We must stop State persecution of innocent protesters in Iran

WE'VE seen much coverage this week of the savage bloodshed in Syria.

But behind the regime of Bashar Assad lies a bigger power, Iran.

I recently received an unsolicited email from an organisation called Education International, based in Brussels. Suspicious of spam I was about to bin it when I was stopped by the subject -- "Death Sentence in Iran". I read on.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is the world's number one rogue state. It officially denies the Holocaust ever happened. It has promised to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. It arms, guides, and goads terrorist outfits like Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon to attack the six million Jews living in Israel.

Iran is also the regional power that favours -- for now -- the survival of the besieged Assad regime in Syria. Today Iran is months if not weeks away from having its very own nuclear weapon. Since the revolution in 1979 the fanatical government in Tehran has gotten away with murder time and time again. It specialises in killing Jews and Americans but anyone who gets in the way is fair game -- Salman Rushdie and his publishers being one high-profile case. With each passing day the sense of a looming Armageddon in the Middle East is getting harder and harder to ignore.

But the first victims of the Islamic Revolution were the people of Iran itself. They remain the most vulnerable and the most defenceless in the face of the ruthless rule of the Mullahs. They also are potentially our greatest hope for deliverance from the Iranian despots.

Abdolreza Ghanbari is the latest Iranian to be marked down for destruction by what passes for a Government in Tehran. Abdolreza is the man at the heart of that email that landed in my inbox.

He is a 44-year-old university professor from Pakdasht -- a place I'd never heard of. Apparently Mr Ghanbari was active in trade union circles in Iran.


The unions have been the source of much internal dissent to the tyranny of the clerics and have been persecuted for their lack of fervour in accepting that they must put up and shut up.

Two years ago Mr Ghanberi received some unsolicited emails too. They purported to come from an organisation pledged to overthrow the Islamic Republic. Then very conveniently, the local cops came calling and arrested Mr Ghanbari. He was hauled off to the brutal Evin Prison in Tehran for several weeks of intensive daily torture before he naturally "confessed".

When his lawyer, a brave man by the name of Nasrin Sotoudeh protested about the Star Chamber treatment meted out to his client he too was carted off and sent down for six years for "acting against national security".

Meanwhile Mr Ghanbari was charged with the chilling offence of "Moharebeh" -- "Enmity towards God". As the rulers of Iran believe they are agents of Allah with a duty to create a world based on their interpretation of the Koran there is no more heinous crime than siding with the enemies of God. Mr Ghanbari was convicted and condemned to death.

Two weeks ago the Iranian "Commission of Justice" upheld the sentence. Education International is the voice of 30 million teachers in over 100 countries. They are urging workers all over the world to make a stand.

In recent times the Irish Trade Union Movement has disgraced itself with its support for the ultra-leftist boycott of Israel and its silence on Iran. Last week I called two of the teachers' unions to see what they were going to do for one of their own.

I was delighted to get a text back informing me that all four Teacher Unions in Ireland will take up Mr Ghanbari's case. I look forward to joining them when they organise a long-overdue picket on the Iranian Embassy in Blackrock.

We haven't much time. In 2010 another man I'd never heard of until now, a Kurdish teacher called Farzad Kamangar was executed in Iran. His crime -- "Enmity towards God."