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Paulo Casaca is founder of the Brussels based international co-operation association  ARCHumankind, “Alliance to Renew Co-operation among Humankind”, and the “Euro Reform Initiative”

In April, Iranian censorship officials closed down a monthly magazine, Zanan-e Emrouz, accusing it of encouraging cohabitation among unmarried couples, an illegal practice known in Iran as “white marriage.” With a title translating to English as Today’s Women, the magazine was the only women’s interest publication in the country, and its closure reflects a worsening situation for gender politics in the Islamic Republic.

However, the purported reasons for the closure are indicative of the rising tide of domestic challenges to the repressive rule of the Iranian ayatollahs. While the regime characterized Zanan-e Emrouz’s special reports on “white marriage” as unlawful advocacy, many of its defenders claim that the articles merely reported upon and explained the existing popularity of the practice.

By Hamid Yazdan Panah

Iran remains a focal point of controversy in the Middle East. From the nuclear talks to the unrest in Yemen and Syria, Iran presents a perplexing dilemma for policy makers. Yet little attention is paid to one of the key players in this game, namely the Iranian people and their organized resistance. On June 13th, a gathering will take place to call the world's attention to the strategy offered by the Iranian opposition to solve these problems at their root, by promoting a policy of democratic change in Iran.

By Hamid Yazdan Panah

This past week, the Kurdish city of Mahabad was the scene of intense anti-regime protests, following the suspicious death of a young Kurdish woman. The protests were spurred after the death of Farinaz Khosrawani, a 25 year old Kurdish woman, who died after a fall from the 4th floor of a hotel in which she was employed. According to various reports, Khosrawani’s death was allegedly related to her resistance of an attempted rape by a member of the Iranian intelligence ministry. The incident served as a boiling point for tensions among the ethnic Kurds of the city, who set fire to the hotel in question, and resulted in protests and clashes with security forces.

Unconfirmed reports claimed that two people were killed in clashes with security forces, following the deployment of a large number of revolutionary guards to Kurdish cities. In a statement, Amnesty International stated, “According to Kurdish rights activists outside Iran, the violence started after riot police resorted to batons, tear gas and possibly live ammunition to disperse the crowd, injuring multiple people. The activists told Amnesty International that Ministry of Intelligence officials have since arrested at least 20 people, and some wounded protesters have avoided going to hospital due to fears of being arrested.”

The protests have since spread to neighboring cities, and have included calls for a general strike and other acts of protest. The uprising in Mahabad was supported by international acts of solidarity, as Iranians across the globe staged protests and pickets in support of the upheaval in Mahabad.

The incident is just the latest indicator of the ongoing war between the Iranian regime against ethnic minorities, including Kurds. The systematic discrimination and repression faced by minorities including the Kurds has long been the source of tension and anger in Iran. The protests in Mahabad demonstrate just how quickly these tensions can flair into dramatic anti-government protests.

The Kurdish uprising which took place last week also coincided with the five year anniversary of the execution of a number of Kurdish activists. Shirin Alamhouli, Ali Heidarian, Farhad Vakili, and Farzad Kamangar were Kurdish activists who were executed on May 9th, 2010. They were accused of associating with Kurdish groups who stand opposed to the Iranian regime. A number of Kurdish activists remain imprisoned or on death row for political crimes.

In an interview with Rudaw, Omar Baleki, a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran told Rudaw, “On the surface it is just an attack on a single woman, but in reality this injustice and repression has been happening to the Kurdish people for 36 years.”

Hamid Yazdan Panah is an attorney focused on asylum and immigration in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is also a human rights activist focused on the Middle East and Iran.

By Hamid Yazdan Panah

Iran’s dissidents appear to be on their own. Once revered and celebrated by the international community, Iran’s dissidents appear to be an afterthought in respect to policy towards Iran. This reality was on full display this past week, as the Iranian regime arrested Nargess Mohammadi, Vice-President of the Defenders of Human Rights Centre (DHRC). The arrest of Mohammadi is just the latest example of the regimes ongoing war against freedom of speech and human rights activists.

Hamid Yazdan Panah is an attorney focused on asylum and immigration in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is also a human rights activist focused on the Middle East and Iran.

Much has been made about the supposed benefits of the Iran nuclear deal. One of the most audacious claims has been that the nuclear deal would result in an improvement in the human rights situation inside the country. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact if the last past few weeks are any indication, Iran may very well set a new record for executions committed in the past decade. To make matters worse, the issue is being completely swept under the rug, despite claims that a nuclear deal would give the West “leverage” to promote human rights.

According to the Iranian opposition sources, the regime as many as 65 individuals this past week, with not so much as a mention in the Western Press. Instead we are left with ridiculous articles like the one penned by Peter Beinart in the Atlantic, entitled “When a Nation Is Threatened, Democracy Is an Impossible Dream”. Actually Mr. Beinart, when a nation leads the world in execution rate, and is ruled by a Supreme leader, that is when democracy is an impossible dream.

Beinart takes one of the classic excuses used by the regime, the threat of an outside enemy, and parrots it to justify the behavior of the regime. The regime has done this throughout its history, whether it has been Iraq, Israel or the “Great Satan” the United States. All totalitarian regimes do this. Iran is no exception and the current nuclear deal will not change this behavior.

Beinart assumes somehow that a nuclear deal will benefit ordinary activists, because he has consulted with Akbar Ganji, who is promoting a line which interestingly enough mirrors that of the Iranian regime. Lets make a deal and it will make your impossible dreams come true.

Nevermind that the Iranian constitution is completely contrary to principles of equality, free speech, or pluralism. Nevermind that Iran's prisons are overflowing and the regime continues to hang people in public in medieval displays of power. These are inconvenient facts that aren’t relevant to our feel good piece.

Also lost in the article is the fact that a recent report by UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Ahmad Shaheed noted that “the overall situation has worsened” with respect to human rights under the supposedly moderate Rouhani.

Nasrin Sotoudeh, an activist attorney and former political prisoner dissidents articulated the reality of the nuclear negotiations in respect to human rights. “Reaching a nuclear agreement cannot automatically improve human rights in Iran...We should distinguish these issues from one another. If a government manages to reach an agreement with the international community, it can still continue to mistreat its own citizens.

Prominent Iranian dissident, Mohammad Maleki, was quoted as saying “In my opinion, as long as people are not permitted to exercise their freedom of expression and opinion, then nothing significant will happen for the improvement of the human rights situation.”

Beinart makes the same mistake he accuses republicans and others of making on Iran, putting partisan goals over human rights. Beinart, and indeed much of the American liberal viewpoint continues to overlook the truth nature of this regime, and ignore the daily reality for Iranians on the ground. Instead of surveying Iranian dissidents abroad, Beinart would do better to examine the viewpoints of Iranians imprisoned, many of whom oppose any deal with the murderous regime in Tehran.

This is not to say that a military conflict is the solution. But it is time for some honest reporting with respect to just how inhumane and brutal this regime is. Instead we are left with worsening human rights situation and no one left to report on it.

Hamid Yazdan Panah is an attorney focused on asylum and immigration in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is also a human rights activist focused on the Middle East and Iran.

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