During this holiday season, please don’t forget Iran’s Christian community

The regime in Iran is known for its gross human rights violations, including a fierce crackdown on Christians that goes unabated as we speak, according to human rights monitoring organizations.

The International Christian Concern (ICC) reported on Wednesday, December 11, citing Iran’s state media saying regime authorities arrested an unnamed Christian near the country’s border with Azerbaijan.

The ICC wrote that “very little information about the arrested individual is shared. However, the report does cite some of the so-called justifications of arrest including [its attempts to] ‘publicize evangelical Christianity,’ ‘establish house churches’ and ‘destroy Abrahamic religions [by] disturbing public opinion in the public and virtual spheres.’ A number of items related to this individual were confiscated.”

It is a known fact that the regime in Iran has a long history of imposing harsh crackdown on the minority Christian community.

Last year the regime arrested more than 100 Christians in December, charities reported, amid a growing crackdown by the Islamic Republic. Many of the 114 detained were converts to Christianity from a Muslim background, accused of “proselytizing.”

In Iran, conversion to Christianity can be a crime meriting a sentence of more than 10 years imprisonment. Christian advocacy groups have in the past reported a growing underground evangelical movement in Iran, where they say increasing numbers of people who have become curious about the minority religion are arrested.

While Christianity is officially tolerated in Iran, reports indicate the regime’s so-called courts benefit themselves of several criminal provisions to persecute Christians, including “propagating against the Islamic Republic in favor of Christianity” and “orienting toward the land of Christianity,” or more ominously, “enmity against God” and “insulting the Prophet,” crimes that can even carry the death sentence.

Christian leaders in Iran constantly say pressure on Christians increases every year around Christmas. 2018 and 2019 have proven to be particularly severe.

In August 2018, Fox News reported the plight of Iran’s persecuted Christian community has significantly worsened over the past few weeks, with the mullahs’ regime ramping up prison terms and other judicial actions.

In the same month, Amnesty International called on Iran to immediately release four Iranian Christians, including pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz and his wife Shamiram Issavi.

statement from Amnesty International said: “They have been targeted solely for peacefully practicing their Christian faith.”

Amnesty and Human Rights Watch blasted the mullahs’ regime for its sweeping violent crackdown targeting Christians and Dervishes, including imposing lengthy prison terms on the members of the religious minority groups, according to August 2018 reports.

“… a large number of those who have converted to Christianity were arrested in Fars, Isfahan and Azerbaijan provinces. On August 1, 2013, in an assault on a home-church in Isfahan, a number of the participants were apprehended,” according to a 2013 report posted by the Iranian opposition coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

In March 2017, a report shed light on even small cases gaining the attention of Iran’s ruthless Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). “The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps late last month arrested two Iranian Catholics in northwestern Iran and seized their Bibles and prayer books,” according to a Wall Street Journal report.

In 2014, three Christian pastors were charged with “acting against state security and organizing the overthrow of the regime.” They were accused of “acting against the state security and organizing the overthrow of the regime’ which if proved is punishable by death.”

Way back in 1994, Reverend Dibaj, Bishop Haik Hovsepian Mehr and Bishop Tateos Michaelian were brutally murdered by the regime’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security agents. This dreadful act came after the murder of Bishop Tateos Michaelian, whose body was found two days prior to that.

These news reports began opening the eyes of all observers across the globe to the viciousness of the mullahs’ regime in regard to members of religious minority communities inside Iran.

During this holiday season, our prayers should also include those who are detained and under torture in Iran for their religious beliefs, from Christians to Baha’is, Sufis (Gonabadi Dervishes) and Sunnis, and Shia Muslims, as the mullahs’ regime in Iran cannot tolerate anyone who is not aligned with them.

All the while, the November uprising in Iran provide assurance that the Iranian people are determined to rid this wonderful country of the evil mullahs’ rule.

How Iran signals future waves of crackdown, terror attacks

The recent car bombing incident in Chabahar, southeast Iran, sounds alarm bells for those familiar with the history of the Iranian regime. What is being described as a suicide car bombing outside a city police station, considering the conglomerate of Iran’s security entities, is quite suspicious to say the least.

With a long history of crackdown and execution campaigns following such attacks with questionable nature, there is concern of the clerical regime preparing yet another onslaught targeting a particular sector of Iran’s society. The Chabahar incident bears signs of regime hallmarks paving the path for yet another wave of atrocities.

Iranian Arabs

Back in September, a military parade in the southwestern city of Ahvaz became the target of gunmen going on a rampage, opening fire and killing 25 people in the process, with half of those killed being members of the regime’s notorious Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

Targeting a military parade and the IRGC allows the regime to play the innocent game. The entire incident looked very misleading and convenient:

– IRGC members in very clean clothes rescuing small children before cameras,
– the attackers reaching the stage where many high ranking officials were watching the parade but only targeting low-ranking IRGC members,
– the ambush taking place just days before US President Donald Trump chairing a United Nations Security Council session focusing on Iran,
– and the attack leading to a major crackdown against the Iranian Arab community in Ahvaz and Khuzestan Province.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif posted this tweet using terms “respond swiftly and decisively,” signaling a heavy clampdown to come.

It’s also interesting how Zarif quickly reached a conclusion of terrorists being “recruited, trained, armed & paid by a foreign regime” just hours after the attack, suggesting the text was prepared and merely needed a few carefully prepared photos.

Up to 600 activists were arrested, according to Amnesty International, in very overt public raids, clearly indicating the authorities’ intention to install a climate of fear among restive locals and across the country.

Following the crackdown, disturbing reports from locals and human rights organizations indicated around 22 men were executed “in secret” within days in November. As always, Iranian regime officials have and continue to dismiss those reports.

“The timing suggests that the Iranian authorities are using the attack in Ahwaz as an excuse to lash out against members of the Ahwazi Arab ethnic minority, including civil society and political activists, in order to crush dissent in Khuzestan province,” according to Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

 

Iranian Kurds

In June of last year, another suspicious attack targeted Iran’s parliament and the mausoleum of regime founder Ruhollah Khomeini.

