An Iranian friend of mine comments on the visit by the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the United Nations General Assembly today, where he has once again been offered a platform by the Columbia International Relations Council and Association. That morally sophisticated group of young American Ã©lites is â€˜thrilled to have this opportunityâ€™. â€˜Everyone was really enthusiastic,â€™ Tim Chan, student spokesman, is reported as saying.
A kind interpretation of CIRCAâ€™s motivation is that they believe in freedom of expression. But my Iranian friend says wittily â€˜Ahmadinejad does not express himself. He rants. He doesnâ€™t enjoy freedom. He takes it away.â€™
Ahmadinejad is the attack dog of the extremist Shiite theocracy that runs Iran. Dogs donâ€™t express themselves, they bare their teeth to frighten people.
And it is very frightening indeed. Right now this dog is fronting a massive wave of repression in Iran, affecting not just the usual suspects â€“ Bahais and Christians â€“ but all forms of religion not approved of by the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, including sufi Muslims and even dervishes.
Jamsheed Choksy reports that Ayatollah Ahmed Jannati, chairman of the Council of Guardians and adviser to Ahmadinejad, has denounced non-Muslims as â€˜animals who roam the earth and engage in corruption.â€™
Amnesty International reports that, on September 3, members of the Basij militia gathered in Kavar armed with batons and chanting anti-dervish slogans, and set fire to stores displaying photos of dervish leaders. Subsequently, at least six people were shot and hospitalized. About 60 were arrested.
Zoroastrians are also under increasing pressure. Ayatollah Khomeini had a particular hatred of Zoroastrians because of their links to Persian history and nationalism. He accused the Shah of wanting to â€˜revive Zoroastrianism.â€™
Current Supreme Leader Khamenei continues in this vein, and has referred to them as kaffirs (infidels), a term usually reserved for Iranâ€™s non-recognized religious groups
On August 2, according to Paul Marshall, Mohhsen Sadeghipour began serving a sentence of 4.5 years in prison, 74 lashes, and a fine for â€˜anti-regime propaganda by propaganda for the Zoroastrian faith and organizing ancient ceremonies.â€™ Sadeghipourâ€™s brother in law, Pouria Shahpari, was arrested on August 22 for blasphemy, also because of â€˜propaganda for Zoroastrianism.â€™ Pending appeal, he was sentenced to 2.5 years and 74 lashes. Sadeghipour and Shahpari were punished simply for defending and promoting their faith.
It goes without saying that Christians are at extreme risk. The Media Project reports that 34-year-old Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani from Rasht has been in prison since 2009 after protesting about religious education at the local school.
The secret police brought him before the political tribunal in Rasht, Iran, on October 12, 2009. At the time of his arrest, he was charged with protesting, and has been in prison in Lakan (which is seven miles south of Rasht) ever since. Later the charges were changed to apostasy and evangelism of Muslims.
Nadarkhani faces execution. The Iranian Supreme Court upheld the death sentence on June 27, 2011, for â€˜religious reasonsâ€™.
He is between a rock and a hard place. The high court asked the local court in Gilan to re-examine the case to determine if he is truly a Muslim, and, if so, he must recant. If he does not, he will be executed. To help him recant his faith he has twice been taken to the gallows and shown the rope that he would hang from, according to a source in the region.
A hearing is scheduled for this Sunday, 25 September, and if the court finds that he was a practicing Muslim, Pastor Nadarkhaniâ€™s death sentence will stand unless he agrees to renounce Christianity.
Lapido trustee, Arne Fjeldstad is following the story closely. He is concerned at the lack of attention from rights groups and the media: â€˜This story deserves attention by editors and journalists around the worldâ€™.
New York dog pound may be a better place to receive Ahmadinejad than the UN General Assembly.