Posted by Karmel Melamed
The international community has long been aware of Iran’s notorious nuclear weapons program and U.S. and E.U. sanctions have hit the current totalitarian Islamic regime in Iran hard. Yet at the same time, the media worldwide has forgotten the equally horrendous human rights violations the Iranian regime commits every year in large scale by torturing, imprisoning and executing political dissidents, children, women, homosexuals, union organizers, journalists and anyone else they believe is a threat to their power. On a daily basis the Iranian regime broadcasts proudly their hangings of supposed “drug offenders” or “enemies of the state”, but no one pays attention. Nevertheless, what is even more disturbing is the fact that despite the tremendous sanctions on Iran and the regime’s abhorrent human rights record, dozens of multi-national corporations still continue to do business in Iran and with the leaders of the regime! Their decisions to continue having business dealings with the butchers and murders of innocent human beings in Iran are revolting and it is sad that they continue to keep this notorious regime in power by aiding it financially or with new technology.
The following is a list of just a few of the most serious corporate collaborators with the Iranian regime that need to be shamed into stopping their business dealings with Iran…
MTN Group is a South African telecommunications company. It is a 49% shareholder of “MTN Irancell”, the second largest mobile phone network operator in Iran. The majority of 51% of the company is in turn owned by the Iranian regime, which has exploited the MTN Irancell network and technology to monitor and track the activities and communications of peaceful dissidents in Iran.
Ericsson is also a telecommunications corporation. It provided a mobile-positioning center to Iran in 2009 that is used to track cellphone users. Ericsson continues to maintain the center but in October 2010 stated it would no longer sell any products in Iran due to tightening sanctions. However, new reports show that Ericsson plans to extend its network in Iran and has pledged to support MTN Irancell until 2021.
Nissan and Renault are both automakers from Japan and France. They have strategically partnered through the Renault-Nissan Alliance and both companies are highly active in the Iranian auto industry, which is dominated by the Iranian regime and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC). In 2011, Renault’s production doubled to more than 100,000 vehicles produced and it is now seen as the “winner” of Peugeot’s reported exit from Iran.
Peugeot is a France based automaker and the leading foreign auto brand produced and sold in Iran. It has partnered with the Iran Khodro Group, which is controlled by the Iranian regime. Sadly the U.S. automaker General Motors (GM) may be in violation of U.S. sanctions against Iran because of its new partnership with Peugeot. GM should use its influence and leverage to compel Peugeot to immediately end its business in Iran.
Volvo Group is an automaker based in Sweden and its subsidiaries Volvo Trucks and Renault Trucks are partnered in Iran with the regime’s corporate entities. Evidence of the regime’s misuse of Volvo equipment and technology by Iranian military and security forces has been widely documented. Volvo Construction Equipment is also active in Iran as well as Volvo Penta, whose marine diesel engines are used in IRGC naval vessels.
Herrenknecht, a German manufacturer of tunnel-boring machines. The company lists two sales and service offices in Tehran. A 2010 New York Times report highlighted Iran’s abuse of civilian tunnel-boring machines to shield and obscure its nuclear weapons program and pointed to Herrenknecht as a key supplier to Iran of such equipment.
Aker Wirth is a German manufacturer of boring equipment as well. It currently operates in Iran through the WPS Group and has previously sold tunnel-boring equipment to Iran for a water project that was managed by the IRGC.
Seli is an Italian construction equipment manufacturer. It has worked on several Iranian tunnel projects with sanctioned IRGC entities, such as Ghaem and Sahel Consulting Engineers.
ZTE is a Chinese telecommunications equipment manufacturer. As part of a $130.6 million contract signed in December 2010, ZTE sold an advanced surveillance system to the IRGC-owned Telecommunication Company of Iran (TCI) that enables the Iranian regime to monitor the voice, text messaging and internet communications of its citizens. While ZTE has announced it is no longer seeking new customers in the country, it has not stopped its operations in Iran.
