Friday, October 30, 2009

lATEST REPORTS FROM THE BRIDGE JOURNAL #4


  • Afghan Children Not Registered In Schools
Despite Iranian government regulations, Afghan children are facing obstacles to their undeniable rights to an education, and as result head to the streets to undertake grueling work.
IRNA reports Herana, a member of a network committee to help children saying: “We know of a school that for three years has forced an Afghan pupil to remain in third grade even though the child has achieved an A+ average. The head of this school - the name of the school was withheld by the news agency - has stated that they do not have capacity in the next grades. When school officials are asked why a pupil has not been properly registered, their response is that they do not have the capacity. Despite their claim, the main reason they refuse to register these children is because they demand money for registration. Schools ask for $70-$100 from the Afghan children, while the majority of these children cannot afford this amount. Therefore only those able to pay this fee are registered in schools.
The committee member pointed out: “The children who are not able to register in schools to continue their education have no choice but to work on the street. In each school at least 10 1st Grade Afghan children are not registered due to their poor financial circumstances. We appreciate the government of Iran’s issuing of school ID cards given directly to the children instead of the father of the child. Now that society is trying to serve these children, why are some officials creating new obstacles for them?
  • Pressures and Constraints against Female Prisoners
Based on reports from the women’s ward of Evin Prison, pressure, harassment and restrictions against female political and non-political prisoners and their new born have intensified in the last few days. One of the pressures on the prisoners is shutting down the hot water on consecutive days causing prolonged periods without bathing. The situation has been especially difficult for sucklings and children and their mothers who are in urgent need of hot water. Prisoners are allowed one flask of hot water per day and this limitation on hot water affects making milk for newborns and tea for adults. Furthermore the unhygienic environment for newborns and restricting the amount of hot water that they have access to has exposed them to various diseases. In the last few days mothers have refused their daily quota of hot water in protest against the restriction.
The quality and quantity of food in the women’s ward is very inferior and most female prisoners from poor families have no one to support them financially so have to cope with the situation. The food has minimal or no protein. Fruit and vegetables have been removed from prisoners’ diets for two months now food for couple of months now. Malnutrition is apparent in adverse signs on prisoners’ faces, especially on those of children who are subjected to prison conditions because their mothers are there. They witness the daily violence and humiliation against their mothers by wardens and the conflicts inside the ward between prisoners.
Prison stores have been established to exploit prisoners as goods are sold at several times their retail price and authorities neglect to make useful items available at all or in sufficient quantities. Prisoners are allowed to buy 2kg of fruit every 2 weeks. Lack of goods causes long queues in front of the prison store and sometimes leads to physical conflict among the prisoners. Political prisoners are being forced to survive on biscuits due to the poor quality of food.
These are the repressive plans of the intelligence service and prison organizations to make conditions harder for political prisoners. The
number of prisoners is so high that the number of prisoners occupying each cell is many times more than cell capacity. For political prisoners telephone contact has been limited to 3-5 minutes per day with prolonged waits between visits – that take place in cubicles. Health and hygiene in the women’s ward is appalling with bedbugs and lice intensifying the pressure on prisoners as prison resembles an inhuman camp inhuman camp.
Political prisoners are deprived of vital medical treatment and the only medicine that they can take is a painkiller for temporarily relief from their acute discomfort. Among the political prisoners presently in the women’s ward are Nazila Dashti, Sediqeh Falahat, Zadeh,Shanam Madadzadeh, Mahsa Naderi, Fatemeh Ziaei and Atefeh Nabavi.
