Our own custom-made Evin Prison at Baxter
Some, or many of the Iranians we hold in Australian detention centres, may have been associated with the Iranian resistance movement or Iran's Reformist movement, with groups such as the MEK or the Mudjahadeen El Kalq, the People's Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI) or other groups.
These days MEK is "on the nose" with the US government, and, as Howard does, he hastily mimics any policy of the US Administration, so last year we happily raided 11 Iranian families who lived in several capital cities in the Australian community.
28 July 2004: What exactly is the Mujahedin-e Khalq? - The Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK or MKO) was founded in the 1960s by a group of college-educated Iranian leftists opposed to the country's pro-Western ruler, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Although the group took part in the 1979 Islamic revolution that replaced the shah with a Shiite Islamist regime, MEK's ideology, a blend of Marxism and Islamism, put it at odds with...
5-25 December 2004: The hunger strike of the Iranians at the Baxter detention centre - In the excruciating desparation of being locked up for up to five years, the Iranians started a hunger strike in December 2004. Up to 27 men were involved, and Project SafeCom's office was operational during the entire period, while we kept in touch with the supporters' network around the men, and briefed reporters to keep the issue in the news. We wrote seven reports.
21 January 2005: Ardeshir Gholipour: how we torture a distinguished Iranian - It really is astounding that Ardeshir Gholipour has spent the last five years in an Australian detention centre. He's been left to dry in Australian detention centres since 1999; he's been in the Port Hedland detention centre and now he's in Baxter.
12 January 2005: The man with the gag: witnessing a forced deportation - It had to happen sooner or later: someone on a flight, bound, gagged and muffled, moved under the highest secrecy, deported by force, not only with duct tape over his mouth, but the entire story covered up. Using the Christmas holidays, the absence of the lawyers, the expected silence of those advocates that can block their work...
26 January 2005: Thai International TG993: A late night 'removal operation' - Sonia Chirgwin was waiting in the Sydney terminal for permission to re-board flight TG993, a Thai International flight from Bangkok which would be returning to Bangkok via Melbourne. She'd been in the air for nine hours ...
Our own custom-made Evin Prison at Baxter
In Australia we have our own "Evin Prison", where we keep, for the rest of their lives if need be, a considerable number of Iranians.
For the rest of their lives, I say, because according to assertions by DIMIA, the Australian Immigration Department and the Howard government, that it has a secret Memorandum of Understanding with the Iranian government - which it refuses to reveal to all of us, including its Senate committees - any claims before the courts that the Iranians should be released following the Al Masri ruling will fail because DIMIA and the Immigration Minister will tout it has an MOU with Iran for the purposes of deporting Iranians, if need be, by force, using chemical restraints (doping by injection), physical restraints (hand-cuffing) and blind-folding - and while forced deportations are not part of the MOU according to former immigration minister Phillip Ruddock, it doesn't matter. Before the Iranians board the last trajectory on the flight home, any blindfolds and the cloths that cover the handcuffs, can come off, and the flexicuffs can be taken away.
Most of the Iranians are now almost "out-processed" without further hope of getting a successful visa to live as refugees in Australian society. Several still have 417's (a request for personal intervention by the Immigration Minister to grant a visa) in process to the Immigration Minister's office.
It's remarkable how silent the Australian media have been about addressing this form of Australian-made torture. The Iranians are just sitting there, in detention, every single minute of every single day being tortured with the grim prospect, that any day someone can walk up to them and ask them to come to the detention centre's Managers' office - where they will be grabbed, told that they are about to be deported to Iran, and put in "the Management Unit" to contemplate their prospect during the following night until their plane leaves for Iran the next morning. They also know, that under the terms of the MOU, Australian Immigration authorities have agreed to "information sharing" - that means that their file extracts travel with them on the plane to Iran, to be handed to the Iranian authorities on their arrival at Tehran airport; who then, in turn, can identify whether they were good former members of Iranian society who ran away (an imprisonable offense) - or political dissenters.
The Iranians came to Australia to seek asylum. They came from a country that locks up its political dissidents. They came from a country that has more than 70 forms of torture under its Sharia Laws to make sure the population does not dissent. The just released Human Rights Watch Report "Like the Dead in Their Coffins" confirms that the trend to quell dissent Iran is worsening to levels that cause serious concern.
Some, or many of them, may have been associated with the Iranian resistance movement or Iran's Reformist movement. Groups such as the MEK or the Mudjahadeen El Kalq, the People's Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI) or other groups. These days MEK is "on the nose" with the US government, and, as Howard does, he hastily mimics any policy of the US Administration, so last year we happily raided 11 Iranian families who lived in several capital cities in the Australian community.
