Iran Feature: The Week in Civil Society --- From Nature's Day to A Site for Repression (Arseh Sevom)
Our colleagues at Arseh Sevom, a non-governmental organisation promoting civil society in Iran, post their latest weekly review of developments:
In the US, 1 April is marked with practical jokes. In Iran, the day is celebrated as Nature’s Day (sizdah-be-dar), with millions taking to parks all over the country. Iranians around the world mark the end of the celebrations marking the new year with picnics, family, and friends. However, this year during the new year's holidays, just 14 prisoners of conscience were given furlough to spend time with family.
In keeping with the theme of nature and sizdah-be-dar, we begin this week’s review with some environmental news. The cranes have returned to one of their habitats in the Salmas plain in Northwestern Iran. According to IRNA's report they are being well protected by park rangers.
Four park rangers were injured while doing their jobs while another one, Assad Taghizadeh, is on the death row after being charged with manslaughter when he killed a poacher who had fired upon him and his co-workers. This sentence is based on the Islamic princible of Qesas (an eye for an eye). Many environmental activists have demanded Assad Taghizadeh’s release.
This year’s sizdah-be-dar also came with news that the police in Isfahan had banned Afghanis from entering a local park to picnic. The stated reason was to uphold “citizens’ security and welfare.” Afghans and Iranians share the celebration of Nowrooz. The ban led to protests on social media with many changing their facebook status to “I am an Afghan” and photographing themselves with signs stating the same. An Iranian blogger writes:
My Afghan brothers and sisters, I am ashamed, ashamed that my homeland Iran where you sought shelter was not a good host. I am embarrassed that you were harassed that much. I am appalled by all this racism. What could I expect from a bunch of shameless statespersons who have done all in their power all throughout these years to humiliate you? For they have been treating my nation as such, too. But I am ashamed that even my own people did not understand your pain. I am ashamed yet hopeful. I hope for better days when you and I will both live in prosperous free lands and understand the true meaning of love better than today. Let that day come true. Happy Nowrooz to you!”
On April 1, United4Iran launched Mad Graffiti Week with an action in over a dozen cities around the world calling for the release of seven Baha'i leaders who have now served a combined total of 10,000 days in prison.
In previous reviews, Arseh Sevom mentioned IRGC’s Center to Investigate Organized Crime, with its public face via the Gerdab website that posted photos of protestors in 2009 as wanted “hooligans and hoodlums” and later staged the operation Fox Eye. Now the human rights organization,Justice for Iran, has called for blocking Gerdab, pointing to its abusive and suppressive approach, its threats to journalists and netizens, and its instrumental role in identifying, arresting, and questioning protestors in 2009. According to the rights group, the website is used by the center “for repression and widespread violation of the rights of citizens and cyber activists.”
A recent Amnesty International statement on the death penalty classified Iran among the 10 percent of nations that still carry out execution. It states that “People were executed or sentenced to death for a range of offences including adultery and sodomy in Iran.” Referring to the alarming rate of the “unofficial” executions carried out in the country Amnesty International adds:
In Iran, Amnesty International received credible reports of a large number of unconfirmed or even secret executions which would almost double the levels officially acknowledged. At least three people were executed in Iran for crimes that were committed when they were under 18 years of age, in violation of international law. A further four unconfirmed executions of juvenile offenders were reported there…”
To get a first-hand picture of juvenile executions in Iran watch this moving animation from The Guardian based on the testimony of human rights lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei:
At this moment an additional six prisoners of conscience are awaiting execution in Iran.
In the early hours of the new Iranian year, journalist Masoud Lavasani disappeared, now his father has announced that “a horrifying incident has happened to my son and as he is concerned for the safety of his family, he does not say anything". Earlier, it was stated on another website that Mr. Lavasani had fallen unconscious and was taken to the hospital by “an anonymous Good Samaritan".
AAs many of us are still in the Nowrooz mood, we conclude this week’s review with the news of a new programme from the Mashhad municipality to collect haft-sin green sprouts for composting. According to this report many other cities are looking to implement the programme in the future.