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IPY Essay Contest 2011: Prospect of Change in Iran

Why Tunisia and Not Iran

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News bulletin of the Iranian Progressive Youth


Iran Feature: Zahra Bahrami, the Netherlands, and The Failure of Quiet Diplomacy Source: Kamran Ashtary January 31, 2011


he 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. On Saturday, January 29, the Dutch citizen, Zahra Bahrami was executed on allegations of drug smuggling --- far from the first time that human rights violators have used this pretext to hold and execute political prisoners --- even though the Foreign Ministry in the Netherlands was told that the judicial process was not yet completed. The actions of the Government of the Netherlands to freeze business and diplomatic ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran is a good first step, but it should not be the last. The Islamic regime has accused the Netherlands of trying to undermine its rule through the support of free media and human rights organizations. It has put

the Dutch humanitarian organization, Hivos, on an “enemy’s list” of supposed regime-change agents and has prevented Iranian citizens from having contact with the foundation, along with dozens of others. There is a lot of introspection in the Dutch-Iranian community at the moment. People are asking what they could have done and why they stayed so quiet. One such person summed up the feelings, saying, “I trusted that the Dutch government would do everything in its power to protect its citizens, but I was wrong. We should have been more active.” It is clear that many members of the Dutch parliament were shocked by the execution of one of its citizens. Some members of the Dutch-Iranian community are asking why this is so. Have they not noticed that Iran executes more of its own citizens than any other country in the world? Have they missed the news that there has been an average of one execution every eight hours since the beginning of the year? Here are some minimum recommendations for the Dutch government. 1. The Netherlands should lead an international effort to challenge Iran’s refusal to accept dual nationality. 2. The Dutch government should lead efforts to bring the issue of human rights in Iran to the European Parliament.

3. The Netherlands should crack down on the operations of Iranian intelligence officers located here because the Dutch-Iranian community feels unsafe. Over the past two years, intelligence personnel attached to the Iranian Embassy in the Netherlands have been seen publicly photographing Dutch-Iranian citizens attending demonstrations and are known to be collecting information. 4. The Netherlands should stop issuing visas for any purpose to personnel of the Revolutionary Guards, the judiciary, and related organisations. 5. The Netherlands should approve the asylum applications of political refugees who left Iran since 2009. Many of their applications have been denied. 6. Respect for human rights needs to become a business concern as wellas a political concern. 7. The Dutch Government should lead an effort to call for the immediate release of all prisoners of conscience in Iran. 8. The Dutch Government should protest the use of (forced) confessions against prisoners of conscience and others.

Four dead and 13 injured - Another day at Iran Khodro Source: January 27, 2011


he statement below has been translated and distributed by Hands Off the People of Iran. It is from a group of workers in Iran Khodro, Iran’s main car manufacturer. They report a major accident which took place during night shift on January 25 in one of the plant’s manufacturing sections. Four workers died and 13 were injured. A worker who was ill and tired after repeated shifts had been forced to come to work. The truck he was driving ran into

a crowd of workers in the transport section of the plant. This sparked all the workers in every sections of the plant to stop work and protest against the Herassat (factory security). Rattled managers tried to remove the bodies from the factory, but angry workers stopped them. They got hold of the body of one of their dead colleagues and carried him around the plant shouting ‘death to Najmodin’(Iran Khodro’s CEO). A large spontaneous demonstra-

tion took place outside the factory and workers were involved in scuffles with the Herassat and revolutionary guards. The incident underlines the instability of the Iranian regime and simmering anger of those below. They need our solidarity and renewed determination to fight any imperialist intervention against their country: they themselves must settle accounts with the classes that oppress them.

On Average, One Person Executed Every Eight Hours in 2011 Source: International Campaign for Human Right in Iran January 16, 2011

