Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas, Hopes and Woes

As Christmas arrives the atmosphere of festivity spreads not only in the Western / Christian hemisphere but also in other areas of the world, including here in Tehran where you can see Christmas decorations in many shops and stores. The sentiment of hope for peaceful coexistence among followers of different religions and sects is now stronger than ever in Iran, with the postive steps taken to improve social and political conditions by the Rouhani administration, even though challenges still persist. Armenians not only celebrate freely but their presence is clearly felt in the mainstream media, I was reading a debate about the increasing prices of a Christmas tree in Tehran yesterday in a daily newspaper.Or the visit I had last year to the Armenian cultural and sports club Ararat which recieved widespread media coverage.
Yet this not the general image in the region, American military adventurism in the past decades instigated by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan has left indelible scars of pain, suffering and destruction in most countries of the region. In addition to Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq that still suffer from violence, terror and insecurity now hallmarked by the fabrication of DAESH,Palestine Libya,Somalia,Yemen, Egypt and many more have faced the exodus of Christians and minorities who have faced persecution at the hands of terrorists who are mandated to smear the image of Islam and sow discord and insecurity in the region.In an artcle entitled "Why Millions will Mourn this Christmas ", Evan Mcadams best described the predicament :"It will be a miserable Christmas for the overseas victims of US interventions this year. Though "regime change" proponents talk of bringing freedom and democracy to the countries they target, the end result is quite the opposite: the rise of extremism, famine, ethnic cleansing, and economic destruction are what the US government has left behind in places like Iraq, Syria, and Ukraine."
In Iran many observers see positve prospects for the final resolution of the Nuclear issue particularly after the restoration of ties with Cuba which has improved the approval ratings of the US President, there is much speculation that negotiations will pave the way for the success of the nuclear talks and lifting of the illegal sanctions against our nation.
Iran now has undeniable leverage in the Islamic world, the current Iranian administration percieves this as an opportunity to promote peace and security in the region and to combat terrorism and extremism which most probably parallels the interests of the nations in the Western Hemisphere. Mr. Obama now has a unique chance to improve the image of the USG smeared by war mongering,torture and racism, to counter the extemists who rely on blood and the suffering for their dominion and to come to terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Turkey and An Interview With Hurriyet Newspaper

Last week I took part in the 5th ECO Environment Ministers meeting in Istanbul.I arrived early in the morning to take part in a working breakfast with the Turkish environment minister, where we discussed bilateral ties and the need for  a memorandum of understanding to define areas of future action.
The ECO session defined a strategy for environmental cooperation in the region and a declaration was adopted at the end.
That day I had several interviews including one with Hurriyet Daily Newspaper. I invite you to read the challenging questions posed and my answers. At the end of the day we had some time to spend walking alongside the Bosphorus.We flew back to Tehran  that evening .

Thursday, December 4, 2014

National Hero, Chemical Weapon Victim, Ahmad Zangiabadi

Introduction to this story by the UN Resident Coordinator in Iran

The United Nations, in its mandate to promote peace, has ardently opposed the use of chemical weapons. 


In September 1982, the UN General Assembly accepted the annual report of the Conference on Disarmament, which contained what later became the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).


The CWC – which outlaws the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons and their precursors – came into force in 1997 and is administered by the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons in The Hague.


The CWC bears great significance for Iran, whose people were subjected to these heinous weapons during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988).


Today, the victims of the sulphur mustard gas attacks continue to suffer from the consequences.


The UN office in Iran and UNIC are proud of their friendship with the Tehran Peace Museum, where many of these victims share their stories and experiences.


Sadly, one of our friends died recently.  Here is his story.



30 Nov 2014 - Ahmad Zangiabadi Chemical Weapons Victim from the Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988 1965-2014 2Ahmad Zangiabadi in January 2014. (Photo courtesy of Time Magazine) 

Ahmad Zangiabadi died two weeks ago.  The day was Tuesday, the 18th of November 2014.  He was 49 years old.  The cause of his death was respiratory collapse.


Ahmad was born in Kerman on the 9th of April 1965, into an ordinary Iranian family.  But when the Iran-Iraq war started in 1980 over a territorial dispute, he followed the well-trodden path chosen by patriotic young men from across the ages.  He volunteered to join the army and went off to defend Iran.


30 Nov 2014 - Ahmad Zangiabadi Chemical Weapons Victim from the Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988 1965-2014 5Ahmad as a young volunteer soldier in 1982. (Photo courtesy of Tehran Peace Museum)

Ahmad spent his military career on the southern front defending Iran’s control of the Arvand River – the Shatt al-Arab – where he was a member of the volunteer army’s logistics unit.


“In 1984,” said Ahmad in an interview before his death, “Iraq was dropping chemical bombs on our troops.  We didn’t even know what chemical bombs were.”


On the 12th of April 1985, Ahmad was positioned with his unit in the Tala’ie region of the Majnoon Island when Iraq dropped a sulphur mustard gas bomb on his position.  He was then only 19 years old.


When people are exposed to sulphur mustard gas, in more than 95 per cent of cases they don’t die. Most associated deaths occur either as a result of the explosive blast itself or when the patients – in a condition of vulnerability and exposed to liquid chemicals – are being transported to medical facilities. The real trauma and tragedy come afterwards. The symptoms of mustard gas are slow-onset. Many veterans have told of feeling quite well for some time even after the explosion. Ahmad was no different, and it was not until several hours after the attack that he began to feel unwell.

