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Iran Feature: The Week in Civil Society --- #RememberIran, Arrest of Labour Activists, House of Cinema Closed (Arseh Sevom)

Arseh Sevom, pursuing human rights and civil society in Iran, posts its latest review of developments inside the country:

Green Movement: Three Years On

This week marked the third anniversary of the demonstrations following Iran’s flawed 2009 Presidential elections, which brought the Green Movement to the world stage. Millions of Iranian citizens took to the streets of Tehran and other major Iranian cities to protest what they saw as a rigged election. Many had a simple question to ask through their peaceful demonstrations, “Where is my vote?” The rest is history.

The Islamic Republic crushed the protests with mass arrests and violence. Several lost their lives in the process. The families of those killed during the protests are now struggling to achieve justice.

The anniversary was commemorated in many countries around the world. United4Iran released an online compilation of music from various musicians, entitled Azadi: Songs of Freedom. It can be heard for free.

The twitter tag #RememberIran was used to share memories of the start of the movement. (You can read more from Al Jazeera and on our own post #RememberIran.) EA Worldview has been looking back at its own coverage of the events of three years ago.

The opposition council, The Green Path of Hope Coordination Council released a statement on the third anniversary: 

The Green Movement is a movement and not a party. This means hierarchical leadership employed by most political parties is not suitable. Movements make use of specific organizational efforts tailored for specific situations. Movements try to expand the base of the pyramid and bring it closer to the top to pave the way for participation of its affiliates and prepare for more respect for plurality and richer diversity.

Mass Arrest of Labor Activists

Last Friday at 12 noon, 60 members of the Coordinating Committee to Help Forming Workers' Organizations as well as a number of labor activists, were arrested by intelligence forces in Karaj, near Tehran. The detainees were sent to the notorious Rajaie Shahr prison.

According to the committee, nine detainees are still in custody, while the rest were released on bail. The nine still held are: Mitra Homayooni, Reyhaneh Ansari, Cyrus Fathi, Alireza Asgari, Maziar Mehrpour, Faramarz Fetrat Nejad, Jalil Mohammadi, Saeed Marzban, Masoud Salimpour, and Maziar Mehrpour.

A statement from the Coordinating Committee posted on its website: 

The annual meeting of the Coordinating Committee to Help Forming Workers’ Organizations was raided at a time when Iranian laborers’ dismissal, unemployment, unpaid salaries, lack of right to form an independent organization, and other countless social maladies, are still troubling them. Do not labor activists have the right to defend workers’ rights against extensive invasion of capitalism against their lives and jobs? How can capital holders exploit laborers and violate their rights at ease and without the slightest concern, and labor activists deprived of the mere right of divulging this injustice? … Once again, we condemn the security forces invasion of the committee gathering and the arrest of 60 activists. We ask of all workers, all labor organizations and all domestic and international human rights defense entities to follow up the case and demand the release of the Coordinating Committee in Karaj.

Amnesty International Demands Freedom for Labor Activists

On the occasion of the 101st International Labor Conference (ILC), Amnesty International once again called on Iranian authorities to “unconditionally and immediately release trade unionists": 

As a member of the ILO, Iran has an obligation to respect, promote and to realize the principles and rights set out in the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its Follow-up and to strengthen its application of the fundamental rights contained in the ILO Core Conventions. This includes the right to form and join trade unions, the right to strike, and the right to collectively bargain, … With the responsibility of membership of the ILO’s Governing Body comes the responsibility on Iran to uphold the highest standards of labour rights, to meet fully its obligations as a member of the ILO and to cease intimidating and imprisoning those seeking to exercise these fundamental rights.

The statement specifically mentioned 1) Ali Nejati; 2) Reza Shahabi; 3)Rasoul Bodaghi; 4) Shahrokh Zamani and Mohamad Jarahi; 5) Behnam Ebrahimzadeh; 6) Fariboz Raisdana; and 7) Ali Akhavan.

Remember Iranian Women” Releases Viral Video

A new website called “Remember Iranian Women” was launched last week. Among the first posts of the website, a short video clip soon went viral. The video shows prisoner of conscience, Nasrin Sotoudeh, meeting her two children during a cabin visit at Evin prison in Tehran.

Iranian cartoonist Mana Neyestani captured the moment:

Minister: House of Cinema is a Closed Chapter

While the Iranian Alliance of Motion Pictures Guilds (Khane-ye Cinema) [House of Cinema] insists that it is a legal entity with all the rights to continue operations, the Iranian Minister of Islamic Culture and Guidance said the organization is “illegal”. Mohammad Hosseini stated: 

Members of the cinema industry must form their own guilds just like other guilds in the country and hold elections…meanwhile there are some activities such as holding educational courses, organizing movie critique and analysis sessions and etc. that do not fit within guild activities.” The Islamic Republic Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance has also announced that “a new organization is planned to be founded according to a new statute".

A photo posted on Fars News shows the defaced sign of the House of Cinema in Tehran.

Pro-Regime Director Calls Members of the House of Cinema Traitors

Pro-regime director Farajollah Salahshour, noted for his direction of heavily-funded TV series for the Islamic Republic Broadcasting Service (IRIB), slammed the House of Cinema, accusing its members of being traitors: 

“It has been 33 years of nothing other than betrayal and filth from the House of Cinema and its supporters. It’s stupid to think we can attract the elements of the House of Cinema and lay out red carpets for them, as we shall never forget the sedition of 2009, the Berlin Conference, their relationships with foreign embassies and entities such as Soros foundation.

Clerical Tribunals to Become Even More Hardline

Reports from Iran indicate that the head and the prosecutor of the special clerical tribunal have been replaced with more hard-line figure.

Apparently the move has been at the directive of Ayatollah Khamenei’s office to further contain the dissidence of opposition clerics.

Maestro Buried in the Middle of the Night

Master ney player Hassan Kasai passed away on Thursday, June 14. Less than 12 hours later, at four in the morning, his body was buried in secret. The section of the cemetery in Isfahan where he was buried had been apparently closed to new additions for years. The late Maestro Kasaie’s son told reporters that “special circumstances” forced the family to consent to these arrangements.

Since the protests of 2009 there have been similar stories of well-known figures buried in the small hours without any prior notice, including the cinema star and director, Iraj Ghader;, veteran actress, Hamideh Kheirabadi (Nadereh); and humanitarian and democracy activist, Haleh Sahabi. (More on the story from the Persian-Dutch Network.)

The Netherlands Suspends Visas for Iranians

Iranian students in the Netherlands received worrying letters from the Immigration and Naturalization Office telling them their visas would not be processed until the government made an assessment of the ramifications of the new sanctions levied against Iran. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Uri Rosenthal, has since stated that visas for study and short stays would be handled as usual, but consideration of other visas will be suspended. This includes visas for PhD research and all work.

An online petition has been issued: Stop the Unjustified Embargo of Residence Permit Applications for Iranian Nationals.

UPDATE: EU Parliament member Marietje Schaake has shared her attempts to get some clarity on the situation in the Netherlands. Her questions are posted on her site.

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