For good measure the Australian Federal Police warrants for those raids included a suspected "membership or affiliation with the Refugee Action Collective" - which I suspect was a nicely added gesture by former immigration minister Philip Ruddock (no wonder he is now an Attorney-General!) - you may as well attempt to vilify the refugee movement while you're at it.
When the Iranians came to Australia to seek asylum, they would have been well informed about the danger of revealing their political affiliations. In their interviews with DIMIA and the Refugee Review Tribunal, or their submissions to the courts, they may well have lied about their past political affiliations. They may well have denied those affiliations, or omitted it from their claims for refugee status. Iranians have a way with their methods - a bit like a dissident section of my protestant church in Holland, where I grew up. "Just drive the fear of God into those youngsters, so they will become good young men, fearing the Lord". The Iranian version goes under the name of Sharia Law. Yet, by lying about it or changing their story, they would have weakened their case before the immigration authorities. Little did they know about the machinations of the machinery at work under Howard's immigration policy....
And - what chance would they have for success in their refugee claim: Iran is a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention, isn't it? Australia has good diplomatic relations with Iran, isn't it? Australia rakes in millions of dollars every year through wheat and sheep, isn't it? Urrr - I'm not into world trade - any oil fields in Iran?
Since last November, many of the Iranians who are "families", especially those who are connected with the sect of the Sabean Mandeans, have been released into the Australian community on visas granted by the Minister. Good? Yes, of course. But how many of those were released with the infamous "living-under-the-bridge visa" - or the Bridging Visa E class, which gives you a choice of starving on the street, surviving from rubbish bins in cities, or dying on the streets - unless the army of refugee supporters jumps in to help you. Thankfully, churches, refugee support centres and agencies have indeed jumped to the rescue of recipients of that most abhorrent of all forms of "government grace". One of those agencies, the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in West Melbourne, celebrated its third birthday yesterday. Kon Karapanagiotidis, ASRC Coordinator in a media release: "Since June 2001, the ASRC and its 360 volunteers have provided medical, legal and education services as well as support and friendship to those who would otherwise be destitute."
2,250 asylum seekers received assistance from ASRC since its opening. About 18 months ago there were about 30-40 BVE class visa holders in the Australian community. That number may now well have swelled to a number approaching one thousand. The Australian government laughs all the way to the bank: their atrocities are covered up and forgiven by hundreds of thousands of decent Australians who pick up the financial tab for its appalling visa classes. Under the BVE you do not qualify for Medicare, for discounts of public transport, TAFE (community college) courses - worse, you cannot access ANY of the hundreds of government services created for less financially capable population groups in Australia. You are a nobody in a no-mans land called Australia. You can walk around in the detention centre that has no fences: the special version of Australia reserved for the pariah classes - the outcasts, those cast out of Australia's detention centres.
The Iranians still in Baxter are not likely to find asylum justice under the Howard government. They are also in danger, I believe, under a new ALP dominated government of it indeed comes to power after the next election, unless influential parliamentary ALP members such as Dr Carmen Lawrence can convince parliamentary right-wing leader Mark Latham and his factions to rubber stamp a blanket release and grant permanency to them - just based on the fact that enough is enough - that Australia owes them permanent residency because of the harrowing torture they have endured in our own, home-made Evin prison at Baxter. For now however, Mark Latham and the majority of the parliamentary ALP team are firm believers in mandatory detention.
Human Rights Watch says Iranian judges have 'shut down' dissent
Iranian judges have detained and tortured writers, student leaders and political activists in secret prisons and muzzled reform-minded newspapers to "shut down" dissent, Human Rights Watch said in a report Monday that holds out little hope for change.
"There is widespread agreement that the political environment has become increasingly abusive and defined by force," Human Rights Watch said in its 73-page report, based on interviews with former political prisoners.
The report, "Like the Dead in Their Coffins: Torture, Detention, and the Crushing of Dissent in Iran," echoed the pessimism of Iran's reformist President Mohammad Khatami, who has all but conceded defeat in his struggle with hard-liners. Khatami's calls for expanding democratic rights and easing strict Islamic social rules were applauded by many Iranians, but denounced by hard-liners as a betrayal of the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the shah and brought clerics to power.
The Iranian judiciary is seen as firmly in the hands of hard-liners, led by Iran's supreme and unelected leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. New York-based Human Rights Watch said the judiciary was "at the center of the human rights violations" documented in its report.
During his first four-year presidential term, Khatami managed to relax some of the country's strict Islamic laws and allow greater media freedoms. By his second-term victory in 2001, hard-liners were fighting back, shutting down more than 100 liberal publications and detaining dozens of activists and writers for criticizing unelected hard-line clerics.
"The Iranian authorities have managed, in the span of four years, to virtually silence the political opposition within the country through the systematic use of indefinite solitary confinement of political prisoners, physical torture of student activists and denial of basic due process rights to all those detained for the expression of dissenting views",
Human Rights Watch said.
