Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Iran Tribunal in the Hague - "I will bear this pain forever"

It may only have been a symbolic trial, but it is also a documentation of the worst terror years in the post 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran.

Witnesses who survived the massacre of Iranian political prisoners in 1988, gathered in the Hague, in front of international judges and lawyers between 25th and 27th of October and described the terror of the eighties and how 5000 men and women, young and old were summarily executed without even a proper burial.

Below is the witness statement of just one of them, whose account of what he saw, shook the audience:

Q- You were imprisoned in 1981 for 6 months, what happened?

A- I was arrested after the 20th June demonstrations against the new regime. One of my relatives and I used to re-write the anti-regime handbills and hand them out. He was arrested first and he had given them my name under duress. When they first came to our house to arrest me, I wasn't there, they took the books and the handbills they found in the house. They also took my sister and said to my mother, we will release her whenever Mehdi gives himself up.

Q- Why was your sister hospitalised?

A- After they arrested me, my sister thought she would be released but instead her interrogator told her, not only she would not be released, but that she will be executed. My sister went into a shock, when she went back to her cell, she felt she was being choked and collapsed, other female inmates started shouting she is dead, she is dead, Guards then came and took my sister to hospital and returned her the next morning. But she suffered from the after effects of this trauma for the rest of her life.

Q- How long was your sister kept in prison after that?

A- They released her after a day. They took me to the Nazi-Abad Committee, they kept me there for seven days, because they said there wasn't enough room in Evin prison. I was finally taken to Evin prison, at first we had to sleep in the corridors until they found a cell for me and I was there for six months.

Q- You said to your interrogators that you hadn't done anything and you were repentant

A- Yes, I really believed I hadn't done anything that bad. I kept saying to them I am not interested in politics, thinking they would release me sooner. This was what some of the prisoners had decided to do, they agreed to declare themselves as repentants, thinking they would then be freed.

Q- How did you have to prove to them that you were repentant?

A- They called me once and asked, "Have you repented?". I said, Yes. They asked, "are you prepared to take part in the execution of prisoners?"
I thought by answering them like this, they would release me. Unfortunately they took me and someone from my cell as well as some others from other cells and gave us a head cover that covered our eyes, but I could see from under it. They took us to a room first, more and more came and then they put us on a mini-bus and took us to a place of execution. I still thought they were bluffing and testing us. I never thought they would give us guns. I saw the guards standing with guns. They told us who were standing behind the guards to take our blindfolds off. I tried to control myself but couldn't bear what I was seeing. They brought those who were to be executed and put them a few yards in front of the guards.

Q- How many were to be executed?

A- On my left, I counted 7 or 8, on my right there were many more as far as my eyes could see.

Q- Were there men and women together?

A- Yes they were

Q- Did you guess their age?

A- Yes where I was standing there was a man standing next to a girl and next to her was a young boy, he was really a kid, the girl was young too, she was wearing a headscarf, I couldn't say how old she was exactly. Three of the four [Witness breaks down in tears, complete silence in the room]

Q- Can you continue?

A- [witness composes himself] Yes..this scene has remained with me for 28 years. I saw two more, who couldn't have been older than 15.  There was a girl whose voice was shaking as she hailed her political organisation.

Q - What happened next? Can you describe it?

A- They told us to walk up to the guards. They told us to put our fingers on the triggers, I did as they told me, they recited the Koran, they then ordered, Fire! and shots were fired. One of the Guards came towards me and said, 'why did you not fire?' I stepped back. Someone walked up to the  bodies on the ground and did the coup de grace. There were many who were executed. Repentant prisoners who didn't go forward to fire, were told to pick up the corpses and put them in the back of a truck. Two at a time were picking the bodies from their hands and feet and throwing them into the back of a truck. They took us back in the mini-bus. We were not blindfolded, we were all dazed and shocked. Some had blood on their clothes because they had picked up the bodies.

