No sadbhavana for Godhra lovebirds

Mohsin put in jail; wife, Hansa, sent to Nari Kendra for communal peace

DNA Roxy Gagdekar l Godhra , Jan 19

The Muslims of Godhra may be preparing to welcome chief minister Narendra Modi for his Sadbhavna fast on January 20, but the district administration has shown no such sadbhavna for a Muslim youth and a Hindu girl who are in love with each other.
The lovebirds have been separated allegedly to prevent any conflict between Hindus and Muslims in Godhra ahead of chief minister Narendra Modi’s Sadbhavna fast on January 20. The girl’s parents are opposed to their marriage. The youth is lodged in Godhra sub-jail while the girl has been sent to the local Nari Kendra.
After a few years of dating, Mohsin Pathan (25) and Hansa Magnani (25) got married in court in February 2011. They eloped in November 2011 only to reappear in the office of the Godhra superintendent of police in December 2011.
The couple are so much in love that, despite rallies, fasts and memorandums by local saffron groups against their relationship, they don’t want to leave each other.
They came to the district police chief’s office on December 22, 2011 and sought police protection. A leader of the Muslim community from Godhra told DNA on the condition of anonymity that Mohsin had been arrested only because he had refused to leave Hansa. “The police want to prevent any conflict between the two communities at least till the end of Modi’s Sadbhavna fast,” he said, adding that Hansa also had refused to go to her parent’s house. If Mohsin’s father, Mehboob Khan Pathan, is to be believed, his son was arrested on false charges because the police succumbed to political pressure mounted by the BJP, VHP and the RSS units in the district. Mohsin is booked on the charge of using a mobile SIM card under a false name.
“Before eloping with Hansa, Mohsin had purchased a SIM card in his name. But the seller activated the card in some third party’s name and not in Mohsin’s name,” said Mehboob Khan Pathan. “The third party was forced to file a complaint against Mohsin just to keep him in lock-up,” he added. However, sources in the police said that Mohsin was booked only after they received a complaint against him and not because of political pressure.

The other September 11 tragedy


Crimes against scheduled castes have actually increased, according to the government’s own figures. But a fact-finding team in Tamil Nadu, where on September 11, 2011 serious police atrocities against dalits were committed, found that the district administration had little awareness about laws and measures for combating crimes against scheduled castes and tribes, writes K S Subramanian

The union home ministry, in its annual report for the year 2010-11 (page 78), has stated that the number of crimes against scheduled castes in the country has increased from 26,127 in 2005 to 33,595 in 2009. State-wise figures are not available, but one has only to read S Viswanathan’s classic study on crimes against dalits in Tamil Nadu (2007) to comprehend the seriousness of the situation there as regards violence against dalits by higher castes and classes.

The report details “measures to be taken in combating crimes against scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs)” such as implementation of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989; improvement in convictions for crimes against SCs and STs; proactive role of the police in detection and investigation of such crimes; sensitisation of the law enforcement machinery; application of law without dilution; awareness-building; mechanisms for safety and security of SCs and STs; association of NGOs in such tasks; prompt registration of FIRs, proper supervision, review and follow-up; preventive measures and policing of atrocity-prone areas; representation of SCs and STs in the police, in sensitive areas; measures towards economic and social rehabilitation of victims of violence; sample surveys and studies; exemplary punishment for extreme violations of human dignity, etc.

Though the recommended measures are indeed impressive, none of them was found to have been implemented on the ground, as discovered during a fact-finding team visit to Paramakudi in Ramanathapuram district, Chintamani in Madurai district, and Ilayangudi in the Tuticorin district of south Tamil Nadu where, on September 11, 2011, serious police atrocities against dalits, including murder, were committed. The district administration showed little awareness or was indifferent to any of the above-mentioned laws and measures. The district magistrate, superintendent of police, and inspector general in Ramanathapuram took a rigidly law-and-order approach to a legitimate dalit public protest and agitation, and ignored the proclaimed police code of conduct and charter of duties. The inspector general, a tough cop, went to the extent of branding John Pandian, a prominent dalit leader in the region, a mere criminal, and underlined the need for strict action against such ‘criminals’. He was totally ignorant of special provisions in the law and procedure that govern police conduct in relation to crimes against dalits.

Six people were killed in police firing at Paramakudi, and hundreds were reportedly injured and/or suffered police torture at all locations in the three districts where violence occurred due to police mishandling.

