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July 17, 2010

INTERVIEW: Carlos Latuff

Kidnapped Iranian Scholar Interrogated by Israeli Agents

TEHRAN (FNA)- Shahram Amiri, an Iranian scholar who returned home after being kidnapped by CIA in Saudi Arabia last year, said that Israeli agents interrogated him while he was in the US.

Amiri made the announcement while talking to reporters upon arrival at the International Imam Khomeini Airport in southern Tehran this morning.

Amiri, a university lecturer, was kidnapped in the holy Saudi city of Medina on June 3, 2009 during a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. He was abducted by US agents with the help of the Saudi intelligence service.

The Iranian scientist, who took refuge in Iran’s interest section at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington on Tuesday, left the United States for Tehran Wednesday.

Amiri said he was under the harshest mental and physical tortures during the initial two months of his captivity in the US, adding that the US agents had threatened to transfer him to the Zionist regime’s prisons if he refused to cooperate with them.

“I was kidnapped during a joint operation by the US and Saudi intelligence agents when I was in front of my hotel in the holy city of Medina. I was made unconscious and was transferred to unknown places first in Saudi Arabia and then in the US,” he said.

He reiterated that by his abduction, Washington wanted to exert pressure on the Iranian government. “Washington, through a political play, was trying to announce to the world that I had applied for asylum,” Amiri added.

The released Iranian researcher dismissed remarks made by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying he had freely come to the US and was free to go whenever he wanted.

He said US officials had even offered him $50 million if he changed his mind and decided to stay in the US. “They also assured to take my family out of Iran,” he added.

Amiri reiterated that he was a simple researcher and that he had nothing to do with the Natanz and Fordo sites. “I am a simple researcher who works in a university which is open to all and there is no secret work happening there,” he noted.


Love Boat or Hate Boat? An Interview with IHH

Love Boat or Hate Boat? An Interview with IHH from Cultures of Resistance on Vimeo.

July 16, 2010 By The Gaza Flotilla archive Leave a Comment
Slandering the Good Guys: Some Basic Facts About IHH

IARA LEE/CULTURES OF RESISTANCE—In the immediate aftermath of the massacre aboard the Mavi Marmara on May 31st, 2010, while journalists and activists were detained and isolated from the world, the Israeli government was quick to unleash their own version of events.

Like the physical assault on the boat, the Israeli media assault was also reckless, clumsy, malicious, and dangerous. They were cynical enough to understand that first impressions in the mainstream American media are what count, and with this in mind they began to frantically hurl the word “terrorist” in reference to both the victims of their attack, as well as one of the main organizers of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, the Turkish NGO IHH.

It is a curious thing that few people asked the Israeli government why they would release “terrorists” that they had in their custody, and even fewer asked for (or received) solid evidence to support this claim. Despite the fact that several courageous journalists both in the US and abroad thoroughly debunked the Israeli account of what happened (this includes deliberately doctored footage along with the libelous accusations of links to terrorism), the damage was done.

Before speakers from the Mavi Marmara were scheduled to speak in New York about what happened on May 31st, local politicians began to put forth the rhetoric of their Israeli handlers, using slanderous language to demonize the victims of Israel’s illegal act of war. And most recently, 87 US senators have urged President Obama to launch an investigation of whether or not IHH should be added to the US list of foreign terrorist organizations.

I am a firm believer that actions speak louder than words, and in this spirit I thought it might help to take a closer look at IHH, and judge this group based on their actions, rather than empty words.

IHH began in 1992 as a humanitarian mission to offer relief to victims injured and displaced during the Bosnian war. They have held Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council since 2004, and since becoming a fully-registered NGO in 1995, IHH — The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief — has accumulated more than 60,000 volunteers for their grassroots humanitarian efforts in 120 countries all over the world. Since May 31st, the number of volunteers has skyrocketed.

After the attack on the Mavi Marmara, I had an opportunity to ask the vice president of IHH, Huseyin Oruc, about accusations of IHH terror links. While he was not interested in dignifying such claims, he was very emphatic about the transparency of IHH’s work over the years, and hoped people would look at their large-scale sanitation and medical missions around the African continent — including 40,000 cataract surgeries in Sudan alone, clean water projects in Ethiopia- and IHH’s extensive work dealing with orphans in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Gaza. While they are an Islamic organization, Oruc told me that IHH refuses to differentiate who receives attention based on religion, race, or political affiliation, and has noted their various projects in South America where Muslim populations are slight.

