Friday, July 28, 2006

Chávez in Tehran

Today is Hugo Chávez Frías's birthday. He will arrive in Tehran this evening, beginning his three-day visit to the country. I want Iranians and Arabs, Shiites and Sunnis, especially youths among them, to hear what he has to say. I want them to want to study Latin America, visit it, make friends with Latin Americans. I want them to come up with their own regional project comparable to what's going on in Latin America.

Arabs, Muslims, Jews, and Latin Americans ought to remember 1492 together, the year of Reconquista, the beginning of the end of their old worlds. They ought to create a solidarity of popular memory that unites their intertwined experiences of dispossession that began in that year, to counter the deleterious impacts of small-minded secular nationalism which dashed the half-hearted attempts at regional integration both in the Middle East and Latin America in the past.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

To Die For

Find me an Arab socialist woman whose mother is a Shi'i and whose father is a Sunni or vice versa, who thinks like me, and who writes like Shelley in The Revolt of Islam. If her name is Fatima, it will be great. If she looks like Leila Khaled, she is to die for.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Socialist Men, Muslims, and the "Woman Question"

Louis Proyect, the moderator of the Marxmail discussion listserv who keeps the Unrepentant Marxist blog, purged me from his list yesterday, falsely claiming that I taunted "Marxmail subscribers as candidates for making common cause with the imperialists in this fashion will also be removed" ("Re: [Marxism] Moderator's Note," 23 July 2006). What did I actually say? "BTW, to all of you, born or adopted Westerners, on the left who are DYING to overthrow a government in North Africa and West Asia: may I recommend Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt (in that order), instead of Iran?" ("Re: [Marxism] Divide and Conquer," 23 July 2006). Notice that there is no mention of anyone collaborating with imperialists to overthrow anything in my quip. Besides, what imperialist wants to overthrow the Saudi Arabian, Jordanian, and Egyptian governments? They are the best allies of Washington and Tel Aviv in the whole Middle East!

Where did Proyect's misinterpretation come from? Apparently, the state of the Left is such that he can't imagine, even as a joke which my quip obviously was, leftists overthrowing any government ON THEIR OWN without the aid of imperialists. There is at least one virtue in this misinterpretation: it's an unconscious admission that Western leftists are indeed irrelevant, the perennially powerless who can criticize others but are incapable of presenting an attractive practical alternative to the status quo that would win the allegiance of masses in their own countries, let alone anywhere else. In my view, the admission of our irrelevance today, rather than denial of it, is the first necessary step toward overcoming it.

In any event, Proyect's purging of me accomplished another important goal: his listserv now has one fewer women as well as one fewer queers, diminishing racial diversity of participants by one to boot! (Ever wonder why discussion mailing lists on the Left have very few female participants?) Now the remaining socialist men are free to debate the relative conditions of women's rights in Iran, the rest of the Middle East, socialist countries, and others in a congenial atmosphere free from an outspoken bisexual woman of color who dares to disagree with them (if you are curious about how discussion went, visit Marxmail's public archive)! Yes, that really shows that socialist men like Proyect are most qualified to speak up for the importance of gender equality! Women are equal to men, provided that women agree with men. :->

Now, how that kind of practice makes secular socialist men better feminists than Muslim men and women, as they claim, is beyond me. The local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, for instance, is headed by an accomplished woman -- Asma Mobin-Uddin, a pediatrician and author of My Name Is Bilal, a children's book -- and its events -- from protests to fundraisers -- have gender-equal participation, women found in leading positions as well as the rank and file. The way I look at it, secular socialist men have much to learn from Muslims of the CAIR-Ohio.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Ali Shariati and Liberation Theology

Ali Shariati's thought, in my view, is liberation theology, very much influenced by Marxism of the era of anti-colonial struggles, especially Frantz Fanon's ideas. He was a lay man and very anti-clerical, teaching the masses a history of popular revolts "against foreign domination, internal deceit, the power of the feudal lords and wealthy capitalists" (Ali Shariati, "Red Shi'ism (the Religion of Martyrdom) vs. Black Shi'ism (the Religion of Mourning)"). He was immensely popular, one of the chief influences on young revolutionaries of the Iranian Revolution, which, not so coincidentally, was one of the last great anti-neo-colonial revolutions in the sixties and seventies, happening exactly at the same time as the Sandinista Revolution.

Ervand Abrahamian says that, after Shariati's untimely death (which many think was the work of SAVAK), Shariati's favorable interpretations of Marx and Marxist thought were expurgated from his texts that were published in Iran, whereas his criticisms of Marxism were left intact in them, thus giving Iranian masses a wrong impression of what Shariati really thought (see Iran Between Two Revolutions, Princeton University Press, 1982).

And yet, his thought still lives on among Iranians, no doubt.

What would Shariati say to the ruling clerics of Iran were he alive today? "Shi'ism left the great mosque of the common people to become a next-door neighbor to the Palace of 'Ali Qapu in the Royal Mosque" ("Red Shi'ism (the Religion of Martyrdom) vs. Black Shi'ism (the Religion of Mourning)").

Monday, July 10, 2006

Iran's AIDS-Prevention Program Among World's Most Progressive

This article is a must read, so I'm reproducing it in full, in case it becomes unavailable elsewhere.
Published on Friday, April 14, 2006 by Knight Ridder
Iran's AIDS-Prevention Program Among World's Most Progressive
by Hannah Allam

TEHRAN, Iran - It took 30 meetings just to create a slim AIDS-awareness handbook for Iran's conservative high schools. A drawing of a condom disappeared early on; a photo of a syringe survived. A mention of sexual transmission was approved, but only with a reminder that sex before marriage is forbidden.

