Shama Bibi (left) and Shahzad Masih, a Christian couple and parents of three children, were burned to death by a Muslim lynch mob in Pakistan because of a false blasphemy accusation. Photo courtesy of: Gatestone Institute
by, Mohshin Habib | Gatestone Institute
“The mob beat them and broke their legs so they would not be able to flee. “They picked them up by their arms and legs and held them over the brick furnace until their clothes caught fire. And then they threw them inside the furnace.” — Javed Maseeh, family spokesman, to NBC News.
The attack was not an isolated one. Rather it seems to be part of systematic killings, community by community.
Imagine you are a person of Christian faith living as a citizen in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan: every moment your life is at risk. Imagine a Pakistani Muslim shouting that you have burned a page of holy Quran when you have not; or accusing you of having desecrated the Prophet Mohammed: you have hardly any chance of saving yourself. There would be no question of providing evidence or proof against you. You would be killed either by the mob or by the country’s legal system.
If you were one of the 3% minority Christians of Pakistan, you would fear for your life every moment among the majority Muslims; any one of them could shout and point at you as the Nazi collaborators did during the Second World War against the Jews. You inevitably would be beaten to death by your fellow countrymen.
This month in Pakistan, a Christian couple and their unborn child were burned to death, because of a false accusation of burning pages of a Quran.
Local villagers, called through the mosque’s loudspeakers, came by the hundreds. They tore apart the room where Shama Bibi and her husband, Shahzad Masih, had taken shelter and took the couple out by force.
The mob beat them and broke their legs so they would not be able to flee. They were then held over an open kiln until their clothes caught fire. “They picked them up by the arms and legs and held them over the brick kiln until their clothes caught fire. And then they threw them inside the furnace,” according to Javed Maseeh, a spokesman for the family. When Shama’s clothes would not burn, the mob wrapped her in cotton “so she would set alight faster.”
As is typical in these cases, a Muslim man said that he had witnessed Shama Bibi, 24, a Christian mother of three and four months pregnant, burning pages of a Quran. The accuser went to the neighboring villages in the Kasur district and incited the Muslims against her and her husband. On November 12, 2014, about 1,000-2,000 people from five nearby villages gathered at the clay kiln in the village of Chak (south of Lahore), where the couple lived and worked as indentured laborers.
While the Masihs were burning to death and crying out their innocence, the mob was shouting “Allahhu Akbar!” (“Allah is Greater!”), “Death to the blasphemer!” and “Kill the infidel Christians!”
The murders followed reports that Shama Bibi had carried out a cleansing ritual on Sunday evening, after the death of her father-in-law. She had collected some unneeded possessions of the deceased and burned them.
This incident is not an isolated one. Rather, seems to be part of systematic killings, community by community.
People of a country learn their way of life in the light of the country’s laws. Many people around the word consider that the constant slaughtering of Christians in Pakistan is morally supported by the country’s destructive blasphemy law, used and often abused whether anyone has blasphemed or not. Pakistan’s Penal Code states that the desecration of the Quran is punishable by life imprisonment under section 295c, while insulting Muhammad can merit the death penalty.
The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, in his reaction to the murder of the couple, said, “The murderers of Christian couple will be brought to justice. It is unacceptable. A responsible state cannot tolerate mob rule and public lynching with impunity.”
Many, however, assumed Sharif’s statement to be nothing but parroted rubbish. Father James Channan, coordinator of the United Religions Initiative and director of the Peace Center of the Dominican Order in Pakistan, said,” Our present government has the worst record of not punishing the culprits of these cases. All of them are set free after a short time. There is a big question for us: Where is justice?” He stated what has long been known, that Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws were subject to widespread abuse and were frequently invoked to settle personal scores.
The president of the Pakistan Christian Congress, Dr. Nazir Bhatti, said, “There are blasphemy cases registered in more than a dozen police stations. While the courts have ordered the arrest of one Muslim media station boss and another Muslim artist from a TV channel, they are enjoying a police escort and attending meetings, and no one dares to arrest them. But one false allegation of blasphemy, and the police put Christians behind bars, and courts award them death sentences. That practice indicates that blasphemy laws are only legislated to target religious minorities in Pakistan.”
He added that in Pakistan, blasphemy laws are a license to kill Christians at the hands of Muslims.
