharia councils and religious tribunal’s altogether.”

Click here for video footage and photos of the rally, march and public meeting.

For International Women’s Day: Down with Patriarchy!

I will give you a report of our mificient March 7 event in London as well as those in other cities, including in Iran, soon. Just to put a smile on your face though, see here a picture of a young man wearing a scarf with a t-shirt saying ‘down with patriarchy’ walking down a street in Tehran. Of course he was arrested.

Long Live International Women’s Day!


Meetings at the European Parliament against stonings and executions in Iran

Mina Ahadi and I went to several meetings yesterday at the European parliament to discussion the women’s rights situation and liberation movement in Iran, and to raise our concerns about a number of stoning and execution cases and Sharia law in Britain.

Here are the Iranian cases we focused on:

Urgent Action
Stoning and executions

Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran and the International Committee against Stoning are calling for the abolition of stoning and executions in Iran.

We are presently campaigning against the stoning sentences of at least nine women and one man in Iran. The women are Sakine Mohammadi Aschtiani held in Tabriz, Kobra N., held in Reja’i Shahr prison, Karaj; Iran A, held in Sepidar Prison, Ahvaz; Khayrieh V., also held in Sepidar Prison, Ahvaz; Ashraf Kalhori, held in Evin Prison, Tehran; Afsaneh R, held in Adel Abad Prison in Shiraz;, M.J, held Vakil Abad Prison in Mashhad; H, also held in Vakil Abad Prison in Mashhad; and Gilan Mohammadi, held in Esfahan Central prison. The man is Gholamali Eskandari being held in Esfahan Central Prison.

We are also campaigning against the execution order of Soheila Gozali in Tabriz. Two other women – sisters Zohreh and Azar Kabiri-niat – will be at risk of stoning if they are convicted after retrial in Tehran. Shala Jahed also contacted Mina Ahadi yesterday via telephone saying a decision will be reached on her case next week and so she is at risk of execution.

The Head of the Iranian Judiciary declared a moratorium on executions by stoning in 2002 because of international and national pressure. In August 2008 the spokesman for the judiciary, Ali Reza Jamshidi, said that stonings had been halted. However, at least four men and one woman have been stoned to death since 2002. Most recently, two men were stoned to death in Mashhad on or around 26 December 2008; a third man managed to free himself from the pit in which he was to be stoned.

In a 13 January press conference, Ali Reza Jamshidi confirmed that the December 2008 stonings had taken place. He also said that the directive on the moratorium had no legal weight and judges were free to ignore it.

In February, the Islamic regime hanged Abdullah Fareivar, a 50-year-old music teacher, sentenced to death by stoning in a prison in the northern town of Sari.

In 2007, a revised Penal Code was submitted to Iran’s parliament for approval, and is still under consideration. This new version still provides for the penalty of stoning, but also states that should the implementation of the penalty cause “harm to the system,” it can, on the proposal of the prosecutor in the case and with the approval of the Head of the Judiciary, be changed to execution by other methods or to 100 lashes, depending on the type of proof.

Urgent Action
Iran: two workers flogged for taking part in May Day

On Wednesday 18th February, two women workers were flogged, following their conviction by a court in Sanandaj for taking part in last year’s May Day celebrations. Susan Razani received a 9 months’ suspended sentence and 70 lashes and Shiva Kheir Abadi 3 years’ suspended sentence and 15 lashes.

Two other workers in the same case, namely Abdullah Khani and Seyyed Ghaleb Hosseini, have been sentenced to 91 days’ prison and 40 lashes and 6 months’ prison and 40 lashes each, respectively.

