Connect with us

Middle East

UN Experts Take Initiative to Serve Justice for the Victims of Iran’s 1988 Massacre

Published

on

Campaigners for justice for the executed, London, 2018. photo: Wikipedia

Recent publication of a letter by seven UN human rights experts that was originally sent to the Iranian government in September drew widespread international attention. In it, the UN experts highlighted the regime’s lack of cooperation with previous inquiries into a more than 30-year-old massacre of political prisoners – an event widely reputed to the Islamic Republic’s worst single crime, and one of the worst crimes against humanity to take place anywhere in the world during the latter half of the 20th century.

This is a meaningful shift in the tone of international communications regarding the massacre. In the past, the predominant tactics within the international community involved casual outreach to the Iranian regime, on the expectation that its officials would launch their own investigations into past wrongdoing. That expectation required the originators of those tactics to ignore the fact that many of the perpetrators of the 1988 massacre still hold powerful positions within the regime, including at the head of both the judiciary and the Ministry of Justice.

This fact was explicitly acknowledged by the signers of the recently published letter, thereby strengthening the perception that formerly popular, naïve tactics may be coming to an end. Still, the vast majority of the letter’s content merely re-stated information that was already widely known, even if under-reported.

The will for such an investigation, and for most other actions, has been sorely lacking throughout the past three decades. The letter notes that in the immediate aftermath of the massacre of political prisoners, the UN General Assembly placed references to it into the text of its latest resolution on Iran’s human rights crisis. But the letter goes on to say that nothing was done to follow up on this formal condemnation, and that “the failure… to act had a devastating impact on the survivors and families as well as on the general situation of human rights in Iran.”

This statement came only a few paragraphs after a section of the letter in which the human rights experts focused attention on six specific cases of persons who were secretly executed on orders from “death commissions” between July and September 1988. The letter identifies those cases as “illustrative” of the phenomenon whereby authorities issue inaccurate or incomplete death certificates as a way of obscuring the legacy of the massacre and creating additional problems for those who dare to seek information about the deceased.

Of course, the passages dealing with those cases also identify some of the defining circumstances behind them, including the reasons why the political prisoners were targeted for execution. In each case, the death commission’s judgment was based on the prisoner’s supposed affiliation with opposition groups like the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI or MEK), which remains the country’s leading opposition group for more than 30 years after having been the prime target of the 1988 massacre.

During that time, the PMOI has made its own efforts to keep international attention upon unresolved issues related to the massacre. The group and its parent coalition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), have also presented copious evidence supporting essential facts of the case, including the fact that after roughly three months of systematic executions the death toll rose to about 30,000.

This shocking statistic should be sufficient to motivate the UN and its member states to undertake the long-sought investigations. But since this has not happened yet, it is increasingly clear that other tactics are needed. The authors of the recently published statement may have recognized this need when they resolved to draw attention to the six specific cases involving Ali Ashgar Zighami, Ghorban Ali Shokri, Sayed Morteza Mirmohammadi, Heibatollah Moinee, Mehdi Gharaiee, and Asghar Mahboub.

On their own, those six names are merely a drop in the bucket where the 1988 massacre is concerned. At the same time, these or any other names help to humanize the massacre’s victims, especially in light of the fact that their families are still suffering the effects of a crime against humanity for which no one has ever faced accountability. The letter purported to be bringing the six cases to the attention of the Iranian government, but it is likely the actual intended audience lay to the West.

If the letter proves effective with its tactic of highlighting a few victims among many, then that tactic ought to be taken up in order to motivate international investigations into any number of human rights abuses the Iranian regime has undertaken in the 32 years since the massacre of political prisoners.

Amnesty International welcomed the initiative of the UN experts and described it as a “turning point”. The group’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Diana Eltahawy, described the UN experts’ communication as “a momentous breakthrough. It marks a turning point in the long-standing struggles of victims’ families and survivors, supported by Iranian human rights organizations and Amnesty International, to end these crimes and obtain truth, justice and reparation.” She went on to emphasize that, “Top UN human rights experts have now sent an unequivocal, and long overdue, message: the ongoing crimes of mass enforced disappearances resulting from the secret extrajudicial executions of 1988 can no longer go unaddressed and unpunished.”