Journalist S Viswanathan, in his classic book Dalits in Dravidian Land (Navayana, 2007), has documented in painful detail 52 cases of atrocities against dalits in Tamil Nadu committed by more powerful and better-off sections of backward castes, especially the Thevars in the southern districts. The negative role of the police and the indifference of the rest of the state machinery, are among the important features documented in the book. In fact, state indifference and police complicity and indifference to provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 are major factors behind continuing atrocities against dalits in Tamil Nadu.

The struggle for social justice and civil rights on the part of the depressed Mallars (which is opposed by the backward Thevar caste) lies at the heart of relations between the two communities in southern Tamil Nadu. A high point in the struggle was reached in 1957 when rights activist Immanuel Sekaran was murdered by suspected members of the Thevar community. Muthuramalinga Thevar, a leading member of the Thevar community, was arrested for his complicity in the case, but was let off.

The relentless struggle for social equality by the Mallars, resisted by the Thevars, was seen again recently in the Mallars’ demand that their leader’s death anniversary, falling on September 11, be celebrated as a state function just as the death anniversary of Muthuramalinga Thevar is celebrated annually. And that their leader should be christened deivathirumagan (‘god’s own creation’) just as Muthuramalinga Thevar has been christened. Negotiations between the two communities took place with the mediation of the police who supported the Thevars against the Mallars, leading to a rejection of their demands. This caused an eruption of police violence against the Mallars on September 11, 2011, in Paramakudi, Ramanathapuram district.

The observance of Immanuel Sekaran’s death anniversary on September 11 every year has been going on peacefully, as acknowledged even by the police and revenue authorities. Preparations this year went ahead, involving the allotment of time slots for leaders from political parties and others to pay homage to the slain hero. Even the murder of Palanikumar, a 16-year-old dalit student in Pacheri village, on the night of September 9, which caused great concern, did not affect the preparations. Notwithstanding the relatively peaceful atmosphere, the district administration prevented John Pandian, regional leader of the new dalit party, the Tamil Manila Munnetra Kazhagam (TMMK), from visiting Paramakudi to pay his respects to Immanuel Sekaran, after his visit to Pacheri to convey his condolences to the bereaved Palanikumar family. Undemocratic and insensitive though this was, the dalits kept their cool and John Pandian decided not to come to Paramakudi. There were no formal orders of externment against Pandian until the evening of September 10, 2011. Such an order was, however, communicated to the district authorities, from ‘higher formations’, at around 10.30 am on September 11, 2011.

Pandian had earlier been given a specific time slot (3 pm to 5 pm) on September 11, 2011, to pay his respects at the memorial of Immanuel Sekaran, establishing the fact that, till then, the police had no apprehensions of a possible breakdown in law and order in the event of his visit. In a provocative police move, Pandian was arrested in Valanadu, Tuticorin district, under Section 151 of the CrPC, at about 11 am on September 11, 2011. This was just a few hours before his intended departure for a state-approved visit to Paramakudi. The place of detention, a guesthouse at the police firing range, was inexplicable and led to concerns about his safety. The arrest was completely unwarranted.

As the news spread, people assembled at the five-roads junction in Paramakudi, a little distance away from the memorial. A section of the crowd (some 50-odd men out of around 1,000 people) squatted on the road. Traffic on that day mainly consisted of people coming to pay homage to Immanuel Sekaran. From many accounts and practical wisdom, the sequence of events that followed soon after raised more questions than answers. Police officers at the spot failed to contain the small though slightly restive crowd by the usual peaceful means. Instead, they inexplicably resorted to a lathi-charge and began firing even as the crowd was dispersing into various alleys leading out of the main junction. Sivakumar, the Paramakudi revenue official on whose orders force was resorted to, failed to meet members of the fact-finding team. The revenue divisional officer confirmed that she was far from the scene of the incident, and that Sivakumar had ordered the police firing on his own assessment of the situation.

This called for a statutory inquiry into the incident, in accordance with the law.

The fact-finding team was of the view that the situation could have been handled easily and without the use of force. The police version — that the crowd had resorted to arson — appeared wholly unfounded. None of the establishments in the area bore any evidence of having been set on fire. As for the police vehicle — an armoured carrier — that was set on fire, it defies belief that a crowd that was already on the run as a result of the lathi-charge, and far away from the five-roads junction, would have attempted to commit arson, especially in the presence of a posse of heavily armed policemen in riot gear. There is no evidence that the people manning the vehicle resisted attack. Further, a fire-tender stationed a few yards away could have extinguished the fire but the station officer, fire and rescue services, who was in control of the fire-tender, was unable to explain why it took him so long to move a few yards to where the police vehicle had been set on fire. A fire-tender belonging to another fire station, which was brought all the way, had stopped about 500 metres from the junction. Inexplicably, this fire-tender too was set on fire, allegedly by the crowd that was on the run trying to escape the lathi-charge and firing that had begun at around 12.45 pm. This led to the impression that the acts of arson were not the result of any action by the assembled crowd but were, in fact, carried out by the police in order to legitimise the unjustifiable violence. These aspects must be properly probed.

