Freedom of Expression

Iranian activists choose exile over harassment and detention
(Human Rights Watch/IFEX) - 14 December 2012 – The space in Iran for civil society has been shrinking since the crackdown following the disputed presidential election in 2009, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Three-and-a-half years after government forces brutally suppressed largely peaceful anti-government demonstrations, hundreds of activists have sought temporary refuge and an uncertain future in neighboring Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan in the face of harassment and detention at home.

The 62-page report, “Why They Left: Stories of Iranian Activists in Exile”, documents the experiences of dozens of rights defenders, journalists, bloggers, and lawyers whom security and intelligence forces targeted because they spoke out against the government. Some who took part in anti-government protests after the 2009 election had never been politically active before, but suddenly found themselves in the crosshairs of security and intelligence forces.

“The post-2009 crackdown has profoundly affected civil society in Iran,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The images of police beating protesters mercilessly may have faded from television and computer screens, but many Iranian activists continue to make the painful choice to abandon homes and families.”

No truly independent rights organizations can openly operate in Iran's current political climate. Many prominent human rights defenders and journalists are in prison or exile, and other activists face constant harassment and arbitrary arrest.

Since 2009, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of civil society activists who have applied for asylum and resettlement to third countries. According to statistics compiled by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Iranians filed 11,537 new asylum applications to 44 countries in 2009; 15,185 in 2010; and 18,128 in 2011.

The largest number of new asylum applications was lodged in neighboring Turkey, where there was a 72 percent increase in the number of Iranian asylum seekers between 2009 and 2011. Due to its proximity to Iran, Iraqi Kurdistan is also a significant recipient of Iranian asylum seekers, especially those from the Kurdish minority. The testimony of these activists, many of whom remain politically active as refugees in Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan, shed light on the unprecedented pressures on civil society in Iran that began during the first term of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005, Human Rights Watch said.

Many Iranian refugees and asylum seekers interviewed by Human Rights Watch described difficult conditions and long processing times for their asylum applications during their stay in Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan. The main concerns of those in Turkey included restrictions on their freedom of movement, burdensome residency fees, their inability to acquire work permits, and lack of access to health services. Refugees and asylum seekers in Iraqi Kurdistan also expressed concern about restrictions on their movements, threats, harassment, and arbitrary regulations imposed on them by Kurdish Regional Government authorities, often because of their continued political activities.

The Turkish government has so far refused the request of Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, to visit the country in his official capacity to meet with and interview these asylum seekers and refugees. Dr. Shaheed's position was established under a UN Human Rights Council resolution in March 2011.

Human Rights Watch called on Ankara to immediately allow Shaheed access to the country so he can carry out his UN mandate. Human Rights Watch also called on the Turkish government to create conditions that will allow registered refugees and asylum seekers to live and work comfortably while they await resettlement to a third country.

Human Rights Watch urged the Kurdish Regional Government to protect the safety and welfare of Iranian refugees and refrain from threats or harassment against those who continue to pursue nonviolent political or rights activities during their time as refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan.

“The countries in the region need to protect the refugees from Iran and treat them with compassion and dignity,” Stork said. “Countries outside the region should offer generous resettlement opportunities for Iranian refugees who urgently need to leave the region and have no other options for durable asylum, and speedily process their claims.”

NUJ expresses growing concerns for journalist’s families in Iran
Thursday, December 20 2012

The NUJ has expressed concern about the new wave of harassment and intimidation faced by families of BBC Persian staff living in Iran.
The Iranian authorities have stepped up their campaign against the families of BBC staff.

Security officials have attempted to arrange meetings with journalists via family members and relatives have been told their family members should stop working for BBC Persian.

The harassment has also intensified on the internet. Increasing numbers of websites are publishing derogatory stories about BBC Persian staff.

Meetings between the BBC and staff representatives have sought to help support those involved and a confidential counselling service is available.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary said: “The NUJ will do all it can to support and assist our members who have been targeted. No one should face intimidation because of the work they do as journalists providing vital reportage in the public interest. These are distressing threats and it is very sinister to harass journalists via their relatives and family members.”

