Articles on this Page
- 10/28/13--12:21: _Repression Intensif...
- 11/19/13--15:50: _UN Shows Strong Sup...
- 11/22/13--11:52: _Police Commander an...
- 12/11/13--14:26: _IRGC Forces Arrest ...
- 01/22/14--15:19: _Student Activist Re...
- 01/30/14--08:20: _“Drawing Repression...
- 03/24/14--17:47: _Former Political Pr...
- 03/24/14--18:28: _Judiciary Cancels N...
- 07/03/14--11:34: _Veteran Journalist ...
- 08/12/14--08:42: _“Happy” Video Parti...
- 09/11/14--17:21: _“Happy” Youths Go o...
- 09/15/14--16:06: _Cartoon 92: “Happy”...
- 11/25/14--16:33: _Authorities Use Nat...
- 03/24/16--09:41: _“Blood Money” Frees...
- 04/28/16--10:37: _Four Iranian Rights...
- 05/12/16--10:58: _Imprisoned Teacher ...
- 05/25/16--11:11: _Imprisoned Physicis...
- 06/08/16--16:50: _Iranian-Canadian Ac...
- 06/10/16--08:39: _Executive Summary
- 06/17/16--17:16: _Iran’s Judiciary Ev...
- 10/28/13--12:21: Repression Intensifies Despite Rouhani’s Promises
- 11/19/13--15:50: UN Shows Strong Support for Human Rights in Iran with 83-to-36 Vote
- 11/22/13--11:52: Police Commander and Former Detainee Divulge Details About Kahrizak
- 03/24/14--18:28: Judiciary Cancels New Year Furloughs of Political Prisoners
- 07/03/14--11:34: Veteran Journalist Charged with Propaganda Against State
- 08/12/14--08:42: “Happy” Video Participants to Go on Trial in September
- 09/11/14--17:21: “Happy” Youths Go on Trial in Tehran
- 09/15/14--16:06: Cartoon 92: “Happy” Youths Charged With Illicit Relations
- 05/12/16--10:58: Imprisoned Teacher on Hunger Strike Sent Home After Hospitalization
- 06/08/16--16:50: Iranian-Canadian Academic Detained During Visit to Iran
- 06/10/16--08:39: Executive Summary
The Iranian Judiciary should immediately halt its new wave of repression of the media and civil society and stop its numerous rushed executions, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said today.
In the past three days alone, the Judiciary has banned the reformist daily Bahar, sentenced the prominent actress Pegah Ahangarani to 18 months in prison, and put to death 18 individuals who are ethnic minorities.
“President Rouhani has an immense responsibility to uphold his promises to protect citizenship rights and use all means at his disposal to stop this latest onslaught against civil and human rights,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the Campaign’s executive director. “His silence in the face of such an affront is emboldening hardliners in the Judiciary and Intelligence who insist that Rouhani’s election will not change the status quo.”
On October 26, judicial authorities in the southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchistan announced the execution of 16 Baluchi prisoners, which they said was in response to an attack by a group of armed men on a border post that took the lives of 14 government soldiers.
“These retaliatory executions mark a new low for the Iranian Judiciary. The hurried execution of the 16 prisoners was an impulsive act of revenge and demonstrates the Judiciary’s lack of due process and its arbitrary decision making,” Ghaemi said.
On October 25, judicial authorities in West Azerbaijan Province carried out the death sentences of two Kurdish political prisoners, Habibollah Golparipour, 29, and Reza Ismaili, 34. Both men had been sentenced to death following brief trials that lacked basic due process. According to credible reports obtained by the Campaign, the authorities subjected both men to torture during their interrogations and imprisonment. In an audio file the Campaign obtained, Golparipour describes his torture and coerced confession in detail. He also asks the Iranian Judiciary not to allow an innocent person to be hanged; authorities hanged him before contacting his family or lawyer.
In an assault on freedom of expression, the authorities shut down the reformist daily Bahar on October 28, five days after the publication of a controversial article perceived to be questioning a historical event in Shia Islam. A Bahar journalist told the Campaign, “Security and judicial authorities have made it clear that nothing has changed since Ahmadinejad’s administration, and all the changes Mr. Rouhani has been talking about are meaningless.”
Also today, the mother of prominent actress Pegah Ahangarani told the Iranian Student News Agency that Ahangarani has been under a travel ban since 2011 and that Judge Moghiseh of a Tehran Revolutionary Court sentenced her to 18 months in prison. While the details of her charges are unknown, Ahangarani was a public supporter of the opposition candidates in the 2009 presidential election.
In addition, Iranian Judiciary officials have failed to follow through on their announcement in September to release more than 80 prisoners of conscience during the recent religious holidays. They have only released 42 prisoners of conscience, many of them having completed or being near completion of their prison terms. Hundreds of prisoners of conscience remain behind bars. Three political dissidents and leaders of the post-2009 protests, Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and Zahra Rahnavard, will mark 1000 days under house arrest on November 10, 2013.
Security forces insisted on a strip search of Mousavi and Rahanavard’s daughters during a visit to their parents on October 24. According to the daughters, when they refused to submit to the humiliating request, security forces beat them.
“President Rouhani has a mandate in the votes of millions of Iranians who propelled him to office to pursue the changes he promised. Now is the time for President Rouhani to show his willingness and determination to defend the rights of the people by condemning such gross human rights violations. His silence is a tacit approval of these violations,” Ghaemi said.
(November 19, 2013) – The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran welcomes the United Nations General Assembly’s Third Committee vote today overwhelmingly supporting human rights in Iran, and urges the Iranian government to comply with UN human rights mechanisms and take concrete steps to address the ongoing violations in the country.
Resolution A/C.3/68/L.57 on the promotion and protection of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran passed today with a vote of 83 in favor, 36 against, and 62 abstentions. All delegates who spoke today expressed their condolences for the victims of the violent attack on the Iranian Embassy in Beirut earlier today.
“The Third Committee’s decision to adopt another resolution on Iran’s human rights situation indicates that despite a new government in Tehran, major human rights violations are still taking place and some may even have accelerated,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “The UN is keeping the world’s focus on the appalling status of human rights in Iran.”
This year’s resolution focuses on Iran’s exorbitant execution rate and calls upon the government of Iran “to address … substantive concerns … and to respect fully its human rights obligations, in law and in practice.” The resolution specifically asks Iran to eliminate “amputations, flogging, blinding and other forms of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” as well as “public executions and other executions carried out in the absence of respect for internationally recognized safeguards.” In October 2013, the Campaign and the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center reported that Iran had already executed 125 individuals since Rouhani’s August inauguration. That number has now exceeded 200 hangings.
In addition to the ongoing systematic violations cited in previous years, this year’s resolution also adds an explicit push for the promotion of women’s rights, “to promote women’s participation in decision-making positions, and … to lift all restrictions on women’s equal access to all aspects of university education.”
“The tremendous international support for this resolution sends a clear message to the Iranian leadership that the world will not turn a blind eye to Iran’s human rights crisis,” said Ghaemi. “The Iranian government should acknowledge the issues raised by the international community, put an end to years of denying the ongoing human rights issues in the country, and act more responsibly towards improving the current situation.”