There are pointers to the presence of agent provocateurs in the few hundred-strong crowd at the five-roads junction. A lady in a red sari was conspicuous by her presence and a video recording from atop a building at the spot showed her actively orchestrating the protest against John Pandian’s arrest and the squat-on-the-road agitation. She was also seen continuously talking on her cellphone. Apart from the video, a senior police officer confirmed that the lady was heard speaking over the phone and discussing the detention of John Pandian. The officer added that she had not been seen in the district in the past, and that she could have been an outsider. It is strange that the policemen at the spot, including those from the intelligence, did not consider her presence as something that warranted a probe. Apart from identifying suspected agent provocateurs, officers who failed to follow the basic drill in such situations must be questioned.

In this context, there is urgent need to look into the norms and standards of international human rights law and Indian constitutional and legal provisions that govern the police handling of such situations. The yearly commemoration of Immanuel Sekaran clearly falls under the category of peaceful and lawful assembly.

Article 20 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.” The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states in Article 21: “The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognised” and that “no restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order, the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.” India is party to the covenant and has a binding obligation to observe it fully.

The Paramakudi event has been recognised as ‘cultural expression’, allowing people to assemble peacefully. The aspect of recognition of the right to peaceful assembly has been observed. Even with certain other factors which may have influenced the gathering, the assembly was peaceful until the lathi-charge and police firing began. In fact, statements were made that negotiations were on between the police and the people assembled, in particular those sitting at five-roads junction. Besides the assembled people, there was a substantial police presence at the venue with all the necessary equipment and vehicles. The sudden rush of police, armed with lathis, brutally assaulting people who were sitting, and the subsequent use of firearms raises a host of disturbing questions about violation of human rights standards declared under international and national human rights law.

A code of conduct for law enforcement officials was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 17, 1979, and the Basic Principles on the use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, 1990 (referred to as basic principles) also exist. Corresponding provisions exist in the domestic law, especially concerning the use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials including the police. According to Article 1 of the code, law enforcement officials/police shall at all times fulfil the duties imposed upon them by law, by serving the community and by protecting all persons against illegal acts, consistent with the high degree of restraint required “by their profession”.

The behaviour of the police in Paramakudi falls far short of this code, especially when “no illegal acts” by the public were noticeable. Article 3 of the code states specifically that “police officials may use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty”. The sudden lathi-charge by the police on people sitting on the ground, with no semblance of violent expression, and the subsequent use of firearms deserves rigorous scrutiny. Moreover, visual images have shown that the use of force was not in accordance with the principles of necessity and proportion. Closely related to the above, and as observed in the testimonies provided by victims with multiple injuries, issues arise relating to Article 5 of the code, which states that “no law enforcement official/police may inflict, instigate or tolerate any act of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. The visible injuries observed on victims show that they indeed suffered such violence, along with abusive language related to their caste identity. The right to physical integrity was severely violated, with some victims losing their ability to carry on their profession. For example, a vehicle driver’s inability to use his arms and legs. Rights relating to life, limb and property were seriously violated. In some cases, people were cruelly beaten and killed. Another tragic case was that of a disabled person (polio paralysis to the left leg) being beaten on his legs, which were twisted. Here, one must take into consideration the Convention of the Rights of Disabled Persons (CRPD) which India has ratified. Article 15 of the convention prohibits any form of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment…

Article 6 states: “The law enforcement officials/police shall ensure the full protection of the health of persons in their custody and in particular shall take immediate action to ensure medical attention whenever required.” This provision was repeatedly violated for most victims in the Paramakudi case. In some instances, the victims were left to find their own medical help; no effort was made to call an ambulance or ask for assistance. Besides, with the imposition of Section 144 of the CrPC, efforts to get an ambulance through the number 108 proved impossible even for the hospital authorities. On the use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials/police within the human rights framework, the basic principles refer to the code, especially Article 3 on the use of force, which, with its general provisions, among others, stipulates that government “should consider the development of non-lethal, incapacitating weapons for use in appropriate situations with a view to increasingly restraining the applicable means capable of causing death or injury to persons”. In Paramakudi, there was a wilful negligence in observing the above provisions, with the police indulging in a brutal assault on unarmed people, with all kinds of force including a lathi-charge and stone-throwing. Some people too threw stones, injuring a few police personnel, but the police had protective gear on. Other means of crowd dispersal were never attempted. The district magistrate of Ramanathapuram defended the stone-throwing by policemen as less harmful than police firing! Moreover, visual images showed that people were beaten up repeatedly, with the police stamping on their bodies. Warnings were not given through the appropriate audio means, but the police came well-equipped with riot-control vehicles (VAJRA), fire-tenders, ambulances, etc. Police vehicles appear to have been set on fire deliberately, to aggravate the situation.

