Israel Resource Review 15th July, 2008


Iran's blood-drenched mullah:
Human rights getting worse
Nir Boms and Shayan Arya
Washington Times, July 15th, 2008

Students face riot police near Tehran University, during a clash which started when police occupied and closed the main entrance gate of the university, in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday July 13, 1999. In a flashback to the revolution that installed Iran's Islamic government 20 years ago, police fired tear gas at some 10,000 protesters on the streets of Tehran after they marched for a sixth day in protest of hard-liners who have thwarted efforts to institute reforms.

As a sign of the troubled relations between Tehran and the West, Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno just renamed the street next to the Iranian embassy "July 9th St." - after the date symbolizing the 1999 student pro-democracy demonstrations in Tehran. Iran responded angrily, but at the same time released a statement by its foreign minister about possible progress in negotiations over its nuclear program. While the diplomatic rhetoric may appear ambivalent, Tehran's domestic actions appear much more clear and defiant. Last Tuesday, Iran hanged another teenager, 19-year-old Hamid Reza, who was convicted of murder. The country's parliament is also considering a bill that could result in the death penalty being used for those deemed to be promoting corruption, prostitution and apostasy on the Internet.

Ever since its establishment in 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran has had an abhorrent human-rights record, including summary executions of hundreds of the late shah's supporters, executions of thousands of political prisoners and daily reports of executions, public hangings, floggings and torture. Mass graves can easily be found in any large Iranian city. Iran also tops the list for executing juveniles in direct violation of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child - currently there are more than 70 children on death row. Juvenile offenders Mohammad Feda'i, Behnoud Shojaee and Saeed Jazee face imminent execution, according to Stop Child Execution and Amnesty International.

Over the past few years, since the Holocaust-denying hard-line president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power, the human-rights conditions in Iran have further deteriorated. There are virtually no segments of the Iranian population immune from these violations. Religious minorities such as the 300,000-member strong Bahai community, a peaceful nonpolitical offshoot of Shi'ite Islam, are under siege. Last May, seven members of its leadership group in Tehran were arrested. Fifty more were rounded up across the country in a deliberate campaign of terror and intimidation.

Since 1979 under the Islamic Republic, more than 200 Bahais have been executed. This campaign of terror and intimidation is not limited to the so-called "non-recognized" religious minorities such as Bahais. Ayatollah Borujerdi - a Shi'ite cleric who preaches a traditional nonpolitical version of Shi'ism - has also joined that list. Last year, Ayatollah Borujerdi, dared to question the Islamic regime's interpretation of political Shi'ite Islam. He was arrested during a violent clash involving his followers and was later severely tortured along with his entire family and many of his followers. There are reports that his condition is worsening.

The Sufis (the moderate mystics in the world of Islam) received their share of Islamist mistreatment in an unprecedented assault on the Sufi center in the city of Qom in 2005. Radio Free Europe reported that according to the deputy governor of Qom, Ahmad Hajizadeh, 1,200 worshippers (also known as dervishes) were arrested as police sought to close a Sufi house of worship. Sufi groups and human-rights activists put the number of the arrests at 2,000 and the number of injured at 350 people. Following the clashes, authorities demolished the house of worship as well as the homes of two leaders of the group.

Political dissent is likewise unwelcome. Amir Yaghoub-Ali, a 22-year-old student activist was arrested last year and has been sentenced to one year in prison. (He had been charged with having collected signatures on a petition seeking greater female rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran.) At least three other Iranian women's-rights activists - Nahid Jafari, Nasrin Afzali and Marzieh Mortaz-langarudi - received flogging and jail sentences for their participation in the same campaign. Political activists such as Mr. Arzhang Davoodi and Dr. Seyed Mostafa Alavi are under increasing pressure in jail and are being ill-treated by the authorities.

Last May human-rights activist Hassan Abdul Hussein Tafah, an Iraqi refugee who later became an Iranian citizen, was sentenced to 15 years in jail and fined the equivalent of 130,000 euros. He was originally sentenced to death. His crime? He attended an international conference where human-rights issues were discussed. (At least Mr. Tafah appears to be somewhat prepared. Before seeking refuge in Iran he had spent 15 years in Iraqi jails during the rule of Saddam Hussein.)

What will a regime capable of committing such a widespread human-rights violations of its own citizens without a nuclear arsenal do to its citizens and others if and when it acquires nuclear capabilities? The international community will be well advised to ponder that question.

Nir Boms is the vice president of the Center for Freedom in the Middle East. Shayan Arya is an Iranian activist and associate researcher at the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education.


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The New York Times and the al-Dura Hoax
Joel J. Sprayregen
Special To "The American Thinker"

Students face riot police near Tehran University, during a clash which started when police occupied and closed the main entrance gate of the university, in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday July 13, 1999. In a flashback to the revolution that installed Iran's Islamic government 20 years ago, police fired tear gas at some 10,000 protesters on the streets of Tehran after they marched for a sixth day in protest of hard-liners who have thwarted efforts to institute reforms.