"With each laboured breath, Ahmad described his role at the Tehran Peace Museum and shared the experiences of survivors like him"


“It was about 10pm in the evening,” Ahmad recalled, “when I first realized that something was wrong.  I guessed that I had been exposed to chemicals.  I asked someone to replace me at the front so that I could go to the medical centre.”


Ahmad’s condition rapidly worsened.  His eyes were severely burned and he started vomiting violently.  His entire body began to break out in burns and blisters. 



“I was taken to Tehran to a hospital,” said Ahmad, “and I lay unconscious for about 40 days.”


Ahmad slowly began to understand that his lungs had been damaged permanently and for the next 30 years his life would be dependent on medication, hospitalization and a series of oxygen machines.  After the war, Ahmad got married.  In time, Ahmad’s wife, Marzieh, would be his loyal and dedicated nurse, administering his medication, helping him with his oxygen machines and making life as comfortable as possible for him.

30 Nov 2014 - Ahmad Zangiabadi Chemical Weapons Victim from the Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988 1965-2014 4Ahmad guiding school children around the Tehran Peace Museum, June 2012. (Photo courtesy of Tehran Peace Museum)


After the war, Ahmad tried to further his education and enrolled at a local university to study English literature.  However, the sulphur mustard had burned his cornea and his eyesight had rapidly deteriorated.  His lung condition worsened and after falling into a coma and being hospitalized, he was forced to give up any hope of continuing his studies.


As one of over 100,000 survivors of chemical warfare in Iran from the war with Iraq, Ahmad sought for himself a role in helping other survivors.  He joined a non-governmental organization, the Society for Chemical Weapons Victims Support (SCWVS) later becoming a board member.


In 2007, Ahmad began a career as a volunteer guide at The Tehran Peace Museum. As an eyewitness and survivor, Ahmad escorted visitors around the museum and gave first hand accounts of the terrible consequences of chemical weapons. He served as living testimony to the open wounds – both literal and metaphorical – still troubling war veterans, civilians and many people who continue to be affected by secondary contamination from sulphur mustard.


30 Nov 2014 - Ahmad Zangiabadi Chemical Weapons Victim from the Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988 1965-2014 1Ahmad Zangiabadi meets UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki Moon at the OPCW Conference in The Hague, April 2013 (Photo courtesy of Tehran Peace Museum)

A committed campaigner for peace, Ahmad travelled with delegates from the Tehran Peace Museum to The Hague in April 2013. The group attended the Third Review Conference of the Chemical Weapons Convention at the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). While moving around with his portable oxygen machine, Ahmad was honoured to meet the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki Moon, and the OPCW’s Director General, Mr. Ahmed Üzümcü and asked them to double their efforts to make a world free of chemical weapons.


With each laboured breath, Ahmad described his role at the Tehran Peace Museum and shared the experiences of survivors like him. Sadly, within the last year of his life, Ahmad’s respiratory condition worsened.


“I am a candidate for a lung transplant,” he said, “my lungs were burnt so badly that they can’t provide my body with the oxygen it needs.”


Ahmad did not live long enough to receive the lung transplant.  His dream of taking deep breaths would not come true.


Ahmad Zangiabadi is survived by his widow, Marzieh, and his only son, Hesam.


But through his work and the lives he touched, Ahmad’s story will live on and his tireless campaigning to see a world free of chemical weapons will be remembered.

 With the courtesy of UN Reisdent Coordinator.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Journey to Italy

I was invited by the Italian Minister of Sea,Land and Environment.After arriving at Rome, we met with Ms.Emma  Bunino who was the former Foreign Minister of Italy . Our first visit was at the Environmental Research Center,ISPRA, we visited their advanced laboratories and spoke about plans for joint activities. We met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs that after noon in the immense ministry building which was built once by Mosillini.
Bilateral political,economic and environmental issues were discussed. We then left to visit the Minister of Environment with whom we discussed the status of Climate Change negotiations.
The MOU for energy and climate change was then signed and we attended a reception of  pasta, fish and chips hosted by the Minister of Environment in a antique setting in central Rome.
I began the next day with RAI international news channel broadcast live from the residence of the Ambassador.
The reporter and her director were both interested in Iran and related developments.The rise of ISIS was alarming for all and this matter was brought up in every meeting and interview.After several short interviews with local media and newspapers we left for a meeting with the Italian Parliament Speaker. Scores of protesters were loudly rioting outside the Parliament premises, against austerity measures which were severly hitting their livelihoods.Laura Boldrini spoke about the importance of the role which Iran as  a stable country has in preventing the spread of ISIS.
The Diplomatic Research center SIOI , had invited me to speak. I chose the title " Spirit of Dialogue and the Journey to Perfection." I spoke about how we had to bring the change we want in the world first within ourselves and particularly those in positions of leadership.
I also responded to questions a out , human rights, foreign policy and internal politics in Iran. Our final program was to take part in the Minerva Award Program .
This is a prestigious award given to women by the Anna Marie Mamolliti Foundation. Several women were awarded mostly from Italy , I was given the award for Political Leadership. There was a large audience attending and I took a few moments to thank the organizers and to mention the achievements nof Iranian women in different fields and to note that this award is an indication of the common values that we cherish in spite of all the cultural differences.
I hope this visit has played its role in providing a more objective image of Iran and improvement of bilateral relations.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Hussein,Light of Guidance,Ship of Salvation