“The incidents of violence against Pakistani Christians and the Ahmaddyia community have risen to 200% after becoming PML in power in the province of Punjab,” said Dr. Bhatti. The Chief Minister of Punjab province, Shehbaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League (N) [PML-N], is the younger brother of Pakistan’s current Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, commonly known as the Lion of Punjab. Both Prime Minister Sharif and his brother were extremely loyal to the late General Zia-ul-Haq, who was solely liable for introducing the harsher blasphemy laws in early 1980s. In the period of 1984-2004, 964 people were charged with blasphemy, including 119 Christians.
Among those charged with blasphemy, 35 people were killed extra-judicially. About 81% percent, or two million, of Pakistan’s Christian population live in Punjab province.
Moreover, the fundamentalist madrassa schools of Pakistan have become an influential power supporting the blasphemy laws. Pakistan has 16,059 high schools and 15,725 madrassas. Total madrassa attendance stands at 1.5 million students, while the regular schools have 1.6 million students. These religious schools are producing a particular world-view called Alem-e-kufr (the World of Infidels). The concept of these religious schools is: “The world is divided into two antagonistic parts: the Islamic world, and the infidel world. With little common ground between them both, clash is eternal, natural and unavoidable, because the forces of evil and forces of good are predestined to be at war. The West is after us, they want to destroy Muslims, Islam and our culture.”
Sadly, the leadership and media of the West do not even notice that three million Christians in Pakistan live in fear for their lives. While some international organizations are struggling to make blasphemy laws obsolete, the world’s most powerful leaders have been mostly silent about these crimes.
Dr. Nazir S. Bhatti remarked in a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama that the U.S. Administration — the custodian of human rights, liberty and freedom of speech and expression around the world — did not even bother to condemn the horrific murder of the Christian couple by Islamic extremists in Pakistan. Moreover, the U.S. State Department has never uttered any comments at all about Christian persecution or the genocide of Christians.
A Christian woman who was given the death penalty last year for drinking water from a well reserved for Muslims in Pakistan has had her appeal against the sentence rejected by the Lahore high court.
by, Oliver Lane | Breitbart | h/t Mark Broadbent
Breitbart reported on the original case last year, which arose after Aasiya Noreen, a fruit picker, stopped to refresh herself during the course of her day’s work. After she was caught drinking from the same cup used by Muslim women, the well was declared “Haram”, and Noreen was beaten for the offence, before being arrested.
At the time of her conviction, Noreen said: “I have been sentenced to death because I was thirsty. I’m a prisoner because I used the same cup as those Muslim women, because water served by a Christian woman was regarded as unclean by my stupid fellow fruit pickers”.
It was alleged during the altercation following the water incident, Noreen made negative comments about Islam. Noreen has defended her innocence in the five years since, insisting her comment went no further than “I think Jesus would see things differently than Mohammed”, and her lawyer has argued the charge arose because of “personal enmity” towards the defendant, rather than a genuine grievance, reports the Independentnewspaper.
None of the original witnesses were present in court to testify, but a Muslim “prayer leader” (Imam) who claimed Noreen, an unrepentant Christian, had confessed the crime to him, did. When the Lahore court delivered its verdict to maintain the death penalty in this case, Noreen and her defence team reacted with shock. Her lawyer promised to keep fighting: “I was expecting the opposite decision. We will file an appeal to the Supreme Court of Pakistan in a few days”.
If the case is lodged at the Supreme court in Islamabad, the debate over Noreen’s life, which has already lasted five years, could drag out for many more. It has already sparked significant attention, both at home in Pakistan and abroad. U.S. Kentucky Senator and Republic Presidential hopeful Rand Paul has said if Noreen wasn’t released from death row, foreign aid to the country should cease. Lamenting the case, Paul said: “According to her co-workers, she insulted the Prophet. In our country, we refer to such quibbling as gossip. In Pakistan, if you are a Christian, it can land you on death row”.
The matter of religious plurality is an exceptionally controversial one in Pakistan, and as this case continues Aasiya Noreen may have trouble finding backers. In 2011, two senior politicians who spoke out against the blasphemy law that Noreen was charged with and publicly supported her cause were assassinated. The Pakistani minister for minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti was the nation’s only Christian cabinet member until his death at the hands of the Pakistani Taliban.
Please sign the petition at the link below calling for the immediate release of Asia Bibi:
Iranian blogger, Soheil Arabi. Photo courtesy of: HRANA
by, International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran | David Wood @ Answering Muslims
IRAN: A blogger found guilty of insulting the Prophet Mohammad in his postings on Facebook has been sentenced to death. An informed source told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that the blogger, Soheil Arabi, will be able to appeal the decision until September 20, 2014.
