Tuesday, 22 July 2014


I saw this post on Facebook and found it somewhat laughable.

I found it laughable because there is an Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) passport, and a 'Lion and Sun' Persian flag, which became defunct when the Islamic government hijacked Iranian governance. This flag is mostly used by supporters of the overthrown King of Iran - the Pahlavi dynasty - or those who wish to identify themselves as Iranians who are opposed to the current Iranian regime. All the artefacts in the above picture have nothing in common with each other.

Why would an Iranian 'stand with Israel'? Could it be because it's a form of protest against the oppressive, barbaric and human rights obliterating Islamic government of Iran? Or is it because one is an Iranian-Jew and wishes to support the 'Jewish' State? What of the many Jewish people and Rabbis who have voiced their disdain at the actions of the Israeli government, calling it unJewish? 

However, the issue with Israel's constant violation of international law is more than just about Jew vs Muslim or Muslim vs Jew. How? Not all the Palestinians are Muslim, but ALL Palestinians are persecuted and discriminated against by the Israeli government. Though let's not disillusion George Galloway of the Respect Party on that point, he thinks he's leading the Muslim emancipation against Israel, just look at the ignorance he posted on Facebook:

"The dignity of all Arabs and Muslims". This is simply giving a Carte Blanche to another misguided religious crusade. The human rights issue of Palestine is a very comprehensive problem, with 990 Special Sessions, Resolutions and Reports published by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights since 1982. Galloway's posting is simply the hijacking of a serious human rights issue and fast turning it into an anti-Semitic battle; thus, departing from the material issue of the Israeli persecution of Palestine. 

Nevertheless, let us turn to history for the facts.

The UN Partition Plan 1947 created a new State for Israel in order to accommodate Jews fleeing 'anti-Semitic Europe' shortly after the Nazi-led holocaust. However, for those indigenous Palestinians who were already in the full swing of daily life, this served towards their destruction as they were displaced. Shortly after several Arab States invaded and blood was shed. Israeli forces erased over 400 Palestinian towns. By the end of the fighting, Israel controlled 78% of Palestine. The below map illustrates the illegal erosion of Palestinian territory by Israel.

When the Palestinian refugees returned home after the war, they were refused entry by Israel. The existing Palestinians who stayed were treated as second class citizens by the Israeli government. Rights to land and housing is granted to Jewish people, but not to Palestinians. For the last 50 years the government of Israel has disregarded that legally binding pact and proceeded to invade Palestinian territory with much disregard for the infant fatalities it caused. The illegal expansion of Israeli settlements has eroded the Palestinian borders and encroached the sovereign territory of Palestine. Ownership of natural resources is now dominated by Israel, and its allocation has a strong Jewish bias. Thousands of Palestinian homes have been demolished, their lands confiscated. Palestinians comprise 20% of Israel's population. It's reminiscent of the Nazi superiority doctrine, that one race is superior and the other is inferior and not entitled to any rights.

One may argue that Palestinian society does not fall under the governance of Israel, but under Hamas - the elected Palestinian government by the Palestinian people. Then by that very token one deduces that Palestine is a separate sovereign State to Israel. Therefore, this is in actual fact an 'act of war' by Israel, for having illegally invaded Palestinian territory, and conducted raids and assassinations over the last 50 years. In any case, does a nation not have the right to resist and fight back? I don't mean it has the right to bomb civilians and children, like the Israelis have been shelling Palestinian territories, families and children; or like Hamas firing on civilian buildings. No. But Palestine has the right, as does any other country, to draw arms and form a resistance.

Whichever side one chooses to support, be it Israel or Palestine, one must draw a distinction that this is not essentially a case of Islam vs Judaism. It is one nation vs another - Israel vs Palestine.

Iranians "standing with Israel" because it demonstrates a rebellion against their own oppressive government; or Muslims standing with Palestinians because it appeases their own misguided anti-Semitic sentiments is a 'great misconception' of the material root-cause of the conflict. This 'great misconception', that the 'enemy of my enemy is my friend' is a wholly unconscionable moral position.