Kurdish Prisoner Executed; At Least 15 Other Kurdish Political Prisoners in Danger of Execution he International Campaign name the executed prisoner. for Human Rights in Iran Khazri, who is around 29 years called on the Iranian Parliament Khazri’s brother told the Cam- old, was convicted of being Moand the Judiciary to immediately paign that the authorities have not hareb, “an enemy of God,” on 11 institute a moratorium on execu- provided any information to the July 2009, on the basis that he tions and to move swiftly to abol- family about the execution of his “endangered state security.” He ish the death penalty, in the face brother. Hossein Khazri had de- reported in a letter to international of skyrocketing executions follow- nied charges against him and said organizations that he had been toring unfair trials and opaque judi- he was severely tortured. tured while in prisons run by the cial proceedings. Intelligence Ministry and the RevThe Iranian Judiciary is on a olutionary Guards, but according execution binge orchestrated to Amnesty International, his reSince the beginning of the New Year, Iran has hanged 47 prison- by the intelligence and security quest for an investigation was deers, or an average of about one agencies,” stated Aaron Rhodes, nied. He had refused to confess person every eight hours. Iran a spokesperson for the Campaign. to committing any of the crimes The execution of Kurdish ac- for which he was convicted. executes more people per capita tivists, without fair trials and than any other country, and in absolute numbers, is second only to following torture, increasingly ap- Another Kurdish activist, Habibolpears as a systematic, politically lah Latifi, was about to be hung on China. motivated process,” he said. 26 December 2010, but the exeOn Saturday, 15 January 2011, cution was halted. The Campaign Iran hanged a Kurdish prisoner In addition to the execution of considers him still at grave risk. some Iranian websites have iden- Khazri, Iranian media have reporttified as Hossein Khazri, a Kurd- ed a total of 46 executions in 2011: On 9 May 2010, Kurdish activists ish political prisoner on the death seven in Kermanshah on 1 Janu- Farzad Kamangar and Shirin Alam row. A local official in the province ary, sixteen in Ahwaz on 5 Janu- Holi were hung. of Western Azerbaijan told media ary, one in Asfaryan on 8 January, At least 14 other Kurdish prisoners that “a member of the Pejak (an eight in Qom on 9 January, seven are in danger of execution: Zeinab armed Kurdish guerilla group)” in Tehran on 12 January, five in Jalilian, Shirkoo Moarefi, Rostam was hanged in Urumiye prison Khorramabad on 13 January, two Arkia, Mostafa Salimi, Anvar Roson Saturday morning. He did not in Boroujerd on 14 January. tami, Rashid Akhkandi, Moham-


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mad Amin Aghooshi, Ahmad Pooladkhani, Seyed Sami Husseini, Seyed Jamal Mohammadi, Hasan Talei, Iraj Mohammadi, Mohammad Amin Abdollahi and Ghader Mohammadzadeh.

previously reported. Multiple and reliable reports indicate that secret, mass executions of more than a hundred have taken place in Mashad’s Vakilabad prison.

When executions become the method of choice to solve poAccording to information received by and reported by the Campaign, litical and practical problems, huthe number of executions in Iran man life is being tragically devalis apparently even higher than ued in Iran,” Rhodes said.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran called upon Iran to institute an immediate moratorium on executions and an independent review of all pending death penalty cases, including those of juvenile offenders who have allegedly committed crimes under the age of 18, and to take steps toward the abolition of the death penalty.

Iran rounds up Christians in crackdown Source: Yahoo News January 11, 2011


UBAI, United Arab Emirates – Iran has arrested about 70 Christians since Christmas in a crackdown that demonstrates the limits of religious tolerance by Islamic leaders who often boast they provide room for other faiths. The latest raids have targeted grass-roots Christian groups Iran describes as “hard-liners” who pose a threat to the Islamic state. Authorities increasingly view them with suspicions that range from trying to convert Muslims to being possible footholds for foreign influence. Christian activists claim their Iranian brethren are being persecuted simply for worshipping outside officially sanctioned mainstream churches. Caught in the middle is the small community of Iranian Christians who get together for prayer and Bible readings in private residences and out of sight of authorities. They are part of a wider “house church” movement that has taken root in other places with tight controls on Christian activities such as China and Indonesia. Iran’s constitution gives protected status to Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians, but many religious minorities sense growing pressures from the Islamic state as hard-edged forces such as the powerful Revolutionary Guard exert more influence.

There are few social barriers separating Muslims and Iran’s religious minorities such as separate neighborhoods or universities. But they are effectively blocked from high government and military posts. Iran has claimed as a point of pride that it makes space for other religions. It reserves parliament seats for Jewish and Christian lawmakers and permits churches — Roman Catholic, Armenian Orthodox and others — as well as synagogues and Zoroastrian temples that are under sporadic watch by authorities. Religious celebrations are allowed, but no political messages or overtones are tolerated. In past years, authorities have staged arrests on Christians and other religious minorities, but the latest sweeps appears to be among the biggest and most coordinated. In the West, the followers are drawn to house churches because of the intimate sense of religious fellowship and as an alternative to established denominations. In places such as Iran, however, there also is the effort to avoid monitoring of sanctioned churches from Islamic authorities — who have kept closer watch on religious minorities since the chaos after hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed election in 2009. Groups monitoring Christian af-

fairs in the Islamic world say Iranian authorities see the unregulated Christian gatherings as both a potential breeding ground for political opposition and suspect they may try to convert Muslim in violation of Iran’s strict apostasy laws — which are common throughout the Muslim world and have at times fed extremist violence against Christians and others. Tehran Governor Morteza Tamadon described the Christians as “hard-line” missionaries who have “inserted themselves into Islam like a parasite,” according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency. He also suggested that the Christians could have links to Britain — an accusation within Iran that refers to political opposition groups Tehran claims are backed by the West. The crackdown by Iran resonates forcefully across the Middle East at a time when other Christian communities feel under siege following deadly attacks against churches in Egypt and Iraq — bloodshed that was noted Monday by Pope Benedict XVI in an appeal for protection of religious minorities.

