Posts tagged: Iran

Free Expression Groups Call on Iran to Open Door to UN Rights Experts (Source: PEN)

By , March 12, 2010 10:36 am

A coalition of international nongovernmental organizations led by the Committee to Protect Journalists are highlighting the urgency of Kian’s case and that of other writers, journalists and publishers, noting that some 47 journalists are currently in prison in Iran – more than any other country on earth has imprisoned at any one time since 1996:

“Geneva—Organizations supporting journalists, writers and publishers in Iran have called on Tehran officials to open the door to the United Nations’ special rapporteurs on human rights, including its expert on freedom of expression, Frank la Rue.

Resisting calls here for an international investigation into post-election abuses of human rights in Iran, Tehran’s envoy Mohammad Javad Larijani told both diplomats and the media on Monday that there was a “standing invitation” for the UN’s special rapporteurs to visit Iran and investigate claims of rights abuse—only to reverse his position today.

The rapporteurs should be allowed to visit the country at the earliest opportunity, said representatives of the “Our Society Will Be a Free Society” campaign, in Geneva to observe the UN Human Rights Council’s review of Iran’s record this week…

“Mr la Rue and the other UN rapporteurs should not be prevented by the Iranian government from making their own independent assessment of the situation,” said Alexis Krikorian of the International Publishers Association. “The UN rapporteurs should go to Iran as soon as possible. Certainly we should hear their reports before the UN even starts to consider Iran’s bid to become a member of the Human Rights Council this May.”

Addressing the hearing before the 47-nation Council’s quadrennial Universal Periodic Review (UPR) procedure, Larijani said Iran was in “full compliance with the relevant international commitments it has taken on in a genuine and long-term approach to safeguard human rights.”

UN human rights experts have already voiced concerns about mass arrests and the abuse of opposition supporters, clerics, journalists, students and others, said Rohan Jayasekera of Index on Censorship, “But independent investigation on the ground is crucial.”

The Council’s working group report on Iran, which included concerns raised by diplomats and human rights groups, was adopted at noon in Geneva on Wednesday, following Iran’s grilling by other nations at the UN on Monday.

“The UN should have been able to mark Iranian New Year this year by announcing a programme of visits to Iran by its human rights rapporteurs,” said Jayasekera. “Instead today Iran repudiated its international obligations on human rights and further underlined its unsuitability for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council.”

Freedom of expression and peaceful assembly continue to be undermined by the Iranian regime and human rights defenders face an increasingly precarious situation, said six of the rapporteurs in a statement last year.

The rapporteurs questioned the legal basis for the arrests of journalists, human rights defenders, opposition supporters and demonstrators, saying it was unclear and gave rise to fears of “arbitrary detentions of individuals legitimately exercising their right to freedom of expression, opinion and assembly.”

The statement was issued by: Manuela Carmena Castrillo, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on arbitrary detention; Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Frank la Rue, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Manfred Nowak, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Margaret Sekaggya, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Santiago Corcuera, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the working group on enforced and involuntary disappearances.

The list of prisoners of conscience currently held in Iranian prisons includes some of Iran’s most distinguished journalists, some of the country’s leading bloggers, and Kian Tajbakhsh, an Iranian-American scholar sentenced in August 2009…following a mass trial of 140 activists, intellectuals, and writers accused of fomenting a “velvet revolution.”

Among the journalists are Emadeddin Baghi, also a well known author and human rights defender; Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, an award-winning editor and press freedom advocate; and Shiva Nazar Ahari, a human rights journalist who has been jailed twice in the last eight months. The Committee to Protect Journalists this month announced that the 47 journalists now in prison in Iran are more than any other country on earth has imprisoned at any one time since 1996.”

[Link to full article]

Politics of Resistance Conference (Source: New School for Social Research)

By , March 12, 2010 10:24 am

The New School for Social Research in New York City, where Kian served as a professor for many years, organized a conference on February 12 dedicated to Kian, entitled “Iran: Politics of Resistance.” The full conference proceedings are now available online here.