As other human rights organizations expressing similar sentiments, governments, and decision-makers, especially those in Europe, are also expected to express their support to the demands of the UN experts. To this end, the view expressed by the USAssistant Secretary Robert Destro is very encouraging. In his tweets on December 10, on the occasion of the International Human Rights Day, Destro wrote: “The United States echoes the UN’s call for an independent investigation into mass disappearances and summary executions in Iran in 1988… We urge the international community to hold the regime accountable to the UN’s demands.” Hope this will be copied by the Europeans in a more meaningful mannerwith practical steps.

Continue Reading
Comments

Middle East

Why is Melih Bulu Seen as a Pro-AKP “Trustee” Rector?

Published

on

Photo: Youth Committees / Twitter

The new year started under the shadow of social tensions triggered by Melih Bulu’s appointment to the rectorate of Bosphorus University by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Professor Melih Bulu had founded the Sarıyer district organization of the incumbent AK Party in 2002. Bulu who in 2015 became a candidate for being a deputy from AK Party could not gain nomination to run in the elections. Bulu also worked as a rector in two private universities before: İstinye University and Haliç University.

On December 31 2020, Bulu was the rectorate of Haliç University. The abrupt appointment of Bulu as the rector to Turkey’s most prestigious university prompted a major outrage since the move was regarded as a direct interruption of academic freedom.

Melih Bulu’s appointment to the rectorate of Bosphorus University caused a large unrest among Bosphorus students, graduates and scholars. In addition, people coming from different sectors of society who are critical of Erdoğan administration have also joined the “anti-Bulu” protest campaign on social media. After Bulu’s appointment, Bosphorus University students protested the appointment on social media by using the hashtag #KayyumRektörİstemiyoruz (“We don’t want a trustee rector”). For a couple of days, students of Bosphorus University have been making protests calling Bulu to resign. However Bulu posted an announcement on his Twitter account saying that he will embrace everyone and he is very excited and happy for his new duty.

After Bulu’s appointment, not just his political identity affiliated with AK Party was put under debate but also his academic background was put under scrutiny as well. Allegations of plagiarism against him broke out especially on Twitter. Bulu defined these allegations as “slander” and argued that this was the literature survey part of his PhD thesis and said, “I did not write some parts between quotation marks. We did not have something written available. There were different citation rules but I put it in the bibliography section.”

According to the Global Academic Freedom Index Turkey has only 9.7 points out of 100 and it is in the rank of 135 out of 144 countries. Turkey is in the similar level with Syria and Turkmenistan.

In previous weeks, journalist Cüneyt Özdemir hosted Bulu in his live Youtube programme and in live broadcast, Bulu saluted the students from the window of his office at rectorate building while the students yelled asking for his resign and this act of Bulu caused surprises and ironies on social media. Amid this environment, on January 5, a group of Bosphorus University academics staged a peaceful protest by standing with their backs to the rectorate building during the handover ceremony for Bulu. The academics of Bosphorus University  made a public statement underlining that this appointment is a practice introduced for the first time after the 1980s military tutelage.

Their full statement is as follows:

“’We don’t accept, we don’t give up!’

On January 1, 2021 at midnight, an academic outside Bogazici University community was appointed as rector, which is a practice introduced for the first time after the 1980s military tutelage.

This is yet another case of many ongoing anti-democratic practices since 2016, aiming at abolishing rectorial elections. We do not accept it as it clearly violates academic freedom and scientific autonomy as well as the democratic values of our university. We refuse to compromise the principles the University Senate officially stated in 2012:

1. To enhance scientific research and social development, it is indispensable that universities be free from any pressure or influence from a person or an institution and not be used as a political tool.