Six assailants armed with AK-47 rifles and explosive vests aimed their assault at two heavily secured sites in the Iranian capital. The twin attack left 17 killed and dozens more wounded, raising numerous questions about how the attackers were able to penetrate two symbolic and fortified sites.

People cannot bring even a pen into the parliament without passing through security, one wounded individual said to the media at the time. There were also comments among social media users inside Iran raising questions over if ISIS was actually behind the attack; and how the entire scenario provided pretext for the regime to launch a new oppressive wave.

The Iranian regime’s security forces responded to this attack by first launching a wave of arrests against Iran’s Kurdish communities, especially in Kermanshah Province bordering Iraq. Dozens of Kurdish citizens were apprehended on vague charges of cooperating with “extremist religious groups” in various Iranian cities. Eight of the detainees were sentenced to death in May.

Furthermore, Iran launched a series of ballistic missiles into the Syria-Iraq border area, claiming to target ISIS positions. All in all, the entire dossier was used by the Iranian regime to justify a massive crackdown against the Kurdish community, respond to accusations of why Iran has never been targeted by ISIS, and launch a highly publicized missile attack to boost the lowering morale of its depleting social base back home.

Looking abroad

Using such so-called threats at home, Iran’s regime justifies its targeting of dissidents exiled abroad, with a specific surge witnessed this year in Europe.

Danish authorities are accusing the Iranian regime of seeking to assassinate an Arab separatist leader living in Denmark. Tehran claims the figure is linked to the group that carried out the Ahwaz attack back in September.

Other plots of the Iranian regime have also been foiled in Albania back in March and in France in late June, both targeting large rallies of the principle Iranian opposition entity, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). Paris is refusing to dispatch a new ambassador to Tehran and is not accepting Iran’s envoy in Paris until the regime provides a clear explanation over the Paris bomb plot targeting a massive rally.

The convention was attended by tens of thousands of Iranian exiles and senior international figures including Rudy Giuliani, lawyer of US President Donald Trump, and former US House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Final thoughts

Considering the nature and history of the Iranian regime, and recent developments following the Chabahar bombing, there is legitimate concern of Iranian authorities carrying out a new wave of crackdown and executions possibly targeting the minority Baluchi community in the southeast.

There are already reports of arrests in this area with authorities claiming they are in connection to the recent attack. Interesting are remarks and threats heard from Iran’s “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani at a Tehran conference on Saturday.

“With Iran being weakened through sanctions, many will be in danger… You won’t survive the rubble of drugs, refugees, bombs & assassinations…”

Iran’s ‘Moderate’ President Appoints Justice Minister Linked With Torture, Mass Executions

The Federalist

Who is Iran’s Alireza Avayi? Now Iran’s justice minister, he is also among those involved in imprisoning, torturing, and executing Iranians in the past 39 years.

It appears the “moderate reformist” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani appointed Avayi to replace the defamed Mostafa Pourmohammadi and continue his crackdown policy in the face of an uprising nation.

Avayi’s recent speech at the United Nations Human Rights Council disgraced this world body and resulted in numerous protests. His appointment calls for a deep look into this individual’s past.

Prior to the clerical regime’s rule, a UNESCO institution was established in the city of Dezful to fight illiteracy and support children. It was later renamed the “Teachers’ Club.” Following the 1979 revolution, like many other centers the UNESCO building was used as a prison where young dissidents were held, tortured, and killed. In the early 1980s, the “UNESCO prison” had four rooms filled with 350 inmates.

As the regime escalated its crackdown, this facility saw the construction of six quarantine rooms, along with 40 other wards and cells. More cells were made available in newly constructed basement to prevent inmates from hearing the screams of those under torture.During the 1988 massacre of more than 30,000 political prisoners, in which most of the victims were members and supporters of the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), Avayi was promoted to the Death Commission in Dezful. Shocking stories of Dezful’s “UNESCO Prison” remained hidden for years until Mohammad Reza Ashough, a former inmate able to escape this jail, shed light on its atrocities.

Based on Ashoogh’s reports, the Death Commission in charge of the UNESCO prison consisted of Mohammad Hossein Ahmadi, a cleric; Shamsedin Kazemi, an interrogator; Alireza Avayi, a public prosecutor; and an Intelligence Ministry representative, along with Hardavane, the prison warden, and a number of guards.

From 1981 to 1983, nearly all executions were carried out in the prison courtyard, where prisoners were tied to trees and executed by firing squads. Ashough’s reports indicate teenagers such as Abdulreza Zanguyee, 15, Hamid Asekh, 15, and Gholamreza Golalzadeh, 16, were among those executed.

The mass grave of political prisoners executed in Ahvaz, found in a barren land located three kilometres from this city’s Behesht Abad cemetery, is yet another crime on Avayi’s report card. A dirt road from this cemetery was used by the families of the executed political prisoners to visit this site.

The land used to be full of date trees. Those executed in the years of 1982 and 1983 are said to be buried in this area, and this trend continued until the 1988 massacre when all victims in Ahvaz were mass buried at this site. At the time, Ahvaz judiciary officials immediately made arrangements for the mass graves to be covered by cement, aiming to prevent any possible discovery of the victims’ bodies.

As the Tehran Province judiciary chief in 2009, Avayi played an important role in launching kangaroo courts seeking death sentences and long prison terms for those arrested during the nationwide uprising.

On 9 July 2009, the police arrested a large number of protesters outside Tehran University. Under orders of Saeed Mortazavi, Tehran’s public prosecutor, and his deputies Hassan Zare Dehnavi and Ali Akbar Heidari-Far, they were transferred to the Kahrizak detention center. Three of these individuals, Mohsen Rouholamini, Amir Javadifar, and Mohammad Kamrani were murdered under torture.