The Third Committee resolution welcomes the many pledges newly elected President Hassan Rouhani has made in the area of human rights, “particularly on eliminating discrimination against women and members of ethnic minorities, to promote freedom of expression and opinion, as well as the president’s proposal to implement a civil rights charter.” It also welcomes the release of dozens of prisoners of conscience, and further calls for the release of “all those who have been arbitrarily arrested and detained for exercising their rights to freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and participating in peaceful protests about political, economic, environmental or other issues.”
However, the resolution does express concern over the closed process of candidate selection during the election, “including the exclusion of all women candidates, and the further erosion of democratic space for political activities prior to the elections.”
Shortly before the vote, two countries joined the resolution as co-sponsors: Monaco and Vanuatu. Today’s resolution enjoyed broad cross-regional support, especially from Latin American, Caribbean, and European countries. Before the vote on human rights in Iran, the Third Committee adopted resolutions on the situations of human rights in Syria and North Korea, both of which voted against the resolution on the promotion and protection of human rights in Iran.
Several delegates spoke to explain their country’s votes. While all expressed their condolences for the governments and families of the victims of today’s violent attack on the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, the Syrian ambassador explicitly condemned the idea of voting on a draft resolution on human rights in Iran on the same day as such an attack. Iran, Syria, Belarus, Cuba, North Korea, Djibouti, Venezuela, Russia, and Ecuador all spoke before the vote to emphasize the importance of the Universal Periodic Review and to say that the country-specific resolution was politicized and therefore they would vote against it.
Indonesia, Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, Japan, and New Zealand spoke after the vote, noting the positive developments since the election of President Hassan Rouhani and encouraging Iran to continue to improve its human rights record. Uruguay, Costa Rica, and France also wished to give a statement, but since the meeting exceeded the amount of time the translators were present, they agreed to submit their statements on the morning of Thursday, November 21.
Today’s vote marks the tenth consecutive year the UN General Assembly Third Committee has passed a resolution promoting human rights in Iran. Since the election of President Hassan Rouhani this past June, the UN has noted improvements in certain areas of human rights, and has been encouraging the country to continue to address its human rights violations.
The Campaign welcomes the broad international support for the promotion and protection of human rights in Iran, and urges President Rouhani and the Supreme Leader to enact necessary changes to improve the situation of human rights in Iran and cooperate with UN mechanisms.
The UN General Assembly will formally adopt the resolution in December of this year.
In a November 18 interview with semi-official Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), Iran’s Police Commander Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam shared unprecedented insights into several different human rights issues that over the past few years have faced the Iranian authorities, and specifically the Iranian police.
In response to a question about why, in 2009, post-election protesters were sent to Kahrizak Police Detention Center, a prison for violent criminals, Ahmadi Moghaddam said, “…I have never said this anywhere before, but on that Friday morning there was a meeting about the events of that time, and Mr. [Saeed] Mortazavi [then Tehran Prosecutor] insisted that the detained individuals be transferred to Kahrizak. I explicitly stated my disagreement and said, ‘Not only do we have no space there, that place is dangerous.’ But Mortazavi insisted that the detained individuals had been carrying knives, daggers, and chains, and hence were considered thugs and hoodlums.” Several protesters died after exposure to violent torture and horrific living conditions at Kahrizak in summer 2009, and the detention center was closed after media reports about the deaths and the living conditions.
“I said in that meeting that I wish it to be recorded and written that I oppose this decision and the Police Force’s disagreement was registered. But as a participant in that meeting, I did advise that the Kahrizak guys should be alerted to be careful to keep these individuals in a separate ward and not among the thugs and hoodlums, and that they should not be mistreated. But telling someone to tell the next person led to a failure to carry out my orders. They placed 170 people in cells with a capacity of 50 people. You have to admit that in the heat of the summer in Kahrizak, especially in a location that lacks standards, even if nothing happens, the population density in such a small space without appropriate facilities becomes a problem,” Ahmadi Moghaddam continued.
A lengthy investigation began in 2009, and in the subsequent judicial proceedings, Saeed Mortazavi was never found guilty for directly ordering the transfer of the detainees. The lower court has only sentenced him to permanent dismissal from government jobs and US$60 in cash fines, a decision he has appealed, requesting an acquittal; the proceedings have not yet ended. Commander Ahmadi Moghaddam never provided this important testimony to any of the judicial investigations into what happened at Kahrizak.
In the days since ISNA published the interview, there have been various reactions to Ahmadi Moghadam’s statements, including one provided by a Kahrizak survivor, Massoud Alizadeh. In a detailed account on his Facebook page, Alizadeh wrote about what happened at Kahrizak and described how after being picked up at a Tehran street protest and transferred to Kahrizak from a Security Police detention center, he and his cellmates were beaten, tortured, insulted, and mistreated while they watched several cellmates succumb to the horrible conditions and die. “Mr. Ahmadi Moghaddam, it is true that Saeed Mortazavi sent us to Kahrizak Detention Center, but the police treated us savagely at Kahrizak. Mr. Ahmadi Moghaddam, you speak as if the police had no role in the bitter events of Kahrizak Detention Center and that Saeed Mortazavi was the main culprit. Read the report below and see what savage treatment the police dealt the Kahrizak detainees,” Alizadeh, who now lives in Germany, wrote in his open letter addressed to the Police Commander.
Throughout Massoud Alizadeh’s account of the Kahrizak event, he highlights the role of the police officers present at the detention center in the torture, abuse, and violations of detainees’ rights.
In his account, Massoud Alizadeh wrote about the extremely violent and abusive treatment of the detainees. “At about 11:00 a.m., several of the violent criminals stood behind the door of the Quarantine, holding PVC pipes…. As we stepped out of the Quarantine door, they hit us on the head and on our faces with those PVC pipes. We entered the courtyard and had to all sit barefoot on the burning asphalt for the headcount…. Our feet were burning from the heat of the asphalt, but we couldn’t object. Whoever objected would be taken out of the line and beaten severely with a PVC pipe. Under the burning sun, Officer Mohammadian ordered us to walk on all fours in the yard. All of us walked on all fours, from the 17-year old guy all the way to the 60-year-old man. The palms of our hands and our knees burned from the heat of the asphalt, and the wounds [from the blisters] kept getting bigger and bigger. I already had a broken leg, so I couldn’t walk on all fours, and Sergeant Mohammadian said, ‘I must hit those who cannot walk on all fours five times on their palms.’ … He hit us so hard, the palms of our hands started bleeding. In my opinion, Sergeant Mohammadian was a psycho who had no mercy. We were tortured under that scorching sun, hungry and lifeless…. The officer would chant a slogan and we all had to repeat it at the top of our lungs: ‘Where is this? Kahrizak! Where is Kahrizak? End of the world! Do you like the food? Yes, sir! Did you learn your lesson? Yes, sir!’ … After the torture, we were all so limp, and then we had to re-enter the Quarantine with beatings.”
