Saturday, November 28, 2009

Put Human Rights Defense on Par with Nuclear Safety Concerns, says Feminist Attorney, Shadi Sadr

On November 9, 2009, Shadi Sadr, a young feminist attorney and journalist received the "Dutch Human Rights Defenders Tulip" for her work in Iran. In her acceptance speech she wrote: "As long as the issue of human rights is not raised at least in a parallel way to the nuclear issue at all levels of political and economic negotiations with the Iranian government, and sanctions and other possible guarantees of action do not include both areas, one cannot accept that some real effort has been made to stop the violation of the rights of Iranian citizens." The English translation of her speech is reprinted below. For more information on Shadi Sadr and for a translation of her article on the rapes of young women protesters imprisoned after the forged June 2009 election, see

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Acceptance speech by Ms Shadi Sadr, winner of the 2009 Human Rights Defenders Tulip
Source for Persian original:

Source for English Translation:

Translator Unknown

Jury of the Human Rights Tulip Award,
Your Excellency Foreign Minister of Holland

Ladies and Gentlemen

I am greatly honoured that the jury of the Human Rights Tulip Award has found me worth of receiving this year’s award and given me the opportunity to speak about the situation of women’s rights in Iran, the dire needs of people in Iran and also their expectations from the international community. You have all seen pictures and videos of people’s protests in the aftermath of this year’s presidential elections. You have seen how women, particularly young girls, have been at the forefront of all protests. They challenged the stereotype image of Iranian woman which was often imagined in veil or passive around the world. Neda, the young girl who was shot and murdered in demonstrations, quickly became a symbol for the struggles of Iranian people for freedom and democracy. To me, however, the active and determining role of women was not shaped only through images and videos. I had seen the leadership of women on the streets and the most lasting images I have in mind go back to the 9 th of July this year.

On this day, large crowds of people took to the streets of Tehran on the 10 th anniversary of the suppression of student protests of 1989. Demonstrations were about to end and as usual, violence and attacks were increasing by the minute. Along with a number of the demonstrators, to get away from pepper gas which was thrown into the crowd by security forces, I had to run into a city bus, while I was badly coughing from the effects of tear gas. A few stops away from there, when coughs were less disturbing, a political debate began among the people on the bus. Young women, who had broken the gender segregation rule on public buses and had found seats in the male area of the bus, were leading the debate. I asked loudly and with suprise, “Anyone from the gentlemen? They are all quiet!” Instead of someone from among men, a young girl who was dressed in black said, “Men had better be quiet now. Thirty years ago, they made this revolution and we have now seen its result. They had better be quiet now and let us do our job! This revolution is our revolution, women’s revolution!”

Here, I would like to pose this question: who are these women, who simply speak about a revolution of women, those whose images you have seen and I hope you have not forgotten? Who are they? And why do they fight so bravely for freedom and democracy?

Many of these young women have been born after the 1979 revolution or they have been young kids in the early days of the revolutions; they are completely products of an ideological system, which has had the monopoly of power in Iran for thirty years. Apart from having to suffer the lack of political freedoms and democracy like men, they also have to accept rules of compulsory veil, live with family laws which put them under the guardianship of men, seek the consent of their fathers for marriage, the right of getting a divorce and they are often deprived of the guardianship of their children. These are the same women who will be flogged in they have relationships other than in a marriage and if they are married women, an extra-marital relationship may lead to being stoned. These are the same women that Ahmadinejad’s government wants to minimise their role in universities and the labour market and make them stay at home and be isolated with fundamentalist policies which is now even more restrictive than the past 30 years.

In the past thirty years, Iranian women have gone through the highest level of suppression and pressure in their personal and social lives and have sustained the most damage of all from the ruling system. Under such circumstances, it is obvious that they are the unhappiest and the angriest citizens who do not have much to lose. If they are arrested today because of attending demonstrations for democracy, they have been arrested before for attending gatherings in defence of women’s rights and they have gone to prison for it. If they are raped today by security forces, they have felt this rape on their body and their soul for thirty years in the violation of their rights and their human dignity. Given all these facts, do we still have to ask why, today, women are at the forefront of the struggles of Iranian people?

At the beginning of my talk, I said I hope you have not forgotten the images of the protests of Iranian people against the violation of human rights and the absence of freedom and democracy.

However, let me be honest and tell you that I concerned. I am concerned that these images and these struggles may be forgotten. Yes, if violation of human rights in Iran does not face any resistance or repercussions and if these struggles are not defended in a concrete way, the Iranian people have the right to tell us you have forgotten us. My concern becomes even much deeper when I see that the western media is becoming less and less concerned about the violation of human rights in Iran and even politicians are not better than the media.

