Sunday, 13 December 2009

Arts United 4 Iran Event London 12/12/09

On Saturday 12th December, 2009, a handful of true human rights supporters embraced the opportunity to stage an event. 'United 4 Iran', provided them with the platform, and Article 19 in London provided the well-suited venue, to honour the 61st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In addition, the event was to commemorate the 6 months since the 12th June coup by Ahmadinejad; the heinous violations of human rights that ensued by the IRI authorities in response to the peaceful protests held in Iran; and to raise awareness of the [lack of] civil, political, and human rights in Iran.

The event boasted the great art-works provided by Behnam Askari, a talented artist whose paintings depict the oppression of the IRI regime, and the strong hope of freedom that dwells in the hearts of millions of Iranians. Due to his talents being deemed 'unIslamic' by the [un]learned IRI authorities, and the trumped-up political charges fabricated against him and his mother, Behnam cannot return to Iran without being arrested, tortured and possibly executed by the IRI authorities. As an advocate of human rights, I strongly urge all to kindly sign this petition in supporting such a talented artist in remaining in the UK, where his artworks have developed in epic proportions, winning him various art prizes.

I was given the honour of opening the event with a brief welcome speech, in which everyone participated in a moment of silence in honour of the standing and fallen heroes in Iran - they are the true fighters for freedom in Iran who are at the front-lines, shaping the future of such a rich land. Afterwards, Catherine Smadja of Article 19 gave a speech about the violated right to freedom of expression in Iran, and the efforts of the NGOs in addressing this pressing issue.

Andreas Moser was first up, who gave a very eloquent and tear-jerking account of his experience in Iran during the post-12 June protests against the Presidential 'elections'. He had witnessed the mass beatings of the peaceful protesters by the militia, in which he had also fallen victim to some of their remorseless blows. He was arbitrarily arrested and detained in solitary confinement for six days and nights at Evin Prison, where through the corridors and walls he could hear the cries, screams and pleas of prisoners under the coercive pressures of the IRI interrogators at various times of the day/night. On his fourth day in detention, Mr Moser was informed that there had been an error in his arrest and detention, and that he was free to leave, even though he was returned to his cell for a further two days and nights.

However, what became quite emotional for the learned speaker, as well as the audience was his account on when he stepped outside of Evin Prison, he noticed all the people who had camped outside, with candles and food to sustain them whilst they waited in desperate hope that their loved one would be the next person to set foot out of Evin and into their loving and reassured embrace. No one had been informed whether their loved ones were arrested or detained; in fact, the authorities had not informed Mr Moser's contacts or consulate of his detention either.

It was, then my turn to present my paper, titled 'A Legal Analysis of the Human Rights Situation in Iran'. I informed the audience that the bulk of my presentation was from my LLM dissertation, and the two articles published by another honourable human rights NGO - Neda for a Free Iran. I then spoke about the violated and neglected rights of women, which is sanctioned in the current Iranian Constitution, Civil and Penal Codes; I referred to United Nations' documents on the forced honour suicides of women; the rapes of virgins by officials on the eve of their execution and the sanctioning of child abuse by the 'founder of the Islamic Republic', in his book, 'Tahrirovasyleh, 4th edn. Darrol Elm, Qom, 1990, at page 12. These were then assessed against international human rights law.

Freedom of Expression in Iran was the next topic I presented on, highlighting the flawed claw-back clauses in the IRI legal instruments, as well as their lamentable practice during the last six months, such as the extra-judicial executions of Neda, Sohrab, Dr Pourandarjani; and the many beaten and arbitrarily detained protesters who were exercising their inalienable right to freedom of expression.

It was at this conjecture that I had realized I had almost used up my thirty minutes, and had yet much more to get through! So, I raced through the laws and practices of amputation for theft, and stoning for adultery in Iran, demonstrating how such violated international human rights law, as well as the Islamic laws in which the IRI rely on in claiming to justify their evil acts. I summed up my proposals with regards to the necessity of international interference in enforcing the international laws that were drafted to protect human rights, and had subsequently been annihilated by the IRI authorities over the last thirty years. One proposed method of enforcement was the use of coercive diplomacy rather than war - sanctions, embargos and travel bans that focused strictly on the government and its assets, rather than the Iranian people. The floor was then opened for Q&A, where two good questions were put forth to me, before I answered them and had to end my part in the event, as my time had run out! If I can work out the technicalities, I will upload the footage on this blog in due course.

