Voyager 1: the Golden Record
Included on both Voyager spacecraft are Golden Records, containing sounds and images that if they are found by extraterrestrial life forms, are supposed to best portray the diversity of life on Earth.
Flying board Voyagers 1 and 2 are identical "golden" records, carrying the story of Earth far into deep space. The 12 inch gold-plated copper discs contain greetings in 60 languages, samples of music from different cultures and eras, and natural and man-made sounds from Earth Photo: NASA
Two of the Pioneer probes, which were launched before Voyager 1 and 2 in the 1970s, were equipped with a small metal plaque stating the time and place of origin of the spacecraft onboard for the benefit of any space entity that they might encounter.
NASA got more creative with the Voyager probes however, and put together a sort of time-capsule – a selection of images and recordings – that they felt best represent the life on Earth.
Known as the Golden Record, the choice of sounds and music is intriguing. There is a selection of greetings from people in 55 different languages, as well as printed messages from former US President Jimmy Carter and other world leaders.
By Jasmine Malone 3:57PM GMT 14 Dec 2010
Voyager 1: the Golden Record –
Rape in Iran’s prisons: the cruellest torture
Without international focus, Iran will continue to use rape to torture political opponents, writes Kate Allen.
Tehran’s prosecutor reads the indictment at last year’s show trial Photo: AP
By Kate Allen 1:45PM GMT 01 Nov 2010.
“…rape is not just a blow to one person; it is a blow to the whole family. A victim of rape is never healed with the passing of time. With every look given by a father, the wounds open again.” – Bahareh Maghami, a victim of rape in Iran April 2010.
Echoing earlier reports by human rights groups, the British media has recently highlighted the case of a young woman from Iran, "Leyla", who was allegedly abducted, detained and raped by that country’s security forces because her fiancée was involved in the demonstrations that followed Iran’s disputed presidential election last year.
It’s a terrible story and sadly not a unique one. Following the post-election demonstrations, the Iranian authorities cracked down with astonishing severity on anyone perceived to be involved in criticism of the status quo. Thousands of people were arrested: students, lawyers, journalists, trade unionists and human rights campaigners were all targeted. Hundreds of people were subsequently tried unfairly in mass "show trials", some of which led to executions. But as more people were released from detention, the details of abuse, including rape of both men and women, were repeated again and again.
The Iranian authorities acknowledged that some abuse took place in the Kahrizak detention centre – where former detainees emerged with stories of rape, torture and appalling conditions leading to at least three deaths – but that example aside, the Iranian government’s reaction has been to dismiss and repress all other allegations of abuse.
Ebrahim Sharifi, a 24-year-old student from Tehran, was seized by plainclothes security officials in June 2009 and held incommunicado for a week before being released. He told Amnesty that he was bound, blindfolded and beaten prior to being raped. He also endured severe beatings and mock executions.
When he tried to file a judicial complaint, intelligence agents allegedly threatened him and his family. The case judge said: “Maybe you took money [to say this]… [and] if you go through with this, you will surely pay for it in Hell.” The investigating Judicial Committee announced that his allegations of rape were fabricated and politically motivated.
Two members of the government-supported Basij militia, now in the UK, have also told the British media that they witnessed systematic rape on men and boys in a park in the southern city of Shiraz. Other Basij members had forced young men and possibly boys into a series of shipping containers in the park, where the rapes took place. The two complained, including to their superiors, which led to them having to leave Iran.
Women in detention have also frequently reported sexual insults and threats of rape being used against them. Zahra Kamali, a student arrested in July 2009, told Amnesty International that her interrogators taunted her with wanting to sleep with other men, and touched her breasts. She said that her then cellmate, a women’s rights activist held with her was treated the worst: "She told us that her interrogators had attached cables to her nipples and given her electric shocks. She was so ill she would sometimes faint in the cell.”
It is women who remain discriminated against more generally in Iranian law – a woman’s testimony in court is worth half that of a man’s, for example. Women’s rights campaigners continue to be harassed, intimidated and arrested. Amnesty is campaigning for Ronak Safazadeh, a women’s rights campaigner jailed in 2009 for five years on what appear to be trumped-up charges.
All acts of rape are grave abuses of human rights. But the abuse takes on an added significance when the rapist is a public official. The UN’s Special Rapporteur on torture states that rape constitutes torture when it is carried out by public officials or happens at their instigation. International and regional human rights bodies have ruled that rape by officials always amounts to torture, and cannot be considered to be simply a common criminal act.
The use of rape as a form of torture (or as a weapon of war) is certainly not unique to Iran. But that does not mean these reports can be ignored. Greater international scrutiny of Iran’s human rights has been rebuffed by the government: it has not allowed some eight UN human rights rapporteurs to visit the country and has used UN meetings to deny reports of human rights violations.
The human rights situation in Iran has become so dire that Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other organisations last week called on the UN Secretary General to appoint his own special envoy to investigate and report on the situation in the country, and to issue a more comprehensive report on human rights in Iran.
All this will be of little comfort to those like Leyla, Ebrahim and Zahra mentioned above. But the international community must ensure, for their sake and for those of countless other Iranians, that the focus on Iran is not restricted solely to its nuclear plans but also to the human rights of its people.
Kate Allen is the UK Director of Amnesty International.
Iran football star’s wife hanged after eight-year campaign to save her life
Iran on Wednesday hanged the "temporary wife" of one of its leading football stars despite an eight-year campaign to save her life.
Shahla Jahed’s case was held up by human rights groups, including Amnesty International, as an example of flaws in the Iranian judicial system Photo: REUTERS
By Richard Spencer, Middle East Correspondent 4:13PM GMT 01 Dec 2010
Shahla Jahed was executed at dawn at Evin Prison in the capital Tehran still protesting her innocence of the murder of Laleh Saharkhizan, the first wife of Nasser Mohammad Khani, a national team striker from the 1980s.
State media said Mr Khani attended the execution. Before it took place, the condemned woman was said to have prayed in public, then burst into tears and made a final plea to be spared.
The brother of the murdered woman carried out the final act by pulling the chair on which she was standing away from under her.
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Her family had refused last-minute pleas at the entrance of the jail from both judicial officials and a campaign group of artists and activists to commute the sentence.
Miss Jahed’s case was held up by human rights groups, including Amnesty International, as an example of flaws in the Iranian judicial system.
The main evidence against her was a confession which she retracted immediately she was brought to court, and Iranian judicial experts also questioned the strength of the conviction.
Mr Khani himself was in Germany with Persepolis, Tehran’s leading football team which he was then managing, at the time of the stabbing in 2002.
He said in an interview beforehand that he supported the execution.
"Whatever my children and Laleh’s mother say is OK with me," he was quoted as saying. "The killer of my wife should get the appropriate punishment."
Temporary or informal marriages are a common means of getting around strict Islamic codes of sexual conduct in a number of countries, including both Iran and Saudi Arabia.