Huawei is a Chinese based telecommunications equipment manufacturer. Its technology has been used by the Iranian regime to conduct surveillance on its citizens, and track down human rights activists and dissidents. Huawei announced that it would stop seeking new business in Iran and limit existing business, yet it has not fully pulled out from doing business in Iran.
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February 4, 2013 | 5:31 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
On January 28th L.A.’s Iranian Jewish community with the support of the Y&S Nazarian Family Foundation hosted a night of appreciation at UCLA’s Fowler Museum for four Jewish non-profits that have been critical to the resettlement of Iranian Jews to Southern California since their first arrival in 1979. One of the most important of those organizations was the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) that helped Iranian Jews and other religious minorities fleeing Iran to more easily obtain refugee resettlement in the U.S. This unique organization has saved the lives of millions of Jews, Christians Baha’is’ and Zoroastrians escaping the grips of Iran’s totalitarian radical Islamic regime.
I had the rare opportunity to recently chat with Mark Hetfield, the interim CEO and president of HIAS about his group’s long standing relationship with Iranian American Jewry in New York and Southern California. The following is a portion of my conversation with him…
HIAS has been aiding Iranian Jews and other religious minorities escaping Iran for more than three decades now. Your organization has for the most part kept a low profile when it comes these actions for political reasons and for the safety of those escaping Iran. Can you share why HIAS has embraced a move to be more open about what they’ve done for the Iranian Jewish community now with this recent community event?
Every year the Lautenberg Amendment, required to allow religious minorities to safely flee from Iran to religious freedom in the United States, expires. For Congress to extend the program in recent years, HIAS has been forced to publicly advocate for Lautenberg extensions, though we would have preferred to maintain a much lower profile.
Can you provide an overall idea of the extent of support HIAS has offered with the issue of Iranian Jews and other religious minorities fleeing Iran as refugees over the years in Congress?
The HIAS office in Washington spends much of its time and resources advocating for the United States to keep the escape hatch open for Jews and other religious minorities seeking to flee Iran. Without these efforts, the program would have closed long ago. And, of course, in Vienna the HIAS office makes sure that Iranian religious minorities receive refugee status to travel to the United States. Thanks to HIAS’ efforts in Washington and Vienna, the program has overcome many obstacles, and enjoys the highest approval rate of any U.S. refugee program in the World. Finally, HIAS works with the State Department and the Jewish federations and family service agencies to ensure that Iranian Jewish refugees are placed in the communities where they have the strongest community ties. We also have awarded hundreds of scholarships to Iranian Jewish refugees in the United States as well as Iranian olim in Israel.
What does it mean for HIAS and its supporters to receive this public acknowledgement of appreciation from L.A.’s Iranian Jewish community?
We at HIAS are very touched by the show of support from the Iranian Jewish community tonight. Never before have so many Iranian Jews turned up to thank HIAS and our colleague agencies for our roles in bringing them to freedom and helping them start new lives. I only wish that all of my HIAS colleagues in Vienna, New York and Washington could have been here to experience the event. The immigration experience is unpleasant, and when Iranian Jews or any other refugees are experiencing it, they grumble and complain about it to HIAS, just as the Hebrews complained to Moses when they were escaping from Egypt. It is very moving to see that so many Iranian Jews understand today that we at HIAS were trying to help all of them move to a better place, physically and spiritually. Tonight we see that HIAS and the Iranian Jewish community were successful in this historical endeavor together.
You obviously have several Iranian Jews on your board and donors. How else would you like to see the larger Iranian American Jewish community become more involved with HIAS?
Yes, we are elated that Dr. Sharon Nazarian joined our board in 2012. On the East Coast, Tali Farhadian Weinstein is also a very strong supporter. Author Roya Hakakian has spoken about the importance of HIAS’ work, and members of Thirty Years After have frequently advocated on HIAS’ behalf. Tonight, hundreds of Iranian Jews have demonstrated their support by showing up. However, given the extent of HIAS’ ongoing commitment to helping Iranian Jews, we hope that this support broadens and deepens for our fundraising and advocacy efforts. HIAS can’t do its work alone, and most members of the community have not interacted with HIAS after they finish paying their interest-free flight loans to travel to the United States as refugees. If every Iranian Jew whom HIAS helped gave HIAS just $18 per year, it would make a big difference, but we are not there yet. $180 from each Iranian Jew would make a tremendous difference in our work. I hope tonight’s event is a step in that direction.
