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Zaghari-Ratcliffe Transferred to Psychiatric Ward, Held Incommunicado

 

CHRI: Imprisoned Iranian-British citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been held in the psychiatric ward of the Imam Khomeini Hospital in Tehran since July 15, 2019, according to the Free Nazanin campaign.

Throughout this time she has been denied contact with her family and guarded by agents of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

“I was healthy and happy when I came to Iran to see my parents,” said Zaghari-Ratcliffe prior to her hospitalization, according to a statement by the Free Nazanin campaign dated July 16, 2019. “Three and a bit years later and I am admitted to a mental health clinic.”

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been imprisoned in Iran on unspecific espionage charges since April 2016 after being arrested by the IRGC’s intelligence organization, had requested hospitalization on the recommendation of a doctor for the severe mental and physical deterioration she has experienced while held in Evin Prison, according to the campaign.

However, her requests to maintain contact with her five-year-old daughter and parents, both based in Tehran, as well as her London-based husband, were not honored after she was taken to the hospital.

Her father was denied contact with her on July 16 and was unable to establish what treatment she has been receiving, or the IRGC’s agenda in being involved in her medical care.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s transfer to the hospital comes on the heels of the two-week-long hunger strike she and her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, both undertook in June 2019.

“Nazanin hoped that her hunger strike would move the Iranian authorities, and it clearly has,” said Ratcliffe in the Free Nazanin campaign statement that was sent to the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).

“Hopefully her transfer to a hospital means that she is getting treatment and care, despite my distrust of just what pressures can happen behind closed doors,” he added. “It is unnerving when we don’t know what is going on.”

Her family is concerned about a potential “cocktail of drugs and treatments that might be used in coordination with ongoing pressures on Nazanin to sign or film something,” said the Free Nazanin Campaign.

During the second week of her hunger strike, IRGC agents had threatened Zaghari-Ratcliffe with more imprisonment and pressured her to spy for Iran upon being freed, as well as write a denouncement of the British government, noted the campaign.

Requests that Zaghari-Ratcliffe be allowed contact with her family members or a representative of the British embassy in Tehran have been denied.

On July 10, the UN listed Zaghari-Ratcliffe among a group of prisoners in Iran who have been repeatedly denied adequate medical treatment.

“Over several months we have communicated to the Iranian government our deep concerns about the physical and mental integrity of detainees,” UN experts said in a statement.

“Despite government assurances, we are frustrated to still receive reports of denial of medical treatment, including in life-threatening situations,” they added. “These no longer appear to be isolated incidents, but a consistent pattern.”

Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been requesting medical treatment to be administered outside the prison since January 2019, when she went on a joint hunger strike with imprisoned human rights defender Narges Mohammadi.

Both women are held in the Women’s Ward of Evin Prison, where the infirmary is dirty and lacking in supplies and medical specialists.

Now Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been denied access to her loved ones while held incommunicado in a hospital. To date, her family has never been allowed to see her medical records despite frequent requests, according to the campaign.

“Even now it still seems like games of power and control are being played by the Iranian authorities – even at the point of hospitalization,” said Ratcliffe.

An employee of the London-based Thomson Reuters Foundation charity, Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been eligible for release since November 2017 based on Article 58 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code, which states that courts can issue an order of conditional release after a convict has served one-third of their sentence.

In July 2018, a judge reportedly told Zaghari-Ratcliffe that she was being held as a bargaining chip by the Iranian government to convince London to pay Tehran an old debt.

No mas

"I'm done!" says the alpaca on my street. 

Some Iranian women take off hijabs as hard-liners push back

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The simple act of walking has become a display of defiance for a young Iranian woman who often moves in Tehran's streets without a compulsory headscarf, or hijab.

With every step, she risks harassment or even arrest by Iran's morality police whose job is to enforce the strict dress code imposed after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

"I have to confess it is really, really scary," the 30-year-old fire-safety consultant said in a WhatsApp audio message, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions.