Even after the government's wordsmiths were satisfied, AIDS workers in Tehran had to take the book south to the holy city of Qom, the spiritual center of Iran's all-powerful clergy. To everyone's surprise, the clerics endorsed it.

Iran's fight against the spread of HIV hinges on a delicate give-and-take between activists who talk frankly about sex and drugs and the ruling ayatollahs, who fiercely protect the Islamic Republic's puritan image. The combination has made Iran the Middle East leader in preventing HIV and AIDS.

The country's program, which melds deep-rooted religious values with cutting-edge research, is being exported to Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Pakistan and other Muslim nations.

"I told my colleagues in the United Arab Emirates, `You're not more rigid than us. We're the only country in the world where it's the law to wear a head scarf, where it's a pure Islamic government, where you can't drink,'" said Dr. Arash Alaei, one of Iran's most respected AIDS researchers. "`If we have a prevention program, why don't you?'"

In a region where other Muslim governments ignore the epidemic, quarantine HIV-infected people or preach abstinence as the only solution, Iran's approach is especially remarkable.

It still doles out floggings to Iranians caught with alcohol, but it gives clean syringes and methadone treatment to heroin addicts. Health workers pass out condoms to prostitutes. Government clinics in every region offer free HIV testing, counseling and treatment. A state-backed magazine just began a monthly column that profiles HIV-positive Iranians, and last year the postal service unveiled a stamp emblazoned with a red ribbon for AIDS awareness. This year the government will devote an estimated $30 million to the program.

One of Iran's most acclaimed advances comes from its notoriously secretive network of prisons, where hundreds of drug-addicted inmates sometimes share the same makeshift syringe to inject heroin smuggled in by guards or visiting relatives. In a startling acknowledgment of sex and drugs even in its most closely guarded quarters, the Tehran administration has made condoms and needles available in detention centers across the country.

"Iran now has one of the best prison programs for HIV in not just the region, but in the world," said Dr. Hamid Setayesh, the coordinator for the U.N. AIDS office in Tehran. "They're passing out condoms and syringes in prisons. This is unbelievable. In the whole world, there aren't more than six or seven countries doing that."

Iran's national response still faces obstacles, especially when it comes to reducing the shame and isolation that HIV-infected Iranians endure. The government reports 12,000 people with HIV; health workers say the real figure is closer to 70,000. Many HIV-positive Iranians are reluctant to tell relatives and co-workers about their diagnosis, fearful they'll be cast out of their homes or fired from their jobs.

But the program's architects are turning to the clergy for help in combating the stigma of a disease that's inextricably linked to sex in the minds of many Muslims.

A year ago, Setayesh sent questionnaires to the most influential Shiite Muslim clerics to elicit their views on condom use, government's role in AIDS prevention and how society should deal with HIV-infected Iranians. He received 17 handwritten responses, nearly all in favor of the government's efforts. The U.N. AIDS office plans to compile them into a book to be distributed at mosques.

"You should not discriminate against these people," one mullah wrote. "You have no excuse not to use condoms," another responded. "You should pay for this from the public funds of the government," an ayatollah ordered.

Iran's first reported HIV infection came in 1987, when a hemophiliac child tested positive after a blood transfusion. The government formed a national committee, but it wasn't until nearly a decade later that it began to take prevention seriously, said Alaei, one of the pioneers of Iranian AIDS research.

In 1997, the government tested for the virus among high-risk populations such as prisoners, truck drivers and patients with other infectious diseases. The highest rate of infection was in Iran's prisons, one of which was in Alei's hometown of Kermanshah, northwest of Tehran. Alaei was startled to learn that 400 cases had been detected there.

In 1999 he and his brother, Kamiar, had just finished their medical studies. They persuaded the nervous director of a local medical school to give them space for research.

"We had one room, the files of 400 infected prisoners and one office worker. We couldn't even have a sign on the door," Alaei recalled. "It was top secret."

The Alaei brothers used the prison files to scour the city for HIV-positive convicts and their families. After the government-testing program had confirmed the infections, he said, most of the men received no care or counseling. By the time Alaei tracked them down, 176 of the 400 already were dead. Most had committed suicide.

"If they were released, their families had disowned them. In jail, other prisoners avoided them and prison workers who didn't know about transmission just kept them in one room and rolled in a food cart for their meals," Alaei said. "When we shook hands with them, they cried. Before that, everyone had rejected them."

When Kermanshah's representative in Parliament asked the government to build an AIDS hospital, residents ransacked his office. Alaei said they were terrified that an AIDS facility in their city would turn the country against them, making them the butt of jokes and limiting their children's chances for marriage. The legislator lost his seat in the next election.

Then the wives of Kermanshah's addicts began testing HIV-positive, 35 in the first year alone. Next came the children. The families were terrified. Opposition to an HIV clinic dried up.

With community and government backing, the Alaei brothers soon expanded their operation to two rooms, then the entire floor of the medical school and, finally, to cities throughout Iran. The World Health Organization named Alaei's clinics the best-practice model for the Middle East and North Africa.

"Paying attention to the programs and progress of the developed countries is very good," Alaei said. "But you should never forget to base your program on your own society, your own demographics, your own religion and culture."

