New Age Islam Edit Bureau
28 August 2017
Is The World Waiting For A Time When
There Are No More Palestinians Left?
By Tariq A. Al-Maeena
The True Meaning of ‘Jihad’ And the Brotherhood’s
By Mohammed Al Shaikh
Compounding Rohingya Woes
By Saudi Gazette
Have No Illusions about the Muslim Brotherhood
By Abdellatif El-Menawy
Emirati Women Making a Mark in All
By Habiba Al Marashi
Qatar Submits To Iran and Loses the Gulf
By Mohammed Al-Hammadi
Doha’s Cosiness with Tehran Will Come
Back to Haunt It
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Hunger Strike That Shames Iran’s So-Called
By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
27 August 2017
Every day, Palestinian civilians are being
murdered in cold blood by the ruthless and heavily armed Israeli forces
operating in occupied Palestine. Coupled with the viciousness of the armed
Israeli settlers who have illegally encroached on Palestinian lands, the
situation is beyond dire. It is a holocaust of some proportions as ethnic
cleansing is in full swing under the patronage of Benjamin Netanyahu, who will
undoubtedly one day be charged with having committed crimes against humanity.
And yet, the world watches in silence.
Along with thousands of illegal settlers,
Netanyahu is calculatedly following the game plan set by his mentor Ariel
Sharon, a former Israeli prime minister who once said in a recorded interview:
“I don’t know something called International Principles. I vow that I’ll burn
every Palestinian child (that) will be born in this area. The Palestinian woman
and child are more dangerous than the man, because the Palestinian child’s
existence infers that generations will go on, but the man causes limited
danger. I vow that if I was just an Israeli civilian and I met a Palestinian I
would burn him and I would make him suffer before killing him. With one hit
I’ve killed 750 Palestinians in Rafah in 1956.”
Israeli brutality has reached its peak in
recent years with the uncensured daily murders of Palestinian civilians. Crimes
against women and children have reached unprecedented levels. In a span of
three days, Israeli Occupation Forces shot a 13-year-old Palestinian girl
because she “wouldn’t stop.” They then tried to cover up the documented video
clip by falsely claiming that she was attempting an attack, when in reality she
was on her way to her friend’s house.
The next day, Israeli occupation forces
beat, and then kidnapped a Palestinian girl near the illegal Israeli Jewish
settlement of Itmar, south of the West Bank city of Nablus. According to
eyewitnesses, Israeli occupation forces called on the girl from a distance of
about 50 meters and asked her to raise her hands and sit down. The girl obeyed
the order and did all that she was ordered to do by the heavily armed and
intimidating Israelis. They then approached the girl, beat her, blindfolded her
and took her to an unknown place. In justifying their actions, the Israeli
media reported that Israeli occupation army sources claimed that the girl was
kidnapped because she had a knife with her. As has been their recent modus
operandi, the Israeli forces failed to provide any proof that the girl was
indeed carrying a knife.
Two Palestinian brothers, unarmed and on
their way home, were accosted by the Israeli Occupation forces and shot. Mousa
Khadour was killed, while his brother Raghad was seriously injured. Their other
sibling Majd had been killed by the Israelis two months earlier.
Iyad Hamed was another unfortunate victim
of Israeli terrorism. He was gunned down by Israeli forces in the West Bank
city of Silwad. In the face of overwhelming evidence, the army was forced to
admit that the victim had not, in fact, been a terrorist and was not carrying a
weapon. Witnesses reported that he had lost his way, panicked when he saw the
soldiers, and tried to run to safety, whereupon he was shot in the back. This
was corroborated by medics who examined his wounds on the scene. What makes the
case of Iyad Hamed tragically significant is that he had a mental disability.
He was a simple-minded father who was on his way home from the store to deliver
candy to his children, who themselves had special needs, before, as a witness
stated, he was murdered and “the candies he bought for his children were mixed
with his blood.”
Israeli Occupation forces executed four
Palestinians in less than 24 hours, including one with Jordanian citizenship.