Their modus operandi is simple and direct. Given the neutrality of their humanitarian mission, IHH has been able to access some of the most inaccessible and dangerous regions of the world to help those most in need. Like most NGOs, this means they must coordinate with local governments in order to reach these populations. So while they must communicate with the Hamas government of Gaza to help civilians there, they must likewise do so with Fatah in the West Bank, Al Shabab in Somalia, the military junta in Myanmar and so on. Oruc was adamant that this did not mean IHH endorses any of those governments, and said that anyone who cared to investigate their work would find nothing other than great successes in helping ordinary people in situations of war, poverty, and natural disasters in places such as Haiti, Indonesia, and even the US in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He also told me people were free to investigate their funding, most of which comes from lower and middle class donors, while the rest is raised through food fairs, auctions for Turkish artifacts, and other cultural events. By its own mandate, IHH is not beholden to any government or business interests.

We must remember that an attack on IHH is an attack on all humanitarian groups around the world. Given that IHH is among the most courageous humanitarian NGOs in the world — risking their lives to work in places like Somalia, cleaning up American messes in Iraq and Afghanistan — our politicians should perhaps be thanking them, rather than trying to tarnish their stellar reputation. Thankfully, IHH’s track record speaks for itself, as do the actions of their accusers — a comparison which does not calculate favorably for the Israeli government when asking just who, exactly, the terrorists are.

A call from Gazans to the world: “Keep trying to break the siege”

A press conference organised in anticipation of the Almathea aid ship

ISM , July 15, 2010

In a press conference at the port of Gaza city yesterday government officials, fishing associations, non-governmental organisations and civil society groups reiterated their support for the attempts by international activists to break the Israeli siege of Gaza by sea.

Yesterday (July 14th 2010) many people amassed at the Gazan port to urge on the latest attempt by activists to enter the strip, this time by a Libyan chartered aid ship. It was the first serious attempt to enter Gaza by sea since the horrifying attack by the Israeli navy on the Free Gaza Flotilla and the Mavi Marmara which saw 9 Turkish activists killed.

Mahfouz Kabariti, President of Palestine Sailing Federation and Palestinian Association for Fishing and Maritime Sports, was communicating with the Amalthea as it neared Gazan waters: “The last contact we had with them was at midnight and since then communication was cut by the Israeli navy. They told us the boat was surrounded by Israeli gunships, but that they were determined to attempt to dock in Gaza and not take the option offered by the Egyptian government to dock in El Arish.”

According to Mahfouz the roll of the Freedom Flotilla missions are two-fold: “First is the arrival with aid, and materials such as construction supplies still banned by the blockade. The second is to put a spotlight on the suffering of the people here. Even if they are attacked, the second message highlights even more the extent to which Israel will go to keep us in Gaza isolated from the rest of the world with this illegal blockade of our people.”

Amjad Shawa, Gaza Coordinator for Palestinian NGOs: “It is not enough to demand some kind of minor reduction of this illegal siege.”

As well as government representatives and the Popular Committee to Break the Siege, Amjad Shawa, Gaza Coordinator for Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations (PNGO) was present. He emphasised the importance of international civil society persisting in trying to break the siege.

The need is especially acute because so far Israel’s response has only been to reduce the blockade on Gaza by a tiny fraction. The European Union, the United Nations, countless human rights groups and the International Committee for the Red Cross have all expressed the need for a return to the free flow of goods and people in and out of the Gaza Strip. This must include construction materials which are sorely needed to help rebuild the 17,000 houses severely damaged in the 3 week attack over the New Year period of 2009 that left over 1500 dead including over 400 children.

“Nothing has changed here,” says Amjad. “Just some more consumer products…but 80% of the people here still depend on humanitarian aid. It is not enough to demand some kind of minor reduction of this illegal siege. But we are thankful that the siege on Gaza has not been forgotten, and that our people are still in the minds of the world. These kinds of solidarity actions are very important for Gazans, we see that others share with us the values of justice and the principals of human rights.”

A Gaza resident holding pictures of Saif al-Islam Gadhafi – whose charity sponsored the aid ship – and his father, Libyan leader Muammar Gadhaf

When asked about the role of the international community to pressure Israel, Amjad is more critical: “We are so sorry that the international community until now has made no real intervention, put no real pressure on Israel to lift the siege totally or exerted pressure on Israel to have a transparent and accountable international inquiry into the Israeli crimes on the freedom flotillas.

“Still today we’re waiting for real international pressure from the international community. We hope that Israel will not use this silence as a chance to commit more crimes against the Palestinian people and international solidarity workers.”

The Libyan chartered boat was eventually forced to dock in El Arish, Egypt, after a wall of Israeli gunboats blocked its passage through to Gaza. But the Palestinians remain heartened by these attempts and the further missions planned this September. Says Mahfouz: “People here feel grateful to those internationals who try to arrive at the Gaza beach, it’s so important to us that other people worry and support us.”
Updated on July 15, 2010

:: Article nr. 67973 sent on 16-jul-2010 13:27 ECT

:: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website.

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