October 16, 2007

Peace Activist jailed in Iran back in California

Ali Shakeri, an Iranian-American peace activist who spent four months in a Tehran prison has returned home after posting bond with Iranian authorities. Shakeri was arrested in May and charged with endangering national security, along with three other Iranian-Americans. He was released in late September, at the same time that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in New York to attend the U.N. General Assembly. Shakeri is a founding board member of the University of California, Irvine’s Center for Citizen Peacebuilding. He was detained after traveling to Iran to visit his ailing mother. Shakeri has given speeches and radio interviews advocating democracy in Iran and has written occasionally for Payam-E-Ashena, a pro-democracy Persian magazine based in Laguna Hills. His son told reporters that he was allowed to leave the country after posting a property deed for about $110,000 and may have to return to Iran to answer the charges against him, but that the family has little information about the legal process there, or even the exact charges he faces.

Filed under Foreign Relations, Iran, Legal and Criminal Issues by

September 27, 2007

California to divest from Iran

The Los Angeles Times reports that Governor Schwarzenegger will sign legislation requiring California’s multibillion-dollar government pension funds to divest from the country:

As Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad paid his controversial visit to New York on Monday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger moved to steal some of the spotlight by announcing that California would sever ties with companies doing business in Iran.

Schwarzenegger, who like Ahmadinejad went to New York to address the United Nations, announced in a written statement after his speech that he would sign legislation requiring California’s multibillion-dollar state pension funds to divest from the country.

The move, pushed by a diverse coalition of activists who argued that the federal government has not done enough to keep multinational corporations out of Iran, puts California at the forefront of a national movement. The bill, AB 221, which passed the Legislature with no opposition, follows the state’s divestment from Sudan last year.

“California has a long history of leadership and doing what’s right with our investment portfolio,” the governor said in his statement. “Last year, I was proud to sign legislation to divest from the Sudan to take a powerful stand against genocide. I look forward to signing legislation to divest from Iran to take an equally powerful stand against terrorism.”

Schwarzenegger announced his decision as politicians from across the country jockeyed to outdo one another in condemning the Iranian president, who is scheduled to address the United Nations today. Ahmadinejad, whom the U.S. government accuses of leading a terrorist regime that arms Iraqi insurgents and is developing nuclear weapons

Filed under Foreign Relations, Iran by

June 11, 2007

Iran confirms arrest of California peace activist

This is bound to harm U.S. Iran relations, according to this report in the Guardian, and it will certainly harm California-Iran Relations, with our huge population of Americans of Iranian descent- many of whom are reaching out in a positive way to the Iranian people.  

Mohammad Ali Hosseini, the spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry, confirmed at his weekly news briefing that Iranian-American Ali Shakeri is being held.  On Friday, the semi-official ISNA news agency first reported the detention and investigation of Shakeri, of Lake Forest, Calif., by the security department of the Tehran prosecutor’s office.  Shakeri, a founding board member of the University of California, Irvine, Center for Citizen Peacebuilding, is the fourth dual citizen detained in Iran in recent months.  Iranian officials previously confirmed the detentions of three other Iranian-Americans: scholar Haleh Esfandiari, the director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; Kian Tajbakhsh, an urban planning consultant with George Soros’ Open Society Institute; and Parnaz Azima, a journalist who works for the U.S.-funded Radio Farda.  All three are accused of endangering Iran’s national security and of espionage, according to a judiciary spokesman. It is not known if Shakeri has been accused of specific wrongdoing.

The United States broke ties with Iran after the storming of the U.S. Embassy there in 1979 and the seizure of U.S diplomats as hostages, however the Bush Administration was recently forced to begin talks with Iran because of public and congressional opinion and the Baker Hamilton Report.  Since political extremists now control the Federal Governments of both countries, it is thought that these people-to-people contacts may offer the best hope for better relations between the U.S. an Iran.  This action by the current Government in Iran, however, could put a chill on those relations for many more years to come.

Filed under Foreign Relations, Iran by

May 26, 2007

California Peace Activist Missing in Iran

The L.A. Times has reported that Ali Shakeri, a “much admired” Iranian-American community in Orange County is missing in Iran:

In March, Shakeri told colleagues he was flying to Tehran; his mother was ailing. But when former President Carter spoke at UCI this month, and Shakeri was oddly absent from the event, board members began to wonder whether he was coming home.