A number of UN basic principles on the use of firearms were violated during the firing at Paramakudi on September 11, 2011. The basic principles include provisions for policing assemblies of different categories. Above all, as seen by the performance of the police in this incident, special measures need to be taken to sensitise the police and concerned state officials on anti-discriminatory approaches to policing and human rights protections as recommended by the Union home ministry itself. The basic principles also call for clear reporting and reviewing procedures; Article 23 states that persons affected by the use of force and firearms, or their legal representatives, shall have access to an independent process, including a judicial process. In the event of the death of such persons, this provision shall apply to their dependents. In all these circumstances, the issue of command responsibility should be examined.

After hearing witnesses, interacting with officers and taking into account the facts and circumstances of the case, the fact-finding team reached the following prima facie conclusions:
The arrest and detention of John Pandian, and preventing him from paying homage to Immanuel Sekaran, was unwarranted and led to the Paramakudi anti-dalit police violence.
It was clear that the dalits were proceeding to the memorial in a peaceful manner and were unarmed. There was no justification therefore for the use of force.
The use of force, including use of firearms, for an extended period of over four hours (from 12.45 hours to 16.45 hours) was unjustified.
The lack of a system to render medical assistance to the injured, and the brutal means by which the men in uniform dealt with the victims, was shocking and warrants action against those found guilty of such brutal acts.
There was no justification for using firearms; excessive firing caused death and injury to a large number of innocent people who were unarmed and were in a peaceful assembly/procession to the memorial. The firing/lathi-charge amounted to offences under the IPC and SC/ST (POA) Act, 1989.
It is learnt that there has been no executive magisterial inquiry into the use of firearms in this case, as required under the CrPC, apparently in light of the setting up of the Justice Sampath Commission of Inquiry. This is a patent dereliction of duty on the part of the district authorities.
There is a public perception that there will be no proper inquiry of any kind by the local administration, which is biased against dalits. An independent inquiry or investigation is therefore imperative. The investigation must be entrusted to the Central Bureau of Investigation.
A number of complaints from those who suffered serious injuries in the brutal police action state that no complaint or FIR has been registered. Each of the individual atrocities should be the subject matter of a separate inquiry. A special court should be set up at Paramakudi to receive complaints and process and investigate them.
Victims have not been properly rehabilitated both in terms of compensation and in terms of requisite medical treatment. Long-term measures of rehabilitation must be addressed, such as distribution of land to every SC family in the affected villages, development of their land, admission of their children to good residential schools, and provision of independent approach roads to their villages without them having to pass through areas of tension. Proactive, holistic measures must be adopted on the basis of equality, justice and dignity as mandated by the Constitution of India. Periodic fire-fighting is not the answer. A committee consisting of eminent citizens must be set up to continuously engage in measures to build the confidence of the people.

The fact-finding team recommended the following measures, in this context:
Transfer the investigation of all cases related to the Paramakudi, Chintamani and Ilayangudi firings to the CBI.
The Legal Aid Services Authority must provide free legal aid to the victims by appointing advocates to: i) assist them in preparing and filing complaints/follow-up, register the same either by filing petitions or private complaints in the magistrate courts, and secure convictions for perpetrators of the crime; ii) secure compensation for victims; iii) sensitise government officials at all levels to treat everyone equally and inspire confidence in the minds of the victims to make them feel that they will be heard and can secure justice from the state; iv) mobilise police personnel from castes other than those in the region to regulate public gatherings; v) create a special force, with special training, from among the armed reserve to regulate and manage any public gatherings; vi) provide the police constabulary posted to manage public gathering with reasonable facilities, not pile them up in schools or other institutions which have no infrastructure to even cover basic necessities; vii) post more doctors and other paramedical staff, on sensitive occasions, in hospitals in and around areas where such congregations happen.

(K S Subramanian, a Senior Fellow at the Council for Social Development, New Delhi, was a member of the fact-finding mission led by Justice Hosbet Suresh and set up by People’s Watch, a Tamil Nadu NGO, to go into the police firing on dalits at Paramakudi, in Tamil Nadu)

Infochange News & Features, January 2012

Pipili rape: Odisha minister resigns on moral grounds

Odisha’s agriculture minister Pradip Maharathy on Thursday resigned on “moral grounds” as he was under attack for allegedly shielding the accused in the Pipili rape case, to safeguard the image of the ruling BJD and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik image ahead of panchayat polls.

