OPEN LETTER OF IRAN STUDENTS TO THE UNITED NATION'S GENERAL SECRETARY
6. July. 2003
Honorable Secretary General of the United Nations,*
Your Excellency Mr. Kofi Anan,
We are the representatives of the Islamic Student Associations of many universities from all over Iran, elected by our fellow students from our respective universities to an umbrella organization known as the Daftare Tahkime Vahdat, "Office for Strengthening the Unity" (DTV).
Since this organization at this time - after all the traumatic collisions exerted by the regime upon all organizations - is the only one still remaining that has the chance of pursuing and expressing the concerns of Iranian students, today while declaring loss of all hope in the reform of the current government by the reformists, we are writing this letter to Your Excellency, in order not only to report the instances of violation of Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the regime of Iran, but furthermore to ask the United Nations Organization to address our grievances.
Your Excellency, Mr. Anan, we are bringing our complaints to you today, because a political apartheid [E] has broken the back of the Iranian nation; because it has taken away from us the right to govern ourselves; because it has reduced our existence to the lowly limits of merely satisfying the most rudimentary needs; because at this historic juncture we are troubled at the prospect of repeating the experiences of our neighbors; because we fear the human catastrophes that the autocratic absolutists are bound to bring forth in their single minded path of maintaining their power.
We live in a country in which every individual, whether in the public or in the private sphere, cannot but be in permanent entanglement with a vast state apparatus, an absolutist machinery without accountability that seeing the perpetuation of its own domination in the conservation of the status quo, prevents all caring and candid criticism from getting anywhere, crushing all citizenry's attempts at the improvement of their lot.
Freedom of speech, freedom of expression of one's opinion, freedom of assembly, association and unions, freedom of holding conferences and meetings [E], freedom of religions and the exercise of their rites and rituals, right of access to public forums, rights of women, right to choose what one wears and how, right to privacy from the sphere of government, the right to a just due process of law ... these and more are some of the very articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that the Government of Iran has indeed undersigned but unfortunately not only does not see itself responsible in the upholding of it, but violates it in a fashion that one would think it had no legal liability whatsoever to it.
Mr. Kofi Anan, today in preparing this painful letter for your attention we took to reviewing the booklet of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, nearly all of the articles of which are trampled underfoot by our rulers. In doing this we saw the name of one of the greatest victims of the violation of these very principles, the late Mohammad Ja'far Pouyandeh, on the cover of this booklet - as its translator. One of the victims of the so-called chained-murders, which never received proper attention and never saw justice, the translator of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Mr. Pouyandeh was murdered in the most cruel and horrendous fashion at the hands of the regime's executioners.
Your Excellency, Mr. Kofi Anan,
Based on a dogmatic reading of religion and faith, it has been years since the political and sociological apartheid [E] in our country has separated the insiders from outsiders, the like-minded from the free-thinkers, the revolutionaries from the non-revolutionaries, and ultimately the first-class citizens from the second-class ones, making thereby the attainment of social resources such as power, wealth, positions and information, an impossibility, if not through a direct tie to the ruling elite. Meanwhile, the following is what the first and the second article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights tell us. Article 1: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood." Article 2: "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty."
Iranian students know full well that the path to progress, success, freedom and democracy cannot but go through a full commitment to human rights and a peaceful struggle, and it is therefore that in all solemnity call on the insiders of the government to respect human rights and political decency.
Here, we must quite directly say that if the threats by powerful countries that has brought on certain sensitivities in Iran should be based on their considerations for their own profits, we expect from the United Nations a humane and compassionate approach for the improvement of the situation in our country, an approach stemming from the gentle spirit of the articles of Human Rights and based on the rudiments of liberty, equality and fraternity. It is this approach surely that is better deserved by our compatriots.
Your Excellency, Mr. Kofi Anan,
According to the article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person."
But in our country, during the course past two decades and a half, scores of murders and other crimes have taken place with the design of eliminating people solely on the basis of their undesired opinions; crimes in which the ruling regime, or at least portions of the ruling clique, have had a direct hand.