For more information on HIAS visit their site here
January 31, 2013 | 5:00 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
This past Friday, the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, with the help of a satellite TV channel based in Europe, covertly broadcast one of its Oscar-winning documentaries on the Holocaust into Iran. The 1980 film “Genocide,” which was originally narrated by Elizabeth Taylor and Orson Wells, aired with Persian language subtitles and was beamed into Iran with the help of “NTV Simay Azadi”, an Iranian opposition satellite station. The broadcasting of the documentary was indeed unique because it was not publicized in advance in order to prevent the Iranian regime from jamming its signal. Likewise the film’s broadcast into Iran coincided with International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27th.
The broadcasting of the film is indeed a serious blow to the Iranian regime’s leadership which has actively and openly been denying the Holocaust for nearly three decades. The ridiculous statements by Iran’s current president in denying the Holocaust have been joined with the regime giving awards to artists for their best Holocaust denial cartoons and with their promotion of neo-Nazi leaders from the U.S. and Europe through state-run news television news programs.
The Wiesenthal Center’s efforts to educate average Iranians living in Iran about the Holocaust are not unique. The center in the past has hosted Persian-language news media outlets and their representatives based in Los Angeles to the Museum of Tolerance. These news outlets which are opposed to the Iranian regime have been at the forefront of providing Persian language Holocaust educational programming that is also beamed into Iran on a daily basis. Additionally the Wiesenthal Center has provided Persian language fact sheets about the Holocaust on their website for Iranian readers online seeking more information about the Shoah. Yet the international community's effort to combat the Holocaust denial garbage spewed by Iran’s regime has not been limited to the Wiesenthal Center, likewise Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Musuem has also provided their own Persian language website about the facts of the Shoah and a Persian-language channel on Yotube.com
January 18, 2013 | 5:52 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
For the last 33 years the Iranian regime has done its utmost to constantly utilize their propaganda machine by spinning images of the regime “loving Iran’s Jews” and the Jews living in a supposed “total paradise in Iran today”. In fact I have written extensively on how the regime’s propaganda spinners make Nazi Germany’s infamous propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels look like a kindergartener with their expert use of parading the country’s “happy Jews” for display before the international media at every chance possible to make the world believe they "love the Jews of Iran". Yet the sad circumstances of the last few months and more recently concerning the security of Jews in Iran have proven the real reality that the Jewish community there faces imminent danger.
In recent months there has been a horrid trend of Jews being attacked and murdered in Iran. Stories surrounding the tragic murders have not been reported by the Iranian state-run media or the mainstream Western media, but independent journalists like myself and human rights activists have exposed these stories. I reported last month on the gruesome November murder of an older Iranian Jewish married woman in the city of Isfahan. This poor woman was repeatedly stabbed, straggled to death and then had her limbs cut off by her attackers. Likewise, late last month news outlets in Israel reported that a 24-year-old Iranian Jewish man was brutally murdered in his upscale home in Tehran. While the Israeli news reports claim the motive behind his killing involve some forbidden love with a Muslim woman, independent sources in Iran’s Jewish community have not yet confirmed or denied the supposed “love story” aspect of this killing. Lastly, several weeks ago an article from an Iranian news outlet online reported than an Iranian Jewish man was attacked and killed in his jewelry business in the city of Shiraz.
