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.