But she is also hopeful, saying she believes the authorities find it increasingly difficult to suppress protests as more women join in. "They are running after us, but cannot catch us," she said. "This is why we believe change is going to be made."

The hijab debate has further polarized Iranians at a time when the country is buckling under unprecedented U.S. sanctions imposed since the Trump administration pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers last year. It's unclear to what extent the government can enforce hijab compliance amid an economic malaise, including a currency collapse and rising housing prices.

There's anecdotal evidence that more women are pushing back against the dress code, trying to redefine red lines as they test the response of the ruling Shiite Muslim clergy and their security agencies.

An Associated Press reporter spotted about two dozen women in the streets without a hijab over the course of nine days, mainly in well-to-do areas of Tehran — a mall, a lakeside park, a hotel lobby.

Many other women, while stopping short of outright defiance, opted for loosely draped colorful scarves that show as much hair as they cover. Even in Tehran's Grand Bazaar, frequented by many traditional women, most female shoppers wore these casual hijabs. Still, a sizeable minority of women was covered head-to-toe in black robes and tightly pulled headscarves, the so-called chador.

The struggle against compulsory headscarves first made headlines in December 2017 when a woman climbed atop a utility box in Tehran's Revolution Street, waving her hijab on a stick. More than three dozen protesters have been detained since, including nine who are currently in detention, said Masih Alinejad, an Iranian activist who now lives in New York.

Despite attempts to silence protesters, public debate has intensified, amplified by social media.

Last month, a widely watched online video showed a security agent grab an unveiled teenage girl and violently push her into the back of a police car, prompting widespread criticism.

President Hassan Rouhani and Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have supported a softer attitude toward women who don't comply with the official dress code. However, hard-liners opposed to such easing have become more influential as the nuclear deal is faltering.

They have called for harsh punishment, even lashes, arguing that allowing women to show their hair leads to moral decay and the disintegration of families. The judiciary recently urged Iranians to inform on women without hijabs by sending photos and videos to designated social media accounts.

"The more women dress in an openly sexual way, the less we'll have social peace, while facing a higher crime rate," Minoo Aslani, head of the women's branch of the paramilitary Basij group, told a rally last week.

Another gathering was attended by several thousand women in chadors. One held up a sign reading, "The voluntary hijab is a plot by the enemy."

Reformist lawmaker Parvaneh Salahshouri said coercion does not work. "What we see is that the morality police have been a failure," said Salahshouri, who wears a headscarf out of religious belief.

Changing hijab rules through legislation is unlikely because of the constraints on parliament, she said.

Instead, women should engage in non-violent civil disobedience, Salahshouri said. She cautioned that it's a slow, difficult road, but that "Iranian women have not given up their efforts."

The hijab controversy goes back to the mid-1930s when police forced women to take off their hijabs, part of a Westernization policy by then-Shah Reza Pahlavi. Under his son and successor, women could choose. Western apparel was common among the elite.

A 2018 survey by a parliament research center indicates that most women wear a casual hijab and only 13% opt for a chador.

Attitudes have changed. In 1980, two-thirds believed women should wear hijabs. Today, fewer than 45% approve of government intervention in the issue, the research said.

Iran has seen waves of anti-government protests, including an outcry after a 2009 election many contended was stolen by hard-liners. Those with economic grievances frequently protest.

Alinejad, the activist, argued the campaign against forced hijabs carries symbolic weight, saying that mandatory headscarves were "the symbol that the Iranian government used to take the whole society hostage."

In recent years, she has posted videos and photos of activists, including of women filming themselves as they walk in the streets without a headscarf. Alinejad said she receives more than 20 images a day, but posts only some.

The activists in Iran take risks.

In March, human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who has represented female protesters, was sentenced to 38.5 years in prison, of which she must serve 12, according to her husband.