Massoud Alizadeh also wrote about the food—small portions of paper-thin bread wrapped around 1/5 of a potato, comprising a “meal,” which the other inmates would frequently take from the detained protesters—sharing three plastic bottles for drinking foul smelling and tasting water, and the prison officer’s deliberate pumping of exhaust fumes from a generator into prisoners’ cells, to the point where several inmates passed out. Alizadeh also wrote about the convicted violent criminals who shared the over-crowded space with the detained protesters, and their authorized abuse of the other inmates, as well as about witnessing rape among the violent criminals. The heat inside the containers where the detainees were held led to the infection of open wounds, one of the contributing factors to the deaths of at least three detainees: Amir Javadifar, Mohammad Kamrani, and Mohsen Rouholamini.
In addition, Massoud Alizadeh describes his personal ordeal:
That night, all we could hear were moans. Sergeant Khamsabadi had taken 12 of the detainees who were kept in a cage outside to the courtyard and was doing a headcount. He told Mohammad Karami, the prisoner liaison in Kahrizak, to bring out some of the Quarantine detainees and to beat them up so, as they said, ‘That would teach a good lesson to the others and show them where Kahrizak is!’ I wanted to sleep after several days, but at that moment one of my cellmates asked me to get up for half an hour, so that he could lie down in my space and sleep a little. I felt sorry for him because I knew he hadn’t slept for three days, so I got up. I went towards the bathroom to drink some water when Mohammad Karami stepped into Quarantine One and pulled Saman Mohami and Ahmad Balouchi from among all those people and then, when he saw me standing in front of the bathroom, he called me, ‘You, come out, too!’ I knew that if I went out I would be beaten badly, so I sat in a corner, hoping that he would forget me, but he came back and he and two others started beating me and taking me out by force. Sergeant Khamsabadi started hitting me with a PVC pipe, which lasted about 20 minutes.
Then, Mohammad Karami and two others put metal footcuffs on me and hung me from a metal bar. I noticed that Saman Mohami and Ahmad Balouchi were also hanging [upside down]. The footcuffs were so sharp that when I was hung, my ankles started to bleed.
Sergeants Khamsabadi and Ganjbakhsh both started hitting me with that PVC pipe.… They brought me down after 20 minutes. I was in shock. Several of the criminals took me back to Quarantine, and a couple of my cellmates took me to the bathroom to pour water on my face and wash my wounds, and at that moment, Sergeant Khamsabadi gave a padlock to Mohammad Karami with which to beat me again. Mohammad Karami entered the bathroom and started hitting me on my head an on my face. I lost consciousness for a moment. My whole head and my mouth was bloody. He kept picking me up by my pants and throwing me to the ground. My pants started tearing and by now I was totally naked and among all that pressure and pain, my nakedness was another big pain constantly going through my mind. He then stood on my neck and kept pushing down with his feet to suffocate me. This lasted about three or four minutes. I felt the complete suffocation, unable to breathe, and slowly, the timelessness, it felt as if everything had lost color to me and a bright spot in front of my eyes kept growing bigger and bigger. It felt like death. It was death itself. I had lost consciousness, and thinking that I had died, Mohammad Karami took his feet off my neck. After a few moments I went back to breathing and regained consciousness.
IRGC forces arrested three men involved in the production, distribution, and promotion of Iranian underground music in October, and are pressuring them to confess on television, a source with knowledge of the arrest told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. Musician Mehdi Rajabian, his brother, and Yousef Emadi, who managed BargMusic, were arrested on October 12 in the Northern city of Sari, and were transferred to the IRGC’s Ward 2-A inside Tehran’s Evin Prison, according to a report by Kaleme website.
According to the source, following the arrests of the Rajabian brothers, Azadeh S., a woman who was also affiliated with the website, was arrested in the city of Hamadan. The arrests appear to be part of a larger crackdown on Internet and IT professionals and musicians. Of those arrested, only Yousef Emadi has been released on bail.
Mehdi Rajabian founded BargMusic in 2009 and the website quickly became a dedicated portal for distributing Iranian underground and alternative music inside Iran. Rajabian and his brother managed BargMusic’s website together. During Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s administration, the website was repeatedly blocked to Iranian users, but the authorities never pursued its principals. The website was only active in the field of music and was not a political website. BargMusic had repeatedly requested an operation license, and at one point also asked the Iranian Cyber Police to unblock its website, but the requests have been refused, according to the source.
Kaleme reports it has information indicating that Iran’s underground music scene is a new target for the IRGC’s arrests, adding that the BargMusic site managers were put through severe interrogations and were told that they must make televised confessions.
Last week, popular Iranian musician Amir Tataloo was arrested and detained for several days before being released on bail awaiting trial. Iran’s Morality Police took responsibility for the arrest. Colonel Massoud Zahedian, Chief of the Morality Police, told ISNA that his unit is actively identifying and confronting Iranian underground musicians who produce their work inside Iran and distribute it on television satellite channels abroad.
Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iranian musicians have needed government authorization in order to play their music, hold concerts, and produce music albums and videos. Government scrutiny of such musical activities and productions has been stringent, and only certain genres of music receive production and activity licenses. Under such circumstances, musicians have been pushed underground, where they perform illegally at great risk to themselves and to their audiences. Even when musical groups are issued concert licenses, there is no guarantee that they can safely hold their scheduled appearances. At an August concert of Dawn of Rage, an Iranian metal band, all the musicians and the 200 guests attending the concert were arrested at a public amphitheater in Tehran.
After 55 months in prison, most of which has been spent in exile, Iranian student activist Zia Nabavi was released on bail of approximately $168,000 for a five-day furlough today, a source told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
Zia Nabavi is a former member of the Babol Industrial University Islamic Association, a spokesperson for the Right to Education Council, and a chemical engineering graduate of Babol Industrial University. Despite passing the graduate school entrance exam in sociology with top ranking in 2008, Zia Nabavi became a “starred student,” banned from enrollment and continuing his education. Zia Nabavi was arrested on June 15, 2009, along with several of his friends. The interrogations and the physical and psychological pressure placed on the student activist during the initial 120 days of his arrest were repeatedly protested by human rights activists.
A Tehran Revolutionary Court, presided by Judge Pirabassi, sentenced Zia Nabavi to 15 years in prison in exile from his native Tehran, which was later reduced at the appeals level to 10 years. Nabavi was accused of cooperating with the Mojahedi-e Khalq Organization (MEK). He is currently serving his prison term at Karoon Prison in Ahvaz. In a 2011 letter addressed to Mohammad Javad Larijani, head of the Iranian Judiciary’s High Council for Human Rights, Zia Nabavi provided shocking details about the inhumane conditions of Karoon Prison. This led to a change in the conditions of political prisoners in that facility. Zia Nabavi’s January 2013 prison letter about Mohammad Ali Amouri, an Arab activist on death row led to his month-long transfer to solitary confinement.
One of the reasons Zia Nabavi received such a heavy sentence was his alleged “affiliation with the MEK,” despite the fact that no evidence in this area was ever presented to the court, and he had repeatedly rejected such allegations. Zia Nabavi’s father, friends, and his cellmates at Evin Prison all refuted these allegations, and 44 prisoners signed a letter testifying that the charges were unfounded.
