Beheshti Warns of Further Uprisings as Officials Continue to Ignore People’s Demands
Prominent Iranian teachers’ rights activist Mahmoud Beheshti has been on hunger strike in Tehran’s Evin Prison since July 10, 2018, to protest the judiciary’s refusal to review his case and the mistreatment of political prisoners.
In a letter announcing the strike on July 12, a copy of which was obtained by the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), Beheshti said he would only consume liquids and minerals during his hunger strike.
“After combining the convictions in separate cases, my 14-year prison sentence has been reduced to five years but I believe the verdicts were unjust and flawed because they were issued by the courts under questionable circumstances in a matter of a few minutes,” he wrote.
“Given that I have no legal options to dispute my convictions or seek a review… I will refuse to eat or drink anything other than water, tea, sugar and salt until further notice,” he added.
Continued Beheshti: “After [Iran’s December 2017/January 2018 protests], “the judiciary appointed an assistant by the name of Rostami to supervise the affairs of security [political] prisoners but he has not been behaving appropriately towards the prisoners, their families or even their lawyers. He has put limits or blocked the right to go on prison leave, even for medical reasons, and increased dissatisfaction among … prisoners by denying their right to parole under the law.”
Furlough, temporary leave typically granted to prisoners in Iran for a variety of familial, holiday, and medical reasons, is routinely denied to political prisoners as a form of additional punishment.
Beheshti, a former spokesman for the Iranian Teachers’ Trade Association (ITTA), has been behind bars since September 2017 serving multiple sentences for his peaceful trade union activities.
Iran is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which mandates in Articles 21 and 22 freedom of association and guarantees the right to form trade unions, and to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which guarantees in Article 8 the right of workers to form or join trade unions and protects the right of workers to strike.
Despite this, independent labor unions are banned in Iran, strikers are often fired and risk being detained, and labor leaders face long prison sentences on trumped-up national security charges.
At least two other trade unionist teachers are currently incarcerated in Iran.
Esmail Abdi, a 44-year-old high school teacher and former secretary general of the ITTA, has been serving a six-year prison sentence since 2016 for the charges of “propaganda against the state” and “collusion against national security.”
ITTA member Mohammad Habibi, 29, has been detained since March 2018 after he was arrested by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
In his letter from Evin Prison addressed to the Iranian nation, Beheshti warned officials that their repressive policies and refusal to address the people’s demands could lead to more than just protests.
“The peaceful and calm protests carried out by teachers, workers and other classes of people could have been an appropriate way to send a message to the officials but instead were met with either indifference or suppression,” wrote Beheshti.
He added: “It has gotten to a point that today we are seeing a chain of protests… protests that have a different smell and color compared to before, indicating that protesters have gotten tired of all the political factions within the ruling establishment and their promises and are thinking about more serious changes.”
A photo of imprisoned Swedish resident and scientist Ahmadreza Djalali in which he appears thin and haggard has raised concerns for the health and medical condition of the Iranian-born death row prisoner.
According to Nature, Djalali, an emergency medicine researcher who was sentenced to death in Iran in October 2017, recently sent a letter to scientists around the world thanking them for their support and stating that he has been suffering from serious health problems.
His wife, who said the photo was taken in mid-April 2018, told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on April 28 that Djalali has been repeatedly denied crucial medical treatment by the judge presiding over his case.
“If you put his photo before imprisonment next to the current one, you will notice a big difference,” his wife, Vida Mehran-nia, told CHRI on April 28. “It shows a sick man who urgently needs medical attention.”
“Ahmadreza’s family, lawyer and himself have made many requests for him to be transferred to a hospital to get examined,” she said. “The Swedish government has asked Iran several times to enable him to receive treatment.”
“His mother has repeatedly told the authorities that she would pay all the expenses if he would just be allowed to get treatment,” she continued. “But unfortunately, no one cares. Who will take responsibility if something happens to Ahmadreza? Why is he being tormented and harassed to such an extreme?”
Political prisoners in Iran, including elderly inmates, are singled out for harsh treatment, which often includes denial of medical care. The threat of withheld medical care has also been used as an intimidation tool against prisoners who have challenged the authorities or filed complaints.
Mehran-nia added: “Before Eid (Iranian New Year, March 21), he was only given blood tests through the official medical examiner and the results that came back for one of the tests a month and a half later showed that his white blood cell count is lower than normal. This is very dangerous. Ahmadreza must be hospitalized as soon as possible. In addition, he needs a hernia operation.”
Djalali’s wife, who lives in Sweden with their two children, told CHRI that the judge presiding over Djalali’s case, Judge Abolqasem Salavati of Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court, “is opposed to letting him go outside the prison [for treatment].”
