Iran: Freedom of expression denied

As world leaders gathering in New York for United Nations General Assembly, one of the most controversial political figures, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, once again attracted attention by his populist statements in the General Assembly. However the president said nothing about continuing violations of human rights by his own regime. Iran remains to be one of the worst places in the Middle East with regard to women’s, rights, freedom of expression and other fundamental human rights set in the Universal Human Rights Declaration

Despite various economic and political sanctions applied by international community, human rights remain to be serious issue within Iran. Opposition and human rights defenders often become victims of structural violence.  Moreover Iranian government has not taken any steps to improve situation and continues to rely on using force against anyone who speak up their mind. As revolutions occurring all round Middle East, Iranian opposition seems to be unable to challenge official authority as it did a few years ago.

PEN International called for Soutadeh’s release

Nasrin Sotoudeh, aged 47 and a mother of two young children, was arrested on 4 September 2010 when she was summoned to the special court in Evin prison on charges of "propaganda against the state", “cooperating with the Association of Human Rights Defenders” and "conspiracy to disturb order". The arrest followed a raid on her home and office by security officers on 29 August 2010, who confiscated her files and documents. Her lawyer was not allowed to represent her in court or accompany her client during questioning. She was sentenced to eleven years in jail by Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court on 9 January 2010. The court also banned her from practicing law and from leaving the country for twenty years.

Soutadeh is believed to be charged for critical interviews she gave to overseas media following the disputed June 2009 presidential election, and for her membership of the Association of Human Rights Defenders. The sentence comprises one year’s imprisonment for "propaganda against the regime", and a total of ten years for the two charges of "acting against national security" and "violating the Islamic dress code (Hijab) in a filmed speech". She is appealing the sentence.

Foreign Media still restricted

Few western journalists are permitted to work in Iran where the government views much of the foreign media with suspicion. The BBC’s Farsi-language TV news service is only available to owners of illegal satellite receivers and its signal is often jammed. The newspaper Resalat said five men and one woman had been arrested, identifying them only by their initials. "They were members of a network which supplies information, produces films and clandestine reports for the BBC Persian programme, aimed at portraying a bleak picture of Iran," Resalat said. The  BBC said its Persian television "has been subject to increasing and aggressive jamming from within Iran. The channel has suffered deliberate attempts to interfere with its signal intermittently since its launch in 2009." The interference intensified on the evening of Saturday 17 September just as the channel had begun broadcasting a documentary about Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah (Ali) Khamenei, BBC added.

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Activist and journalist Faranak Farid, aged 50, was reportedly beaten severely after her arrest on 3 September in the north-western city of Tabriz.  She was arrested after several demonstrations in towns and cities across the region called for government action to stop nearby Lake Oroumieh from drying up. Farid, who is a member of Iran’s Azerbaijani minority, has reportedly been accused of “insulting the Supreme Leader”, “propaganda against the system” and “acting against national security” Amnesty internaotinal has called for independent investigation into reports that she was beaten in custody, and bring to justice anyone responsible.

 

Seminar On Iran

How Arab Spring will affect Iranian politics? What is the role of Iranian women, especially journalist, blogger and writers, in the fight against Iranian Regime?  Moreover how ideas of democracy, transparency and freedom developed in exile can take place in Iran. These and other important questions will be publicly discussed in the special seminar organized by Norwegian PEN. Event takes place on 5 October, 2011.

Norwegian PEN is honoured to have Iranian activist and journalist Parwin Ardalan in Oslo to where she will have an opportunity to meet her colleagues in exile, including Azar Mahloujian who has lived in Stockholm for many years, Trondheim cities of Asylum, Asieh Amini, who has just published his first collection of poetry in Norway.

Further information can be found at www.norskpen.no Free admission.

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