"A small group of judges accountable only to (Khamenei) has shut down public dissent",
the group added, saying the judges had vigilantes and security agents at their disposal to detain and interrogate dissidents, hid their activities in secret prisons and shut down newspapers that had spoken up for political prisoners.
Asked Sunday about alleged human rights violations, judiciary spokesman Naser Hosseini said torture had decreased significantly in Iran since the judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi in April banned the use of torture to obtain confessions. The ban was seen as the first public acknowledgment of the practice in the country.
Despite Hosseini's assurances, Iranian reformist lawyer Mohsen Rahami said human rights violations remained a concern.
Human Rights Watch, describing the future as "bleak," said:
"The authorities have largely succeeded in their campaign to send a message to the broader public that the costs of voicing peaceful political criticism are unbearably high."
Human Rights Watch interviewed former political prisoners outside Iran. Many were afraid to allow their names to be used or to speak openly inside Iran. They described beatings and long stays in windowless, soundproof solitary cells described as "coffins".
One student leader and outspoken critic of the government said he was psychologically tortured by being told during his detention that his parents had had a car accident as they rushed to jail to post bail for him. His father, he was told, had been killed.
"If you had not done this, your father would not have died. This is justice for what you did," the student said he was told. He realized it was a lie only when he later saw his parents in court.
The report comes a month before the anniversary of a 1999 raid on a Tehran University dormitory that killed one person and touched off days of anti-government protests. The anniversary is usually marked by student protests - and attempts by security forces and pro-government vigilantes to suppress demonstrations.
Human Rights Watch singled out Tehran prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi, a former judge, in its report. As a judge, Mortazavi ordered the closure of scores of reformist newspapers. Human Rights Watch said he "has been personally involved in a number of coercive interrogations, threats against individual arrestees, and has even allegedly given the order for individual arrestees to be physically abused."
Reformists in Iran have publicly accused Mortazavi of illegally detaining a Canadian photojournalist of Iranian origin and covering up facts surrounding her death in custody last July.
In April, Iran's unelected clerics honored Mortazavi as "best manager" in the judiciary.
Suspected refugee-spies worked for Iran
(Misstänkta flyktingspioner jobbade åt Iran)
Both suspected refugee-spies who were expelled a week ago came from Iran. The men where seized in Kista after having contacted refugees from the Baluchistan province. The refugees were photographed by the spies and Säpo [Swedish secret service] were made aware of the men after a tip-off from exiled Iranians.
Säpo & Chief prosecutor Tomas Lindstrand of the Stockholm's International Prosecution Chamber has been very reluctant about details surrounding the suspected refugee espionage last week.
Two men, about 35-40 years old, where seized suspected of having spied on refugees. The preliminary investigation was closed but the men were expelled after a decision by Margareta Linderoth, head of Counter-Terrorism for Säpo.
Still, both the Prosecution authorities and Säpo refuse to say where the men come from. The only information given is that they come from a non-European country.
Why won't you say that they are Iranian?
"I can answer the question generally speaking, it's not up to me, the prosecutor, to point out separate countries at this point, in particular since the preliminary investigation has been closed." -Tomas Lindstrand.
"That is how I interpret the secrecy law. It deals with Sweden's relationship towards a foreign power. I don't think it's suitable. One shouldn't hastily point the finger at other countries without proper grounds", he continued.
But according to information to Svenska Dagbladet from many independent sources, both men are Iranian. The men have visited Sweden earlier. Last year they made contact with exiled Iranians with left-wing sympathies. Both men returned to Sweden this year in October where they made contact with refugees both here and in Norway, and according to certain information, also in Denmark.
The purpose for the Iranians' operation in Sweden in October and November was to establish contact and to recruit sources amongst the Iranian refugees. More specifically, on his occasion they contacted Iranians from the Baluchistan province, according to anonymous source information.
The men operated under different names with their contacts and met refugees in many locations. A group of Iranians became frightened. In Sweden are there an estimated thousand people with Baluchistanian background and in Norway, roughly 60-70 families.
That the preliminary investigation against the Iranians was dropped was because it wasn't possible to prove that they'd been acting "secretly" & "with deceiving methods", as the old illegal intelligence operations law demands.
"This law is not particularly well suited to deal with refugee-espionage", says Tomas Lindstrand.
Many exiled Iranians are critical of the Swedish authorities for not saying directly that Iran lies behind the operation.
"We are disapointed. This creates an anxiety among Iranians and distrust of Säpo increases", said Mehrdad Darvishpour, Doctor of Sociology at Stockholm University.
The men were seized in Kista after a tip-off from exiled Iranians who had themselves been contacted.
"We want to have an official and public protest from Sweden against Iran sending agents here. If Iran sees that nothing happens they will continue with their work", said Mehrdad Darvishpour. "Enough is enough".