Unfortunately, forgetting the thousands who were arrested and tortured in prisons, the hundreds who were killed and the unknown number of prisoners who were raped are killed in detention is a real concern. The fact is that in Iran, while on the one hand people’s struggles and protests are still powerful and living and on the other hand , violation of human rights continues in a systematic way in all spheres, from women’s rights to freedom of gatherings, from rights of prisoners to freedom of speech, it appears that European nations and states are beginning to forget what they witnesses in Iran this summer. It is my conviction that by forgetting these realities, western governments not only forget their own responsibility which has been defined as countries who uphold human rights, but they are also putting in jeopardy the interests of their own state and their own citizens by forgetting these events.

They sit at the same table of negotiations with Ahmadinejad in the capacity of a legitimate president and the only item on the agenda of these negotiations is the issue of nuclear energy, as if none of these events had happened in Iran and as if none of the disasters which we see today keep occurring in Iran. On the level of international politics, everything is business as usual with the Islamic Republic like before the events of this summer. Even when there is talk of sanctions against Iran, sanctions are considered in the face of Iran’s advancements in the area of nuclear technology, as if no one sees the day to day violation of the basic rights of Iranian citizens by the Iranian government. Human rights is a universal issue and if one state claims to be supporting human rights, this claim brings about responsibilities with it . Ignoring these responsibilities, not only subjects Iranian people to further and wider suppression, but it also has long term repercussion for the citizens of countries who consider themselves defenders of human rights, because just in the same way that human rights is universal, fundamentalism as one of the greatest enemies of human rights has also become universal and global. Silence, toleration and recognition of a fundamentalist government that violates the rights of women, dissidents and minorities result in the enhancement and the export of global fundamentalism. We can already see symptoms of it even on this side of the borders: Holland is one of the societies which is now dealing with the issue of religious fundamentalism as a social and political problem..

In the latest demonstration of the Iranian people against the government which was held last week, a large number of people and this time, women more than before, were attacked, beaten up and abused by security guards. Women were wounded, arrested and among them were a large number of political activists such as Vahideh Mowlavi, a women’s rights activist , were violently arrested. In these demonstrations, people were chanting the slogan: “Obama! Obama! You are either with us or with them!” The slogan clearly implies that right before the eyes of the people who are now fighting for freedom, democracy and human rights in Iran, one cannot sit at a negotiation table with a dictatorial government to speak about nuclear energy or economic contracts and talk about concrete conditions and at the same time, criticise the state of human rights in Iran through political statements which have no actual guarantee to be put into action. Demonstrators are overtly challenging Obama to clarify his position towards the struggles of the Iranian people and they have the same expectation from European governments.

As a women’s rights activist who comes from the heart of the struggles of the people, I am here in The Hague, in Holland – the city which is the seat of the International Criminal Court for addressing crimes against humanity – to speak of two dire needs of the movement of the Iranian people. These needs and necessities will not be realised unless western governments take responsibility. First, it is necessary that the issue of human rights in Iran remains on the table of negotiations alongside the issue of nuclear energy with equal significance. As long as the issue of human rights is not raised at least in a parallel way to the nuclear issue at all levels of political and economic negotiations with the Iranian government and sanctions and other possible guarantees of action do not include both areas, one cannot accept that some real effort has been made to stop the violation of the rights of Iranian citizens.

The second necessity is that all those involved and all those who have ordered the widespread and systematic violation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran should be prosecuted and tried. It is true that Iran, like many other violators of human rights, has not ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, but western governments, including the Dutch government, as the host of the International Criminal Court, can ask the UN Security Council to pursue the issue of crimes against humanity through setting up an international court for Iran. Let us not forget that a global issue can only be dealt with through a global action.

Thank you.

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Last Statement by Kurdish Activist, Ehsan Fattahian

On November 11, 2009, Ehsan Fattahian, a young Kurdish activist and political prisoner was executed in Sanandaj, Iran. He had been arrested in July 2008 and imprisoned for his association with Komalah, a Kurdish opposition group which considers itself Marxist. His execution was carried out by the Iranian government despite expressions of protest inside and outside Iran. The English translation of Fattahian's last statement is being reprinted from the official website of the Iranian Green Movement. My corrections have been interpolated in square brackets. For more information about Fattahian's case, please see the article, "What Happened to Ehsan Fattahian?" in Tehran Bureau (

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Last Statement by Ehsan Fattahian

Translator Unknown

Last ray of sun at sunset/

is the path that I want to write on/

The sound of leaves under my feet/

say to me: Let yourself fall/

and only then you find the path to freedom./

I have never been afraid of death, even now that I feel it closest to me. I can sense it and I'm familiar with it, for it is an old acquaintance of this land and this people. I'm not writing about death but about justifications for death, now that they have translated it to restoring justice and freedom, can one be afraid of future and destiny? "We" who have been sentenced to death by "them," were working to find a small opening to a better world, free of injustice, are "they" also aware of what they are working towards?