2. For academic freedom, it is imperative that decision-making processes be delegated to democratically elected academic administrators and boards. All academic administrators including the Rector, Deans, Directors of Institute, Directors of Schools and Department Heads can be appointed only after being elected by the university community.

3. As universities are autonomous constitutional establishments, it is vital that university instructors and/or university boards decide on academic programs and research policies, which is an essential prerequisite for scientific freedom and creativity.

We strictly adhere to the principles above and we pledge to follow them up with all the other members of our university community.”

On the other hand, police forces detained more than 20 university students in home raids after the protests against the appointment of Bulu. In the mainstream pro-government media actors’ coverage of these events, it is argued that the detained people are not students, but they are members of illegal organizations whereas Canan Kaftancıoğlu, the Republican People’s Party’s current provincial president in Istanbul rejected this and argued that they are students.

According to Althusser (1971), the modern state keeps the authority and control through two main systems: Repressive State Apparatuses & Ideological State Apparatuses. One of  areas concerning the ideological state apparatuses is known as education. In this regard, Erdoğan’s appointment of Bulu can be seen as a step of using ideological state apparatuses.

Continue Reading

Middle East

Morocco Increases Pressure on Hezbollah by Arresting One of its Alleged Financiers

Published

on

At a time when global attention is focused on the fight against the pandemic and the global effort to vaccinate populations, terrorist organizations and organized crime are trying to take advantage of the situation to carry out operations to finance their operations. In this context, Morocco’s announcement of the arrest of an alleged international con man linked to Hezbollah is considered a success for the Moroccan security services.

According to an official statement relayed by the Moroccan Official Agency, a suspect was arrested last Wednesday by the National Brigade of the Judicial Police (BNPJ). The 57-year-old Lebanese national is linked to the Hezbollah movement, an organization supported by Iran and considered as a terrorist group by the United States, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. During the search conducted by the Moroccan police force, following intelligence and investigative work carried out by the Directorate General of Territorial Surveillance (DGST), investigators found European passports – French and Italian – as well as identity documents listed in the Interpol database as stolen. The suspect was taken into custody and brought before the King’s Prosecutor in order to continue the investigation, in partnership with Interpol and the countries involved in the alleged identity document thefts.

U.S. Recognition of Moroccan Sovereignty over Western Sahara

Moroccan authorities believed the suspect used these false identities to present himself as holding important roles in multinational corporations to defraud victims with promises of juicy deals and quick profit. While it is unclear at this stage of the investigation whether the international swindler intended to raise funds for Hezbollah, the arrest comes at a particularly crucial time for Morocco, following the recognition by the United States of America of Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed territory of Western Sahara on December the 10th, and the resumption of diplomatic relations with Israël. After this recognition, The US announced a 3 billion dollars investment plan to help Morocco boost its economy and development, as well as the opening of a regional office of its “Prosper Africa” initiative. Moreover, this Sunday, the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker came to Western Sahara on the 9th of January to inaugurate a U.S. consulate in the coastal city of Dakhla, alongside the Moroccan minister for foreign affairs, Nasser Bourita.

Morocco Broke off diplomatic relations with Iran in 2018

Since 2018, Morocco has vigorously denounced Hezbollah’s alleged links with the Polisario Front separatist movement, and broke diplomatic relations with Tehran in the process, as explained by the Think-Tank Atlantic Council . Although both Iran and Hezbollah immediately refuted Morocco’s accusations regarding the organization’s alleged links with the Polisario Front, Rabat continued to increase its pressure and has since taken substantive action to curb the actions of the organization’s agents. In March 2017,  Kingdom arrested at the Casablanca airport Kassem Tajjedine, described by the Americans as the main financier of the organization. The latter was wanted for fraud, money laundering, and financing of terrorist activity, according to Reuters. Tajjedine was extradited to the US where he was sentenced to five years in Prison, and was released on July 2020 as part of a secret US-Iran deal.

