International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran Tue, 30 Jun 2015 13:10:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Campaign’s Five in the Afternoon Wins Major International Radio Award Tue, 23 Jun 2015 17:14:52 +0000 New-York_festival

Human Rights Show Takes Silver Trophy at Prestigious NY Festival’s World’s Best Radio Programs Awards

June 23, 2015—The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran’s weekly radio show, Five in the Afternoon, won a Silver Medal at the celebrated New York Festival International Radio Program Awards on June 22, 2015. The award was given jointly to the Campaign and to Radio Farda, which broadcasts the weekly satirical human rights program.

Five in the Afternoon shows that the call for human rights can be delivered with wit, intelligence, and joie de vivre,” said Hadi Ghaemi, Executive Director of the Campaign, “and when it is, it reaches millions.”

The Persian-language show covers the week’s human rights news and issues, and is delivered via the unique and irreverent voice of master political satirist Kambiz Hosseini. The show’s mission is to provide an alternative voice on human rights that can challenge the state-controlled media in Iran and expose the government’s widespread rights abuses.

Produced in New York by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, the show is specifically designed to reach the people of Iran. It is broadcast over Radio Farda and posted online via social media networks, where it has reached millions of listeners in Iran.

“As you know, dictatorships do not tolerate much political, economic or artistic freedom but among all, the satire is harshly censored. And when it comes to criticizing leaders of a dictatorship in the language of satire, it is downright forbidden,” said Armand Mostofi, Director of Radio Farda, the Iran service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Five in the Afternoon is an exquisite political satire show,” Mostofi continued, “focusing on human rights; and Iranians, the target audience of this program, are very much fond of this type of show. Radio Farda is proud to cooperate with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran in carrying its valuable product on its waves and networks and delivering it to Iran and Iranians all over the world.”

Five in the Afternoon’s Silver Medal was awarded in the Category for “Best Regularly Scheduled Comedy Program.”

The New York Festival’s International Radio Program Awards for The World’s Best Radio Programs honors radio programming in formats by radio stations, networks and independent producers from around the globe.

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Rouhani Minister Expresses Outrage that Women Were Banned from Attending Iran-US Volleyball Match Tue, 23 Jun 2015 13:26:26 +0000 UTF-8BMTQzNDczNDkxMTI1Ml9ib3JuYSBnaGFzZW1pLTYuanBn-e1434744270149

Molaverdi Decries Hypocrisy of Policies toward Women on her Facebook Page

Hours after women were denied entry to the volleyball game between Iran’s and the United States’ national teams on June 19, 2015 at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium, Rouhani’s Vice President for Women’s and Family Affairs, Shahindokht Molaverdi, criticized those in power who have worked to ban women’s presence in sports stadiums, particularly volleyball games, in a direct and forceful statement posted on her Facebook page.

Molaverdi noted that such games had never been banned to women until two years ago, but now women’s presence in the stadiums was seen as a “vice.”

On her Facebook page Molaverdi wrote, “This subject was finally put on top of the list of vices, without regard for the fact that we walk by bigger vices and bend our heads, lest our consciences suffer. The life of 5,000 homeless women in Tehran; statistics that indicate 9% of all drug addicts are women, doubled over the past five years; the 32% death rate of women due to addiction; the prevalence of depression [among women] and the drop of addiction age to 13 among girls; and the change of their drug consumption patterns from traditional drugs to industrial and psychedelic substances that lead to fake enjoyment, excitement, and happiness; the existence of two million child laborers in the country, etc., are just the tip of the iceberg.”.

Eyewitnesses told the Campaign that for several hours before and during the game, police agents stopped all cars with female drivers or passengers on the streets leading to the stadium, and would not allow them to proceed forward.

“All streets around the stadium were full of security and police agents, especially female agents. I never thought there are so many female agents. On all the streets leading to the stadium parking lot, agents stopped all cars that had female passengers and would not allow the cars to drive forward; they made the drivers turn around and leave. Only cars with male drivers and passengers were allowed to proceed,” a female eyewitness told the Campaign.