In April, activists Yasaman Aryani, her mother Monireh Arabshahi and Mojgan Keshavarz were arrested after posting a video showing them without headscarves in the Tehran metro. In the video, they distributed flowers to female passengers and spoke of a day when women have the freedom to choose.

Amnesty International said Monday that Iranian authorities have used incommunicado detentions, prolonged solitary confinement and threats against family members to coerce detained activists to retract their opposition to forced veiling in video-taped "confessions." The group said it had detected such a pattern in six cases since April.

Some activists maneuver carefully.

The 30-year-old fire-safety consultant said she tries to avoid policemen when she walks the streets without a hijab. She said she grudgingly complies with the dress code when she delivers lectures or sings in a mixed choir — activities she would otherwise be barred from.

At the high-end Palladium Mall in northern Tehran, several shoppers casually ignored a sign reminding customers that the hijab is mandatory. One woman only pulled up her scarf, which was draped around her shoulders, when she stepped into an elevator and found herself next to a security guard.

Nearby, 20-year-old Paniz Masoumi sat on the stone steps of a plaza. She had dyed some of her hair blue, but kept that funky patch hidden under a loose scarf.

She said police recently impounded her car for two weeks, fining her amid claims that a traffic camera snapped her with a below-standard hijab.

If hijabs were voluntary, she'd throw off hers, Masoumi said. But for now, "I am not looking for trouble."

Perfect breasts

For breakfast this morning.

Curiosity loved the cat

Ms. Pari today on the neighbor's roof top, where she usually hangs out.

Celebrating Sabbath with Iran's Jewish minority

The Musazadehs generally celebrate Sabbath at home on Friday evenings rather than going to the nearby synagogue

 

Deutsche Welle: It is Friday evening and a Jewish family's preparations for the Sabbath, the holiest day of the week, are in full swing. In the living room, everyone has gathered around the big table for the traditional celebration as tantalizing aromas of hot food drift through from the kitchen.

The youngest son breaks the unsalted bread, then reads from the Tanakh as his father pours the obligatory glass of red wine to be passed around the table. Although it may look very like the kind of typical scene to be found in thousands of households across Israel every weekend, there is one important difference here. This one is happening in Iran.

The last rays of winter sunshine are just dipping out of sight behind the Alborz mountains on this cold January day in Tehran. It is the last day of the week, which in Iran begins on Saturday. There are no major buildings — and certainly none of a religious nature — to punctuate the skyline in this part of town, with its plethora of small kiosks and supermarkets.

There is no doubt that things have changed since the revolution. Prior to 1979 there were 10 times more Jews living in Iran than there are now. Despite the troubled relationship with Israel however, Iranian politicians and clergy are always at pains to stress that they have no quarrel with the Jews, only with the state of Israel. As Ayatollah Khomeini put it shortly after the revolution: "We recognize our Jews as separate from those godless Zionists."

It is a quote that is still to be found today on every Jewish prayer house. Something that the Iranians, no matter which religion they belong to, have internalized. In contrast to the situation in German-speaking countries, Jewish institutions in Iran do not require any security arrangements. Iran has not seen a single attack on a Jewish building.

Everyday freedoms

After several major waves of emigration, the number of Jews living in the country has now stabilized. According to Israeli statistics, only 1,100 Jews migrated to Israel from Iran between 2002 and 2010. For those who remain, prospects are surprisingly positive. They have been granted official minority status, a permanent seat in parliament and freedom to practice their religion. They have their own butchers' shops, their rabbis are permitted to conduct weddings, and the community can produce and drink its own wine for the Sabbath — and that, even though alcohol is otherwise subject to strict prohibition in Iran.

"We love Iran and we are able to live in freedom here," says Eliyan, the Musazedeh family's eldest daughter. The 24-year-old lives with her family near the center of Tehran, the only Jewish family in the apartment block. "Our neighbors know we are Jews, but it isn't an issue. The society here in general does not have problem with us being Jews."

Although Jews in Iran are not allowed to hold leading positions in state institutions such as the army, police or secret service, their lives are otherwise as free of restrictions as those of other Iranians.