In the darkness you grope for light, a small ray would do enough to illuminate the path before you.  If there is no light there is little hope. Hatred, injustice and slavery are all elements of darkness that we see so much in today's world . Global equations are set on power struggles, for the accumulation of wealth, for lust and control over the world' s resources and nations. Justice and peace are elusive today more than ever, even though these terms are articulated well and used to justify our actions but in many parts of the world in West Asia or Africa in particular war and conflicts have devastated livelihoods, in other areas poverty and disease are taking their toll. Drugs, human and arms trafficking are controlling economies and instead of creating employment opportunities for the youth they undermine their future and their hopes. Extremism and terror in the name of God has emerged ominously in the Islamic world, quickly labled as the so called Islamic State or Daesh by western media. Where is the world leading and what fate awaits humanity? 
These days Muslims are mourning the martyrdom of Imam Hussein as the epitome of compassion and human values.Ashura is one of the most relevant Islamic historical events  61 years after the Hejira, Yazid the  despot has taken the rule of Islamic lands in his hands, Baniommayid dynasty never followed the true spirit of Islam and teachings of the Prophet. The Islamic Khalifat has lost the original spirit of Islam. 
They abused the people's beliefs to strengthen their power and wealth. Injustices were so widespread that the people of Kufa sent thousands of  letters asking Imam Hussein the grandson of the Prophet to relieve them of tyranny. These corrupt and devious rulers were the equivalent of Daesh today. They distorted the teachings of the Holy Quran to meet their interests and condoned bloodshed and terror. Imam Hussein was reluctant at first ,but the insistance of the people convinced him to move towards Iraq with his companions and family. 
Representatives of the rulers came to prevent Imam Hussein from entering Kufa, in a spirit of peace,  he agreed to return, but Yazid insisted that he return to Damascus to pledge allegiance to the Ommayid establishment . "You will die before you see me submit to oppression and tyranny" he replied. "If the religion of God will not be  corrected other than by my death ,then oh swords encompass my body" , "My cause is to enjoin what is good and forbid what is wrong."
Once it beacame clear that a battle will occur next day, Hussein told his companions that they could leave freely if they wanted, "they will come for me he"said you may all leave. Imam even darkened the tent so whoever wished could leave in the darkness. His companions remained, Abass, his brother said "we will die with you". 
The narrations of Ashura are filled with stories of love compassion even for the enemy and of bravery and resistance for the sake of the truth. Yazid had commenced a smearing campaign to undermine the personality of Hussein who was revered and known for his truthfulness and honesty. Imam invites all souls of humanity, those present and those to come to join the cause of righteousness: " Is there any helper to assist me?" 
All sons and companions of Hussein fought bravely on Ashura and thereby left an indelible mark on the history of Islam. Ashura became a milestone that dilineates between the authentic Islamic teachings and practices and that which hypocrite rulers may practice to protect their throne and their worldly interests.
1375 years later the legacy of Hussein is alive, hundreds of millions mourn Hussein today as the ultimate symbol of  salvation, the fulfillment of sublime human values. Ashura inspires humanity irrespective of religion, nationality or race since its message is the universal call for righteousness and justice.
The world today needs leaders who could stand up to the expectations to enjoin what is good and forbid evil. Leaders are required who could  sacrifice to promote justice,equality hope and prosperity not for themselves but for their nations. Leaders are needed who have the altruism to stand up against corruption and oppression,against the warmongers and arrogant who think they are the superior race and should lead the world.
In a world lost in war, poverty, insecurity and excesses, Hussein has won the war of hearts and minds, for Hussein is the light of guidance and the ship of salvation.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Sustainable tourism in Iran

We hosted an international symposium on ways to integrate sustainable tourism in national planning policy.Tourism, when it complys with environmental standards becomes a green industry where tourists both enjoy nature beauties but also help to protect its resources. Across nations tourism promotes dialogue and understanding, and appreciation of diversity both diversity of cultures and nature. In a sense in a region torn by violence and extremism tourism gives a message of peace and stability.

Iran has many touristc attractions, 7000 years of history and art manifested in cities throughout the country, exceptional biodiversity including mountains, forests deserts, wetlands ,sea and rangeland are all unique attractions of Iran. In addition, religious pilgrimages and health tourism are also areas where  attractions exist.
We now have new programs underway to promote ecotourism and ensure the benefits for local communities.The international gathering was an indication of the importance attached to 
sustainable tourism in all forms.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Art for Environmental Education, Masterpieces of Farshchian

Art is the most powerful means to convey educational and inspirational messages. Mahmoud Farshchian is one of the most reknown painters of our time. His works in Iranian miniature  are very well appreciated by not only Iranians but millions worldwide. Farshchian depicts the beauty of nature in a very esthetic manner. His works have strong and persuasive messages of nature protection in many cases. These works not only educate about nature but also inspire and motivate people to protect nature.
Creativity and spiritual upliftment are also messages that people recieve .We convened a ceremony to address the important issue of education for the environment in the masterpieces of Farshchian we had a great ceremony many officials came. Farshchians unique artistic creations are an asset for Iranian contemporary art.
One of his beautiful works entitled the Fifth Day of Creation, alluding to the Torah and the creation of birds and fish. This works also demonstrates with unprecedented beauty the concept of biodiversity of species and the need to protect that diversity. In that ceremony last week , Rangers then presented Master Farshchian with a bouquet of flowers and a plaque of appreciation, Farshchian asked the nation to take serious measures to protect pur precious natural resources.