“It was totally unnecessary for the agents to search the cars and to force the women to return. Women could not have entered the stadium by car anyway. They would have had to walk and enter the gate, which would have been prevented anyway. Such measures were more to insult and intimidate women. Many of the women in the cars tonight had no intention of going to the stadium and they were only passing through,” added the witness.

“Women were afraid there would be more [cases like] Ghoncheh Ghavami’s [who was] prosecuted by the Judicary [earlier] this year. Last year, Ghoncheh Ghavami was arrested just because she wanted to watch the Iran-Italy volleyball game, and she was sentenced to one year in prison. [Vice President] Molaverdi said repeatedly that women would be allowed to attend the games this year, but she kept silent and abandoned the women, too,” said the eyewitness.

On June 1, Shahindokht Molaverdi told Shargh Daily that a document authorizing admission of women into volleyball games had been signed. On the same evening, Iran’s state television announced the same news in its news program. The news was widely shared and published on the Internet, and many were hopeful about seeing women in stadiums this year.

Yet on June 8, the vigilante group Ansar Hezbollah, invited “the Hezbollah Ummah” (the community of Hezbollah) to prevent women’s entry into Azadi Stadium on June 19, with their “bloody presence.”

Iran’s Volleyball Federation released a statement on June 17, forbidding women from entering the stadium during the Iran-US volleyball game.

Tasnim News, which is affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, wrote on the morning of June 19 that Iran’s Mounted Police Force would be present at the stadium to prevent “any behavior that would break the norms.” The article included a photograph of the Mounted Police Force at the Azadi Stadium, and wrote that the Police Special Unit will be at and around the Azadi Sports Stadium with “its new uniforms and equipment, appropriate to its mission.” None of the eyewitnesses who spoke to the Campaign reported seeing the Mounted Police at or around the stadium, however.

ISNA (the Iranian Student News Agency) reported that female journalists were also kept from entering the stadium.

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Release of political prisoners Sun, 21 Jun 2015 19:51:47 +0000 ShahramMokri

While many of the interviewees spoke in broad terms about the need for political and civil reforms, as mentioned above, the issue of the release of political prisoners—including an end to the house arrests of the opposition Green Movement leaders—was frequently cited as an urgent priority.

Download the report here.

Rouhani had campaigned for the presidency in 2013 on a platform that included releasing political prisoners, and thus expectations on this issue were set by the incoming administration itself.

We still have some 2009 prisoners in jails. Many of these individuals’ sentences will be completed, and they will be released over the coming months, and only a few will be left in prison. If the government can, it should explicitly ask for the release of the remaining prisoners. [Also], there is a clear and important issue, which is the issue of the house arrest of Mr. Mousavi, Mr. Karroubi, and Ms. Rahnavard.

–Ahmad Shirzad, Physics Professor and Former Member of Parliament

In gatherings and assemblies on different occasions, or on the streets and through developments in the universities, we observe that wherever people find a chance to express their opinions, they emphasize their political demands, and at the center of them is the issue of lifting the house arrest [of the former presidential candidates].

–Issa Saharkhiz, Journalist and Former Political Prisoner

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Growing impatience with the Rouhani administration Sun, 21 Jun 2015 19:51:45 +0000 RezaMirkarimi

While many of the individuals interviewed expressed at least some degree of acceptance of the oft-circulated argument that political and social reforms must wait for a settlement of the conflict over Iran’s nuclear program, there was a palpable sense of dwindling patience with this line of reasoning.

Download the report here.

Indeed, the respondents’ views in this study honed closely to a recent poll conducted in Iran that showed support for Rouhani has dropped from 58% this past winter to 48% at present, and that disapproval had inched up four points since February 2015 from 29% to 33%.

Whether lame or legitimate, I hope that after a nuclear agreement there are no more excuses after it, and that it would be possible to expect, to demand things.

— A Playwright, Theater Director, and Publisher in Tehran

During the two years the Rouhani government has been in power, its actions have not been proportional to the campaign promises.

