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Editorial DEPORTATION OF IRANIAN REFUGEES TO IRAN IS UNACCEPTABLE Maryam Namazie, IFIR Deputy Director May 25, 1998
In the post-Cold War era, Western governments have lost the ideological incentive to promote asylum. The further globalization of capital has decreased their need for cheap labor at home. Furthermore, the role of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which was created as a result of the Cold War, has been increasingly relegated to migration control assistance for governments.
As a result, Iranian refugees fleeing the tyrannical Islamic Republic of Iran are facing restrictive measures that blatantly violate refugee rights. Western governments state that most of these refugees "do not fall within the refugee definition." They overtly proclaim that general conditions in Iran are reasonable for Third World standards, though intolerable for Westerners. Their institutionalized racism blames refugees for social problems which actually result from a system that puts profits first and human needs last. They justify their actions by unjustly blaming citizens for their "unwillingness to accept newcomers." Despite the fact that the situation in Iran has worsened, they say that conditions in Iran no longer requires a moratorium on deportations. When expedient, however, they used a moratorium and high approval rates to exert pressure on the regime. Such policies are created for specific political and economic self-interests. False portrayals of a tolerable Iran and a "moderate," smiling mullah opens the way for the only thing that’s really free to move in this world - capital. In the meantime, refugees, those "annoying" reminders of the dark realities of an Islamic Iran, are increasingly rejected and forcibly returned to their persecutors.
Governments’ categorization of migrants must be renounced to defend the undeniable rights of any human being who says "no" to an abominable regime. Applying for asylum is a political act against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Anyone who proclaims that s/he is unwilling to return to Iran must be granted refuge. There must be a moratorium on deportations. Anything less is inhuman and unacceptable.
SUPPORT CAMPAIGN PROTESTING CANADIAN GOVERNMENT’S DEPORTATION OF THOUSANDS Soraya Shahabi, Director, IFIR Secretariat May 21, 1998
According to a press release issued by the International Federation of Iranian Refugees (IFIR) - Canada Branch, the Canadian government has officially announced its plan to deport 17,000 people, including hundreds of Iranian asylum seekers. Tens are being deported on a weekly basis.
The Canadian government’s anti-refugee policies, targeting low-income families, has been opposed by several progressive organizations throughout the past year. With the IFIR-Canada Branch’s initiative, ongoing protests have culminated in an expansive and national "Campaign Against the Federal Government Attacks on Immigrants and Refugees," comprising tens of workers’, women’s, humanitarian and socialist organizations, including Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP), a renowned labor organization. Other organizations supportive of the Campaign include: Canadian Autoworkers Union Local 199 Human Rights Committee; Ontario Public Service Employees Union Human Rights Committee; Canadian Federation of Students; Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3903; National Action Committee on the Status of Women; Comite Sans Emploi; Socialist Action; Black Action Defence Committee; Young Koreans United; Native African Inmates and Families Association; Food Not Bombs; Mayworks; Ontario Public Interest Research Group; Friends of Sun Ha Yang and Susan Kim; University of Toronto Women's Centre; Worker-Communist Party of Iran and Iraq, Canada Branch; New Socialist Group; CKLN Radio Station and CHRY Radio Station.
Among other actions, this Campaign organized a March 3, 1998 demonstration in Toronto and a March 27 action in Vancouver, has established Campaign branches in London, Ottawa, Montreal and Vancouver, and has gained widespread support. The Campaign is organizing a May 29 demonstration in seven cities across Canada.
This national protest needs the support of organizations and individuals outside Canada. International support will undoubtedly have an impact on the Campaign's success. IFIR’s members, activists and branches world wide will relentlessly strive to gain this international solidarity.
The Canadian government cannot be permitted to toy with the lives of thousands of human beings and to promote the further deterioration of internationally- recognized refugee standards world-wide. Beginning on May 29, 1998, IFIR urges organizations and individuals to support this important struggle by sending protest faxes and letters to Canadian embassies in their countries of residence, demanding:
· an end to deportations; · permanent residency for asylum seekers; and · the cancellation of the anti-refugee Immigration Legislative Review report, "Not Just Numbers: A Canadian Framework for Future Immigration."
As in the past, international solidarity can and will prevent the Canadian government from implementing its inhuman policies.