“Mr Maharathy has submitted his letter of resignation. He has resigned on moral ground. I have forwarded it to the Governor for acceptance,” Mr. Patnaik told reporters here.

On the opposition demand for a CBI probe into the Dalit girl rape case, the chief minister said since his government had already ordered a judicial inquiry into the matter, there was no need to go for a CBI investigation.

Saying the agriculture department would remain with him, Mr. Patnaik noted that his government was taking steps for proper treatment of the girl, battling for survival at the ICU of SCB Medical College Hospital in Cuttack.

“I have tendered my resignation on moral ground, in view of next month’s panchayat elections. The move is to safeguard BJD’s image,” Mr. Maharathy told reporters after handing over the resignation to Mr. Patnaik at the latter’s residence here.

Mr. Maharathy, a five time MLA from Pipili Assembly in Puri district and a first time minister, however, denied any pressure from any quarter and said he sought to protect the BJD’s image.

“I am not a coward, I am a stalwart. I am ready to face any inquiry,” he said.

Criticising opposition parties, mainly Congress, Mr. Maharathy said he had full faith in the judiciary and truth would come out despite a campaign to tarnish his and BJD’s image.

Meanwhile, the police nabbed Abua alias Sukant Pradhan of village Paparanga on Thursday, in connection with the November 28, 2011 rape incident. All the four accused have now been arrested.

The resignation by Mr. Maharathy came a day after the chief minister took stock of the situation arising out of the alleged rape.

Earlier, Mr. Patnaik had assured “stringent and extremely strong action” against the guilty.

Not satisfied with the agriculture minister’s resignation, opposition political parties, including the Congress and the BJP, alleged it was an eye-wash and a drama and demanded that the chief minister step down on moral ground.

“If Maharathy could resign on moral ground why not the chief minister who holds the home portfolio?” asked senior BJP leader and former minister Bijay Mohapatra.

Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee president Niranjan Patnaik said: “Maharathy’s resignation is not enough. It is a drama. We want the chief minister to resign. Our battle will continue.”

Making the same demand, state BJP president Jual Oram said Mr. Patnaik must resign on moral ground and agitation would continue to ensure justice to the rape victim.

Even as Mr. Maharathy quit the council of ministers, the opposition political parties and civil society outfits, which had undertaken state-wide agitations in the wake of the Dalit gangrape case, continued its demand for a CBI probe into the matter as people had no faith in the investigation by the state police.

Though the incident had allegedly taken place way back on November 28, 2011, a case was registered by the police on January 9, 2012 following the intervention of the state human rights commission.

Besides ordering a judicial inquiry into the incident, the state government had also handed over investigation to CID-crime branch and suspended the concerned police inspector from Pipili.

Abortion rate decline stalls, unsafe abortions rise

By Kate Kelland

LONDON, Jan 19 (Reuters) – A long-term decline in the rates of abortion worldwide has stalled and the proportion of terminations that are unsafe and put women’s lives at risk is rising, an international group of scientists said on Thursday.

Researchers from the World Health (WHO) and the Guttmacher Institute, which researches sexual and reproductive health, said a trend of falling numbers of abortions between 1995 and 2003 had levelled out since then, suggesting that increased access to contraception worldwide has also stalled.

“We are also seeing a growing proportion of abortions occurring in developing countries where the procedure is often clandestine and unsafe,” said Gilda Sedgh, lead author of the study and a senior researcher at the Guttmacher Institute.

Between 1995 and 2003, the abortion rate per 1,000 women of childbearing age (15 to 44 years) worldwide dropped from 35 to 29. This new study found that in 2008 the global abortion rate was 28 per 1,000, virtually unchanged from 2003’s level.

“This plateau coincides with a slowdown in contraceptive uptake,” Sedgh told a briefing in London about the findings. “And without greater investment in quality family planning services, we can expect this trend to persist.”

Alarmingly, Sedgh said, the proportion of abortions characterised as unsafe rose from 44 percent in 1995 to 49 percent in 2008.

The researchers, whose study was published in the Lancet medical journal, define unsafe abortion as a procedure for terminating a pregnancy carried out by someone who does not have the necessary skills, or in an environment that does not meet minimal medical standards, or both.


Despite the decline in the abortion rate, there were 2.2 million more abortions in 2008, when 43.8 million were carried out, than in 2003 when there were 41.6 million. This is due to the increasing global population, the researchers said.

From 2003 to 2008, the number of abortions fell by 0·6 million in the developed world, but increased by 2·8 million in developing countries.