A memorial was erected to Jewish martyrs of the Iran-Iraq war by President Hassan Rouhani, and for some years now, Jews have had the right to take off from work on the Sabbath. "There have been a couple of occasions in the past when I have been looking for work and didn't get the job after saying at the interview that I was Jewish," Eliyan admits. "It wasn't because they didn't want to hire a Jew, but rather because they knew they would be legally obliged to give me Saturday off if I wanted it."

So, if a Jew in Iran does not get a job, it's not because of their religion, it's because the law is on their side and employers are obliged by law to give them an extra day free per week, she explains. "There is no anti-Semitism in Iran. Iran is a multi-ethnic and very diverse country and Iranians are proud of that diversity and history."

'Too fat, too old, or both'

As the eldest daughter, the pressure is now on her to start thinking about a future marriage partner. "My father is always trying to find potential candidates from families we know, but I turn them all down. They are all well off, but either too fat, too old, or both." Eliyan's dilemma is compounded by the fact that, as the eldest, she must marry first; only then will her two sisters, Nazanin and Yasaman, be allowed to date.

Friday evening Sabbath celebrations usually take place at home. Although it is only a few streets away, the Musazadeh family rarely goes to the local synagogue. Three of Eliyan's cousins, Rafael, Ariel and Avraham, have arrived for today's Sabbath. Mother Anita has been busy preparing and cooking the food all afternoon, because any form of work, or use of fire or electricity, is forbidden during the Sabbath, which begins at nightfall.

The Musazadehs generally celebrate Sabbath at home on Friday evenings rather than going to the nearby synagogue

Despite that, Anita will cook the rice in the evening. "I can't serve cold rice for dinner," she says — a sentiment that no Iranian would argue with. The only family member who is regularly allowed to ignore religious laws is the father of the family, Shahrokh, who runs a small business selling women's shoes and bags. He spends Sabbath evenings on the couch, zapping his way through the Iranian satellite TV channels, while Anita is kept busy between the kitchen, her three daughters, youngest son Ariyan and the family dog, as well as seeing to the food.

It is at times like this that it becomes clear why Iranian Jews are Iranians first and Jews second. Like most Iranians, the Musazadehs have an almost unconditional love for their country. Like other Iranians, too, however, they also find the economic situation hard to bear. "I would like to go abroad, to Europe maybe, or Canada," says Eliyan. "You cannot find any well-paid jobs in Iran anymore, and the situation is getting worse every year."

No future in Iran

It is a view shared by many young people in Iran. Many no longer see a future for themselves in the country and are keen to go abroad, at least temporarily, for work or study. "Neither America nor Israel would be an option for me. A relative of ours once went to the US and she hated it. She didn't take to the culture or the fast pace of life at all."

One of Eliyan's aunts, who died last year, visited Israel for medical treatment. "As Jews we have the opportunity of emigrating to Israel, and even receiving around $15,000 (€13,300) from the Israeli government for going. But if we went there, we would have to speak Hebrew, something we only ever do in religious contexts. That would be very strange for us and I would not feel at home there. Iran is our home." >>>

Private secretary

Valentino at work.

Iran's 'filmfarsi' remains the biggest secret in cinema history

Filmfarsi megastars Nasser Malek Motie (left) and Fardin, who often portrayed working-class tough guys.

The Guardian: Shortly after the 1979 Iranian revolution, the country’s national newspapers published a joint subpoena, unique in film history. All the key stars of “filmfarsi” – a form of popular cinema that embodied the aspirations and illusions of a modernising society – were summoned to the revolutionary court. The careers of hundreds of actors and directors ended overnight. Unlike the Hollywood blacklisting of the McCarthy era, there was not even the opportunity for a mock hearing. The cinema, seen as emblematic of corruption, “westoxification” and the decadence of the ousted Pahlavi regime, was consigned to oblivion.

