May 07, 2009

why this silence?

7th May, 2009
By: Nazenin Ansari

Various international human rights organisations and Iranian international personalities have rightly highlighted the cases of abuses of human rights and dignity on the world stage…most recently Roxana Saberi and Delara Darabi.
But one case, a very crucial and important one, has not received the support and attention it deserves. This is the case of the jailed Iranian Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Seyed Hossein Kazemeini Borujerdi.

In addition to being one of the most vocal Iranian Ayatollahs who rejects the doctrine of absolute clerical rule enshrined in the Islamic Republic’s constitution, he is an ardent supporter of the many of the positions advocated by the international community.

Ayatollah Boroujerdi has condemned Islamic fundamentalism, radicalism and terror and blamed violence in Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan on the “Iranian dictatorship.” Rejecting anti-Semitism and advocating religious freedom, he led benediction ceremonies in the presence of Shiites and Sunnis, Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians and Baha’is. He has called for abolishment of capital punishment, and cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment such as torture, stoning and whipping.

In the last of couple of days Mr. Boroujerdi has issued a statement urging the United Nations Security Council to oversee a referendum in Iran, a position widely and ardently advocated by secular Iranian intellectuals and political activists.

According to reports from his supporters in Iran, on 5th May, the director of Yazd prison, where he is being held, told his family that his telephone privileges were being suspended and that he had been tortured in jail as punishment for his latest statements about a referendum.

Ayatollah Boroujerdi was arrested on 8 October 2006 by security forces in Tehran after a month long siege for advocating views and beliefs contrary to those held by the state in Iran. He stood trial behind the closed doors of the Special Court of Clergy without access to legal representation. In addition to being defrocked, he was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment in Tehran and 10 years exile in a prison located in the province of Yazd, hundreds of kilometres away from his family. His house and all of his belongings were confiscated.

He has been in prison since, and is currently suffering from ill health and without access to proper medical care. On several occasions, the Ayatollah was approached by state officials asking him to recant. He refused . Reports of ill treatment, torture and denial of access to a significant number of his rights continue to flow out of Iran.

He has written to prison authorities asking for medical treatment I understand that he suffers from mitral valve tightness, kidney stones, early signs of Parkinsons, asthma, high blood sugar, vision distortion, depression and insomnia. He has asked prison authorities for reading glasses, cane, cotton and alcohol, moisturizer, aspirin (to prevent heart attack), medicine for brittle bones, and western toilet.

Ayatollah Boroujerdi has been subjected to the following types of torture:

Beating and physical abuse in ward 209 of Evin prison during the months of May and June 2007, in order to force him to take part in TV interviews to recant.

Further physical abuse by placement in a solitary cell in ward 209 of Evin during the winter of 2007-2008, which resulted in the intensification of his medical conditions and eventual admission to Jam and Milad hospitals outside the prison perimeters. This transfer took place soon after his efforts to publicize his case among international agencies and authorities. The doctor in charge of his case reported to his family that he needed a full medical check up, but that the Ministry of Intelligence would not issue the permission to carry out the necessary tests.

Denial of the right to an open and fair trial.

Denial of the right to legal representation.

Mental and emotional abuse.

a. Death threats in response to his refusal to take part in a televised recantation session, or threats to distribute fabricated and insulting films about the Ayatollah and his wife and daughters as well as a nudity film the authorities took of him on 16 August 2004 during an earlier period of incarceration.
b. Publication of defamatory statements about the Ayatollah in newspapers in Iran.

Yet world authorities and global prominent organizations have to date failed to reply to Ayatollah Boroujerdi’s pleas for help. They are:

1. President Barack Obama, December, 2008.
2. His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, 2006.
3. EU Foreign Policy chief Javier Solana, 2006.
4. Mr. Kofi Annan Former United Nations Secretary-General, 2006.
5. The Nobel Peace Committee, 2007, 2008.
6. Former President of USA, George W. Bush, 2007.
7. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, 2007.
8. German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, 2007.
9. The Senior Iraqi Shiite Cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, 2007.

At a time when the international community is desperately looking for allies in the Moslem world, why this silence?
With all my best,
Nazenin Ansari

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