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.”
At Least 13 Environmentalists Have Been Detained in Iran Since January 2018
Seven environmentalists who were arrested in Tehran nearly two months ago remain in detention with no or extremely limited access to legal counsel while their families are being kept in the dark about any charges against them.
The detainees—Sam Rajabi, Niloufar Bayani, Morad Tahbaz (also holds American citizenship), Amir-Hossein Khaleghi, Taher Ghadirian, Houman Jowkar and Sepideh Kashani—are former and current staff members of the Persian Heritage Wildlife Foundation (PHWF).
Its managing director, Iranian-Canadian sociologist Kavous Seyed-Emami, died in Evin Prison after he was arrested along with his PHWF colleagues in January 2018.
A source told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on March 21 that all but one of the detainees have been denied visits by family members since their arrests on January 24.
The woman who was allowed one visit was only permitted to wave to her parents.
“Niloufar Bayani’s mother and father, who were called to [Evin] Prison to see their daughter, saw her for just a moment from a distance,” said the source, who requested anonymity for security reasons. “Niloufar waved to them and left.”
“The detainees have only been permitted to make phone calls from time to time and only briefly talk about how they are,” added the source. “The authorities are not giving any answers to the families who have no one to turn to.”
CHRI has also learned that six other environmentalists arrested by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have been detained in the southern Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas since late February 2018: Morteza Arianejad, Hassan Ragh, Abdolreza Kouhpayeh, Alireza Farhadzadeh and Aref and Hassan Zare (brothers).
Farhadzadeh, a documentary filmmaker best known for his film, “Rooz-e Yooz” (The Day of the Cheetah), has not been heard from since his arrest.
“Alireza’s situation is more worrisome than the others because there has been no news of him since his arrest,” a source with knowledge about the cases told CHRI. “He has not made even one phone call.”
The source also pointed out that members of Iran’s Parliament (MPs) who had expressed interest in the cases after Seyed-Emami’s death in Evin Prison on February 9 have since made conflicting statements to the detainees’ families.
“The detainees’ relatives went to the office of MP Mohammad Aref two weeks ago. After hearing their statements, Aref only said that he would look into the matter,” said the source, who requested anonymity for security purposes.
“[MP] Abdolkarim Hosseinzadeh said they will get out of prison soon. [MP] Mohammad Kazemi told the families, ‘These people are spies; you just don’t know it,’” added the source.
Judicial authorities have extended the detention order for the seven detainees in Tehran until March 25.
The detainees, who were arrested on January 24 and 25 by the IRGC, have been accused of spying on Iran’s missile sites under the guise of environmental preservation activities. No evidence has been presented to support these allegations.
Seyed-Emami was 63 when he died in Evin Prison on February 9. The authorities claim he committed suicide but no autopsy report has been issued almost two months after his death. Calls by his family and UN officials for an independent investigation have gone unheeded in Iran.
Seyed-Emami’s two sons, Ramin and Mehran, left Iran for Canada on March 8, but their mother, Maryman Mombeini, was banned from boarding the plane with them.
The entire family holds Iranian and Canadian citizenship but Iran does not recognize dual nationality.
The Canadian government has demanded that Iran give Mombeini “the freedom to return home” as well as demanded “answers” from Iran on the “circumstances surrounding the death and detention of Seyed-Emami.”
Press Release by Baha’i International Community
20 March 2018
Sixth member of the Yaran completes his imprisonment
GENEVA – Mr. Vahid Tizfahm completed his 10-year sentence yesterday. At 44, he is the youngest of the seven former Baha’i leaders in Iran who were unjustly imprisoned for their religious beliefs in 2008.
Mr. Tizfahm is the sixth of the former group, known as the Yaran, to complete his sentence and be released. The Yaran was an ad-hoc group which tended to the basic spiritual and material needs of the Iranian Baha’i community. It was formed with the full knowledge and approval of Iranian authorities after formal Baha’i institutions were declared illegal in Iran in the 1980s.
All seven members of the Yaran were arrested in March or May of 2008 and spent months in detention before receiving their charges. They were eventually sentenced to 10 years in prison through a legal procedure that lacked any semblance of due process.
“We are, of course, happy that Mr. Tizfahm and other members of the Yaran are reuniting with their families,” said Diane Ala’i, Representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations in Geneva. “But there can be no joy over the fact that Mr. Tizfahm has spent one decade of his life in prison for no other reason than his faith, barred from his family, friends, and community in his 30s and 40s.
“It should also be absolutely clear that, this step does not reflect an improvement in the situation of Iranian Baha’is as a whole,” said Ms. Ala’i, noting that they continue to face economic discrimination, are deprived of access to higher education, and remain subject to arbitrary arrest and imprisonment.
Mr. Tizfahm is an optician and was the owner of an optical shop in Tabriz, where he lived until early 2008, when he moved to Tehran.