Friday, September 26, 2014

President Rouhani and New Era of Environmental Diplomacy

The world is now, much earlier than initial predictions, experiencing the damages incurred by global warming. Storms, floods ,drought , increase of temperature and much more; all described as "extreme weather events" are now being reported in many parts of the world. Island countries and coastal zones have been affected by rising sea levels.We are experiencing drought in Iran marked by shortage of rainfall and snow, increase in temperature ranging between .5-1.5 degrees celsius, thus leading to  more evaporation and loss of vegetation, biodiversity, wetlands and many other damages to our agriculture and economy. The drying up of Lake Urumia is one evident example of this trend which has been exacerbated by over use of aquifier reserves, dams and inefficient irrigation methods in that area.
Energy efficiency in Iran is also low and this has led to air pollution as well as economic loss.
However, Iran has been an active partner of the decades long international processes to combat climate change. I took part not only in the Kyoto Protocol deliberations in 1997 but also in most related events during my first term as the Vice President of Iran( Government of President Khatami). Our role as head of the Group of 77 during those years, in bringing about a consensus with the EU was applauded by the international community as a victory for multilateralism in 2002.
Now, again we are playing our proactive role in the ongoing negotiations for the "new deal", which I believe must be fair and just, if it is to be implemented and followed by all nations.  Iran has now undertaken serious measures for energy efficiency and thus mitigation of greenhouse gases. We are also taking action on different levels to build a resilient economy and to protect our nature in face of these challenges.
 The active presence of Dr. Rouhani in the Climate Change Summit this year in New York and his inspiring speech on this matter marks a new era of environmental diplomacy for the Islamic Republic of Iran . I invite you to read the speech below.

Full text of the president's speech delivered on Tuesday on the sidelines of the 69th UN General Assembly session follows:

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

Mr. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, 


Distinguished delegates, 

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

At the outset, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to Your Excellency, Secretary General of the United Nations for this timely initiative. This Summit provides a unique opportunity for addressing climate change as one of the most significant challenges of the 21st century. 

The rise in the temperature and its negative impact on rain precipitation in the Middle East, the chronic drought and water scarcity has led to an increase in poverty and the occurrence of instability and tensions in the border areas. Unfortunately, the continuation of political disputes and war in the neighboring countries has become an obstacle in achieving a durable and practical agreement on the resolution of regional environmental problems.

Addressing such issues requires regional cooperation in the form of multilateral conventions, for which Iran is ready to engage constructively.

Historical experience has shown that introduction and utilization of economic mechanisms are the most effective source of inspiration for humanitarian activities across the globe. This helps to develop international mechanisms for containing Carbon Dioxide and emission of other green-house gases. A ‘system of warning and advice’ cannot by itself be considered as an effective factor in addressing such problem. A comprehensive agreement based on economic mechanisms; one which would take into account the developmental requirements of each and every country, is required more than ever. 

During the past year, focusing on low-carbon economy was high on the development agenda of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Accordingly, we have introduced and are implementing the following binding national targets: 

• Decreasing energy intensity, 

• Reducing energy subsidies, 

• Limiting major atmospheric pollutants, 

• Promoting energy efficiency, 

• improving the quality of fuels, despite imposed economic sanctions,

• Increasing the share of renewable, modern and alternative sources of energy 

• as well as utilizing and disseminating other environmentally sound technologies.

Mr. President, 

if we truly believe global warming is a global problem, we should then accept that addressing it also requires genuine global cooperation. Any step, under any pretext, that may impede such international cooperation cannot but be considered detrimental to the international community as a whole. 

Nowadays it has become difficult for some countries to gain access to the experience and knowhow of other countries in the fields of combating drought and water scarcity as well as environmental crises, especially urban pollution. Endangering the environment and health of an entire population by imposing illegal economic sanctions against them is never justified, if we were to view it from a humanitarian and health-based perspective. 

The Islamic Republic of Iran is ready to engage actively and constructively in the negotiation processes for the development of a new post 2020 agreement. 

The Islamic Republic of Iran welcomes the opportunity to promote cooperation with relevant public and private sectors at the national, regional and international levels, in order to strengthen its national measures in combating climate change, and is determined to facilitate such partnership and cooperation through, inter-alia, establishing joint ventures between Iranian and foreign companies.

I wish that with all efforts put in by the UN and the effective participation of all states, this Summit becomes a turning point in taking common but differentiated measures to save this green planet. 

Thank you, Mr. President

Monday, September 1, 2014

National Asiatic Cheetah Day

To mark the occasion of National Asiatic Cheetah Day the Department of Environment and UNDP jointly organized a ceremony to celebrate outstanding Iranian Game Guards and activists from the Conservation of the Asiatic Cheetah Project


Day and night, our planet and its beautiful natural resources are guarded by individuals who give new meaning to the words sacrifice, courage and compassion.  Game Guards are the dedicated watchers of the environment and the primary guardians of our Iranian biodiversity.