Morocco is considered a stable country in North Africa, both on the political and economic level, as well as an important Hub for doing business in Africa and Europe. Over the last twenty years, the Kingdom had a steady growth rate of its GDP at around 4% and built top-class infrastructures, including the largest African port in Tangiers, 2000 Miles of Highway, a High-Speed train between Tangiers and Rabat, and the largest solar station of Africa in the south of the country.

Continue Reading

Middle East

Egypt’s search for a fig leaf: It’s not the Handball World Championship

Published

on

Photo: Flickr/Ninian Reid

Hosting major sports tournaments can confer prestige on a country, but in the case of Egypt, the 2021 Handball World Championship will do little to repair its relations with the US, Italy and states in the Gulf, argues James M. Dorsey in this analysis.

***

Egyptian general-turned president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi sees the 2021 men’s handball world championship in Cairo and Alexandria as an opportunity to put his best foot forward at a time when Egypt’s relations with its closest regional and global partners are encountering substantial headwinds.

Successful hosting of the championship, the first to involve 32 rather than 24 competing teams, would also serve to  counter criticism of the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Egyptian health minister Hala Zayed recently admitted that many more Egyptians contracted the virus than the government has so far reported. A successful hosting would further put a crown in the feather of Egyptian-born International Handball Federation (IHF) president Hassan Moustafa.

Egypt has put strict pandemic-related precautionary heath measures in place for the tournament from the moment teams, officials, and journalists arrive at Cairo International Airport. The measures apply to training, lodging and media arrangements as well as the transport to and from hotels and the championship’s four designated match venues. Egypt is determined to ensure that the championship does not turn into a spreader of Covid-19.

That concern prompted the IHF and Egyptian authorities at the last minute to shelve a plan to allow fans into the four venues that include the Cairo Stadium Sports Hall, the New Capital Sports Hall in Egypt’s newly built desert capital east of Cairo, the Dr Hassan Moustafa Sports Hall in Giza, and the Borg Al Arab Sports Hall in Alexandria.

The IHF said the decision was taken “considering the current COVID-19 situation as well as concerns that have been raised, amongst others by the players themselves.”

Critics charge that Egypt is hosting the tournament even though it seems unable to meet the basic requirements of medical personnel who are on the frontline of the fight against the pandemic.

Doctors and nurses have protested against the high number of infections in their ranks because  they lack access to sufficient personnel protection equipment and are threatened with imprisonment if they fail to report to work despite the risk to their lives.

Symptomatic for Mr. Al-Sisi’s brutal crackdown on any kind of criticism, several doctors have been arrested on terrorism charges for voicing their grievances.

Putting aside the fact that the impact of a handball tournament pales when compared to the prestige of hosting a mega-event like the World Cup or the Olympic Games, the handball tournament is unlikely to provide much of a fig leaf for Mr. Al-Sisi’s hardhanded repression of anyone voicing an opinion but his sycophantic supporters.

That is particularly true for the incoming administration of US President-elect Joe Biden that has not only promised to emphasize human rights in its foreign policy but also needs to do so in its bid to repair America’s image and restore its credibility, severely damaged by four years of Donald J. Trump, widely viewed as an authoritarian who undermined foundations of democracy.

Similarly, the tournament will not change perceptions in Italy and much of Europe that hold Mr. Al-Sisi’s intelligence service and law enforcement responsible for the kidnapping, torture and killing of Giulio Regeni.

A 28-year-old postgraduate student at Cambridge University, Mr. Regeni had been researching Egypt’s independent unions before he went missing in late January 2016. His body was found in a ditch so badly mutilated that his mother could only identify her son by the tip of his nose. He reportedly had sustained a broken neck, wrist, toes, fingers, and teeth before his death, while initials were carved into his severely burned and bruised skin.

Relations between Egypt and Italy last month deteriorated further when Egypt’s public prosecution closed its investigation into Mr. Regeni’s murder, rejecting Italian prosecutors’ findings that accused four Egyptian security officials of responsibility for his death.

