Human Rights Groups and State Department Speak Out Against Stoning

Photo found on Amnesty International website

Human rights groups and concerned supporters have launched a campaign against the execution of Sakineh Mohammadie Ashtiani, asking the Iranian government to revisit her case and revise their execution practices.

According to a recent Amnesty International report, the human rights organization made a new call last Wednesday to the Iranian government to immediately halt all executions and desist all death sentences. The group has recorded 126 executions in Iran from the start of this year to June 6.

Ashtiani, a 43 year-old Iranian mother of two, faces “imminent” execution by stoning for confessing to adultery in 2006. According to a CNN report, Ashtiani was forced to confess after receiving 99 lashes after her arrest, but she later retracted her statements and denied any wrongdoing.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran also issued appeals to the Iranian Judiciary to halt her execution and to the Iranian parliament to abolish stoning as a form of execution.

When a woman is executed by stoning in accordance with Sharia law, she is typically buried at her breasts while men are buried to their waists, and bystanders are invited to throw stones until she dies. An April, 2010 Amnesty International report said that according to Article 104 in Sharia law, with reference to adultery, the stones used should “not be large enough to kill the person by one or two strikes, nor should they be so small that they could not be defined as stones.” Ashtiani was sentenced to be stoned with medium-sized stones so she would die at a slower rate.

The CNN report also indicated that Ashtiani could be stoned “at any time,” and often times, prisoners are not informed of their execution until the last minute.

The Campaign also reported that Ashtiani was in an abusive marriage that led to the murder of her husband by another man she became involved with. She and the man were sentenced to ten years in prison, but the judges decided to also punish her, without any evidence, for having an extramarital relationship with a man.

The International Committee Against Stoning has also launched an international campaign in support of Ashtiani and other Iranian women who could face death by stoning. The group, led by Mina Ahadi, is organizing worldwide protests, inviting people to write letters and providing lists of executions by stoning committed by the Iranian government.

Philip Crowley, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, said in a State Department press conference that the U.S. does not support the disproportional laws that punish women by death for committing adultery.

“We have grave concerns that the punishment does not fit the alleged crime,” he said. “And for a modern society such as Iran, we think this raises significant human rights concerns, and disproportionate treatment of women in terms of how society metes out justice.”

Below, listen to Mina Ahadi’s interview with CNN.

Last year, the film The Stoning of Soraya M. was released about a woman who was stoned for allegedly committing adultery in an Iranian village. It is now banned in Iran for its criticism of the Iranian legal system.

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International Stories June 28-July 2

INTERNATIONAL HEADLINES

Obama signs the Iran sanctions law

Clinton embarks on tour of Eastern Europe for 4th of July weekend

The World Celebrates Social Media Day

Pakistan Renews Efforts to Restrict Coverage of Extremists

Dozens killed in Pakistan Suicide bombing

Islamic advisor to U.S. military explains what McChrystal and Petraeus get about Muslim hearts and minds.

Clinton’s head speechwriter is departing

Reporters Without Border creates first-ever anti-censorship shelter

Uzbek Refugees said they were pressured into returning to Kyrgyzstan

The BBG nominees were confirmed late Wednesday night

House Dems block reconstruction funds to Afghanistan–cite corruption

BREAKING: 10 alleged Russian spies arrested in U.S.–are we back to the Cold War?

House Democrats cite corruption, cut reconstruction funds to Afghanistan

This just in from CNN: Mexican gubernatorial candidate killed by gunfire

This just in from the AP: Iran says it won’t enter talks with the West over disputed nuclear program until late August.