Among the victims was a 15-year-old Palestinian boy, Mohammed Rugby who was the
third victim executed in a terror swoop. The following day, an Israeli settler
ran over and killed a six-year-old Palestinian girl with his car as she stood
in front of her home.
Sabra, Shatila, and Jenin are not the only
reminders of mass murder against the Palestinian population. Such atrocities
continue unabated and unchecked today with sinister intentions. Such acts of
calculated violence have not escaped the attention of those who have not been
swayed by the propaganda of the Israeli government. A German diplomat was
incensed and asked me angrily: “Have Arabs lost their soul? Don’t they see what
is going on in Gaza and the rest of Palestine today? The Nazis used similar
tactics: terror, intimidation and finally murder. Today, the Israelis expect
the world to apologize for those sins of long ago, while they brazenly keep
committing similar ones.”
What is the rest of the world waiting for?
For a time when there are no more Palestinians left? Have those hapless people
reached the point of no return?
The most important weapon in the hands of
terrorists is to violate and abuse the term “jihad” and link it to terrorist
and suicide attacks. Leaders of the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood were the first
to exploit and violate this noble concept since the beginning of their
terrorist operations, when they assassinated Egyptian prime minister El
Nokrashy Pasha in mid-20th century. Since that time, terrorist operations began
to pick up pace. The deceitful Muslim Brotherhood leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi
tried to give doctrinal legitimacy to suicide operations to make it look
legitimate jihad in Islam.
Jihad in Islam - as it is known - has its
conditions, specifications and caveats. Since early times, the scholars of
Islam had thought through these stipulations. Throughout history, jihad was not
associated with indiscriminate killing of people or deliberately bringing about
destruction. It was not until this ridiculous organization came along to preach
what was not even mentioned in the Quran. Nevertheless, the Muslim Brotherhood
became very popular and young, ignorant people lined up in queues to become
suicide bombers, in order to enjoy the pleasures of Paradise. Muslim
Brotherhood exploited the repressed sexuality of the youth and their tendency
to commit violence for the benefit of the organization.
For bringing about revolution, Muslim
societies need to follow the obligation of obedience of Sunnis towards their
guardian, and the impossibility of dissent against it. Salman al-Awda has
published a book called Questions in the Revolution in which he cites all the
evidence on this issue, interprets some of them and completely discredits
others. The government censored his book and prevented him from selling it in
libraries. Nasser al-Omar also issued an inflammatory book against the Shiites
titled The Reality of Shiites in the Country of Monotheism, in which he
launched an atonement campaign against them, although they are native citizens
of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and a basic constituent of society.
Such misleading calls made it easier for
ISIS to attract Saudis to conduct suicide attacks in mosques of the Shiite
community in the Kingdom. It goes without saying that the legitimate jihad in
Islam is to be under the banner of the guardian or with his permission.
Therefore, all those who call for jihad, whether through a sermon, a public
statement, or a book; instigate against a constituent or group within a
society, or foment a culture of hatred to provoke young people and pave the way
for their recruitment to terrorist movements, should be prosecuted, because
they have a central role in creating the atmosphere of terrorism.
Al-Qaradawi cannot be tried and punished
because he lives in a state that believes in his doctrine. As for the Saudi
instigators, it is time to try them and hold them accountable, especially since
evidence condemns them and their terrorist operations, their seditious
practices and their suspicious relations in the cradle of Qatar. Their
punishment is a duty and an obligation.
WHOEVER planned and staged Thursday night’s
coordinated attacks on 30 police posts in Myanmar have done a great disservice
to the Rohingya minority in that country who are fighting for their basic
rights. At least 12 members of the security forces and 77 insurgents were
killed in the attack that took place in Myanmar’s Rakhine state where most of
approximately 1.1 million Muslim Rohingya live.
Those behind the attack can’t be unaware of
the massive military counteroffensive that followed similar incidents in
October 2016. Some 87,000 Rohingya had to flee to Bangladesh after the military
operation. Security forces have begun a new “clearance operation” this month,
worsening Rohingya’s conditions still further.