Exactly a year later, in an interview with Keyhan daily, known as the mouthpiece of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Avayi emphasized the method used in Kahrizak dossier was “correct.”

From 10 October 2011 to this day, the European Union has blacklisted Avayi for his effective role in the crackdown imposed on the Iranian people. The EU statement describes Avayi as responsible for arbitrary arrests, violating detainees’ rights, increasing the number of executions, and other human rights violations.

Despite all this, the “moderate reformist” Rouhani appointed Avayi as chairman of the President’s Special Inspector’s Office in 2016 and Minister of Justice in 2017. Instead of an invitation to speak at the UNHRC in Geneva, Avayi must face justice for his role in the Iranian regime’s ongoing crimes.

According to Agence France Press, “As Avaie arrived in Switzerland Monday, a Swiss lawyer filed a complaint on behalf of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, asking the Swiss attorney general to prosecute the Iranian minister for crimes against humanity.”

This is a litmus test for the European Union to live up to its initial blacklisting and take on meaningful measures for Tehran to pay for its human rights violations. Only then can the EU claim to be standing alongside the Iranian people’s will for a better future.

Iran’s Challenges in Rouhani’s Second Term

The second term of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has officially begun. His first four years were experienced by the people of Iran, the region and the international community. It is necessary to discuss the challenges his second term will pose. The most important matter in Iranian politics is the issue of hegemony, authority and power. As long as the regime is formed around the supreme leader, known as the velayet-e faqih, the presidency and his executive branch will literally be functioning to his service and demands. In such a structure, the president in the Iranian regime, now Rouhani, literally enjoys no authority. Former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami once described his role as a mere “procurer.”

Considering the fact that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has blessed the nucleardeal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Rouhani’s role is to provide for the establishment’s best interests while dodging and sidestepping international demands.

Khamenei understands very well there is no better option for his regime’s future. Yet he also needs to maintain a straight face before a social base that may even accuse him of giving in to the enemy, being the United States, the “Great Arrogance.”

Following the JCPOA signing Khamenei has to this day ordered the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) to launch 15 ballistic missile tests, all in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 and all supervised by Rouhani as chair of the Supreme National Security Council.

Twelve such tests were carried out during Obama’s tenure, without any punishments imposed. The next three tests, however, saw the new Trump administration taking action each time by slapping new sanctions.

Iran’s measures have not been limited to ballistic missile launches.They include collaborating with North Korea on nuclear weapons and ballistic missile tests, instigating US Navy warships in the Persian Gulf, continuing involvement in Syria and supporting Bashar Assad’s killings of innocent civilians, providing the Lebanese Hezbollah underground missile factories, and arming, equipping and financing the Houthis in Yemen

The message received by the outside world is the JCPOA has emboldened Tehran, its destabilizing measures must be contained and sanctions increased.

The end of the Obama years and Donald Trump taking the helm at the White House, while believing the JCPOA is the worst deal in US history, has made circumstances even more difficult for Tehran. As defined above, obvious is the fact that Iran began violating the JCPOA spirit from the very beginning.

Considering that Tehran has failed to change any approaches in different fields, it is Rouhani’s mission, as the facilitator of Khamenei’s policies, is to portray Iran in compliance with the JCPOA.

Iran’s global correspondents have major demands and expectations from Iran. The Riyadh Summit in May, which the US and 55 other countries attended, ended with a statement placing certain conditions before Rouhani and the regime in its entirety:

  • Stop supporting terrorism in Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, and rein in all terror cells;
  • End ongoing provocations in Gulf waters;
  • Order back all IRGC members, Shiite militias and proxy forces from the four Arab capitals of Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus and Sanaa;
  • Refrain from attacking embassies and diplomatic missions in Iran;
  • End plots to assassinate ambassadors in various cities;
  • Halt all ballistic missile test launches;

While these are all under the authority of Khamenei and IRGC, Rouhani has a record of supporting and facilitating such actions.

Therefore, there is no actual expectation that Rouhani will bring any change in his second term as this regime’s president. This was quite obvious from his humiliating inauguration ceremony. Which senior Western or Arab state official from a leading country took part in this event? None.

The most important official to take part was EU foreign policy chief Frederica Mogherini, who merely attended as head of the JCPOA committee. Her entire visit became a complete embarrassment, being seen with a mandatory scarf and taking selfies with members of the parliament of a regime with a terrible human rights record.

European media and officials went as far as using the terms “shameful” and “disgraceful” for Mogherini supporting the president of a regime who has explicitly described this regime’s 38-year rule as riddled with executions and prisons.

During Rouhani’s first tenure the world witnessed this regime send more than 3,000 individuals to the gallows. Amnesty International has issued a comprehensive reportexpressing grave concerns over human rights violations in Iran.

And speaking of prisons, political prisoners across the country are enduring extremely harsh conditions. Dozens have been on hunger strike since July 30th after being transferred to a hall and placed under extreme surveillance. They are also deprived of minimal hygiene products, adequate clothing and even family visits.

The heavy shadow of increasing sanctions pose a very difficult economic hurdle for Rouhani and the clerical regime. The current circumstances have left Iran’s market, domestic and foreign investors in limbo, and literally locked the country’s economy.

Add to this situation Iran’s systematic economic corruption, smuggling and credit institutions associated to the IRGC, the regime’s security organs and Khamenei himself.

Further add the IRGC economic empire, and a conglomerate of foundations and organs supervised by Khamenei. This leaves no breathing room or hope for the average Iranian.

There is literally no solution for Rouhani as the regime’s president. He is running a politically, economically and socially-failed administration. And this failure is of fundamental importance.

Considering the absence of former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, one can reach an absolute conclusion that Iran’s so-called “moderate” and/or “reformist” current has come to a complete end.

This branch of the Iranian regime, which played a very important role in maintaining the entire clerical establishment in power, will no longer be able to function to its intended role.

The JCPOA has failed politically. This pact was hoped to open new relations between the West and Iran, and especially lead to significant and meaningful economic relations. Again, another failure.

