Letter from Afshin Hossein Panahi Honors Executed Brother, Supporters

Posted on: September 15th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Following the execution of his brother Ramin, political prisoner Afshin Hossein Panahi has expressed his gratitude and solidarity in the form of a letter, addressed to an international community which continues to champion the memory and cause of his late sibling.

At an undisclosed location in Tehran province on September 8th, Ramin Hossein Panahi was hanged to death alongside Zanyar Moradi and Loghman Moradi, without notice to their respective families or lawyers, and pursuant to a legal process on which human rights organizations had already cried foul.

Once the brothers were hanged to death, their families received threatening messages from the Ministry of Intelligence and were refused the right to inter their bodies.

In the wake of these executions, residents and merchants of several Iranian cities where Iran’s Kurdish population is highest– particularly in the provinces of Kurdistan, Kermanshah, and West Azerbaijan –went on a general strike. In response, civil activists in the cities of Sanandaj, Marivan (Kurdistan), Oshnoviyeh, Sardasht (West Azerbaijan), and Ravansar (Kermanshah) have been taken into custody.

Seven political detainees at Evin Prison, including Atena Daemi, Nasrin Sotoudeh, and Golrokh Iraee, have written letters to express their condolence to the families of Moradi, Moradi, and Panahi.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet responded to the executions in the following statement: “I deeply deplore the executions last week of three Iranian Kurdish prisoners despite the serious concerns raised by Special Procedures mandate holders that they were not afforded fair trials, and were subjected to torture.”

Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, has also condemned these executions.

The full text of Afshin Hossein Panahi’s letter, translated into English by HRANA, is below:

A whisper echoes through the iron labyrinth
It sings, “endure! dawn is upon us!”

To the dear civil rights activists, and political parties and groups both inside and outside Iran,

I am thankful and grateful for your unfaltering efforts and support over the past year in trying to stay the execution of my innocent yet audacious brother.

I have a heavy heart and tearful eyes in my grief over the loss of Ramin, who died with dignity. He was proud to fight for the freedom of those who would *later rise in [his] defense and honor, those who have peacefully troubled the foundation of despotism.

Fettered in prison, I am no free man. Notwithstanding my innocence, and my faith in the righteousness of the freedom march, I suffer pains common to all Iranian civil and political activists, and my demands have become one with theirs. I demand my rights be realized, and I will not rest or falter until they are restored. I am infinitely thankful to those comrades who strive to raise the voice of Iran’s political hostages.
Let it be known that the strength of our pact and the spirit of our fight will prevail.

Afshin Hossein Panahi,
Sanandaj Central Prison

* Referring to the general strike in Kurdish areas of Iran

*************************

Afshin Hossein Panahi is a political activist who was arrested on June 26th, 2017 in his home. He was sentenced to eight and half years in prison by judge Saeedi of Branch one of Sanandaj Revolutionary Court on charges of “disseminating propaganda against the regime” and “collaboration with a Kurdish opposition group through participation in a Nowruz ceremony.” This sentence was upheld in appeals court. He was also arrested in 2011 for inquiring into the suspicious death of another one of his brothers, Ashraf Hossein Panahi. In that case, he was sentenced to one year in prison for “propaganda against the regime.”

Ahvaz Resident Hassan Heydari Released on Bail

Posted on: September 18th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – On Monday, September 17, 2018, Hassan Heydari, a resident of Ahvaz (southwestern Iran) was released on 3 billion rials (approximately $23,000 USD) bail and awaits trial.

Heydari was arrested by Ahvaz Intelligence agents in August of this year. Local eyewitnesses attested that the agents beat him severely at the time of his arrest.

Hassan Heydari, a married, 25-year old poet originally from Koot Abdullah in Ahvaz, is an active participant in private poetry readings.

Innocent Man Dies After Police Beating

Posted on: September 18th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – On September 11th, Hojat Eghtesadi died after being beaten by police, who contend that his cause of death was a heart attack.

Eghtesadi, a native of the city of Malekan in East Azerbaijan Province (northwestern Iran), had been admitted to Bonab county’s Imam Khomeini hospital for self-inflicted wounds. Upon his discharge, he was experiencing the side effects of intravenous tranquilizers when he crossed paths with the guards on duty.

“On his way out of the hospital, he got into an altercation with hospital security. The police were called, and he was arrested and taken to Bonab county police station,” said a source close to Eghtesadi’s family. “I don’t know what happened there that led to the beating, but it cost him his life.”

The police asked Eghtesadi’s family to come recover his body from the police station the following day, alleging he had died of a heart attack. At the sight of his body, his family said they noted copious bruising that was distinct from his self-inflicted wounds.

Iranian detention centers require round-the-clock supervision, yet deaths of those taken into custody are common. Detainee deaths are rarely followed up by judicial investigation, third-party inquiries, or measures to hold perpetrators accountable.

Blackballed Baha’is: 40 and Counting

Posted on: September 18th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HHRANA) – HRANA has so far confirmed the names of at least 40 Baha’i Iranian citizens who have been denied the opportunity to enroll in university despite successfully placing on the competitive national admissions test.

HRANA has confirmed that the candidate files of Nima Amini, Hanan Hashemi Dehaj, Hasti Maleki, Aria Ehsani, Tina Hamidi Fard from Tehran (ranked #15000 on the national exam) and Rozhan Khooniki (ranked #9477) have all been flagged “deficiency on file” on the National Organization for Educational Testing website. HRANA previously reported the names of 34 other students singled out by the same system.

The “deficiency on file” flag is one known method of the wider anti-Baha’i discrimination politics administered by Iran’s Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution. An informed source confirmed to HRANA that the flag is a go-to excuse to prevent Baha’i students from entering institutes of higher education.

