Sima Sahar Zerehi – In most countries citizens are alerted to the onset of an upcoming election when local politicians and political parties begin to invest greater energy in showcasing themselves.
Before the political ads on the radio and television are aired, before the campaign buttons are issued and flyers distributed, before web savvy teams of young interns mount twitter campaigns and erect Facebook pages, politicians dust off their political profiles, practice their photo-ready smiles, pucker up their baby-kissing faces and take to the streets of their constituencies and ridings in the hopes of garnering support.
In Iran, you know an election is on the way by the smell of fear and blood circulating in the streets. Instead of campaign flyers, the Iranian government likes to signal the start of a new set of fraudulent elections by issuing a series of death sentences; instead of political rallies they devote their energy to arbitrary mass detentions; instead of airing TV advertisements, they feature televised forced confessions of tortured prisoners; and instead of signing up new recruits to political parties they search for new scapegoats that they can torture, rape, imprison and execute in order to intimidate the public into compliance.
With almost daily news of new arrests and orders of execution coming from Iran, it’s easy to detect the approach of the March 2, 2012 parliamentary election, which will determine the new members of the Islamic Consultative Assembly or Majlis.
As Iran is facing greater international political pressure in the forms of economic sanctions in response to its persistent nuclear policies, the regime like all bullies is turning its attention to those that it can more easily control and silence, its internal population.
Saeed Malekpour Facing Imminent Execution
In their ongoing crusade to stifle internet freedom the Iranian regime has been scapegoating various bloggers and web developers in the lead up to the election. Saeed Malekpour a Canadian resident and web developer is one of the people being used as a pawn in the regime’s pre-election campaign of fear and intimidation.
Malekpour, who has been detained by the Iranian regime since 2008, is currently being held in Evin prison under the charges of “corrupting the earth” and facing a death sentence. This past week new information has emerged leading his family to believe that his execution may be imminent.
Appealing to the UN
Last week, Saeed’s sister, Maryam Malekpour, wrote a letter to the United Nations urging for international intervention on her brother’s case.
In her letter she expresses her ongoing disbelief regarding her brother’s case, she states, “We cannot believe Saeed was arrested in the first place let alone sentenced to death. We cannot believe that we have been forced to live a horrific nightmare every day for more than three years. Saeed can be illegally executed at any moment unless the international community defends his life. Saeed’s lawyers have told our family that the only hope left is the international community. All legal channels within Iran have been exhausted.”
She concludes with a plea for assistance, stating, “We are desperate for your help!”
Statement from the EU
As a result of the tireless efforts mounted by Malekpour’s family and supporters, the international community has begun to issue statements of support for Saeed’s case.
On February 21, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton issued a statement regarding Saeed Malekpour’s case.
Ashton noted “Civil rights organizations have raised serious concerns over the fairness, transparency and the speed of the court proceedings.”
She goes on to state “I repeat my call on Iran to review their sentences and I particularly call on Iran to halt the execution of Saeed Malekpour.”
Ashton also made references to the cases of bloggers Ahmadreza Hashempour and Vahid Asghari who have been similarly sentenced to death.
Support from the Canadian Government
Last week, the House of Commons unanimously backed a motion tabled by Richmond Hill Tory MP Costas Menagakis speaking to the parliament’s “deep concern for the safety of Iranian citizen Saeed Malekpour following reports of his imminent execution.”
The motion stipulated “that Canada hold Iran accountable for Malekpour’s treatment; and that this House call on Iran to reverse its current course, meet its international human rights obligations and release prisoners such as Saeed Malekpour and others who have failed to receive fair and transparent legal treatment.”
On February 7, Senator Linda Frum also took the opportunity to speak out against human rights abuses in Iran. In her statement she condemned “the Iranian regime’s appalling abuse of human rights” and called “for the immediate release of all of Iran’s unlawfully held political prisoners.”
She made specific reference to the cases of Saeed Malekpour, Iranian Canadian blogger and journalist Hossein Derakhshan, and Hamid Ghassemi-Shall, an Iranian and Canadian citizen arrested while visiting his dying mother in Iran in 2008.
Senator Frum stated, “As a member of the Senate of Canada, I condemn in the strongest of terms the Iranian regime’s deplorable abuse of human rights, and I call for the immediate release of the unlawfully held Canadian political prisoners Saeed Malekpour, Hossein Derakhshan and Hamid Ghassemi-Shall.”
Days of Action
Human rights activists across North America are uniting forces to amp up their efforts on Malekpour’s case. A series of days of action have been called from Friday, February 24 to Sunday, February 26.
Maria Rohaly, from Washington DC, the Coordinator for Mission Free Iran, the organization that also launched the Sakineh Ashtiani campaign jointly with the International Committee Against Execution, is working in partnership with the Saeed Malekpour campaign on the upcoming days of action.
In Washington a protest is scheduled for Saturday, February 25 at the Islamic Republic offices inside the Pakistani embassy, Iran doesn’t have a US based embassy but is permitted to hold offices.
In addition to speaking about Malekpour’s case, the Washington protest will highlight the cases of three political prisoners in Iran: Kurdish cousin’s Zanyar and Loghman Moradi sentenced to death since December 2010, and Kurdish civil rights activist Shirko Moarefi arrested in 2008 and awaiting a death sentence since 2009.
“These cases are just a few examples of the growing number of political prisoners waiting imminent execution in Iran. When you’re trying to stop an execution you need to bring out as many people as possible,” noted Maria Rohaly and added, “the survival of this regime depends on brutal tactics such as execution and torture. It’s up to us to stand up and say no more.”
The Washington protest will include statements from the mother and father of Zanyar Moradi who will be addressing the crowd via telephone from outside Iran.
In Ottawa a protest is scheduled for Friday, February 24 in front of the Iranian embassy. The action will highlight the responses from the Canadian government as well as the broader international community in support of Saeed Malekpour and call on the Iranian regime to stop the Canadian resident’s imminent execution.
Ali a member of the Saeed Malekpour campaign in Ottawa states, “with an Iranian embassy in this city we have a unique opportunity to deliver a direct message to the Iranian government. Our presence will allow them to see that Saeed has a great deal of international support and has not been forgotten by Iranian-Canadians.”
Plans are underway for a creative action in support of Malekpour in Toronto during the days of action with further details being released in the coming days via Facebook and Twitter.
Maryam Nayeb Yazdi, one of the Toronto based organizers for the campaign to free Malekpour expressed why such human rights initiatives are relevant within the pro-democracy movement.
She notes, “The Iranian regime is alive because it has created a culture of fear, it is a result of this culture of fear that people like Saeed Maekpour are on death row. Shedding light on human rights violations in Iran helps tremendously to break down the walls of this fear led culture.”
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