Human rights and democracy activists in Iran condemn the applied pressures and inhuman and anti-women restrictions against political and non-political prisoners and demand immediate and practical directives from UN Human Rights High Commissioner and women's rights organizations to end the inhuman conditions of female political prisoners in Iran .
  • Mourning Mothers Continue Their Protest, Lighting Candles in Laleh Park and Singing “Ey Iran…”
According to reports a large number of mourning mothers made their weekly protest on Saturday 24 October against the bloody repression, continued arrest of detainees and the issuing heavy verdicts against them, demanding the freedom of political prisoners and prosecution of the perpetrators of the bloody repression of the Iranian people.
The protest began at 5pm and many others joined the mourning mothers, families of killed protesters, women activists and students. Mourning mothers lit candles and moved towards the waterfront square of Laleh Park . They gathered around the waterfront and held a 1 minute silence in remembrance of those killed. They chanted Allah Akbar (God is great) for the freedom of all those held in the prisons of the dictator regime.
The group of 200 sang the anthem “Ey Iran” and protest song “Yare Dabestani”. Security forces on motor bikes, plain clothes and uniformed police were at the scene carrying batons to intimidate the protestors. The protest continued until 6pm.
Democracy and Human Rights Activists in Iran
  • Mohammad Javad Larijani’s Comments On Moussavi’s Connection to 1980s Executions
Iran’s Head of Judiciary, Mohammad Javad Larijani in a debate at the press exhibition, criticized Moussavi and the reformist party stating: “I believe that murdering prisoners in prison is wrong and must be investigated. But we must ask, why when Mr Moussavi was prime minister, many were murdered in prison and he didn’t bother to raise the issue then?” Mr Larijani claimed that reformists don’t have the experience of democracy. Mostafa Kavakabian, Head of the Human Oriented Party in response to Mr.Larijani said: “Mr Larijani can’t claim that democracy is part of his university education that others do not have, and to say that if Mr Moussavi did not protest the killings at the time, then he should remain silent today, is not a valid argument.”
To this day no one has accurate information on what happened to the political prisoners of the 1980s. These prisoners were recognized by the Islamic Republic as small undercover groups and were deprived of knowing their rights as political prisoners. The most reliable source of information from this time is Ayatollah Montazeri who was denied his title as Khomeini’s successor in the role of supreme leader because he opposed these violent acts and was placed under house arrest for several years. In the summer of 1998 after the unsuccessful attack of the Mojahedine Khalgh to Iran, made with the support of Iraq, Ayatollah Khomeini issued the murder of thousands of political prisoners. These people were executed in less than two months. For all the political parties of the Islamic Republic this case has been a closed book that must not be opened. Even during the presidency of Khatami when the case of the Intelligence Ministry’s killing of dissidents and intellectuals was exposed, the case was not reviewed. But now it seems acceptable to attack Moussavi and bring him out of the trenches of Khomeini’s legacy to re-open the case with Mohammad Javad Larijani at the helm. He is saying that Mr Moussavi doesn’t have democratic experience and is objecting to prisoner confessions and executions for show rather than the pursuit of freedom and justice because if he was a true defender of freedom he would have objected to murdering prisoners during the time he was a prime minister. Mr Moussavi and many elderly statesmen of the Islamic Republic can be the subject of Mr Larijani’s criticism, such as the current leader of the Islamic republic who was the president at the time. For this reason many believe that such statements are not to defend those murdered in the 80s, but for political gain.
  • Families of Political Prisoners Attended Press Exhibition
The families of political prisoners, together with human rights activists and independent journalists voiced their objections against the imprisonment of an extensive number of journalists and political activists at a press exhibition. The families of Tajzadeh Tajernia, Ghoochani, Ahmadi Amooie, Husain Ezami, Msoud Bastani, Saeed Leilaz carried images of the prisoners and entered the hall as people chanted “Political prisoners must be freed”. Many welcomed their presence at the exhibition and some even sang the protest song “Yare Dabestani” for some minutes. Photographers and reporters of different news agencies and newspapers photographed them in support.