Zia Nabavi’s family members are hopeful that judicial officials will extend his five-day furlough.
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran announced today the publication of a new book of editorial cartoons chronicling one year of human rights issues in Iran. Drawn by prominent Iranian cartoonist Touka Neyestani, Drawing Repression: A Year in Cartoons features 52 weekly cartoons highlighting human rights issues over the course of Persian Solar Year 1391 (Spring 2012 – Spring 2013), the last year of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency.
Beginning in April 2012, the Campaign has been featuring a weekly editorial cartoon drawing attention to the ongoing daily human rights violations in the country. Drawing Repression collects Neyestani’s responses to individuals, events, and developments over the course of one year, highlighting individual human rights abusers holding high office, prisoners of conscience continuing the struggle for basic rights, major events of the year—including earthquakes and cultural celebrations—and intensifying trends of violations against the Iranian people.While the Campaign regularly reports on human rights violations in Iran in news pieces, reports, and other documents, Neyestani’s cartoons have provided a new method of not only recording the violations, but reaching new layers of society in communicating these profound truths regarding the human condition and the universal right to freedom and dignity. His cartoons, widely disseminated online in Persian- and English-language media, have provided an entry point for a newly interested, global audience to begin to deepen their understanding and knowledge of human rights in Iran.
The Campaign’s weekly cartoons form part of a broader approach to advocating for human rights issues, reaching different layers of Iranian society through cultural and artistic media that communicate on a universal level. Drawing Repression is the Campaign’s second book of cartoons; the first, Sketches of Iran: A Glimpse from the Front Lines of Human Rights, published in 2013, features 40 drawings, editorial cartoons, and portraits of human rights defenders by seven Iranian artists accompanied by 40 personal essays by leading Iranian writers, activists, journalists, lawyers, and family members of prisoners of conscience.
“Touka Neyestani’s skillful drawings show the stark realities of human rights in Iran in a visceral way,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Campaign. “These cartoons tell a different story about the last year of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency that absolutely must be seen.”
“I have come here because as an Iranian citizen I, my family, and especially my brother, were treated unjustly. We were innocent from the very beginning. There are many like us in Iran’s prisons who are innocent. I came here to be the voice of other innocent people,” former political prisoner Hamid Ghassemi-Shaal said to the UN Human Rights Council before speaking to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran in Geneva.
Ghassemi is an Iranian-Canadian who had been accused of having ties with the Mojahedin-e Khalgh Organization (MEK) and was condemned to death for moharebeh, enmity with God. He was eventually released last year due to lack of evidence and pressure from human rights groups and the Canadian government.
Referring to Iranian officials who denounce the UN Special Rapporteur’s human rights’ report as biased and one-sided, Ghassemi said: “Why don’t they allow Ahmad Shaheed to enter Iran and meet with political prisoners? All of Shaheed’s reports are based on statements from released prisoners and their families.”
Ghassemi noted that when he spoke to Shaheed via Skype, the Special Rapporteur had accurate information about his case, as well as about cases relating to student activists, religious-nationalist politicians, Baha’is, converts, and dervishes.
The former political prisoner supported the assertion in Shaheed’s report that interrogators played a key role in determining prison sentences and took away the judges’ independence.
“Most sentences handed against security prisoners have been pre-determined by interrogators. In my four-and-a-half years in Ward 350 of Evin Prison I saw perhaps a thousand political prisoners come and go. Not one of them had received an independent sentence by a judge. Most of the prisoners I spoke with told me that they had received the exact same sentence mentioned by their interrogator,” he said.
Ghassemi added that the Revolutionary Court had many branches but only three of them dealt with security cases: Branch 15 headed by Judge Salavati, Branch 28 headed by Judge Moghisseh, and Branch 26, which was recently closed, headed by Judge Pirabbasi.
“My question is, why have only these three taken on security cases? Is it because these three judges are smarter than the rest? No. It’s because these three are under the influence of the Intelligence Ministry,” Ghassemi said.
He added that when an interrogator completes his report he includes precise instructions to the judge on how to convict the accused, namely the length of the prison term. “For instance, they issued a sentence against the gifted student Omid Kokabi just to destroy his life,” Ghassemi said. “The government had asked Omid to work on military projects but he had refused. There are many in prison who have a similar case like Omid. I mention him because we were cellmates for a year and a half.”
Pointing to the dramatic increase in the number of executions since the presidential election, the former political prisoner said Rouhani’s enemies were playing politics with innocent lives.
“With these numbers of executions they want to discredit Rouhani, but in fact what they are doing is playing with people’s lives. Imagine how many more executions we would have if the UN Special Rapporteur was not reporting on Iran.”
Hamid Ghassemi left his home in Canada to visit his family in Iran on May 8, 2008. Five days later his older brother Alborz Ghassemi was arrested for unknown reasons after serving 29 years in the Iranian Navy. Hamid was also arrested on May 25 at the armed forces intelligence office when he was inquiring about his brother.
On May 3, 2009, the two brothers were condemned by the Revolutionary Court for allegedly giving information to the MEK. A few days later, on May 19, 2009, Alborz died in prison from illness.
Hamid Ghassemi remained in prison for four-and-a-half years, until he was freed on September 23, 2013, as a result of pressure from the international community. He told the Campaign he is attending the 25th meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to be the voice of innocent victims of the Iranian Judiciary.
Against customary practice, the Iranian Judiciary prohibited New Year furloughs for political prisoners this year. According to Kaleme website, despite earlier promises by the Tehran Prosecutor, Head of the Iranian Judiciary Sadegh Larijani issued an internal memorandum ordering the denial of furlough for political prisoners.
Officials at the Tehran Prosecutor’s office informed the families of political prisoners that the furlough ban has political reasons, including Catherine Ashton’s trip to Iran during which she visited with activists, and reports issued on the situation of human rights in Iran by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran Ahmed Shaheed, according to Kaleme.
Kaleme reported that as in the previous years, the families of political prisoners were informed some time ago that their relatives would be released on furlough for the Iranian New Year holidays (March 20 – April 2). Many of the families were asked to provide the necessary collateral required for posting bail. In all, there was a list of 54 political prisoners slated for furlough before March 20, according to Kaleme, but none have been released.
The families of political prisoners believe that they are victims of the tensions between the Rouhani Administration and the Iranian Judiciary, according to Kaleme.
Former political prisoner and journalist Mahsa Amrabadi, who was released last year after serving her prison sentence, told JARAS website that she is not hopeful about the current political situation in Iran. Amrabadi’s husband, journalist Massoud Bastani, remains in prison serving his six-year sentence.
“After Mr. Rouhani came to power, the situation was improved for a period of time. There were more furloughs and several, including myself, were released, even though there were only a few months left on our sentences. We thought this situation would continue and that the release of the first group would be a prelude to the release of the rest,” Amrabadi said.