Suffice it to say, it was a constructive learning curve for me with regards to time management in future presentations. Unfortunately, I was unable to add the important facts, such as NGO roles in supporting the struggle for human rights in Iran by not attending IRI owned media Press TV and engaging in a debate on torture, and omitting Iran's flagrant abuse of torture laws from the discussion!

After the much deserved interval, Agnes Meadows, a performance poet who harbours a wealth of experience and prizes for her rich poetry, read out a number of her poems from some of her great books; a favourite of mine was her last poem on 'bananas' and the Afghan system. Ms Meadows provided the audience with effective interactive entertainment, such as gaining the audience's approval via clapping and her suggested 'mmmm' after every poem she recited.

Next up was a delightful duet, who provided great Iranian folk music, 'Sahra Group'. A gentleman played the guitar and provided good vocals, whilst a lady gifted with a great voice sang. Their last song at the event was a well known song, which has been linked to the Green Movement - the audience sang along with them, creating a pleasant atmosphere.

The final 'act' was the advance screening of Torang Abedian's documentary, "Not an Illusion", which conveyed the painful story of a talented lady, who was a former Iranian gymnast champion, who sadly suffered a tragic accident that rendered her confined to the aid of two crutches to assist her movement for the rest of her life. The documentary focused on her new-found talent in singing, and the oppressive laws and attitudes in Iran that made it pretty much impossible for this gifted flower to bloom; thus, impeding on her human right to gender equality. A poignant documentary. A funny staged banter between Torang Abedian and her 'translator', Peyvand Khorsandi, which took place when introducing the documentary, kept the audience amused and in high spirits.

The only criticism that should be submitted about the event was that most of the guests arrived 'fashionably late'; and as one is well aware, an event is nothing without its participants and audience. As a result, there was a delay of about 45 minutes in commencing the event, which resulted in the loss of a great comedy act by Patrick Monahan. The criticism made by the minority that the organizers lacked effective time-management of the event are flawed.

It is with great thanks to the organizers who made this event a possibility; whose hard efforts should not go without commendation; well done to Niloofar Farrokh, Kamran Hashemi and the rest of the team.


  1. I was privileged to attend the Arts United 4 Iran event in London. As a non - Iranian, with a passionate interest in the movement for Human and Civil Rights in Iran, I attended alongside two Iranian friends, one, the brilliant young artist, Behnam Askari, who exhibited a number of paintings inspired by the ongoing protests and his yearning for freedom and equality in the country of his birth to which he cannot return.

    I was highly impressed with the informative and eloquent talk about the vile abuses of Human Rights in the IRI by Mehrtash Rastagarand moved by the talk by Andreas Moser, a European journalist arrested while witnessing the protests.

    The entertainment, including the Sahra Group, an appearance by comedianPeyvand Khorsandi and poetry by Agnes Meadows was excellent. The film "Not an Illusion" was fascinating and poignant.

    It is so important to show the brave protesters in Iran that they are not alone. This event, mirrored in 30 other cities round the world, helped reflect this. What happens in Iran is important not only to Iranians but to all people who value human life and Human Rights.

    Many thanks to the organisers, especially Kamran Hashemi who first told me about the event. I, for one, look forward to further Arts United 4 Iran events.

  2. Well done Mehrtash, sounds like a great day. Do you have any photos/youtube videos?


  3. I was there and every thing went well. The only thing, the film was shown was too long for this event, 85 minuets film should have been cut short to 35 minuets.

  4. Thank you for your comments; I am waiting for the pictures and footage of my talk to reach me so then I may attempt to post them up.

  5. Truly impressive!
    I thank you, Mehrtash, for your commitment and dedication to Human Rights advocacy and awareness.
    Job well done!

  6. Kamran Hashemi15 December, 2009

    Thank you for an excellent talk on Human Rights in Iran and your support of the event. It was indeed a pleasure to work with you and we look forward to working with you on future project.

    Kamran Hashemi U4I

  7. Mr Hashemi, the pleasure was all mine.

  8. Mehrtash, I hope you can post or link to videos of the event. It would be most interesting!

  9. I am still waiting for a copy of the recording to reach me so that I may attempt to post it up.

    Good to read from you again; I have found your site to be very interesting and worth a read by anyone!