Iranian independent filmmaker of Kurdish origin Keywan Karimi, 33, was sentenced back in 2015 to 223 lashes for his documentary, “Writing on the City,” about graffiti in the capital Tehran. “Writing on the City” is a 60 minutes documentary film Karimi produced in 2012 and completed in August 2015, which has never been shown to Iranian audiences, other than its trailer on YouTube. It has since been shown at film festivals in France, Spain and Switzerland.
Hamid Dabashi, author and Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University called the film “an excellent documentary on the evolution of graffiti in Tehran over the last three decades plus,” and said that “Keywan had brought the narrative of those graffiti down to the aftermath of the Green Movement of 2008 with an acute sense of history and aesthetics.”
And Belgian writer Raoul Vaneigem wrote, “The wall is a mirror / A mirror of the house, of the city, of the world / Reflections of every shape and form stream by it as clouds do in the sky / We have learned to go through the mirror so what was closed will open up / The freedom of the walls breaks down the prison walls / When reality is unveiled, dreams become reality / Under the clothing of creeds and of ideas, what is lived is always bare / Then nothing more conceals a human being from himself / Someday the walls will have the transparency of our desires.”
Understandably, Iran’s authorities were not amused. In December 2013, the Revolutionary Guard showed up at Keywan’s house with an arrest warrant. They took him, his hard drives and other confiscated materials to Evin Prison where he was interrogated and kept in solitary confinement for two weeks. He was released three weeks later on $100,000 bail. After eight court appearances over two years, on October 13, 2015, Keywan was sentenced by the Islamic Revolutionary Court to six years imprisonment and 223 lashings for “propagating against the ruling system” and “insulting religious sanctities.”
Five out of the six years’ sentence were suspended in response to international protest, that included Iranian directors including Jafar Panahi (Taxi Tehran), who also spent time behind bars courtesy of the Islamic State, and exile Mohsen Makhmalbaf (The President).
Nevertheless, the prison authorities are now demanding that Karimi’s punishment of 233 lashes be carried out. “I am waiting for them to come for me,” he told AFP this week. “The support I have received helps break the solitude and solidarity from the film world also warms my heart.” He added that “the fact that my artistic activity is seen as an act of political opposition says a lot about the situation in Iran.”
According to a report on the semi-official FARS News Agency website (FNA), the bill was approved Sunday within the framework of Iran’s 5-year development plan.
It calls for enhancement of the country’s deterrence power by developing and boosting its missile production capability, strengthening the air defense power at different short-, mid- and long-range levels.
It also requires the government to update safe communication networks to establish a command and control system, make all weapons systems “smart” and mobile appropriate with threats.
In addition, it requires researching, designing and producing the needed equipment to “confront the terrorist groups” as well as to develop Iran’s naval power by equipping it with “advanced weapons.”
The bill also calls on the government to “reinvigorate the country’s electronic warfare capability.”
In remarks on state TV in March, Lieutenant Commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Brig.-Gen. Hossein Salami announced that Iran had “now reached a point that we can fire different classes of missiles simultaneously in order to hit any enemy.”
IRGC Aerospace Force Brig.-Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh told reporters at around the same time that Iran’s missiles “belong to the Palestinian, Lebanese, Syrian and Iraqi nations, as well as all the oppressed people of the world.
“We are not after expansionism and certainly these missiles are not being used against terrorist groups. However, that could be a possibility too,” Hajizadeh said at the time.
The Lebanon-based Iranian proxy Hezbollah has reportedly amassed an arsenal of approximately 100,000 missiles of varying ranges, including those with ranges long enough to reach Jerusalem and beyond.
A delegation from the Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group is also currently in Tehran visiting its Iranian backers to ‘discuss ways to bolster the intifada in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem,’ among other issues.
Both Hezbollah and the PIJ have bases in the Sinai Peninsula and have carried out operations in cooperation with the Hamas terrorist rulers of Gaza as well, on Israel’s southern border.
The Israel Defense Forces have been carrying out intensive military drills for months in anticipation of “unexpected” aggression by terror cells from these groups or any other. Last week an IDF official warned, “If a war is started this time, the enemy will pay a much higher price than in previous conflicts. This time it will be a ‘real’ war.”
