Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Readers of this blog are not strangers to the idea that the Iranian politico-religious machine has stifled freedom of expression (remember Neda) and gone out of its way to falsify charges to justify the means of its agenda, no matter how despicable and inhumane (think of Sakineh). Given the Iranian government's tactics against its citizens, it should be no surprise that persecution infiltrates other corners of the Iranian world, especially those occupied by minorities. Readers will, for instance, no doubt remember Kurdish dissident Zeynab Jalalian, sentenced to death for moharebeh, or "enmity against God". But even the religious minorities in Iran are targeted if they fail to follow the right religious faith.
The symbol above hardly looks like a ticket to being accused of apostasy or espionage. But the Bahá'í ringstone is, apparently, just that. Practitioners of the Bahá'í faith are illegally persecuted at present in Iran.
You may ask about what I mean about illegal persecution. Well, under Article 3 of the Iranian Constitution of 1979, the Iranian State follows the following goals: (please safeguard your computer's screen and keyboard before reading...)
Support good moral values based on faith
Fight all forms of vice and corruption
Raise public awareness through the proper use of the mass media and press
Free physical training
Strengthening advanced scientific research
The elimination of imperialism and foreign influence
The elimination of despotism, autocracy and monopoly
Ensure social and political freedoms within the law
The end to all forms of undesirable discrimination
These goals were designed to emphasize positive liberty.
Considering some of the stratagems that I'm aware of being required for some of my Iranian readers, I'm thinking that line item #3 was repealed or their definition of proper in Iran is very different from mine. Item #8 also appears to be under interesting interpretation by the current Iranian administration. But mostly, I'm thinking that the Bahá'i community in Iran would have a whole lot to say about Items 9 and 10.
Even the United Nations thinks things in Iran are questionable with respect to the regime's treatment of minorities. Yesterday, August 30, CERD, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination called on Iran to tackle its racism and discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities in Iran. The specific language of the report (see link within the Reuters article above) reads:
The Committee expresses concern at the low level of participation of persons from, Arab, Azeri, Balochi, Kurdish, Baha’i, and certain other communities in public life. This is reflected in, for example, the scant information provided about them in the national report, in the national census and in public policies. (Art. 5)
- UN CERD Report, unedited version August 27, titled Concluding observations
of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
in the Islamic Republic of Iran
I'm really hoping that the UN pays attention to the matter, though based on their interest in Congolese women, I'm not very hopeful.
I can tell you that after a couple of days of research and asking around among various friends, that being Bahá'i in Iran is a seriously risky business. How risky? Imagine an American journalist who mentioned being Bahá'i once in college publication being told it wasn't safe to go to Iran for an assignment. You'd be imagining the Iran faced by Maryam Ishani. Ishani's column at HuffPost is a potent reminder of the extent of Bahá'i repression in Iran today. She directs readers to June 28, 2010, for instance, when Iranian authorities were actively destroying 50 homes of Bahá'i citizens in one village alone, for no reason other than their apparent faith.
Losing your home because of your faith is terrible. But the grimmest circumstances are faced by brave leaders of Iranian minorities.
Roxana Saberi, journalist, author, and a former guest of the Iranian regime, had a column Sunday in the Washington Post in which she described meeting two brave and ill-fated souls in Evin Prison in Tehran. Two female Bahá'i leaders, Mahvash Sabet and Fariba Kamalabadi, who languished in Evin Prison for over a year before being convicted, and sentenced to 20 years at Rajai Shahr (Gohardasht) prison about 20 km outside Tehran. They are not alone, as five men who were also Bahá'i leaders were convicted.
What were they convicted of? Espionage for Israel, propaganda against the Iranian Republic and Islam, establishment of an illegal administrative body, insulting Islamic religious sanctity, among other things.
What is the Bahá'i faith you might ask? Is it a bellicose faith? Is it geared toward usurping authority? Does it claim the Shi'a practice of Islam is wrong or insult it? Is it aligned with Judaism or Christianity or something objectionably Western? Quite to the contrary. In fact, the Bahá'i faith, which grew out of Shi'a Islam, advocates for things like world peace, unity of humankind, equality of men and women, universal compulsory education and independent investigation of Truth.
(Ah, you say, one can easily, therefore, see why the Iranian politico-religious regime wants to root out its very last practitioner. That last part is especially sticky, isn't it?)
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have decried the incarceration and conviction of the Bahá'i Seven, whose only transgression has been to practice a faith that advocates tolerance, world peace, equality and that damning investigation of Truth.
© 2010 Bahá’í World Centre
Saberi's moving account of the inspiring support that Fariba and Mahvash gave her while incarcerated is colored by fear for their fates in Rajai Shahr (Gohardasht), one of the most infamous (think about that, folks) prisons in Iran. Gohardasht has poor hygiene conditions of course, but is best known for the number of prisoners who have suffered, and horribly so, within its walls.
You can read more about the seven Bahá'i leaders here.
I encourage readers to join the e-mail/letter writing campaign for the Bahá'i prisoners. Twenty years in prison just because you read a different book from the Qur'an is inconceivable. But in these prisons... one shudders to imagine.