These recent trends of Jews being murdered in Iran only further proves that Iran is not a safe place for Jews no matter what the regime may say or what the Iranian Jewish representatives claim before the western new cameras. So my question to the stooges running Iran’s propaganda machinery is what happened to your so called love of the Jews? If the Jews live in such safe and free conditions in Iran, when why has there not been one news report about how the regime investigating these heinous murders? If you love the Jews living in Iran so much, then why has there been no increased security around the Jewish synagogues or centers in Iran? Why hasn’t there been one newspaper, radio, television or online report about the murders period from the Iranian state-run press? The truth of matter is clear, the Iranian regime and its idiotic propaganda spinners do not want anyone to know about the real facts that Jews are facing danger while living in Iran. This reality would shatter their long running storyline that Jews are supposedly free and fully protected by the Iranian regime.
Several years ago the New York Times opinion columnist Roger Cohen visited Iran and returned to write about the "very safe and free conditions" for the Jews in Iran. He was criticized by myself and others familiar with the Iranian regime for foolishly falling for the propaganda put out by the regime. So where is Roger Cohen today and why is he not taking note of these recent trends of murders and attacks against Iran’s Jews? Roger, is Iran still a paradise for Jews or are you still living in the land of make-believe?
Furthermore the apologists in the West for Iran’s regime and those who seek to negotiate with the regime need to wake up and smell the horse dung put out by the ayatollahs in Iran! This regime in Iran is a serious violator of human rights against Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, Baha’is, and Sunni Muslims. Religious minorities have ZERO freedoms in Iran and face the threat of total annihilation every day. The regime in Iran has also violates the human rights of women, homosexuals, union organizers, journalists and anyone else opposing their radical Islamic political views! Thousands of people are hung every year in Iran for supposed crimes against Islam and the state-- some people are even executed in secret. This regime in Iran and its leaders are not rational! The recent dreadful murders of Jews occurring in Iran under the current regime, should be a wakeup call to Americans, Europeans and anyone else in the free world that the regime’s leaders cannot be trusted and must be totally removed.
Lastly if anyone actually believes the garbage coming out of the mouth from any Jewish leader or individual Jew in Iran about the supposed “freedoms and good lives Jews have in Iran”, then they are living in a fairytale land of make-believe! The only reason these Jews in Iran are praising the regime before the western press interviewing them is because they are facing duress, potential imprisonment and even execution by the regime’s thugs if they say anything negative about the Iranian leadership. Therefore the comments from Jews in Iran about their living conditions have no credibility in my eyes or those who know about the Iranian regime’s propaganda puppet masters.
January 4, 2013 | 6:31 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
This year I had the special honor of interviewing Frank Nikbakht, an Iranian Jewish activist and head of the Committee for Minority Rights in Iran based in Los Angeles after he was recognized by the Jewish Journal as a mensch. For nearly two decades he has volunteered his time and energy into exposing the human rights violations committed by the Iranian regime against Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, Baha’is, and even Sunni Muslims living in Iran. He still volunteers nearly 20 hours per week for this worthy cause and has never sought the limelight. The following is a portion of my recent conversation with him:
In 2000 13 Jews living in the city of Shiraz in Iran were arrested on trumped up charges of spying for Israel and were facing imminent execution. Can you please shed light on why you decided to join a group of Iranian Jewish activists to go public with this case in the media?
We realized that the Iranian Jewish leadership outside of Iran’s traditional view of keeping the community silent regardless of the discrimination and executions facing Jews in Iran was wrong. We believed that silence would only encourage the persecutors because we knew what silence had done before during the holocaust to the Jews in the previous decades, so we wanted to break that cycle. We also believe that the Iranian regime needed international pressure in order to stop persecution of Iranian Jews and the Shiraz 13. We were fighting for the dignity of the Jews who did not speak out against their persecutions. Eventually the Iranian regime backed away from the espionage charges and the executions and the Shiraz 13 were released.
Why is it important to you to expose the anti-Semitism and discrimination of the Iranian regime against religious minorities in that country today?
