Saturday, 19 February 2011

Don't Forget Iran!

Another most eloquent article compiled by the inspirational and motivational journalist, Roxana Saberi. Please forward, paste and circulate as much as you can: the Iran situation is complicated: Muslims disagree vehemently on the way forward, let-alone the non-Muslim majorities, but much of this has to do with the misinformation regarding Iran’s complexities, and our responsibilities as shia Faithful towards changing things, so keep the momentum up, and insure your brothers and sisters do not forget Iran!

Roxana Saberi
Keep the Spotlight on Iran’s Protesters
February 18, 2011

Iranian demonstrators who took to the streets on Monday in what organizers called a rally of solidarity with protesters in Egypt and Tunisia are in many
ways facing a much more arduous battle than their counterparts.

Unlike the Egyptians and Tunisians, Iran’s protesters stand against the Basij and Revolutionary Guards, security forces charged with defending the Islamic
Revolution and said by the regime to number in the millions.

Unlike their counterparts, Iran’s demonstrators face a regime that is less dependent on the West’s good will and whose allies such as China and Russia are
less likely to hold it accountable if its use of violence does not stop.

And while authorities in Egypt and Tunisia used force against peaceful protesters, Iran’s regime has shown much less restraint, and its efforts to silence
opponents by blocking mass communications have been more severe and effective.

These are just a few reasons that, as Iranians peacefully pursue basic human rights, the international community must work even harder to keep a spotlight
on their struggle.

“It’s much more difficult to fight dictatorship in Iran than in Egypt and Tunisia,” an Iranian journalist told me on Tuesday. “So the people of Iran really
need international support.”

While some foreign journalists were assaulted and forced into hiding in Egypt, for the most part, international news coverage from the ground continued—live.
Contrast that with Iran, where the few foreign journalists left in Iran were prohibited from even witnessing the protests.

In Egypt, Google executive Wael Ghonim’s emotional interview on a private Egyptian channel reignited anti-government protesters after his release from detention.
Iran, however, has no private TV or radio channels on which to air the voices of opposition.

At the same time, repression of Iranian journalists carries on. Reporters Without Borders says 32 journalists and 11 bloggers are now imprisoned in Iran,
including two arrested on Wednesday, making Iran the largest jail for journalists in world.

As limitations on professional journalists have tightened in Iran, the role of Iran’s citizen journalists in providing accounts and images of what they
see has grown increasingly important. Yet this, too, can be dangerous. Human rights activists have reported that some citizen journalists have been arrested,
including one Iranian who called BBC Persian to share details of Monday’s events.

The Islamic regime has also jammed satellite TV signals into Iran and slowed down or disconnected Internet access for many users. Facebook and Twitter have
been blocked, though many of Iran’s tech-savvy youth have found ways around the filters and slipped some information through.

While Iran’s authorities have tried to hide their violations of human rights from the rest of the world, the oppression has deepened. The regime has gone
on an execution binge, executing at least 86 people since the start of 2011, according to human rights groups. Iranian officials say most were drug traffickers,
but the executions have often taken place after unfair trials and without due process, and activists say at least eight people executed in January were
political prisoners.

Human rights advocates say around 500 prisoners of conscience, including student and women’s rights activists, attorneys, and political opposition figures
remain behind bars, while accounts of physical and psychological torture in Iran’s prisons continue to surface.

Even if images and information about these human rights abuses are hard to come by in Iran, the international media must continue to report on them.

This will help galvanize ordinary individuals around the world to cry out against human rights violations in Iran, Iranian activists tell me. If other countries’
citizens rally for Iranians, they say, governments will step up their pressure on Iran, and the Iranian people will gain more courage.

Governments must also keep speaking out, and with more unity and intensity. They can use the upcoming meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to
demand a special UN envoy to investigate and report on the human rights situation in Iran, (a position abolished in 2002), as well as to call for other
independent UN human rights experts to be allowed to enter Iran.

Travel bans and asset freezes for a number of Iran’s human rights violators, announced by the U.S. State Department last year, can be extended to include
other individuals and adopted by other countries. Many civil society activists inside Iran have expressed support for such targeted sanctions, even if
they are largely symbolic.

Companies and trading partners with Iran can do their part by using any interactions with the Iranian government to make clear that Tehran’s human rights
practices must improve in order to sustain and justify economic ties.

To empower the Iranian people through communication and information, the international community should more seriously explore ways to counter the Iranian
government’s jamming of satellite signals and restrictions on Internet access. And journalists and human rights advocates who fled Iran need humanitarian
aid—first, to survive and second, to act as a conduit of information between Iran and abroad.

When the world remains quiet about Iran’s human rights offenses, the Islamic Republic believes it can act with impunity. When the international community
speaks out, at least some decision-makers in Iran take notice, as I have seen in many cases, including my own.

Iranians calling for change may not agree on whether they want reform or revolution, but they agree on what they don’t want: the status quo, in which violence,
intimidation and human rights violations continue unabated.

The writer was detained in Iran’s Evin Prison for 100 days in 2009. Her book, “Between Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity in Iran,” chronicles her experiences
and those of her fellow political prisoners.

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