ISSUE #60 CONTENTS:
- Death Sentence for Daring to Protest
- "Letters of Fire" on a Milk Carton
- WANTED to take a STAND against Genocide
- QUIZ: Who purchased Ben Ali's re-election campaign domain name?
Death Sentence for Daring to Protest
In June, 37 year-old Mohammad-Reza Ali-Zamani took the streets of Tehran with hundreds of thousands of Iranians protesting rigged presidential elections. Arrested following the unrest, he was charged with “waging war against God” and a few days ago was… sentenced to death.
How did a random protestor end up facing execution? According to prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi, Ali-Zamani is guilty of "insulting what is holy and propaganda activity against the Islamic regime.” During a series of televised “show trials,” Ali-Zamani “confessed” to a range of charges, including receiving instructions on how to build a chemical weapon and planning suicide bombings.
Ali-Zamani’s death sentence could be seen as a harsh message to other Iranians about the risks of joining anti-regime protests. But many activists are still not deterred. Students at Azad University in Tehran, for instance, have been holding protests for the past three weeks. Chanting popular “green” slogans on campus and confronting paramilitary forces, masses of students confront the regime’s abuses (see cell phone video below). Meanwhile, Ali-Zamani waits on death row.
Hanevy Ould Dahah created Taqadoumy.com (“Progressive”), the most popular news site in Mauritania, attracting readers with stories exposing corruption and his own provocative civil rights column, “Letters of Fire.” But his independent journalism ran afoul of the regime, and in July he was arrested while covering the Mauritanian elections. He was initially detained without a warrant, then faced a slew of charges, and was ultimately convicted for publishing “indecent content.” Taqadoumy reporters are often harassed and assaulted by Mauritanian officials. The latest incident involved hitting one of the reporters on the face and breaking his camera while he was trying to cover a meeting that was being held by Mohsen Ould al-Hajj, a powerful member of the Mauritanian senate.
Ould Dahah is now serving a six-month sentence after a trial in which his motion to defend himself in front of the judge was dismissed. After being silenced in the courtroom, he managed to smuggle out a letter to the judge defending himself – which Taqadoumy then published for the Mauritanian public to read. A group of activists has taken up his cause and launched a “Free Hanevy” campaign that has attracted the support across the political spectrum.
A few days ago, The CRIME Report spoke to Ould Dahah during a brief phone call allowed by his jailers. The journalist revealed that he has been using his time behind bars to go on a writing spree, penning columns to be published upon his release next year. In fact, he wrote so much that he ran out of paper – and while waiting for his lawyer to bring more sheets he simply proceeded to outline his articles on a crushed milk carton. Click here to help the “Free Hanevy” campaign.
Walking across the Harvard campus, Layla Amjadi seems like any other undergraduate. But outside of class, this Persian-American senior leads a national movement of hundreds of students mobilizing to help stop genocide in Darfur and beyond. The CRIME Report spoke with Amjadi about the innovative strategies her coalition employs and the importance of young Americans taking a stand.
How did you get involved with STAND?
I always wanted to help people but didn't know how to act on that. During my first college internship I learned a lot about Darfur and decided to join the Genocide Intervention Network (GI-Net). Instead of writing letters to foreign heads of governments, GI-Net believes that “as American citizens we have the power to influence our government and shift our government's response to mass atrocities abroad.” This way, we, as American citizens, can focus on promoting change from within our own country. After GI-Net merged with the student activist group STAND, I was elected national president of STAND, which currently counts 850 chapters in 25 different countires.
Taking on genocide is a huge challenge - what is your strategy?
We try to choose those conflicts where we can potentially achieve the best results. For example, in Sudan, there are many opportunities to help pass a divestment bill that would prevent Americans from investing in Sudan. We also targeted candidates during the presidential election with the goal of getting questions about the Darfur genocide into the debates. We also held a campaign called “Darfur From Day One” to ensure that genocide remains on the national agenda.
What is your next big event?
“Pledge to Protect” is a major conference in Washington between November 6-9. We will bring together a network of 1,000 students, community leaders, and activists for our first-ever movement-wide conference. The goal is to reenergize the movement, reach out to key diplomats and elected officials, and reaffirm the importance of stopping genocide everywhere it occurs. CRIME Report readers are welcome to register and participate.
QUIZ: Who purchased Ben Ali’s re-election campaign domain name - and when?
ANSWER: An employee of the Tunisian embassy in Washington bought “BenAli2009.com”... back in 2004. The fact was revealed by cyber-dissident Sami Ben Gharbia, whose blog was suspiciously hacked last week. That attack comes as Tunisians vote for president in a few days (the incumbent Ben Ali is expected to win a over 90% of the “vote” and continue his 22-year rule) – and after Ben Gharbia himself posted a guide for North African bloggers on how to avoid getting hacked. Luckily, the Tunisian dissident had followed his own advice and backed up his blog. He has also established a dynamic portal for citizen reporting on the election: Bab Tounes.
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- Write a letter to imprisoned Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer.
- Join 11,000 others in demanding Nokia stop aiding Iran's crackdown.
- Apply to participate in HAMSA's civil rights fellowship program.