Not so long ago, my colleague Nasrin Sotoudeh was the lawyer so many of us human rights defenders in Iran would call when our government harassed us or put one of us, or one of our family members, in jail. Sadly it is now Nasrin who is in jail. The government's accusations against her include acting contrary to "national security", "propaganda against the state", and "membership" of the Center for Defenders of Human Rights, an organisation I founded in 2001. The government has also accused her of failing to wear hijab, the traditional Islamic covering for women. On some of these trumped-up charges she has been sentenced to 11 years in jail, and is now banned from practising law for 20 years.
Entries in Zahra Bahrami (15)
Taking a serious and fruitful measure in order to stop violation of human rights, including various forms of sexual torture and violence against political prisoners as the most severe form of violation of human rights, is a necessary step towards releasing some pressure from the popular movement of the Iranian people. We must start now, tomorrow is too late.
2125 GMT: Closing Down a House of Worship. A Sunni prayer-house in Tehran has been sealed and prayer leader Moulavi Obeidollah Mousazadeh arrested.
2100 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. A judge has revoked bail for detained journalist Nazanin Khosravani, saying she was likely to flee Iran.
Khosravani's bail was suddenly increased last week, preventing her from leaving prison.
2055 GMT: Interrogating the Mothers. The website of the Mothers of Mourning says that more than 15 members have been summoned to the Ministry of Intelligence.
2020 GMT: Khamenei Quitting? Press TV appears to know something we don't --- its headline today, "Leader: Despotism Coming to End".
1800 GMT: No Nerves Here. Both Mohammad Javad Larijani, the head of the human rights section of Iran's judiciary, and Gholam-Hossein Elham of the Guardian Council have spoken loudly about the respect for authority in the country.
Javad Larijani said democracy lovers should kiss the Supreme Leader's hands for saving the country from a "putsch": Ayatollah Khamenei is the "anchor of democracy".
Elham asserted that whoever opposes the Supreme Leader "will be destroyed". Even if Ayatollah Khamenei got more power, this does not smell of dictatorship.
He added a warning for Parliament: if the Guardian Council says something is illegal, Majlis must obey and cannot change laws.
2305 GMT: A Reply to the Supreme Leader. Looks like Ayatollah Khamenei's Friday Prayer has fallen flat with his target audience....
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has issued this response: "[We] regard the revolution as the Egyptian People's Revolution, not an Islamic Revolution....The Egyptian People's Revolution includes Muslims, Christians, from all sects and political [factions]."
2255 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Journalist Mehran Faraji has been released on bail after almost two months in detention.
Faraji had worked with the Presidential campaign of Mehdi Karroubi.
The execution on Saturday of the Dutch-Iranian citizen, Zahra Bahrami, is clear evidence of the failure of quiet diplomacy by the Government of the Netherlands.
The protection of human rights and quiet diplomacy do not have have anything in common. Human rights organizations focusing on Iran have long been saying that the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran pressures individuals and governments to keep quiet. When governments use quiet diplomacy to try and negotiate with the IRI. they are falling into a trap.
This is not a call for an end to diplomacy. The point is that the time is long overdue to make some noise. Human Rights organizations and defenders have been saying this for years.
0845 GMT: One to Watch. Today the Parliament will discuss President Ahmadinejad's open letter criticising the interference of the Majlis, the judiciary, and the Expediency Council with his plans.
0840 GMT: Diplomatic Breakthrough. The Parliament has approved the permanent appointment of Ali Akbar Salehi as Foreign Minister.
Salehi has been in the post since early December, when Manouchehr Mottaki was suddenly dismissed.
0835 GMT: And Another Pose. Hossein Sobhaninia of Parliament's National Security Council says a plan to end relations with Britain has been sent to the Majlis and will probably be discussed before consideration of the 2011 Budget.
Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani was quoted in Iranian media on Saturday, “Iran is a powerful country and I believe some of the British politicians are confused about Iran and assume that they can exercise influence in Iran using their past methods.” However, Khabar Online, linked to Larijani, asserted that while the Speaker had received the opinions of different bodies, he believed it was up to Parliament to decide on cutting ties.
On a US-based website backing the Iranian Government --- in an item reinforcing Tehran's line that the uprising of Egypt's people as a victory for Iran's leadership in the Middle East --- a comment catches the eye:
A key difference between the current protests in Egypt and the post-election protests in Iran in 2009. In Egypt, the people have not had an opportunity to elect their leaders in a democratic election.
In Iran, they did.
Hmm.... My reaction may have been affected because I saw this after covering the news of the detention of Hossein Karroubi, the son of the prominent opposition figure Mehdi Karroubi, and dealing all day with the execution of the Dutch-Iranian national Zahra Bahrami. However, I think that there may be another explanation for the persistence of the Iranian regime beyond "free elections".
Our German Bureau points us to an explanation, given by the Supreme Leader to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in a cartoon:
Mubarak: "How should I get out of this mess?"
Supreme Leader: "Nothing, give them their rights as we do."
0425 GMT: The government of the Netherlands today froze its diplomatic ties with Iran over the hanging of Dutch-Iranian Zahra Bahrami.
Bengt van Loosdrecht, the Dutch foreign ministry spokesman, said Uri Rosenthal, the foreign minister, was "shocked, shattered by this act by a barbaric regime.'' He added the hanging was especially shocking as Abadi had assured the Dutch minister on Friday that Bahrami's legal avenues had not yet been exhausted.
HRANA reports that the Dutch-Iranian national Zahra Bahrami, arrested just after the Ashura demonstrations of December 2009, was put to death this morning on the charge of drug possession.
Bahrami, who had returned to Iran before Ashura to see her daughter, was in legal limbo for months before Dutch authorities realised she was one of their citizens. Tehran refused to let them see her, however, as it does not recognise dual nationality.
Initally Bahrami was charged with "mohareb" (war against God), but Iranian officials shifted the emphasis to her alleged possession of a kilogramme (2.2 pounds) of cocaine. No evidence was ever produced to support the claim.
Bahrami lost her lawyer last autumn when Nasrin Sotoudeh was imprisoned.This week the Netherlands Government appointed two lawyers to represent Bahrami, but Tehran did not follow up on its declaration that Bahrami would be tried on the "mohareb" charge before any sentence was carried out. Indeed, it appears that there was no appeal allowed on the penalty for the drugs conviction.
For further details, see "Iran, Political Prisoners, & New Media: Discovering The Case of Zahra Bahrami" (August 2010), "Iran Snapshot: Death Sentence Handed Down on Iranian-Dutch National Zahra Bahrami" (6 January 2011), and "Iran Interview: Daughter of Condemned Zahra Bahrami 'A Political Death Sentence'" (13 January 2011). And for analysis, read Dave Siavashi's "What the Executions Say About the Regime's 'Control' and Murder" (26 January 2011).