Below is the written version of my speech at the Iran Crisis Conference, which took place today (October 27th 2009) in Ottawa.
In the recent months we have seen the brutal face of the Islamic Regime. We have seen protestors attacked, beaten and even shot on the streets. We have heard of reports of peaceful protestors being arrested, imprisoned, tortured and raped systematically. Recently a number of those protestors were sentenced to death.
These atrocities have opened the eyes of the international community to the brutality and in-humanity of the Islamic Regime, however what we need to keep in mind is the fact that what we have seen in these past few months is nothing new. The Regime has been systematically violating the rights of its citizens for the past 30 years. The Regime has been busy silencing any and all voices of opposition for the past 30 years, by arbitrary arrests, illegal detentions, torture, rape and executions.
The human rights violations conducted by the Islamic Regime against its own people are much too long and numerous to list in 10 minutes; however I will give a few examples.
Ethnic and Religious minorities face systematic persecution by the Islamic Regime. Kurds, Bahai’s, Azari’s Baluch, and Christian and Jews all face persecution by the Islamic Regime. I will focus on Kurdish and the Bahai Community as I do a lot of work in those fields.
Kurdish people are known for their strength and their tireless fight against the Regime for the past 30 years. As a result Iranian Kurdistan is heavily armed by Revolutionary Guards and Kurds are harassed and abused on a regular basis. Kurdish activists, teachers, writers and students are arrested and subjected to torture in order to force them to confess to crimes they have not committed. Currently there are many Kurdish students and activists who are serving heavy prison sentences.
There are also at least 13 Kurdish activists who are currently facing execution due to their political activities. It must be noted that all of these individuals were subjected to torture and were sentenced to death after sham trials behind closed doors, in most cases without the presence of their lawyers.
Another minority group that faces severe persecution by the Islamic Regime is the Bahai Community. This state sponsored persecution has been occurring through the entire history of the Islamic republic. Thousands of Baha’is lost their livelihoods, and have been continually targeted over the past 30 years. The seven Bahai Leaders in Iran (also referred to as Yaran) have been imprisoned in the notorious Evin Prison since May of 2008. Their trial date has been postponed on numerous occasions without an explanation, and they are uncertain of their future. Bahai’s are not allowed to attend University in Iran and are prohibited from most if not all government positions. The Islamic Regime has done everything in its power to segregate the Bahai’ community, the same way Hitler segregated the Jewish community right before the Holocaust.
There is also the situation of prisons and political prisoners which is a great cause for concern. I receive horrible reports of torture and abuse of political prisoners on a regular basis. Currently there are thousands of political prisoners in Iran, and again this is not something new, Islamic Regime prisons have been filled with political prisoners for the past 30 years.
These are only a few examples but we must keep in mind that as long as the Islamic Regime is in power, almost everyone is targeted, this includes women, students, journalists, physicians, nurses, teachers, workers, all ethnic and religious minorities, writers and activists just to name a few.
While writing this speech I thought long and hard about what I wanted to say, and there are three areas that I would like to focus on.
1. Exposing the Myth of Reform
Since the international community as well as many so called activists abroad have been focusing on this so called Reform movement I would like to give a brief overview and a short introduction of the so called reformist candidates.
The so called reform movement started in 1997 with the election of Khatami, who promised many things to his voters including greater freedom and even an Islamic Democracy. However during his presidency some of the worst human rights violation against dissidents took place including the chain murders of numerous writers and political activists, as well as the pro-democracy student demonstrations of July of 1999. Khatami who had come to power with the help of those very students did not support the students, allowed for the arrest and torture of thousands of students, and in fact publicly called the protestors hoodlums and hooligans.