So, when you post up your "I stand with Israel" pictures, think carefully about who and what you're supporting. Just as Iranians refer to themselves as the Aryan race, as also referred to by Adolf Hitler, ask yourself this: how would the Jews have felt when they were persecuted and slaughtered by the Nazis, that some Iranians had broadcast "I stand with Hitler"?

Friday, 2 May 2014

She Was Left Unprotected

Women's rights, I believe, is the righteous struggle for gender equality - where men and women are treated equally and without any prejudice based on their gender. Thus, the United Nations has a body called ECOSOC - Economic and Social Council. ECOSOC in turn established a commission to monitor and steer the rights of women in the world in a direction that would protect women from discrimination; to realise gender equality. This commission is perhaps one of the most influential women's rights entities, and is called the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). ECOSOC has referred to the CSW as the "principal global policy-making body" that is "dedicated exclusively to gender equality and [the] advancement of women".

Bearing this in mind, the United Nations recently elected Sudan, Iran and Pakistan to sit as ‘distinguished members’ on the CSW. Unfortunately, these countries are renowned for heavily subjugating women in their national legislation and practice.

According to a report by UNICEF, 12.1 million women in Sudan have suffered the heinously ignorant and patriarchal malice of female genital mutilation (FGM). Sudanese girls and women with almost no education are four times more likely to support the continuation of FGM. The UNICEF report conveyed that FGM takes place across the various faiths and cultural backgrounds for the purpose of curtailing sexual liberty in women. This serves to demonstrate that the cause of FGM is more entrenched in the patriarchal culture of misogyny, rather than any religious command.

Iran’s women’s rights record is no less disappointing. The Civil Code permits the forceful marriage of 9 year-old girls to men decades their senior, simply at the behest of their fathers. There are reports that this practice continues despite the Iranian government having raised the age to 13. The minor has no right to refuse. According to the disturbing finding of UN Special Rapporteur Coomaraswamy, the inequalities in law and justice in the Islamic Republic of Iran reveal that should a man find out his wife has been unfaithful, he is permitted to execute her; however, the very same legal system will execute a woman who murders her husband if the situation was reversed. The Iranian Civil Code favours the father over the mother to take custody of their children in divorce cases. Men may successfully file for divorce at any time, whereas women may only file for divorce if they can prove they face physical harm if they continue with the marriage. Men may control the liberty of their wives by refusing to permit them to accept employment; women need to obtain written permits from their husbands before embarking on journeys outside the home.

In Pakistan, women who report their harrowing experience of rape to the authorities are subject to a Kafkaesque reversal of justice. They are charged with ‘false accusation’ for failing to present the highly impractical evidential requirement of four male witnesses, and are subsequently flogged and imprisoned. The very requirement of four male witnesses is in itself discriminatory as the testimony of a male is considered to be worth more than that of a female.

The Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is perhaps the greatest international legal instrument ever devised to protect and promote the rights of women in securing gender equality. Pakistan is signatory to CEDAW; however, the flagrant disregard for the rights of women continues. Iran has persistently refused to ratify CEDAW, arguing it is in direct conflict with its Constitution. To many, it may be the logical approach to set the ratification of CEDAW and its full compliance as the prerequisite for election to sit on the CSW, or any other women’s rights committee at the UN. However, this sadly is not the case. 