Why won't the New York Times accept responsibility for repeatedly publishing a falsehood which caused many deaths?

Mohammed al-Dura, a 12-year-old Palestinian boy, became an icon in 2000 when French State television ("France 2") ran agonizing views of the boy, cradled in his father's arms, supposedly under fatal fire from Israeli soldiers during a Gaza battle. The incident, deplorable if true, was presented by international media (see below) virtually as a reprise of the Crucifixion. A French appeals court ruled on May 21-dismissing France 2's libel suit against the media watchdog who exposed the hoax-that the footage could not be accepted as true, citing testimony from the former Le Monde chief editor that "the theory that the scene [of the child's death] was faked was more probable then the version presented by France 2."

Have you read about exposure of the hoax in the Times or other mainline media (excepting the Wall Street Journal and New York Sun)?

That the al-Dura lies incited murders of many innocent people is indisputable. The Jihadis who beheaded reporter Daniel Pearl inserted repeated footage of al-Dura in their gruesome video. Osama bin Laden cited al-Dura as a justification for his carnages in a post-9/11 recruitment video which showed the boy's "death" 12 times. Streets and plazas--including the street on which Israel's embassy in Cairo is located -- were named after the boy.

Times reporter Deborah Sontag published a near-contemporaneous account -- under a headline stating "In Battling Gazans, Israelis Sow Seeds of Hate" -- on December 10 2000, which can fairly be read as justifying rather than explaining Palestinian suicide bombing. Sontag referred with certainty to "the boy shot dead as he crouched behind his father" and quoted a "cosmopolitan" Palestinian who wants a gun because he is "haunted by the image of Muhammad al-Dura."

Sontag, a serial second-generation fictionalist, recently published a Sunday front-page article portraying returning U.S. combat personnel as deranged murderers; the Times' Public Editor hastily acknowledged that her statistics were faulty.

The Hoax Unravels -- The Journalistic Saturnalia Continues

By April, 2002, the al-Dura hoax was beginning to unravel. A German film-maker showed that the Israelis could not possibly have shot the boy. France 2 refused to air her documentary. Notwithstanding the evidence, the Times chose to elevate the falsehood by punditry. On April 17, 2002, the Times published a column by Max Rodenbeck, Middle East correspondent for the London Economist (much British reporting from the region sounds as if it was commissioned by Dr. Goebbels), opining that Arab television was winning the day because it accurately reports just resistance to "brutal" Israelis:

"Palestinian casualties . . . are textured with memory. Some have become household names from Morocco to Muscat: Muhammad al-Dura, the 12-year-old-boy from Gaza whose father could not shield him from a hail of Israeli gunfire . . . "

By February, 2005, the Times, acknowledging that authenticity of the France 2 footage was disputed, quoted Professor Richard Landes of Boston University who concluded the video had probably been faked:

"Palestinian cameramen, especially when there are no Westerners around, engage in systematic staging of action scenes."

Nevertheless, the Times continued to publish opinion columns accepting the faked footage as truth, e.g., on August 21, 2005, the Times published a column by Palestinian publicist David Kuttab "Live from Gaza" referring to "an interview with the parents of Mohammad al-Dura, the boy who was photographed dying in his father's arms." The Times never published an opinion piece challenging the falsification.

The Times was not alone in this saturnalia of bigoted journalistic incompetence. Time Magazine Europe honored al-Dura as "Newsmaker of 2000." The editor of the Independent, concluding there was "no room for doubt," excoriated the press for insufficient hostility to Israel. The London Telegraph agreed that al-Dura provided "provocation for revenge." The London Review of Books published a Requiem for al-Dura, eulogizing him as "an infant Jesus." National Public Radio ran puff interviews acclaiming the France 2 team as journalistic giants. The Palestinian cameraman who faked the footage says: "Journalism is my religion." Journalism awards were showered on France 2.

The Contemptible Afterlife of Media Falsehoods: Will Anyone Accept Responsibility?

The afterlife of these falsehoods is even more contemptible than the initial reporting. Though the French Court decision was circulated by Reuters and the Associated Press (to which most newspapers subscribe) it was reported only in France and Israel. The New York Times has not published a word about the exposure so far as I ahve been able to find.

Were it not for a few truth-telling bloggers -- Tom Gross of NRO, Andrea Levin of CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting) in the Jerusalem Post, Ed Lasky in the American Thinker -- the hoax would still be accepted.

To exacerbate its failures, the Times recently savaged Israel for several days for not immediately granting visas to Gaza Fulbright awardees (while not mentioning that three American diplomats were murdered in Gaza in 2003, with complicity of the Palestinian Authority, while in Gaza to conduct Fulbright interviews, an atrocity I reported contemporaneously in the Chicago Sun-Times.)