He was born on 16 May 1973 in the city of Orumiyeh where he spent his childhood and youth. At the age of 23, he married Furuzandeh Nikumanesh. They have a young son, who was in the third grade when his father was arrested in 2008. As a result of his imprisonment, Mr. Tizfahm was not able to be present during some of the most important moments in his son’s life.
“The members of the Yaran, and indeed the entire Baha’i community in Iran, have endured enormous human rights violations at the hands of their government, which is, in reality, meant to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of its citizens,” stated Ms. Ala’i. “It’s unfortunate that, instead, it has taken every measure to deprive an entire segment of its population of the ability to live and contribute freely to the betterment of their country.”
Following the recent launch of the Archives of Bahá’í Persecution in Iran website, a group of prominent lawyers and judges from around the world wrote to the head of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights calling to his attention to the vast collection of documentary evidence of the oppression of the Baha’i community, which he has brazenly denied.
With Mr. Tizfahm’s release, one member of the group, Mr. Afif Naeimi, 56, remains to complete his sentence in the coming months.
For interviews in English or French, please contact:
Diane Ala’i in Geneva at (office) +41 (22) 798-5400 or (mobile) +41 (78) 604-0100
Bani Dugal in New York at (office) +1 (212) 803-2500 or (mobile) +1 (914) 329-3020
For interviews in Persian, please contact:
Simin Fahandej in Geneva at (office) +41 (22) 798-5400 or (mobile) +41(78) 8800759
Padideh Sabeti in London at (mobile) +44 (774) 338-2905
Farhad Sabetan in San Francisco at (office) +1 (847) 733-3460 or (mobile) +1 (925) 548-9818
Iranian human rights lawyer Mohammad Najafi is facing eight charges for daring to speak up about a client he believes was killed in custody.
Security Agents Create “Climate of Fear” Around Local Prosecutor’s Office
Mohammad Najafi, a human rights lawyer who is facing years in prison in Iran for arguing that his client was killed while in police custody, has been denied access to counsel of his choice based on a controversial clause in the country’s Criminal Procedures Regulations.
“In response to our inquiries regarding Mr. Najafi’s case, we have been told that we are not on the judiciary’s list of authorized lawyers,” attorney Payam Derafshan told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on March 10, 2018.
“The judicial authorities showed me a list of seven lawyers who have been approved to take these cases in Markazi Province,” he added. “Now we are requesting that the Parliament investigate why, out of thousands of licensed lawyers, only seven have received approval?”
Derafshan also told CHRI that security forces have been trying to pressure and intimidate the local prosecutor in the case.
“The security forces were in civilian clothes and it was hard to tell if they were working for the Intelligence Ministry or other security agencies,” he said. “They would stand back so that they would not be noticed but these agents are told to hang around and see what’s going on.”
“They created a climate of fear by circling the [prosecutor’s] office in their cars,” he added. “When we got there, the prosecutor quickly locked his office and left. His assistant was being timid, too.”
Continued Derafshan: “The assistant prosecutor had previously told us that he’s not happy to see Najafi in prison and he would have released him if it was in his power.”
“We believe these judicial authorities should resign rather than become part of an unlawful process,” he added. “Of course, we are hoping that Shazand’s judiciary chief will succeed in his talks with other officials in resolving Mr. Najafi’s case.”
In February 2018, Derafshan told CHRI that he and fellow attorney Arash Keykhosravi were also going to be arrested by the Intelligence Ministry’s office in Shazand, near Arak in Markazi Province, for giving legal counsel to Najafi, “but the [Intelligence] Ministry in Tehran told us they had blocked it.”
Detained For Doing His Job, Denied Access to Counsel
Najafi has been detained in Arak since January 15, 2018. He is facing eight charges for accusing the police of trying to cover up the cause of death of Vahid Heydari, a young man who died in custody after being arrested during protests in the city in late December 2017.
In an interview with CHRI in January 2018, Najafi said that Heydari, 22, was beaten before he died at the 12th Police Station in Arak before his death later that month. The authorities claimed that Heydari was a drug addict who committed suicide.
“I believe that this young man did not take his own life,” Najafi said. “This young man was a protester. They arrested him and then they beat and killed him. Now they want to destroy his reputation.”
Iranian officials have also claimed that two other detainees killed themselves in state custody between January and February 2018. Calls for independent investigations by UN officials and human rights organizations have gone unheeded in Iran.
Najafi has been denied access to counsel of his choice based on the Note to Article 48 of Iran’s Constitution.
In January 2018, the judiciary issued lists to branch offices in several cities of approved lawyers exclusively allowed to represent people accused of national security crimes.
Iran’s Constitution sets no limits or conditions on the right to legal counsel.
Article 35 states, “Both parties to a lawsuit have the right in all courts of law to select an attorney, and if they are unable to do so, arrangements must be made to provide them with legal counsel.”
According to Article 48 of Iran’s Criminal Procedures Regulations, people have the right to ask for and have a meeting with a lawyer as soon as they are detained.