Agents from the Revolutionary Guards Corps’ (IRGC) Sarallah Base arrested Soheil Arabi, 30, and his wife in November 2013. Arabi’s wife was released a few hours later, but he was kept in solitary confinement for two months inside IRGC’s Ward 2-A at Evin Prison, before he was transferred to Evin’s General Ward 350. Branch 76 of the Tehran Criminal Court, under Judge Khorasani, found Arabi guilty of “sabb al-nabi” (insulting the Prophet), on August 30, 2014.
“The way he was arrested was illegal. It is not clear how the agents were able to enter their home at that time in the morning. All the doors were locked and family members were asleep. Agents entered his home and bedroom. He and his wife were arrested and some of their photographs and personal belongings were taken after their home was searched,” said the source.
“Soheil had eight Facebook pages under different names, and he was charged with insulting the Imams and the Prophet because of the contents of those pages. He has accepted his charges, but throughout the trial, he stated that he wrote the material without thinking and in poor psychological condition,” the source told the Campaign.
The source noted that the Tehran Penal Court issued its ruling without regard for Article 264 of the Islamic Penal Code. “Article 262 of the Islamic Penal Code states that if a person insults the Prophet of Islam, his punishment is death. But in Article 264, it explicitly says that if a suspect merely claims in court that he said the insulting words in anger, in quoting someone, or by mistake, his death sentence will be converted to 74 lashes. I would like to emphasize that if only the suspect claims this, he will not be eligible for death, and there is no need to even prove his claim,” added the source.
“Unfortunately, despite this Article and the explanations provided, the judges issued the death sentence. They didn’t even take any notice of Soheil’s statements in court in which he repeated several times that he wrote the posts under poor [psychological] conditions, and that he is remorseful. Three of the judges ruled for the death sentence, and two ruled for imprisonment,” said the source.
According to the source, Soheil Arabi has another judicial case. On September 4, 2014, Branch 15 of Tehran Revolutionary Court under Judge Salavati sentenced Arabi to the maximum punishment of three years in prison on charges of “insulting the Supreme Leader” and “propaganda against the state,” through his writings on Facebook.
F R E E S O H E I L A R A B I N O W !
by, Jakarta Globe | h/t Trop
An Indonesian atheist was lawfully jailed for two-and-a-half years after being accused of blaspheming Islam, the Supreme Court decided in a ruling posted on its website on Tuesday.
The court said it upheld the sentence for former civil servant Alexander Aan, who was found guilty of disseminating cartoons portraying the Prophet Muhammad and saying on Facebook that “God does not exist.”
“The defendant was proven to have spread information which blasphemes the Prophet Muhammad in eleven cartoons,” the court said in its ruling.
Alexander, who worked as a civil servant at a local government office in West Sumatra, was beaten by a mob prior to being taken to jail, after posting the status and cartoons.
The Indonesian state requires every citizen to believe in Allah and Muhammad.
The Muaro district court in June 2012 sentenced him to two-and-a-half years in jail and a Rp 100 million ($8,500) fine for inciting religious hatred. The sentence was upheld by the West Sumatera High Court in August 2012.
The case sparked international outrage and Alexander was labeled a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. He was released from jail in January this year.
Coptic Christian teacher, Demiana Emad. Photo courtesy of: Ahram Online
The conviction stems from parents’ complaints, but a human rights NGO says that the social studies teacher only compared religions from a historical perspective
by, Ahram Online | h/t David Wood @ Answering Muslims
A Coptic Christian school teacher has been sentenced to six months in prison on charges of insulting Islam.
Demiana Emad, a 23-year-old social studies teacher, was arrested on 9 May 2013 after the head of the parents’ association of Sheikh Sultan Primary School in Luxor filed a complaint accusing her of insulting Islam.
In June 2013, Emad was sentenced to pay a LE100,000 fine. Sunday’s jail sentence was ordered by the court in response to an appeal filed by the defendant on last year’s fine.
According to a year-old report by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), Emad didn’t insult Islam, only “presented a comparison between religions in ancient, middle and modern ages as mentioned in the curriculum.”
The report, which warned of similar cases becoming “a tool to oppress minorities,” added that during investigations the majority of Emad’s students denied that she had insulted Islam in her class.
Charges of insulting religion go back to the regime of ousted president Hosni Mubarak, widely used then as a pretext to crack down on political activists. However, occurrences of the charge significantly rose under the rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, who was removed from power last July.