In interviews with CHRI, several lawyers have criticized Salavati for ignoring arguments by the defense in court and bowing to the demands of the prosecution, especially in cases in which the arresting authority was the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Intelligence Organization or the Intelligence Ministry.
Salavati has presided over many cases against dual nationals, including Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini, and Jason Rezaian, who were released in January 2016 in a prisoner swap deal with the US. He is also the presiding judge in current cases against dual nationals including against Iranian American Siamak Namazi, his father Baquer Namazi, and British Iranian dual national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
In all these cases, the victims have been held without due process and under unclear or unannounced charges, and denied full and proper legal representation.
The Intelligence Ministry arrested Djalali in April 2016 while he was visiting Tehran after being officially invited by the University of Tehran.
In an undated letter from Evin Prison, Djalali, who was working at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm before his arrest, wrote that he was imprisoned for refusing to spy for Iran’s Intelligence Ministry.
His wife has stated that her husband was forced to rehearse and read the confession that was later broadcast on state TV, and that his interrogators threatened that his family and children would be killed if he did not make the taped statement.
The young physicist Omid Kokabee was imprisoned in Iran for over five years for refusing to conduct military research for Iran.
In November 2017, 175 Nobel laureates urged Iran to release Djalali.
“As members of a group of people (and organizations) who, according to the will of Alfred Nobel are deeply committed to the greatest benefit to mankind, we cannot stay silent, when the life and work of a similarly devoted researcher as Iranian disaster medicine scholar Ahmadreza Djalali is threatened by a death sentence,” said the laureates in a statement published by the Committee of Concerned Scientists.
In December 2017 UN officials called on Iran to annul Djalali’s death sentence, which is currently under review.
“No formal charges were brought against him for nearly 10 months and he was effectively prevented from exercising his right to challenge the legality of detention,” the human rights experts said.
“Furthermore, Dr. Djalali’s rights to a fair trial before an independent and impartial tribunal and to an effective defense have been violated,” they added.
Iranians Criticize Rouhani Officials For Blaming the Victim in Video of Morality Police Assaulting Woman
Several Iranian public figures have criticized Rouhani admin officials for blaming the victim in a video of a woman being assaulted by Iran’s morality police.
Journalist Fatemeh Jamalpour tweeted: “Some of the reactions have been more upsetting than the incident itself. The interior minister called the woman ‘foul-mouthed.’ Ebtekar said the incident was ‘attributed’ to the Guidance Patrol. Mowlaverdi said the way the agents had dealt with the woman’s ‘improper clothes’ was problematic, which means she believes there are good and bad kinds of clothes. Then Tayebeh Siavashi claimed that violence had decreased under the current administration.”
Actress Taraneh Alidoosti shared the video on her Twitter page and wrote: “Pulling people’s hair and headscarf is not guidance. [The offending agent] is an insult to women and humanity. Choking people’s kids to enforce your values is not guidance. It’s savagery! The Guidance Patrol [Morality Police] represents oppression, despotism and barbarism. We’ve seen these scenes in prior years. Please don’t pretend you’re shocked and going to confront the offender.”
The public outcry over the video posted on social media networks on April 18, 2018—of a woman being hit and dragged by a morality police member for allegedly failing to wear a proper hijab—resulted in calls by officials for an investigation.
But while some Rouhani admin officials criticized the morality police’s conduct, many also suggested the victim shared responsibility for failing to properly observe the hijab.
Iran’s volunteer “anti-vice” squads, also referred to as the “morality police,” are particularly busy in the hot summer months when Iranian women are less observant of the mandatory hijab, the head-to-toe Islamic dress code that women are expected to observe at all times in public in Iran.
“We witnessed these kinds of blatant acts of violence against women during the Ahmadinejad administration but less so in the current one,” tweeted reformist Member of Parliament (MP) Tayebeh Siavashi.
After some users criticized Siavashi for making the comparison, she posted a follow-up tweet, this time describing the vice patrol’s behavior as “very regrettable.”
She added: “I contacted the legal affairs deputy of the police force, Gen. Eshragh, who said ‘our agents acted wrongly. We had issued orders that if there’s resistance, agents should let go. The police will quickly investigate this matter.’”
President Hassan Rouhani (2013-present) was voted in on a campaign of “hope and prudence,” promising a more open society with an emphasis on upholding human and civil rights.
Police spokesman Saeed Montazer al-Mahdi responded by saying “the police never condone such behavior but added that the video was only “part of the whole truth” and advised women to “observe ethical and social norms.”