The murder - at the hands of intelligence and security forces of the regime - of writers and independent freethinkers such as Dr. Saami, Dariush Forouhar, Parvaneh Eskandari, Majid Sharif, Mohammad Mokhtari, Ja'far Pouyandeh, Sa'idi Sirjaani, Pirouz Davani and other famous persons and many more non-famous individuals in the '80s and '90s, and particularly in the fall of 1998, together with summary executions of many activists of the opposition to the regime in the 1980s without any trial or proof of wrongdoing mainly during the period 1988-89 ... all of these are in direct violation of this article (3) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the right to life of these individuals has been quite simply taken away from them by the regime and the forces linked to and appointed by it, and the juristic apparatus has attained the right to take the life of individuals accused of the smallest of deviances. (These days there are further murmurs of possible execution orders for those arrested in the recent disturbances).
We provide you here with some of the instances of the regime's incursion into the private sphere of citizens in our country, ranging from years back and right up to today, and ask you, Mr. Secretary, in this situation, how can one expect any security for the critics of and oppositions to the regime:
A few years back, the security forces of the government drew plans for the driving of a bus with 30 writers and intellectuals aboard it into a canyon and tried to execute this plan as well; exactly four years ago, the police and the paramilitary forces connected to the regime attacked the student dormitories of the University of Tehran, invading and destroying the private quarters of the students, burning and destroying their belongings, and according to the official reports, killing one person, and injuring many more. In the recent days, again, the dormitories of University of Tehran and Allameh Tabatabai University, University of Hamedan and University of Yazd have been under siege by the security forces wielding knives and daggers, batons and clubs, beating and battering the students in the most horrendous ways. Again recently, those representatives who signed a critical letter to the leader of the regime have been threatened in various ways and even one was, again, thrown into a canyon... Again, how can we expect "security," "life" and "liberty" under such conditions?
2) According to the 5th article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: "No one ought to be tortured, or have to endure cruel, inhumane or denigrating behavior and punishment"
In Iran not only political activists and students are, but also the average person is, punished under disparaging, cruel and inhumane conditions. Some of the instances of this that one could point to are as follows:
Harsh and taxing tortures for the purpose of extracting confessions, denigration and using vulgarity and profanity, beating and battering, tying and chaining to torture beds, and threatening flogging, whipping and thrashing, sleep deprivation, forceful standing or sitting for long periods of time, mock executions for the purposes of exerting psychological pressures, etc. are only some examples of the methods of extracting confessions by interrogators and torture specialists in unknown prisons without any supervision, public oversight and transparency. Documented witnessing to this behavior includes letters from Ali Afshari, Ahmad Batebi, Ezzatollah Sahabi, Mohammad Maleki, Amir Farshad Ebrahimi, Alireza Jabbari and Faraj Sarkouhi, who only because of their especial status as famous personalities could have attained publicity without the fear of repercussions, a factor which stops the majority of victims from speaking up. Otherwise, there are scores of others, lesser known students and innocent victims who enjoy much less protection and therefore continue to swallow the pain in their throats. There are very few members of our organization (DTV) in fact, who have not endured denigration, excruciating agony and dread if not outright torture and other cruel and inhuman behaviors.
Along these lines, one could also point to the films documenting the interrogation of those accused of the so-called "chained-murders" that shows how wickedly and despicably the interrogators treat their own people in order to have their way and get their desired confessions, let alone those who are not "insiders".
3) In articles 6, 7, and 8 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights we read:
6: "Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law."
7: "All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination."
8: "Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law."
In Iran these articles have blatantly been violated: many political activists and students undergo long periods of arrest without being charged with any clear crime and have no access to an attorney or public and impartial courts, which would then prove their guilt or innocence. Here one could point to the yearlong temporary arrest of Ali Afshari and Ezzatollah Sahabi, Akbar Ganji, Habibollah Peyman, Taqi Rahmani, Reza Aalikhani, Alireza Rajai, Hadi Saber, Ahmad Zeidabadi together with all of those arrested in the recent days who have been detained for long periods of time without any effort on the part of the regime to conduct a trial or a court. Even the attorneys of those accused on political charges don't enjoy any protection while attempting to defend their clients, as the lawyer for the case of the so-called "chained-murders" (Nasser Zarafshan) and the lawyers for students, political and "Religious-Nationalist" activists have been themselves arrested on the charge of attempting to defend their clients and have been stripped of their legal credentials. Here, we could name amongst others, Nasser Zarafshan, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, Ebadolfath Soltani, Rahami, and Shirin Ebadi. These are clear violations of the articles 6, 7 and 8 as cited above.