Numerous speakers were featured, for example including Kian’s former colleague Ramin Jahanbegloo and Hadi Ghaemi of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

[Link to full conference]

Iran: The Politics of Resistance (Source: New School for Social Research)

By , February 10, 2010 1:46 pm

A conference dedicated to Kian entitled “Iran: The Politics of Resistance” is scheduled to be held at the New School in New York City this Friday, Febraury 12.

[Conference program]

Joint EU-US Statement Calling on the Iranian Government to Fulfill Its Human Rights Obligations (Source: White House)

By , February 8, 2010 1:29 pm

On the advance of expected protests in Iran on February 11, the United States White House and European Union have issued a statement calling on Iran to respect human rights:

“The United States and the European Union condemn the continuing human rights violations in Iran since the June 12 election. The large scale detentions and mass trials, the threatened execution of protestors, the intimidation of family members of those detained and the continuing denial to its citizens of the right to peaceful expression are contrary to human rights norms.

Our concerns are based on our commitment to universal respect for human rights. We are particularly concerned by the potential for further violence and repression during the coming days, especially around the anniversary of the Islamic Republic’s founding on 11 February. We call on the Government of Iran to live up to its international human rights obligations, to end its abuses against its own people, to hold accountable those who have committed the abuses and to release those who are exercising their rights.”

[Link to statement]

Iran puts 16 protesters on trial (Source: Associated Press)

By , January 31, 2010 7:11 am

AP writer Nasser Karimi mentioned Kian in his summary of Iran’s latest show trial:

“TEHRAN – Iran put 16 opposition supporters detained during anti-government protests last month on trial Saturday on charges of rioting and conspiring against the ruling system, Iran’s state media reported…

The new prosecutions, coupled with the execution on Thursday of two men accused of involvement in anti-government groups, could mark an attempt by Iran’s hardline leaders to intimidate the opposition ahead of a new round of street demonstrations expected in February…

The protesters have presented Iran’s cleric-led establishment with its biggest challenge since the 1979 revolution despite a brutal crackdown that has left hundreds imprisoned…

During previous mass trials in Iran, many human rights groups have cautioned that..confessions are often made under duress in Iran…

Iran’s hardline government has quashed opposition rallies and tried more than 100 political activists since August, sentencing 11 people to death and more than 80 people to prison terms ranging from six months to 15 years…

Iran held its first postelection mass trial in August, accusing more than 100 activists of plotting to overthrow the regime. Those prosecutions brought charges against some prominent reformist opposition politicians, including former Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi, former government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh and the leader of the biggest reformist party, the Islamic Iran Participation Front, Mohsen Mirdamadi.

There were also three foreign citizens — Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari, who holds Iranian and Canadian citizenship, and a 24-year-old French academic, Clotilde Reiss — among those on trial. Bahari has since been released on bail and has left the country.

Despite the crackdown, opposition activists have continued to hold sporadic, large street rallies. The opposition says Ahmadinejad’s victory in the June election was fraudulent and call for his removal — though some in the movement have expanded to criticize Iran’s clerical leadership.”

[Link to full article]

Faculty petition for Tajbakhsh’s release (Source: Columbia Spectator)

By , December 16, 2009 9:42 am

Over 150 Columbia University students and professors have publicized a letter lobbying for the release of Kian, a current Columbia faculty member:

“…Tajbakhsh, who was supposed to teach at Columbia’s School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, was arrested this summer in Iran during the aftermath of the elections. He has also faced numerous charges of spying and being a threat to the national government.

“We hope to raise awareness about Kian’s case, and show our support for him as a member of our academic community and as a renowned scholar who has been falsely accused and unjustly imprisoned,” said a graduate student involved in the campaign who was granted anonymity for security reasons. “The charges are nonsense. Kian is a dedicated scholar, and someone who cares deeply about Iran. He has worked throughout his career to foster understanding between Iran and the rest of the world. I was looking forward to seeing him continue that work at Columbia this year, and it is terribly sad and frightening to know that he is in prison right now, instead of in a classroom here.”

