Saturday, 17 November 2012

Iran Feature: The Week in Civil Society --- From Death in Detention to Economic Suffering (Arseh Sevom)

"Tracking the Murderers" by Maya Neyestani

Arseh Sevom, the NGO promoting civil society and human rights in Iran, posts its latest summary of developments inside the country:

It was a tragic week for the families of blogger Sattar Beheshti and Manouchehr Esmaili Liousi. The first died under suspicious circumstances after being arrested for his writings. The second when his family could not get access to life saving medications. Imprisoned lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh received a long-awaited visit from her family. Workers and retirees bear the brunt of the sanctions and the poor economy, while airline fares shoot up 65%Iran’s censors work overtime to cancel permitted performances, and state-sponsored workers’ rights activists meet while the real activists languish in prison.

Long live Iran and Iranians! My life given for Iran!

Blogger Sattar Beheshti’s death in detention was widely commented on in social media and other news outlets, forcing Iranian authorities to initiate an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding his death. On October 28, Beheshti, was arrested by the cyber police [FATA] as a result of his blog entries challenging the repression of the regime. He was reported dead some ten days later.  As reported by the Guardian, his family fears he died in custody under torture because of his activism on Facebook.

Baztab and Saham News joined other human rights organizations and activists in reflecting on Beheshti’s fate and urged the authorities to start investigations. Reporters Without Borders urged Iranian authorities to clarify the exact circumstances of the netizen’s death and called on the international community to make s ure the crime did not go unpunished. The International Committee for Human Rights in Iran quoted Beheshti’s family under threat of arrest if they break the silence: “Don’t let Sattar’s death be in vain.”

More than forty political prisoners bravely published a statement saying they witnessed signs of torture on Sattar’s body.

Contradictory comments emerged from different official bodies in response to Beheshti’s death. Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the head of Parliament’s National Security Committee. said that “preliminary information” showed no signs of beating on the body. The head of the Islamic Republic’s Human Rights Commission announced that the head of the judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, had issued a special order to investigate the case. Iran’s judiciary also confirmed the death of Beheshti, acknowledging that five bruises were found on his body, but said the cause of death was still being investigated.

Before his arrest, Beheshti wrote on his blog: “They threatened me yesterday that my mother would wear black because I won’t shut my mouth.”

Give a Kiss to Daddy

The young children of detained lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh were finally allowed to visit their mother in prison on Monday. with security forces present. Speaking of her mother’s health amid the fifth week of her hunger strike, Mehraveh said: “She has lost weight and is taken to the infirmary on occasion.”

Sotoudeh’s husband Reza Khandan wrote, "Today, right after he stepped out of the jail’s gate, Nima [their son] took away the kiss from his cheek and put it on mine saying that mom said keep this kiss and give it to daddy when you see him."

Two days before the visit, Khandan and his two children waited for 3 1/2 hours to visit their wife and mother, but were denied access.

Workers Bear the Brunt of Economic Suffering

The official inflation rate announced by the Central Bank now stands at 25%, but analysts and other Iranian sources say the "real" level is far higher.

The wave of dissatisfaction over unpaid wages continued this week when a group of retirees gathered in front of State Pension Fund office in Tehran to claim unpaid pensions. Kalameh reported four months of unpaid wages at the Samand Tile factory in Semnan. The factory’s executive director has said that more than 200 workers have not received their wages and benefits for the past four months. Their insurance has also gone unpaid over the past eight months,.

Khaneh Mellat, Parliament’s news agency, warned of problems in the steel industry and wrote that 88,000 workers have gone unpaid.

State-Sponsored Workers’ Parliament

The 4th workers’ parliament convened last week. According to the Iranian Labor News Agency, attendees were the representatives of the Majlis Labor faction, secretariats of State-approved labor houses, foreign guests, and other State-approved political and union activists. Kalameh highlighted the irony that the real representatives of workers are behind bars for their persistence claiming their rights.

Import Embargoes and Sharp Rise in Prices

The Iranian “resistance economy” led to a ban on the import of 75 luxury goods including cars, household items, mobiles and computers and their parts, toys, cosmetics, musical instruments, microphones, speakers, and CDs last week. This resulted in a sharp rise in prices of household items as well as mobile and computer goods.

The ban on computers and mobile phones was later lifted on the ground that they were not being produced domestically.

The biting sanctions and shakey economy finally hit domestic airfares, causing a sharp increase of an average of 65%. Aviation officials have criticized the Central Bank for failing to provide the necessary foreign currency for their sector, thus leading to the rise in fares.

Shortages of Medicine Lead to Death of Teen

The Guardian reports a teenager has died from complications due to haemophilia when no medicine could be found for him. Arseh Sevom has reported how sanctions have made economic transactions impossible, thus preventing the purchase of much needed medications. An article in the New York Times paints a more complex picture, highlighting corruption and lack of planning as well as sanctions on the banking industry.

From Untold Stories to Unheard Music

After a ban on Stories, the film by award-winning Rakhshan Bani-Etemad, censors cancelled Alireza Ghorbani’s concert in Mashad at the last minute. In an interview with Mehr news agency, Ghamsari, the head of the musical group Ahang Eshtiaq. said:

“Only a half an hour before our flight, we were told that the organizers at Mashhad Ferdowsi University had been threatened by anonymous forces, despite the fact that we already had all the necessary permits.”

from EA WorldView: EA Iran

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