Mr. Al-Sisi’s abominable human rights record may not be of concern to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia but equally the tournament will do little to repair cracks in his relationship with the two Gulf states, his main financial backers.

In a move that will not have gone unnoticed in Gulf capitals, Egypt anointed the newly opened, Qatari-owned St. Regis hotel on the banks of the Nile River in Cairo as one of the tournament’s key logistics nodes, including its media center.

Qatari Finance Minister Ali Sharif al-Emadi landed in Cairo last week to inaugurate the hotel hours after a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit lifted a 3.5-year long Saudi-UAE led economic and diplomatic boycott of Qatar, in which Egypt as well as Bahrain participated. Mr. Al-Emadi was the first Qatari Cabinet official to visit Egypt since the boycott was imposed in 2017.

Showcasing the hotel was meant to counter-intuitively signal to Saudi Arabia and the UAE Egypt’s concern that reconciliation with Qatar involved far too many concessions, including dropping demands for the closure of Qatar’s state-funded, freewheeling Al Jazeera television network and a halt to support of political groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.

Egypt was forced to reluctantly agree to lifting the boycott even though it accepted continued Qatari investment and Qatari gas supplies over the last 3.5 years.

Egypt also felt sidelined by the UAE and Bahrain’s establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel. The move deprived Egypt of its role as Israel’s primary official diplomatic conduit to the Arab world at a moment that the Al-Sisi regime is seeking to put its best foot forward in anticipation of Mr. Biden taking office.

Mr. Al-Sisi’s concerns are compounded by Emirati support for Ethiopia with which he is at odds over the construction of a dam on the Nile that threatens Egypt’s water supply; the UAE’s growing influence in neighboring Sudan; plans to link the UAE and Israel through a pipeline that would compete with Egypt in selling gas to Europe; and Emirati interest in the port of Haifa that could create an alternative to the Suez Canal.

All of this could undermine Egypt’s position as a key pillar of US Middle East policy and persuade the US to further shift the focal point of its broader Middle East and North Africa policy to the Gulf.

Mr. Al-Sisi has sought to pre-empt an incoming Biden administration by releasing prisoners, highlighting his good relations with Egyptian Christians, and hiring US lobbying firms to plead his case to the Biden camp as well as Capitol Hill.

Hosting a handball world championship is a minor maneuver in the mountain that Mr. Al-Sisi is trying to move, particularly one that Mr. Trump tarnished by describing the Egyptian leader as “my favorite dictator.” That is a label a handball tournament is unlikely to alter.

Author’s note: This article first appeared on Play the Game

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Terrorism1 hour ago

When shall the UNSC declare RSS a terrorist outfit?

Pakistan has urged the United Nations Security Council to designate India’s Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the parent organization of the...

Diplomacy3 hours ago

The Growth of Soft Power in the World’s Largest Democracy

Power in the field of foreign affairs has previously always been well-known and understood as “Hard Power”. This is used...

Americas5 hours ago

Why won’t Bowdich evoke 9/11 now?

“Day of fire”. That’s how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi referred to the Capitol insurrection, which happens to be the exact...

Reports7 hours ago

Air travel down 60 per cent, as airline industry losses top $370 billion

A new report from the UN’s air transportation agency confirms there was a “dramatic” fall in international air travel due...

Americas9 hours ago

Latin America and China: The difficulties in relations and Covid-19

The relations between China and Latin America have developed positively, but some problems and challenges are also being faced. Firstly,...

Reports11 hours ago

Reskilling and Labour Migration Vital to the Pacific’s Economic Recovery

While the Pacific and Papua New Guinea (PNG) have avoided some of the worst health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,...

Health & Wellness13 hours ago

COVID-19 committee stresses need for equitable vaccine access, more data sharing

As COVID-19 cases spike in parts of Europe, Africa and the Americas, and new variants of the virus emerge in...

Trending