“But the situation worsened as we went forward. Mistreatment of prisoners was [re]started inside prisons and the furloughs were reduced until now, when New Year furloughs were revoked. I don’t have much hope for the prisoners to be released anytime soon. Their sentences are almost complete and many friends who have six-year sentences will be released by next year. Of course, some others will remain, but I have no hope that anyone will be released before the end of their sentences,” she added.
Last year at least 17 prisoners of conscience received furloughs for the Iranian New Year.
Shamsolvaezin Released on Bail of US$80,000 and Banned from Travel
The veteran Iranian journalist Mashallah Shamsolvaezin has been charged with “propaganda against the state” for interviews and speeches he has given. Mr. Shamsolvaezin wrote on his Facebook page that when he appeared before the Evin Prison Court on June 29, 2014 following a summons, he was interrogated for two hours, informed of the charges, and released on bail of 2 billion rials (approximately US $80,000). Shamsolvaezin has also been banned from foreign travel.
“I did not accept the charges. I said propaganda against someone needs to have both material and non-material elements, both of which I lack. I am a journalist and criticizing things within the framework of the law is a natural tool of my profession,” he wrote on his Facebook page. He added that the deed to his mother’s home was submitted to the court as collateral for his bail.
Shamsolvaezin was also informed on June 21, 2014 that he has been banned from foreign travel for the second time. He had been banned from travel in 2009 following his arrest by security agents, but in a December 16, 2013 interview with ISNA, he said that the Intelligence Ministry had contacted him to inform him that his travel ban had been revoked. “The revocation of my travel ban is an indication that conditions are improving in the country. I hope that the Press Association can also be re-opened in this atmosphere,” he told ISNA.
In a June 21, 2014 interview with ISNA, Shamsolvaezin said that he didn’t know which organization had issued him the summons regarding his travel ban. “It’s not clear from the summons which organization issued it. I have been informed of my travel ban and advised that I can object to this ruling within the next 20 days by appearing in court,” he said.
Mashallah Shamsolvaezin was the Deputy Chairman of the (still banned) Iranian Press Association and the Spokesperson for the Association for the Defense of Freedom of the Press. He was a founder of many major reformist newspapers during the Mohammad Khatami presidency, all of which were banned later. He was Editor-in-Chief of the Jame’eh, Tous, Neshat, and Asr-e Azadegan newspapers, and was also the Editor-in-Chief of Kian Magazine in the 1990s. He attempted to re-open the previously banned Newspaper Neshat in 2013, following Hassan Rouhani’s election, but after hiring a staff and embarking on four months of work to re-start the publication, Neshat was shut down on December 2, 2013 by the Iranian Judiciary just as it was preparing to take its first issue to newsstands.
The youths involved in making the “Happy in Tehran” dance video will be collectively put on trial on September 9, 2014, a source informed the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
The accused, who are being represented by several lawyers, were last summoned for questioning between June 16 and June 19. They were asked questions such as, “Whose idea was it to make the video?” and “Who uploaded the video on YouTube?”
The charges include “illegitimate relations,” “contact with foreign television networks,” “distribution of a video on the vulgar YouTube channel,” “failure to observe Islamic covering [hijab],” and “dancing.” Agents used personal photos and films confiscated during the arrests to pile additional charges against the accused.
On May 19, 2014, six individuals involved in the Iranian version of the popular “Happy” video by Pharrell Williams were detained and transferred to the Tehran Morality Police’s Vozara Complex. They were released two days later, after posting bail. Sassan Soleimani, the video’s alleged director, was arrested on May 20, 2014, and held in detention for several weeks.
The arrests triggered an international outcry, especially when the accused were featured in the news on Iranian state television, before they were formally charged, where they were forced to express remorse for their participation in the video.
In addition to Soleimani, others accused in the case include Reyhaneh Taravati, Neda Motameni, Afshin Sohrabi, Bardia Moradi, Roham Shamekhi, and Sepideh [no last name available].
Soleimani previously spent some time in prison for making a music video for the “Soosan Khanom” song by the popular Iranian band “Barobax.” Soleimani also said in a previous interview that he proposed the color purple as the campaign color for Hassan Rouhani’s 2013 presidential campaign.
The Iranian youths who produced the dance video “Happy in Tehran” set to the Pharrell Williams hit song “Happy” were put on trial in Tehran on September 9, 2014, where they were charged with “participation in producing a vulgar video clip” and conducting “illicit relations” with one another, an informed source told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
Lawyers for the defendants objected to the brutal police treatment of the suspects and raids on their homes during the arrests, as well as the new charges of illicit relations leveled against the youths, and demanded that the court address their objections.
According to the source, all principals involved in the making of the video, Sassan Soleimani, Reyhaneh Taravati, Neda Motameni, Afshin Sohrabi, Bardia Moradi, Roham Shamekhi, and a suspect known by the first name of Sepideh were present at the trial session. The court, presided over by Judge Heydari, will announce its ruling over the coming days.
In addition to the charges leveled against the group, one of the suspects, Reyhaneh Taravati, is also accused of “possession of alcohol” in her home and of “uploading and distribution of the clip on YouTube.” Another suspect, Sassan Soleimani, is also accused of directing the video. The Campaign has been informed that the charges against the group were based on information obtained from material confiscated during the raid on the individuals’ homes, such as personal photographs and videos found on their personal computers.
On May 19, 2014, the six youths involved in the “Happy” video were detained and transferred to the Tehran Morality Police’s Vozara Complex, after the video, posted on YouTube, had gone viral. They were released two days later, after posting bails of between 30 to 50 million toman (approximately $10,000 to $16,000). Sassan Soleimani, the video’s director, was arrested on May 20, 2014, and held in detention for several days. He was released on May 29, 2014, on bail of 50 million toman (approximately $16,000).
The arrests triggered an international outcry, especially after the accused were featured in the news on Iranian state television, before they were formally charged, and forced to express remorse for their participation in the video. Forced confessions broadcast on state television is a routine practice in Iran.
Soleimani, a 33-year-old filmmaker and animator, was previously arrested for making the “Soosan Khanom” video for the Barobax pop band in Iran. Soleimani told Zendegi Ideal (Ideal Life) magazine in 2013 that when he was taking photos for Hassan Rouhani’s presidential campaign, campaign officials asked him to suggest a color for campaign materials and he chose purple, which became Rouhani’s official color during the campaign.
The accused were last summoned to the Culture and Arts Division of the Tehran Prosecutor’s Office for questioning between June 16 and June 19. They were asked questions such as, “Whose idea was it to make the video?” and “Who uploaded the video on YouTube?”
The Iranian youths who produced the dance video “Happy in Tehran” set to the Pharrell Williams hit song “Happy” were put on trial0 in Tehran on September 9, 2014, where they were charged with “participation in producing a vulgar video clip” and conducting “illicit relations” with one another, an informed source told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
On May 19, 2014, the six youths involved in the “Happy” video were detained and transferred to the Tehran Morality Police’s Vozara Complex, after the video, posted on YouTube, had gone viral. They were released two days later, after posting bails of between $10,000 to $16,000. Sassan Soleimani, the video’s director, was arrested on May 20, 2014, and held in detention for several days. He was released on May 29, 2014, on bail of approximately $16,000. This is cartoonist Touka Neyestani’s take on the story.