The families first went to the ILNA news agency stand, and voiced their objections against their family members’ imprisonment.. They also went to Etemad newspaper, Haiate No, Sarmaieh and Iran Voice stands, asking for the media’s attention to the prisoners’ circumstances. They complained about the media’s lack of attention with regard to the detentions and imprisonment and called for the release of all political prisoners.
Some of the families and independent journalists peacefully protested in front of the Fars and Rajaie news agency stands while holding images of political prisoners. People at that Rajaie stand argued with the protests saying: We are journalists too, how come they haven’t arrested us?”
This argument ended when members of the public attending the exhibition came to the support of the families.
The attendance of the families of political prisoners and others was prompted by rumours that Khatami and Moussavi’s would be at the exhibition. It was reported that Moussavi was stopped from entering the building. Mehdi Karoubi was seen at the event and was attacked by government supporters while there, injuring his forehead.
This year, the exhibition took place while more than 30 journalists are in prison.
  • Bidari Student Newsletter at Shiraz University is Banned
Bidari, a student newsletter, directed by Nastaran Rafie was banned by the cultural director of Shiraz University. According to Herana quoting Amir Kabir news agency this newsletter was banned upon publishing its 11th edition. Dr Abbasi, Shiraz University’s Cultural Director announced that the newsletter was banned due to its propaganda against the regime, encouraging students to perform illegal acts and publishing fake news. A meeting to review these charges will take place on Sunday next week.
  • Alborz Ceramics Factory Workers Block Road
Earlier this week a group of Alborz Ceramics Factory workers blocked the main road to the industrial zone of Alborz for hours in protest at non-payment of four months of wages . The governor of Alborz sent a representative to put an end the protest. According to Herana news agency quoting ILNA, Eid Ali Karimi, Executive Director of Workers Center of Ghazvin said: “Earlier, the workers had a judicial warrant to seize warehouse products, but the owner suggested that they leave the products and he would pay them the wages as soon as they were sold. Based on this agreement the workers replaced the products, but once these products were sold the owner still did not pay the wages to the workers.”
  • Trial of Shabnam Madadzadeh to Take Place in 40 days
Branch 2 of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court has for the fourth time postponed the hearing of Shabnam Madadzadeh, Vice President of Tahkime Vahdat. According to Herana news agency quoting Amir Kabir, the date given to Mohammad Oliaie, Ms. Madadzadeh’s lawyer is 14 Azar. The lawyer and his client have objected to this the date. In response, the Revolutionary Court has announced that the hearing is based on an agreement with the Information Ministry and they have no power over it.
Prior to this, they had given hearing dates of 23 Tir, 22 Shahrivar and 18 Mehr, all postponed for different reasons such as negligence of the branch office manager or lack of prosecutor. This latest delay will bring Shabnam Madadzadeh’s temporary detention to 300 days.
Shabnam Madadzadeh who is a member of the Central Council of Tehran Teacher Training University and is Vice President of Tahkime Vahdat has already been detained for more than eight months. She has spent three of these in solitary confinement. Ms. Madadzadeh is charged with apostasy and propaganda against the regime. According to her lawyer such charges have no legal value. Her arrest was originally reported to the information offices by her brother Farzad Madadzadeh.
  • Fariba Pazhouh’s Detention Extended with Threat of Return to Solitary Confinement
Fariba Pazhouh a detained journalist’s temporary imprisonment has been extended after a week without visits. According to Prisoner Human Rights Activists in Iran, prison officials prevented Fariba from having visitors. and has only been able to have short phone conversations with her family.
Fariba Pajouh, was arrested on the first day of Ramadan at her parents’ house by intelligence agents and was kept in solitary confinement for one month. During this time she was repeatedly tortured and has been under severe psychological pressure. She was then moved to a cell with Hengameh Shahidi, another imprisoned journalist.
Judge Beigi announced the extended detention time for Fariba Pazhouh to her lawyer Mina Jafari. There is now concern that Fariba may be returned to solitary confinement. Mina Jafari, told Herana news agency: “Fariba is prohibited from having visitors. We, her family and I are not allowed to visit her and this is a direct order from Tehran’s prosecutor. Fariba is under constant pressure. She is not allowed to have contact with me and I was only able to find out about her situation through her family”. Ms. Jafari who also represents Issa Saharkhiz, said of his situation: “Mr Saharkhiz is still in prison and his detention has been extended, but we are not give any more information about his case”.
  • Jila Bani Yaghoub Wins International Press Freedom Award
Iranian journalist Jila Bani Yaghoub and Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta have jointly won the International Press Freedom Award given by non-governmental agency Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE). Jila Bani Yaghoub described as a “journalist, editor and prominent women right activist in Iran” was arrested during the month of Ramadan at a fast opening ceremony in front of Evin prison. CJFE stated “This agency is proud to announce that Jila Bani Yaghoub and Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta have won this award for their extraordinary courage and overcoming major problems in the year 2009”.
The statement adds that Jila Bani Yaghoub was summoned and arrested several times due to her activities. On the last occasion she was arrested with her journalist husband Bahman Ahmadi Ammoi. Jila was released on bail after 60 days, but her husband remains in prison four months later.
Jila Bani Yaghoub has worked with Hamshahri, Khordad, Azad, Aftab, Emrooz , Vaghaie and Sarmaie newspapers. She is a member of the “One Million Signatures Campaign” and was recently awarded International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) Courage in Journalism Award.
The Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta which has also won the award is according to CJFE “One of the few independent news sources in Russia” and four of its employees have been murdered to date. According to this statement, journalists of Novaya Gazeta publish criticism, corruption and human rights violations of the government.
  • 12 Million Smokers In Iran
The managing director of the Iranian Tobacco Company says that 12 million Iranians smoke cigarettes.