With such prolonged systematic acts of gender discrimination and the blatant disregard for the rule of law exhibited by Sudan, Iran and Pakistan, this election strikes an insulting blow to the victims of gender discrimination, and to the efforts and advancements made by campaigners of gender equality. The aims promised by the CSW and ECOSOC have been rendered null and void by such a contradictory act; the absurdity of electing these gross violators of women’s rights to sit on the key international women’s rights monitoring body is akin to electing Al-Qaeda to head an anti-terrorism initiative. The decision-makers in the higher echelons of the UN should seriously consider seeking and implementing reforms in the criteria for candidacy to sit on influential human rights bodies.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

UN Experts Alarmed by Iran Hangings as UK Halts Bill

More than 40 people were hanged in Iran in the first 22 days of this year, senior United Nations officials have just revealed. In a report just published on human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed and Christopher Heyns said there had been a surge in summary executions in Iran. Those put to death included a number of people accused of acting against national security. The two UN Special Raporteurs called on Tehran to put an immediate halt to any further hangings.

According to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the majority of the executions were for drug-related offences; however, a number of detainees were executed for the crime of ‘Moharabeh’ (enmity against God), or acting against national security. The Iranian Government has in the past used this charge to execute anti-government protestors, and any other person who publicly criticises the establishment. The great massacre of 1988 in Iran saw the Ayatollah regime summarily execute thousands of prisoners over five months for politically opposing the newly established Islamic regime as a result of the 1979 revolution, and unilaterally labelled them as members of the MEK, a fundamental Islamic guerrilla organisation who endorse a Marxist ideology. However, monarchists; socialists and leftists were also executed, charged by the regime as being MEK members.

The protests following the disputed 2009 Presidential elections also had its share of arbitrary arrests, detentions and an on-site shoot to kill policy as fierce reprisal against those protesting peacefully in the streets. During his Friday prayer sermon in 2009, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had warned that if the people of Iran did not end their street protests and return to their homes, the ensuing “bloodshed and chaos” would be the “opposition leaders’ responsibility”.

In a press release, Rapporteur Heyns commented “We are dismayed at the continued application of the death penalty with alarming frequency by the authorities, despite repeated calls for Iran to establish a moratorium on executions”. Heyns further commented that “the inherently cruel, inhuman and degrading nature of the death penalty” demonstrates that the Government is proceeding with executions that fail to meet the established standard threshold of the ‘most serious crimes’ as required by international law.

Rapporteur Shaheed expressed deep concern at the increase in executions of political activists and individuals from ethnic minority groups, stating “the persistent execution of individuals for exercising their rights to freedom of assembly, association, and affiliation to minority groups contravenes universally accepted human rights principles and norms”. 

The Special Rapporteurs urged the Government of Iran, as an active member of the international community, to heed the calls for a moratorium on executions, especially in cases relating to political activists and alleged drug-offences. 

“We urge the Iranian authorities at least to restrict the use of the death penalty to what is permissible as an exception under international law, and namely to limit its imposition only for the crime of intentional killing, and to respect stringently international standards guaranteeing fair trial and due process for those facing the death penalty”.

Unlike Iran and China, who have the highest rates of executions in the world, the UK abolished the imposition of the death penalty ‘in all circumstances’ in 1998; however, the last execution took place in 1964, where Peter Allen was executed for the murder of John West. In 1965, Labour MP Sydney Silverman commenced a Bill to abolish capital punishment, which was passed by both Houses of Parliament. On 24th June, 2013, a Bill titled the ‘Capital Punishment Bill 2013-14’ was presented to Parliament calling for the reinstatement of Capital Punishment for certain offences. The Bill was sponsored by Mr. Philip Hollobone; however, it was not discussed and was shortly withdrawn without a view to progressing further. 

As a result of the 13th Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, the UK is prohibited from reinstating capital punishment for as long as it is party to the Convention. 

For many, it is with relief that the proposed reinstatement of being hanged at the gallows in the UK was halted and withdrawn; for others, it is a continued concern that the ceaseless execution of detainees in Iran is increasing. 

Washington is currently in negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear programme; perhaps the international community will one day negotiate a better human rights record for a country that descended from the empire of King Cyrus the Great of Persia, whose ‘Cyrus Cylinder’ bears history's first ever charter of human rights. A replica of the Cyrus Cylinder with the inscription of the charter can be found above the entrance to the UN Headquarters in New York.