A fanatic religious government has taken away our country, they have taken away our civil rights by demoting me and people I knew into second and third class citizens. By us not opposing the policies and practices of this regime in Iran we are only encouraging them and even allowing them to export the same policies abroad to the Iranian émigré communities. The world is now smaller than it used to be and fanatic ideas spread as much as other ideas. In order to save lives and the dignity of the religious minorities as whole in Iran we must continue to speak out against this regime in Iran. It’s more important for me to speak out because those people who have been assigned to lead the Iranian Jewish community as well as other religious communities have always refrained to speak out against the discriminations and the atrocities of the Iranian regime.
A 57 year old married Iranian Jewish woman was recently murdered in the Iranian city of Isfahan. Why do the approximately 10,000 to 20,000 Jews still continue to live in Iran today despite the potential threats they face from the regime?
First of all it is very difficult for more traditional people in Iran whether they are Jewish or non-Jewish to leave the country because it’s their homeland . It is also very difficult for elderly Jews to leave because they are sick or just set in their ways-- and a lot of Jews believe that they can just outlast the regime. After all, Jews have been living in the ‘Jewbareh’ or Jewish ghetto in Isfahan since the time of Cyrus the Great for more than 2,500 years and believe they can continue living there. The life value of a Jew, Christian or Zoroastrian, who are recognized second class dhimmis by Iranian Islamic laws, is worth 1/12 the life of a Muslim in blood money and they can receive this monetary payment from the family of the Muslim murderer. But non-recognized dhimmis or ‘infidels’ have no blood money retribution. A Muslim who murders an ‘infidel’, such as a person who is a Communist or from the Bahai faith has no blood money. So the Muslim murderer can get away with the crime by simply stating to the court that the victim ‘deserved to be killed’ since he was an infidel according to the Islamic laws of the land.
December 3, 2012 | 11:47 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
On November 29th David Ibsen, executive director of United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), spoke to a large group of individuals at the Los Angeles based Unviersity Synagogue about the growing threat of Iran’s nuclear weapons program and what average Americans can do to stop Iran’s pursuit of these weapons. UANI is a nonpartisan advocacy group that seeks to prevent Iran from fulfilling its ambition to obtain nuclear weapons by pressuring multi-national corporations from doing business with Iran’s regime and the regime’s infamous revolutionary guard. Their various campaigns against giant corporation worldwide has resulted in countless companies pulling millions of dollars in investments and business from Iran-- a move which UANI’s leadership believes will weaken the regime’s economy and ultimately halt their nuclear weapons program.
I had a chance to chat with Ibsen recently about his organization’s efforts to “name and shame” those multi-national corporations who do business with Iran. The following are clips from my interviews with him…
November 25, 2012 | 9:13 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
I was privileged recently to witness history in the making a few weeks ago when a small group of Iranian American Jews, Muslims and Christians came together in a show of unity and harmony. My piece this week in the Journal covers the historic evening that unfolded on November 12th at the Washington D.C. home of Israel's Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren. Iranian American prominent leaders came together to celebrate the music and message of peace put out by popular Iranian-Israeli singer "Rita". Kudos to the Israeli diplomats here in the U.S. and to Rita for reminding Iranians of various religions living in America of the centuries long friendship between the people of Iran and the Jews people. Oren spoke of the history’s long kindness the first emperor of Iran, Cyrus showed to the Jewish people when he freed them and allowed them to rebuild their temple in Jerusalem. Rita gave a short but incredibly powerful performance that had the guests singing and dancing with her-- including Oren who joined the band! The following are brief videos of her performance that night:
Other prominent individuals at the event included CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer and former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff. Sadly while the regime in Iran has repeatedly called for Israel’s destruction and funded terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah to attack Israel, more the most part, Iranians living in Iran and worldwide have no issues with Israel nor the Jewish people. Jews and Israelis who outreach to the people of Iran and Iranians elsewhere in the world with an outstretched arm of friendship during this difficult time in Iran’s history only disproves the anti-Semitic propaganda put out by the Iranian regime. Perhaps one day both peoples can reunite and prosper together in a climate of peace, instead of the horrid nuclear war desired by the Iranian regime.