Mr. Secretary General,
In Iran, criminals who charged the student dormitories, and armed terrorists who invade the private spheres and homes of those with different opinions and thoughts, attempting to and in some instances succeeding in taking lives, such as the chained-murders, or the assassination of Sa'id Hajjariyan, under the protection of power go free and further show force, while all the courageous attorneys of the cited cases (chained-murders, university dormitories, Religious-Nationalists, etc.) are thrown into prisons to pay for their quest for justice.
Even when victims such as students, rounded up through abduction or by means of beatings and the use of teargas and instruments of terror and shock, are in fact tried and given a sentence by a judge in a court, this person is not immune from beatings and tortures and abductions, so much so that often the place in which the prisoner is being detained and its conditions is not known.
4) The 9th article reads: "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile."
There are in fact only few days in which we are not witnesses to the autocratic violations of this article at the expense of many of our student-friends:
a) The year-long arrest of the likes of Ali Afshari, Mohandes Hesabi, Habibollah Peyman, Hodi Saber, Reza Alikhani, Taqi Rahmani, Alireza Rajai, Mohammad Maleki, Mohammad Bastenegar, Ahmad Zeydabadi, Mohammad Tavassoli, Hashem Sabaghiyan and others and their detainment in solitary confinements and under the most intense psychological and spiritual tortures in the year 2000 is an example of this breech. Now that three years have passed from that time, there is yet to be a trial proceeding set in motion to address their predicament. Is not the arrest of those accused in the "polling-affair" (Abbas Abdi, Fazeliyan, Geranpayeh), writers and freethinkers, newspaper reporters and students under national-security excuses not arbitrary?
b) Another testament to the arbitrary nature of the regime operation is the arrest of students in the late fall of 2001 without a court-issued order, and their detainment in undisclosed locations. Amongst those detained then one can point to: Abdollah Mo'meni, Sa'id Razavi-Faghih, Akbar Atri, Mehdi Aminzadeh (all from the central office of DTV) and Ali Farokhi, Farid Moddaressi, Sa'id Moradi, Morteza Zavarzadegan (from other offices of DTV) not to mention the arrest of 300 students with no particular association.
c) The students-related events in the late spring and early summer of 2002, when according to the confession of Mr. Namazi, the Attorney General of the country some 4000 people were arrested and detained throughout the country, many of whom were merely the onlookers and innocent bystanders to the events. Here again one must make mention of the use of teargas and intimidation with weapons and the violent abduction of many students and other activists, whose whereabouts are to this day unknown.
The arrest of Roozbeh Shafii, Mohammad Faraqdani, Abdollah Mo'meni, Mehdi Aminzadeh, Mojtaba Najafi, Baqer Oskui, Ruhollah Rohani, Mehdi Khosravi, all members of the Islamic Association of University of Tehran, are further examples of tons of arbitrary arrests of those who are being detained in undisclosed locations away from the view of law or the international inspectors' of Human Rights.
One can assert with certainty that the dark shadow of these arbitrary arrests loom over all our heads. In our interactions, in every moment of our daily lives, we are expecting our and our friends' arbitrary arrest.
5) It is written in the article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that "Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him." Also in article 11.1 one reads: "Everyone charged with a penal offense has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense."
Unfortunately the instances of breach of these articles in the juridical institutions of the Islamic Republic number so many that we are unable to make mention of, let alone analyze them all here. Just to make a brief mention of some of the cases: the behind the closed doors trials of the Religious-Nationalists, the case of the "chained-murders," the press-trials, and many other court-proceedings that have been conducted without a jury, and in which the judges have made statements before the beginning of the proceedings that raise questions about their impartiality, all and all are in direct violation of this article. Over and beyond that, it is interesting to note that in many instances when the court is supposedly conducted openly, the judge does not allow the accused and the reporters to publish and disseminate of the news of these very trials.
In violating this article (11), the juridical apparatus has time and again has scared the reputation of the accused and has forced them into false confessions broadcasted via the official information outlets: Ali Afshari was forced into confession and recantation on state television; Siamak Pourzand had the same predicament on several television programs; Ezzatollah Sahabi was coerced into writing a letter that was published in the newspapers. And these all were cases in which the guilt of the accused was not proven in a court of law.