Describing the agent’s conduct as “out of order” in confronting “a foul-mouthed woman,” the Interior Ministry announced that Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli had asked the police to conduct a “thorough investigation” and submit a report by April 20.
President Rouhani’s top female cabinet members condemned the morality police squad’s behavior but also subtly defended the agent, who was allegedly “insulted” by the victim.
“A film has been published on social media attributing an action taken regarding the hijab to the Guidance Patrol [morality police]. How can such conduct be justified? What are the operational boundaries for agents — even when they are insulted? I strongly condemn this confrontation and will look into it. These violent and irreligious behaviors are not becoming of any human being,” tweeted Vice President for Women and Family Affairs Masoumeh Ebtekar.
Shahindokht Mowlaverdi, the vice president for citizens’ rights, blamed the woman for failing to observe the hijab, but added: “The publication of a clip regarding the manner the police tried to advise a woman of her bad choice of clothes has, more than ever, emphasized the need to change the methods used by cultural and law enforcement agencies from ‘compulsion’ to ‘understanding,’ from ‘propaganda’ to ‘thoughtfulness,’ from ‘superficiality’ to ‘substance’ and from ‘marginal activities’ to ‘impactfulness,’ and a reminder that these steps were part of the 11th government’s (2013-2017) cultural program.”
“I thank the interior minister for stepping in and reacting quickly and I deeply believe that we have to follow a new approach in the age of communications,” said Mowlaverdi.
Social media users criticized former reformist presidential candidate Mohammad Reza Aref for equating the hijab with a woman’s “dignity.”
“The dignity and worth of my country’s girls should not be destroyed by the arbitrary actions of some individuals,” tweeted the Tehran-based MP. “I am certain that the educated women of our country will also make an effort to preserve their dignity…”
Journalist Hossein Bastani tweeted: “Agents had gotten used to dragging people away and assaulting them without anyone finding out. Now people on social media are finding these cases and drumming up attention in every corner. This goes to the bottom of why the authorities are against the internet.”
Journalist Ali Malihi wrote: “In 2009 we chanted, ‘No, no to the Guidance Patrol government’ but the truth is that elected bodies don’t have the power to stop the Guidance Patrol or the compulsory hijab regulations. There’s no other way to confront apartheid other than by civil disobedience and resistance.”
Conservatives Defend Police, Criticize Rouhani Admin
On the other side of the political spectrum, Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda, the ultra-conservative Friday prayer leader of the city of Mashhad, chastised the Rouhani government for criticizing the police.
“Why should the police come under scrutiny just because one agent made a mistake in enforcing the hijab?” he said in his sermon on April 20. “The entire government has come to the defense of a woman who was not wearing a hijab.”
The Fars News Agency, a mouthpiece for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), published a commentary on April 20 claiming the incident had been staged.
“Investigations by our Fars reporter revealed that the incident took place on April 9 at Taleghani Park in Tehran, nine days before the video was published, which indicates that the young girls had planned it in advance,” said the report.
Without providing evidence, Fars claimed there were four women in the park at the time of the incident and only one of them resisted by breaking a squad member’s finger and scratching her face.
“As soon as the video was widely published, some politicians saw an opportunity to come forward and take a stand against the Guidance Patrol without knowing the details of the incident,” said the unsigned report by Fars.
Imprisoned Rights Defender Narges Mohammadi Gives Message of Hope and Strength in Accepting 2018 Andrei Sakharov Prize
April 15, 2018 — Prisoner of conscience Narges Mohammadi was unable to accept the 2018 Andrei Sakharov Prize in person in Columbus, Ohio where the American Physical Society (APS) awarded it to her but she sent a message of hope and strength in a powerful speech.
“The path to democracy in Iran lies not through violence, war, or military action by a foreign government, but through organizing and strengthening civil society institutions. The government knows this only too well,” said Mohammadi in a speech obtained by the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) that will be read on April 16, 2018, by Iranian American academic Nayereh Tohidi, who accepted the award on Mohammadi’s behalf.
“Sitting here in the prison, I am humbled by the honor you have bestowed on me and I will continue my efforts until we achieve peace, tolerance for a plurality of views, and human rights,” added Mohammadi, who is serving a 16-year prison sentence in Tehran’s Evin Prison.
Mohammadi, 45, has a physics degree from Iran’s Imam Khomeini University. In 2009, she was dismissed from her job as an engineer with the Iran Engineering Inspection Corporation and imprisoned due to her public advocacy of women’s and human rights.