I am a religious person and have religious convictions. When I was doing my prayers afterwards, only God the Almighty could understand what I was going through. I cried so much during my prayers that I don't remember what happened to me after. Since then, I have erected a wall all around me, and I have kept myself behind this wall ever since.

Q- Is there anything else you would like to add?

A- What happened to me was like an emotional rape. Like other forms of rape, it sits so deep inside your soul and emotions that it never heals. I had become an accomplice in murder, my hands were stained in the blood of another human being, I had assisted the murder of a freedom seeking human being, I will bear this pain for ever.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ghabel's Funeral - Farewell to a Man of Honour and Integrity

As an Iranian committed to help bring about secularism in Iran, it may surprise some people, that there have been many Shia clerics who have won my full admiration. Perhaps none more than Ahmad Ghabel, the Iranian Shia cleric and Islamic scholar who died yesterday at the age of 55.

Ghabel was also the man who exposed the unreported mass executions in Mashad's Vakilabad prison. His life, dedicated to standing up to tyranny, deserves much more than this humble post.

During the Iraqi invasion of Iran, Ghabel voluntarily went to the war front on several occasions. A mortar shrapnel piece lodged close to his spine, remained with him for the rest of his life which ultimately brought about his illness and demise. Ghabel's older brother, Abolghassem was martyred in the war and his other brother Mahmoud is recognised as a 'Jaanbaaz', meaning those who have survived the war but have serious debilitating injuries as a result of their participation in the war.

Despite being a Shia cleric, Ghabel voluntarily disrobed himself in 1991. He commented later about his action by saying “God makes no distinctions between men and neither should the clothes we wear. No one should enjoy special privileges for wearing clerical robes. “

In 1997, Ghabel was imprisoned for the first time after the revolution, the first of six imprisonments to come. In 2001 he spent 125 days in solitary confinement after his third arrest.

In 2009, and during the height of the post-election protests in Iran, Ghabel was arrested again on his way to attend the funeral of the dissident Ayatollah Montazeri. In 2010 he was taken to his trial with his feet and hands chained together but he said in his trial “I see nothing but splendour in these chains”. His heroic defence during his trial became a trial of the regime itself.

Ghabel was given the rank of Ijtihad by Ayatollah Montazeri, which meant he could issue fatwas and answer religious questions. Of his most famous fatwas was that Islam does not make it mandatory for women to cover their face and hair, as well as his staunch opposition to stoning.

Ghabel was laid to rest on Wednesday with hundreds attending his funeral while plain clothes security agents watched and filmed those who attended his funeral.

Ghabel was a fearless man, a good man who did not stay silent when evil prevailed.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Ghabel, Free at Last

Hojat-ol-Islam Ahmad Ghabel, Muslim Shia cleric, Iranian theologian and seminary lecturer, researcher and author and most notably a prominent Iranian dissident died yesterday in hospital. Finally the good man "who saw nothing but splendour in being chained" to defend freedom and justice was truly set free.

Ghabel was arrested several times and appeared before the Special Court for Clergy. His last arrest was in 2009 on his way to Qom to attend Grand Ayatollah Montazeri's funeral. He was freed on bail after 170 days  but then re-arrested a year later when he exposed the secret mass executions at Vakilabad prison in Mashad.

Ghabel had the rank of Ijtihad and one of his ground breaking fatwas was about hijab, where he argued it was only obligatory for women to cover their body. He was a good man who lived his life as he preached. May he rest in peace now.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Hero Pilot: 80 of My Passengers were Russian Nuclear Scientists

Captain Hooshang Shahbazi, the Iranian hero pilot who managed to land the Iran Air 727 Moscow-Tehran flight safely after the plane's landing gear malfunctioned during a flight last October, has today revealed that he has been forced into early retirement, nine years ahead of his contractual retirement date.

Despite his spectacular emergency landing which was captured on video,  see below, Shahbazi was initially ordered not to fly any planes for two months. Captain Shahbazi complained at the time, that despite having saved the lives of 94 passengers and 19 crew members, authorities had not even called him to say thank you.