The case of those accused of participating in the so-called "Berlin Conference" (although the foreign ministry had not charged them with anything) was trumpeted with so much embellishment and exaggeration so as to prepare the public sentiment for their eventual guilty sentence.
6) Article 12 of the Declaration says: "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks."
What took place in all these years was quite often doubled with unlawful search and seizure of homes and offices etc. The Plumping [F] of Sherkate Jama'eye Ruz [Today's Society Corporation] and the offices of the newspapers, Jame'e, Tus, Neshat, seizure of the offices of Ezzatollah Sahabi and Irane Farda and the seizure of the home of Ebrahim Yazdi and Habibollah Peyman, the offices of Nehzate Azadi [Religious-Nationalist Party] and the early summer invasion of the homes of Reza Alikhani, Taqi Rahmani, Hodi Saber and Mehdi Aminzadeh are examples of grievances that unfortunately have not and will not receive any due-process and protection of law.
7) In the article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it has been said plainly that "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance." In Iran this article, in its entirety is systematically violated with the institutionalization of the heretical and anti-heretical doctrine. According to this law in the Islamic Republic the sentence for changing ones religion is execution.
8) Article 19 says: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."
Refusing permission to lecture to many of the professors of our country including Dr. Soroush; the closure of the teaching and discussion sessions of the likes of Ayatollah Montazeri; the throwing in prison of Dr. Kadivar because of free expression of his view; the sentencing of Dr. Hashem Aghajari to death because of his speech regarding Islamic Protestantism (E); the issuing of long prison terms for Misters Akbar Ganji and Emmadoddin Baqi for voicing their courageous criticisms; the imprisoning of many newspaper reporters such as Mas'ud Behnood, Ebrahim Nabavi, Masha'ullah Shamsolvaezin, Hamidreza Jalaipour, Mohsen Sazegara, and the closure of some 14 newspapers in one night in mid spring of 1998 and some 100 others since then because of the expression of thoughts and opinions contrary to the official dogma of the regime (before any proof of wrongdoing in any court); the issuing of prison sentences for Ali Afshari and Ezzatollah Sahabi because of their critical speeches; the revoking of the social rights of Ahmad Zeydabbadi, a courageous Iranian reporter, for the crime of expression of opinion; the imprisonment of students who wrote in university newspapers such as Moj and Kavir again because of their exercise of speech; the revoking the right to publish many books and political publications; the closure and locking [plumping] of the offices of many publishing and cultural centers without any legal or even semi-legal proof of wrongdoing, such as the closures of Serat [A, The Way] Mo'assesse Ma'refat o Pazhuhesh [Institute for Morality and Research] and others; the closure of news and information sites, the filtering of them; production of parasitical static in order to interfere with radios and satellite news sources in order to curtail free flow of information and thought; imprisoning many members of Islamic Associations charged with publishing and dissemination of their flyers and memos; and hundreds upon thousands of other cases are direct violations of article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In Iran the fear of expression of one's thoughts and opinions, and hiding one's true voice and view has been institutionalized for years. The forbidding of the free expression of opinions, views, ideas and thoughts and the eventual fear and dread and anxiety in face of the probable and very likely repercussions of such an undertaking has become part of the nature of Iranians and the fabric of their society, and something quite ordinary and usual. (Self-) Censorship has become a defining character of our existence.
9) Article 20.1 reads: "Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association."
Mr. Secretary General,
It has been five years that the Union of Islamic Associations of the Students of the country has not been permitted to hold a meeting anywhere outside the confines of the university. It is still much longer since political Parties, associations and unions cannot meet with their members in a Party convention. Teachers and workers unions apart from rare occasions when they have met in ceremonial and prescribed functions, have in effect also been unable to hold true meetings.
Students, in order to show their disgust with the catastrophe that took place in the dormitories of the University of Tehran in 1998, have been imprisoned and have had to endure other restrictions for attempting to hold peaceful and non-violent memorials within the framework of their human rights in honor of their dismembered, otherwise injured and killed friends, and year after year are denied permission to honor their comrades and friends.