Message to Women to Not Challenge Gender Restrictions
On November 23, 2014, Ghoncheh Ghavami was released from prison after posting bail of one hundred million toman ($35,000). She was released after a lower court issued a one-year prison sentence and a two-year travel ban for “propaganda against the state” and other national security-related charges on November 22.
Ghavami was originally arrested on June 25, 2014 for attempting to attend a volleyball match at the Azadi stadium in Tehran. The authorities did not allow women to attend the event, and arrested Ghavami and the other women who had tried to attend the event, transferring them to Tehran’s Vozara Complex. They were later released after they signed a letter of recognizance and their personal belongings were confiscated. When Ghavami appeared at the Vozara Complex on the morning of June 30 to claim her confiscated belongings, she was arrested without any explanation. She then spent almost five months in “temporary detention.”
In an ongoing effort to deflect attention from her long detainment for attempting to attend a sports event and defend their actions, the Tehran Prosecutor’s Office made an announcement on November 18, stating that Ghavami’s case had been sent to the Revolutionary Courts on charges of “contacts with sedition elements [the Iranian state rhetoric for referring to the peaceful protests that followed the disputed 2009 presidential election in Iran], contacts with operatives and contact points for satellite [television] networks, such as the BBC Persian Service, and opposition [groups] abroad.”
The announcement claimed that on the day of Ghavami’s arrest, “numerous images and films related to elements of sedition” were discovered on her cell phone. It further indicates that it was made clear on June 29, 2014 through “the suspect’s statements and certain investigations” that Ghavami “had participated in propaganda activities against the state, and while having contacts with operatives and contact points of satellite [television] networks such as the BBC Persian Service and opposition [groups] abroad, she had been present in anti-state demonstrations.”
The prosecutor’s statement asserted it was intended “to shed light for public opinion” about Ghavami’s case, adding that “Establishing a case file pertaining to Ghoncheh Ghavami’s charges, has nothing to do with the said individual’s presence at the Azadi Sports Stadium and watching the volleyball games, and this individual was only prosecuted regarding the charges reflected in the case,” the prosecutor stated.
However, Sousan Moshtaghian, Ghoncheh Ghavami’s mother, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that the charges stated in the announcement are erroneous. “Ghoncheh was in no way connected to the opposition [groups]. My daughter was arrested during the events related to watching a volleyball game and all her interrogations were focused around this subject. After 50 days of detention, her interrogator asked me and Ghoncheh’s father to give him the names of the other individuals involved in the Volleyball Campaign and to tell him from where they received their orders.”
Regarding her daughter’s contact with the BBC Persian Service, Moshtaghian told the Campaign that “In 2013, when she was a student, she wrote one article as a guest blogger on BBC Persian’s website about the effects of economic sanctions on the lives of Iranian women. This was the only media work she did with this news network and she has never written any other content for anywhere else.”
It is common for individuals who challenge the authorities’ social and cultural norms and restrictions in Iran to be charged with vague national security-related crimes, and then prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced on such charges in judicial proceedings that lack any semblance of due process.
Gholam-Hossein Khaledi, an Iranian park ranger sentenced to death for killing a poacher in 2010, was released on March 18, 2016 after paying 12 billion rials (about $400,000 USD) diyah (“blood money”) to the victim’s family.
Khaledi argued that he and his colleagues were attacked by the victim, Mohammad Payegozaran, and other hunters, near Mount Dena in southwestern Iran after the rangers issued cease and desist orders following the discovery of an illegal hunt.
Khaledi said he killed Payegozaran on July 15, 2010 in self-defense when he saw the hunter coming at him with a knife, according to an article published in February 2013 by the reformist Shargh newspaper.
Khaledi’s lawyer told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that the judges who sentenced his client to death chose not to recognize park rangers as law enforcement agents even though Iran’s Environmental Guards Law permits rangers to carry weapons to protect the environment.
“Civil rights activists and friends of the environment [environmental activists] played an important part in his [Khaledi’s] freedom so he could spend the [Persian] New Year [starting March 20, 2016] with his family,” Khaledi’s lawyer, Faizollah Afshar, told the Campaign.
Khaledi, who was working for the Environmental Protection Organization at the time of the incident, was held for 2 years and 9 months until he was sentenced to death by a three-judge panel in the southwestern city of Yasouj in February 2013.
He had spent more than five years in prison before being pardoned from death row.
The “blood money”—financial compensation provided in cases of murder to the victim’s next of kin—was collected by Khaledi’s relatives and supporters during several months of fundraising, according to Afshar.
The final meeting where Khaledi was pardoned was held on March 18, 2016 at the office of Ayatollah Sharafeddin Malek Hosseini, the supreme leader’s representative in Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad Province and the province’s representative in the Assembly of Experts.
“Three of my children have died. My father is old and sick. My mother is unable to walk. They live a hard life with a thousand problems… my wife is suffering from heart problems… my daughter, Nazanin, is in middle school and I haven’t been able to do anything for her. I have been able to see her only three times, each time for only 10 minutes… I cannot withstand the stress and psychological pressures within these four walls anymore,” wrote Khaledi in a letter from prison to his boss, Masoumeh Ebtekar, the head of the Environmental Protection Organization, in October 2013.
Ebtekar said in a February 2014 interview that “Over the past three decades, 113 park rangers have been murdered by attackers of the country’s natural resources, and over the past eight years seven park rangers have gone to prison for shooting at hunters.”
Environmental activists argue that park rangers suffer the most in working to prevent illegal poaching while receiving insufficient legal support.
“Park rangers should either be allowed to carry guns or they shouldn’t,” activist Mehrdad Mossabebi told the semi-official Mehr News Agency on October 8, 2011.
“They are allowed guns; they should be allowed to use them to shoot, or they shouldn’t,” he said. “If they are allowed to shoot, the law should protect them. If not, then the poor rangers should be given shovels and sticks instead.”
Earlier this month another park ranger, As’ad Taghizadeh, was pardoned after paying an unknown amount in “blood money” after spending eight years in prison in Yasouj for killing a hunter, also in the Mount Dena region.
“Everything has changed, except for Mount Dena, which lives forever,” said Taghizadeh after walking out of prison, according to an article published in Etemad newspaper on March 8, 2016.
Rights activists Omid Alishenas, Atena Daemi, Ali Nouri and Aso Rostami have been summoned to appear together at an Appeals Court in Tehran on July 5, 2016 to appeal the prison sentences they received from a preliminary court.
Alishenas’s mother, Simin Eyvazzadeh, who told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran about the summons, said she hoped her son would be acquitted.
“We expect him to be freed because the charges against him are unrelated to his activities,” she said. “It’s enough that he’s been in prison for the past 17 months. His life is up in the air. We hope he will be acquitted and released.”
The Campaign could not independently verify why the activists are being summoned to the Appeals Court at the same time.