“We, the undersigned faculty of Columbia University, call for the immediate and unconditional release of our colleague Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh,” the letter begins. It emphasizes his academic achievements and status as “an internationally recognized scholar who has taught at both American and Iranian universities.”

“Throughout his career, he has dedicated himself to fostering better understanding between the United States and Iran,” it states…

[Gary] Sick, a senior research scholar at the Middle East Institute of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, called the charges against Tajbakhsh “absurd … the best evidence of the underlying paranoia in the Iranian revolution government. They are persuaded that America is part of the revolution and trying to overthrow their government. They are looking for anybody that has associated with foreign government. … Some go to jail, others go to death,” he said.

“I have never been a CIA agent,” Sick added, stating that the accusation was invented by “an Iranian journalist or publisher.” He called it “disappointing” that there was “no effort to verify that it is true,” considering that “this is supposed to be a court case.”

“They can give you 15 years of jail for a rumor,” Sick said…”

[Link to article]


International human rights organizations appeal for the release of Kian Tajbakhsh; Amnesty launches Urgent Action Appeal (Sources: Amnesty International; International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran; Human Rights Watch)

By , November 4, 2009 6:03 am

Leading international human rights organizations are urging Iranian authorities to overturn the unjust 15-year prison sentence imposed on Kian by an extra-judicial court presiding over show trial proceedings.

Amnesty International has launched an Urgent Action Appeal letter-writing campaign calling for Kian’s release. Please take a moment to participate!

Amnesty International‘s Middle East and North Africa Programme Director Malcolm Smart, for example, states in the report “Iran must overturn sentences issued by post-election ‘show trial’” that:

“The ‘show trial’ that has so far led to the imprisonment of Kian Tajbakhsh and a number of other reformist politicians and journalists, as well as the imposition of at least four death sentences, was grossly unfair and a travesty of justice…

The authorities should welcome the part that intellectuals can play towards developing the political and social life of their country, instead of locking them up on spurious charges… It appears that Kian Tajbakhsh has been targetted on account of his dual nationality and his academic work, and we consider him a prisoner of conscience.”

In their report “Iranian-American Scholar Prevented From Filing an Appeal ,” International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran spokesperson Hadi Ghaemi emphasizes that:

“The Iranian Judiciary is blatantly trampling over its own rules and regulations. In doing so, the authorities are confirming that Tajbakhsh’s detention, trial and conviction are patently politically motivated… By treating the law in this arbitrary manner, they are also demonstrating that the rule of law means nothing in Iran.”

In “Iran: Overturn Death Sentences; Other Unfair Convictions,Human Rights Watch Middle East and North Africa Director Sarah Leah Whitson states:

“Death sentences following unfair trials expose the mockery of Iran’s judicial system… Those responsible need to quash these verdicts and sentences, and ensure that everyone detained, or put on trial, has free and regular access to a lawyer of their choosing.”

In “Why is the Iranian government so afraid of Kian Tajbakhsh?” Amnesty’s Human Rights Now researcher Elise Auerbach concludes:

“By attempting to portray Kian Tajbakhsh as an existential threat to the Islamic Republic and inflicting such a disproportionately harsh punishment on him, the Iranian authorities seem to be going to preposterous lengths to draw in as many elements of society as possible into a continually sucking vortex of fear and oppression.”

Iran’s Captives (Source: New York Times)

By , September 20, 2009 5:25 am

The editors of The New York Times are calling on Iran to release the five American citizens it has “unjustly and cruelly imprisoned”:

“Iranian diplomats are scheduled to sit down next month with diplomats from the United States and the other major powers. There is a lot to talk about, starting with Iran’s illicit nuclear program. Tehran is clearly eager to use the meeting to assert its rising influence and claim the respect it insists it has been too long denied.

The latter argument will be a tough sell, but if Iran’s leaders are truly serious about trying to change international and American opinion, they will have to start behaving like a responsible government. One immediate step they can take is to release the five American citizens they have unjustly and cruelly imprisoned.