–Mohammad Saleh Nikbakht, Lawyer

Mr. Rouhani’s administration is not very [focused on] political [issues], and it is a lot softer than it should be. He should act with more courage. First of all, he must put the law on top of his list, and to confront lawlessness. He must seek rights for all and end nepotism. I expect observation of the law.

–Lili Golestan, Writer and Publisher

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Impact on domestic politics Sun, 21 Jun 2015 19:51:13 +0000 GhasemSholesadi

The interviewees frequently spoke to the transformative effect that success or failure in the negotiations would have on domestic politics in Iran.

Download the report here.

Respondents saw a successful agreement, particularly one that was followed with tangible sanctions relief, as a potential game changer for Rouhani, vastly increasing his domestic strength politically. They felt an accord would significantly increase his ability to move forward more forcefully with civil and political reforms as the domestic credibility engendered from a successful accord would empower him to take on hardliners he has been unable or unwilling to confront.

Similarly, respondents believed such an accord would weaken hardline forces, who would be marginalized as the ones who did not deliver, and whose raison d’etre (opposition to the West, especially the United States) would dissipate with the end of sanctions and Iran’s international re-integration.

The respondents believed failure to reach an agreement would immeasurably weaken Rouhani, as well as moderate forces more broadly in Iran, and strengthen the hand of the hardliners.

For domestic policy, political development, and an opening of the social and cultural atmosphere, the administration has the requisite tools, but is not using these tools for fear of radical groups. Whatever policy is aimed at reforming the current conditions and which restricts the radical groups inside the country would be good. If the sanctions are lifted, the Rouhani administration will gain bargaining power inside the country.

–A Journalist in Tehran and Former Political Prisoner

An important issue that doesn’t receive enough attention is the issue of the theoretic failure and isolation of extremists in Iranian society. In years past, the “Death to America” slogan and the unconditional disagreement to anything having to do with the U.S. has turned into a type of ideology in Iran, something that continues to date. Right now, if you tell some not to chant “Death to America,” or to stop considering the U.S. “the Great Satan,” there would be nothing left of their ideology. All their beliefs and ideas were entailed in opposing a foreign power, the U.S. Everything is interpreted through this…political work, economic work, even scientific work.

–Ahmad Shirzad, Physics Professor and Former Member of Parliament

[If an accord is reached], Rouhani will have a free hand to deliver on his campaign promises….For example, he can work on his promises for the release of political prisoners, freedom of the press, and lifting the security state in the universities and similar issues. I don’t want to say that he would immediately succeed in making these demands a reality, but he would be able to state his positions with a clearer voice and with more power. Solving this issue will give him a credibility which would in turn give him the freedom to take steps and act more powerfully on domestic affairs. He will face opposition, but the atmosphere will change and the current atmosphere which is dominated by the radicals would change.

–Hermidas Bavand, Political Scientist and Spokesperson of National Front

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Parliamentary elections in 2016 Sun, 21 Jun 2015 19:51:10 +0000 JamalMirsadeghi

The interviewees frequently noted the great significance of the upcoming Parliamentary elections in February 2016, and the major effect a successful agreement would have in strengthening the reformist forces in those elections.

Download the report here.

They felt that if moderates did well, a virtuous cycle would ensue in which the Rouhani administration and Parliament would be far more likely to be able to push through a more reformist agenda.

They also made reference to the imperative of fair and transparent elections, in order to avoid a repeat of the disastrous 2009 elections in Iran, when peaceful protests, violently put down by the government, swept the country in response to widely perceived vote rigging that resulted in the election of the hardline Ahmadinejad.

Over the next ten months and with the upcoming elections, if the agreement achieves maximum results, there is hope that people would move towards creating the same kind of change in the Parliament or even the Council of Experts as they brought to the government in 2013.

–Issa Saharkhiz, Journalist and Former Political Prisoner

I believe the Parliamentary elections to be very important. The Rouhani cabinet must focus all its might on this issue and on ensuring the health of the elections….Social pressure from the bottom to the top must also come to the administration’s aid, in order to make the upcoming elections effective elections. To be sure, a change in the makeup of the Parliament can help to change Iran’s domestic environment towards the issues pertaining to human rights and freedom of expression.