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror organization sent a delegation to Iran this weekend to meet with officials on ways to “strengthen the intifada” in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, according to a statement issued by the group.
PIJ secretary-general Ramadan Abdullah told Palestinian Authority media the delegation is slated to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani and Supreme National Security Council chief Ali Shamkhani over the next several days.
On the agenda were the terror group’s claims that Israel is trying to “Judaize” the Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount, and the need to keep funding the terror groups in Gaza.
Abdullah lamented “the Arab indifference toward Palestine and its oppressed people” in a statement to the media.
In response, Ali Akbar Velayati, head of the Strategic Research Center of the Iranian Expediency Council, vowed Iran would continue to “support the Palestinian people and continue fighting against terror and the Zionist entity, together with all Muslim states.”
The trip, which appeared to be an appeal for money, comes after a lean year in which Iran bestowed its beneficence instead on a new Shi’ite terror group in Gaza called Al-Sabireen.
More money for Al-Sabireen meant less funding for PIJ and its associate, Hamas, which has instead begun to build a relationship with Sinai Province – the former Ansar Beyt al-Maqdis terror group that abandoned its ties to Al Qaeda and pledged its allegiance to ISIS.
The PIJ delegation met with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, as well as other senior Iranian officials.
“In these meetings the parties discussed the current circumstances prevailing in the Islamic nation and especially… ways to bolster the intifada in the West Bank and Jerusalem opposing the Zionist expansionism,” a delegation spokesperson said.
The United States has cut a deal with Iran to purchase heavy water from the Islamic Republic, according to a report posted on the Hezbollah-linked Al Manar website.
The report quoted PressTV as saying Iran will sell 32 metric tons of heavy water to the U.S.
Heavy water is used in certain types of nuclear reactors, where it acts as a neutron moderator to slow down neutrons so they are more likely to react with the fissile uranium-235 than with uranium-238, which captures neutrons without fissioning.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs, Abbas Araqchi told PressTV in Vienna on Friday the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran reached an agreement on the sale with a U.S. company before a joint commission meeting between Iran and the P5+1 group.
The agreement was reportedly signed following three months of negotiations.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russian President Vladimir Putin during a face to face meeting in Moscow on Thursday that Israel would not relinquish the Golan Heights. The meeting marked 25 years of Israeli-Russian relations.
“Israel has clear red lines for self-defense,” Netanyahu told Putin according to a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office. “We act to the best of our ability to prevent the transfer of advanced weaponry from Iran and Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon,” he said.
Russian troops and airpower are fighting alongside the Syrian army, Iranian forces, and the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah against a host of rebel militias in Syria’s ongoing civil war. Netanyahu recently acknowledged that Israel conducts military airstrikes in Syria as well.
“I came here with one central goal: to strengthen the security coordination between us in order to prevent accidents, misunderstandings, and unnecessary conflict,” Netanyahu told Putin.
“As for the Golan Heights,” Netanyahu continued, “we will not return to the days when they fired on our communities and children from the heights of the Golan. Therefore, with or without a deal, the Golan Heights will remain under Israeli sovereignty.”
The firm declaration comes amid reports that some in the international community intend to demand that Israel withdraw from the Golan Heights as part of a peace deal in the Syrian civil war. Israel captured the northern territory from Syria in the 1967 war and formally annexed it in 1981 in a move not recognized by the international community.
To counter such an initiative, Netanyahu held a rare cabinet meeting in the Golan Heights on Sunday, vowing never to withdraw from the territory. Following the unusual public display, US State Department Spokesman John Kirby announced that “those territories are not part of Israel and the status of those territories should be determined through negotiations.”
Netanyahu and Putin also reached an agreement about pensions paid by Russia to citizens that have emigrated to Israel—a deal Netanyahu described as “a nice Passover present.”
After Putin offered a blessing for the Jewish holiday of Passover, which begins on Friday night, Netanyahu replied that “during the holiday, the people of Israel will sit at the Seder table, including over a million Russian-speaking Israelis, who form the living bond between our peoples.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Moscow Thursday morning for a quick pre-Passover meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.