A report issued by the EIPR last September revealed that since the 25 January 2011 revolution until the end of 2012, a total of 63 citizens, both Muslims and Christians, were charged with insulting religion.
Article 98 of Egypt’s penal code says anyone convicted of offending religion in any form can face up to six years in prison.
A Christian street sweeper was targeted by a mob, charged with having burned pages with Koranic writing on them. In reality, the pages were ripped up by two students. The mob was ready to lynch the Christian man when a 26-year old Muslim man belonging to a human rights network intervened.
by, Shafique Khokhar | Asia News | h/t Trop
Faisalabad – Punjab, Pakistan: A “success” story with a happy ending, thanks to the intervention of a Muslim activist, who saved the life of an innocent young Christian who is not even able to read. This is what Suneel Malik, Director of The Peace and Human Development Foundation ( Phd ) tells AsiaNews, commenting on the latest case of false blasphemy charges that occurred in recent days in Faisalabad in Punjab. He hopes it will help increase the level of tolerance towards religious minorities, for the construction of a true peace in Pakistan and put an end “to false accusations that besmirch the name of the country” and affect social harmony.
The episode dates back to 22 May 2014: Mansha Masih, a Christian, who has worked for 15 years as a scavenger in the town of Hajweri, Faisalabad. He was picking up litter and leaves from abandoned houses in the area, when a young Muslim named Billu, from the roof of his home, accused him of desecrating pages of the Muslim holy book, the Koran. After having railed against the Christian, he began to brutally beat him.
However, the intervention of the 26-year old Muslim activist Farhan Sadiq, a journalist and member of the Human Rights Defenders Network, was decisive in saving the Christian. He ripped Masih from the hands of his tormentor and took him home. He then launched an independent investigation to verify the facts, after which it was found that the pages containing sacred verses were “desecrated” by two underage students in the area, who did not want to go to the local mosque, so they burned the books.
However, rumors of a possible case of blasphemy, perpetrated by a Christian had already circulated in the town and a crowd was ready to punish the man, though innocent, with death. Even after the confession of two young men, the crowd did not want to believe the innocence of Mansha Masih, who has repeatedly stated he is “illiterate” and ” had done nothing wrong,” not knowing the content of the verses printed on sheets. The Muslim activist’s decision in dealing with crowd and proving the charges to be false, in the end, saved the Christian’s life, thus he fulfilled his task “with a great sense of responsibility.”
With a population of more than 180 million people (97 per cent Muslim), Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world, the second largest Muslim nation after Indonesia. About 80 per cent of Muslims are Sunni, whilst 20 per cent are Shia. 1.85 per cent are Hindu, followed by Christians (1.6 per cent) and Sikhs (0.04 per cent). Violence against ethnic and religious minorities is commonplace across the country, with Shia Muslims and Christians as the main targets, with things getting worse. Dozens of episodes , including targeted attacks against entire communities – such as in Gojra in 2009 or Joseph Colony Lahore last year – or places of worship (Peshawar in September last year) or abuses against individuals (Sawan Masih and Asia Bibi, Rimsha Masih or the young Robert Fanish Masih, who also died in his cell), are often perpetrated under the pretext of the blasphemy laws.
by, Joe Newby | The Examiner | Thank you to Christopher Collins
On Wednesday, Dave Gaubatz, a former Air Force investigator and author of “Muslim Mafia,” told Examiner.com that he “infiltrated” a Muslim conference held in Detroit earlier this month. While at the conference, he reportedly spoke to a representative of a group known as Muslim Advocates, who said the organization is working “closely” with social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to close down accounts of users critical of Islam.
“They are asking these groups to close the accounts of anyone who is critical of Islam,” he said. “This is considered serious hate speech and should not be allowed on the Internet.”
According to Gaubatz, the representative also said that “anyone critical of Islam and sharia law are haters.” Ditto for those who oppose either the construction or expansion of a mosque in the United States.
“We are experts with deep experience in the courtroom and powerful connections in Congress and the White House,” Gaubatz recalled being told by the Muslim Advocates representative.
“This should be of no surprise to anyone,” Gaubatz said.
Gaubatz also said the conference, which was attended by representatives and leaders from several groups, should have been named the “U.S. Constitution and the 1st Amendment are for MB terrorists and not for American Patriots.” For four days, he said, he stayed at the same hotel as leaders from over a dozen groups that support the Muslim Brotherhood.
He reportedly met and spoke with executives from the Islamic Society of North America and the North American Islamic Trust.