European Union urges Iran to abolish the death penalty Source: Channel 6 News January 27, 2011


RUSSELS (BNO NEWS) -- The European Union on Thursday called on the Iranian government to abolish the death penalty after a recent series of hangings in the country, officials said. “The EU is deeply concerned about the use of the death penalty in Iran. Executions are taking place at an alarming rate,” the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said in a statement backed by all 27 EU members. At least 16 people have been hanged over the last week in Iran on charges of drug trafficking, rape and anti-government activities. The union regularly criticizes nations that use death penalty, including the United States and Japan. But the EU added that Iran’s policy of public executions breaks international law. Around 60 people, Germans and exiled Iranians, protested on Thursday in Berlin against the wave of executions.

Two men executed; Four at risk of execution Source: Amnesty International January 26, 2011


wo men executed; four AT Risk OF execution Ja’far Kazemi and Mohammad Ali Haj Aghaei were executed on 24 January in Evin Prison, Tehran. They were convicted of moharebeh (enmity against God) for links with the banned political group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), and “propaganda against the system”. Arrested in 2009 their death sentences were confirmed in 2010. Four others remain at risk of imminent execution. Ja’far Kazemi and Mohammad Ali Haj Aghaei were arrested in September 2009 at a time of mass protests and tried together. Both men had visited relatives at Camp Ashraf in Iraq, where 3,400 PMOI supporters reside in exile. Ja’far Kazemi had previ-

ously been imprisoned in Iran for PMOI membership. He may have been tortured while being interrogated at Evin Prison after his arrest in 2009 and is said to have been pressured to make a televised “confession”, but to have refused. He and Mohammad Ali Haj Aghaei were sentenced to death in April 2010.For more information, please see iran-hangs-two-activists-detainedduring-2009-unrest-2011-01-24

son Ahmad and Mohsen Daneshpour Moghaddam, and Javad Lari.

Another prisoner, Ali Saremi (or Sarami) was executed without warning on 28 December. He was sentenced to death in December 2009 for “enmity against God” because of his alleged membership of the PMOI. According to media reports the death sentence on Farah (also known as Elmira) Vazehan was overturned on 19 January and her case was referred to Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court for re-examination. However, four men remain at risk of imminent execution: Abdolreza Ghanbari (or Qanbari), father and

PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in Persian, English, or your own language. If you use twitter, please send a message of no more than 135 characters to @ khamenei_ir, using #Iran: Deploring the executions of Ja’far Kazemi and Mohammad Haj Aghaei, and urging the Iranian authorities not to execute, Abdolreza Ghanbari (or Qanbari),Ahmad and Mohsen Daneshpour Moghaddam, and Javad Lari.; Reminding the Iranian authorities that under international law, the death penalty can only be carried out for “the most serious crimes”, which must be “intentional crimes with lethal or other extremely grave consequences.” Urging that any person held solely on account of their family links to the PMOI should be released immediately and unconditionally. Any others sentenced after unfair trials should have their convictions and sentences reviewed as a matter of urgency, and none should face the death penalty.

long-ruling dictator in early 2011. Ruthless repression of mass protests failed. In just one month, Tunisians ousted an entrenched au-

thoritarian regime. In Iran, a mass uprising that lasted six months was brutally suppressed. The Green Movement of 2009 never

Why Tunisia and not Iran? Source: Tehran bureau January 26, 2011


n Tunisia, a small, homogeneous state on the southern Mediterranean, a popular uprising forced the overthrow of a