Number of jailed journalists sets global record
Worldwide tally reaches highest point since CPJ began surveys in 1990. Governments use charges of terrorism, other anti-state offenses to silence critical voices. Turkey is the world’s worst jailer. A CPJ special report
Published December 11, 2012
Imprisonment of journalists worldwide reached a record high in 2012, driven in part by the widespread use of charges of terrorism and other anti-state offenses against critical reporters and editors, the Committee to Protect Journalists has found. In its annual census of imprisoned journalists, CPJ identified 232 individuals behind bars on December 1, an increase of 53 over its 2011 tally.
Large-scale imprisonments in Turkey, Iran, and China helped lift the global tally to its highest point since CPJ began conducting worldwide surveys in 1990, surpassing the previous record of 185 in 1996. The three nations, the world’s worst jailers of the press, each made extensive use of vague anti-state laws to silence dissenting political views, including those expressed by ethnic minorities. Worldwide, anti-state charges such as terrorism, treason, and subversion were the most common allegations brought against journalists in 2012. At least 132 journalists were being held around the world on such charges, CPJ’s census found.

Iran, the second-worst jailer with 45 behind bars, has sustained a crackdown that began after the disputed 2009 presidential election. The authorities have followed a pattern of freeing some detainees on six-figure bonds even as they make new arrests. The imprisoned include Zhila Bani-Yaghoub, an award-winning editor of the Iranian Women’s Club, a news website focusing on women’s issues. She began serving a one-year term in September on charges of “propagating against the regime” and “insulting the president” for articles she wrote during the 2009 election. Her husband, journalist Bahman Ahmadi Amouee, is serving a five-year prison term on anti-state charges.

CPJ confirmed the death of one imprisoned journalist, Iranian blogger Sattar Beheshti. Arrested in October on charges of “acting against national security,” Beheshti was dead within days. Fellow prisoners said Beheshti, 35, was beaten during interrogation, repeatedly threatened with death, and hung from his limbs from the ceiling, according to news reports.

News providers decimated in 2012
Published on Wednesday 19 December 2012,43806.html

The cruel intolerance of Iran’s mullah republic

26 journalists and 17 netizens in prison

The media freedom situation deteriorated considerably in 2009 as a result of the crackdown on the protests that followed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed reelection. Ever since then, the regime has kept on jailing news providers for crossing its red lines. The state of health of some of the detainees is very worrying. In an additional punishment, the families of detainees are subject to frequent threats, harassment and reprisals if they dare to talk to the media. Some of those who are released are also victims of threats and prevented from working, their employers pressured to fire them.

Minorities’ Rights

Iran Imprisons and Abuses an American Pastor
Dec. 19, 2012
This morning Fox News broke the story of Pastor Saeed Abedini, a U.S. citizen and Christian convert from Islam who has been seized by the Revolutionary Guard and held in Iran’s “notoriously brutal” Evin Prison, where guards and inmates have beaten him repeatedly. Pastor Saeed is formerly a leader of Iran’s small but growing house-church movement, but was in the country continuing a long-term humanitarian project (building an orphanage).
It’s tough to imagine the courage it takes to not only convert from Islam but to then lead an evangelistic house-church effort within Iran itself. Then, when confronted by the Revolutionary Guard and forced to cease evangelism, Pastor Saeed didn’t abandon Iran but continued a humanitarian effort apart from his evangelism.
Iran targets Christians because they present perhaps the greatest threat to the regime — the threat of a different, and radically better, belief system than the fundamentalist, Islamist theocracy that currently dominates the country. As history has proven again and again, it is the better idea that ultimately triumphs over totalitarianism. In this case, Iran is demonstrating that it will target Christians even when they are American citizens, and even when they comply with the regime’s demands. Not even charitable efforts are safe.
At the American Center for Law and Justice, we are representing Pastor Saeed’s family and are calling for the same kind of international diplomatic and public relations offensive that ultimately freed Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian pastor sentenced to death for apostasy. Suprisingly enough, a regime that can barely count itself a member of the international community can and will respond to intense pressure, properly applied.
Simply put, Iran cannot be permitted to imprison and abuse American citizens.


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