"However, drug smuggling in Iran has decreased by 10 percent over the past year," Mohammad Abtahi said here on Sunday while visiting the booth of the Tehran Times daily and the Mehr News Agency at the Tehran Press Fair.

He stated that the daily per capita consumption of cigarettes in the world is 7 but the rate is 2.2 in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

It is projected that Iranians will smoke 61.2 billion cigarettes in the current Iranian calendar year of 1388 (began March 21, 2009), up from 60.4 billion in Iranian calendar year 1387 (March 2008-March 2009), showing a projected rise of 1.2 percent over the past year, he said.

The Tobacco Atlas estimates that tobacco use kills some six million people each year -- more than a third of whom will die from cancer -- and drains $500 billion annually from global economies.

According to the World Health Organization, one in ten deaths among adults worldwide is caused by tobacco. Tobacco caused 100 million deaths in the 20th century. Just in 2005, it caused an average of one death every six seconds. If current trends continue, the death toll is expected to reach over 8 million annually by 2030 and could hit one billion deaths in the 21st century.
  • Arrest of participants at reform group gathering
The majority of participants in a prayers ceremony for the release of an executive member of the reform group, Islamic Iran Participation Front were arrested today.

Norooz website reports that according to eyewitness testimony tonight's ceremony for the release of Shahabeddin Tabatabai, which took place at the detainee's residence, was raided by security forces who appeared at the scene in three vans. The report maintains that the participants were arrested and taken away in the vans to an unknown location.
Amongst the detainees were the spouses of some of the members, as well as Mohammadreza Jalaipour who had just recently been released after suffering two months of solitary confinement.
Reports at hand also indicate that some of the participants are detained at Mr. Tabatabai's home and are prohibited from leaving.
  • Iran’s supreme leader ‘against direct talks with US’
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is opposed to direct negotiations with the US , newspapers quoted a senior legislator as saying yesterday.

But Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said talks on the nuclear issue would continue with six world powers, including the US.

“Presently we do not have any new issue for talks,” Mottaki said, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency .

The comments by vice-speaker Mohammad Reza Bahonar appeared to contradict discussions on Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme that took place in Switzerland earlier this month, and which included officials of the two foes .

But he may have been referring to any wide-ranging bilateral talks aimed at normalising US-Iran ties, rather than ruling out all contact between Tehran and Washington.

Relations with the US are a sensitive issue in the Islamic republic, whose clerical leaders see Washington as the Great Satan guilty of “global arrogance”.