Her husband, political activist Taghi Rahmani, lives with their two children Ali and Kiana in France. In July 2016, Mohammadi had to go on hunger strike to force the authorities to allow her to speak to them on the phone.
The last time Mohammadi’s children were able to visit her was June 2015.
“Even the walls of Evin Prison have not been able to stop Narges Mohammadi from being a leading defender of women’s and human rights in Iran,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of CHRI, a physicist who attended the award ceremony in Columbus.
Mohammadi was first arrested in 2009 and sentenced to 11 years in prison for the charges of “assembly and collusion against national security,” “membership in the Defenders of Human Rights Center,” and “propaganda against the state.”
Upon appeal, her sentence was reduced to six years and she was released from Zanjan Prison in 2013 on medical grounds.
She was arrested again on May 5, 2015, two months after meeting with Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief at the time, at the Austrian Embassy in Tehran to discuss the situation of human rights in Iran.
In September 2016, Branch 26 of the Tehran Appeals Court upheld a 16-year prison sentence for Mohammadi, again for the charges of “membership in the [now banned] Defenders of Human Rights Center,” “assembly and collusion against national security” and “propaganda against the state.”
She will be eligible for release after serving 10 years in prison.
Named after Russian scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov, the Sakharov Prize was launched by the APS in 2006 to honor outstanding leadership and the achievements of scientists in upholding human rights. In 2018 it was also awarded to Indian researcher Ravi Kuchimanchi and in 2014 to Iranian experimental laser physicist Omid Kokabee.
“Narges Mohammadi has paid a heavy price for her peaceful activism and yet she has persisted as a courageous role model for generations of younger activists,” said Ghaemi.
Following is the full text of Narges Mohammadi’s acceptance speech that will be read on April 16, 2018, by Professor Nayereh Tohidi of California State University at the APS’ April Meeting in Columbus, Ohio.
Letter by Prisoner of Conscience Narges Mohammadi From Evin Prison
For me, as a civil rights and human rights activist, it is a great honor to be recognized by esteemed scientists like you in my field of physics and to be awarded the Andrei Sakharov Prize at the same time that another physicist Mr. Ravi Kuchimanchi is being awarded as well. His advocacy for human development, and specifically for the poor and disadvantaged in India has inspired many people world-wide.
I was filled with joy when studying quantum physics at the university as a means to understand the universe. But at the same time, I was preoccupied with the oppressive conditions in my country and the tyranny suffered by our universities, intellectuals, and the media. Like many others in our universities, I felt compelled to join the struggle for freedom. What we experience is a decades-old tyranny, that cannot tolerate freedom of speech and thought. In the name of religion, it restricts and punishes science, intellect, and even love. It labels as a threat to national security and toxic to society whatever is not compatible with its political and economic interests. It considers punishing unwelcome ideas as a positive thing.
It does not tolerate differences of opinion; it responds to logic not by logic, discussion or dialog, but by suppression. By tyranny I mean a ruling power that tries to make only one voice—the voice of a ruling minority in Iran—dominant, with no regard for pluralism in the society.
By tyranny I mean a judiciary that disregards even the Islamic Republic’s own constitution, and sentences intellectuals, writers, journalists, and political and civil activists to long prison terms, without due process and trial in a court of law. Examples abound, including keeping under house arrest a nationally-respected religious figure such as Ayatollah Montazeri, as well as the leaders of the Green Movement, Ms. Zahra Rahnavard, Mr. Mehdi Karroubi and Mr. Mir-Hossein Mousavi, for over nine years now with no chance to be tried in the court of law.
By tyranny I mean power-holders who believe they stand above the law and who disregard justice and the urgent demands of the human conscience. They use “white torture” on political prisoners: keeping suspects in solitary confinement is a routine and prevalent procedure. They confine a human being, alone, to a tiny cell for an unlimited and indefinite period of time: in a small space without light or proper air, where there is no sound, smell or movement. Now, add to that the pressure of persecution, derision, threats, shouting, beatings, force-feeding of medicines that carry no labels, sexual insults, sleep deprivation, and inducement of fear and stress–all in order to extract a false confession.
These solitary cells remain at the disposal of the security organs, and military and judiciary departments. Do you know who is exposed to these conditions? Those who defy the will of the ruling power by their words or non-violent actions. We do not know the exact number of people who have survived these cells after suffering severe illnesses, and the number who have lost their lives. As a civil activist, I am one of the thousands of the victims of such horrible tortures. I have come to this conclusion: the aim of solitary confinement is brain-washing, so that prisoners, deprived of normal living conditions, lose their unique human characteristics, their train of thought and ideas, and their physical and psychological health.