Mousavi was the prime Minister of Iran from 1981 to 1988. As many of you might be aware, in the summer of 1988 thousands of political prisoners were summarily executed after having three (minute) trials. At that time Mousavi was in a key and powerful position, however he did not lift a finger in order to stop the executions, and he has never condemned the executions. Most recently when brave Iranians took to the streets with the slogan of “independence, freedom, Iranian Republic” Mr. Mousavi came out and said the peoples slogan must be “Islamic Republic, not one word more and not one word less”. Mousavi is a supporter of the Islamic Regime and all the atrocities committed by the Regime. He must be tried in a criminal court for the crimes he has committed against the Iranian people, before he is allowed to run for any public office.
Karoubi has also been an integrated part of the Islamic Regime for the past thirty years. He was the head of parliament while Khatami was the president. As well he is well known for ordering the torture of individuals and families who had lost a loved one or suffered in other ways during the Iran Iraq war. He ordered the torture of these individuals in the “Martyrdom Committee” which was a committee that had supposedly been created to help these families. Instead he was responsible for the abuse and torture of these individuals, and there are testimonies of people who were ordered to be tortured by Karoubi.
None of these individuals are fit to be running a country, and they must all be tried in criminal courts for the crimes they have committed against the Iranian people.
2. Recent Presidential [S]election
The international community as well as many reformists both in Iran and abroad have called this [S]election a fraud and unfair. Again what we need to remember is the fact that in the past 30 years Iran has never seen a free, democratic and fair election. The presidency candidates are handpicked by the Guardian Council and the Supreme Leader. Generally out of 400+ candidates only 4 or so are approved to run for presidency. Given the fact that the Supreme Leader must approve all candidates anyone who might be even slightly against the Islamic Regime will not be approved, let alone a secular candidate who might be against the entire Regime and who might be advocating for real change in Iran.
As I’ve indicated earlier every single one of the candidates who ran for presidency this year, including the so called reformists Mousavi and Karoubi have committed extensive human rights violations against the Iranian people. As well all candidates are an integrated part and strong supporters of the Islamic Regime, as they have all stated on numerous occasions. These individuals are not fighting for change or for the people, they are fighting for power.
It is true that this year there was a relatively high voter turnout during the [S]elections, however once again we need to keep in mind that Iranian people are not free to choose what they want. They cannot vote for a system or a candidate they want, they cannot come into the streets and say they do not want the Islamic Regime. In this case they had a choice between bad and worse and they voted for bad, to show their dissatisfaction with the current system. This does not mean that Iranian people are supporters of the Islamic Regime, and the Regime is very much aware of this, which is why they do not allow for free elections.
Brave Iranian people took to the streets in June of this year in numbers we had never seen before; many were dissatisfied with the [S]election results while many other activists and students were entirely against the Regime and had not taken part in the [S]elections. One of these individuals was a young girl called Neda who was shot to death on the street during the protests. Although reformists tried to use and take advantage of her name, we soon found out that Neda had not voted and did not support any of the candidates.
For the past 30 years Iranian people have been dissatisfied with the Islamic Regime and have fought against the Regime in various ways, that is why the Regime prisons have always been filled with political prisoners and Iran has one of the highest rates of execution in the world. Iranian people are angry and dissatisfied with the entire system and we were all able to see this as people’s movement became more and more radical every day to the point where people were shouting “Mousavi is an excuse, the Entire Regime is target”, “death to the Islamic Regime” and “Independence, Freedom, Iranian Republic.” The Iranian people have shown unbelievable courage and the pro-democracy movement has gained great momentum in the past few months. By shouting these slogans knowing that they might very well be risking their lives, the Iranian people and especially the Iranian youth have spoken and made it very clear that they want real change, they want Regime change.
3. Human Rights Is not Enough:
I have always been a strong believer that human rights work is very important and necessary, however it’s not enough. I do a lot of human rights work myself, but I have always felt that this is not enough. If we want to create real change and help protect the rights of all political prisoners, all ethnic and religious minorities and the Iranian people as a whole we must also focus on Regime change.
Human rights will only take us so far, we might be able to save one person from execution, but what about all the other people who are being executed or awaiting execution? We might be able to free one individual from prison, but what about thousands of other political prisoners?