With the election last summer of the ultraconservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, many AIDS workers feared a rollback of their hard-won progress. Indeed, some new Cabinet members expressed disapproval of the national campaign's growing boldness in addressing the sexual transmission of HIV.

Ahmadinejad's health minister told a news conference that AIDS wasn't a priority for the government. The education minister stopped the printing of pamphlets for young students, saying they needed revisions, Setayesh said. Another government official told Alaei that the red handbook he'd worked so hard to publish was embarrassing to Iran's image. It was uncertain whether distribution would continue.

Then Iran's characteristically unpredictable president surprised AIDS workers at a governmental meeting on the intertwined problems of opiate addiction and HIV by coming out in favor of distributing methadone.

AIDS-prevention specialists admit they can't know whether that remark signals that Iran's program won't be scaled back, but researcher Alaei, for one, says he's optimistic that progress will continue.

"Four years ago, if you talked about condoms, you couldn't go on the air," he said, referring to state-run television. "This year, they said, `You are free to say what you like.' I just kept saying, `Use condoms. Use condoms. Use condoms.'"

© 2006 KR Washington Bureau and wire service sources
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"There Currently Is No Active Policy of Prosecution of Charges of Homosexuality in Iran"

Arsham Parsi is an Iranian gay man who currently resides in Canada. Parsi is the spokesperson and secretary of human rights affairs of the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization, and he helped organize a Toronto protest to call on Iran to stop killing gays, a part of international protests organized by OutRage (led by Peter Tatchell), International Day Against Homophobia, and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission among others on June 19, the day to commemorate the executions of Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, which the June 19 protest organizers allege were due to their homosexuality (the spin that originated in the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the political arm of the MEK), the allegation that has been questioned by human rights organizations (Richard Kim, "Witnesses to an Execution," The Nation 7 August 2005).

Parsi claims: "I had to escape from my homeland as a death warrant was issued by the Islamic government" ("Arsham Parsi's Speech Text in Toronto Gala 2006," Homan, 13 June 2006). He certainly won refugee status in Canada in May 2006 (David Graham, "Fearless in Canada," The Toronto Star, 25 June 2006). But is his claim of having been issued "a death warrant" true? If it is, how did he manage to escape custody (since an execution warrant isn't issued till a suspect gets arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced, i.e., unless the suspect is in state custody)? Is that a ground on which the Canadian government granted him refugee status? If not, on what grounds did the government grant him refugee status? Can you discover facts that would allow us to answer these questions?

I ask these questions because the Committee against Torture at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights determined in a 2003 case of Dutch asylum denial of an Iranian national that "[t]he Committee [against Torture, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights] also notes from different and reliable sources that there currently is no active policy of prosecution of charges of homosexuality in Iran" and there is no well-documented evidence that leads me to believe that policy has changed since then.

The full text of the Committee's decision is copied below.

26 May 2003
Original: ENGLISH
Communication No 190/2001: Netherlands26/05/2003
CAT/C/30/D/190/2001. (Jurisprudence)

Convention Abbreviation: CAT

Committee Against Torture
Thirtieth session
28 April - 16 May 2003

Decisions of the Committee Against Torture under article 22 of the
Convention against Torture and Other Cruel,
Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

- Thirtieth session -

Communication No.190/2001

Submitted by: K.S.Y. (represented by counsel)

Alleged victim: K.S.Y.

State party: The Netherlands

Date of complaint: 5 January 2001 (initial submission)

The Committee against Torture, established under article 17 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,

Meeting on 15 May 2003,

Having concluded its consideration of complaint No. 190/2001, submitted to the Committee against Torture by Mr. K.S.Y. under article 22 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,

Having taken into account all information made available to it by the author of the complaint, his counsel and the State party,

Adopts the following:

Decision under article 22, paragraph 7, of the Convention

1.1 The complainant is Mr. Khaliollah Soorani Yancheshmeh, a citizen of Iran, born on 23 August 1950, whose application for refugee status was rejected in the Netherlands. He claims that his deportation to Iran would constitute a violation by the Netherlands of article 3 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (hereafter, the Convention). He is represented by counsel.

1.2 In accordance with article 22, paragraph 3 of the Convention, the Committee transmitted the communication to the State party on 16 October 2001. Pursuant to rule 108 of the Committee's rules of procedure, the State party was requested not to deport the complainant to Iran pending the consideration of his case by the Committee.

The facts as presented by the complainant

2.1 The complainant states that he has encountered problems in Iran on account of his homosexuality and because of the political activities of his brother, A.A.

2.2 The complainant had difficulties with Iranian authorities since his brother was recognized as a refugee in the Netherlands in the early eighties. He was interrogated by the Monkerat Committee four or five times and, after each interrogation, had to sign the next convocation.

2.3 In March 1992, the complainant travelled to the Netherlands for the wedding of his brother. When he returned to Iran, he was interrogated by the authorities about the reasons of his trip and the activities of his brother in the Netherlands. The Iranian authorities confiscated his passport, issued an order prohibiting him to travel abroad. He was ordered to report daily to the passports' office of the criminal investigation department.

2.4 In Iran, the complainant had a homosexual relationship with one K.H., whose homosexuality allegedly was easy to recognize due to his "female" behaviour. Because of his homosexuality, he separated from his wife, with whom he had three kids.