“I was informed that NAIT owned several hundred million dollars of property in America, and has the funding from 400 plus Islamic Centers in America,” he added.
But Gaubatz’ report of collusion between these groups and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter present a clear danger to the fundamental right of free speech and Americans’ ability to freely express themselves online. As we have reported multiple times, Muslim activists have called for global blasphemy bans and an end to free speech in the United States, despite the clear language of the First Amendment.
Last Wednesday, we reported that one page critical of Islam — “Islam Exposed” — was yanked by Facebook after administrators received death threats. Facebook later restored the page, saying it was yanked in error.
On Wednesday, a post at the page advising visitors to avoid hateful speech was removed by Facebook for allegedly violating the site’s community standards. Facebook did not explain why the post was pulled and one administrator received a 30-day ban.
But as we have reported, Facebook routinely turns a blind eye to threats from users with Muslim-sounding names. Last August, for example, Facebook told a conservative female they could not confirm direct threats she received violated their community standards. One threat reported to Facebook was quite specific: “We will kill you.”
Ironically, Facebook has said it supports free speech and reviews all complaints equally.
We contacted both Facebook and Muslim Advocates to verify Gaubatz’ claim and received no reply as of this writing.
Update: A few hours after this article was published, Facebook falsely flagged the link as “unsafe” in what appears to be a bid to keep it from being circulated. We have reached out to Facebook, but have not received a response.
Update #2: Muslim Advocates spokesperson Fatima Khan responded with an email claiming we misquoted their representative, even though we did not. The statement relayed to us was Gaubatz’s recollection, not a direct quote from MA or any of their representatives. We specifically asked Khan about the quote, and about allegations the group is working to shut down social media accounts of those critical of Islam. Khan never responded. The article was flagged by Facebook after our contact with Khan. More on the incident can be seen here.
by, Deccan Herald | h/t Trop
Bangladesh: A mob of nearly 3,000 attacked Hindu households and a temple in eastern Bangladesh after two youths from the community allegedly insulted Prophet Muhammad on Facebook.
Police today arrested 17 people, including the principal of Bagmara Madrasa, for the attack on the temple and over two dozen households at Homna in Comilla district, about 100 km south east of Dhaka, last week.
“We so far arrested 17 people and some of them made confessional statements regarding the attack. A manhunt is underway to arrest the rest of the culprits,” police chief of Homna Aslam Shikdar told PTI on phone.
He said suspected mastermind of the attack Nazrul Islam is still on the run. The local police chief said steps were underway to put the accused on trial on charges of attacking the Hindu households and the temple under a planned manner.
A Hindu woman cries after her home was destroyed. Photo courtesy of: Pamela Geller
A makeshift police camp was setup at the village where the incident took place on April 26 following rumours that two Hindu youths had allegedly insulted the prophet in a Facebook post.
Earlier reports said culprits mobilised attackers mostly belonging to fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami and several other ultra right groups who ransacked the temple and the nearby households and looted some valuables.
“The attack continued for some 20 minutes but during the time, the culprits preferred not to injure anyone…our initial investigation found it was a pre-planned attack as they used loudspeakers and distributed leaflets to mobiles the attack,” Shikdar said.
People at the neighbourhood said nearly 3,000 attackers, mostly from outside the locality, staged the attack as the village elders were set to hold a meeting to resolve the issue of the alleged defamation of the prophet.
Shikdar said police immediately rushed to the scene but reached the remote village only when the attackers had fled.
by, Shadi Paveh | Gatestone Institute
The notes from Dr. Azam’s medical journal include a crushed toe, broken fingers, missing fingernails, broken ribs, a skull fracture, severe abdominal bruising, marks of flogging on her back and feet [and] extensive damage to her genitals.
Dutch authorities expressed shock and sadness over her execution and cut off diplomatic relations with Iran for approximately 20 days.
Roya Nobakht, 47, presently being detained as a political prisoner in Iran, may face execution for insulting Islam. She has lived in Stockport, England with her husband for the last six years and holds dual British-Iranian citizenship.
Her husband, Daryoush Taghipoor, has stated that his wife was arrested while visiting a friend at Iran’s Shiraz airport last October for comments she had made on a Facebook group calling the government of Iran “too Islamic.” According to a copy of her charge sheet seen by the UK’s Independent; she was transferred to Tehran and charged with “gathering and participation with intent to commit crimes against national security and insulting Islamic sanctities”– crimes punishable by death.