So marked the end of one of the most thriving film industries in the Middle East, a cinema of song and dance, sex and seduction, violence and vengeance, which combined the western genres with local flavour – although always with an eye on Shia Islam, as the ultimate code to put everything in its right order. Iranian cinema was anything but limited to poetry and humanism, although both elements existed in some of the pre-revolutionary arthouse films. Millions of filmgoers cared more about a good pop song, the latest tearjerker and a car chase through the streets of Tehran.

Cinema was introduced to the country as the exclusive toy of the Qajar kings. Sporadic efforts to create a national cinema were interrupted by the allied occupation of neutral Iran during the second world war. After the war, the new shah, the Swiss-educated Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was so busy making Iran a modern “island of stability” (to quote Jimmy Carter) that cinema was abandoned in favour of social and military infrastructure.

What happened, however, was that people on the ground took control of the camera, telling their own tales. They even created their own national genres such as “jaheli” films, stories of tough guys in hats from south Tehran, pulling knives in the name of honour and hooking up with local cabaret singers, eventually saving them from a life of disgrace.

The term “filmfarsi” was coined to ridicule the sloppiness of these films. Today, they can be more properly judged in the broader context of Iranian mainstream cinema: genre films with popular stars; village girls lured by the big city but eventually returning to the tranquillity of home – as if everybody knew from the start that the modernisation project wouldn’t last. A miniature of Iranian society, foreshadowing things to come.

Not surprisingly, women were stereotyped: mothers or whores with little middle ground. Yet filmfarsi also offered them a chance to be seen. It even offered women agency and power. If the forced unveiling of women under the first Pahlavi was a crucial point in the history of Iranian women, the real unveiling, although highly fetishised, was through these movies, in which women travelled, taught, fought and settled their scores.

Something rare, euphoric and mad was recorded on celluloid: the Iranian way of life after the second world war, with all its paradoxes. Even the sleaziest films became documents. If the majority of key Iranian arthouse films of the 1960s and 1970s were set in villages and rural areas (a tradition continued until after the revolution), filmfarsi was about the thriving cities, which were expanding blindly, thanks to petrodollars.

Boy-meets-girl stories found an edge, as the Iranian way of life encountered a new world through American, Italian, French and Bollywood films. When Iranians loved a foreign film, they sometimes remade it. There is an Iranian version of Hitchcock’s Vertigo, as well as a feminist version of Billy Wilder’s Sabrina, in which two sisters compete for the affection of the family chauffeur. The result was often camp and only the barest traces of the original storyline remained. However, a confused and frustrating search for an identity through this bizarre process is detectable. Across roughly 1,000 films, they forged it in a remarkable way.

For many Iranians today, filmfarsi is the souvenir of a lost past. For me, after spending the past four years making a film about filmfarsi, I view the films as documents of how Iranian society changed; its schizophrenic nature in grabbing on to anything “modern” with one hand and rejecting it with the other.

It is also the story of a tragedy, both cinematic and real. One of the turning points of the Iranian revolution, and the key moment when the bells tolled the death of cinema, was when the Islamists set fire to the Rex in south-west Iran, where people were watching the second run of The Deer – an immensely popular 1974 drama about two former classmates rebelling against the system, which tested the censors. Directed by Masoud Kimiai and starring some of popular cinema’s best-loved figures, it transformed filmfarsi into something profound and politically committed. Four hundred people burned to death in that cinema. The pain is still there. But out of its ashes arose a new Iranian cinema.

Forty years after the Iranian revolution, filmfarsi, with all its joyful vibrancy and popular eclecticism, remains one of the biggest secrets of film history.

Ehsan Khoshbakht’s Filmfarsi will world premiere at Cinema Rediscovered at Bristol Watershed on 26 July

Carpe Diem

At Carpe Diem restaurant on Calle Plateros.

American Child Bride...

Homer Peel, 34, Kisses His 12-Year-Old Bride Geneva On The Steps Of A Tennessee Courthouse

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