2.5 On 10 August 1992, the complainant was arrested in Shiraz by the Monkerat (Special Unit of the Revolutionary Committee) on account of complaints by neighbours about his homosexual activities. His partner was not arrested as he went into hiding. The complainant was taken to a prison in the Lout desert and interrogated about his homosexuality and his brother's activities. During his detention, he allegedly was tortured, beaten with cables on the sole of his feet, on his legs and in the face, and hanged to the ceiling by one arm during half a day over three weeks. The complainant was later sentenced to death (1) but never received a written verdict of the sentence. After five months of detention, he succeeded to escape with the help of prison cleaning services who hid him in the garbage truck. The escape was facilitated by the absence of guards in the evening, the prisoners being all confined in their cell.

2.6 The complainant first went to Mashad and then to Ispahan, where some relatives resided. From there he organized his travel to Europe. In August 1993, the complainant and his partner travelled separately to the Netherlands. The complainant used an Iranian passport provided by the "passeur" with his own photograph. When he arrived in the Netherlands, he destroyed the passport as he had been told to do so.

2.7 On 16 March 1994, the complainant applied for both refugee status and residence permit on humanitarian grounds. Both applications were rejected on 26 August 1994. On 29 August 1994, the complainant applied for a review of this decision. On 22 December 1994, the Advice Committee on Alien Affairs advised the State Secretary of the Department of Justice to deny asylum to the complainant but to grant him a residence permit because of his physical and psychological condition.

2.8 Since his arrival in the Netherlands, the complainant shared accommodation with his partner, K.H., until the latter started relationships with other men. After a fight about this situation, the complainant killed his partner. On 22 June 1995, the complainant was convicted of murder by the District Court Leeuwarden and sentenced to six years' imprisonment. He was imprisoned between 21 January 1995 and 21 January 1999. The body of K.H. was repatriated to Iran, after intervention of the Iranian Embassy in the Netherlands.

2.9 In the meantime, on 12 September 1996, the application for review of the initial decision denying asylum and residence permit to the complainant was rejected. The complainant appealed this decision on 13 September 1996 before the District Court of The Hague.

2.10 Moreover, further to the crime committed by the complainant, the State Secretary of the Department of Justice declared the complainant to be an "undesirable person" on 10 September 1996. A request to review this decision was rejected on 6 December 1996. The complainant made a further appeal against this decision on 24 December 1996 before the District Court of The Hague.

2.11 On 22 December 1999, the District Court of The Hague dismissed both appeals of 13 September 1996 and 24 December 1996.

2.12 In the meantime, on 1 October 1999, the complainant introduced a new application for asylum which was rejected on 5 October 1999. His appeal against this decision was finally rejected on 11 May 2001.

The complaint

3.1 The complainant claims that if he is returned to Iran, he is at risk of being subjected to torture, and that his forcible removal to Iran would entail a violation of article 3 of the Convention by the State party.

3.2 In support of his claim, the complainant argues that he was tortured when he was detained in Iran in 1992. The consequences of these abuses are confirmed by a number of medical reports submitted to the Committee. According to the medical reports, the complainant suffers from severe post traumatic stress disorder, including a suicidal tendency, and his right shoulder is seriously restricted in its movements because he had been hanged by one arm for prolonged periods.

3. 3 The complainant considers that the main element supporting the risk of torture are his homosexuality and the events that occurred in the Netherlands after his arrival. He argues that his homosexuality was confirmed by his partner, K.H., during hearings related to his own asylum application and by the judgement of 22 June 1995, in which the complainant was convicted of murder.

3.4 The complainant explains that after the death of K.H., his body was repatriated to Iran and that the Iranian authorities have undoubtedly tried to obtain explanations about the reasons for K.H.'s death. If he were removed now to Iran, he would certainly face problems related to the murder he committed and, particularly, his homosexuality. This would put him at risk of again being detained and subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment.

3.5 The complainant, referring to a report of Amnesty International of 30 July 1997, notes that homosexual activities are a criminal offence under the Iranian Penal Code. He points out that the mere declaration of four witnesses may lead to punishment as well as the opinion of a judge based on his own knowledge. The report further says that a person suspected of "committing" homosexual activities risks arrest, torture (lashes) or ill-treatment.

3.6 As to sources that confirm the existence of acts of torture in Iran, the complainant refers to the report of the United Nations Special Representative of the Commission on Human Rights on Iran of 21 September 1999, according to which "[p]ress accounts suggest that corporal punishment is prevalent. In January 1999, an Iranian newspaper reported that two 15-year-old boys had been sentenced to a flogging for 'offending public democracy' by dressing up as girls and wearing make-up. They explained to the Court that they did this to 'extract money from rich young men'. In June an Iranian newspaper reported that a young man in Mashad had been given 20 lashes for 'wounding public moral sentiments' by plucking his eyebrows and wearing eyeshadow. In March an Iranian newspaper reported that six persons had been sentenced in Mashad to 18 months in jail and 228 lashes for goading passers-by to dance in the street".

3.7 The complainant underlines that the decisions of the State party to deny him refugee status were based on alleged discrepancies and, in particular, on the fact that K.H. did not mention during his own asylum hearings that the complainant had been detained in Iran. The complainant argues that K.H. only mentioned his homosexual relationship with him and explained that his partner also had problems but did not give any more details. The complainant also refers to the jurisprudence of the Committee according to which complete accuracy can seldom be expected from victims of torture.