Rajai Shahr Gohardasht Prison, Karaj, Iran
(Image source: Wikimedia Commons)
Oh, and Dennis... keep your paws off this post. Please? I'll put up a nice little picture of a Dawkins book or something for you, okay?
Monday, August 30, 2010
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Florida Attorney General and former Gubernatorial Candidate Bill McCollum
Tuesday the 24th was my birthday and it was date of the Primary Elections in Florida. Bill McCollum, who currently serves as Florida's Attorney General, was running in the Republican Primary for the gubernatorial candidacy. Readers of the blog will remember that Bill McCollum's office has squandered hundreds of thousands of Florida taxpayer dollars on hiring one George Rekers to give "expert" (boy was that a stretch) witness testimony against the case of Martin Gil, who had adopted his two sons as a result of a landmark ruling by Judge Cindy Lederman. The Florida Department of Children and Families has sought to overturn Lederman's ruling ordering the adoption finalization because of the despicable and discriminatory law that bans gays from adopting in Florida.
Well, I got a great birthday present.
Bill McCollum lost. And he lost, astonishingly, to one Rick Scott, former CEO of Columbia/HCA, a company that paid a $1.7B USD fine (largest in US history) for Medicare fraud to the federal government in 2000. That was some two and a half years after Scott was ousted by Columbia's board of directors after a federal investigation showed Columbia/HCA had committed extensive billing and tax fraud while Scott was at the helm of the organization.
While I can be glad that it will be easy for a liberal candidate to defeat Scott when more Floridians learn of his history, the main reason I'm glad to see McCollum gone is because of his mindset and rhetoric. Witness comments from his interview earlier this month with Florida Baptist Witness:
Do you support civil rights protections on the basis of sexual preference?
There’s a law in Florida that says that we have, and [as attorney general] I have a Civil Rights Division, that we have a hate crimes issue. And that’s really where that comes in for me. Whether or not somebody is discriminated against on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation or whatever that they should not be. And if somebody commits a crime on that basis, solely on that basis, then they’ve committed a crime. Now we’ve had no reason to enforce a law on the basis of sexual orientation.
I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman. I believe that a family should consist of one man and one woman. I don’t believe in gay adoption. I don’t believe in involving the government in enforcing or encouraging the lifestyle of gays and homosexuals. I just don’t believe that.
You’ve already mentioned that you support the ban on homosexuals to adopt, you’ve defended it in court as attorney general.
There’s been a scandal in that defense in that one of the expert witnesses has come to have some question about his own personal life – George Rekkers (sic). Do you think the urging by your office to include him in that case has ultimately undermined the ability to defend the law?
No, actually not. I believe that the law is very clear and I think we have a good chance to prevail on it in court. The courts of Florida previously upheld this law. But we’re going through that appellate process right now.
I would never have chosen Rekkers (sic) had I know what we now know today, but the reality is my appellate lawyers – where this is ultimately going, to the state Supreme Court, because that’s what the Department of Children and Families wants, they want to seek a determination of the constitutionality of that law and we’re defending its constitutionality – my appellate lawyers tell me we needed a witness then, and I believed them to be correct, who could introduce materials, studies. Rekkers (sic) was not an authority on this issue. He was an authority in the sense that he was a scholar. He did research into papers that other people wrote. So he was able to be used to get into evidence these matters that we needed. And it’s unfortunate that all this publicity has come up over it, but the lawsuit, I think, is on sound ground and we’re carrying it forward.
Florida permits homosexuals to serve as foster parents. That has been used as an argument to undermine the ban on adoptions. Should homosexuals be permitted to serve as foster parents in Florida?
Well, I personally don’t think so, but that is the law.
Should the law be changed?
I think that it would be advisable. I really do not think that we should have homosexuals guiding our children. I think that it’s a lifestyle that I don’t agree with. I realize a lot of people do. It’s my personal faith, religious faith, that I don’t believe that the people who do this should be raising our children. It’s not a natural thing. You need a mother and a father. You need a man and a woman. That’s what God intended.
Anyone who reads this blog knows how I feel about gay adoption. But leaving aside that issue, does it seem to anyone else that McCollum is slamming single parents as well there? Because it sure looks and reads that way to me.
But let's take time analyzing the rest of that portion of the interview, shall we?
● Apparent lack of understanding that Civil Rights legislation enforcement deals with more than just Hate Crimes?- check
● Blame-shifting for the waste of hundreds of thousands of Florida taxpayer dollars? - check
● Conflicting statements on Mr. Rekers (Authority, Not an Authority?) - check
● Assumptions that he knows what his God's intentions are? - check
● Bias publicly declared against gays when you're still the acting Attorney General of our state? - checkity, checkity, check.
Mr. McCollum I really can't say buh bye fast enough....
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Furthermore, again quoting CNN:
Roger Meece, a representative for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said the United Nations was alerted to rebel activity in the area but was not notified of the mass rapes. "There was no particular question of an attack, much less the kind of events like mass rape," Meece said Wednesday.
Congolese women confront legacy of rape
War and sexual violence leave survivors in desperate need
Clearly Congolese women are still needy.