The Islamic Regime as a whole and that includes both hardliners and reformers have no regard for human rights. International pressure might force them to stop someone’s execution, release someone from prison or shorten their prison sentence, but as a whole they continue the systematic violation of Iranian people’s rights. If our goal is to help the Iranian people and their pro democracy movement we must also work towards Regime change. Real change means Regime change.
In conclusion As a pro-democracy activist I see it as my duty to make sure the voices of freedom loving Iranians are heard loud and clear, Iranian people want real change, democracy, economic and social freedom and an end to the dictatorship of the Islamic Regime. I urge all activists, journalists, writers and all freedom loving people of the world to stop advocating for criminals such as Mousavi and Karoubi and to stand behind the Iranian people in their fight for a free, independent Iranian Republic.
Date: October 27, 2009
Time: 9:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m.
Cost: Adults $75.00
Students $18.00 (with valid ID)
Location: Hilton Lac-Leamy
3 Boulevard du Casino,
Quebec, Canada J8Y 6X4
Conference Co-Chairs: Ben Singer & Stacey G. Wintre
Hear about about human rights abuses in Iran from Iranian-Canadian insider Nazanin Afshin-Jam, Co-founder and President, Stop Child Executions.
Get the latest news on the fight for democracy from pro-democracy activist and blogger Sayeh Hassan.
Discover why it is important for all Canadians to take a vocal stand in a briefing by The Honourable Irwin Cotler, P.C., O.C., M.P.
Learn more about the Iranian nuclear threat posed to the world from international security expert Kenneth R. Timmerman.
Find out what the Western world can do to help from Mark Dubowitz, Executive Director, Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Get tips on harnessing the power of the grassroots from Noam Katz, Minister Public Diplomacy, Embassy of Israel, Washington, D.C.
Learn effective lobby techniques from Shimon Koffler Fogel, CEO, Canada-Israel Committee - and then put them into immediate action.
Click here for speakers' biographies »
Open Letter to Amnesty International in Support of Mansour Osanlou, Behrouz Javid Tehrani and Hossein Shahriari0 comments - published on Wednesday, October 14, 2009
I am an Iranian/Canadian lawyer and a pro-democracy activist, writing to you from Toronto, Canada. I admire the work Amnesty International does to support political activists and prisoners, and have been involved with the Urgent Action Campaign for many years.
I am also very much involved with the pro-democracy movement in Iran, and am in close contact with many dissidents and political activists both inside and outside of Iran.
I am writing to you because of my grave concern for the health and well being of three political prisoners, which stems from some recent information that has come out of Iran in recent days. In particular I am concerned about Mr. Mansour Osanlou, Mr. Behrouz Javid Tehrani and Mr. Hossein Shahriari.
As you are aware Mr. Mansour Osanlou was the president of the International Transport Workers Federation, (affiliated Vahed Syndicate The Tehran Bus Workers Union). He was arrested and sentenced to five (5) years of imprisonment on vague charges of “propaganda against the regime and acting against national security” in July of 2007.
According to recent news reports from Azarmehr Women’s Organization Mr. Osanlou is currently being held in the common ward of Section one (1) of the notorious Rajaishahr (Gohardasht) Prison.
According to this news report the prison conditions of this section are extremely poor. Very little food is given to prisoners, there are about six (6) prisoners per each small cell and the cells are searched on a regular basis and the personal belongings of the prisoners are confiscated. It must also be noted that the majority of prisoners in this Section are those who have been convicted of committing serious criminal offenses including robbery and murder. This is no place for an activist like Mr. Osanlou and I urge Amnesty International to issue a new statement on behalf of Mr. Osanlou and his current situation and to ask for his immediate and unconditional release.