3.8 Finally, the complainant draws attention to the fact that the complainant was not admitted in the State party because he was convicted of a serious crime. The complainant that is not compatible with the absolute character of article 3 of the Convention. Furthermore, the complainant argues that he is not a threat to the Dutch society because his crime was committed out of passion, as confirmed in the judgement of 22 June 1995.

State party's observations on the admissibility and merits

4.1 In a submission dated 21 November 2000, the State party made its observations on the merits of the case as it did not propose any grounds for inadmissibility.

4.2 Referring to the jurisprudence of the Committee, the State party recalls that in order to be personally at risk of being subjected to torture in the sense of article 3 of the Convention, there must not only be a consistent pattern of gross violations of human rights in the country where the complainant is expelled but also specific grounds indicating that the complainant is personally at risk of being subjected to torture. It also reminds that the terms "substantial grounds" imply that torture is highly likely and that the individual must face a foreseeable, real and personal risk of being tortured, as interpreted in the light of the Committee's general comment No. 1 on the implementation of article 3.

4.3 Concerning the situation in Iran, the State party, referring to some Views of the Committee, argues that although the situation is disquieting it is not to a point that any person removed to Iran would be in danger of being subjected to torture. Moreover, the complainant's homosexuality does not in itself constitute a risk incompatible with article 3 of the Convention. Referring to a number of country reports carried out by its own services, the State party is of the view that although homosexual acts are prohibited in Iran and may incur the death penalty, there is no active policy of prosecution. Even if a charge of homosexuality is in some cases added to a range of other criminal charges, there are no known cases of convictions, including at the court's own discretion, solely for homosexual acts. It is further noted that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has not "been able to trace any cases of execution of persons found guilty of homosexual relations".

4.4 Concerning the political activities of his brother, A.A., the State party considers that the complainant has not substantiated that they would imply a personal, real and foreseeable risk of torture for him because his statements in that regard have been inconsistent, vague and contained little detail. According to different interviews, the complainant has been arrested once, 5 or 6 times, or more than 40 times in connection with his brother's political activities. Moreover, while the complainant had stated that his brother had been the leader of a Mujaheddin group, his brother himself told the State party's authorities that he was only a sympathiser of the Mujaheddin and distributed pamphlets, but undertook no further activity against the Iranian Government.

4.5 The State party considers that it is implausible that, while the complainant had encountered no problems in this respect until he travelled to the Netherlands in March 1992 with the permission of the authorities, he was arrested upon his return to Iran, that his passport was confiscated and that he was interrogated in relation with his brother's activities. The State party refers to ministerial reports according to which it is impossible for persons researched by the authorities to travel abroad and notes that thousands of Iranians travel annually abroad without encountering problems at their return in the country.

4.6 Moreover, the State party argues that, even assuming that the complainant was indeed arrested after his return to Iran in April 1992, the fact that he was released shortly afterwards without having been molested and that the political activities of his brother took place 17 years ago could not constitute evidence that the complainant would run the risk of being tortured for that reason.

4.7 Concerning his sexual preference, the State party notes the complainant's declarations that until August 1992 and prior his departure from Iran, in August 1993, he did not have any problems with the Iranian authorities in this respect. The State party further considers that his arrest in August 1992 because of his homosexuality lacks credibility because the complainant was not open about his sexual preference. It is similarly implausible that his partner, K.H., whose appearance was patently homosexual, was not arrested. The fact that K.H. did not mention the complainant's arrest in his asylum hearings because of their relationship also permits the doubts about the veracity of this claim given the importance of such a detail.

4.8 Concerning the death penalty to which he was sentenced because of his homosexuality, the complainant stated in his first interview that he did not receive any document recording his sentence. In April 1994, he stated that his sentence had been slipped under his cell door, attached to a piece of string. He later stated that he was told that he had to die because he was homosexual. Finally, in December 1994, he stated that his death sentence had been read out to him at the Monkerat office.

4.9 The State party observes that the complainant's account of his detention and escape, in that there was no guard in the evening and that he was able to escape into a garbage truck without encountering any problems, are inconsistent with the detention of a person under sentence of death.

4.10 The State party considers that the jurisprudence of the Committee related to the issue of inconsistencies and contradictions made by victims of torture in their account of past abuses is not applicable to the present case because the complainant's alleged contradictions relate to essential parts of his persecutions.

4.11 Concerning the medical reports submitted by the complainant, the State party argues that they conflict with the complainant's lack of credibility regarding his reasons for seeking asylum. The State party therefore considers that it is not necessary to examine whether the alleged physical symptoms are indicative of torture and thus relevant for the assessment of the complainant's claim and that it is incumbent to the complainant to demonstrate their relevance by presenting a credible claim. Moreover, physicians make their medical findings solely within the limited context of the statements made to them so that the causes of the complainant's medical situation cannot be ascertained objectively.

4.12 Finally, the State party considers that the complainant has not demonstrated that, since his arrival in the Netherlands, his sexual preference has come to the attention of the Iranian authorities, and referring again to the reports made by its Ministry of Foreign Affairs according to which homosexuality remains a social taboo in Iran, that it is implausible that K.H.'s family would have reported to the authorities about the reasons for his death. The complainant has not further demonstrated that he is likely to be imprisoned in Iran, let alone tortured, because of the murder of K.H. committed in another country.