Of all the world’s regions, Latin America has the highest rate, with 32 per 1,000 women in 2008. Africa and Asia follow close behind with rates of 29 and 28 per 1,000 women respectively. Rates for North America and Oceania were the lowest, at 19 and 17.

Sedgh said that while in Europe, around 30 percent of pregnancies end in abortion there was a far higher rate in Eastern Europe than in the rest of the region.

In Western Europe there were 12 abortions per 1,000 women in 2008, while in Eastern Europe at the same time there were 43.

Sedgh said the study’s findings showed strong correlations between abortion rates and access to effective contraceptives, and between abortion rates and the law.

“The abortion rates is clearly lower in places were abortion laws are more liberal,” she said, pointing to Africa and Latin America where rates are high.

There is also a strong link between restrictive laws and higher rates of unsafe abortions. Between 95 percent and 97 percent of all abortions in Africa and Latin America are unsafe, the study found.

Sedgh said family planning services around the world appeared to be failing to keep up with rising demand for effective contraception driven by the desire for small families and better control over the timing of births.

“There are still 215 million women in developing countries who have an unmet need for contraceptives,” she said

Free Hanieh “Sharareh” Farshi Shotorban

Hanieh “Sharareh” Farshi Shotorban arrested in Tabriz for Facebook Activities.

Jan 18,  is Hanieh’s birthday. She turns 30 years old. She was arrested in July 2010 and is currently held in Evin prison. According to reliable sources, the young Iranian woman was arrested for her membership in Facebook and online activities. There is no news on her condition and she is not permitted to contact her family

Security forces in Tabriz entered Sharareh’s home and, after searching the area and confiscating her personal items like her computer and phone, they arrested her at 6:00am on July 18, 2010.

She was taken to a detention centre run by the Tabriz Ministry of Intelligence. Later, she was transferred to Evin prison.

Her charges include “insulting what is sacred” and “having contacts with a foreign entity”. It is believed that her charges are related to her Facebook membership and activities.

Sharareh Farshi Shotorban has no history of political activism.


PLease sign the petition for her Release


Iran’s nuclear scientists are not being assassinated. They are being murdered

Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, the Iranian nuclear scientist killed in Tehran on January 11, with his son, Alireza. Photograph: -/AFP/Getty Images

Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, the Iranian nuclear scientist killed in Tehran on January 11, with his son, Alireza. Photograph: -/AFP/Getty Images

Killing our enemies abroad is just state-sponsored terror – whatever euphemism western leaders like to use.

Mehdi Hasan, Jan 18,2012

On the morning of 11 January Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, the deputy head of Iran’s uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, was in his car on his way to work when he was blown up by a magnetic bomb attached to his car door. He was 32 and married with a young son. He wasn’t armed, or anywhere near a battlefield.

Since 2010, three other Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed in similar circumstances, including Darioush Rezaeinejad, a 35-year-old electronics expert shot dead outside his daughter’s nursery in Tehran last July. But instead of outrage or condemnation, we have been treated to expressions of undisguised glee.

“On occasion, scientists working on the nuclear programme in Iran turn up dead,” bragged the Republican nomination candidate Rick Santorum in October. “I think that’s a wonderful thing, candidly.” On the day of Roshan’s death, Israel’s military spokesman, Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai, announced on Facebook: “I don’t know who settled the score with the Iranian scientist, but I certainly am not shedding a tear” – a sentiment echoed by the historian Michael Burleigh in the Daily Telegraph: “I shall not shed any tears whenever one of these scientists encounters the unforgiving men on motorbikes.”

These “men on motorbikes” have been described as “assassins”. But assassination is just a more polite word for murder. Indeed, our politicians and their securocrats cloak the premeditated, lawless killing of scientists in Tehran, of civilians in Waziristan, of politicians in Gaza, in an array of euphemisms: not just assassinations but terminations, targeted killings, drone strikes.

Their purpose is to inure us to such state-sponsored violence against foreigners. In his acclaimed book On Killing, the retired US army officer Dave Grossman examines mechanisms that enable us not just to ignore but even cheer such killings: cultural distance (“such as racial and ethnic differences that permit the killer to dehumanise the victim”); moral distance (“the kind of intense belief in moral superiority”); and mechanical distance (“the sterile, Nintendo-game unreality of killing through a TV screen, a thermal sight, a sniper sight or some other kind of mechanical buffer that permits the killer to deny the humanity of his victim”).