REFUGEE RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS Hassan Varash, Director, IFIR-Canada Branch May 29, 1998
Refugee rights are under vicious attack. Asylum seekers are being deported to their persecutors. In order to escape detention and deportation by the Canadian authorities, they are forced underground, without the right to social assistance, work, education, and health care. They must work under the minimum wage in order to live under the poverty line. This situation must end, and must end immediately.
"Not Just Numbers: A Canadian Framework for Future Immigration" (also known as New Proposals) is a document that, if passed into a law, will fundamentally undermine refugee rights. It discriminates against people’s gender, race, country of origin, income, health, and above all, class. It is a full-fledged offensive against the working class and humanity. The "New Proposal" is meant to fulfill the exigencies of globalization: to accommodate the free movement of capital and further constrain the movement of people from one place to another. Its essence is to create further internationalism for capital, and nationalism and localism for the working class. This must be stopped, and stopped immediately.
The Canadian government’s offensive is radical, militant, and in essence global. The struggle against it should possess the same characteristics. We should unite and fight back. Refugees and immigrants are not marginal groups that one should feel pity for. They are not minorities. They are human beings and part of the working class. Their rights are human rights. An attack on their rights must be conceived as an offensive against humanity and the working class. Accordingly, we call on all trade unions, women’s and progressive organizations, and individuals to join us in our fight. Our strength lies in our unity and solidarity.
ZOLEYKHA KADKHODA HAS BEEN RELEASED BUT THE BARBARITY OF STONING CONTINUES Ramesh Ahmadi, International Campaign in Defense of Women’s Rights in Iran, US Committee May 20, 1998
On May 15, 1998, Amnesty International (AI) issued an urgent action follow-up on the case of Zoleykha Kadkhoda. In August of last year, Kadkhoda was accused of engaging in sexual relations outside of marriage and sentenced to death by stoning in the town of Bukan. Local residents opposed to the stoning managed to stop it before she was killed. Though Kadkhoda was wounded, authorities had not lifted her death sentence. AI reports that authorities claim she was released on November 26, 1997.
The International Campaign in Defense of Women's Rights in Iran (ICDWRI), the International Federation of Iranian Refugees (IFIR), and the Committee for Humanitarian Assistance to Iranian Refugees (CHAIR) congratulate all who worked on behalf of Kadkhoda to condemn stoning in Iran. The members of her community who took direct action in demonstrating their protest of an inhuman act, inspired a worldwide movement against stoning. Our important role in that movement included gathering over a thousand signatures and resolutions from individuals and organizations, issuing press releases and action appeals, holding demonstrations, conducting media outreach, and gaining the support of international human rights organizations, such as the World Organization Against Torture.
Our campaign highlighted the case of Kadkhoda because of the local opposition which succeeded in preventing her death, but also because stoning is a particularly inhuman example of the Islamic regime's violence and suppression. Though we have focused on condemnation of stoning, we unequivocally oppose all forms of the death penalty in Iran and everywhere. Likewise, we have emphasized the stoning of women, though the regime kills both men and women in this manner. Because of the severe discrimination faced by women in the legal, economic and social spheres, women have much greater difficulty than men in averting the Islamic regime's barbaric laws such as stoning. The regime's systematic suppression of women makes them particularly vulnerable to human rights abuses.
Though Kadkhoda was saved, activism against the terror of the Islamic regime will continue. Since our campaign began with the stoning of Kadkhoda in August 1997, we have received reports of at least twelve additional people who have been stoned to death. And these are just the reports that have reached us. More recently, on May 2, Reuters reported that Iranian journalist Morteza Firoozi was sentenced to death by stoning on charges of allegedly engaging in voluntary sexual relations and "spying." Both charges are politically motivated. We call on all individuals and groups to continue their protests and denunciations of the regime and stoning.
