Iran News Digest- June 21, 2014

Human Rights Abuses 

In an opinion piece in the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin argues that poor policy with respect to Iran is part and parcel of broader failings of the current presidential administration as it deals with the Middle East. She sees failure on the nuclear issue, failure on the topic of Iran’s actions in the region, failure to confront the inclusion of Hamas in Palestinian Unity, and so on. To this list, some US congressmen might wish to add the failure to confront Iran over human rights abuses. Some such congressmen held a subcommittee hearing on Thursday to discuss “Iran’s Abysmal Human Rights Record.” Democratic congressman Ted Deutch was quoted as saying, "Human rights cannot take a back seat in negotiations in Iran," according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

In one of the latest examples of violations of those human rights, eight Iranian tech bloggers have been imprisoned for practicing their profession. Engadget indicates that they are facing sentences of up to 11 years on charges related to foreign affiliations and planning a “soft overthrow” of the Iranian regime. 

This concept of “soft overthrow” says much about the extent of the Iranian regime’s opposition to free speech. The strange accusation suggests that the mere expression of opinion can be construed as an attempt to topple the Islamic system of government. The situation naturally raises the question of whether there are any activities that could not be construed as acts of treason or sedition. 

If the story of Sadegh Zibakalam is any indication, posing a question about the regime’s economic outcomes in one’s capacity as a university professor is also a form of crime against the state. Zibakalam is facing one year in prison for asking how Iran’s nuclear program has benefited the economy. He is also facing six months for questioning whether the government was justified in its execution of Mahafarid Khosravi on charges of fraud, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. 

The same source reports on the pending execution of 33 Kurds who were reportedly denied fair trials and forced to confess to crimes under torture. The campaign calls for urgent action to halt these executions, noting that eighteen human rights organizations are involved in the case. 

The Times of Israel reports on a recent performance and onstage protest by rapper and Iranian exile Shahin Najafi in Toronto. Najafi and his bandmates stripped on stage to call attention to strip searches and other abuses in Iranian prisons, and in particular the infamous raid on Evin Prison’s political detainees in April.

Giving another example of defiance in the face of repression, Radio Free Europe published an article on Friday detailing how religious minorities in Iran utilize social media to practice faiths for which they can be arrested or even executed. Despite continuous attacks on their affiliations, “religious activists are migrating to cyberspace in an effort to evade state surveillance and get news of the state's human rights abuses out to the international community,” the article states.

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