became a “Green Revolution.” Instead, an entrenched authoritarian regime reasserted its authority. The regime’s violent repression succeeded. The opposition was broken, and the regime has since tightened its grip on power. Four factors help explain the success of mass protests in Tunisia and their failure in Iran. First, the most decisive factor was the Tunisian army’s refusal to shoot. Its defection signaled a fatal crack in the ruling coalition. On its own, the military’s role was probably sufficient to bring about the fall of President Zine al-Abdine Ben Ali. The breakdown of authoritarian regimes has historically been due to splits within a ruling coalition-as in Iran’s own revolution in 1979 against the monarchy. The military is critical to an authoritarian regime’s survival, but it is most likely to defect when the costs--whether to the army’s reputation, its cohesion, or its ability to shape events later on--are too high to justify its continued loyalty. In Iran, the military lacked the motive of the Tunisian army. Iran’s forces, particularly the Revolutionary Guards, are more invested economically and politically in the power structure, so stood to lose far more than Tunisia’s army. As a result, Tehran’s tools of repression remained intact in the face of popular protests. The massive presence of the Basij paramilitary forces, who are under the Revolutionary Guards’ control, gave the theocracy’s hardliners a reliable instrument of coercion which it used without hesitation against unarmed and peaceful protestors. Second, in Tunisia, political power and control over the economy had become increasingly concentrated in the hands of the ruling family. Its greed and corruption, excessive even by local standards, alienated social groups that had benefited from Tunisia’s liberal economy and ties to the West.

The erosion of support among these critical groups left Ben Ali and his family isolated and vulnerable as protests escalated. In Tunis, Ben Ali’s tight grip on political power amplified his vulnerability. No alternative power centers existed to aid Ben Ali or ensure the government’s survival once he fled. In his 23 years in power, Ben Ali had undermined the instruments he might otherwise have relied on to retain his grip on power. In Tehran, the diffusion of political power and decision-making among multiple institutions provided the flexibility needed to squelch challenges from below. The size and scale of Iran’s economy has also made it harder for any individual or clique to dominate opportunities for corruption or rent-seeking, ensuring that a broader range of Iranian social groups has a vested interest in the regime’s survival. And the regime, however it might be viewed in the West, retains significant popular support among some segments of Iranian society, especially the poor and marginal who continue to view it as a source of opportunities, employment, and social benefits. Third, Tunisia and Iran have different ideological contexts. Tunisian politics were distinctly secular; religion was relegated to the private domain. Iranian politics merged state and mosque, tapping into the legitimacy of Islam. In Iran, the regime’s ability to label the Green Movement an enemy of the Islamic revolution posed a formidable challenge to the movement’s leadership. Opposition leaders were forced to affirm their loyalty to the Islamic Republic and their identity as reformers appealing for limited change. Strategically, their decision to brand the Green Movement as the loyal opposition may have been necessary. But asking followers to risk their lives in the name of modest

reforms is not a formula likely to generate mass support. In Tunisia, the regime had long abandoned any clear ideological orientation. In an infamous speech just days before his ouster, Ben Ali acknowledged that the economic and social grievances behind Tunisia’s uprising were legitimate. The opposition’s goals were also clear and unambiguous--Ben Ali’s removal from power. Notably, protests were not driven by an explicit ideology, either secular or Islamist. Indeed, the disparate opposition gave little attention to what might happen if it succeeded. The Tunisian opposition’s disorganization and ideological incoherence may well have worked to its advantage. During his quarter-century rule, Ben Ali had earlier crushed Islamists and repressed dissent, so protestors were not hampered by their association with any known opposition figures. Had the Tunisian opposition been dominated by Islamists, for instance, the army may well have defended the regime. The very effectiveness with which Ben Ali’s regime hollowed out political space gave Tunisian protestors advantages that their counterparts in Iran lacked. Finally, scale may also account for the differences. It may have simply been easier to ignite collective action in a country, such as Tunisia, that is small, homogenous, and narrowly controlled from a single center than in a country, like Iran, that is large, diverse, and diffusely governed by a fragmented political elite. Steven Heydemann is vice-president of USIP’s Grant and Fellowship Program and a specialist on the comparative politics and political economy of the Middle East. This commentary is presented by Tehran Bureau, the U.S. Institute of Peace, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars as part of the Iran project at

Prospect of change in Iran Share your ideas and prospects concerning the possibilities of change in Iran. The top three essays will be published in accredited journal(s) and will also receive a cash prize Since the Presidential Election in Iran in June 2009, there has been an ongoing debate among and between different national and international political and social groups about the possibilities of change in Iran. Nevertheless, the issue has not been dealt with from an academic perspective sufficiently and adequately. The Iranian Progressive Youth (IPY) is an independent association which aims at establishing a platform for political, cultural and social activities with special focus on the Iranian struggle for freedom and democracy. As part of its ongoing efforts, IPY has organized an International Essay Contest among students and researchers from different disciplines and has called for answers to the following question: What are the ways to bring about a democratic change in Iran? The IPY “International Essay Contest” encourages the interested parties to investigate and explore their ideas – from the idealistic to the realistic – in response to this question from either one, or a combination of, the following perspectives: The role and prospect of the Civil Society; The influence of the Political Structure; The position and responsibility of International Community. The top three essays will be published in internationally accredited journal(s) Iranian Progressive Youth