–Ahmad Shirzad, Physics Professor and Former Member of Parliament

Parliamentary elections are also coming up, and if [Rouhani] succeeds, this will have its own impact on the elections, if, God willing, it is a free election…without a doubt, the atmosphere in the future will be in Rouhani’s favor.

–Hermidas Bavand, Political Scientist and Spokesperson of National Front

It was repeatedly stressed, however, that failure to reach an accord would greatly strengthen hardliners’ control of Parliament after the 2016 elections, with a concomitant obliteration of any hopes for civil or political reforms in the country.

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The imperative of a cultural opening Sun, 21 Jun 2015 19:51:08 +0000 AbotorabKhosravi

In addition to improving the state of civil and political rights, a number of the respondents spoke passionately about the need for a cultural opening in the country. They spoke of the stifling of the arts—film, theatre, publishing—over the last decade, and the need for greater liberties and freedom of expression in these areas.

Download the report here.

Some respondents believed such an opening would likely occur in the wake of a successful accord. Attention would be more focused on domestic affairs and Rouhani would be empowered to move forward in areas that he had been unwilling to tackle when all political capital had to be marshaled to reach a nuclear agreement.

Others were having none of it, expecting little change in a closed and repressive cultural environment even in a post-agreement context.

The cultural issue is the biggest problem of our society right now, and it seeps into our economy and other areas….the government is so focused on foreign policy that it has not been very successful in the cultural areas. If you have a dynamic culture in the society, you can be sure to have a dynamic economy, too.

–Abbas Ghaffari, Film Director

Civil rights, trusting the artists and cultural figures, and most importantly, relinquishing the country’s cultural management to Iranian artists and cultural figures were among [Rouhani’s] campaign promises. I hope he has a chance to get close to this path….We need cultural NGO’s to grow in Iran. This can be the most important event of the end of Mr. Rouhani’s first term. I believe it is even more important than establishing the House of Political Parties.

–Shadmehr Rastin, Filmmaker

They are not interested in culture at all. …They want to continue their own regressive culture. … They don’t accept independent thinking at all. They want to continue their own way [and] strengthen their own rule. When Mr. Rouhani came, we voted for him. He came and spoke beautifully. As an author, I was told that my books would receive publication licenses, that they won’t be censored. It was good for two to three months, but they couldn’t even change the censorship. It went back to the way it was, the same intimidation and censorship and the same situation. No. They do not want change in any cultural area.

–Jamal Mirsadeghi, Author

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The role of civil society in Iran and NGOs Sun, 21 Jun 2015 19:51:05 +0000 ShadmehrRastin

Many of the individuals interviewed spoke of the need to allow civil society to flourish and play its natural role in the country. They noted the huge electoral win of Rouhani in the presidential election of 2013 and the extent to which this reflected the hopes of much of Iranian society for a more inclusive and participatory environment in which there was dialogue and exchange between civil society and the Rouhani administration.

Download the report here.

There was a frequently noted sense of hope that civil society, effectively eviscerated under the previous Ahmadinejad administration, could and should now play a vital role in addressing the nation’s problems. Many spoke of the extent to which civil society, as a vital two-way conduit of information between society and the administration, could help Rouhani achieve the kind of reforms he had promised during his 2013 presidential election campaign.

I was one of the people who voted for Mr. Rouhani and after voting for him, I thought now that he is here at the helm, we should start moving forward. We should start posing our demands and the ones he promised to deliver. It is the people’s responsibility to pursue these demands. A relatively small and open space has emerged and we cannot say that this administration is like the previous one….We must start working, instead of grumbling… “why didn’t Mr. Rouhani do that thing he promised,” we must continue to pursue our demands and start working. A minimal environment has developed, and the Iranian society has always used these minimal environments to move. Civil organizations have developed in this minimal environment. I think people should focus on this. They should start creating civil organizations. NGO’s should start working. During Mr. Ahmadinejad’s tenure all these things were destroyed, but I think they should start working again.