Alishenas, 33, a civil engineer who is a children’s rights and civil activist, was arrested by the Revolutionary Guards’ Intelligence Organization on September 4, 2014 and held at Evin Prison in Tehran. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for “assembly and collusion against national security” and “insulting the supreme leader” by Judge Mohammad Moghisseh of Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court on January 24, 2015. He was released on 7 billion rials ($230,000 USD) bail on January 18, 2016 while he awaits the result of his appeal.
Atena Daemi, 28, a children’s rights activist and death penalty opponent, has been on medical furlough since February 15, 2016 on 5 billion rials ($166,000 USD) bail. Her father, Mohammad Hossein Daemi, has also been summoned to appear at the Appeals Court hearing with the four defendants.
“The day the agents came to arrest Atena at her parents’ house, they took the family’s TV satellite receiver with them and built a case against her father,” an informed source told the Campaign.
“Mr. Daemi was fined 3 million rials (nearly $100 USD) by Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court and now he has to appear at the Appeals Court,” added the source.
Satellite receivers are illegal in Iran, but it is estimated that nearly three quarters of Iranians have access to them. Police forces routinely enter residential complexes to confiscate and remove satellite dishes and other equipment, and the owners are then prosecuted and fined.
Agents of the Revolutionary Guards’ Intelligence Organization arrested Atena Daemi on October 21, 2014. She was convicted of “assembly and collusion against national security,” “propaganda against the state,” “insulting the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the supreme leader,” and “concealing evidence,” and was sentenced to 14 years in prison by Judge Mohammad Moghisseh of Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court on March 5, 2015.
“We are hoping for a fair judgment and her freedom,” added the source. “Atena really hasn’t done anything to deserve 14 years in prison.”
The Campaign has been unable to obtain information about Aso Rostami and Ali Nouri.
The imprisoned teachers’ union activist, Mahmoud Beheshti Langroudi, has been released from hospital and sent home after a 22-day hunger strike.
Beheshti Langroudi was sent home from Imam Khomeini Hospital in Tehran, where he was being treated for serious health complications resulting from the hunger strike, on May 11, 2016. The judicial orders that enabled Beheshti Langroudi’s release have not yet been revealed.
“He had been on a wet hunger strike [in Evin Prison] since April 20 and then on a dry hunger strike since May 2,” an informed source told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “He began to suffer from bleeding in the stomach and became physically very weak and he still needs treatment.”
Beheshti Langroudi was the spokesman of the Iranian Teachers’ Trade Association before being sentenced to five years in prison in 2013 on charges of “colluding against national security” and “propaganda against the state” in a trial that lasted less then eight minutes.
He has been demanding a new public trial in front of a jury and had turned to life-threatening hunger strikes in a desperate bid to be heard.
Beheshti Langroudi had threatened to remain on hunger strike “until my sentence is terminated and a public trial is held based on Article 168 of the Constitution,” which states: “Political and press offenses will be tried openly and in the presence of a jury, in courts of justice.”
Esmail Abdi, the secretary general of the Teachers’ Association of Iran, has also been on hunger strike in Evin Prison since April 29, 2016.
A source close to Abdi confirmed to the Campaign that the goal of the hunger strike is to protest against the Islamic Republic’s criminalization of organized labor gatherings, the conviction of labor activists on trumped-up charges, wages below the poverty line, and the ban on International Labor Day and Teachers’ Day celebrations.
Teachers have engaged in numerous peaceful gatherings, protests, and strikes over the past several years to bring attention to the imprisonment of their labor leaders and salaries that are below the official poverty level in Iran.
Independent unions are not permitted to function in the Islamic Republic, and labor leaders face swift prosecution and long prison sentences.
Imprisoned physicist Omid Kokabee has been granted a two-week medical furlough upon payment of five billion rials ($164,000 USD) bail, an informed source told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
On Wednesday (May 25, 2016) Kokabee was transferred from the hospital to his family home in Tehran where he will be continuing to receive treatment for the next two weeks. While in hospital, surgeons had to remove his right kidney because of an advanced cancerous tumor.
The advanced stage of his cancer was a direct result of years of denied and insufficient medical care while in prison in Iran. Political prisoners are frequently denied proper medical treatment in the Islamic Republic.
“The medical leave can be extended every week, possibly for a period of one to three months,” the source added. “We hope it will continue until Omid’s full recovery.”
Kokabee, 34, is serving a 10-year prison sentence for “contact with enemy states.” He was a post-doctoral student in physics at the University of Texas at Austin visiting his family in Iran when he was arrested on January 30, 2011, at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Airport on his way back to the U.S. to continue his studies.
In a letter from prison, Omid Kokabee wrote that he is being punished for refusing an offer to work on a military project for the Islamic Republic.
Kokabee’s lawyer, Saeed Khalili, had repeatedly requested his release on medical grounds based on Article 502 of Iran’s Criminal Code which allows prisoners to receive treatment outside prison for emergencies.
Article 502 states: “If a prisoner is suffering from physical or mental illness and his imprisonment would make his illness worse or delay his recovery, the judge can postpone the sentence being served until the prisoner regains his health after consultation with his physician.”
Homa Hoodfar, an Iranian-Canadian scholar and expert on gender and development in Islam, was arrested on June 6, 2016 during a visit to Iran after being summoned to Evin Prison in Tehran.
A press release issued by her family said Hoodfar, a dual citizen who lives in Québec where she teaches at Concordia University in Montreal, had her passport confiscated and was banned from leaving Iran on March 9, 2016—two days before she was due to return to Canada.
Her home was searched by Revolutionary Guards agents who took away several personal items including her mobile phone, laptop, identification and academic research papers. Since then she had been interrogated several times.
Hoodfar’s family said in their statement that she had refrained from publicly speaking about the interrogations because she believed she was a victim of “a misunderstanding and did not want to turn it into news.”
The statement added that Hoodfar has recently suffered a stroke and also suffers from a rare nervous disorder, which has worsened due to the psychological pressure of the interrogations.
“We, the Homa Hoodfar family, are very worried about her well-being and hold Judiciary officials responsible for her health,” said the statement. “We ask the Canadian, Irish and Iranian governments to urgently follow up on this case and secure her freedom as soon as possible.” (Hoodfar also holds Irish citizenship.)
The bail for Hoodfar’s release has been set at “more than 100 million tomans” ($33,000 USD), according to the statement.
Hoodfar’s arrest follows a string of arrests and prolonged detainments of dual nationals who have travelled to Iran.
This report by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran seeks to shine a spotlight on the inmates of the Women’s Ward at Iran’s Evin Prison. It is based on testimonies and eyewitness accounts by prisoners in the ward, which were confirmed by recently released prisoners and family members of the ward’s prisoners.
At least twenty five women are known to be held in the Women’s Ward at Evin. All of the women there are political prisoners or prisoners of conscience—sentenced for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, belief, and peaceful dissent, rights that are guaranteed in both Iranian domestic law and international rights covenants that Iran has signed. They have been convicted in judicial processes characterized by egregious denial of due process, including lack of access to full legal representation.