“Presently, the Supreme National Security Council and the supreme leader emphasise that our strategic policies are based on the absence of negotiations with the US ,” Hambastegi newspaper quoted Bahonar as saying.

“That is why we will not have any direct negotiations with the US,” he said at a meeting of an Islamic engineers association, the reformist daily reported.

He did not elaborate on what he meant by “direct negotiations”.

Bahonar is a conservative MP who often criticises the government of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has said he favours dialogue with other countries including the US if this is based on justice and respect.

Khamenei has the final say on all matters of state, including the nuclear programme and foreign relations.

Asked whether there was a possibility of direct US-Iran talks, Mottaki said : “We will be continuing talks on the nuclear issue and within overall five-plus-one contacts.”

He was referring to the five permanent United Nations Security Council members — the US , Russia, China, France and Britain — and Germany. Asked about Bahonar’s comment, ILNA news agency quoted Mottaki as saying: “We accept Mr Bahonar’s opinion.”

The US severed ties with Tehran shortly after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution. But Iranian and US officials took part in discussions in Geneva earlier this month in a bid to resolve a long-running standoff over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

Bahonar did not mention the Geneva meeting.

“The policy of the Islamic republic of Iran is based on the absence of official negotiations with the US … the conditions for such negotiations must emerge ,” Bahonar said.

The US and its allies accuse Iran of seeking to develop nuclear bombs with its nuclear programme.

Iran says it aims only to generate electricity.
  • Eight-Year Jail Sentence for Hiva Bootimar
An appeals court sentenced Haiva Bootimar to an eight-year jail term.

Saleh Nikbakht, a lawyer representing Mr. Bootimar, announced the news. Previously, the initial court had sentenced Mr. Bootimar to a one-year jail term after he was charged with spreading propaganda against the regime, and another ten-year jail term for dealing in arms and ammunition.

Mr. Nikbakht appealed the sentencing, and in another trial, the charge of propaganda against the regime was dropped and, considering the absence of a prior criminal record and Mr. Bootimar’s special condition, his arms-dealing sentencing was commuted to eight years.
  • Masoud Bastani Sentenced to Six-Year Jail Term
Masoud Bastani is a journalist and political activist who has been in detention for the past three and a half months, and in his first trial, he received a six-year jail term.

Mr. Bastani’s family members have confirmed the news. The sentencing includes one year for spreading propaganda against the regime and five years for collusion to hold gatherings and cause unrest.
In the early days of unrest which followed the general election, a group of agents entered the residence of Mr. Bastani and Mahsa Amrabadi (a reporter form Etemad Melli Paper) in absence of Mr. Bastani, and his wife and two other house guests identified as Seyed Khalil Mir-Ashrafi and Behzad Bashu were detained and sent to Evin Prison.
  • Bakery workers on strike in Sanandaj

Bakery workers in Sanandaj, West of Iran, went on strike against their law monthly salary and lack of improvement in their dreadful working conditions today.

They have announced that their protest will be in limited areas in the beginning in order to meet public’s need. But, if their demands are not met, they will start an all out and unlimited strike on Thursday, October 29.

There are more than 4,500 bakery workers in Sanandaj and they have problems in managing their deprived families. Workers are suppressed and officials and members of their union are arrested in order to prevent protests.
  • Day seven of Ahvaz Pipe Mills protest
Workers at Ahvaz Pipe Mills Company held a gathering for the seventh day running on Monday outside the governorates office to protest against non-payment of their wages and bonuses for the past 10 months.

Protestors were chanting, “Living in Iran is our indisputable right,” “Government of coup d'├ętat, resign, resign,” “Death or justice,” “With God’s help, victory is close, death to the deceitful government” and “We will not surrender to humiliation.” Members of public joined the workers in their protest.

In fear of the spread of their protest, the suppressive agents attacked the workers and brutally beat and disperse them.

The governor of city of Ahvaz and the head of the company have refused to respond to the legitimate demands of the workers who are unable to provide the basic needs of their families.

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