The JCPOA only enjoyed any chance of success under the former Obama administration. This window of opportunity for Tehran has obviously been closed.

The fate of presidents in the clerical regime are quite obvious, and concerning for Rouhani. A look back provides a preview of a grim future awaiting Rouhani:

  1. Abolhassan Bani Sadr (1980) – sacked and removed from power
  2. Mohammad-Ali Rajai (1981) – killed
  3. Ali Khamenei (1981-89) – transitioned to the role of Supreme Leader
  4. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989-97) – died a very suspicious death and diminished proile
  5. Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005) – dubbed a “seditionist” and dismissed
  6. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-13) – described as “deviant” and sidelined
  7. Hassan Rouhani (2013-…) – To be determined

Despite all the efforts made by the Iranian regime and its lobbies with millions of dollars, there are very few figures left who truly have any hopes of change from within this regime, let alone by Rouhani.

The most important and gravest challenge before him, being part and parcel of the clerical establishment, is the threat of Iran’s powder keg society rendering nationwide protests and uprisings.

The average Iranian is completely opposed to the ruling regime, and those sitting on the throne in Tehran are no longer able to bandage the bleeding wounds of this corrupt system.

Iran is heading for regime change and such a platform is gaining international recognition as we speak.

How Iran views the new US sanctions

The recent Iran sanctions ratified by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump specifically target the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and have caused very interesting reactions from Tehran.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has remained silent, signaling his state of shock. His regime’s president, Hassan Rouhani, also indicated the toll of these new measures.

“…first, the Majlis (parliament) will take steps in this regard. If they have the Congress, we have the Majlis,” he said in a weak reaction. This is a president whose executive branch is in charge of the Iran nuclear deal, passing on the official response to the legislative branch.

Aside from legal and technical aspects of these sanctions, Tehran is currently facing regime change policy and support for the Iranian opposition, represented in the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

Ahmad Khatami, a member of Iran’s Assembly of Experts, said Iran’s enemies are seeking to topple the establishment. This has left the entire Iranian regime deeply concerned, rendering it unable to establish a strong position in the face of the status quo.

Prior to this Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi also expressed weak remarks in response to the new U.S. sanctions.

Members of Khamenei’s camp have used their platform in Friday prayers to call on Rouhani’s cabinet to take a strong stance. There are voices also saying that Iran’s Central Bank and the entire government will eventually be sanctioned.

Iran’s reactions are of political importance as they indicate how this crisis is resulting in major internal tension.

“This is the mother of all sanctions,” said Foad Izadi, a Tehran University assistant professor, in a recent interview with state TV. “Based on the text, for example, the IRGC will be linked to the government as the government approves the defense budget. Thus, as this military entity is considered a terrorist organization, the government will suffer the same consequences.”

Elements of Khamenei’s camp, known as the conservatives/hardliners/principalists, are demanding Iran exit the nuclear deal altogether, while Rouhani’s camp is arguing the IRGC was under such sanctions in the past.

The entire regime in Iran, however, is forced to follow in line with the nuclear deal and lacks the will to do otherwise. There are concerns inside Iran that the nuclear deal will lead to similar pacts demanded by the international community, such as Tehran’s ballistic missile drive, meddling in other countries, and support for terrorism abroad, and most importantly, the mullahs’ grave human rights violations dossier.

Khamenei, who has the last word in all national security and foreign affairs, had launched the nuclear negotiations even prior to Rouhani’s first term.

Iran’s regime is currently facing two paths of death or suicide. Khamenei himself has been heard saying any change in behavior will result in regime change. Therefore, his entire apparatus lacks any capacity for meaningful change.

To this end, it appears Iran is seeking to maintain the nuclear deal intact with support from the Europeans. However, even such a policy has its own problems for a ruling system of this nature. Khamenei knows the Europeans will also demand changes, especially in Iran’s human rights dossier. This means another dead end for the mullahs.

Even those who naively dubbed Rouhani a “reformist” have questions to answer after he recently met with several senior IRGC commanders. This is yet another sign that Rouhani is calibrating his ties with the belligerent IRGC. Under Rouhani’s watch the defense budget has risen and the IRGC’s ballistic missile production has advanced dramatically.

All the while, Tehran is facing even larger challenges of regime change. Iran’s powder-keg society continues to gain momentum with daily protests and the organized NCRI opposition is enjoying increasing support.

For over 35 years this organization has emphasized the fact that Iran only understands strong language and must be sanctioned meaningfully. The world is only now beginning to comprehend.

Even during the Bush administration, NCRI President Maryam Rajavi reiterated the fact that while her coalition had blown the whistle on Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program, the main threat emanating from Tehran was its meddling in Iraq and export of terrorism and fundamentalism. This phenomenon is far more dangerous than Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, Rajavi emphasized.

The recent sanctions imposed on Iran by the U.S. Congress is in line with this argument. They first target the Iranian regime and seek to tackle the mullahs’ destructive policies that have plunged the Middle East into flames and threaten the entire globe.

The world is beginning to understand how peace and stability in the Middle East hinges on reining in Iran’s utterly dangerous bellicosity.

As the Trump administration continues to weigh its Iran policy with a possibility of regime change on the table, there are voices heard arguing such a move, citing the failures witnessed in the past two decades.

The very reason regime change campaigns in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria have failed is the lack of an organized opposition movement ready to provide the alternative afterwards.

Iran enjoys such an alternative, symbolized in the NCRI, its President Maryam Rajavi and her ten-point-plan delivering a free and democratic Iran.

Read more: http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2017/08/how_iran_views_the_new_us_sanctions.html#ixzz4pKoiIjC7
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Is Iran expanding its spying and lobbying efforts?

The Iranian intelligence minister’s recent remarks, pertaining to Tehran overseeing a spy/lobby network in important capitals across the world, is cause for concern. Mahmoud Alavi, Iran’s spy chief, bragged about the regime’s capability to run a lobby group in Washington with the aim of promoting Tehran’s hardline agenda.