Tyranny does not impose itself only in the political sphere. This tyranny uses every possible leverage at the disposal of the state to institutionalize discrimination on the basis of gender, sexuality, religion, ethnicity, and ideological orientation, particularly against women. By sustaining patriarchal dominance, drafting and enforcing misogynistic laws, and even by fabricating a false culture in contradiction with the norms of the society, it deprives women of their human and civil rights and seeks to prevent them from social engagement. Therefore, when a woman like me decides to break their dictated norms, she must suffer prison and separation from her children, as an intimidating lesson for other women.
Tyranny plays its role in the realm of economy as well. Iran is an oil and gas-rich country, but millions of Iranians are deprived of decent living standards. Mismanagement and the corruption of government-related individuals and institutions result in high rates of unemployment, widespread poverty and suffering and deny people their economic rights.
I am aware that the American Physical Association that has granted me this award, counts many world-rank scientists and physicists among its members, and I cannot thank you enough for your kindness. I revere science and great thinkers like you. Contemplating such questions as the dialectical relations between being and becoming has inspired and strengthened my beliefs. You are not hearing here some random ideas of a passionate student or a distressed prisoner, but reflections rooted in the experience of a woman physicist who happens to have also advocated for equal rights and human rights, and who as a result was subjected to threats, deprivation, arrests, continuous prosecutions, and finally sentenced to a total of 23 years of imprisonment, 16 years of which has to be served based on the ruling laws in Iran. The harsh treatment and excessive sentence to which I have been subjected were not due to any underground violent or terrorist activity on my part, but– as admitted by the judges of this very system–because of my insistence on the rights of civil society and of human rights. My case, then, clearly portrays the unjust, brutal and illegal practices of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
You are members of an independent scientific organization, and you enjoy the blessed freedom to establish independent civil society organizations. Therefore, I would like to speak to you about two of the demands and necessities of Iranian society:
First, the independence of universities
Without universities independent of government control, the natural process of acquiring knowledge and developing thought will be thwarted, if not rendered impossible. The dominion by the government and religion over science and intellectual endeavor in Iran recalls the Middle Ages in Europe. In Iran, scientific institutions (the universities and the educational system) are under the control of the security organs, and religious and governmental agencies. The intolerance and monopolistic mindset of the clerical government has resulted in the decline, and restriction of free enquiry, in the universities. In addition to scientific qualifications, graduate and postgraduate students must undergo ideological screening. Expulsion of professors and students on religious and ideological grounds is a routine practice. Members of the Baha’i faith cannot study at Iranian universities.
The additional tragedy is that many students are not able to find appropriate jobs after graduation. Ironically, unemployment rates are higher among highly educated Iranians, especially female graduates, than among the less educated ones. This has resulted in a rising brain drain. According to UNESCO, Iran is experiencing a serious brain drain, high compared to all other countries. This trend does irreparable damage to my country.
Second, there is the need to build and achieve true civil society
In the last 25 years, I have been active in eleven civil society organizations, either as a member or as a founding member. Now, with great regret, I see the doors of these organization being closed and sealed by the government. Yet I am not hopeless nor have I lost my motivation. We cannot stop trying. I still hope and deeply believe that the tireless efforts of our civil society activists will eventually bear fruit. I am awaiting the moment I can rejoin my colleagues in these activities once I am released. The path to democracy in Iran lies not through violence, war, or military action by a foreign government, but through organizing and strengthening civil society institutions. The government knows this only too well. It is fearful of non-governmental civil society organizations precisely because of its undemocratic nature. It cannot even tolerate unions such as Association of Iranian Journalists, or human rights organizations such as the Center for Defenders of Human Rights, or charity bodies like the Association in Support of Working Children.
As a human rights defender, like millions of Iranians, I hate the death penalty; I despise discrimination and injustice against women; I protest against the imprisonment and torture of political and civil rights activists in solitary confinement; and I will not be silent in the face of human rights violations. In order to institutionalize human rights and achieve peace between the people and the state, I shall endure my deprivation of freedom and rights, even though separation from my children is nothing less than death for me. I am a woman and a mother, and with all my feminine and maternal sensibilities, I seek a world free from violence and injustice, even if I have suffered injustice and violence tens of times.
Thoughts and dreams don’t die. Belief in freedom and justice does not perish with imprisonment, torture or even death and tyranny do not prevail over freedom, even when they rely on the power of the state. Sitting here in the prison, I am deeply humbled by the honor you have bestowed on me and I will continue my efforts until we achieve peace, tolerance for a plurality of views, and human rights.