Thus western liberals who fall over one another to condemn the death penalty for murderers – who have, incidentally, had the benefit of lawyers, trials and appeals – as state-sponsored murder fall quiet as their states kill, with impunity, nuclear scientists, terror suspects and alleged militants in faraway lands. Yet a “targeted killing”, human-rights lawyer and anti-drone activist Clive Stafford Smith tells me, “is just the death penalty without due process”.

Cognitive dissonance abounds. To torture a terror suspect, for example, is always morally wrong; to kill him, video game style, with a missile fired from a remote-controlled drone, is morally justified. Crippled by fear and insecurity, we have sleepwalked into a situation where governments have arrogated to themselves the right to murder their enemies abroad.

Nor are we only talking about foreigners here. Take Anwar al-Awlaki, an Islamist preacher, al-Qaida supporter – and US citizen. On 30 September 2011, a CIA drone killed Awlaki and another US citizen, Samir Khan. Two weeks later, another CIA-led drone attack killed Awlaki’s 21-year-old son, Abdul-Rahman. Neither father nor son were ever indicted, let alone tried or convicted, for committing a crime. Both US citizens were assassinated by the US government in violation of the Fifth Amendment (“No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law”).

An investigation by Reuters last October noted how, under the Obama administration, US citizens accused of involvement in terrorism can now be “placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the president of its decisions … There is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel … Neither is there any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate.”

Should “secret panels” and “kill lists” be tolerated in a liberal democracy, governed by the rule of law? Did the founders of the United States intend for its president to be judge, jury and executioner? Whatever happened to checks and balances? Or due process?

Imagine the response of our politicians and pundits to a campaign of assassinations against western scientists conducted by, say, Iran or North Korea. When it comes to state-sponsored killings, the double standard is brazen. “Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them,” George Orwell observed, “and there is almost no kind of outrage … which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side”.

But how many more of our values will we shred in the name of security? Once we have allowed our governments to order the killing of fellow citizens, fellow human beings, in secret, without oversight or accountability, what other powers will we dare deny them?

This isn’t complicated; there are no shades of grey here. Do we disapprove of car bombings and drive-by shootings, or not? Do we consistently condemn state-sponsored, extrajudicial killings as acts of pure terror, no matter where in the world, or on whose orders, they occur? Or do we shrug our shoulders, turn a blind eye and continue our descent into lawless barbarism?

Branded a Maoist by the Maharashtra police

At his first press conference after his release, he spoke about his ordeal and how the State has been muffling the voice of dissent. Prasanna D Zore reports.

The sarcasm in 40-year-old Arun Ferreira’s voice is not completely misplaced.

It comes naturally to somebody who has been branded a Maoist/Naxalite and tortured in jail — slapped, kicked and made to stretch.

It comes naturally to somebody who has been fighting the system and pleading his innocence.

It comes naturally to somebody who breathes fresh air after having spent more than 50 months in jail and was then acquitted by various courts in ten out of 11 cases.

It comes naturally to somebody who is pouring his heart out about his ordeal in prison, his release from prison after the court’s order in September 2011 and immediate ‘abduction by the police’ in Nagpur, and somebody who has seen the system work against the innocents.

Arun Ferreira, a native of Bandra, the upmarket northwest Mumbai suburb, was first arrested from Nagpur on May 8, 2007 under the Unlawful Activities and Prevention Act for his alleged links with the Maoists.

At his first press conference after his release on bail on January 5, he answered questions that were asked to him by friends and family ever since his release.

Over to Arun…

Arun’s story on


Pakistan: Helpline Opens to Help Prevent Violence Against Women

Pakistan has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in Asia.

Parliament recently passed laws aimed at improving the rights of women, but practical support for victims of domestic violence is rare but one group in Karachi is making a difference.

The country has now opened its Pakistan’s first helpline for women seeking help for domestic violence.

Al Jazeera’s Imtiaz Tyab reports from Karachi.

IRAQ: New research highlights link between FGM/C and mental disorders

Estimates of the prevalence of FGM/C in Iraqi Kurdistan vary greatly

Estimates of the prevalence of FGM/C in Iraqi Kurdistan vary greatly

DUBAI,  January 2012 (IRIN) – New data out of Iraq shows what many psychologists suspected though little research has confirmed: Girls who have undergone female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) are more prone to mental disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Results of Research – conducted by Jan Ilhan Kizilhan of the University of Freiburg, an expert in psychotraumatology (psychotherapy for people who have suffered extreme trauma) – were published in the April-June 2011 edition of the European Journal of Psychiatry.

Kizilhan found “alarmingly high rates” of PTSD (44 percent), depression (34 percent), anxiety (46 percent) and somatic disturbances (mental disorders whose symptoms are unexplainable physical illnesses – 37 percent) among a group of 79 circumcised girls in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq, aged 8-14, who did not otherwise suffer any traumatic events.