Last year the regime in Iran carried out flogging sentences on four other workers also for taking part in May Day rallies, precipitating widespread condemnations and protests in Iran and internationally. The floggings are part of an ongoing persecution of labour activists, amid worker protests over pay and conditions and the right to freely organise and strike. On Sunday 15th Feb leading unionist Taha Azadi, who is on the executive board of the Free Union of Workers in Iran, appeared before a court in Cangan on charges of ‘acts against national security’ and ‘publicity against the system’. Mr Azadi was arrested last year for taking part in a May Day rally in the industrial zone of Asalouyeh and has already spent 47 days in prison. The court has deferred announcement of its decision and sentencing to a later date.

In the mean time, five leading members of the Union of Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane Workers by the names of Ramazan Alipour, Fereydoun Nikoufard, Ali Nejati, Jalil Ahmadi and Mohammad Heydari have been summoned to appear before a court in Dezfoul on charges of setting up the sugar cane workers’ union.

A number of other well-known worker activists are under persecution for taking part in strikes and/or other labour activities. Six leading members of the Union of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company, namely, Ata Babakhani, Saeed Torabian, Abbas Najand-Kouhi, Ali Zadeh Hossein, Davoud Razavi and Yaghoub Salimi, have been sentenced to 6 to 14 months’ prison for taking part in the 2006 strike, while Mansoor Ossanlou and Ebrahim Madadi remain in prison. Teacher activist Farzad Kamangar has been sentenced to death and scores of students have been imprisoned for protesting against repression and gender-segregation.

Equal Rights Now condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the outrageous flogging of workers by the regime in Iran and calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all those detained.

Urgent Action
Stop Farzad Kamangar’s Execution

Farzad Kamangar is a 33-year-old teacher, human rights activist and journalist. He was a teacher in rural areas of Iranian Kurdistan. Prior to his arrest in August 2006, he taught in the town of Kamyaran, Kurdistan. He has been subjected to the most brutal physical and emotional tortures since his arrest. Farzad Kamangar has been accused of “endangering national security” and “belligerence against God”, prefabricated charges the Islamic regime in Iran brings wholesale against almost all rights activists. So far, sixteen members of the Kamangar’s extended family have been executed by the regime for their political activities. Farzad Kamangar was sentenced to death by hanging on 25 February 2008 after a sham trial. The following is his letter from death row to the clergyman, Qolaam-Hosyn Ezhei, Islamic regime’s Minister of Intelligence. It has been translated and distributed by International Committee Against Executions, January 5, 2009:

Farzad Kamangar
Let my heart keep beating!

I have been in prison for many months now. Prison was supposed to crush my will, my love and my humanity. It was supposed to tame me. I have been detained in a ward with walls as tall as history, continuing to eternity itself. They were supposed to separate me from my beloved people, from the children of my land. But I travelled through the tiny window of my cell to far away places everyday and felt myself amongst them and like them. They, in turn, would see the reflection of their grievances imprisoned in me; prison thus deepened our bonds. The darkness of prison was supposed to erase the very meaning of the sun and light from my mind, but I have witnessed the growth of pansies in the darkness and silence. Prison was supposed to force my mind to consign time and its value to oblivion. I have, however, relived the moments outside prison, and given birth to a new “me” in order to choose a new path.

I have also, like prisoners before me, wholeheartedly embraced every degradation, insult and cruelty that came my way, hoping to be the last person of a tormented generation who has had to endure the darkness of imprisonment in the fervent hope of seeing a new dawn.

One day, I was labelled “belligerent” for having waged war against their “God.” The noose of justice was thus woven, ready to take my life. And since that day I have been unwillingly awaiting my execution. But I have decided, with all my love for my fellow human beings, that if I am to lose my life, let all my organs go to those who may find life receiving them. And let my heart, with all the love and passion in it, be donated to a child. It makes no difference where s/he might be; on the banks of the Kaaroon, slopes of Mount Sabalaan, fringes of the Eastern Sahara; or a child that beholds the sun rise from the Zagros Mountains. All I want is that my rebellious, restive heart may keep beating in the chest of a child who would, more rebelliously than I, reveal his/her childhood wishes to the moon and the stars, and hold them witness so that s/he may not betray them later as an adult. All I want is that my heart may keep beating in the chest of one who loses patience over the children who go to bed hungry; one that would keep the memory of Haamed – my sixteen-year-old student – alive in my heart who wrote, “even my smallest wish won’t come true in this life,” and hanged himself.