Another political prisoner who is currently in the common ward of the Section One of Rajaishahr Prison is Mr. Behrouz Javid Tehrani. As you may be aware Mr. Tehrani was first arrested during the July 1999 pro-democracy student demonstrations, and has spent most of the past 10 years in Islamic Regime prisons. However despite the difficult conditions he faces he has continued his pro-democracy activities, which has led to his prison sentence increasing indefinitely.
It comes as a surprise that Amnesty International has never issued a statement in support of Mr. Tehrani. This has been a cause of great disappointment and concern for many activists who see Mr. Tehrani as one of the symbols’ of the pro-democracy movement in Iran.
I strongly urge Amnesty International to issue a statement on behalf of Mr. Tehrani and to ask for his immediate and unconditional release.
I would finally like to draw your attention to the case of Mr. Hossein Shahriari, an executive member of the PanIranist Party in Iran, who is currently serving a 1.5 year long prison sentence in Rajaishahr (Gohardasht) Prison.
Mr. Shahriari is 73 years old and in very poor health condition. He was convicted of “propaganda against the Regime and being a member of an anti-Regime organization” none of which are internationally recognized criminal offenses. Mr. Shahriari is currently in Section four (4) of the Rajaishahr Prison, he does not have a proper place to sleep and is forced to sleep on the cell floor with a number of other prisoners. He is also being held among individuals who have been convicted of criminal offenses.
Mr. Shahriari is a prisoner of conscience who has been imprisoned solely because of his political beliefs. I urge Amnesty International to issue a statement on behalf of Mr. Shahriari and to ask for his immediate and unconditional release. Given Mr. Shahriari’s age and health condition he must be released immediately.
Thank you for your time and I look forward to your response regarding the above mentioned matters.
Mansour Osanlou: Union Leader faces harsh and unjust imprisonment in notorious Rajaishahr (Gohardasht) Prison0 comments - published on Tuesday, October 13, 2009
The following is a news report from Women of Azarmehr Organization.
According to news received from Rajaishahr (Gohardasht) Prison Mr. Mansour Osanlou, the President of the Executive Committee of the Syndicate of Workers of Theran and Suburbs Bus Company (Tehran Bus Company) is currently in the common ward of the Section one of the Rajaishahr Prison.
Mr. Osanlou has been in prison since July of 2007 because of his union activities which include organizing worker strikes and protests for the Tehran Bus Company Workers.
According to news received today from Rajaishahr Prison Mr. Osanlou is currently in the common ward of Section one of this prison. Section one is also known as “the torture chamber, dog house and the end of the road.”
Although common ward does not have solitary cells and the doors of the cells are open during some parts of the day, the condition of this section is still quite poor. Very little food is given to prisoners and there are about six prisoners per each small cell. The cells are searched on a regular basis and the personal belongings of the prisoners are confiscated. Also it is important to note that the majority of prisoners in this section are those who have been convicted of committing serious criminal offences including robbery and murder.
Mr. Behrouz Javid Tehrani is another prisoner in this section of the prison. He spent close to six months in solitary confinement in Section one of the prison and was subjected to brutal torture. Mr. Tehrani is a pro-democracy activist who has spent the greater part of the past 10 years in Islamic Regime Prisons.
There is great concern for the health and well being of these two prisoners. Azarmehr Association of Women of Kurdistan urge all human rights organizations to take up the case of these two activists and to put pressure on the Islamic Regime and ask for their immediate and unconditional release.
A few days ago Mr. Javad Alizadeh was transferred from Sanandaj Prison to Hamedan Prison which is in a different province, against his wish. Mr. Alizadeh is serving a one year jail sentence because of his political activities.
Because of his constant protests against the deplorable prison conditions he is treated especially poorly by prison officials and has been sent to solitary confinement on a number of occasions.
Mr. Alizadeh was a student at Allameh University until he was expelled due to his political activities. He was first arrested on December 7th 2007 (on Student Day) for defending the rights of Kurdish minorities. He remained in custody for 50 days before being released on bail.