The UN does many things right. But the lack of timely intervention is just scandalous. There are simply no excuses that suffice for at least 179 women and girls being gang raped for four solid days in front of their families. In fact, Al-Jazeera has reported that the UN forces may have waited until the rebels left the area to act. There is every indication that the local UN forces knew on July 31st what was going on and that they could have intervened but did not. See here, after minute 9:00, for instance. (Complete deflection of the issue that it was known on July 31st.)
Enough with the rhetoric, the statements that it's just so awful. I just want to know when they are going to DO SOMETHING to stop the rape sprees. The Sexual Violence in Conflict program is largely vested in Congo and the UN Peacekeeping force in Congo has a budget of over a billion USD a year. Clearly neither history or money are enough to keep the women of Congo safe. IN 2009 Al Jazeera reports that over 5,400 women in neighboring Southern Kivu province alone were raped.
What is the UN doing to change things? And what, asks Inner City Press, is the UN going to do to make it possible for women in these villages to contact the Peacekeeping forces when they are being attacked? Satellite phones, flares?
Or how about just paying attention to the fact that masses of rebel men menacing villages have always turned out badly for women in those villages?
How about looking at local history and giving a damn?
If Peacekeepers are afraid to stop war crimes, then what is their purpose?
Can even the UN Mission in Congo be so inured to rape in war that it's not important enough to try to stop it?
Answer me that Mr. Mounoubai. Answer me that.
Nadja Benaissa and her defense attorney Oliver Wallasch in Darmstadt, Germany
(Image credit: CNN)
"It makes me sad that the media are only now reporting on such an important, serious topic, only because now it's affecting a celebrity," Stich said.
He added that it is the general culture of silence about HIV/AIDS in Germany that has even made such a case possible. However, he said that if the allegations about the singer's conduct are correct, he would deem that "morally wrong."
"I can't put it any other way," he told the Berliner Morgenpost. "If someone knows that they are infected with HIV and accept the risk of infecting someone else, then that's just morally wrong."
However, he said he doesn't want to see Benaissa treated unfairly. "No matter how you look at it, Nadja is a victim," Stich said. "Whether she's also a perpetrator remains to be seen."
Stich's appraisal seems spot on. An immoral victim.
It makes it no better to be able to label it, though, does it?
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Condemned to be buried alive, and then stoned to death! Your beautiful face, reduced to a pulp! Your eyes full of sorrow and dignity, your forehead, your mind, your soul, transformed into a target for the stone throwers, exploded, pulverized, in shreds! Horror and consternation! This revoltingly nightmarish image, this vision that terrifies us and seems to come from a long ago age, this unbelievable torture that is on the very verge of becoming reality. For obscure reasons, in cold rage, people who are like you and me have decided so, Sakineh. People who claim the right to the power of life and death over those who refuse to obey them.
Having learned of the sentence pronounced against you, how can one possibly remain silent? What is at real risk of happening to you will profoundly harm all women, all children, all those who are moved by human feeling. And even worse, you would not be the only one who risks being subject to this dreadful execution. I cannot see any good that may come of this macabre ceremony, whatever the legal justifications supplied.
To spill your blood, to deprive your children of their mother--but why? Because you have lived, because you have loved, because you are a woman, an Iranian?
Everything within me refuses to accept this. The Iranian people are among the most ancient and remarkable nations of the planet. I do not understand how the heirs of a great civilization built upon tolerance and refinement can be unfaithful to this millennial heritage.
Your judges must know, Sakineh, your name has become a symbol the world over. Let us hope they may understand that, no matter what the time or the place, they shall never be able to wash their hands of such a crime.
I pray that your country's justice may find the way to prove clement in your case and in the cases of all the other victims who risk undergoing the same torture. In France, school children learn that mercy is the greatest virtue of those who govern.
In the depths of your cell, know that my husband will plead your cause unfailingly and that France will not abandon you.
In principle, I refrain from intervening in judicial procedures taking place in foreign countries. But in this case, the fate awaiting Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani does not seem to me compatible with the principles and customs of the modern world. From its very origins, humanity has worked to free itself of cruel and primitive behavior. In every culture, civilization seeks to reject practices that are detrimental to the dignity of human beings. Stoning is one such practice. The penalty one proposes to inflict upon Sakineh throws us back into the dark ages of humanity. I believe that the great Persian culture that contributed to building human civilization deserves much better than this. Let us hope the Iranian authorities will realize this while there is still time.
Valéry Giscard d'Estaing
I am thinking very hard about you, and about your children, Fasride and Sajjad, and my blood runs cold. Take courage and hope, more and more voices are being raised for you all over the world, and they will succeed in being heard and in tearing down the walls of your prison. In helping you, we are helping ourselves. We need your liberation so that our ideal of liberty and fraternity may advance and gain ground. There where the dignity of women is bruised, crushed, annihilated, Humanity in its entirety recedes. Where woman is used as an expiatory victim, enslaved for the sole crime of having been born a woman, all those who know that this obscurantism leads to even greater disaster must rise. Sakineh, we will not abandon you. Hang on for us, hang on for us.
Message to the Young People of Iran by Bernard-Henri Lévy
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