The 30-man congregation of the members of Tehran branch of DTV in front of the offices of the presidency of the Republic, the congregations of the Religious-Nationalists, and other congregations that were undertaken for the realization of the rights of individuals were met with violent and harsh reactions by the military and security forces.
Nehzate Azadi Iran (the Religious-Nationalist Party) has been dissolved and its members have been named "enemies" [of God] because of their membership in unlawful groups. The Writers Association of Iran is not even allowed to meet in order to elect their internal officers, is constantly under surveillance and must endure a constant atmosphere of fear and terror.
10) Article 21 reads as follows:
"(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
"(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
"(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections, which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures."
Today the governance of our country is based on, and draws its legitimacy from the vote that was taken in 1980. The right to choose one's own predicament and choose a regime according to the will of the nation is therefore not possible outside the will of those who already enjoy supremacy over the population, based on this one-time vote.
Only those are allowed to be elected by the electorate as their representatives, who have already been approved by the government and have passed hundreds of official and unofficial filters [E] that would ensure their expediency for the regime. In Iran for to prove the righteousness and the liability of an individual to be elected, the individual must prove his innocence, and it is quite interesting that people who in fact manage to pass through all these filters and be accepted by the government and so enjoy the right to be elected, once they have also attained the vote of the nation, are in effect without any necessary tools for the implementation of the right of nation for self-governance and the choosing of their own fate.
In Iran the existence of a Parliament [E] is nothing other than a Democratic jest [E], for the smallest act of the parliament that tries to challenge the unjust nature of the regime will be met with the veto [E] of the unelected and chosen members of the regime and will in effect not get anywhere. What country in the world (that has a true parliamentary system) do you know of, in which members of the parliament, in order to attain the just wants of their constituents from the regime, would resort to a congressional strike?
The president of the Republic of Iran, who has been elected repeatedly in the past 6 years with over 20 million votes [close to 80 percent of the electorate], according to his own admission, has less executive power than an ordinary person and so in effect the presidency of the nation is merely a ceremonial position for someone, who can only act in matters that do not challenge the real sources of power in the regime. Under these circumstances, what claim to choose their own destiny remains for the people?
11) According to the article 29.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: "Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible."
Dear Mr. Kofi Anan,
Now that we have brought our case before you in a quest for justice, now that we have sat down and reiterated the bitter memories of days and years past, and now that we find our free and full development as an impossibility, this is no time or place to ask regarding our duty towards our community, to redefine our citizenship rights anew.
"In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society." (29.2)
We are sorry that fundamental rights and freedoms and moral and just requirements, public order and welfare are trampled underfoot in our society, and friendly advise and enlightened criticisms in good faith by intellectuals and reformists also don't get anywhere.
Your Excellency, Mr. Kofi Anan, these are black and blue days of a lifeless people that searches for the news of a brighter future, a tomorrow in which they can account for their own fate and can take on their own affairs, fight injustice and spread justice, and find freedom and democracy tied into the very fabric of their ancient land.
Do them justice. There is no other time but now that they have taken refuge with you in all innocence and are waiting to see human catastrophes and tragedies [E] prevented, and the shade of peace and freedom, democracy and human rights spread over this land forever.
With thanks and much due respect,
Islamic Student Associations (of 29 Universities):
Amir Kabir Technical University (Polytechnic of Tehran),
Teacher's University of Sabzevar,
University of Sistan and Baluchestan,
Sahand University of Tabriz,
Scientific University of Science of Post and Transmission,
Sharif Technical University,
Martyr Rajai University of Tehran,
Persian Gulf University of Bushehr,
Technological University of Esphahan,
Ibn Sina Medical Sciences University of Hamedan,
Teacher's University of Tehran,
University of Shahre Kord,
University of Lorestan,
Technological University of Khwajeh Nasir,
Martyr Chamran Univewrsity of Ahvaz,
University for the Water and Electrical Technologies of Abbaspour,
Alzahra University of Tehran,
Message of Light Center University of Som'eh Sara,
University of Economics,
Ferdosi University of Medical Sciences in Mashhad,
Mohaqeq Ardabili University,
Alameh Tabatabai University,
Martyr Bahonar University of Kerman,
Medical Sciences University of Iran,
University of Esphahan and Medical Sciences,
Sciences and Technologies University of Tehran.
* Translation by A I T for ABF