Nearly 100 NATO workers in Afghanistan were killed in June

The OSCE praised Kyrgyzstan for holding a referendum on their new constitution

Pakistani officials say U.S. missiles killed 3 near Afghan border

G20 leaders call to cut deficits in half by 3 years

HIV/AIDS may be fueled by war on drugs

New Palestinian Radio Station aimed at Empowering Women

In Iraq: 650 Kurdish families displaced

Trial of Iran’s “blogfather” beings in Tehran

Wired: After 9 years, U.S. finally tries to get a grip on wartime contractors

U.N summer camp gets vandalized in Gaza

New Prime Minister in Czech Republic Announced

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State to Iran John Limbert to retire: Laura Rozen

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Congress passed Iran Sanctions Bill 99-0

McChrystal resigns over dissenting comments in Rolling Stone article–Petraeus to take is spot as lead UN/US commander in Afghanistan

Medvedev visits the US–dines with Obama at Ray’s, discusses RESET and gets Twitter

Human Trafficking Report Released

Great piece by Richard Lugar on problems with International Broadcasting management

US/Israel amid threat of UN action: Josh Rogin

The Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly criticizes Russia’s policy in the North Caucasus and urges Russian authorities to acknowledge fundamental rights

85 journalists have fled their countries in 2010–highest exodus in Iran and Africa

Senate Foreign Relations Committee met with Treasury and State Dept. Officials to go over new Iran sanctions and their effect on international businesses

“I have nothing left”: Ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan continues

The U.S. Issues Sanctions on Iran to Tighten Economic Noose

Today, I attended a hearing where Under Secretary for Political Affairs (State Department) William Burns and Under Secretary of Development (Treasury) Stuart Levey testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Last week, the Treasury released information on tougher sanctions that the U.S.  specifically will impose on Iran to tighten the noose around its already crumbling economy.

To recap: The new sanctions announced last week revealed Iranian entities that have contributed to the creation of nuclear weapons materials and different groups that have helped fund those efforts. These findings go against the Iranian government’s claim that it is pursuing a peaceful energy program.

The government officially froze the assets of the following orgs:

~ The Post Bank of Iran

~ Members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps

~ Rah Sahel and Sepanir Oil and Gas Engineering Co.

~Five different Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping lines.

In addition, the Treasury identified 22 entities in the insurance, petroleum, petrochemicals industries that are owned by the Iranian government. The goal in exposing these different transactions is to discourage foreign private businesses from doing any sort of business with entities shown to fund nuclear and terrorist activities.

The Treasury IDed the commander in chief of the Revolutionary Guard, Mohammad Ali Jafari and the head of the Basij Resistance Force, Mohammad Reza Naqdi.

In a press conference last week ( I know…I’m so behind, my bad), Timothy Geithner, said that the UN Security Council has put forth its toughest sanctions against Iran in history, and the U.S. will take steps to implement these sanctions in Congress in the coming months.

“To be truly effective in ending Iran’s proliferation activities and Iran’s support of terrorism, we need to have in place a concerted international approach. This is not something the US can do alone,” he said. At the hearing today, it was again reinforced that the sanctions are the wishes of the international community, including Arab and Gulf states.

“And I know regionally with my meetings with leaders throughout the region..they are deeply concerned about it. There is not a leader in the Gulf States or the Arab world who hasn’t expressed concern about the potential of a nuclear Iran,” said Sen. Kerry. With China and Russia, two main business partners of Iran, on board with sanctions, the Iranian government will continue to become isolated into economic collapse.

Sec. Burns responded by saying that the risk of a nuclear arms race in the Arab states and Gulf states could result if sanctions are not enforced.

Burns and Levey speculated that at this rate, Iran could have a nuclear weapon in between 3 to 5 years and obtain all necessary materials within one year.

The panelists also discussed increased communications efforts and how those will play into the nuclear weapons issue. Not only will the government suffer financially from increased isolation, but the U.S. government has increased its efforts to spread independent media in the country through the VOICE act and fund technology that thwarts efforts to block forms of censorship.

“We’ve taken another step which is to issue a specific waiver for a kind of technology that helps avoid jamming—which is certainly a tool the Iranian government has used to cut down on the free flow of information,” said Burns.

At the end of the day, the big question becomes–will increased pressure give the Iranian government more fuel to its arguments against the United States, or will it convince them to come to the table for negotiations? Some argue it could build resentment of the people inside the country if their government tells them “our economy is suffering because of them.” On the other hand, it could build pressure from within for the government to open up discussions if it wants to avoid another revolution.

Burns and Levey said the tangible results of the UN Sanctions, America’s implementation and continued efforts in Congress will be hard to predict. Nonetheless, they have stirred up concern among government officials in Iran and could mark the beginning of change.