DEFEND THE RIGHT TO CITIZENSHIP FOR ROSHANAK RAVANBAKHSH IN NORWAY IFIR - Norwegian Branch May 4, 1998
Although Roshanak Ravanbakhsh, an asylum seeker in Norway, faced gender-based persecution in Iran, she is threatened with deportation to the Islamic Republic of Iran. In order to arrest and deport her, the Norwegian police raided Ravanbakhsh’s home in Melbu (northern Norway) at 5:00 a.m. on April 23,1998. To escape arrest, Ravanbakhsh threw herself out of her third floor apartment window and was severely wounded. Unconscious, she was taken to the hospital where she must remain for two months. IFIR denounces the Norwegian government’s rejection of Ravanbakhsh’s asylum application and urges groups and individuals to specifically defend her right to citizenship in Norway and the right of all woman fleeing gender-apartheid in Iran to protection.
SUPPORT THE SHELTER AID CAMPAIGN FOR WOMEN IN IRAQI KURDISTAN The International Campaign in Defense of Women’s Rights in Iran, Sweden May 1998
The "Independent Women’s Organization" (IWO) in Kurdistan is planning to build a shelter for women who are the victims of violence and other criminal acts. The IWO was formed on March 8, 1992 in protest to the massive wave of terror waged against women in Iraqi Kurdistan in March 1991. The International Campaign in Defense of Women’s Rights in Iran (ICDWRI) urges groups and individuals to support their activities and struggle to fight terror, discrimination and suppression. Support the building of a shelter for women who fear being killed or burned by their male relatives; shot at by the police; publicly executed; stoned to death; disabled and disfigured; kidnapped and secretly murdered. For more information, contact the ICDWRI.
To subscribe to Hambastegi, the monthly publication of the International Federation of Iranian Refugees (IFIR), please send a $15 check made payable to CHAIR to: GPO, P. O. Box 7051, New York, NY 10116. The Committee for Humanitarian Assistance to Iranian Refugees (CHAIR) is a member of IFIR. For more information, contact IFIR/CHAIR at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TEHRAN, May 31 (Reuters) - Visiting former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing has called for an improvement in ties between Iran and the European Union, Iranian media said on Sunday.
Giscard d'Estaing met Iranian President Mohammad Khatami on Sunday and discussed Iran's relations with Europe, state-run television said.
The English-language Iran Daily quoted the former French president saying: ``One should realize that Iran is a significant power in the Middle East and, as such, must not be isolated. The EU should work in active partnership with Iran.''
``France attaches great importance to developing ties with Iran,'' Giscard d'Estaing was quoted as saying.
Giscard, who held office from 1974 to 1981, also praised Iran's rich cultural history and said that ``the real face of Iran should be introduced to the world,'' Iran's official news agency IRNA said.
Ties between Iran and Europe were soured last year after a Berlin court concluded that Iranian leaders were responsible for the 1992 killings of Kurdish dissidents in Germany. Iran denied the charge.
After the verdict, Europe suspended a policy of ``critical dialogue'' towards the Islamic Republic and EU members and Iran withdrew their top envoys. The envoys have since returned and relations have improved slightly.
Recent EU talks in Brussels suggested that Iran and the EU would soon hold talks that could lead to a more constructive relationship.
TEHRAN, May 31 (Reuters) - These are some of the leading stories in Iranian newspapers on Sunday. Reuters has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy.
- Iran's foreign minister expressed concern over an escalation of an arms race in the region and called on all regional countries to join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
- Iran's foreign minister said in a meeting with visiting former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing that relations with the European Union could expand only through mutual understanding and this could only brought about by further contacts and dialogue.
- Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stressed the importance of tolerance among forces loyal to the Islamic government, saying that realisation of Islamic principles in the society would help strengthen the bond between the people and their government.
- Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said Iran and Turkmenistan had agreed to speed up preliminary measures relating to a project to transfer Turkmen gas to Europe via Iran and Turkey.
- The first direct flight between Iran's southeastern city of Zahedan to Dubai was inaugurated on Saturday. An Iranian civil aviation official said the number of weekly flights could increase if there was sufficient passenger demand.
- Iran will release on Thursday the details pertaining to a new $400 million project to build an oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea to Tehran, the National Iranian Oil Company said.
- The visiting Belgian deputy foreign minister said that there was great potential for the expansion of Tehran-Brussels relations.
- Iran has purchased three million tonnes of wheat, 800,000 tonnes of vegetable oil, 900,000 tonnes of sugar and 550,000 tonnes of rice to cater for public demand in the year started on March 21, a deputy commerce minister said.
- Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation said that no trace of radioactivity had been detected in Iran's southeastern region following the nuclear tests by Pakistan.
Sunday, May 31, 1998; 11:44 a.m. EDT
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- A leading hard-line opponent of Iran's moderate president was re-elected Sunday as the head of the country's powerful Parliament.
Of the 258 deputies present in the 270-seat Majlis, or parliament, 165 voted to reinstate Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri as speaker of the legislature for his third one-year term, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
Also re-elected were the incumbent 12 members of the parliament's presiding board, Nateq-Nouri's two deputies, three clerks and six secretaries, IRNA said.
Hard-line opponents of President Mohammad Khatami have used their hold on the Majlis to try and stall his pro-democracy reforms.
A power struggle between hard-line and moderate factions inside Iran's Islamic government intensified after Nateq-Nouri was routed by Khatami in last year's presidential election.
The rivalry has led to large public demonstrations in Tehran and other cities in recent weeks that have sometimes turned violent.
© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press
Thousands reported dead
May 31, 1998 Web posted at: 11:37 a.m. EDT (1537 GMT)
KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Aid workers struggled Sunday to get urgently needed aid to survivors of Saturday's major earthquake, which aid officials said had killed some 3,000 people and left thousands homeless in a remote, mountainous region of northern Afghanistan.
About 50 villages were said to have been destroyed, many by landslides, in the 7.1 magnitude quake in the Badakhshan region.
"Now we have confirmed information from our colleagues and other aid workers in Takhar (province) that 3,000 people have died in yesterday's quake," said Chris Teirlinck of the French relief agency Medecins Sans Frontieres from the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif.
31 May 1998 Web posted at: 06:56 GST, Dubai time (02:56 GMT)
TEHRAN, May 30 (Reuters) - Clashes between conservatives and moderates disrupted a prayer gathering in a central Iranian city, which has been a site of recent political unrest, newspapers said on Saturday.
The daily Salam said hardline opponents of Isfahan's moderate Friday prayer leader, Ayatollah Jalaleddin Taheri, clashed with his supporters on Friday, Islam's holy day.
The newspaper said protestors demanded the resignation of Taheri, a key supporter of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, and also called for the resignation of two key moderate ministers.
Taheri has come under fire from hardliners for his vocal criticism of attacks on moderate newspapers and cinemas showing films deemed immoral by hardliners.
The clashes are part of a sharpening conflict between moderates backing reform-minded Khatami and conservatives fearing the abandonment of Islamic principles.
The daily Farda said thousands of people held a rally in Isfahan on Thursday "in protest against the violation of the sanctity of the month of Moharram by students who applauded and cheered" in support of Khatami in a gathering on May 23 at Tehran University.
Moharram is a Moslem holy month, marked by sorrowful remembrances of a leading Shi'ite Moslem martyr.
Protesters were offended by the festive atmosphere at Tehran University where Khatami gave a speech to mark the first anniversary of his election. It was attended by massive, cheering crowds of students, which contrasted to the more sombre mood of conservative rallies.
The Isfahan protests followed a massive rally in the holy city of Qom earlier in which 20,000 Shi'ite seminary students and teachers marched to protest the festive Khatami rally as "a Western cultural onslaught on Islamic values and beliefs."
A senior conservative cleric, in a rare personal attack on Khatami, said in published remarks on Saturday that the pro-Khatami crowd's clapping and whistling was un-Islamic.
"The president must publicly admit that he has committed an error, or else I fear (he will get) a slap in the face by God and by the people," said Ayatollah Abolqassem Khazali.
Hardliners opposed to Khatami and his supporters have clashed on a wide range of issues since the election, in which Khatami trounced conservative opponents.
Occassionally, the disagreements turn violent, as was the case last Monday when hardliners attacked a rally in Tehran held by moderate students, the latest in a series of assaults on moderate and dissident groups.
Isfahan and the nearby town of Najafabad, the hometown of a senior dissident cleric, have been a hotbed of protest since the cleric, Ayatollah Ali Montazeri, was put under house arrest after he questioned the authority of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a speech in November.
Supporters of the dissident Montazeri have held frequent strikes. These were followed by a massive march in support of Khamenei in the city of Isfahan less than two weeks ago.
Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.