According to Alavi, Iranian dual citizens in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom have maintained their loyalty to the “Islamic revolution,” the mullahs’ hallmark motto ever since 1979, through which they have wreaked havoc across the region and beyond.

A “lobby group for the Islamic Republic of Iran” is actively bolstering Tehran’s status in the international stage and helping to sell and legitimize its nuclear ambitions as just causes to the globe, Alavi claimed

The head of Iran’s intelligence apparatus did not bother to name the specific lobby entity. One certain group, however, the National Iranian American Council, has been the target of major criticism in the past several months, with accusations of the group lobbying on Tehran’s behalf. Various dissident organizations are demanding the Trump administration to launch an official probe digging into NIAC’s history and nature of its current events.

Congress has also been petitioned to investigate ties between Iran and the NIAC, and the latter’s active drive to promote a pro-Tehran agenda in Washington. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., who chair the foreign affairs committees in each chamber of Congress, have received specific letters signaling the importance of urgent action in this regard.

NIAC was once again under the spotlight this January for its actions of presenting a positive image of the Iran nuclear deal and advocating a pro-diplomatic approach with Tehran. The media reported extensively on how two senior Iranian regime supporters, former Iranian nuclear diplomat Hossein Mousavian and NIAC founder and president Trita Parsi, enjoyed access to the Obama White House on more than 30 occasions, conducting meetings with senior administration officials.

Such meetings took place at critical points of the Obama administration’s decision-making process and engagement with Iran in their effort to push forward the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Alavi’s recent remarks are source for serious concern as entities advocating Iran’s agenda in the American capital are obliged by the Foreign Agents Registration Act to disclose the nature of their work. This even includes conditions where the relationship does not involve money exchanges, at least not through legal and opaque channels.

A legitimate question now hovers over the possibility of any ties between the groups referred to by Iran’s intelligence minister and the Islamic Republic’s positions on foreign policy.

Another just query circles around the many visits Parsi has made to the White House and the State Department during former President Obama‘s tenure, and can they be attributed to what the Iranian intelligence minister describes as lobbying for Tehran.

Any group seen to be advocating the promotion of Iran’s ballistic missile program, and caring less about the Iranian people’s human rights and the regime’s crackdown, should be subject of suspicion.

For years Iran has been known to forward an official plot of boosting relations with groups promoting anti-war and pro-regime policies in the West. Improving contacts with Iranian dual nationals living in the West has been high on Tehran’s agenda on this matter.

One major task of this network has been discrediting those opposing the regime in Tehran and taking measures against any efforts voicing support for Iran regime change. The main Iranian opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, and its most important member, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), have been the constant target of smear campaigns launched and orchestrated by the Iranian regime and NIAC.

Their nightmare involves Washington discussing possibilities with Iranian opposition groups, and upscaling the effort into direct cooperation aimed at further sanctions and ultimately regime change.

Originally published in Washington Examiner

Amir Basiri (@amir_bas) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner and an Iranian human rights activist.

The Story Of Rahele Zakaie: Another Woman Perished In Iran

Following International Women’s Day on March 8, the plight of Iranian women to finally obtain the freedom and rights they deserve continues. This struggle is resembled in the case of each and every Iranian women.

News of Rahele Zakaie’s death means nothing to many people. Another human being amongst the 7.5 billion now roaming the earth. She died of cancer.

However, her loss brought much sorrow to those women who in recent years were and have been detained in the political prisoners’ ward of Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, those who shared moments of joy and tears with Rahele.

She had a strange story, with many years behind bars. Thirteen years of her short life she spent in prison for theft and drug-related crimes. She was a drug addict who got clean several times, and despite spending many years behind bars, others’ fondness of her never waned.

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Iranian women inmates sit at their cell in Evin jail, north of Tehran, June 2006. (ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

Rahele, a girl from Mashhad in northwest Iran, was acquainted with crime at an early age due to poverty and her family’s background in such a lifestyle. When she was only 11 years old, her uncles used her as cover for an armed robbery. At 13 she was sent off to live with a man who was killed some time later during an armed robbery, leaving behind a 1-year-old boy. At 16, Rahele was put behind bars for theft and drug-related charges.

This was the beginning of her painful in-and-out experience from this to that prison, from interrogation to solitary confinement. She once even claimed responsibility for the narcotics found in the belongings of her friend to save her from being executed. Iran is known to execute several hundred people each year for drug-related charges, a practice condemned by Amnesty International. What Rahele considered the “price of friendship” cost her 10 ruthless years behind bars.

She always dreamed of protecting her son and worried of the fate of her sister’s five-year-old daughter, wanting a better life for her. The little girl’s father had been executed and her mother committed suicide. Rahele wanted to take care of these kids and also support her younger twin brother and sister. She was deprived of any visits and worked long hours in Sari Prison’s doll shop to pay for her son’s mobile phone charges.

However, like many others, the events of 2009 changed Rahele’s life. When prisons were filled with female political prisoners with no means to phone their families, Rahele would make these calls for them. The authorities had accused her of having contact with prisoners related to the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

During this period she yearned to learn and craved to become a human rights advocate. She quit drugs once again and devoted her time to reading books.

She longed to write her life story and especially the tales of women in various prisons across the country. She once wrote a two-part report about Gharchak Prison, located southeast of Tehran, published in the Focus on Iranian Women website.

She continued her writing about the prisons she had experienced, in Mashhd, Sabzevar, Ghezel Hesar and Evin, describing the horrible spread of skin diseases and inmates using contaminated needles for drug injections. Reading Rahele’s writing demands strong tolerance, like when she talks about the “Mothers’ Ward” in Mashhad’s Vakil Abad Prison, where in each room you see a grieving mother with two little children…

Yet as Rahele explains, no prison was as atrocious as Qarchak. She always wanted to write a book about the place, where each corner contained another nightmare.