According to the prime minister’s office, on the agenda were advanced weapons sales to Iran, and the situation in Syria, continued coordination between the military forces of the two nations in Syria, a discussion about the peace efforts in the country, and prevention of advanced weapons access for the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group.
During his visit to Moscow last month, President Reuven Rivlin asked Putin to help re-establish the presence in the Golan Heights, between Israel and Syria, of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force. The reason: a developing vacuum is making it easier for Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies to infiltrate the former no-man’s-land and set up a base for attacks against the Jewish State.
Rivlin told Putin that such activity was a red line for Israel, according to Channel 2 news. Putin extended an invitation to Netanyahu to visit Moscow during that visit with Rivlin.
Absorption Minister Ze’ev Elkin, born in Ukraine, accompanied the prime minister. Other members of the delegation included Israel Air Force Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel, National Security Council Director Avriel Bar Yosef, Military Secretary to the Prime Minister Col. Eliezer Toledano and the head of the Prime Minister’s Office.
Hillary and Bernie locked horns, clashed, yelled and smashed into each other almost literally last night in Brooklyn, NY. There were cheap shots and there were deep cuts. It can be safely said that the behavioral gap between the Democratic and Republican debates have narrowed significantly, so neither side can claim the high ground any longer. As to the portion of the debate in which we were most interested, US-Israeli relations, we must agree Hillary made us feel a little safer. Sanders started off from the point of view of B’Tselem and J Street, while Hillary at this point is a little to the right of J Street. After last night’s debate, if you’re a Democrat who cares about Israel, we advise you to buy an industrial size laundry clip, put it on your nose and vote for Bill’s wife. Not because we endorse her, we really really don’t, but she scares us a little less than Bernie does.
And now, to what they actually said last night about how they’d like to finally bring peace to the region…
Blitzer: Senator, let’s talk about the U.S. relationship with Israel. Senator Sanders, you maintained that Israel’s response in Gaza in 2014 was, quote, “disproportionate and led to the unnecessary loss of innocent life.”
What do you say to those who believe that Israel has a right to defend itself as it sees fit?
Sanders: Well, as somebody who spent many months of my life when I was a kid in Israel, who has family in Israel, of course Israel has a right not only to defend themselves, but to live in peace and security without fear of terrorist attack. That is not a debate.
But — but what you just read, yeah, I do believe that. Israel was subjected to terrorist attacks, has every right in the world to destroy terrorism. But we had in the Gaza area — not a very large area — some 10,000 civilians who were wounded and some 1,500 who were killed.
Heckler: Free Palestine!
Sanders: Now, if you’re asking not just me, but countries all over the world was that a disproportionate attack, the answer is that I believe it was, and let me say something else.
Sanders: And, let me say something else. As somebody who is 100% pro-Israel, in the long run — and this is not going to be easy, God only knows, but in the long run if we are ever going to bring peace to that region which has seen so much hatred and so much war, we are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity.
Sanders: So what is not to say — to say that right now in Gaza, right now in Gaza unemployment is s somewhere around 40%. You got a log of that area continues, it hasn’t been built, decimated, houses decimated health care decimated, schools decimated. I believe the United States and the rest of the world have got to work together to help the Palestinian people.
That does not make me anti-Israel. That paves the way, I think…
Blitzer: … Thank you, Senator…
Sanders: …to an approach that works in the Middle East.
Blitzer: Thank you. Secretary Clinton, do you agree with Senator Sanders that Israel overreacts to Palestinians attacks, and that in order for there to be peace between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel must, quote, end its disproportionate responses?
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Clinton: I negotiated the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in November of 2012. I did it in concert with…
Clinton: President Abbas of the Palestinian authority based in Ramallah, I did it with the then Muslim Brotherhood President, Morsi, based in Cairo, working closely with Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli cabinet. I can tell you right now I have been there with Israeli officials going back more than 25 years that they do not seek this kind of attacks. They do not invite the rockets raining down on their towns and villages.