However, the “Note to Article 48” makes exceptions: “In cases of crimes against internal or external security…during the investigation phase, the parties to the dispute are to select their attorneys from a list approved by the head of the judiciary.”
Derafshan said that he and nine other prominent lawyers including Nasrin Sotoudeh and Mohammad Moghimi appeared at the judicial branch in the city of Shazand, near Arak, on March 7 to show their solidarity with Najafi.
We had discussions with the highest judicial official in the province and told him he should treat this case with greater care,” Derafshan told CHRI. “Why is it that drug-related convicts and criminals are able to get out of prison on bail for the [Persian] new year (March 21, 2018) but Mr. Najafi has to stay in prison?”
In addition to Najafi, five civil rights activities were arrested in Shazand on January 15: Ali Bagheri, Kian Sadeghi, Abbas Safari, Gholamreza Ghasemi and Behzad Alibakhshi.
According to Derafshan, all of them remain in detention except for Safari, who was released on bail at an unknown date.
Woman Who Removed Headscarf in Public Sentenced to Prison as Supreme Leader Tries to Diminish Hijab Protests
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has described recent demonstrations in Iran against the country’s compulsory hijab law as “small and insignificant,” which raises the question of why people are being sentenced to prison for engaging in the peaceful protest.
“My gift on Women’s Day, March 8: A preliminary court sentenced me to 24 months in prison, 21 months of which has been suspended for five years,” tweeted Narges Hosseini.
“Before I was arrested, I expected such a sentence,” she added. “But after my trial, I thought the most I would get was a monetary fine. I was always too naive and optimistic.”
Without mentioning her by name, Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi announced that Hosseini had been convicted of “encouraging people to engage in corruption by removing the hijab in public” and “committing a forbidden act in a public space.”
Hosseini, 32, was detained on January 29, 2018, for removing her head scarf while standing on a utility platform on a busy street in Tehran and waving it on a stick like a flag.
Since January, at least 30 women and men have been arrested for repeating similar actions in various cities across the country. They have come to be known as the “Girls of Revolution Street.” In addition to Hosseini, they include Vida Movahed, Azam Jangravi, Shima Babaei, Shaparak Shajarizadeh and Maryam Shariatmadari.
The protests have received support from Iranian rights activists inside and outside the country, but on March 8, International Women’s Day, the supreme leader said Iran was prepared to “crush” the protestors.
“For the past few months, the enemies of Iran have been sitting around in their think tanks trying to make plans to finish off the Islamic Republic in March,” said Khamenei during a speech to his supporters on March 8, 2018, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Mohammad’s daughter, Fatima.
“We saw how the people of Iran responded to them in January and February,” he added. “The Iranian nation is always prepared to crush aggressors and critics.”
“They [enemies of Iran] spent all that money and created all that propaganda to trick a few girls into taking off their scarves, but in the end, what they got from all that effort was small and insignificant,” said Khamenei.
He continued: “But that’s not something I’m concerned about, as much as some of our own elite, which are raising the issue of the so-called forced hijab. These elite, which include journalists, pseudo-intellectuals and clerics, are going in the same direction as the enemy… I hope to God they are not doing so consciously.”
Despite being expected to toe the supreme leader’s line, not all politicians in Iran agree with Khamenei.
Nahid Tajeddin, a female member of the Iranian Parliament from the city of Isfahan, tweeted on March 2: “The Girls of Revolution St. are the same girls who have been stopped behind the gates of gender discrimination in university enrollment quotas, in the workplace, in political participation, in getting government management posts, in sports arenas, in performing live music on stage and…”
In February 2018, the office of President Hassan Rouhani released a government-conducted survey from 2014 showing that nearly half of all Iranians believed at the time that wearing the hijab should be a personal choice.
Since 1980, one year after Iran’s Islamic Revolution, all women in the country have been required to wear the hijab, the head-to-toe covering that conceals all skin except the face.
While this law must be strictly observed in government buildings and other major institutions such as schools, banks and hospitals, many Iranian women have been pushing the boundaries over the years, including by showing more skin (ankles and wrists) and more hair (by pushing their headscarves back away from their foreheads) especially during the hot summer months.
Describing Western women as “symbols of consumerism” and “instruments of sexual excitement,” Khamenei in his speech said that women appearing in public without the hijab are committing a sin according to Islam.
While his interpretation of Islam is debatable, women who are caught by Iran’s so-called “morality police” for not properly observing the hijab can be arrested, fined, lashed and imprisoned for committing “haram.”
According to Article 638 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code: “Anyone in public places and roads who openly commits a harām [sinful] act, in addition to the punishment provided for the act, shall be sentenced to two months’ imprisonment or up to 74 lashes; and if they commit an act that is not punishable but violates public prudency, they shall only be sentenced to 10 days to two months’ imprisonment or up to 74 lashes.”