The Supreme Court of Iran failed to fully consider the defense’ arguments before it upheld the death sentence against Iranian Kurdish political rights activist Ramin Hossein Panahi, his lawyer Hossein Ahmadiniaz told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
“The preliminary court determined that he was a combatant and issued a death sentence even though it was proven in court that he was not armed and did not open fire on anyone and now the sentence has been quickly confirmed on appeal without paying attention to the defense arguments,” Ahmadiniaz told CHRI.
“As Mr. Hossein Panahi’s lawyer, I believe this sentence is unjust and I will file a motion for a judicial review,” he said.
Ahmadiniaz added that he was informed of the sentence when he went to the courthouse on April 11, 2018. Branch 29 of the Supreme Court confirmed the execution ruling issued in January 2018 by Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court in Sanandaj, the capital of Iran’s Kurdistan Province.
Panahi, 24, was arrested on June 24, 2017, in Sanandaj after being wounded in an ambush by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) against members of the outlawed Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan, an armed separatist organization. Three Komala activists—Sabah Hossein Panahi, Hamed Seif Panahi, and Behzad Nouri—were killed in the attack.
Panahi was the only one to survive the attack and has consistently stated that he was not armed and did not fire a weapon at anyone. He has nevertheless been convicted of the charge.
Based on Article 287 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code, “Any group that wages armed rebellion against the state of the Islamic Republic of Iran, shall be regarded as moharebs, and if they use [their] weapon, its members shall be sentenced to the death penalty.”
Moharebeh is defined as “drawing a weapon on the life, property or chastity of people or to cause terror as it creates the atmosphere of insecurity.”
Article 288 also states, “When members of the rebel group are arrested before any conflict occurs or a weapon is used, if the organization or core of that group exists, they shall be sentenced to a ta’zir [punishment of] imprisonment of the third degree, and if the organization or core of that group ceases to exist, they shall be sentenced to a ta’zir imprisonment of the fifth degree.”
Ramin’s Hossein Panahi’s brother, Afshin, was arrested at his family’s home in late June 2017 and sentenced to eight years in prison for the charge of “propaganda against the state” and “collaboration with a Kurdish opposition group.” The Appeals Court upheld the sentence in March 2018.
“The IRGC had carried out a surprise attack and opened fire without warning. Since then, nearly every member of the family—brothers, sisters, brother-in-laws—have been detained, interrogated or threatened,” their brother Amjad Hossein Panahi told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on March 27, 2018.
“My brother Ramin has been sentenced to death, Afshin sentenced to eight and a half years in prison, my cousin Zubair Hossein Panahi sentenced to six years in prison and our brother-in-law Ahmad Aminpanah sentenced to five years in prison, all because one person was a member of a political party,” he added.
Swedish Resident Who Tried to March Through Iran With Monarchist Flag Facing National Security Charges
On March 21, 2017, Kamran Ghaderi, an Iranian-born resident of Sweden, began walking from Stockholm toward Iran carrying the country’s pre-revolution national flag. In his Twitter bio he wrote that he was “walking to Iran for freedom.”
In February 2018, after crossing 11 countries, he was arrested in Iran at the Oroumiyeh border near Turkey and charged with “propaganda against the state,” “assembly and collusion against national security” and “insulting the supreme leader and officials of the Islamic Republic,” a relative told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on April 10, 2018.
He was released at an unknown date but arrested again in March. It’s not clear whether he was released on bail or the charges were dropped.
“When he crossed onto Iranian soil he was detained by border guards for carrying the lion and sun flag and released a few days later,” said the source who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “But it seems the Intelligence Ministry caught wind and arrested him on March 7 and sent him to prison in Tabriz [city].”
“He told us on the phone that there’s a possibility he could be transferred to Tehran but for now he’s in Tabriz,” added the source.
After Iran’s monarchy was ousted following the country’s 1979 revolution, the lion and sun symbol on the flag was replaced with an emblem representing various Islamic symbols including the word “Allah” (God) by the newly established Islamic Republic.
Today, the old flag has become a symbol for some Iranian opposition groups in exile, particularly monarchists seeking the return of the Pahlavi Dynasty (1925-1979).
The source told CHRI that Ghaderi had intended to end his march at Iran’s Pasargadae archeological site, where the ancient Persian king Cyrus the Great (559–530 BC) is buried.
During his march, Ghaderi posted regularly on Twitter and gave a number of interviews to Iranian monarchist websites based abroad. The source told CHRI that these interviews have become the basis of the indictment against Ghaderi.
Ghaderi, 48, emigrated to Sweden at the age of 15. His wife and two children have Swedish citizenship but he has never applied for it himself.