He was arrested once again last year during the remembrance ceremony for Ibrahim Lotfollahi (a student killed by the Islamic Regime) because of a speech he made, stating that those responsible for Mr. Lotfollahi’s death must be prosecuted in international criminal courts.
He was arrested, convicted by Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court in the city of Sanandaj and sentenced to 1 year of imprisonment.
While the Blood of Iranian Protesters is Still Running in the Streets, Mansour is Having a Concert in Toronto!0 comments - published on Monday, October 12, 2009
I recently wrote an article about Mansour, the Iranian singer who had a concert in NOKIA CLUB in Los Angeles on September 26th 2009. This was quite disturbing since NOKIA has provided the Iranian regime with a "monitoring center" that enables security forces to tap cell phones, scramble text-messages, and interrupt calls. NOKIA's new surveillance system has enhanced the regime's ability to crack down on dissent during recent protests.
For an Iranian singer to have a concert in club NOKIA, after the bloody protests in Iran and the arrest, torture, rape and death of so many protestors, where NOKIA was at least partly responsible for the crack down on the dissidents is very shameful.
By refusing to cancel the concert or change its location Mansour made it clear that the plight of freedom loving Iranians does not concern him. He held his concert at the expense of the blood of young Iranians who are fighting for freedom in Iran.
Mansour is having a concert in Toronto on November 28th 2009 at the International Centre. Even though I have always been a big fan of Mansour, I will be boycotting his upcoming concert as well as any other concert he may have in the future. His betrayal of the Iranian people will not be forgotten.
I urge all freedom loving Iranians to boycott his Toronto concert and send him a loud and clear message that the betrayal of the pro-democracy movement of the Iranian people in Iran will not be tolerated by Iranians abroad.
Down with the Islamic Regime
Long Live Freedom in Iran
According to news I just received from sources close to Mr. Behrouz Javid Tehrani, he has been transferred to the common ward of the Rajai Shahr (Gohardasht) Prison and is doing well. For those who may not have been following Mr. Tehrani’s situation he was taken to Section 1 (also known as dog house and torture chambers) of Gohardasht prison more than two months ago and subjected to brutal torture. There was great concern for his well being as Section 1 of the Gohardasht Prison is also known as “the end of the road”.
It is with great relief that I announce that he no longer faces that danger, at least not at the present time.
Below is my translation of a facebook post written by Mr. Shahriari’s son Mr. Kaveh Shahriari, about his most recent visit with his father.
“Today Sunday October 11th I was able to visit with my father in prison. As always he is very strong emotionally however his physical state is not so good. It appears that he has a terrible cold, and the prison physician has prescribed a bottle of cough syrup and some pills, however he is still not better and has requested to see the doctor again. Unfortunately he has been told that that the doctor has no time and he won’t be able to see a doctor for 45 days!!
I should also note that after two weeks in prison he still does not have a proper place to sleep, and he has been sleeping on the floor with number of other prisoners who have been convicted of criminal offences, no doubt this has played a role in his recent illness.
Also after two weeks they finally gave us permission to take some clothes for him, although they won’t allow us to take him any pants (this seems to be a prison rule, pants must be bought from inside the prison.)
I am very concerned about my fathers’ well being.”
I recieved the information below from Mr. Shahriyari's son Kaveh Shahriyari who is also a political activist who resides in Iran. I urge my readers to take immediate action and support the Shahriyari Family in this very difficult time.
Mr. Hossein Shahriyari is member of the High Council of Leadership of the PanIranist Party in Iran. PanIranist Party is an outlawed, nationalistic organization that works towards a free and united Iran where all minorities live together freely and peacefully.
After the 1979 Revolution many of the key members of this party were arrested and one was even executed. Due to the crackdown and oppression the party was not very active until 1997, when the Seventh Congress was created, which consisted of seven (7) people in the leadership position. Mr. Hossein Shahriyari was one of the seven (7) individuals.