To mark the occasion of National Asiatic Cheetah Day the Department of Environment and the UNDP jointly organized a ceremony to celebrate outstanding Iranian Game Guards and activists from the Conservation of the Asiatic Cheetah Project.  The objective was to recognize the remarkable contribution of these individuals in safeguarding our environment.

In Tehran government officials along with representatives from the diplomatic community, NGOs, Academia, members of the private sector, media and UN representatives came together to applaud the dedication of these men and women whose mission in life is defined by their sense of duty to our shared global heritage – the environment.


31Aug2014-Irans Game Guards are heroes says UN head in Iran 2Vice-President and Head of Department of Environment, H.E. Dr. Masoumeh Ebtekar.

In his remarks the UN Resident Coordinator & UNDP ResidentRepresentative, Mr. Gary Lewis said:“Today, we know of the Mazandaran Tiger and the Persian Lion only from the windswept statues or faded photographs that bear their images. All have been killed or forced into extinction.  They are gone forever.  But it is not too late to save the Asiatic Cheetah.
”He added: “We believe that the decline in the number of these beautiful – emblematic animals may have stopped.  Now their numbers may be on the increase once again.  The main reason for this recovery – for the possible turnaround in numbers – is simple.  It is because there are few people – a very few people – in our society, who strive – day in and day out – to keep the Asiatic Cheetah from harm.”
“Some – like our academic partners – do this through the written word.  Some – like our friends in the NGO community – do it through the spoken word.  Some – like our corporate sponsors – give us the resources to host awareness-raising events like the one we are having here this morning.  And we thank you – and we recognize you all” said Mr. Lewis.

31Aug2014-Irans Game Guards are heroes says UN head in Iran 4Mr. Gary Lewis (Left) along with Dr. Masoumeh Ebtekar presented awards to the Game Guards, NGOs, Academia and corporate sponsors of the ceremony


He then highlighted the remarkable contribution of the Game Guards by stating: “Many – like Iran’s Game Guards – our Mohit Bans – do it through their actions.  Actions which often place these doer-of-deeds in great personal peril.  Peril of being shot at by poachers.  This is no idle threat.  Some Game Guards have been shot at – and wounded – in the line of duty […] Ladies and Gentlemen, Iran’s Game Guards are heroes. They are local heroes.  And they are global heroes.  Through their actions which directly save our biodiversity, these heroes are paving the way for a future which is sustainable.  Through their actions we have come to recognize that all species deserve to co-exist and share our beautiful, endangered, planet.”


Also speaking at the event was Vice-President and Head of Department of Environment, H.E. Dr. Masoumeh Ebtekar.  “Environmental issues and the protection of species at a local level is considered as a global issue today.  That is an important achievement for humanity – the fact that we realize today that our actions at a local level have global implications.  Therefore, our responsibilities extend beyond our geographical boarders. We have global responsibilities.”


She then emphasized on the protection of the Asiatic Cheetah as also being a global issue.  She added: “To reverse the destiny of the Asiatic Cheetah, we need a careful and efficient plan which includes the involvement of the local communities as well as the efforts of the highest national and international level officials and organizations.”


31Aug2014-Irans Game Guards are heroes says UN head in Iran 1Game Guards are the dedicated watchers of the environment and the primary guardians of our Iranian biodiversity.



“Today, I stand next to you, delighted and honoured to represent and acknowledge the efforts of our Game Guards from all parts of Iran.  We owe a great share of our success in preserving our environment to the dedication of Game Guards who serve in the remote areas.  They believe that protecting the environment and its species guarantees nature sustainability for the future and that is why they have devoted their life to this high-risk path.  It is the duty of each and every citizen to join the Game Guards and others who follow their path to conserve the environment and its biodiversity for today and the future.”

She was then joined by Mr. Lewis on stage to present awards to the Game Guards, NGOs, Academia and sponsors of the ceremony – Eghtesad Novin Bank, Bidar Trading Company and Vijeh School of Visual Communication.   

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Letter to Ban Ki Moon on the Environmental Disaster in Gaza

Considering news of the grave enivronmental cirumstances in Gaza, I called upon the UN system to take serious action to address the matter .The following is the text of my letter to the UNSG.

HE Mr.Ban Ki Moon

Secretary General United Nations

HE Achim Steiner UNEP Executive Director. ( cc)

Ministers of Environment (cc) 


Dear Sir,

The ongoing violence and humanitarian crisis and genocide against the people of Gaza has created very grave circumstances for the Palestinian people.  Recalling the mandate of the UN to safeguard peace and security for all humanity and the continued blockade and sanctions against the Gaza strip which has made all humanitarian assistance possible only through certain UN and similar bodies it is necessary to stress that the responsibility of the United Nations in face of this tragedy is immense.

Now as we enter the fifth week of the calamity, in addition to the humanitarian tragedy, we are obtaining news of an imminent environmental catastrophe. The breakdown of basic sanitary services in Gaza, the unavailability of potable water and problems in water sanitization systems, the breakdown of the sewage and purification plants and the scattering and piling of urban waste have all amounted to an environmental crisis in Gaza.  It is deemed necessary that UNEP calls for urgent action of UN bodies and member states to address the state of environmental emergency  in Gaza. The lifting of the inhumane blockade is evidently an imperative to prevent further humanitarian tragedy.