To be fair, the persecution of Rohingya did
not start with last year’s attacks. Over the past decade, they have been
repeatedly called “The Most Oppressed People in the World.”
In fact, this is an understatement.
A UN report in February described their
situation as a possible “genocide” and a set of “crimes against humanity.”
Myanmar authorities categorize them as
Bengali “interlopers” though they’ve lived there for generations. While
speaking to the media about Thursday’s attack on police posts, a government
spokesman was careful to avoid the term Rohingya. He described the attackers as
“extremist Bengali insurgents.”
Unfortunately, the country’s de-facto
leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for
fighting for human rights when her country was under military rule is on the
same page with the military and the Buddhist majority over the treatment of
Rohingya. She asked the diplomats from several countries not to use the term
Rohingya. Calling them Bengalis would, she thinks, perpetuate the myth they are
illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
The treatment of Rohingya has emerged as
Myanmar's most contentious human rights issue. Most of them were rendered
stateless by the country’s 1982 Citizenship Law.
Since 2012 and 2013, a wave of attacks by
their Buddhist neighbors in the northeastern state of Arakan/Rakhine has killed
thousands and displaced hundreds of thousands from their homes — driving them
into refugee camps abroad or shelters within the country.
Media are forbidden to travel to the
region, but reports of atrocities by the military are leaking. They include
rape, murder and burning villages.
The fact is most of those who could have
already fled the country. Only those who can’t afford to pay border officials
and people-traffickers to smuggle them across the border remain in Myanmar.
Along with them are those who are not able to withstand the perils of the
journey — children, elderly people and women.
The latest clashes come hours after a panel
led by former UN chief Kofi Annan urged Myanmar to lift restrictions on
movement and citizenship for Rohingya. But the worry is that Thursday’s
developments will spark an even more aggressive army response and trigger
clashes between Muslims and Buddhists.
Unfortunately, in the case of Rohingya,
repression at home is matched by apathy abroad. Even though more and more
Rohingya want to leave, neighbouring countries are becoming less and less
hospitable. Bangladesh has floated the idea of relocating tens of thousands of
Rohingya refugees to a remote, flood-prone island off its coast. In India,
where Rohingya are generally vilified, there has been a string protests against
Given the factors working against the
Rohingya at home and abroad, those behind Thursday’s attacks, whether Rohingya
or their supporters in other countries, are playing into the hands of Buddhist
extremists looking for an opportunity to tar the Rohingya with the brush of
Even before Thursday’s attack, Suu Kyi was
justifying all excesses against the Rohingya, saying they are part of
“counterterrorism” operations to apprehend the militants.
Rohingya and their friends should ponder
whether they, by their reckless actions, should enable Myanmar authorities to
justify their inhuman policies and repressive measures against a helpless
minority in the name of a worldwide campaign against terrorism.
Have No Illusions about the Muslim
The British MP and government minister
Alistair Burt visited Cairo last week. In an article published in the Egyptian
newspaper Al-Ahram, he said the diversionary tactics the Muslim Brotherhood
employed to avoid too much scrutiny of its activities before a British report
in 2015 were still going on in 2017.
Burt, the foreign office minister of state
for the Middle East, continued: “It is time for anyone who defends the Muslim
Brotherhood — in London or Cairo — to put an end to this ambiguity.”
This is an important development in the
British assessment of the Muslim Brotherhood, and its opinion on the danger the organisation
presents. The 2015 report to which Burt referred was inconclusive and
unsatisfactory for those who know the real danger of the Muslim Brotherhood, or
those who have suffered from its activities.
The report concluded that the available
evidence did not meet the minimum requirement to impose a ban on the
organisation. Instead, it opted for strict control of the Brotherhood’s behaviour
and activities, including tighter vetting of visa applications and monitoring
the sources of funding for charities linked with it.
In 2013, Britain was one of the few Western
countries to give warning about the Muslim Brotherhood. Since then, as
monitoring continued, authorities have banned 110 foreign extremists from
entering the UK, and 155 people overseas have been stripped of their British
passports so they cannot return. Extremists such as Anjem Chaudhry have been
arrested, prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned. Others, such as Abu Qatada and
Abu Hamza, have been deported.
