Yesterday NIAC, finally gave me like this much ] [ hope. OK, maybe this much ][.
In what I am calling the Mother of all Announcements, the lead item in the NIAC newsletter was, "NIAC Welcomes Report from UN Human Rights Monitor, Calls for Mandate to be Extended".
Which is HUGE. Essentially, NIAC is on the right side for a change, and although to be absolutely fair (How's that for change Trita jan!), NIAC has in the more recent past barely muttered and grumbled this on occasion. But NIAC never said it as loudly as yesterday. Even though this could have been a total mistake, I applaud it, because especially now, it was the right thing to do or say.
There. I'm admitting it. NIAC did something right! Voy!
In stark contrast to the usual rah rah "Let's support peaceful US negotiations with Iran, and avoid any uncomfortable (for Iran) nasty complaining about Iran's actual realities, if we can...".
I'm not saying NIAC is changing completely, but what I do know, is that since I joined and started complaining (Fairly, always Fairly Trita jan!) about NIAC's seemingly misguided positions, NIAC has changed.
I'm also not stupid enough to say that it is because of me. But I joined, I whined, NIAC changed. Or at least NIAC appears to be changing.
So, maybe if more of us join NIAC (Now calm down, just at the like $50 level, let's not get crazy here.), and whine, NIAC will change more, or more faster.
But, this post is not about NIAC.
This post is about Invisible Iranians. Or Iranians who are in prison for the following reasons. These are reasons, not crimes. None of these reasons should be considered to be a crime in ANY modern state. In fact no one should be in prison for any these reasons:
- Freedom of expression, association, assembly
- Arbitrary arrest and detention
- Human rights defenders
- Unfair trials
- Discrimination against women
- Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender
- Discrimination against Ethnic minorities
- Freedom of religion or belief
- Cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment
The biggest problem with these imprisonments, is that there is certainly no reliable official count of exactly how many people are in prison for these reasons.
And although there are a variety of sites that appear to do a good job, until you get about halfway down their list, you realize the effort has simply petered out after a good try at it.
Of course there is no money in any of this, no one will buy a t-shirt of coffee mug of your favorite Iranian political prisoner, and Google ads never work, and faceBook would probably shut the site down for violation of it's "We Only Want Happy News" Terms and Agreement. And none of our blessedly good rich folks seems to care to fund this highly controversial task, even if it is the MOST MORAL THING WE CAN DO.
So, no definitive list. No complete list.
Clearly "Someone" (Hint! Hint! OK, NIAC!), should take on the role of documenting each and every "Invisible Iranian", their picture, their bio, the last time they were seen, or free, and when they were imprisoned, and if known, why.
Although I'm not as interested in who was released, as I am in who is still in prison, OK, fine, go ahead and put that on too.
And if NIAC does start this project, I think everyone should support it by either joining NIAC (And still staying vocal), or send them a check specifically for this much needed effort.
It is estimated the over 250,000 prisoners are in Iranian prisons. Here are some interesting stats you should know about the most famous Iranian prisons. At least the ones we know about:
- Evin Prison: Built by the Shah in 1972 to hold 1500, it now holds 15,000. within one of Tehran's better neighborhoods.
- Ghezel Hesar prison: In Karaj. Holds 20,000, 13,000 of which are for drug related crimes.
- Gohardasht Prison: One of the harshest and most overcrowded, famous for worst rapes, tortures, and murders. Gohardasht is estimated to have over 1100 prisoners, but as built for 90.
- Heshmatiyeh Prison: This is where Moussavi and Karroubi call "Home" now.
- Kahrizak detention center: Although considered to be a "temporary processing center", unfortunately over 6,000 people have died during "processing".
- Prison 209: A Not So Secret Section of Evin prison, run by Iran's Secret Police (VEVAK. Sounds like...?)
- Prison 59: A Secret Prison run by the IRGC
- Qasr Prison: Iran's Oldest and Dearest prison. Qasr even has it's own museum! You know, so you can take the kids!
- Towhid Prison: Thankfully closed in 2000, but at it's peak held 35,000.
- Vakilabad Prison: Located near Mashad, where most of Iran's secret executions occur. 146 in 2011 alone. But who's counting?
Side Stats: The Death Penalty in Iran. (don't worry, no pictures)
Again, in the modern age, the death penalty is a most barbaric institutional act by any authority claiming to be humane. No closure comes to victims of the crimes of the convicted who are executed. And if a society is against anyone choosing to kill another human being, then it too, does not have the right to take a life, even for the worst crime. If it does, what authority could give the right to kill another human being, even a convicted criminal, to the executioner?
The humane, civilized penalty for a horrific crime, should be life imprisonment, with no chance of parole. Iranian civil society should aspire to this degree of civilized behavior.
Again, keep in mind, vengeance by executing the criminal, never provides real closure for the victims' families.
Some actions cannot be avenged.
Currently in Iran, barbaric, eye for an eye punishment, has resulted in a disturbing degree of executions, including the most disconcerting of all, public executions.
Just for 2012, official sources admit to 314 executions. Unofficial sources believe that 230 additional executions were also carried out, many of them in secret. For a Total 544. The true figure may be even higher, possibly over 600.
In 2012 there were at least 63 public executions in Iran.
Thankfully, there were no stonings, that message appears to have gotten through. Or no one is willing to throw stones anymore. but at least 10 people are officially sentenced to death by stoning, and imagine them waiting in horror and complete daily fear, for their execution date. Inhumane to say the least.
Of the official executions acknowledged, 71% were for drug-related offenses and followed unfair trials. Many were poor, including Afghans.
Another reason for working to get rid of the death penalty in Iran, is that the death penalty in Iran remains applicable in cases of:
- using a firearm during a crime
- extra-marital relations
- same-sex relations
At best Murder is the ONLY crime that could remotely arguably be on this list. But again, in a civilized modern society, that believes that NO ONE has the right to take another person's life, not even the government, and understands that no closure is ever achieved for the victim by killing the criminal, the death penalty is pointless.
One can argue that a criminal sentenced to and serving life would have a far greater impact on preventing similar crimes, by example.
One can also argue over the cost of housing such criminals for years and years.
But given the aspiration for a moral Iranian society, the greater argument should be against the institutionalized death and killing, of any kind.
Especially the government killing of Iranians.