But after he was initially ignored and grounded, which baffled everyone, he was finally hosted a hero and appeared on state TV describing how he managed to land the plane. Shahbazi then became an active campaigner for lifting of Western sanctions that restrict the import of civilian plane spare parts. He even went to Geneva last March to attend the 19th UNHRC session and spoke to some panels about how the Western sanctions related to Iran's air industry, violated Iran's human rights.

Today, Captain Shahbazi seemed to have fallen out of favour again. He complained on his Facebook page that despite all his efforts to lift the sanctions on Iran's air industry, he had been forced into early retirement 9 years early. Interestingly he also revealed that 80 of his 727 flight passengers in October last year, were Russian nuclear scientists.

Russian nuclear scientists who had become unemployed after the Chernobyl disaster, seem to have done very well from Islamic Republic's nuclear program.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Meaning of PEPSI

PEPSI, is just an abbreviation for "Pay Each Penny Saved, to Israel", according to Dr. Hossein Ravazadeh. Islamic Republic is never short of crackpots, many of them have high ranking official posts and run the country.  The seminaries just keep churning more and more clerics who are a few cards short of a full deck.

Dr. Ravazadeh who supposedly promotes "Islamic and traditional” medicine makes a living out of uttering outrageous and balmy statements. Cedar trees for example, are nothing but a Western plot according to the esteemed doctor. They have no shadows and bear no fruits,  they deprive other trees of water and they were imported to Iran by the Americans to destroy our agriculture!

Below is a footage of the latest manifestation of Dr. Ravazadeh's vast knowledge and wisdom. PEPSI stands for Pay Every Penny Saved, to Israel!

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

The Offensive Cartoon in IR Publication

Yet again another cartoon has offended religious sanctities and sensitivities. This time however, the cartoon was published in an Iranian hardline publication, the monthly Kayhan Caricature.

The cartoon depicts the biblical Joseph, also revered as one of God's prophets by the Muslims, as a half naked effeminate cat walk model in a fashion show, watched by infatuated women besotted by Joseph's beauty.

Just as in the biblical story, the infatuated women watching Joseph on the stage are holding a knife and an orange, but distracted by Joseph's handsomeness are not realising that they are cutting themselves with the knives instead of peeling their oranges. To make sure there were no ambiguities left as to what the cartoon is about, the caption for the cartoon read, "Zuleika Fashion Show". Zuleika is known by Muslims as Potiphar's wife who wanted to prove to her aristocratic friends how handsome Joseph was.

Yesterday the publication was shut down because of the offensive cartoon and the 'accountable manager' for the monthly apologised for having published it.

So there we have it, what will follow now? Will there be attacks on the Islamic Republic embassies? will there be violent protests and burnings of the Islamic Republic flags throughout the Abrahamic world? Will the mobs demand the blood of the cartoonist? I hope not.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Ken Livingstone is Back on Press TV

According to Andrew Gilligan's blog in the Telegraph, Ken Livingstone has decided to return to Press TV. Last night, he  hosted Press TV's flagship program, Comment, in the absence of his comrade, George Galloway, who is on a trip to Venezuella .

"My parents spared me religion" is how I remember Ken Livingstone boasted about his atheism on TV. Yet the man who wore his atheism on his sleeve, quickly dropped his scruples for votes and for money.

During his bid to become the mayor of London again, he was so desperate to pick up Muslim votes, that he pledged in Finsbury Park mosque, to make London a beacon of Islamic values!

And now by deciding to return to Press TV, Red Ken, this icon of UK Left, advocator of international socialism, defender of gay and lesbian rights and champion of feminism is once again working for a religious dictatorship that has massacred thousands of Iranian socialists, represses gays and lesbians, persecutes religious minorities in Iran and treats women as second class citizens. How hypocritical is the UK Left?