In addition to the readiness of my Government to assist in this regard, I would like to propose the urgent convening of a session the region to address and take urgent measures to address this matter. Tehran is prepared to host and provide support in this regard.

We also propose that UNEP convene a adhoc session on the sidelines of the Climate session to address theissue of emergency environmental relief for Gaza.


Excellency please accept my highest considerations .


Massoumeh Ebtekar

Vice President , Head Department of Environment

Islamic Republic of Iran

UNEP Champion of the Earth

Friday, August 1, 2014

Inefficiency of International Mechanisms

For those of us who believe in the equal creation of all humans, for all those who believe in justice for all, for all those who believe in multilateralism, the current situation in many areas of the world is intolerable and unjustifiable. A serious mismanagement of world affairs by major powers who wield the financial, military and media strongholds has been underway now for several decades. The UN system is weak and incompetent in face of those forces, it has not been able to establish peace among nations or peace with the world's precious ecosystems,both existential threats to life on earth. 
Dr. Mosaffa has done an excellent article on the role of multilateral mechanisms in dealing with crises such as that in the Middle East today. I would like to share her academic view points here. Hope you enjoy.

Iran Review.Org

Gaza Crisis Mirrors Inefficiency of International Law
Sunday, July 27, 2014

Nasrin Mosaffa
Professor of Tehran University & UN Expert

International human rights movement came into being with the formulation
of the Charter of the United Nations and through frequent references to
the horrendous nature of crimes committed against ordinary people during
the World War II. By and by, this movement made efforts to bolster its
legitimacy by issuing statements and approving binding documents in order
to formulate norms, pass regulations, and establish new organs and
institutions both inside and outside the United Nations. However, in
addition to concerns and questions that have consistently existed about
political, social, cultural and economic capabilities of this huge body of
laws, whose activities are aimed at protecting human beings, it is
currently facing major challenges for the realization of its goals,
especially under emergency circumstances and conditions of hostile

Despite all efforts that have been made so far, global mechanisms have not
been actually able to deal effectively with blatant cases in which human
rights and humanitarian law, which are totally intermingled in view of the
realities of the contemporary world, have been violated. Apart from all
clear cases that have taken place during the past decades, a striking
instance of the violation of human rights is the current situation and
acute conditions of people in the Gaza Strip, which are, of course, not
limited to the ongoing crisis. Recent remarks by Navi Pillay, the United
Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, addressed to a Special Session
of the UN Human Rights Council on July 23, 2014, was good evidence to
inability of international mechanisms in dealing with such crises. Pillay
clearly noted that she and her predecessors only relied on facts, laws,
and common sense judgments, adding that they had done this so far and will
continue to do the same in the future, though they have frequently come
under fire for such efforts. The High Commissioner also noted that Gazan
children and women accounted for the main part of the Israeli attack’s
victims, adding that “All the dead and maimed civilians should weigh
heavily on all consciences, as all efforts to protect them had been abject
failures.” She also urged “more powerful entities, such as the Security
Council, and individual States with serious leverage over the parties to
this dreadful and interminable conflict,” to “do far more than they had
done so far to bring the conflict to an end once and for all.”

The remarks by Navi Pillay, as the highest ranking US human rights
official, in addition to what UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian
Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said in the same
meeting when explaining the human catastrophe and the rising civilian
casualties in the ongoing Gaza crisis, will be hard to tolerate for any
conscientious person. Over 1000 Palestinians, including more than 200
children and many women have been so far killed in Gaza and the death toll
keeps rising with every hour passing.

Hundreds of Palestinians homes have been destroyed by the invading Israeli
military and more than 140,000 Palestinians have been seeking refuge in
other places. Schools, hospitals, and various installations, including
facilities and buildings run by the United Nations have been razed to the
ground. On average, one Palestinian child loses his/her life every hour.
Disabled women are torn to pieces on their wheelchairs. Killer Israeli
drones continue to bomb various parts of the General Assembly. All these
catastrophic events are taking place on top of a crippling siege on the
coastal enclave, which has already blocked Gaza people’s access to such
essential and primary needs as potable water, foodstuff, fuel, electricity
and first aid. As admitted by Pillay, Israel has even ignored and violated
international obligations and responsibilities of an occupying force. Long
occupation of Palestinian lands, which has brought them nothing but
insecurity, and ignoring the right of the Palestinian people to survive
and determine their own destiny, among other rights, are major breaches of
international obligations by Israel.

Such remarks by international authorities all attest to blatant violations
of human rights and the norms of international humanitarian law,
especially with regard to such principles as proportion between a threat
and the response given to it, the need to differentiate between the
military and civilian population, and the need to exercise cautious in
case of any military undertaking. In fact, the ongoing crisis in Gaza is a
clear manifestation of the inefficiency of international law, especially
international humanitarian law. Of course, this may be a very pessimistic
conclusion. A large part of the pressure that has been currently put on
Israel is a result of the crimes perpetrated by the Tel Aviv regime and
blatant violation of customary rules of international law. This is why
even the staunchest supporters of Israel have been forced to avoid
defending Israel’s onslaught on the Gaza Strip and highlight Tel Aviv’s
violations of primary principles of international law and human rights.