Burt said in his meetings in Cairo that
from monitoring the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood in the UK and around
the world, it was clear that the organization used ambiguity to conceal its
extremist agenda in Egypt.
When Pope Francis visited Egypt in April,
the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party was described to him as “the door
of terrorism.” He was also told that the Brotherhood viewed the Egyptian
security personnel assigned to secure him during his visit as “Christian
militias.” This was a clear attempt by the Brotherhood to ignite sectarian
violence against Christians, and helps to explain the apparent change in Britain’s position.
I remember when London in the 1990s seemed
to be a haven for terrorists whose motives were clear. Britain’s position was
strange. Some British politicians and sections of the media even discussed the
dangers they were embracing and nurturing. I said at the time that they would
pay for this policy of containment, but even I could not have envisioned the
horrors that would ensue.
Now is the time to recall the mistakes of
the past, and to build on the realities of the new situation. It is a fact that
Britain and many other European countries have begun to realize the danger they
face, and have begun to take many measures to protect their borders, and their
This opportunity should be taken advantage
of and we should work together to achieve a common goal.
In this regard, the views of John Casson
are instructive. Casson, the British ambassador to Cairo for the past three years,
is a former deputy ambassador in Jordan and head of the foreign office’s Near
East and North Africa department, and one of the UK’s most knowledgeable people
on this region.
He met a number of colleagues recently, and
talked about a new direction in British policy on its dealings with terrorism
and its threat, and a new position on Britain’s view of the Muslim Brotherhood.
In response to a question about whether the
status of the Muslim Brotherhood would be reviewed, and whether it would be
classified as a terrorist group in Britain, Casson said the UK had laws to
ensure “we have all the power to confront those who pose a threat to us,
including those who may commit violence. We always want to ensure that we are
not complying with the establishment of networks, charities, sites, bank
accounts and mosques that support violence and extremism.”
He said the application of these laws
related to all groups, including anyone associated with the Muslim Brotherhood,
because the UK would not allow and would not tolerate terrorism and extremism,
and would face it with full force. “Anyone who publishes poisonous ideas, such
as ideas of war between Islam and Britain, or ideas that incite violence, will
be dealt with full force and decisiveness when we find any evidence of a person
committing such acts.”
I believe this is a major development in
the British vision that I think we should build on.
August 27, 2017
In the past, women in the UAE have had a
major role in taking care of the family while their men were away for several
months diving, fishing or trading overseas.
Emirati women embody pride, strength and
grace, and have played an integral role in the society. As a mother, sister,
daughter and a wife, they are upbringing the next generation with great
responsibility. Notably, every generation of women paves the way for future
generations to contribute more to the growth. Today, women in the UAE play a
far larger role compared to yesteryears. However, we still have to gain ground
on several fronts to achieve complete balance.
We are blessed to live in a society where
the leadership ensures that women are given a voice and due importance for
their contribution to the future growth of the UAE. His Highness Sheikh
Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE
and Ruler of Dubai, has amply stressed the importance of women when he said:
"Arab women make up half our community. They are sometimes better than
men. Today, they are rising to greater heights in our society and are able to
achieve goals within our communities. They will only grow."
In the past, women in the UAE have had a
major role in taking care of the family while their men were away for several
months diving, fishing or trading overseas. Many women had worked as traders,
making handicrafts from palm trees and selling them at the markets to support
themselves. After major oil discoveries in 1958, women's role within the UAE
gradually expanded and they assumed major societal roles. Women in the UAE today
make up two-thirds of the government workforce. Emirati women have challenged
the norms and succeeded as business owners, ministers, parliamentarian leaders
and fighter pilots. Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Minister of
State for Tolerance, is a female icon from the UAE. She made history in 2004 as
the first woman to hold a ministerial post. Dr Amal Al Qubaisi is the first
woman to taker the highest post at the Federal National Council. Kholoud Al
Dhaheri was appointed as the first woman judge. Maryam Al Saffar was the first
Emirati woman Controller of the Dubai Metro. Major Mariam Al Mansoori was UAE's
first female fighter pilot. UAE leaders have encouraged women to work in
sectors which were earlier restricted to men. The leadership has always had
great confidence in the capabilities of women to take up major challenges and
succeed in proving themselves capable of holding senior positions in society.