(Iranian-Israeli singer Rita performs with her band and Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, photo by Israeli Embassy)
(CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer holding up his autographed C.D. of Rita's music...he looks like a happy camper! Photo by Karmel Melamed)
November 23, 2012 | 5:59 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
It is heartbreaking for any normal human being to see the death and destruction that occurred this week in both Israel and Gaza. While the news media has been quick to blame Israel as the cause for the civilian deaths in Gaza, most of these media outlets have totally overlooked the biggest culprit of the destruction unleashed on Gaza-- the current Iranian regime and the mullahs that run Iran! Why haven’t the journalists asked why Iran has poured millions of dollars’ worth of short and long range missiles as well as other weaponry into the hands of Hamas terrrorists in Gaza? Why have the media outlets not traced the millions of the dollars that support the Hamas terrorists back to Iran? Would Iranian-made “Farj” rockets have been shot into Israel had Iran not furnished them into the hands of Hamas terrorists? Would stockpiles of weapons not be stored in homes, schools, mosques and other civilian locations in Gaza had Iran not furnished them to Hamas? Where is the outrage of the international community at Iran for sponsoring the terrorism perpetuated by Hamas? All the financial and military roads lead back to Iran and the regime’s ruling clerics and they must be held accountable for these crimes against humanity.
It is common knowledge that Hamas’s primary lifeline has been directly from Iran since 1993. The Iranian regime openly admitted that in 1993 they first provided Hamas with an annual subsidy of approximately $30 million, in addition to military training. In January 1995, outgoing Director of the Central Intelligence Committee James Woolsey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee that Iran had provided more than $100 million to Hamas. By November 2006, amidst an international embargo against Hamas, the organization announced that Iran had already given $120 million. During a visit by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to Tehran the following month, Iran pledged $250 million in aid to compensate for the Western boycott. Today analysts estimate that the Iranian regime provides anywhere from $300 to $400 million in financial and military aid to Hamas in Gaza!
Aside from the heartbreak of innocent lives been destroyed in both Israel and Gaza, what is even more tragic is the suffering that the poor people of Iran must endure under this current regime. None of the western news media have dared to cover the stories from thousands of average Iranian bloggers and individuals in Iran using social media to convey their rage at the Iranian regime that is using millions of the country’s petro-dollars to fund this senseless proxy war against Israel while average Iranians are living in extreme poverty. I’ve read many Iran-based blogs that are posting “No to Gaza, No to Lebanon, I die for Iran”-- a popular slogan began in 2009 when protestors in Iran were furious that the Iranian regime had pour billions of dollars into terrorists groups such as Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, instead of helping average Iranians suffered at home with these funds. Hundreds of thousands of average Iranians in Iran cannot publicly voice their opposition to the regime for fear of being imprisoned or killed, but they are anonymously speaking out online and in social media sites against the regime.
The future outlook of the Iranian regime's funds and weaponry to Hamas is questionable right now. Since the outbreak of a ruthless civil war in Syria with the Assad regime attacking Palestinian camps in Syria and killing thousands of Sunni Muslims, Hamas has distanced itself from Assad who is also a puppet of Iran. Moreover Hamas has refused to openly support Assad’s regime after they were directed to do so by their Iranian puppeteers. The Syrian war has no doubt strained relations between the Shiite clerics in Iran and the Sunni followers in Hamas, but time will only tell if their mutual hatred for Israel can keep their unholy alliance together for long. Yet Hamas is not worried a bit about their source of revenue since the emir of Qatar, in late October, promised more than 400 million dollars to the Hamas government for developmental projects
Instead of media scrutiny and U.N. pressure mounting on Israel, the international community must start asking Iran’s radical Islamic leadership what substantial role they have played in bringing the latest round of death and destruction to the people of Gaza. Iran’s regime is the cancer in the Middle East that must be removed; otherwise the entire region will slowly be pulled into more death and destruction from the chaos created by Iran’s mullahs.