Authorities Ignore Golrokh Iraee Ebrahimi’s Life-Endangering Hunger Strike
Imprisoned civil rights activist Arash Sadeghi has urged “all contentious people” to call for the release of his ailing wife, Golrokh Iraee Ebrahimi, who according to informed sources is suffering serious health problems due to a two-month-long hunger strike.
“I call on all awakened, conscientious people to be the voices of Golrokh and Atena’s [Daemi’s] innocence before another tragedy takes place in the aftermath of forced suicides in the prisons,” wrote Sadeghi in an open letter from Rajaee Shahr Prison in Karaj.
“The IRGC and the Judiciary will be directly responsible for anything terrible that happens to them,” added Sadeghi, who has been serving a 19-year prison sentence since June 2016.
A source close to the Iraee family told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on April 9, 2018, that Iraee has lost more than 44 pounds and suffered frequent convulsions since starting her dry hunger strike in February.
“The authorities have not carried out her demand and haven’t even talked to her or visited her to see how she is,” said the source who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals. “Golrokh has told her family that she will not stop her hunger strike until she’s returned to Evin Prison.”
The source added that Iraee was taken to Baqiyatollah Hospital, controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), in Tehran on April 4 after losing consciousness and could suffer serious kidney damage from the effects of her hunger strike.
Iraee is protesting being illegally transferred with fellow political prisoner Atena Daemi from Evin Prison in Tehran to Gharchak Prison in Varamin, south of the capital, in January 2018 after an agent of the IRGC tried to beat the women.
The women have argued that their transfer from Evin to Gharchak violates Article 513 of Iran’s Criminal Procedure Regulations, which dictates that convicts should serve their terms in prison facilities in the judicial district where their sentences were issued, or near their city of residence, in this case Tehran.
Gharchak Prison is believed to hold more than 1,000 female prisoners convicted of various crimes including violent offenses. The prison has a notorious reputation for poor sanitation, overcrowding and under-resourced medical staff.
Iraee began serving a six-year prison sentence in October 2016 for the charges of “insulting the sacred” and “propaganda against the state,” primarily for writing an unpublished story about the practice of stoning.
Daemi has been serving a seven-year prison sentence since November 2016 for the charges of meeting the families of political prisoners, criticizing the Islamic Republic of Iran on Facebook and condemning the 1988 mass executions of political prisoners in Iran.
The family of imprisoned Baluchi civil rights activist Emadeddin Mollazehi has not heard from him since he was moved on March 14, 2018, from Saravan Prison in Sistan and Baluchistan Province in southeastern Iran to an unknown location.
“Emadeddin was unjustly arrested and imprisoned but now that he has been sentenced, why should his family be kept in the dark?” a source close to Mollazehi told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on the condition of anonymity for security reasons.
“He has been missing for 17 days and one official says he was taken to the Intelligence Ministry’s office, another says he has been transferred to a prison in Zahedan [city] but during this time, he has not made a phone call and the Intelligence Ministry has not responded to any inquiries so at least the family could know where and how he is,” added the source.
The source also told CHRI that Mollazehi was being punished by judicial and Intelligence Ministry officials for informing the public about his condition before he went missing.
“The prosecutor came to Saravan prison and in front of 200 inmates told Emadeddin that he would not let him go free even if a release order came from Tehran,” said the source.
“Emadeddin wrote to the judiciary and complained that this was unlawful interference in his case but got no response,” the source added.
The 34-year-old shopkeeper, who was previously imprisoned from 2009 to 2013 on national security charges for his peaceful activities, was arrested by the Intelligence Ministry along with his friend, Yaghoub Jahandideh, in Saravan in late October 2016 and prosecuted based on false confessions extracted under torture according to the source.
After a closed-door trial held in February and March 2017 without the presence of defense attorneys, Mollazehi and Jahandideh were sentenced to 10 years in prison each for the charges of “acting against national security” and “propaganda against the state” by Judge Sadegh Saberi of Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court in Saravan.
The sentences were later upheld upon appeal.
Forty-three people have been charged for protesting against the government in Kermanshah, the capital of Kermanshah Province in western Iran, in early January 2018.
The province’s Chief Prosecutor Mohammad Hossein Sadeghi told reporters on March 28 that many of the protesters had acted “emotionally” and under the influence of social media when they expressed frustration with the country’s economic problems.
Those who were arrested “broke the norms,” added Sagehi, indirectly referencing those who shouted slogans against the government and destroyed public property.
“The lack of sufficient progress should not become an excuse for some to undermine security by rioting and creating chaos,” he said.