“It will certainly not change the calculations of Iranian leadership overnight, nor is it a panacea. But it is a mark of their potential effect that Iran has worked so hard in recent months to avert action in the Security Council and tried so hard to deflect or divert the steps that are now under way.Iran is not 10 feet tall—and its economy is badly mismanaged. Beneath all their bluster and defiant rhetoric, its leaders understand that both the practical impact of resolution 1929 and its broader message of isolation create real problems for them.”

Roxana Saberi and Activists in D.C. Stress Human Rights as June 12 Approaches

I had the opportunity to meet and interview journalist Roxana Saberi, who spent time reporting from Iran before she was arrested and put in jail for 100 days in Evin Prison. Since her release, she has been advocating human rights in Iran and speaking out for her fellow inmates who have been persecuted for speaking against the government, practicing their faith and affiliating with the West. I also had the great opportunity of meeting many other human rights activists who are supporting international human rights, like Hadi Ghaemi and Rudi Bakhtiar. Below is my story

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Tom Friedman and the Washington Institute: Grading Obama’s Middle East Foreign Policy Plan

An interesting study was gone by the Institute by Patrick Clawson and Michael Eisenstadt on “How to think about preventative military action against Iran” that supplements this discussion. Find it here http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/templateC07.php?CID=405

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy concluded its 25th anniversary celebration with a discussion on the success and effectiveness of President Obama’s foreign policy plan. Tomas L. Friedman, Martin Kramer, William Kristol, Robert Saloff, and David Makovsky were among the panelists who discussed issues such as Israel/Palestine, nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and what to do with Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

“What’s going on today in America is the greatest show on earth,” said Friedman on the sweeping changes the Obama administration has implemented on the domestic front. On the international front, however, he said the Administration hasn’t had the conviction to stand strong and take action on necessary issues. He did praise two efforts of the administration: the training of a Palestinian police force in the West Bank and having the Vice President lead Iraq across the finish line in the coming months.

Kristol said the President also deserves credit for efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, but not with Israel or the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon. “With this regime, nuclear weapons would be a disaster,” he said. The U.S. lost its window of opportunity to act forcefully during the political unrest on June 12 and has not seriously considered military action. These factors, he said, have slowly led us to two terrible choices: an Israeli strike on Iran or Iran’s creation of a weapon.

Military action would be a high-risk operation and would create huge implications for the global and U.S. economy, Friedman noted.

The real debate, he said, should be on what happens the morning after the morning after? What happens when Iran gets a bomb, and God forbid, does something with it? Or what happens the morning after Israel attacks an Iranian nuclear site?

First, there will be attacks on Jewish sites, U.S. embassies and individuals. The global economy would weaken, and Iran would now have justification for attacking and creating a weapon of their own.

Soon, other Middle East countries will obtain weapons, like Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and then conflicts will escalate between Shiite and Sunni nations.

Troops in the Middle East will be more exposed, the “War on Terror” will be more difficult, and Iran would enjoy united support of all its people against one enemy, which hasn’t existed in the past year. They also could channel what weapons they have to terrorist groups outside the country.

Makovsky said if Iran did obtain a weapon, it would be a severe blow to U.S. prestige in the Middle East and the prestige of future presidents.

Kramer said he admired our missionary impulse in the Middle East, “but sometimes, ther are people you just have to fight and you just have to kill because they are determined to do that to you.”

My interview with Baha’i International Lawyer and Author Sovaida Maani Ewing on the Persecution of Baha’is

My story on the persecution of the Baha’is in Iran has made it way to the “Watchdog” page on Radio Free Europe’s Web site. The U.S. Baha’i Web site also picked it up.

I had a great time interviewing Sovaida last week and we spoke for about an hour on human rights issues and the U.S.’s role in advocating those rights. If you are unfamiliar of the religious persecution that’s been going on for decades in the country, this article might open your eyes. Many people think the persecution began this summer or is limited to political dissidents. However, Baha’is are forbidden to be involved in politics and are not affiliated with the “green movement.” Have a look!