Counsel's comments

5.1 In a submission dated 30 May 2002, the complainant transmitted his comments on the observations of the State party.

5.2 Regarding the absence of known cases of recent prosecutions solely on a charge of homosexuality, the complainant emphasizes that this does not mean that there are not any and that it is known that Iranian authorities are reluctant to give information about criminal prosecutions. Moreover, according to an Amnesty International report transmitted to the State party on 7 November 2001, 100 people were tortured in Iran only in July 2001, at least 10 people were hanged and 100 death sentences were upheld by the Supreme Court. As the background of these incidents is most of the time difficult to ascertain, homosexuality may in some cases have been at issue.

5.3 The complainant underlines the State party's observation that homosexual acts are often prosecuted together with other criminal charges. He states that this is exactly what he expects to happen in his case since the body of his partner was repatriated to Iran. This will give the Iranian authorities a reason to add a criminal charge of murder to that of homosexuality. The complainant considers that the murder he committed constitutes in itself a risk of being tortured if returned to Iran and that the fact that he has already been punished in the Netherlands is irrelevant.

5.4 Regarding the alleged contradictions and inconsistencies of his account of the facts, the complainant considers that the State party misinterpreted his words, particularly on the question of his detention on account of his brother's political activities. During the first interview with the Dutch authorities, the complainant mentioned that he was arrested once because of his homosexuality and several times in connection with his brother's political activities. His following declarations about his separate and different arrests were either related to arrests by the Sepah or by the Committee. The complainant finally notes that he is not in a position to compare his interviews with those of his brother as he was transmitted the file by the State party.

5.5 Regarding the alleged implausibility that he was arrested in August 1992 for his homosexuality because he was not open about his sexual preference, the complainant reiterates that he was arrested further to complaints made by neighbours who saw him with K.H., who was openly homosexual. Moreover, the complainant considers that it is perfectly conceivable that K.H. went into hiding.

5.6 Regarding the fact that K.H. did not mention the detention of the complainant during his own asylum hearing, it is noted that K.H. was not specifically interrogated on this issue and that interviews were short.

5.7 The complainant confirms that he never received any document recording his death sentence, and that he was only informed of it when the sentence was pushed under his cell door and then pulled back.

5.8 The complainant finally submits an additional report made by "Stichting Centrum '45", an organization dealing with traumatized war victims and asylum-seekers, according to which his situation is worsening and that serious risk of "balance suicide" exists. Contrary to the State party, the complainant considers that medical reports constitute evidence in support of his claim. Moreover, he notes that he has already demonstrated the relevance of the medical reports.

Issues and proceedings before the Committee

6.1 Before considering any claims contained in a communication, the Committee must decide whether or not it is admissible under article 22 of the Convention. The Committee has ascertained, as it is required to do under article 22, paragraph 5 (a) of the Convention that the same matter has not been and is not being examined under another procedure of international investigation or settlement.

6.2 Moreover, the Committee notes that the State party has not submitted any objections on the admissibility of the communication, including with regard to the exhaustion of domestic remedies. The Committee therefore declares the communication admissible and proceeds without further delay to its consideration of the merits.

7.1 The Committee must decide whether the forced return of the complainant to Iran would violate the State party's obligation, under article 3, paragraph 1 of the Convention, not to expel or return (refouler) an individual to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture. In order to reach its conclusion, the Committee must take into account all relevant considerations, including the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights. The aim, however, is to determine whether the individual concerned would personally risk torture in the country to which he or she would return. It follows that the existence of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights in a country does not as such constitute sufficient grounds for determining whether the particular person would be in danger of being subjected to torture upon his return to that country; additional grounds must be adduced to show that the individual concerned would be personally at risk. Conversely, the absence of a consistent pattern of gross violations of human rights does not imply that a person cannot be considered to be in danger of being subjected to torture in his or her specific circumstances.

7.2 In the present case, the Committee notes that the political activities of the complainant's brother took place more than 17 years ago and that they may not in themselves constitute a risk for the complainant himself to be subjected to torture, if he were returned to Iran.

7.3 Concerning the alleged difficulties faced by the complainant because of his sexual orientation, the Committee notes a number of contradictions and inconsistencies in his account of past abuses at the hand of the Iranian authorities, as well as the fact that part of his account has not been adequately substantiated or lacks credibility.

7.4 The Committee also notes from different and reliable sources that there currently is no active policy of prosecution of charges of homosexuality in Iran.

7.5 In the light of the arguments presented by the complainant and the State party, the Committee finds that it has not been given enough evidence by the complainant to conclude that the latter would run a personal, present and foreseeable risk of being tortured if returned to his country of origin.

8. The Committee against Torture, acting under article 22, paragraph 7, of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, considers that the complainant has not substantiated his claim that he would be subjected to torture upon return to Iran and therefore concludes that the complainant's removal to that country would not constitute a breach by the State party of article 3 of the Convention.


[Adopted in English, French, Russian and Spanish, the English text being the original version. Subsequently to be issued also in Arabic and Chinese as part of the Committee's annual report to the General Assembly.]


1. The complainant explains that he has never received a copy of the judgement and that he was only informed of his death sentence through a document that was pushed under his cell door and then immediately pulled back. He is therefore not in a position to give the date of the judgement.