To celebrate the achievements of Emirati
women, August 28 was declared as the "Emirati Women's Day". The day
was launched last year by Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairperson of the
General Women's Union, President of the Family Development Foundation, and
Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood. The logo of
Emirati Women's Day depicts the country's flag with an illustration of a woman
on one section and signifies the individuality of Emirati women.
Emirati Women's Day boosts the recognition
of women in the region and highlights their pivotal role in the community. The
day is part of a bigger movement to increase female empowerment in the Middle
East. Women make up 66 per cent of public sector workers, and 30 per cent of
them are in leadership roles. The UAE has eight female ministers, making it one
of the highest rates of ministerial representation in the region. Women
representation in the Federal National Council stands at 20 per cent. UAE
ranked first in the 2015 World Economic Forum report on the literacy rate
indicator and on women's enrolment in secondary education index.
The Constitution of the UAE guarantees
equal rights for both men and women. Under the Constitution, women enjoy the
same legal status, claim to titles, access to education, the right to practice
professions, and the right to inherit property. Women are also guaranteed the
same access to employment, health and family welfare facilities.
The UAE has made huge steps to support the
advancement of women and boost their contribution to development. The country
continues to demonstrate its commitment to empower women through supporting
more meaningful roles while maintaining strong connections to tradition and
culture. Emirati women are making their mark in every field in the Arab region.
They will continue to grow and prosper and will surely overcome any barriers
that come their way.
Anyone who is more biased to a country
other than his homeland or submits to a stranger is the one who loses out. Any
state that goes hand in hand with foreigner against its brothers and neighbors
is also at a loss.
Qatar’s crisis has revealed several crises
which the Gulf intellectual and Arab intellectual suffer from. Some of these
crises are related to specifying priorities, stop making mistakes,
understanding the geographic surrounding and differentiating between the enemy
and the friend and between those who wish well and others who wish evil. There
are other crises pertaining to loyalties and affiliations and to visions and
stances. This is in addition to crises pertaining to reasoning, understanding
interests and arranging options, such as what comes first, money or the
It’s such a real and huge crisis that the
Gulf has seen nothing like and may see nothing like. It showed us a lot as it’s
only through it that we learnt things we would not have learnt through
compliments. There are many details we would not have realized if we had kept
silent over Qatar’s destructive role in the region and the world and if the
four countries hadn’t made their decision to boycott Doha or if they hadn’t
announced the real reasons they decided to boycott it. If none of this
happened, we would still be deceived by Qatar and its command which showed us
that the affairs of Gulf and Arab countries are the least of its concerns and
that it’s been working to serve the interest of their enemies or rather to
serve the interest of anyone who has ambitions in the region.
A Swamp Of Conspiracy
Qatar is involved, or actually drowned, in
a swamp of conspiracy against its brothers and neighbours. This is why the
scandal shocked the Qataris more than it shocked the rest of the world. Instead
of stopping what it’s doing, Qatar chose to be stubborn and arrogant and
decided to keep walking down this wrong path.
Its submission went as far as requesting
from the Iranian regime to let it open its embassy in Tehran. Less than two
years after summoning its envoy in Iran following the attacks on the Saudi
embassy in Tehran and the consulate in Mashhad, Doha decided to return its
envoy without providing details or making clarifications. The logical
explanation is that after its relations with its neighbours and brothers went
bad, Qatar started to get closer to Iran and submitted to it. Doha also hopes
to enhance bilateral relations with it in all fields while losing the Gulf.