After the establishment of Israel and political crises that followed it,
the UN has frequently repeated the measures that it usually takes in such
cases: holding international conferences and meetings, dispatching
peacekeeping forces, establishing UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine
Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), sending special envoys, organizing
fact-finding groups, choosing special rapporteurs, adopting resolutions
and so forth. However, all these measures lack the necessary political
will and guarantees that are embedded in the Security Council’s decisions
and this is why Pillay has urged the member states of the Security Council
to “do far more than they had done so far to bring the conflict to an end
once and for all.”

Perhaps, she thinks that the unprecedented candor in her latest remarks,
now that her tenure is coming to an end, may reduce the heavy burden that
weighs on her conscience and of which she has talked at the end of her
speech. The former UN human rights commissioner, Mary Robinson, lost her
second term in office after she prepared a report on Israel’s crimes at
Jenin refugee camp, which evoked harsh opposition of the United States.
Unlike her, Mrs. Pillay has plucked up her courage in the later months of
her second term, which is her last term in office, and has now decided to
deal with the situation in Palestine on the basis of her professional
requirements in accordance with Paragraph (a), Article 2 of the UN General
Assembly Resolution 141 (adopted on December 20, 1993). According to that
article, “…the High Commissioner for Human Rights shall be a person of
high moral standing and personal integrity and shall possess expertise,
including in the field of human rights, and the general knowledge and
understanding of diverse cultures necessary for impartial, objective,
non-selective and effective performance of the duties of the High

Now, we must wait and see how her Jordanian successor, who should be
practically familiar with the problems and suffering of Palestinians,
would remain committed to the aforesaid professional requirements and
human obligations. The consequence of the UN decision to establish Israel
is war crimes that have been committed frequently by this regime. Although
it is the bodies of Palestinian people that are washed in their blood,
those crimes have also greatly weighed down on the conscience and human
spirit of the world and have dealt drastic blows to international human
rights movement, which had promised to protect human dignity of all

Perhaps, UN officials believe that expression of sympathy and mere
condemnation will make up for the aforesaid blows to human rights
movement. However, the undeniable reality of the modern world beyond all
expressions of sympathy is that the UN has failed in making sure about
fulfilling what has been said in the Preamble to the Charter of the United
Nations about the world body’s obligation “to save succeeding generations
from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold
sorrow to mankind.” If a six-year Gazan child has not already died of
hunger, or if they have not already experienced injury and disability, and
have not faced dire problems with regard to essential needs of their life,
they have, at least, seen three bouts of war and bloodshed in the besieged
territory and have spent all their life under siege. In the meantime, the
entire world has been, of course, expressing its sympathy with them!!!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Gaza and the Conscience of Humanity

ChrisGunness UNOCHA says at least 168 Palestinians killed in Gaza in last week, 80% (133 people) are civilians of whom 21% (36) are children.
The assault continues after six days ,while the tragic scenes displayed in independent media and social networks has horrified many onlookers.
According to reports comming from different locations hundreds of cities have witnessed massive demonstrations against the slaughter in Gaza. Israel is confident that it enjoys the backing of major Western States for its incursion so the public opinion is not relevant for them. Their strategy is to kill the resistance and resilience of the Palestinian nation.
The question that remains for many of us who believe in multilateralism is that what is the relevancy of the UN when it does not make any serious effort to prevent bloodshed and war against defenseless civilians who have suffered for decades snow at the hands of the occupiers and aggressors?
 If the current peacemaking mechanisms remain inefficient , irresponsive, and biased in their performance then many societies would resort to taking their affairs in their own hands and this message would fuel more violence and extremism in today's world.The solidarity of many governments with the people of Gaza is also a hopeful sign , the Chilean Senate took a moment of silence for them.
The question each human being needs to ask is where do I stand on this matter of conscience and humanity today? Gaza will stand as a gauge to expose the true identity of us all.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The First UN Environment Assembly

The first UNEA flew last week in Nairobi. During the early years of the millenium a major issue which was debated in international fora related to the environment concerned the need for a strong,over arching and inclusive body which would include all members of the international community.After years of negotiations and debates the UN Environment Assembly was finally launched. This body if democratically managed, could serve as a model of multilateralism in today's world. 
The first Assembly was an opportunity to debate important challenges such as air quality, illegal trade in wildlife and timber, the new sustainable development goals, sustainable production and consumption and chemicals.The event was of such importance that the President of Kenya attended both the opening and the closing along with Ban Ki Moon the UNSG. More than 160 countries attended mostly at the ministerial level.
The event also provides an important opportunity for exchange of views and dialogue at the bilateral level. On the sidelines of this Assembly Last week I met with Achim Steiner , UNEP executive director and gave him our national team's jersey with the Persian Cheetah design.
I also met with the President of Kenya and spoke of the importance of improving bilateral relations. The environment Ministers of Kenya, Norway, India, Italy, were among those I met and discussed grounds for bilateral collaboration.
A final outcome report was to be adopted at the closing session, but due to the deletion of a phrase reiterating one of the fundamental principles of international law:"common but differentiated responsibilities" consensus was not achieved. This insistence by one certain western state resulted in discord among member states specifically developing countries. This is an indication of the existing rifts between the north and south. 
The global environment is seriously endangered and requires a strong and unified approach among nations to confront current threats and change unsustainable trends. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Persian Cheetahs in the World Cup