These rates were up to seven times higher than among non-circumcised girls from the same region and were comparable to rates among people who suffered early childhood abuse.

Last year, shortly after receiving the results of the research, Kizilhan said, the Kurdish parliament in northern Iraq banned FGM/C.

He told IRIN he hopes the results will also lead to more and better treatment of PTSD among girls who have undergone FGM/C, using special techniques which include the family in the process as much as possible.

The existence of FGM/C in the Middle East is less known than in Africa. Estimates of the prevalence of FGM/C in Iraqi Kurdistan vary wildly depending on the province, but surveys have indicated the overall figure could be around 40 percent. The region is home to five million people, but has just 13 psychologists and only one with expertise in psychotherapy, Kizilhan said

U. S Supreme Court Upholds Law That Pulled Foreign Works Back Under Copyright

U.S. Supreme Court building.

Image via Wikipedia

By Jeffrey R. Young, Washington, Jan 18,2012

A professor lost his long legal fight to keep thousands of foreign musical scores, books, and other copyrighted works in the public domain when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against him on Wednesday in a case that will affect scholars and artists around the country.

The scholar is Lawrence Golan, a music professor and conductor at the University of Denver. He argued that the U.S. Congress did not have the legal authority to remove works from the public domain. It did so in 1994, when the Congress changed U.S. copyright law to conform with an international copyright agreement. The new law reapplied copyright to millions of works that had long been free for anyone to use without permission.

The Supreme Court heard the case, Golan v. Holder, No. 10-545, last October, and in a 6-to-2 ruling on Wednesday, the justices upheld the changes in U.S. copyright law.

“Neither the Copyright and Patent Clause nor the First Amendment, we hold, makes the public domain, in any and all cases, a territory that works may never exit,” declared the majority opinion, which was written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Stephen Breyer, U.S. Supreme Court judge.

Image via Wikipedia

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing for himself and Justice Samuel A. Alito, faulted the Congressional action. “The fact that, by withdrawing material from the public domain, the statute inhibits an important pre-existing flow of information is sufficient, when combined with the other features of the statute that I have discussed, to convince me that the Copyright Clause, interpreted in the light of the First Amendment, does not authorize Congress to enact this statute,” he wrote.
End of the Fight

Mr. Golan’s lawyer criticized the ruling. “Obviously this is disappointing,” said the lawyer, Anthony Falzone, in an interview. He said the decision would greatly increase the number of symphonies that the professor, and artists around the country, “are now for all intents and purposes unable to perform and record because the [permissions] fee makes it infeasible.”

Mr. Golan had argued that taking works back out of the public domain would hinder creativity by making artists more cautious about remixing or otherwise using works, fearing their status could change in the future in a way that required payment to copyright holders. More broadly, academics have expressed concern that upholding the 1994 law would make it much more difficult to write books or assemble course readings without having to deal with a host of legal hurdles—or just prohibitively expensive fees—to avoid violating copyrights.

In the majority opinion, the justices noted that the restrictions of copyright law can sometimes help creativity, though, by devising a system that allows authors to collect payment when their work is used. “Congress had reason to believe that a well-functioning international copyright system would encourage the dissemination of existing and future works,” Justice Ginsberg wrote.

This marks the end of Mr. Golan’s fight, according to his lawyer, as the only remedy now would be a change in U.S. law.

“It would be highly unlikely,” said Mr. Falzone, “that Congress would amend the statute in a way that would vindicate the interests of my client and the public.”
‘A Grant of Sweeping Authority’

But the ruling could open the door for Congress to craft further changes in copyright law that scholars might consider even more restrictive, said Kenneth D. Crews, director of the copyright-advisory office at the Columbia University Libraries.

“It is a grant of sweeping authority to Congress to shape copyright law in almost any way that it chooses,” he said of the decision. “This should raise a red flag to be watchful about other developments in congress like SOPA,” he added, referring to the Stop Online Piracy Act (HR 3261).

That bill, which is under consideration in the U.S. House of Representatives, and a related measure in the Senate sparked an online protest on Wednesday. Several major sources of free information, including Wikipedia, blocked access to their content temporarily and put up pages asking users to help fight against the legislation. The all-black home page on Wikipedia started with the headline “Imagine a world without free knowledge.”

Copyright holders and other owners of content, meanwhile, applauded the ruling.

The Motion Picture Association of America, for instance, issued a statement saying that it is “pleased that the Supreme Court has again ruled that strong copyright protection is the ‘engine of free expression’ and fully consistent with the First Amendment.”

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January 2012
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