At least 30 people were killed and more than 4000 arrested during the week-long, nationwide protests that began in the northeastern Iranian city of Mashhad on December 28, 2018.
On January 9, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei blamed the demonstrations on foreign enemies while urging the authorities to assess whether detained protesters were enemies of the state or ignorant people in need of guidance.
“We should talk and enlighten students and others who entered the fray for emotional reasons,” said the ayatollah during a speech in the city of Qom. “But those who acted as pawns for hypocrites and killed people should be dealt with differently.”
The announcement of the charges in Kermanshah comes on the heels of the news on March 1 that cases had been opened against 41 Tehran University students for allegedly participating in protests in the capital city in early January.
“What we can do in terms of helping these students with their problem is to have talks with our dear colleagues in the judiciary so that they may treat them with the highest degree of Islamic mercy and that’s what’s being done right now,” said the university’s Deputy Chancellor for Cultural Affairs Majid Sarsangi.
In January 2018, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) published an in-depth report on the attempts by Iranian state forces to repress the protests by blocking access to social media throughout the country.
“During the unrest that swept through Iran on the eve of 2018, the authorities implemented major disruptions to internet access through slowdowns and the blocking of circumvention tools, blocked the Instagram social media platform and the Telegram messaging app heavily used by the protesters to mobilize the street protests, and briefly cut off Iranians’ access to the global internet on December 30, 2017, demonstrating a new level of technical sophistication,” said CHRI in its report.
Nikan Khosravi, a member of the Iranian metal band “Confession,” left Iran for Turkey to avoid being imprisoned for six years for producing metal music, he told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on March 29, 2018.
“The interrogators had translated my English lyrics [into Farsi] verse by verse and were asking questions about this and that word and told me I was a Satan worshipper and didn’t believe in God,” Khosravi told CHRI. “They really thought I was a bad person. They asked about who was giving me financial support and what were my connections.”
“They said my lyrics were political but I was 21 and wasn’t interested in and didn’t understand politics,” he said. “But when you live in Iran, from the day you are born, politics get mixed into your daily life and that’s why it entered my lyrics.”
Khosravi, 23, and fellow band member Arash Ilkhani, 24, were arrested by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on November 9, 2015, days after the release of their second album, “In Pursuit Of Dreams.” They were accused of producing “satanic” music.
At the time, the band was using a music studio Khosravi built in his bedroom at his family’s home in Tehran. He and Ilkhani were also both studying English for translation purposes at nearby Roudehen Azad Islamic University.
All Iranian artists, including but not limited to painters, filmmakers, photographers and writers, must receive permission from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance to publish or promote their work in Iran.
Those who publicize their work without receiving a permit can be arrested and imprisoned on a variety of charges.
On March 17, 2017, Judge Mohammad Moghisseh of Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran sentenced Khosravi and Ilkhani to six years in prison each for “insulting the sacred” and “propaganda against the state.”
Ilkhani is currently in Iran awaiting the Appeals Court’s ruling but Khosravi left the country soon after the preliminary verdict and is seeking asylum in another country through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Turkey.
“I’m 24-years old. I have been living with fear and anxiety since our arrest,” Khosravi told CHRI. “After the court issued its verdict, I realized that I could go to prison for six years, or maybe a little less if the sentence got reduced on appeal, so I decided to leave Iran.”
“I thought I was going to be executed”
Describing his arrest, Khosravi said: “Seven or eight agents suddenly raided our home and started searching everywhere, including my room. They confiscated some of my belongings and then handcuffed me and took me with them.”
He continued: “They told me I was accused of insulting the prophet. They also arrested Arash [Ilkhani] on the street on his way home from university. We were interrogated separately by the IRGC for 10 days in Ward 2-A in Evin Prison. I was interrogated by four or five agents.”
“For a long time I thought I was going to be executed but with the help of my lawyer, the interrogators accepted that my lyrics did not contain anything insulting toward the prophet or his disciples,” Khosravi added. “I just had one song that was about the nature of God.”
Khosravi was released from detention in late November 2015 after posting bail set at 100 million tomans (approximately $26,500 USD). He was arrested again in February 2016 and held for another two months.
His trial was held during two sessions on September 18 and December 26, 2016.
“During the trial, the first question the judge asked was when I had started my alleged activities against the state. It was as if he was certain I had engaged in anti-state activities,” Khosravi said. “I told him I didn’t care about the state. He asked why I had written and sang such lyrics.”
“During the second court session, Judge Moghisseh again asked what my intention was in singing such lyrics and to explain my connections,” he added. “The session did not last more than 15 minutes.”