They do not believe that there should be a constant incitement by Hamas aided and abetted by Iran against Israel. And, so when it came time after they had taken the incoming rockets, taken the assaults and ambushes on their soldiers and they called and told me, I was in Cambodia, that they were getting ready to have to invade Gaza again because they couldn’t find anybody to talk to tell them to stop it, I flew all night, I got there, I negotiated that.
So, I don’t know how you run a country when you are under constant threat, terrorist tact, rockets coming at you. You have a right to defend yourself.
That does not mean — that does not mean that you don’t take appropriate precautions. And, I understand that there’s always second guessing anytime there is a war. It also does not mean that we should not continue to do everything we can to try to reach a two-state solution, which would give the Palestinians the rights and…
Blitzer: … Thank you…
Clinton: … just let me finish. The rights and the autonomy that they deserve. And, let me say this, if Yasser Arafat had agreed with my husband at Camp David in the Late 1990s to the offer then Prime Minister Barat put on the table, we would have had a Palestinian state for 15 years.
Blitzer: Thank you, Senator, go ahead — go ahead, Senator.
Sanders: I don’t think that anybody would suggest that Israel invites and welcomes missiles flying into their country. That is not the issue.
And, you evaded the answer. You evaded the question. The question is not does Israel have a right to respond, nor does Israel have a right to go after terrorists and destroy terrorism. That’s not the debate. Was their response disproportionate?
I believe that it was, you have not answered that.
Clinton: I will certainly be willing to answer it. I think I did answer it by saying that of course there have to be precautions taken but even the most independent analyst will say the way that Hamas places its weapons, the way that it often has its fighters in civilian garb, it is terrible.
I’m not saying it’s anything other than terrible. It would be great — remember, Israel left Gaza. They took out all the Israelis. They turned the keys over to the Palestinian people.
Clinton: And what happened? Hamas took over Gaza.
So instead of having a thriving economy with the kind of opportunities that the children of the Palestinians deserve, we have a terrorist haven that is getting more and more rockets shipped in from Iran and elsewhere.
Blitzer: Thank you, Secretary.
Sanders: I read Secretary Clinton’s statement speech before AIPAC. I heard virtually no discussion at all about the needs of the Palestinian people. Almost none in that speech.
Sanders: So here is the issue: of course Israel has a right to defend itself, but long-term there will never be peace in that region unless the United States plays a role, an even-handed role trying to bring people together and recognizing the serious problems that exist among the Palestinian people.
That is what I believe the world wants to us do and that’s the kind of leadership that we have got to exercise.
Clinton: Well, if I — I want to add, you know, again describing the problem is a lot easier than trying to solve it. And I have been involved, both as first lady with my husband’s efforts, as a senator supporting the efforts that even the Bush administration was undertaking, and as secretary of state for President Obama, I’m the person who held the last three meetings between the president of the Palestinian Authority and the prime minister of Israel.
There were only four of us in the room, Netanyahu, Abbas, George Mitchell, and me. Three long meetings. And I was absolutely focused on what was fair and right for the Palestinians.
I was absolutely focused on what we needed to do to make sure that the Palestinian people had the right to self-government. And I believe that as president I will be able to continue to make progress and get an agreement that will be fair both to the Israelis and the Palestinians without ever, ever undermining Israel’s security.
Blitzer: A final word, Senator, go ahead.
Sanders: There comes a time — there comes a time when if we pursue justice and peace, we are going to have to say that Netanyahu is not right all of the time.
Clinton: … you know, I have spoken about and written at some length the very candid conversations I’ve had with him and other Israeli leaders. Nobody is saying that any individual leader is always right, but it is a difficult position.
If you are from whatever perspective trying to seek peace, trying to create the conditions for peace when there is a terrorist group embedded in Gaza that does not want to see you exist, that is a very difficult challenge.
Blitzer: Senator, go ahead.
Sanders: You gave a major speech to AIPAC, which obviously deals with the Middle East crisis, and you barely mentioned the Palestinians. And I think, again, it is a complicated issue and God knows for decades presidents, including President Clinton and others, Jimmy Carter and others have tried to do the right thing.
All that I am saying is we cannot continue to be one-sided. There are two sides to the issue.