After Sepp Blatter visited Iran last year, I proposed that  the  Iranian team use the design of our Persian Cheetah on their jerseys . Blatter brought the idea up in the FIFA council and  the Iranian national team beame the first allowed to use a symbol of biodiversity on its shirt. The Persian Cheetah was designed by an NGO and nature loving artists in Tehran.
In addition, a ball was painted with the design of 31 other countries' endangerd species , named the Bio Ball.
I formally delivered the ball to the Captain last week , before  their departure to Sao Paulo, Brazil. Our team was named "Persian Cheetah" after these events and the issue recieved much publicity. 
Iran is taking part in the World Cup with a message of Peace and Protection of our global environment. We hope that all teams will join us in this campaign and spread the message.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Revisiting the Legacy of Imam Khomeini

I twitted on my Twitter this morning:Imam Khomeini's efforts to establish new model of governance/religious democracy were countered by reactionaries who see no role for people. This phrase marks the major challenges we face today in following the legacy of the Founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran. From the very early days of the national awakening and uprising against the tyranny of the Shah, Imam Khomeini was approached by radical elemants to take up arms and to invite the people to engage in armed struggle against the monarchial  regime. Imam refrained and emphasized instead on the cultural nature of the revolution and invited people to resist through peaceful protests and strikes. This non violent approach was they key to the massive nationwide support for Imam. 

As opposed to a monarchial dictatorship based on subservience to the west , Imam called for a democratic state based on religious values. Reactionary elements pressed for an Islamic State, while Imam called for national consultations and for an Islamic Republic. These elements went so far as to ask Imam to establish the new state based on demonstrations staged for the Revolution, while Imam stressed on a nationwide referendum which was held in 1979.
In every stage reactionary elemants moved to weaken the democratic pillars of the Revolution , while Imam stood firmly to enact elections and bring people to the polls .He was determined to educate a nation deeply harmed by decades of tyranny and imperialist dominance. If it were not for the fierce and violent attacks of monarchists and radicals and if it were not for the continued active opposition of the west against the Revolution , and fear of  a repetition of history(the Coup of 1953), many observers believe Imam would have taken a less forceful stance against his opponents. Yet what happened later in many parts of the world, and during the Arabian spring or awakening, in countries like Egypt, proved that Imam's vigilance for those early years of the revolution was justified.
Even during the difficult years of war imposed by Saddam Hussein against Iran, Imam never allowed any cancellation of elections or polls .
Along side this democratic approach, Imam also strongly advocated transparency, accountability and an ethical demeanour for Muslim politicians and those wielding power. "The egoistic and selfish drives are the greater enemy" his stressed in most addresses that he made.  The paradigm that Imam envisaged a bold role for women in social and political affairs. Women were never considered as second hand citizens by Imam, but a new pardigm for  women's advancement was enacted in Iran. 
During the 3.5 decades that have elapsed Iran has faced many challenges both external and internal, the Islamic Republic has met expectations in some areas and at some times, at others however there are still  serious issues which need to be addressed. We need to reassess and revisit our actions to ensure that we are still on the right path.
Today an active reactionary campaign is underway to distort and smear the thoughts and ideas of Imam, they are those who have followed their personal or party  agenda these years and have no regard for God or for the nation.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Biodiversity Day

International Biodiversity Day was commemorated yesterday at the DOE Convention Center, in Tehran.We had invited major film producers and artists to appreciate their efforts to enhance public awareness on environmental 
 I spoke about the intrinsic value of the biological diversity that the earth harbors and how this diversity is diminishing. I also noted how important the services this diversity provides and as an example I mentioned the role of bees in pollination of over 60% of our agricultural products. Bee population and species worldwide have been seriously endangered by pesticides use and their products contaminated by toxic chemicals.
We need to educate people on the importance of the protection of our biodiversity for the well being of our people.We our proud that many celebrities have joined us in this campaign to save our natural flora and fauna.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Twelfth Congress of immunology

The Iranian Association for Immunology and Allergy is one of the many scientific associations active in Iran. They had elected me last year as the President of their twelfth Congress.The Congress was held last week at the Milad tower in Tehran. In addition to over 1800 articles submitted to the Congress,
we had over 2000 participants, 40 workshop sessions, dozens of panels and an exhibition for  knowledge based corporations in this field.We also had over 30 international guests, all distinguished Professors of Immunology, including Rolf Zinkernagel, the Medicine Nobel prize laureate of 1996. 
I spoke at the opening ceremony stressing upon the fact that we believe that knowledge has no  boundaries and that it belongs to all humanity, then we should all strive to remove barriers and restrictions set for certain nations. Also, I noted that this great Congress shows how Iranian scientists contribute to this global wealth.This congress is being held when Tehran is experiencing better air quality due to in part, improvement in the quality of petroleum  I said and proposed that an interdisciplinary field of environmental immunology be followed more seriously. I was also honored to invite our Nobel laureate guest to the podium for his speech. Zinkernagel who had discovered the mechanism by which T cells confront viral infections, was now questioning some of the basic dogmas of immunlogy including memory.
The Congress convened all its sessions with high attendence and during the closing ceremony the head of the International Union of Immunological Associations Seppo Morino, noted in his speech that he had attended many Congresses but that he believed this was one of the best in terms of organization, scientific content and attendance.  Our Iranian colleagues had done a great job!