December 16, 2017

Iran Watch – March 17, 2008

[spoiler title=”Iran’s Parliament: Not Representative of the People”] By: Lord Robin Corbet
Source: Middle East Times
Fri. March 14, 2008
Parliamentary elections in Iran today will see radical Islamists consolidate their domination of the political landscape and any form of so-called “moderation” shunned away. Such has been dictated by Iran’s chief ayatollah, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Up for grabs today are 290 seats in the regime’s consultative body called the Majlis. Under the Islamic republic’s hard-line constitution, all candidates must go through several levels of strict vetting including by the ultra-conservative Guardians Council. The GC, whose clerical members are hand-picked by the supreme leader himself, must be convinced that the individual is loyal in both heart and mind to the notion of velayat-e faqih (rule of the supreme jurisprudent, otherwise known as Khamenei) in order to give its approval.

This year, 2,000 candidates were disqualified, leaving the so-called “reformist” faction with about 55 candidates on the slate out of an original 450. This week, Khamenei urged Iranians to avoid voting for candidates who are deemed too close to the Western enemies of the Islamic republic in parliamentary polls.

The Majlis is less representative of the people and more an indicator of the regime’s domestic and international temperament and crumbling state of affairs.

With more than 90 percent of the population seeking regime change and the international community taking aim at Tehran’s clandestine nuclear projects, the regime is increasingly getting a sense of isolation. Khamenei understands that to maintain his grip on power his regime must be unified. For this reason, in 2005 he instructed the Revolutionary Guards to bring to power one of their own – Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – to pursue his fundamental policies without the slightest opposition. Since then, senior Guards commanders have moved into high government positions to ensure that Khamenei can steer the regime clear of all domestic storms with an iron fist. Today’s elections are likely to mirror the phoney elections that brought Ahmadinejad to the presidency.

Meanwhile, the Iranian people, heeding a call by the country’s true opposition movement, the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI, or MEK), will boycott the polls in their millions.

We in the free world should be backing the millions of Iranians who are longing for genuine democratic change, rather than impeding them in order to appease a regime which has executed over 120,000 of the PMOI’s supporters and is killing and maiming our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

To its shame, some Western countries have chosen to blacklist the PMOI in defiance of two court verdicts.

Then British Home Secretary Jack Straw admitted in 2006 that when he banned the PMOI five years earlier, he did so at the behest of Iranian officials. This is ironic, since the PMOI was the group that revealed to the world the regime’s secret nuclear sites, for which we owe it a great debt. In December 2006, the European Court of Justice ruled that the ban on the PMOI was “unlawful.” In November 2007, the UK’s High Court ruled that the proscription of the PMOI by the government was “flawed” and “perverse.” It ordered the home secretary to immediately lift the ban. Even though the government lost its motion to appeal in December, it continues to maintain the ban. The government’s actions are a mockery of the rule of law.

At a time when the Iranian people displaying their resentment of the mullahs’ vile regime through daily protests and a widespread boycott of today’s polls, our government now has a duty to offer them the support of the British people.

We should follow the advice of Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran. She has urged the West to neither seek regime change through foreign military intervention nor appease Tehran’s ruthless ruler. Instead, she wants us to support the Iranian people and their resistance to bring about democratic change. The NCRI, the resistance coalition of which the PMOI is a leading party member, is the democratic alternative to this regime, with representatives from across the political strata.

There are two actions that the West should take to tip the balance in favor of the people in their struggle for change. First and foremost, it should lift the ban on the PMOI. Secondly, it should convince the U.N. Security Council to impose comprehensive economic, arms, technological and oil embargo against the mullahs’ regime.

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale, from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s ruling Labour Party, is chairman of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom. [/spoiler] [spoiler title=”Iran’s Election”] [/spoiler] [spoiler title=”Desire for change unlikely to show”] The Times
Martin Fletcher and Ramita Navai in Tehran Sat. March 15, 2008

In an almost deserted polling station in north Tehran yesterday The Times asked the woman in charge how many people had voted (Martin Fletcher and Ramita Navai write).

She passed the question to another official. “One hundred and thirty-five,” he replied in Farsi. The woman turned back to us. “More than 300,” she said in English.

About 44 million Iranians were eligible to vote in elections for a new Majlis (parliament). Results are not expected for several days but conservatives are bound to win: so many reformists, and so many of their big names, were disqualified that they were able to contest fewer than half of the 290 seats.

The main interest lies in whether “pragmatic” conservatives critical of President Ahmadinejad’s confronta-tional foreign policy and dismal economic record will do better than his hardline conservatives, and what that will say about his chances of winning reelection next year.

The authorities’ immediate concern was to ensure the biggest possible turn-out so that the election had some legitimacy. They were making bold claims. “I predict there will be at least 60 per cent participation,” Gholam Hossein Elham, the government spokesman, said halfway through the day.

Older, rural and more religious Iranians were expected to vote in large numbers, but the authorities were battling deep disillusionment among younger voters. Their hopes of a freer life were dashed when conservatives thwarted the reformist Government of President Khatami and then ousted it in the presidential election of 2005.

In a Tehran coffee shop Sharouz, 32, a civil engineer, explained why he would not vote. He was one of thousands of students who fought for reform in the late 1990s. “We really thought we could change things,” he said. “I now realise I can’t change a thing.” Reza, 30, another activist from the 1990s, refused to vote lest he gave the result validity: “I don’t recognise this Government and this system.” [/spoiler] [spoiler title=”Human Rights In Iran”] Voice of America Editorial 14 March 2008

The U.S. State Department has published its annual report on the status of human rights around the world. Once again, the Iranian government is among the worst violators of the basic rights of its citizens. Here is Jonathan Farrar, Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor:

“Countries in which power is concentrated in the hands of unaccountable rulers remain the most systematic human rights violators. Here we would cite North Korea, Burma, Iran, Syria, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Eritrea and Sudan.”

The State report says that in 2007, the Iranian government’s poor human rights record became even worse. Iran’s security forces engaged in torture and officially-sanctioned severe, barbaric forms of punishments, including flogging, death by stoning, and amputation.

Civil liberties, including freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and religion were severely restricted, according to the report. Authorities used excessive force against demonstrators. Violence and legal discrimination against women, ethnic and religious minorities, and homosexuals remained problems. Workers’ rights, including the right to organize and bargain collectively, were severely restricted. Students were detained for exercising their freedom of speech.

The report cites the plight of Iran’s political prisoners, incarcerated solely because of their beliefs. Their exact number is unknown, but is estimated by the U.N. Special Representative for the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Expression to be in the hundreds. They include, among others, Azeri Iranian cultural rights activist Abbas Lisani, dissident cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Kazemeini Boroujerdi, student activists Ahmad Batebi and Ali Nikunesbati, human rights lawyer Emadoldin Baghi, workers’ rights leaders Mansur Osanloo and Mahmoud Salehi, and women’s rights advocates Hana Abdi and Ronak Safarzadeh. In addition, the report notes the continuing crackdown by the Iranian government on journalists.

U. S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says, “In too many countries, champions of human rights are denounced and persecuted, vilified as traitors or targeted for repression.” But, she says, “As long as citizens around the world champion the universal values of human rights, there is hope. And we, in the United States, continue to believe it is our duty to support these courageous men and women.”

View Full Report Here [/spoiler]