This week, the group Human Rights Watch said the Iranian government probably detained Shakeri, 59, at a Tehran airport and might be interrogating him in an isolated location. He was scheduled to leave Iran and fly to Europe on May 13 but never arrived at his destination. Instead, his ticket had been canceled and his luggage taken from the airline’s possession, the group said.  “It’s a disaster,” said John Graham of the UC Irvine center, “that this voice of peace has been potentially silenced.”

In recent weeks, two Iranian American scholars with dual citizenship have been imprisoned while visiting the country. A reporter, also a dual national, had her passport confiscated and is unable to leave Iran. The detention of one of those scholars, Haleh Esfandiari, bears close parallels to Shakeri’s apparent disappearance… When she headed to the airport to leave Iran on Dec. 30, she was stopped by knife-wielding men in masks, according to center officials. She was interrogated extensively and, earlier this month, imprisoned. The Iranian government this week announced she was being charged with setting up a network to overthrow the Islamic establishment.

In Orange County, where immigrant groups estimate about 250,000
Iranians live, Shakeri moved in political circles but did not dominate
them, friends said. He gave speeches and radio interviews and
periodically wrote about politics for Payam-E-Ashena, Payam’s magazine. 

Hossein Hosseini, a member of the Network of Iranian-American
Professionals of Orange County, said Shakeri advocated changing Iran’s
leadership but maintained that the Iranian people would bring about
that change only over time.  “He was only controversial depending
on your point of view,” Hosseini said. “To those who wanted to up and
overthrow the regime, he’s a sympathizer. He wasn’t a big thing. He
wasn’t well-known across the world. He was a harmless local guy.”

Filed under Foreign Relations, Iran, z9-Uncategorized by

April 9, 2007

Woman of Iranian descent alleges slur by California Highway Patrol

A California woman of Iranian descent is suing the California Highway Patrol alleging that a patrol officer said that her ‘people’ responsible for the 9/11 attacks. According to a report in Tehran Press TV, Zahra Sedaghatpur 38, from Fremont was pulled over by a highway patrol for speeding, when Officer Jon Schatmeier 38 accused her and people like her of being responsible for the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. According to a lawsuit filed on March 29 2007 in federal court in San Francisco Schatmeire told the woman to “shut up” and refused to show his identification card. ‘Today is September 12. Do you remember Sept.11? Do you know what happened on Sept.11?’ the officer allegedly said. ‘It’s people like you who killed all of our people. This is our country. Why don’t you go back to your own country?’ “

Filed under Iran, Legal and Criminal Issues by

March 20, 2007

Measure would force CALPERS to divest from Iran

“California lawmakers are considering legislation that would force state pension funds to sell billions of dollars of shares in companies doing business with Iran.
The California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the largest U.S. pension fund, and the state teachers’ fund would have to unload shares in companies including BNP Paribas of France, Siemens AG of Germany and Eni SpA of Italy. ‘Who’s funding terrorism? It sure as hell shouldn’t be our public employees,’ said Joel Anderson, a Republican assemblyman from El Cajon who introduced the measure. `When you’re looking at the war on terrorists, this is one of the best weapons we have — just defunding them.’ Anderson estimated his legislation would affect $24 billion worth of investments.”

Filed under California Legislature, Iran by

February 26, 2007

Beverly Hills voter guide in Farsi draws complaints

“The city’s decision to publish its first completely bilingual election manual featuring Persian side-by-side with English has generated hundreds of complaints. The pamphlets for the March 6 city election were mailed out early this month to 21,000 voters. They were printed cover-to-cover in English and Persian, also known as Farsi… The city of 35,000 has a large and growing Persian population that began with wealthy emigres who fled the Iranian revolution in the late 1970s. City Clerk Byron Pope said his office received about 300 complaints within a week of sending out the new ballots… ‘The majority of them want an English-only sample ballot,’ Pope said. ‘They prefaced their comments with: `I’ve been a 20-year or 30-year or 40-year or 50-year resident . . . when my family came here, we had to learn English’. “

Filed under California Government, California Politics, Iran by

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