Mr. Shahriyari was first arrested during the July 9th 1999 pro-democracy demonstrations, and imprisoned in the notorious Towhid prison for 3 months before being released on bail. During that three months his family had no idea about his whereabouts or well being. He was eventually convicted and sentenced to five (5) year suspended sentence. He continued his political activities after his release and continued attending weekly meetings of the PanIranist Party.
In 2005 Mr. Shahriyari was arrested one more time and spent 18 days in the notorious Rajaishahr (Gohardasht) Prison. He was charged with propaganda against the Regime and membership in anti-regime organization. He was convicted and sentenced to 18 months of imprisonment.
Mr. Shahriyari’s lawyer has appealed this sentence in the court of appeal however the sentence has been confirmed.
Mr. Shahriyari is currently being held in Section 4 of the Rajaishahr prison, which is a section for common criminals, and not for political prisoners. He started serving his sentence 13 days ago. It must be noted that Mr. Shahriyari is 73 years old and suffers from heart problems for which he is under medication.
Mr. Shahriyari has been imprisoned because of his involvement in a peaceful political organization and therefore is a political prisoner. I urge all readers to contact Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other international human rights organizations, and to urge them to take up Mr. Shahriyari’s case and to pressure the Islamic Regime into releasing Mr. Shahriyari immediately and unconditionally.
By: Sayeh Hassan
Due to the recent assassinations of prominent Islamic Regime Agents in the Iranian Kurdistan, and in particular in the city of Sanandaj the government has imposed an atmosphere of martial law and a much more serious crackdown on Kurdish activists and dissidents.
There has also been a new wave or arrests of Kurdish political and social activists, along with a further crack down on current political prisoners in the Sanandaj Prison. In the past month at least three prisoners in Sanandaj have been exiled to prisons in other provinces without a court order and without the notification of their families.
Azarmehr Association of Women of Kurdistan (Women of Azarmehr) is extremely concerned about the current crack down and new wave of arrests of dissidents as well as the crackdown on political prisoners, and feels that there is an increased chance of execution of political prisoners being carried out in the very near future.
Women of Azarmehr have come together with concerned mothers, sisters and wives of political prisoners as well as a number of other organizations including “The Committee of Families of Kurdish Political Prisoners,” and “Kurdish Anti-Genocide organization and launched a campaign in support of Kurdish political prisoners who currently face execution.
The goal of this campaign is to put an end to the death penalty and the freedom of all political prisoners.
Currently there are 13 Kurdish political prisoners who are facing the death penalty.
1. Ms. Zeynab Jalaliyan
2. Ehsan Fatahiyan
3. Habib Latifi
4. Shirkuh Moarefi
5. Ramezan Ahmad
6. Farha Chalesh
7. Rostam Arkiya
8. Fazih Yasamini
9. Rashid Akhkandi
10. Ali Heydariyan
11. Farhad Vakili
12. Hossein Khazari
13. Farzad Kamangar
Translation by: Sayeh Hassan
According to a news report from Xorhelatnews the Commander of the Revolutionary Guard Corps in the village of “Ghukhan” in the city of Baneh (in the Iranian Kurdistan) has been assassinated by an unknown armed group.
According to this news report this is the continuation of the recent chain assassination of Islamic Regime agents in the Iranian Kurdistan. According to this report the assassinated Commander played a major role in the oppression of the people in this city.
خورهه لات نیوز: فرمانده نیروهای مقاومت بسیج در شهرستان بانه توسط افراد مسلح کشته شد. بنا بر گذارش منابع محلی فرمانده سپاه پاسداران در روستای "قوخان" بانه، شب گذشته از سوی یک گروه مسلح ناشناس مورد حمله قرار گرفت و کشته شد.
بنا بر گذارش این منابع محلی این ترور هم ادامه زنجیره ترورهای اخیر در کردستان بوده است و همچنین این فرمانده بسیج نقش بسزایی در اذیت و آذار مردم منطقه داشته.