In an interview, Mr. Taghipoor told the Manchester Evening News that “his wife is not well at all…she has lost three stones [42 lbs]… and is scared that the government will kill her.” He also said that a confession had been extracted from his wife “under duress.” As is well documented, torture is systematically used by Iranian authorities to obtain confessions from political dissidents and even from some common prisoners.
Roya Nobakht and husband Daryoush Taghipoor. Photo courtesy of: Information Nigeria
Ms. Nobakht’s fears are not unfounded. Iran’s persecution of expatriates is nothing new. The first known case was that of Ms. Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian-Iranian photojournalist who died under torture in 2003 while in custody. Ms. Zahara Bahrami, a Dutch-Iranian, was hanged in 2011. Three Canadian-Iranians; Saeed Malekpour, Hossein Derakhshan and Hamid Ghassemi-Shall, along with American Amir Hekmati, were all arbitrarily arrested while visiting relatives in Iran on vague anti-government charges. With the exception of Mr. Ghassemi-Shall, who was recently released, each one presently languishes inside Iran as political prisoners under dire conditions.
Ms Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian-Iranian photojournalist who had left Iran in 1974, returned in 2003 to cover a story about Iran. She was soon arrested and detained in Evin prison on charges of espionage. As Iran does not recognize dual citizenships, Ms. Kazemi was not allowed representation by Canadian authorities. She later died in custody. The Iranian officials claimed she had died as a result of a stroke but refused to return her body to Canada. In 2005, however, Dr. Shahram Azam, a doctor with the Iranian security forces who had examined Ms. Kazemi’s half-dead body, fled Iran. He testified that the victim’s body showed extensive signs of torture administered over a few days. The notes from his medical journal include a crushed toe, broken fingers, missing finger nails, broken ribs, a skull fracture, severe abdominal bruising, marks of flogging on her back and feet, extensive damage to the genitals and peculiar deep scratches on her neck. She was 52 years old and the first victim of the Islamic regime’s war of terror on Iranians holding dual citizenship. Her body has never been returned to her son in Canada. After her murder, especially under the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, diplomatic relations between Iran and Canada deteriorated significantly.
Ms Zahra Bahrami, 45, who held dual Dutch-Iranian citizenship, had travelled to Iran to visit her ailing daughter. She was arrested in 2009 for participating in anti-regime protests and taken to the dreaded Evin prison. According to eyewitnesses, Ms Bahrami was tortured so severely she could not sit or stand easily and was denied medical care for serious lung complications. On Jan 29, 2011, she was suddenly hanged at 5:00 a.m. without anyone’s knowledge. She was then hastily buried by the authorities in the absence of her children. Dutch authorities expressed shock and sadness over her execution and cut off diplomatic relations with Iran for approximately 20 days.
Mr. Amir Hekmati 31, an American born in Arizona to Iranian parents and who was visiting Iran for the first time, was arrested in 2011 and charged with “spying for the CIA.” He was tortured until he finally gave a televised confession. As a result he was sentenced to death but thanks to heavy international pressure, in 2014 his sentence was finally changed to 10 years in prison. Three Canadians — Mr. Saeed Malekpour, 39; Mr. Hamid Ghassemi-Shall, 45; and Mr. Hossein Derakhshan, 38 — were arrested while visiting relatives in Iran in 2008, on various charges. Malekpour was charged with designing software that was used in an “un-Islamic” way by third parties, whereas Ghassemi-Shall was accused of the customary espionage. Both were tortured while kept in solitary confinement for over a year and sentenced to death. Malekpour wrote from prison that his jaw had been broken while his interrogators were trying to extract his teeth with pliers, and that he had only confessed to crimes dictated to him by his interrogators under torture and threats to his family. Malekpour’s death sentence was eventually commuted to life in prison, while Mr. Ghassemi-Shall, was released in September 2013 — both due to successful campaigns by various international human rights organizations.
Derakhshan — nicknamed the “blogfather” — is best known for introducing blogging to Iran in 2001. He was sentenced for the contents of his blogs to 19.5 years in prison — the heaviest sentence ever handed down to a blogger.
The Islamic Republic of Iran does not recognize dual citizenships and considers all those who were born in Iran or to Iranian parents as Iranian citizens subject to its deadly Islamic penal code. One hundred and thirty-one offenses are punishable by death including theft, adultery, homosexuality, political dissidence, drug possession and blasphemy. It would be fair to conclude that travelling to Iran with any citizenship carries a risk. One enters a lawless and unaccountable country that lacks any degree of human rights, and where torture and hangings are an integral part of its government’s rule and survival.