© Copyright 1996-2003
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Geneva, Switzerland

Sunday, July 09, 2006

France v. Italy

The World Cup has not been good to the Third World this year, the only highlight being a better-than-expected showing of Ghana. (I serially rooted for Iran, Angola, Ghana, and Brazil, and having lost all non-Europeans, I backed Portugal.) The final today is France v. Italy. I say, give it to the Italians: they got rid of Berlusconi, so they deserve a reward.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Parviz Dawoodi and Privatization in Iran

The Fars News Agency reports that "Iran's first Vice-President Parviz Dawoodi was appointed as the official in charge of implementing Article 44 of the Constitution," i.e., privatization ("First VP Responsible for Execution of Article 44," 9 July 2006). Moreover, it says:
Following the recent directive by the Supreme leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei on the major policies for the implementation of Article 44 of the Constitution which rules for the transferring of a large part of governmental assets to the private sector, the cabinet decided in its last meeting that a special committee must be formed for implementing the Article with a number of cabinet ministers as its members.

The cabinet is yet to decide during its Sunday meeting that which of the statesmen should become a member of the said committee, but it has already appointed first Vice-President Parviz Dawoodi as the official in charge of the committee. ("First VP Responsible for Execution of Article 44," 9 July 2006)
Why "a special committee"?

What do we know about Dawoodi? Very little.

It is said that Dawoodi received his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa in 1981.

(Does Iran have any economist in a top economic position who has not been trained in the United States? Good grief. Ebrahim Sheibany, Governor of the Central Bank, has a Ph.D. from Indiana University; Mohammadreza Shojaeddini, Vice Governor of the Central Bank on Administrative & Training Affairs, has a Ph.D. from Iowa State University and was an advisor to the IMF Director from 1998 to 2001; Akbar Komijani, Vice Governor on Economic Affairs, has a Ph.D. from University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee; Mohammad Jafar Mojarrad, Vice Governor on Foreign Exchange Affairs, has a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.)

What else?
  • Dawoodi was a professor of economics at Shahid Beheshti University and served as economic advisor to the Judiciary Chief, Ayatollah Seyyed Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi.

  • "During the presidency of Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989-1997), he was deputy minister in economic affairs of ministry of economics and finance, as well as deputy of Judiciary in economic affairs." (President Ahmadinejad Appoints First Vice-President," 11 September 2005)
Wikipedia claims that Dawoodi is very unlike Ahmadinejad in his economic vision, that he "teaches liberal economic perspectives in his classrooms," that it "is believed that his economic ideas are highly influenced by modern economic theory," and that he "is for free markets and open economies," though it doesn't cite sources for the claim.

All in all, it's a BAD sign.

Needs further investigation.


Yoshie Furuhashi, "Privatization Iranian Style," Critical Montages, 14 October 2007.

Iran and Iraq

My Persian Prince ought to be careful. Sectarian foreign terrorists in Iraq, yes, must be put down, but he can lose in Iraq all the capital he earned in Palestine, if things go wrong, especially if he practices sectarianism of his own. He can't afford any ethnic insurgency at home either.
Iran, accused by the United States of stirring up an Iraqi insurgency, said on Saturday "terrorist" groups should be stopped from entering Iraq because they created an excuse for foreign troops to stay.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also said in a speech to a meeting of ministers from Baghdad's neighbours that surrounding states were committed to ensuring stability in Iraq.

"It is necessary to stop the crossing of terrorist groups into Iraq who aim at creating insecurity, hatred and differences, and pave the way for the presence of foreign forces in Iraq," Ahmadinejad told the foreign ministers in Tehran.

He did not say from where or how the groups were entering Iraq.

Washington accuses Tehran of backing anti-U.S. insurgents in Iraq, a charge Tehran denies saying the U.S. occupation is to blame for the instability.

"Stability, security and progress of Iraq strengthens stability, security and progress in the whole Islamic world," Ahmadinejad said.

"We are all committed to try to restore stability, security and progress in Iraq," he told the gathering.

Syria, which sent its foreign minister to Tehran, has also been accused by Washington of not doing enough to stop militants crossing into Iraq. Damascus insists it is doing its best.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, whose government has launched a national reconciliation plan, said on Tuesday during a tour of the region that Gulf Arab states had promised to crack down harder on funding for the Sunni Muslim insurgency.

Most Arab states are ruled by Sunni Arabs, the majority sect within Islam, and some of these view with suspicion Iraq's Shi'ite majority. Non-Arab Iran is also mainly Shi'ite.

Iraqi officials have said some Iraqi insurgents have asked other Arab states to act as mediators following the government's offer of dialogue to end the violence.

Ministers and officials from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Turkey were among those attending the meeting, as well as Egypt, which does not share a border with Iraq. Arab League chief Amr Moussa also attended.

Ahmadinejad used his speech to launch one of his regular attacks on Israel, a country his Islamic government does not recognise. He said: "The root of the problems of the Islamic world is the existence of the Zionist regime." ("Iran Says 'Terrorists' Should Not Be Let into Iraq," Reuters, 8 July 2006)

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Khamenei: A Bigger Threat than Washington to Iran

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's foreign and economic policies are a bigger threat than Washington to Iran: "Iran Enters The Liberalism Era," Iran Press Service, 3 July 2006; and Karl Vick, "Ayatollah's Moves Hint Iran Wants To Engage: Supreme Leader Sets Course for WTO Membership," Washington Post, 5 July 2006, A10. Khamenei created the Strategic Council for Foreign Relations, a new organ that directly answers to him and that is "chaired by Mr. Kamal Kharrazi, the reformist Foreign Affairs minister of the former moderate president Mohammad Khatami," and issued a directive to privatize 80% of major state enterprises. As Iran Press Service and the Washington Post correctly observe, both moves are meant to check Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has come to overshadow Khamenei and other clerical gerontocrats and representatives of bazaari interests in the minds of the economically disenfranchised in Iran.

