Monthly Report: August 2007
01 August 2007 Gozaar
Six student activists were freed on August 9 after being detained for one month. Some were arrested while attending a meeting of Tahkim-e Vahdat (Office for the Consolidation of Unity) while others were detained for participating in a sit-in to commemorate the 18th of Tir (1999) attack on the student movement. In total, sixteen people were arrested on July 9. Earlier in August, several members of Parliament addressed a letter to President Ahmadinejad, criticizing the detention of the students. Four student leaders, Majid Tavakkoli, Ehsan Mansouri, Ahmad Ghassaban, and Abolfazi Jahandar, currently incarcerated in Evin prison, began a hunger strike July 21 to protest their imprisonment.
The International Trade Union Confederation and the International Transport Workers’ Federation held a protest in front of the Iranian embassy in London on August 9, calling for the release from prison of Mansour Osanloo and Mahmoud Salehi, two leading union activists. The date marked the one-year anniversary of Osanloo’s previous arrest, although he was kidnapped on July 10, 2007 as he was getting off a bus. The International Transport Workers’ Federation has stated that “given the past history of Osanloo’s treatment by the security forces, there is strong reason to believe that some part of the Iranian authorities was responsible for this attack,” The Guardian reported. More recently, on August 12, Iranian forces arrested Ebrahim Madadi, Yaghoub Salimi, Davoud Razavi, and Ebrahim Gohari and Homayoun Jaberi, members of the Vahed Bus Drivers’ Union led by Osanloo, while they were on their way to visit Osanloo’s family.
On August 6, 11 workers in Kurdistan Province, arrested following a demonstration on May 1, were sentenced to three months in prison and ten lashes.
Freedom of the Press
The Iranian Commission for Media Authorization and Surveillance banned the reformist Sharq newspaper from publishing, on August 5, one day after printing an interview with Iranian poet, Saghi Ghahreman, who the government described as "a counter-revolutionary who promotes immorality." Ghahreman, who in the interview spoke about the feminine point of view in literarature and poetry, serves as editor of Cheraq, a journal published by the Toronto-based Iranian Queer Organization. Closed once last year, Sharq had returned to newsstands in May 2007. Reporters Without Borders issued their condemnation of the closure on August 6.
The last month has seen the arrest of several journalists, in addition to the union leaders, students, and civil society activists already in detention. Masoud Bastani and Farshad Ghorbanpour were arrested on July 31. The two reporters, both from Rooz online newspaper, were not charged—Bastani was released, but Ghorbanpour was sent to ward 209 of Evin Prison. Soheil Assefi, another journalist, was arrested August 4 when he appeared in court for a summons.
In Kordestan Province, two Kurdish journalists, Adnan Hasanpour and Abdulvahed Hiwa Butimar, were sentenced to death for the crime of moharebeh, or enmity with God. In response, Reporters Without Borders appealed to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to act in defense of the two journalists.
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Middle East Program Director Haleh Esfandiari was released from detention by the Iranian government on August 21. Several other Iranian-Americans, including Open Society Institute consultant Kian Tajbakhsh, are still being held. On July 16, footage of Tajbakhsh and Esfandiari admitting to actions involving democracy promotion were aired on Iranian television. Tajbakhsh stated that the Open Society Institute had shifted its focus to the Islamic world after the fall of communism, and Esfandiari said that she had invited Iranian academics to speak in the United States.
Stoning and Executions
In defiance of a stay of stoning as punishment by judiciary chief Ayatollah Shahroudi, Iran has re-sentenced Mokarrameh Ebrahimi to be stoned, following the similar execution of Jafar Kiani—whose sentence was initially withheld in response to Western pressure—with whom she was found guilty of committing adultery. According to MSNBC, at least 124 people have been executed in Iran in 2007.
Iran’s oil minister, Kazem Vaziri-Hamaneh, and Minister of Industry, Alireza Tahmasebi, both announced their resignations in August. The two ministers held views regarding their sectors in opposition to those held by President Ahmadinejad, whom The Economist suspects ordered their resignation. The Economist reports that Vaziri-Hamaneh was Ahmadinejad’s fourth choice for oil minister (his first three choices were blocked by Parliament) and explains that having an ally in the oil ministry is a key factor to Ahmadinejad’s gaining control over Iran’s economy.
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