The women in this ward endure inhumane conditions, including the denial of proper medical care in a prison infirmary that is dirty and lacking in supplies and medical specialists, denied or delayed transfer to hospital and specialists for treatment of serious illnesses, inadequate nutrition, and intermittent lack of heat. Like all political prisoners in Iran, these women are subjected to harsher treatment than other in- mates. They are routinely denied or subjected to limited family visits and telephone communication with family, and they are denied or subjected to limited furloughs, or temporarily leave, granted to most prison inmates in the Iranian penal system.
Because many of them are mothers, prison authorities often use their relationship with their children as a method of control and an avenue for additional punishment, withholding and dispensing visits and communication with their children at their whim. Thus the conviction, imprisonment, and treatment of the women in this ward at Evin violate multiple Iranian and international laws. The Iranian Judiciary has sole responsibility for prisoners in the Islamic Republic, and must use its authority to immediately address the plight of these prisoners. It should be held accountable for these rights violations by Iran’s President, Hassan Rouhani, by United Nations human rights bodies, and by all Member State governments in their bilateral relations with Iran.
After a month-long silence amid widespread condemnation of the decision by Iran’s Judiciary to intervene in a local labor dispute and punish 17 protesting mine workers with lashing sentences, the Judiciary’s spokesperson has finally spoken out by evading responsibility for the ruling.
“It is possible that the judge’s taste does not match ours in some cases, and we don’t defend such tastes,” said Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, during a press conference on June 12, 2016, according to the semi-official Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA).
Public outcry over the lashing sentences has meanwhile resulted in the dismissal of a Rouhani government official in charge of labor matters.
Traditionally, local labor councils have handled labor disputes in the Islamic Republic, but the Judiciary has been increasingly inserting itself into the disputes, and has been criticized for siding with employers.
Meanwhile, independent unions are not allowed to function in Iran, workers are routinely fired and risk arrest for striking, and labor leaders are prosecuted under national security charges and sentenced to long prison terms.
Asked by an ILNA reporter why the Judiciary has been entering labor disputes and siding with employers, Ejei said: “I categorically deny [the allegation] that we have entered union matters and that we have voted in favor of the employers, as we have repeatedly asked the Labor Ministry and government organizations to intervene in such cases in favor of the workers.”
Ejei did, however, acknowledge the Judiciary’s increasing involvement in labor disputes: “Where [actions] lead to social loss and crime, it shouldn’t be expected that the Judiciary would not enter,” he said.
The Judiciary’s dismissal of responsibility for the lashing sentences, which the United Nations has declared a cruel and inhumane punishment tantamount to torture, comes at a time of growing public outcry for accountability.
In fact, experts on Iranian law point out that the Judiciary should have put its weight behind the employees in the case involving the 17 mine workers.
“From a legal standpoint, the Judiciary can reach the conclusion that the punishment against these workers was unlawful and compensate them for the fines they were ordered to pay,” Farideh Gheyrat, a prominent lawyer based in Iran, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
Workers Lashed for Protesting
On December 27, 2014 a large group of workers from the village of Agh Darreh in West Azerbaijan Province gathered in front of the Agh Darreh gold mine’s guardhouse to protest the firing of 350 workers. That same day one of the sacked workers attempted suicide and was taken to hospital, but ultimately survived.
The Pouya Zarkan Company, which operates the mine, sued 17 of the workers at the rally for “disrupting public order.” They were found guilty and sentenced to prison, lashings and fined up to five million rials ($164 USD) each.
The workers received a pardon from Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, for their prison terms, but the lashings—between 30 and 100 per worker—were carried out.
Shortly afterwards a court in Yazd Province also sentenced a group of protesting workers from the Iran Central Iron Ore Company in the city of Bafgh to lashings on June 6, 2016.
Mohammad Jedari Foroughi, a lawyer representing nine of the accused workers in the Bafgh case, told ILNA that Branch 105 of the Second Criminal Court in Yazd had ruled that a rally for workers’ rights by his clients in 2014 had “disrupted order and prevented production” at the mine. The workers were sentenced to prison terms ranging from seven to 11 months and 30 to 50 lashes each. The court has suspended the implementation of the sentences for five years, but Foroughi said he would still file appeals.
On June 1, 2016 ILNA reported that the Minister of Cooperatives, Labor and Social Welfare Ali Rabiei had written to the prosecutor general to investigate the Agh Darreh case. He also removed West Azerbaijan’s labor affairs director, Reza Taghizadeh, from his post for being “uninformed about the lashing sentences carried out against the gold mine workers.”
“The government finds [the Agh Darreh] case regrettable,” said the Rouhani government’s spokesperson, Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, at a press conference on June 7, 2016. That same day Mohsen Sarkhoo, the chairman of the Tehran City Council’s Labor Faction described the lashings as “unprecedented” and called on the Judiciary to review the rulings.
If employers continue to bring criminal charges against workers simply for protesting, “the labor force would no longer feel secure” and ultimately production and profits would suffer, said Fathollah Bayat, chairman of the Contract Workers Union, on May 29, 2016.
On June 7 2016, the Islamic Labor Party issued a statement condemning the punishments: “After the lashing sentences for taking part in a union protest rally were carried out against the workers from the Agh Darreh gold mine, and the subsequent outcry from the labor community and popular organizations against the Judiciary for these punishments that are against the country’s labor laws as well as international conventions, we did not expect to see any more judges interfering in disputes between workers and employers.”
“Unfortunately, the lack of sufficient care in resolving these kinds of disputes has caused more protesting workers to receive lashing sentences, this time at the Bafgh iron ore mine,” said the statement.
Two labor organizations in neighboring East Azerbaijan Province—the Islamic Labor Councils Coordinating Committee and the Labor Unions Association—issued a joint statement on May 30, 2016 condemning the lashings and calling on the Judiciary to stay out of labor welfare disputes.
“Unfortunately, we have been witnessing workers being sued and punished for [being involved in] labor protests demanding better welfare and the implementation of labor laws in some cases,” said the statement.
“Employers are filing complaints with the Judiciary and building cases against this hardworking class,” continued the statement. “These cases undermine the principle of separation of powers between the three branches of state and marginalize workers to the point that they would not be able to demand dialogue within legal frameworks. These punishments violate international labor conventions.”
Previous Lashing Sentences
In April 2015 five workers from the Chador Malou iron ore mine in Yazd Province were sentenced to prison and lashings for “disturbing order and denying others the right [to work],” but their prison sentences were suspended and the lashings reduced to fines because they had no prior criminal record.
In September 2014 four workers from the Razi petrochemical plant in Bandar Imam Khomeini in southern Iran were also sentenced to six months in prison and 50 lashes each for “disturbing the peace” and “making insults and threats.” The employer accused the workers of provoking their colleagues to make “irrelevant demands unrelated to work” that forced the plant to shut down for several days.
In February 2009 two female labor activists—Sussan Razani and Shiva Kheirabad—were flogged 70 times and 15 times respectively for attending a rally marking International Labor Day on May 1, 2009 in Sanandaj, a city in Iran’s Kurdistan Province.