What kind of policy is this? What
sovereignty does Qatar speak of? Who benefits from this step which even the
Iranians mocked? Mustafa Abdali, an Iranian political analyst, warned of
rapprochement with Qatar and called on his government not to forget that Qatar
Qatar’s understanding of regional affairs
is shallow, as Doha has taken foolish decisions, such as reopening the Iranian
embassy. Is this a logical move?
The new cooperation between Qatar and Iran
has come as no surprise to Gulf observers. The restoration of full diplomatic
ties and the return of Qatar’s ambassador to Tehran illustrate the truth of the
claims made by the bloc of four countries boycotting Qatar for its hostile behaviour
Qatar, like Iran, is a source of chaos and
violence. The renewed alliance is best described as the meeting of the two main
violence-funding poles in the region.
On one hand, Iran is the main supporter of
ultra-hard-line militant groups such as Hezbollah, Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq and
others. While on the other, Qatar, for nearly three decades, sponsored
extremist militant organizations such as Al-Qaeda, Daesh, Nusra Front, Ansar
Al-Sharia and others.
The only common denominator bringing Qatar
and Iran together is regional security and political cooperation.
Qatar is not an important trading partner
of Iran, and there is no Shiite figure in Qatar to facilitate their visits to
the holy sites. There is no cultural or popular consensus that can justify
Doha’s claim that the economic boycott by
its angry Gulf neighbours forced it into rebooting ties with Tehran is simply
not true. The peninsula’s consumer market is the smallest in the region,
meaning that Qatar’s requirements can easily be met.
Any potential Qatari-Iranian trade is based
on one factor — forming a hostile front against Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the
Adopting such an approach suggests that
Qatar has fallen back to its pre-2010 policies. Qatar was an ally of Iran, and
a key supporter of Bashar Assad in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
This alliance was then directed against the
Saudi-Egyptian axis. The relationship between Doha and Tehran lasted for over a
decade, and was anti-Saudi, with the two governments fiercely supporting
Hezbollah and Hamas.
Signs of change and the advance of
cooperation preceded recent visits by Qatari officials to the Iranian capital.
Al Jazeera, Doha’s state-funded media mouthpiece, started employing rhetoric
that differed from the official Qatari government position.
It covered the Iran-backed Houthi militias
in Yemen, defended pro-Iranian armed groups in the Saudi town of Awamiyah, and
changed its viewpoint about the uprising in Syria.
Qatar refused to agree to the terms set by
Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, describing the boycott and demands
made by the Anti-Terror Quartet as a blunt and loud transgression against its
sovereignty — but it is now making that sovereignty vulnerable to Iranians and
Why? Certainly not for military protection,
as is the case with Turkey. In fact, the cooperation with Tehran is a conscious
effort to take a hostile, offensive step in the region. In return, the Iranian
cleric-led regime expects Qatar to pump funds and propaganda support to Iranian
proxies spread across the region, in order to increase pressure on its
This all emphasizes what everyone knows
already, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa, the retired prince, is still the one who
deals single-handedly with the crisis in Qatar, not his son Tamim, the current
Unfortunately for Doha, no matter who holds
the reins there today, US policy under the leadership of Donald Trump, the main
international player in the region, changed from what it was during the
administration of Barack Obama. Trump’s administration is fighting Iran rather
than appeasing it.
Doha’s cooperation with the Iranian regime
is a nonsensical step, and presents proof that the Anti-Terror Quartet can use
in discussions with international governments. It is further evidence of the
hostile nature of the Qatari administration and its ties to extremism and
violence. It will be difficult to justify Doha’s decision to a large part of
the Arab public, which despises the mullahs in Tehran because of their actions
in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.
Protecting and promoting human rights is
one of the major promises that Hassan Rouhani and the so-called moderates
continue to give to the people of Iran. As Rouhani enters his fifth year as
president, however, not only has Iran’s human rights record not improved,
evidence suggests it has significantly deteriorated, particularly when it comes
to the situation of minorities such as Sunnis.
