24 September 2014

Blogger sentenced to death

I heard of this case via this post by Kaveh Mousavi, citing a report at the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, where you can read what's known.  An Iranian blogger, Soheil Arabi, was arrested last year for "insulting the Prophet" based on some rude things he had said about the Prophet Muhammad on Facebook.  On August 30 this year he was sentenced to death despite maintaining that he was "in poor psychological condition" when he wrote the posts, which is supposed to be a mitigating circumstance under the relevant law (you can't blame him -- if I were on trial before a bunch a religious crazies who were threatening to kill me because I'd said something they didn't like, I'd probably grasp at any available straw too).  Arabi had only three weeks to appeal the sentence, a deadline which has already passed; it's unclear whether he did actually appeal or not.

Looking for more information, I was startled to find that the case has gotten very little attention in mainstream English-language news media.  I found reports in The Independent and The Times of India (citing the original ICHRI report), the Business Standard (citing The Independent), and Israel National News.  Nothing at The Guardian, the BBC, or Al-Jazeera, though the death sentence was imposed almost a month ago.  (There were a few reports on it at fringe-right propaganda sites whose track record of hysterics about anything to do with Islam leaves them with little credibility.)  Not even posts on the major atheist blogs.  Maybe they rely too much on the MSM to tell them what's going on.

The reforms President Rouhani has carried out in many areas of Iran's governance can easily blind us to the fact that in many other ways the country remains an extremely repressive theocracy with shocking restrictions on free expression.  In particular, Rouhani has no say in the sentence passed by any given judge at a trial, just as Obama has no say over what sentence a judge passes at a criminal trial somewhere in the US.

However, even the theocracy has shown itself somewhat susceptible to embarrassment when its brutality is subject to the full glare of publicity.  The best hope for preventing Arabi's execution is to get the case as much attention as possible.

MSM websites don't exactly make it easy to ferret out how to contact them with a story you think they ought to be following, but I did find a few possibilities.  The BBC has a contact form here (scroll down).  For The Guardian the most relevant thing I could find was the e-mail for the international news desk here.  All I could find at Al-Jazeera was this.  Rather than a lengthy e-mail, the best thing to do would be to send them the ICHRI link and a brief explanation of what's going on.  If enough people write to them about the same story, maybe they'll have someone look into it.  It might also be worth trying Amnesty International.

Remember, Soheil Arabi has been sentenced to death merely for saying something that somebody else didn't like.  For any blogger, the fact that there are still places where this happens should be cause for alarm.

Update:  Mousavi reports that another, similarly monstrous execution was in fact carried out today in Iran; Mohsen Amir Aslani was put to death today for heresy.  Go ahead, click the link -- you won't believe what he was killed for.  And this killing was reported by the BBC, at least by its Persian-language service -- a fact one could cite in asking them to cover the Soheil Arabi case.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Marc McKenzie said...

This is certainly bad.

A sharp contrast between Iran and the US. As far as I know, no blogger has been tossed in jail for writing negative things about President Obama.

But here's another thing, Infidel--where are those who immediately pop up whenever there's an alleged violation of a blogger's rights? For instance, where's Glenn Greenwald? Has he said anything about this or is bashing the President more important?

24 September, 2014 15:41  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

True. While the US lags behind some other countries in many areas, we still seem overall to have the world's most robust protections for freedom of expression. It's an important distinction.

I'm afraid I have no idea who Glenn Greenwald is. I've seen the name mentioned occasionally in the context of intra-left infighting, but never felt inspired to try to find out more. I haven't seen the Soheil Arabi case mentioned in the atheist or leftist blogosphere other than by Mousavi.

25 September, 2014 19:43  

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