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“Moderate” Rouhani’s Government Executes Iranian Poet Hashem Shabani


The Iranian government executed by hanging poet and human rights activist Hashem Shabani on January 27 for blasphemy (“speaking against God”). Before his execution 31-year-old Shabani was imprisoned for nearly three years and reportedly tortured.
“The crazy thing is that by the logic of the Iranian government, Shaabani had to be killed. He criticized God and the punishment for blasphemy is clear: death.  Technically, Shaabani criticized the regime by speaking out against repression of ethnic Arabs in the Khuzestan province, but since the regime sees itself as the representative of God on Earth, his fate was sealed,” writes David Keyes for the Daily Beast.

Shabani was an Ahwazi Arab minority, and member of al-Hiwar, an organisation promoting Ahwazi culture among the country’s majority Persians and campaigning for mother tongue education. Al-Hiwar was banned by Iran in May 2005 soon after anti-government riots.
Shabani and four others, including school teacher Hadi Rashedi, were arrested in 2011 and had no access to lawyers or family during the first nine months of their detention. They were also reportedly tortured and otherwise ill-treated says PEN America.
More controversially, a “confession” by Shabani was publicised by Iranian television admitting that he was a member of Popular Resistance, which had ties with Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gadaffi. “Later, in a letter alleged to have been written by Sha’bani in prison, he denied having used or advocated violence and said that he had been tortured to make his ‘confession’ and that his three attempts to retract his ‘confession’ in front of a judge were ignored” said PEN.
PEN said that Shabani’s relatives had been told the poet had been executed “on charges of ‘enmity against God,’ ‘corruption on earth,’ ‘gathering and colluding against state security,’ and ‘spreading propaganda against the system.'”
Keyes asks how the US and its western allies negotiating a deal on Iran’s nuclear weapons programme could claim the regime of President Hassan Rouhani is “moderate” when it executes people like Shabani.
“As world powers attempt to negotiate an accord with Iran, they would do well to keep Shaabani in mind.  What does the hanging of a poet have to do with nuclear negotiations?  Everything. It gets to the heart of the nature of the regime. Can the world trust a government which doesn’t even trust its own people?  Can the West rely on a regime which so fears dissidents that it puts them to death?” asks Keys.
Reacting to Shabani’s hanging, Marian Botsford Fraser, chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee said, “While the releases last year of prominent writers such as lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and journalist Jila Bani Yaghoub were welcome, the authorities [in Iran] must show that they are truly committed to respecting freedom of expression and other fundamental rights.”

Egyptian Military’s Attack Leaves Two Journalists Dead


While two journalists were shot dead and at least as many injured when the Egyptian military stormed pro-Morsi demonstrations in Cairo, Wednesday, an incident last week, resulted in Muslim Brotherhood supporters detaining and assaulting two reporters.
BBC reported that Mick Deane (61), a cameraman working for Sky News was killed while covering the military storming the sit-in protest by supporters of ousted Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, near Rabaa al-Adawiya. Meanwhile Gulf News confirmed that Habiba Ahmed Abd Elaziz (26), a journalist with its sister publication Xpress was also killed. Abd Elaziz was not official duty. Both were shot dead.  
In other reports of violence, the Huffington Post carried the tweet of Mike Giglio of the Daily Beast, who tweeted, “I’m fine and thanks to all for the concern. Was arrested, beaten by security forces at Rabaa and then held at a local arena. Just out now.”  Huffington Post also reports a tweet from freelance journalist Haleem Elsharani that a Reuters journalist was wounded in the attack: “Reuters photojournalist Asmaa Waguih is being moved to the international medical center after she was shot in the leg.”
BBC said, “Sky’s foreign affairs editor Tim Marshall described Deane as ‘a friend, brave as a lion but what a heart… what a human being … He died doing what he’d been doing so brilliantly for decades.'”
In a separate story BBC commented that reports by Egypt’s media on the attacks was polarised depending on whether they backed the deposed president, or the military that overthrew him. “State-run media and some private TV stations are fiercely anti-Morsi, stressing that his supporters were armed and have caused casualties among the police. Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated stations, on the other hand, reserve their ire for the army that deposed the president. They highlight deaths among the protesters, showing gruesome pictures of the dead and wounded.”
This does not mean Morsi’s supporters are cleaner. An August 12 statement by Reporters without Borders (RSF) highlights the experience of two reporters seized and beaten up by supporters of Morsi while covering a march to Nahda Square on August 9. RSF said that Mohamed Momtaz of the newspaper Veto had his camera seized and assaulted repeatedly. He was then dragged to a vehicle, forced to undress and interrogated as a spy. Aya Hassan of Youm 7, who was photographing the incident, was also dragged away, blindfolded and assaulted while under interrogation. “During interrogation, she was ordered to admit political affiliation and to provide the names of people she knew in the interior ministry, the armed forces and in the opposition to Morsi,” RSF said.
Hassan’s account posted on YouTube of the assault as transcribed by RSF: “‘One of the men dragged me by my hair along the ground into an adjacent tent,” she said. “He kicked me in the face until my nose began to bleed. He then gave me a piece of cloth covered in blood, and warned me that I was going to suffer the same fate as the person who had been punished in this place before me.’The Union of Journalists said he was apparently referring to Momtaz.”
The RSF statement also gives another instance of pro-Muslim Brotherhood activists disrupting the work of a journalist. Ironically she worked for Sky News. “On 8 August, for example, Muslim Brotherhood supporters interrupted Sky News correspondent Rufyada Yassin while she was covering a demonstration live,” RSF said.

The Egyptian government has declared an emergency for one month following the violence in Cairo and elsewhere. Media freedom, if anything, will continue to be in great peril.
Links:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-23700044
http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/uae/general/xpress-reporter-killed-in-egypt-clashes-1.1220261
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/14/egypt-reporter-dead-beaten_n_3754490.html
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-23699169
http://en.rsf.org/egypt-more-violence-12-08-2013,45043.html