–Pegah Ahangarani, Actress

The role of public opinion, which would manifest itself through organizations such as the media, NGO’s, and political parties, deserves attention. Civil organizations can play a pivotal role, if they have a podium. Social networks on the Internet play an important role in affecting decision-making through citizens’ expressions of opinion. Surveys of public opinion can help the administration in determining its priorities and acting accordingly.

–Fakhrossadat Mohtashamipour, Civil Activist, Wife of Political Prisoner

[We need] a softer approach by the Ministry of Culture towards cultural and press-related issues and censorship, and NGO’s.

–A Journalist in Tehran and Former Political Prisoner

All we can do is to write and to warn. There is no other way. The government is not unaware of these articles.

–Mohammad Aghazadeh, Journalist

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Expectations of increased international exchanges and interactions Sun, 21 Jun 2015 19:51:03 +0000 MahmoudDolatabadi

One area in which optimism was frequently expressed by the interviewees was the extent to which a successful agreement would allow for an increase in vital international exchanges and interactions between Iran and the rest of the world.

Download the report here.

Many spoke with dismay regarding the extent to which Iran’s long international isolation had immeasurably harmed the professional, academic, scientific, commercial, and cultural spheres in the country, and they believed an agreement would trigger a tremendous increase in international exchanges and interactions, at great benefit to the Iranian people.

[If an accord is reached] we can have much more reputable conferences, and invite distinguished scientists from many different countries, not just from the U.S. We can send our university students abroad. We can procure our required tools and materials for research work in a better and easier way.

–Ahmad Shirzad, Physics Professor and Former Member of Parliament

Expanded and more open international relations may have an impact on the opening of the cultural atmosphere, regardless of whether or not there is public support. It has been said that alongside the talks about improving Iran’s international relations, the topic of Iran’s joining international copyright laws is under discussion.

–A Playwright, Theater Director, and Publisher in Tehran

[After an accord], our arts and culture could be promoted on an international scale. There should be particular emphasis on Iranian literature. Our contemporary books should be translated and our authors should be introduced to the world.

–Lili Golestan, Writer and Publisher

We are a society that wants to live with the rest of the world. We want to be connected to the entire world. These conditions of isolation from the rest of the world are intolerable.

— Aboutorab Khosravi, Novelist and Literature Teacher

We hope that once the sanctions are lifted and through Iran’s contact with the rest of the world, we are able to work in a free artistic environment, and that we can change the viewpoints non-Iranians have about Iran.

–Shadmehr Rastin, Filmmaker

The fact that increased international interaction would expose society to voices other than the government’s and the state-controlled media in Iran and thus facilitate the ability to counter the Iranian government’s narrative of events—specifically the state’s claims regarding its record on civil, political, and cultural rights and freedoms—was not lost on many of the respondents.

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Conclusion Sun, 21 Jun 2015 19:51:01 +0000 ShahlaLahiji

This study by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has brought the voices of individuals representing various facets of Iranian civil society to the broader international community. These voices reflect great hopes juxtaposed with sober expectations. Unanimity on support for the negotiations and the unmitigated good an agreement would bring—the avoidance of war—was paired with highly divergent views on the effects of the negotiations on more specific aspects of political, economic, and cultural life in Iran. Hopes that their government will translate a nuclear accord into a better economic and political environment was often accompanied by doubts this will be so. Indeed, in contrast to the Campaign’s previous study a year ago, there was a noticeable uptick in concerns that many of the hoped for benefits of an accord, needed as they are, would be lost to poor management or corruption.

Download the report here.

The Iranian citizenry has endured sanctions, international isolation, economic distress, political repression, and a corrupt and arbitrary system…and yet has not relinquished its hopes, its patience, its willingness to continue to come out to vote for candidates promising change, or its commitment to peaceful, gradual change. It is incumbent upon the international community to reinforce these voices of reason, patience, and hope, by similarly supporting the peaceful resolution of conflict with the Islamic Republic—and by doing everything it can in a post-deal environment to stand by the people of Iran in their efforts to achieve the most basic rights and freedoms.


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