The drive toward privatization in Iran is not new. The first decade of the Islamic Republic set up what might be called an Islamic welfare state, but the welfare state has been steadily chipped away since the beginning of the Rafsanjani years, and the ascendancy of neoliberal reformists during the Khatami era accelerated the attack on it, which culminated in the Iranian parliament's amendments of Articles 43 and 44 of the Iranian Constitution in 2004. It is true that, in contrast to the most radical neoliberals in Iran and the West, Khamenei and his allied clerics were a little more wary of destroying the welfare state (without which, after all, support for the clerical rule may completely melt down) too rapidly, but the neolibeal reforms during the Rafsanjani and Khatami administrations, as well as the constitutional amendments, would not have happened without Khamenei's support for them.

However, Western imperialism and its manufactured "crisis" over Iran's nuclear technology development postponed the domestic class conflict (or, more precisely, a political faction fight rooted in class contradiction, which is fought very subtly), for Washington never made clear to Khamenei that it would make a deal with him. It still hasn't, but Khamenei wants to make sure that Ahmadinejad will not displace him and demote clerical rule through passive revolution, so Khamenei has taken chances.

Ahmadinejad is not without resources. The day after Khamenei's announcement of privatization, the President submitted a plan that is intended to moderate its radical character:
Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei on Monday accepted a request from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to cede 50 percent of shares of state-run enterprises by installment to provincial investment cooperatives and the two lowest-level income groups of the society.

The Supreme Leader issued executive order for privatization drive on Sunday in line with Article 44 of the Constitution and said that the plan will help speed up economic development, social justice and elimination of poverty.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The Supreme Leader made it clear that share prices should be determined in the Stock Exchange and the two lowest level income groups in the poverty line would be given 50 percent discount and their payment should be made on a 10-year installment. ("Supreme Leader Accepts President's Request on Privatization," IRNA, 3 July 2006)
But that will only slow down the process of privatization, for the poor and provincial cooperatives who get the shares will be allowed to sell them on the market after four years as it is currently planned (and they will, on terms disadvantageous to them).

In that intervening period, it may be possible, however, for the masses to push Ahmadinejad to modify the plan further (e.g., prohibiting the sale of shares).

Besides, the conflict with the West will also slow things down. The Washington power elite, both Republican and Democrat, tend to be keener on ideology and geopolitics than economics per se when it comes to Iran in particular and the Middle East in general (unlike their relatively flexible attitude toward China), so Khamenei's WTO dream may not come about in any case.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Gone with the Wind, Remade by Lars von Trier

It would be interesting if Lars von Trier remade Gone with the Wind. He could pick the elements that are already in the book and/or the film, sharpen the characters' political differences, change the plot, film it from slaves' and ex-slaves' points of view, and add voiceover narration by John Hurt.

Ashley Wilkes is a southern plantation master and member of the Ku Klax Klan, attached to the Lost Cause. Rhett Butler is a businessman from a big city, who knows that the South would lose the war, is not attached to the Lost Cause, would rather do business with Yankees than fight them, but is not about to become a race traitor either. Scarlett O'Hara is presented with two ruling-class political visions. She is first attracted to Ashley's, and then she becomes disillusioned with it, as Ashleys of the South restore white supremacy with terrorism. She embraces Rhett's as the "progressive" political alternative to Ashley's, only to be disillusioned with it, too, as Rhetts of the South decide to live with white restoration rather than build a "new South." She moves back to Tara, alone, and tries to manage it according to her "new South" principle, only to find her plantation threatened to be taken over by a joint-stock company in which Ashley and Rhett have major interests, for her "new South" plantation is boycotted by Ashleys and Rhetts of the South. Then, the film quotes Scarlett's famous soliloquy, substituting Tara for Rhett: "I can't let Tara go. I can't. There must be some way to keep it. Oh I can't think about this now! I'll go crazy if I do! I'll think about it tomorrow. But I must think about it. I must think about it. What is there to do? What is there that matters?" Scarlett's face dissolves into a montage of scenes that show her new management style, in keeping with what it takes to keep her plantation and make it prosper, which in turn dissolves into a montage of modern plantations and sweatshops in America and the rest of the world.

But von Trier has already made a film like that; it's called Manderlay.

Venezuelan President due in Iran in Late July

Our man in Venezuela never disappoints. IRNA reports that he will arrive in Iran soon and talk with Ahmadinejad about not only energy cooperation but also "transfer of Iran's peaceful nuclear technology to its allies."
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez begins an official three-leg visit to Iran, North Korea and Vietnam in late July.

The Persian-language daily `Etemad' on Saturday quoted the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry as saying Chavez is expected to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during his visit.

The two presidents, in their upcoming meeting, will discuss bilateral ties and cooperation particularly in the energy field.

Meanwhile, Iranian Ambassador to Caracas Ahmad Sobhani also said that Chavez, during his Tehran visit, will undoubtedly raise the issue of transfer of Iran's peaceful nuclear technology to its allies. ("Venezuelan President due in Iran in Late July," IRNA, 1 July 2006)
The best way to counter Washington's attempt to isolate, sanction, and make war on Iran is for nations allied with Iran to express their own intention to develop nuclear technology or, better yet, begin developing it already.