12:25 PM, Sep 16, 2014 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
The Islamic Republic of Iran remains the worst global example of capricious interference by Muslim theocrats in the personal and spiritual lives of its citizens. On September 9, as reported by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI), seven young Iranians went on trial. Their supposed crime? Producing a dance video of the Pharrell Williams’s pop hit “Happy” and uploading it to YouTube.
You might think Iran’s rulers would be pleased at expressions of felicity by their citizens. In Tehran, however, cheerful enthusiasm outside a narrow religious context is illegal. The seven defendants in the case—Sassan Soleimani, Reyhaneh Taravati, Neda Motameni, Afshin Sohrabi, Bardia Moradi, Roham Shamekhi, and an individual known as “Sepideh”—face allegations of “participation in producing a vulgar video clip” and having “illicit relations,” according to ICHRI. The dancing depicted in the Iranian video is notably modest. The Iranian authorities, nevertheless, claimed the female dancers were “naked” because they lacked the head covering or chador and “Islamic dress.”
Reyhaneh Taravati is accused additionally of possessing alcohol in her home and of uploading the “Happy We Are from Tehran” video to YouTube. Finally, Sassan Soleimani is charged with directing the original video. A second version of the “Happy” Iranian video, made by others who have not been prosecuted, includes women wearing the headscarf.
Soleimani’s case is notable in that he participated as a photographer in the successful presidential election campaign of the purported “reformist” Hassan Rouhani last year. Soleimani aside, the other six were detained on May 19 of this year and held for two days at the Vozara Complex of the Tehran Morality Police, until they posted bail of $10,000-$16,600 each. Soleimani was arrested on May 20 and jailed at Rajai-Shahr Prison in Karaj, west of Tehran, until May 29, when he posted bail.
While in the Vozara lockup, the “Happy” captives were beaten and threatened with murder if they did not cooperate with police, and pressed to shift blame for the video to Soleimani, ICHRI said. According to a source that contacted ICHRI, Soleimani’s involvement was minimal, and mainly involved editing.
The inaugural “Happy” video is still accessible to Iranian viewers notwithstanding state censorship. A similar video made by 40 people of differing nationalities living in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, was loaded to YouTube without incident. Other mixed-gender, “un-Islamic” imitations of the “Happy” video appeared in Kuwait, Bahrain, and Egypt.
ICHRI has described further how, a month after the roundup of the “Happy” video participants, on June 25, Ghoncheh Ghavami, who holds dual Iranian-British citizenship, was taken to the increasingly-sinister Vozara Complex. With other women, she was arrested for protesting their exclusion from the stadium at an Iran-Italy volleyball match. The women were released but their personal effects were impounded.
On June 30, Ghavami returned to the Vozara Complex to retrieve her belongings but was rearrested and transferred to solitary confinement in Tehran’s Evin House of Detention, with its odious reputation for confinement of dissidents and common criminals. As of September 11, Ghavami remained in Evin, with no indictment drawn up against her.
Mixed-gender dancing and attendance at sports events are innocuous in numerous Muslim countries, but Iran’s authorities, regardless of the ameliorative rhetoric of Rouhani, persist in ferocious surveillance and control over the personal lives of their citizens.
It’s not easy protecting the Christians of the Middle East. Sep 22, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 02 • By LEE SMITH
Last week, Senator Ted Cruz helped unmask an organization ostensibly founded to protect a Middle East minority. When the Texas legislator, the keynote speaker, asked the gala dinner audience comprising mostly Middle Eastern Christians at the In Defense of Christians conference in Washington to stand with Israel, many hooted and booed him off the stage.
3:34 PM, Aug 29, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
John Kerry chose the third anniversary of U.S. citizen Amir Hekmati’s "detention on false espionage charges" during a visit with his family in Iran in 2011 to "respectfully" call on the government of Iran to release Hekmati and several other U.S. citizens held or missing in that country. Saeed Abedini and Jason Rezaian, the latter a Washington Post reporter, are also being held.
Hosted by Michael Graham.5:19 PM, Aug 28, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with senior editor Lee Smith on the President's speech on his non-existent ISIS policy in the Middle East.
7:21 AM, Aug 14, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Secure America Now, a non-profit national security organization, has a new ad reminiscent of Lyndon Johnson's 1964 "Daisy" ad, updated for the security challenges of the modern era. Using the original ad's imagery of a little girl in a field and a massive explosion, the spot urges the United States to "stand up to terrorism" and "not let the jihadist government of Iran get a nuclear bomb." Watch the video below:
9:01 AM, Aug 12, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
Besides centrifuges, uranium enrichment, and sanctions, this month the State Department turned to sets, digs, and spikes in diplomatic efforts with Iran. Samuel Werberg, a press and public diplomacy officer in the U.S.
4:02 PM, Aug 6, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
Now into its second day, the 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian factions continues to hold. With Hamas’ missile arsenal depleted by roughly 50 percent and, according to Israeli assessments, 32 attack tunnels destroyed, Israeli officials are claiming a clear victory. “The IDF won big time in Gaza,” says one commander of an elite unit. “Stop staying we lost. We won.”
4:29 PM, Aug 5, 2014 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
Abulghasem Salavati, who heads Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran, is known as one of Iran’s “hanging judges.” As the London Guardian reported recently, Salavati and his colleague, Mohammad Moghiseh, are most prominent judges in a drive to suppress independent journalists and political dissenters. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), a professional organization based in Brussels, denounced Iran on July 29 for keeping 27 journalists locked up.
12:46 PM, Aug 5, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The fight, in the view of Hamas, is one to the finish. Of Israel, that is. And so, it is now time to prepare for the next battle. This means rearming and as Carol J.
4:40 PM, Aug 1, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
Ninety minutes into the 72-hour unconditional ceasefire announced this morning, Hamas launched a suicide attack in which two IDF soldiers were killed and another was kidnapped. Word on the ground in Israel is that Palestinian Islamic Jihad, rather than Hamas, may be responsible for the operation. If those rumors prove accurate, some analysts speculate, it would mean that Iran, PIJ’s longtime patron, is behind the operation and is responsible for scuttling the ceasefire.
Hosted by Michael Graham.4:10 PM, Jul 30, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with senior editor Lee Smith on Hamas's attack tunnels, Operation Protective Edge, the Iranian factor, and what the media gets wrong about Israel's involvement in Gaza.
11:38 AM, Jul 29, 2014 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
Ayatollah Seyed Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi has been incarcerated, mainly in Tehran’s ignominious Evin Prison, since 2006. He is accused of “combat against God” for his criticisms of the Iranian clerical dictatorship, and is serving an 11-year sentence. Now kept in the “special clerical ward,” he has suffered numerous ailments, has accused his jailers of torture, and is among the most famous Iranian prisoners of conscience.
Aug 4, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 44 • By REUEL MARC GERECHT
We are in an odd situation. President Barack Obama is trying to coerce and cajole Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, to compromise on his nuclear quest without using America’s only possible trumps: more sanctions and a serious threat of force. These negotiations are unlikely to end well, unless one deems any deal better than the possibility of American preemptive strikes.