Diarrhea and blood vomiting is common. I used to cry all night until morning because of the cold. The cold would literally kill you.”

Prison authorities would kick me hard in the chest during the period that I was breastfeeding my child. I was beaten many times. In the first six months I wasn’t allowed to shower. During these six months I had six periods. When you are repeatedly beaten and tortured, the bleeding is unstoppable. All of my clothes were filled with sh*t and dried blood. After six months I literally cried and begged for a 15-minute shower. I was so happy that I was even smelling that water.”

She also endured much torture.

I was blindfolded and chained to a chair. They beat me so long that I could barely walk. Mr. Monfared grabbed my chest so hard that I fainted of pain. One cannot imagine the horror until they actually experienced it.”

A journalist who spent some time behind bars with Rahele wrote about her:

Despite all the pain she had experienced in her childhood and being behind bars, she was always full of life and loved to learn. She wanted to go to school, learn English and computers. The joy of life was the first thing you saw in Rahele’s eyes. During the little time she had, she would go to the library and had read nearly all the books. This was what made Rahele different for me. Nine years have passed, but she is still in my heart.”

They say Rahele started using drugs time and again to relieve her of the pains, and time and again she quit to start life all over again.

During the short periods of furlough, she would try to contact me to provide news about events inside the prison. She would go to see the families of political prisoners and reassure them that their loved ones were okay. She had come to learn about human rights activities and sought to follow up on these matters. In prison she attempted to gather signatures for a million-signature petition. Rahele didn’t just think about herself. She liked to change the world around her.”

Was Rahele diagnosed with cancer early on?

No. There is no decent medical care or diagnosis in prison. Her cancer was most probably diagnosed at a very late stage, as she passed away soon afterwards. I know she also suffered from dialysis in her last days.”

Rahele is described as different from those in the prison ward.

All the inmates in that ward had common background. They were either human rights advocates or journalists. However, Rahele was from another world. She was a different person from a different atmosphere, with a different language. Maybe that’s why she has remained in the memory of so many.”

Rahele had spent 13 years behind bars and was released on bail in the summer of 2014. She was ordered to live under internal exile for two years in the city of Isfahan, in south-central Iran.

“I will become a new person,” she would say.

She always yearned for freedom. Many nights when she fell asleep dreaming about freedom. However, the cancer had spread and stole her last breath on February 17.

Unfortunately, Iran under the mullahs’ regime is riddled with such painful stories of women across this ancient land. Of those unjustly jailed, tortured and executed, those suffering with faces and bodies scarred with lifelong wounds of acid attacks, and the millions enduring enormous hardships through the course of 38 years of the mullahs’ atrocious and misogynist rule.

Humanity must pledge to bring an end to all the wrongs being imposed against women, especially in countries such as Iran. The 21st century is no place for such continuing atrocities.

Originally published in Forbes

Iran honestly abiding by nuclear deal or terrified of changing times?

Yukiya Amano, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, recently issued his latest report to the agency’s Board of Governors. At a first glance the text leaves you thinking Iran is honoring the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA.

However, considering the rapid pace of international developments, and US President Donald Trump’s harsh remarks against the nuclear deal, we are seeing Iran going the limits to maintain the JCPOA intact. This is a staunchly different approach from the Obama era.

The latest IAEA report contains very important technical aspects, showing how weak Iran has become. Despite all the threats of abandoning the JCPOA ship altogether, Iran’s recent measures proves it needs the JCPOA more than any other party.

By the statistics

On November 8th, 2016 the IAEA verified Iran’s heavy water reserves reached 130.1 metric tons. Iran also informed the IAEA about sending 11 metric tons of heavy water outside of its borders on November 6th and 19th, also verified by the IAEA.

After this transfer Iran has not dared to exceed the 130 metric ton limit, and on February 14th the IAEA verified Iran’s reserves have decreased to 124.2 metric tons, meaning even 6 metric tons less than the JCPOA specified amount.

During the Obama administration Iran had twice exceeded the 130 metric ton limit, and yet rushed to send the excess amount to Oman prior to Donald Trump taking the helm at the White House.

Natanz

Under the JCPOA Iran is permitted to maintain more than 5,060 IR-1 centrifuges in 30 cascades in the Natanz enrichment site. Again, terrified of the incoming Trump administration, reports indicate Iran has significantly lowered the number of such centrifuges.

Iran is continuing to enrich UF6 uranium at Natanz, yet not daring to enrich any uranium above the 3.67 percent standard set for nuclear fuel production. Iran has also not exceeded the 300-kilogram amount of 3.67 percent uranium 235, equal to 202.8 kilograms of uranium.

By February 18th Iran had stored 101.7 kilograms of 3.67 percent uranium, showing the regime has not only abided, but even halved their stocks. This is another sign of Iran’s concerns of the change in guards in Washington.

Ferdow

The controversial Ferdow uranium enrichment, with a capacity of 3,000 centrifuges, currently has 1,044 IR-1 centrifuges, where 1,042 are placed in six cascades, and two such centrifuges are set aside for research purposes.

During the past three months (especially following the November 8th US elections) Iran has suspended all of Ferdow’s uranium enrichment and R & D activities.

Surveillance

All stocked centrifuges, along with their components, are under constant IAEA surveillance. The IAEA enjoys orderly access to related facilities in Natanz, including daily inspections based on IAEA inspectors’ requests.

Iran continues to allow the IAEA use electronic surveillance devices and online seals on its uranium enrichment facilities to provide continuous monitoring. Iran has also agreed to provide for the presence of a larger number IAEA monitors.

Iran has agreed to abide by the Additional Protocol, once considered a red line for the regime, allowing the IAEA monitor a large number of sites and other facilities affiliated to Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran’s enriched uranium in Oman

Another sign of Iran giving in to major setbacks is the regime’s agreement to stock their enriched uranium in Oman, and seek its sale to foreign buyers from there. This also includes stocks of excessive heavy water. And yet, Iran is also concerned about the fate of its money in Oman banks, as expressed by a number of parliament members.