Since July 31, Iran has been holding three American hikers who were seized along the Iran-Iraq border. Shane Bauer, Joshua Fattal and Sarah Shourd were hiking in the Kurdish region of Iraq and their relatives concede that they may have accidentally crossed into Iran. But there can be no justification for their imprisonment.

Iran must release Kian Tajbakhsh, an Iranian-American scholar… And it must free Robert Levinson, a former F.B.I. agent missing since 2007. It is also holding Maziar Bahari, the Newsweek correspondent and Canadian documentary filmmaker. Justice demands that he be released.

Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, where he, too, will inevitably demand more respect for his country. Amid the wreckage of rigged presidential elections, the brutal crackdown on critics and Mr. Ahmadinejad’s repeated Holocaust denials, Iran needs to free these prisoners and allow the world some hope.”

[The full editorial incorrectly reports that authorities have not confirmed Kian's arrest]:

Free Kian: Appeal by over 3,300 members of the PEN association

By , July 24, 2009 7:34 am

The PEN Association called for the immediate and unconditional release of Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh. The text of the appeal is shown below:

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,300 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our deep concern regarding the arrest of Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh.

According to our information, Kian Tajbakhsh, a prominent Iranian-American social scientist and urban planner who has published two books and numerous articles in his field, was taken from his home by the state security forces on the night of July 9, 2009. Police reportedly searched his home and confiscated his computer. To date, his family has no information on his whereabouts or the reasons for his detention. He was not a participant in the recent protests following the disputed June 12, 2009 presidential elections.

This is not the first time Kian Tajbakhsh has been targeted by authorities. He was detained without charge in May 2007 and held in solitary confinement in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison until September of the same year. That detention sparked international protests as well.

PEN American Center is deeply concerned that Kian Tajbakhsh has been swept up in a crackdown on peaceful scholars and journalists following the disputed presidential elections in violation of their right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a signatory. We therefore call for his immediate and unconditional release, as well as the release of all other writers, scholars, journalists and students held in violation of their right to freedom of expression.

Thank you for your attention to this serious matter.

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Release Kian Tajbakhsh: The International Cooperation Agency of the Association of Netherlands Municipalities Calls for Kian’s Release

By , July 20, 2009 7:48 pm

Shown below is the statement released by VNG International (The International Cooperation Agency of The Association of Netherlands Municipalities) strongly condemning Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh’s unjustified detention and calling for his immediate release:

Release Kian Tajbakhsh: The International Cooperation Agency of the Association of Netherlands Municipalities Calls for Kian’s Release

VNG International—the International Cooperation Agency of The Association of Netherlands Municipalities—expresses its deep concern over the arrest of our associated expert and colleague, the urban development specialist and social scientist, Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh, who was arrested by the Iranian authorities on July 9, 2009. VNG International strongly condemns his unjustified detention and calls for his immediate release.
Kian Tajbakhsh is a leading local government expert with an excellent international reputation who has worked regularly together with VNG International since 2004. Within the VNG International “LOGO SOUTH program on Developing the Capacity of the Local Government Sector”, financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, he had planned to undertake a mission to Nepal last weekend. According to his contract with VNG International, he would assist the Municipal Association of Nepal (MuAN) and provide them with a comparative assessment of the local government situation in federal countries, a comparative analytical perspective on the structures, functions and finances among the various tiers of government as practiced in relevant country legislation and a review of the study by Nepalese experts on “Federalism and Local Government Restructuring”. The detention of Kian Tajbakhsh is a harmful disruption of the process of cooperation with MuAN in Nepal.

VNG International cannot understand why a skilled and honest expert and scientist like Kian Tajbakhsh is treated with such disrespect by the government of Iran. VNG International calls on the leadership of Iran to release Kian Tajbakhsh and enable him to resume his important work for the development of stronger local government—the tier of government that is crucial for service delivery to the citizens—in our world and global community.

Peter Knip
Director of VNG International

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