Let my heart keep beating in someone’s chest, no matter what language s/he might speak. All I want is for him/her to be the child of a worker with calloused hands whose coarseness would keep the sparks of rage against inequalities alive. Let my heart keep beating in the chest of a child who may be a rural teacher in a not-so-distant future, whom the children would greet every morning with their delightful smiles, and with whom they would share all their joys and games. Then the children might not know the meaning of such words as poverty and hunger; and the terms “prison,” “torture,” “oppression” and “inequality” might be devoid of all meaning in their world. Let my heart keep beating in a tiny corner of your immense world. Only be careful with it, for it is the heart of a person full of untold stories of the people of his land, whose history abounds in pain and suffering. Let my heart keep beating in the chest of a child so that one morning I can cry at the top of my lungs and in my mother tongue [Kurdish]: I want to become a breeze carrying the message of love of all humanity to all corners of this immense world.

Farzad Kamangar
Patient in the Infectious Diseases Ward
Rajaa’i Shahr Prison, Karaj
28 December 2008

Originally written on 22 December 2008
Security Ward 209
Evin Prison
Iran

More information to follow.

One Law for All update: free helpline, March 7 event reminder, video clips and call for help

Hello

March 7 is around the corner. We are looking forward to seeing many of you at the anti-racist London rally against Sharia and religious-based laws in Britain and elsewhere and in defence of citizenship and universal rights in Trafalgar Square from 330-430pm. You can find posters that have been prepared for the rally by Dan Simon and Reza Moradi on our website. Please feel free to download them and bring them along to the rally to ensure that there are enough placards for everyone. At 4:30pm we will begin our march to Red Lion Square and then join a public meeting at Conway Hall from 6:00-8:00pm. We will be registering people for the public meeting at Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square WC1R 4RL from 5:00pm. From 5:30pm onwards, there will be live music by Raised Voices, pastries and refreshments. The entry fee to the public meeting is £5, including refreshments but we won’t turn anyone away. If you plan on coming, try and send in your booking form before the event (by March 6) so that we can reserve a place for you.

We now have over 9,700 signatories to our petition. Please sign up to it if you haven’t already and tell others about it too. For more background on One Law for All, the nature of Sharia councils and tribunals and on whether it is Islamophobic to oppose Sharia law, see the latest interview with Maryam Namazie and Bahram Soroush on Fariborz Pooya’s Secular TV. You can also see what a Sharia judge really means for people and women in particular by watching a recent BBC TV Big Questions programme in which I participated.

By the way, we have set up a free Helpline (which will be launched at our public meeting) for those who need help with and legal advice on Sharia law decisions. We are specifically targeting women and children who may not be aware of their rights under British law or fear to seek advice or go to secular courts due to pressures and/or threats. Confidentiality and the safety of those who call on us will be our main priorities. We will be collaborating with other advice organisations such as AdviceUK in order to provide high standard quality services and to find the best possible solutions available. Yassi Molazadeh, our Legal Coordinator, has already established a legal team to carry out much needed research in order to find ways in which we can bring a halt to these kangaroo courts but we do need lawyers, barristers and solicitors to provide pro bono legal advice to those who come to us for help. We also need volunteers to receive training in order to staff the Helpline and provide general information and referrals. All our work is being run by volunteers so if you want to help in any way, don’t hesitate to contact us. We need all the help we can get.

Moreover, we plan to go on a speaking tour across Britain and internationally after the March events in order to inform the public about and raise awareness on Sharia councils and tribunals. If you’d like us to come and speak in your area, just contact our Outreach Coordinator, Goranka Gudelj, to arrange it.