The irony

In the meantime, one cannot say for certain that the mullahs have actually relented their nuclear weapons drive. It is in the mullahs’ nature to continue their pursuit for terrorism, nuclear weapons and domestic crackdown. These are the Iranian regime’s three main pillars.

It is common knowledge that the mullahs enjoy no social base, and this is seen in remarks made by Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency chief saying in most of his interviews how Tehran intends to relaunch the nuclear program once the JCPOA time limit ends.

Despite all this, the mullahs very well understand the language of force. Iran only succumbed to the nuclear talks once international sanctions began crippling their economy.

During the Obama years Iran understood very well his administration would take no serious actions against their aggressive nature, as seen in the West’s relative silence in the face of more than a dozen missile test launches.

To this end, Iran’s recent compliance by JCPOA articles should only be perceived as a result of its deep fear in the new US administration’s possible policies.

Investments

After Obama left office foreign investment in Iran has also witnessed a nosedive, adding to the mullahs’ growing concerns. Tehran curbed a portion of its nuclear program, yet receiving nothing in return and continuously being described as the main state supporter of terrorism, instability and insecurity.

Iran’s unfrozen money has been transferred to Oman, and yet the government says it cannot release the assets to Tehran. Iran has at least $18 billion blocked in China, with no means to gain access to.

British Petroleum also had double thoughts following Trump’s entrance into the White House. This major international oil company has currently taken a major step back from participating in Iran’s oil projects.

Total in France, seeking to develop the major gas fields south of Iran, has also taken similar measures, suspending its activities until the summer of this year to allow Trump to clarify his JCPOA policy.

Foreign banks and companies

Why are French companies unable to invest in Iran? This country’s largest banks are holding back on any cooperation with Tehran, blocking any major investment by large French companies in this country. In addition to Total, Renault, AirBus and others are unable to invest in Iran without the support of major French banks such as Societe Generale.

These banks, however, are very concerned of unilateral punishing measures by the US against foreign entities investing in Iran. For example, the BNP Paribas was slapped with an $8.9 billion fine by Washington for bypassing US sanctions against Iran.

Airline restrictions

Japan’s Mitsubishi ended its negotiations to sell planes to Iran, citing concerns of the new US administration’s possible future sanctions and policies.

Despite Tehran seeking to expand its airlines and reach abroad following the nuclear deal, New Delhi delivered yet another blow by suspending its flights to Iran.

“Air India Express, the low-cost unit of the South Asian nation’s flag carrier, has put on hold a plan to fly to Tehran amid renewed tensions between the US and Iran after President Donald Trump imposed fresh sanctions on the Persian Gulf country,” according to a Bloomberg report.

Money laundry warnings

The Financial Action Task Force, the international body assigned to fight back against money laundering, issued a stark warning to Tehran to live up to its obligations or else face serious actions.

The FATF recently issued a strong reminder saying “in June 2016, the FATF suspended counter-measures for twelve months in order to monitor Iran’s progress in implementing the Action Plan. If the FATF determines that Iran has not demonstrated sufficient progress in implementing the Action Plan at the end of that period, FATF’s call for counter-measures will be re-imposed.”

Conclusion

More than a year after the JCPOA implementation, and with Washington adopting a completely new mentality and overhauling any pro-appeasement policies vis-à-vis Iran, the mullahs in Tehran have realized the global balance of power has shifted completely against their interests.

To this end, their recent measures to curtail their nuclear stocks should not be considered a coming to mind by Tehran. Not at all. The mullahs understand the language of force, just as President Ronald Reagan came to office in 1981 the fledgling mullahs’ regime rushed to release all American hostages after a 444 ordeal.

Now, Tehran is once again comprehending a significant shift in international politics, and it is taking measures accordingly to limit all possible damages. And rest assured they will jump to the occasion if they sense any weakness or hesitation.

As a result, Iran must be held at the ropes and the next necessary step in this regard is the long overdue designation of its Revolutionary Guards as a foreign terrorist organization. This will begin to limit its ability to wreak havoc across the Middle East and limit its human rights atrocities.

This is in the interest of all nations.

Originally posted in Al Arabiya English

Flogging and Eye-Gouging Are Among Iran’s Medieval Punishments for ‘Morality’ Violations

Despite the many flaws in the nuclear deal with Iran, Tehran’s nuclear program has been curbed. Yet at what cost? As the new Trump administration realizes, the Islamic Republic is still a major violator of the human rights of its people.

The regime’s continued practice of “cruel and inhuman punishments, including floggings, amputations and forced blinding over the past year, exposes the authorities’ utterly brutal sense of justice,” Amnesty International reported, continuing to express concern over executions in Iran, all of which highlight how Iran’s so-called justice system, by legalizing such brutality, has no sense of humanity.

Well into the 21st century, such an aggressive approach vis-à-vis human dignity is quite appalling, to say the least, and deserves serious attention, as Iran continues to neglect, and violate, international prohibitions issued against torture and other abuse.

The fierce battles that continue to rage against US President Donald Trump and the new administration in Washington, DC that…

The regime’s so-called “laws” provide for flogging as punishment for 100 different “offences.” Many flogging victims are protesters under the age of 35, arrested for activities considered protected under internationally recognized rights for freedom of association, belief, expression and religion. Yet Iran is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), making it legally bound not to engage in “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Nevertheless, its obligations have been completely ignored by Tehran, with its penalties for crimes regularly including stoning to death — under the ridiculous claim of “protecting religious morals.” Such a horrific practice proves this regime knows nothing of Islam, or of any other religion, for that matter.

Journalists and bloggers in Iran are also subject to flogging for practicing their freedom of speech rights. One member of the press was sentenced to a ruthless 459 lashes for what the regime’s ruling described as “publishing lies” and “creating unease in the public mind” through his work.