I started life in city of Kermanshah, the city that my country people consider grand, the birthplace of civilization in our country. I soon noticed descrimination and oppression and I felt it in the depth of my existence, this cruelty, and the "why" of this cruelty and trying to resolve it made me come up with thousands of thoughts. But alas, they had blocked all the roads to justice and made the atmosphere so repressive that I didn't find any way to change things inside, and I migrated to another resort: "I became a pishmarg [armed Kurdish fighter or literally "one who faces death"] of Koomaleh," the temptation to find myself and the identity that I was deprived of made me go in that direction. Although leaving my birthplace was difficult but it never made me cut ties with my childhood hometown. Every now and then I would go back to my first home to revisit my old memories, and one of these times "they" made my visit sour, arrested and imprisoned me. From that first moment and from the hospitality (!!) of my jailers I realized that the tragic destiny of my numerous [comrades] also awaits me: torture, file building, closed and seriously influenced court, an unjust and politically charged verdict, and finally death...

Let me say it more casually: after getting arrested in town of Kamyaran on 29/4/87 [July 19, 2008]and after a few hours of being a "guest" at the information office of that town, while handcuffs and a blindfold took away my right to see and move, a person who introduced himself as a deputy of the prosecutor started asking a series of unrelated questions that were full of false accusations (I should point out that any judicial questioning outside of courtroom is prohibited in the law). This was the first of my numerous interrogation sessions. The same night I was moved to the information office of Kurdestan province in city of Sanandaj, and I experienced the real party there: a dirty cell with an unpleasant toilet with blankets that had probably not seen water in decades! From that moment my nights and days passed in the interrogation offices and lower hallway under extreme torture and beatings and this lasted three months. In these three months my interrogators, probably in pursuit of a promotion or some small raise, came up with strange and false accusations against me, which they better than anyone knew how far from reality they were. They tried very hard to prove that I was involved with an armed attempt to overthrow the regime. The only charges they could pursue was being a part of "Koomaleh" and advertising against the regime. The first "shobe" [branch] of Islamic republic court in Sanandaj found me guilty of these charges and gave me 10 years sentence in exile in Ramhormoz prison. The government's political and bureaucratic structure always suffers from being centralized, but in this case they tried to de-centralize the judiciary and gave the powers to re-investigate (appeal?) the crimes of political prisoners, even as high as death penalties, to the appeal courts in Kurdestan province. In this case [Kamyaran's city attorney] appealed the verdict by the first court and the Kurdestan appeals court changed my verdict from 10 years in prison to death sentence, against the Islamic republic laws. According to section 258 of “Dadrasi Keyfari” law [criminal justice law], an appeals court can increase the initial verdict only in the case that the initial verdict was less than minimum punishment for the crime. In my case, the crime was “Moharebeh” (animosity with God), which has the minimum punishment of one year sentence, and my verdict was a 10 year sentence in exile, clearly above the minimum. Compare my sentence to the minimum sentence for this crime to understand the unlawful and political nature of my death sentence. Although I also have to mention that shortly before changing the verdict they transferred me from the main prison in Sanandaj to the interrogation office of the Information Department and requested that I do a video interview confessing to crimes I have not committed, and say things that I do not believe in. In spite of a lot of pressure I did not agree to do the video confession and they told me bluntly that they will change my verdict to death sentence, which they shortly did, and demonstrated how the courts follow forces outside of judiciary department. So should they be blamed??

A judge has been sworn to stay fair in every situation, at all times and towards every person and look at the world from the legal perspective. Which judge in this doomed land can claim to has not broken this [oath]and has stayed fair and just? In my opinion the number of such judges is less than fingers on one hand. When the whole judicial system of Iran with the suggestion of an interrogator (with no knowledge of legal matters), arrests, tries, imprisons and executes people, can we really blame the few judges of a province which is always repressed and discriminated against? Yes, this house is ruined from its foundations...

This is in spite of the fact that in my last visit with my prosecutor he admitted that the death sentence is unlawful, but for the second time they gave me the notice for carrying out the execution. Needless to say that this insistence on carrying a death sentence under any circumstance is the result of pressure from security and political forces from outside of the judiciary department. [The people who belong to these circles] look at life and death of political prisoners only from the point of view of their paychecks and political needs, nothing else matters to them other than their own goals, even if it is about the most fundamental right of other human beings, their right to live. Forget international laws, they completely disregard even their own laws and procedures.

But my last words: If in the minds of these rulers and oppressors my death will get rid of the “problem” called Kurdestan [the province], I should say, what an illusion. Neither my death nor the death of thousands like me will be remedy to this incurable pain and perhaps would even fuel this fire. Without a doubt, every death points to a new life.

Ehsan Fattahian

Sanandaj Central prison

(November 8, 2009)

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