And please don’t forget to donate! All this work costs money and we can’t do it without your financial support. No amount is too small (or for that matter too big).

To donate, for more information, to download flyers, posters or a booking form for the March 7 London public meeting or to sign the petition, visit our website.

You can also contact us via:
BM Box 2387
London WC1N 3XX, UK
Tel: +44 (0) 7719166731
[email protected]

Hope to hear from you soon.

Best wishes

Maryam

On IWD, Labour Rights, British government’s policy on extremism and Geert Wilders

This week’s TV International programme

To see TV International programme segment on International Women’s Day 2009 in Iran, Britain and elsewhere, its significance and the women’s liberation movement against political Islam, click here.

To see TV International programme on the teachers’ strike, flogging of women May Day labour activists, the death sentence of teacher Farzad Kamangar, in Iran, click here.

To see TV International programme on Hazel Blears and British government policy towards Islamic extremism, Geert Wilders and freedom of expression, click here.

Iran: two workers flogged for taking part in May Day

Urgent Action

On Wednesday 18th February, two women workers were flogged, following their conviction by a court in Sanandaj for taking part in last year’s May Day celebrations. Susan Razani received a 9 months’ suspended sentence and 70 lashes and Shiva Kheir Abadi 3 years’ suspended sentence and 15 lashes.

Two other workers in the same case, namely Abdullah Khani and Seyyed Ghaleb Hosseini, have been sentenced to 91 days’ prison and 40 lashes and 6 months’ prison and 40 lashes each, respectively.

Last year the regime in Iran carried out flogging sentences on four other workers also for taking part in May Day rallies, precipitating widespread condemnations and protests in Iran and internationally.

The floggings are part of an ongoing persecution of labour activists, amid worker protests over pay and conditions and the right to freely organise and strike. On Sunday 15th Feb leading unionist Taha Azadi, who is on the executive board of the Free Union of Workers in Iran, appeared before a court in Cangan on charges of ‘acts against national security’ and ‘publicity against the system’. Mr Azadi was arrested last year for taking part in a May Day rally in the industrial zone of Asalouyeh and has already spent 47 days in prison. The court has deferred announcement of its decision and sentencing to a later date.

In the mean time, five leading members of the Union of Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane Workers by the names of Ramazan Alipour, Fereydoun Nikoufard, Ali Nejati, Jalil Ahmadi and Mohammad Heydari have been summoned to appear before a court in Dezfoul on charges of setting up the sugar cane workers’ union.

A number of other well-known worker activists are under persecution for taking part in strikes and/or other labour activities. Six leading members of the Union of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company, namely, Ata Babakhani, Saeed Torabian, Abbas Najand-Kouhi, Ali Zadeh Hossein, Davoud Razavi and Yaghoub Salimi, have been sentenced to 6 to 14 months’ prison for taking part in the 2006 strike, while Mansoor Ossanlou and Ebrahim Madadi remain in prison. Teacher activist Farzad Kamangar has been sentenced to death and scores of students have been imprisoned for protesting against repression and gender-segregation.

The International Labour Solidarity Committee of WPI requests labour and human rights organisations and individuals around the world to condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the outrageous flogging of workers by the regime in Iran and to call for the immediate and unconditional release of all those detained. Please send your letters of protest to the following offices of the Islamic Republic, with copies to us:

Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei
Office of the Supreme Leader
Islamic Republic Street
Shahid Keshvar Doust Street
Tehran, Iran
Email: [email protected]

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
The Presidency
Palestine Avenue
Azerbaijan Intersection
Tehran, Iran
Email: [email protected]

Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi
Office of the Head of the Judiciary
Pasteur St.,Vali Asr Ave.
South of Serah-e Jomhouri
Tehran, Iran
Email: [email protected]

International Labour Solidarity Committee of the Worker-communist Party of Iran
Head office:
Co-ordinator: Shahla Daneshfar
Public Relations: Bahram Soroush