Even women have received lashings for attending mixed-gender parties – considered banned under the mullahs’ sick interpretation of Islam – after being caught at such gatherings by Iran’s so-called “morality police.” Indeed, authorities are known to storm parties and beat attendees prior to their being brought to police stations, where they are insulted, interrogated and tortured. Such individuals usually receive 74 lashes and spend three nights behind bars.

While flogging remains a highly practiced method by the mullahs, Amnesty International also reported on a case in which a man’s eyes were forcibly gouged out — in a punishment known as an “eye for an eye” retribution — a horrible fate many imprisoned individuals face.

Other of Iran’s medieval practices include “cross amputations” for thieves, whose fingers and toes are cut off unevenly on either side of their bodies.

It is worth noting here that all of the above atrocities were recorded in 2016, well into the tenure of President Hassan Rouhani, ironically dubbed as a “moderate” and/or “reformist.” Rouhani, in fact, has presided over nearly 3,000 executions, surpassing any recent records set by his predecessors, including firebrand Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Ahmed Shaheed, former United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, voiced his concerns in a report revealing that Iranian authorities in 2015 alone sent to the gallows 966-1,054 people, four of whom were under the age of 18.

Just over a month into the new year, the trend is in full swing.

“The execution of at least 57 prisoners, mostly youths, has been registered in Iran since the beginning of 2017. Twenty of the victims were hanged on January 14,” according to a statement issued by Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an umbrella group of dissidents, including the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

NCRI President Maryam Rajavi has long called for a firm stance on  Iran’s long slate of human rights violations, most importantly referring Iran’s dossier to the U.N. Security Council.

“The Iranian Resistance declared years ago that it calls for abolition of the death penalty and an end to torture and all forms of rights abuses in Iran,” Rajavi says.

Originally published in Algemeiner

Iran: Women “Sold” Abroad

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By Heshmat Alavi

Reports of Iran’s executions across the country and involvement in horrific killings in Syria, parallel to billions in embezzlement and extortion, and senior officials stashing huge wealth, have every now and then covered the news headlines. However, an atrocious phenomenon has unfortunately gone neglected: The organized smuggling and sale of Iranian women and girls abroad!

Read a few lines from the Airal website under a report titled, “Iranian women and girls smuggled to neighboring countries.”

“… head of Iran’s Reprimand Organization spoke of Iranian women and girls smuggled to neighboring countries…

“… statistically, the number of Iranian women and girls’ smuggled can be compared to the crisis of smuggled goods.

“… no serious measure is taken to control this trade.

“… such conditions have without a doubt imposed all-out sexual slavery for Iranian women and girls.”

“These women and girls are presented in coffee shops and luxury hotel restaurants in the country’s capital, recreational islands such as Kish (southern Iran) and other vacation outposts in northern Iran.”

This report intended to portray the situation as completely normal by continuously using the term “natural” and referring to examples of corruption in other countries, aiming to eliminate any shame in such smuggling. The repot ends as:

“It is natural to witness the daily escalation of this smuggling and trade.”

However, the report cites the reason behind this atrocity as:

“Unemployment, low wages, increasing addiction across the country, and most importantly, the unfortunate number of divorces… are amongst the main reasons behind women and girls being smuggled to other countries.”

Truly, what factor other than the mullahs’ regime is to blame?

The rise in unemployment is due to nearly all factories closing across Iran, bringing the country’s production lines to a near standstill.

The escalating addiction epidemic in Iran is the direct result of enormous poverty across the country.

Increasing number of divorces is rooted in rising unemployment and poverty. Iran’s women are the first victim of the enormous poverty phenomenon, forcing many to commit suicide. Iran is the Middle East record holder in women committing suicide, as this trend is the second leading cause of death in Iran.

From March to December 2013 more than 11 people committed suicide each day in Iran, according to numbers provided by the Iran Forensics Organization.

Increasing poverty is forcing many Iranians to sell kidneys and other body parts. Even children being sold on the black market is becoming a common norm.

Unemployment, drug addiction and the daily increase in executions are turning Iranian women into single parents.

The truth is living conditions have become utterly harsh and unbearable for women in Iran.

According to the Khabareg website, “Nearly 2.5 million households are run by single mothers… who can barely find jobs, most are not insured and suffer from various physical and psychological illnesses… As explained by Iran Statistics Center chief Adel Azar, only 18% of single mothers are actually able to find jobs. This means women without jobs are not insured and rely on their family and friends to make ends meet.”

The truth is the regime ruling Iran is the root and main element behind all these atrocities. However, despite all the poverty and Iranians resorting to selling their own children and/or smuggling women and girls abroad for trade, how is this regime actually spending the country’s budget?

We are all now aware how Tehran is allocating billions to support its allies and Shiite militias in the killing sprees launched in Syria, Iraq and … We are all aware of how the ruling elite are plundering the Iranian people’s God-given wealth. We are all aware of the enormous salaries enjoyed by senior Iranian officials. All this proves this regime’s sole interest is to maintain its entire entity intact.

Just one example may shed some light: Tehran has allocated $6 billion for a shrine built in memory of its founder Ruhollah Khomeini. $6 billion! God knows how many single Iranian mothers could have been supported with such a budget…

At a time when the country is knee-deep in economic crises, why has this regime suggested $13 million in next year’s budget for an institute responsible for publishing Khomeini’s writings?

Above all this reveals an undeniable and fundamental fact. The root of all these dilemmas, from smuggling women and girls, drugs and an enormous amount of goods, is in the very regime ruling the country. This is exactly why “no serious measure is taken to control this trade…”

Despite the fact Iran’s women are the target of the regime’s utmost pressures and crackdown, the Iranian opposition is led by a woman named Maryam Rajavi, pioneering a serious struggle against extremism and seeking to establish gender equality in her country.

Rajavi is President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an umbrella group of leading Iranian opposition organizations, including the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), seeking peaceful regime change in Iran. Advocating the true message of Islam, this movement believes women are the vanguard in the effort against Islamic fundamentalism.