A major area that requires more global
attention is the plight of political prisoners, journalists and human rights
activists in jail. Specifically, what is happening to them behind the walls of
Last month, inmates in Hall 12 of
Gohardasht prison, also known as Rajai Shahr, 20km west of Tehran, were
subjected to a violent and unexplained raid that led to more than 50 prisoners
being transferred to Hall 10, where conditions and treatment were even worse.
Hall 10 had been newly renovated before the
raid, apparently with the explicit intention of putting more pressure on the
prisoners of conscience who the Iranian regime was planning to transfer there.
The prisoners are subject to 24-hour video and audio surveillance, even inside
private cells and bathrooms. Windows have been covered over with metal
sheeting, reducing airflow during summer in a place already known for its
inhumane and unhygienic conditions.
In addition, the raid involved the
confiscation or outright theft of virtually all the inmates’ personal
belongings, including prescription medication. Since then, prison authorities
have denied the prisoners access to medical treatment and have even blocked the
delivery of expensive medication purchased for them by families outside the
prison. Withholding medical treatment is a well-established tactic by Iranian
authorities to exert pressure on political prisoners, especially those who
continue activism from jail or strive to expose the conditions that political
prisoners and other detainees face.
Despite the fact that their newfound stress
and lack of sanitation already threatened to have a severe impact on their
health, more than a dozen of the raid’s victims immediately organized a hunger
strike and declared that the protest would continue until they were transferred
back to their former surroundings and had their belongings returned to them.
Others joined the protest, and at the last
count 22 detainees were participating in the hunger strike, most of them
serving sentences for political crimes such as supporting the leading banned
opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran. The core group
have been starving themselves for approximately a month now, and their health
has predictably deteriorated.
Heart, kidney, and lung ailments have been
reported, and the prisoners are approaching the point at which they may start
dying. Nonetheless, neither the Gohardasht authorities nor the Iranian judiciary
have shown any sign of responding to their demands or publicly addressing the
severity of the crisis. What is worse, the international community has not been
much more attentive.
There has been virtually no push by Western
governments or the United Nations to put pressure on the Iranian regime to save
the lives of the Gohardasht inmates. This is particularly disappointing in
light of the recent shifts in Western policies toward Iran, which come after
years of conciliation and neglect for human rights while the United States and
its allies focused their attention narrowly on the nuclear issue and
prospective trade deals.
During that time, various human rights
activists rightly criticized the world community for putting certain matters of
Iran policy on the back burner even though they had an immediate impact on the
lives and safety of potentially millions of Iranian citizens. It has been
widely reported that Tehran has been cracking down with escalating intensity on
journalists, activists, and other “undesirables,” swelling the ranks of its
For all their resilience in the face of
violent repression, the Iranian people have precious little outside support
that they can rely on. Every global policymaker and every prominent human
rights activist has a responsibility to prove this conclusion wrong.
Organizations such as the National Council
of Resistance of Iran have vigorously responded to the hunger strikes by
calling for the United Nations high commissioner on human rights and the special
rapporteurs on torture and on human rights in Iran to issue public statements
and initiate a coordinated strategy that will impose serious penalties on the
Iranian regime if it does not address the plight of the Gohardasht hunger
There is a desperate need for international
inquiries into this and other human rights abuses in Iran. In fact, while the
Gohardasht situation is urgent, once an adequate international response is
made, it should be a template inquiries into crimes against humanity that no
one in the mullahs’ regime has ever answered for.
In the summer of 1988, about 30,000
political prisoners were hanged simply for suspected loyalties to
anti-theocratic resistance groups, mainly the PMOI. The incident was largely
ignored in Western media, and despite a handful of statements over the years,
no serious inquiry has been launched to identify the locations of the secretly
buried victims or to pursue charges against those responsible, many of whom
retain positions of influence to this day.
Although that was the single worst act of
repression against Iran’s political prisoners, the Gohardasht hunger strikes
show that the overall pattern of repression remains unchanged, while the
clerical regime remains as indifferent to human suffering as it ever has been.
It goes without saying that the international community as a whole is better
than this; but that community must act accordingly and intervene when Iran’s
political violence threatens to claim new victims.