I have spent most of my life working as a lawyer while dabbling as a journalist. I once represented the New York Times in a case involving the reporter's privilege. Law and journalism are key pillars of a free society, although there is much that should be improved in both professions.

I am subject to discipline if I lie as a lawyer; there is no similar corrective mechanism against journalists who lie (though no sensible person wants to empower the Government to regulate the press). If the fakery rises to the crescendo of a Jayson Blair, someone may be fired. But the many editors who accepted the al-Dura hoax and then failed to report its exposure are free to continue business as usual, notwithstanding they have trampled truth. If the press wants the respect it craves, shouldn't it-starting with the eminent Times-accept responsibility for the al-Dura hoax and disclose what it will do to prevent repetitions?

Joel Sprayregen, a Chicago lawyer, has litigated landmark First Amendment cases. He is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and Yale Law School. He is associated with several think tanks which focus on telling the truth about developments in the Middle East. Comments

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Will Washington Betray Anti-Regime Iranians?
Dr. Daniel Pipes

As the United Nations mandate that legitimizes the presence of U.S forces in Iraq expires on December 31, 2008, a humanitarian and strategic disaster is coming into view. The fate of about 3,500 anti-regime Iranians will be decided in the course of status-of-forces negotiations between Washington and Baghdad.

MEK members display their flag as they pass through a U.S. checkpoint in Iraq in 2003 (AFP).

They are members of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK; it is also called the People's Mojahedin of Iran, or PMOI), the leading Iranian opposition group. Based at Camp Ashraf in central Iraq where they are recognized as "protected persons" under the Fourth Geneva Convention, they have since 2004 been under the protection of U.S. military forces. According to the Convention Against Torture of 1984, to which the U.S. government is a party, expiration of the UN mandate does not end the American obligation to continue to protect MEK members in Iraq.

Further, the MEK's network of supporters inside Iran have provided invaluable intelligence. For example, it exposed Tehran's nuclear ambitions and its shipments of roadside bombs to Iraq. Recognizing this assistance, a "Memorandum for the Record" by Lt. Col. Julie S. Norman dated August 24, 2006, noted that "The PMOI has always warned against the Iranian regime's meddling and played a positive role in exposing the threats and dangers of such interventions; their intelligence has been very helpful in this regard and in some circumstances has helped save the lives of [U.S.] soldiers."

Although the State Department still lists the MEK as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), that will likely end in October, for it no longer meets the terrorism criteria, having renounced terrorism, not conducted operations for many years, lacking the capability to conduct future operations, and not threatening the security of the United States. Gen. Raymond Odierno, soon to be the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, already in May 2003 questioned the MEK's designation as an FTO: "I would say that any organization that has given up their equipment to the coalition clearly is cooperating with us, and I believe that that should lead to a review of whether they are still a terrorist organization or not."

Since then, an interagency group of the U.S. government, led by the FBI, has exonerated the Iranians at Ashraf of terrorism. After a British court ruled that the group was not "concerned in terrorism," the U.K. government in June removed the group from its terrorist list.

Naturally, the expulsion of the MEK from Iraq ranks as Tehran's top demand of both Baghdad and Washington. The Iranian regime is determined to destroy its main opponent and, with some success, has pressured the Iraqi government to disband Camp Ashraf and turn MEK members over to Iran. Iraqi politicians sympathetic to Tehran have joined in this call, including leaders of the United Iraqi Alliance and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council.

Then, on July 9, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said that the Iraqi government had decided to expel members of the MEK. The Iranian ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Kezemi-Qomi, specified that the Iraqi cabinet had agreed quickly to expel the MEK from Iraq. Iran's Jame Jam television channel reported on July 6, 2008, that "American military forces have announced their readiness to hand over" Camp Ashraf to Baghdad, which gave the MEK six months to leave its territory.

Should these reports be true (and it bears noting that prior such statements had little operational effect), they imply either the handover of unarmed Ashraf residents to Iraqi forces or their expulsion to Iran. In either case, a full-scale slaughter, whether by Tehran's proxies in Iraq or by Tehran itself, appears likely. Inspired by such a success, Tehran's ambitions in Iraq would undoubtedly grow further.

The Bush administration has stayed silent about these developments but it has the duty and the interest based on its humanitarian commitments, its international law obligations, and its need for allies against Tehran to insist in its status-of-forces negotiations with Baghdad that MEK members at Camp Ashraf remain under the protection of the U.S. military and that they be free to leave Camp Ashraf.

After delisting the Mujahedeen-e Khalq as an FTO, Washington should use the regime in Tehran's near-pathological fears by threatening to meet with it and help its public relations efforts. This is the easiest, most effective way to intimidate the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Mr. Pipes (, director of the Middle East Forum, is the Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. 2008 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.

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