Azerbaijani Activist Abbas Lesani Spurns Text-Message Summons

Posted on: September 18th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Abbas Lesani, an Azerbaijani activist and former political prisoner, will not be responding to the SMS he received from Branch 2 of Tabriz Revolutionary Court.

A resident of Ardabil in northwestern Iran–home to the country’s Azerbaijani ethnic minority–Lesani said that due to authorities’ spurious method of summoning him, he refused to attend the hearing scheduled for him on Tuesday, September 18th.

“Even ignoring the suspect intent of this summons, their delay in sending it, and the timing of the hearing on [the eve of the Muharram holidays]– it’s impossible to ignore that the summons is illegitimate, arriving by text message with no official hard copy,” Lesani said. “Appropriate preparations can’t be made in these circumstances.”

Lesani and three other Azerbaijani activists were first arrested by Intelligence agents on July 2, 2018, a few days before an annual gathering at Babak Fort, a site that has acquired symbolic importance for Azerbaijani rallies in recent years. Prior to his arrest, he had shared a video encouraging people to attend the gathering. He was released on $3,500 USD (500 million IRR) bail July 11, 2018.

Lesani was among the first of more than 80 Azerbaijani activists arrested throughout Ardabil, West Azerbaijan, and East Azerbaijan provinces at the time of the Babak Fort gathering.

Amnesty International issued a statement on August 5th of this year, calling the arrests of Azerbaijani activists “arbitrary” and unlawful, and demanded the immediate release of all individuals detained for their participation in Azerbaijani Turkic cultural gatherings.

Lawyer Sues Client’s Trial Judge, Citing Abuse of Criminal Procedure Code

Posted on: September 18th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Mostafa Tork Hamedani, attorney of Hengameh Shahidi, imprisoned journalist and human rights activist, has filed suit against the judge presiding over his client’s case.

Hamedani told Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) that “once Ms. Shahidi’s case was referred to the court, I presented myself to register as her attorney, but the judge would not appoint me. So I have filed a formal complaint against this judge at the Government Employees’ Court and the Judges’ Disciplinary Court for unlawfully barring a certified lawyer from representing a client.”

Reporting that requests from himself, Shahidi, and Shahidi’s mother to appoint him as her attorney have been submitted and summarily rejected, Hamedani has continued to speak on his client’s behalf, announcing that Shahidi is still in custody and that her case has been forwarded to Revolutionary Court.

According to Hamedani, authorities are inappropriately applying a law intended to stipulate defendants’ choice of lawyers in the case of national-security crimes. “[…] the amendment to *section 48 [of criminal procedure code] only applies during preliminary investigations. Once the case is sent to a court, the amendment no longer applies. [The law] is crystal clear on this.”

ISNA quoted a report from the Tehran Prosecutor’s office stating that Shahidi was arrested June 26, 2018 on the island of Kish in Persian Gulf. It reads, “The judiciary was pursuing the defendant, who was arrested by police while attempting to conceal her face with a mask.”

In a statement released in late June, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said “[We] condemn the police violence and arbitrary arrests to which citizen-journalists have been subjected during this week’s protests in Tehran. RSF also condemns the latest arrest of journalist and blogger Hengameh Shahidi.”

Ministry of Intelligence forces arrested Shahidi on March 9, 2017, citing her collaboration with a media network.

Hamedani said that the Ministry of Intelligence was the plaintiff in the above case, and that Shahidi’s arrest warrant was issued by Branch 2 of Culture and Media Court. She was released on August 28, 2016 after six months in detention.

* In national security cases, amendment 48 to Iranian’s Code of Criminal Procedure obliges the defendant to choose a lawyer from a list pre-approved by the judiciary. Iranian authorities leverage “national security” charges against most political prisoners.

Baha’i College Student Stopped Short of Degree

Posted on: September 18th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRAN)- Baha’i student Shaghayegh Zabihi Amrie was finishing the last semester of her associate’s degree in architectural drafting when the *National Organization for Educational Testing (NOET) stopped her short.

An informed source told HRANA that Amrie’s problems began with a summons to the Azad University Security Office, where she was drilled with questions about her faith. After placing a call to the director of Rasam Non-Profit University of Karaj on the western outskirts of Tehran, where Amrie was a student, authorities had little information with which to push forward and cleared her to continue her studies.

“When she applied to obtain her certificate of completion,” the source related, “she received a letter from NOET informing her that getting her certificate, and advancing further in her bachelor’s studies, would be prohibited.”

While many Baha’i students find themselves held back from ever pursuing post-secondary studies, some are admitted into institutions of higher education only to be blackballed later, per previous HRANA reports.

The highly-anticipated announcement of results from the National University Entrance Exam, known as “Konkur,” has been marred for many Baha’is who, with passing results and on the brink of starting college, are rendered ineligible by the NOET error message “deficiency on file,” a well-known pretext for quashing young Baha’i ambitions the moment they take shape.

The process has been utilized for years, and with a look at this year’s numbers, looks nowhere near abating. This year alone, HRANA has reported on at least 40 prospective college students who have been barred from pursuing their studies because of their Baha’i faith.

Contrary to the provisions of the **law, Iran’s Supreme Council of the ***Cultural Revolution has passed a law barring members of the Baha’i religious minority from both university enrollment and employment in public institutions. Since the 1979 Revolution, UN Special Rapporteurs on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran have protested the anti-Baha’i policies and practices of Iranian authorities, particularly the academic blackballing of Baha’is, deeming these practices a violation of Iran’s international commitments.

Baha’i citizens of Iran are systematically deprived of religious freedoms, while according to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, all people are entitled to freedom of religion, belief, and changes thereof, as well as the right to express and practice those beliefs as individuals or collectives, in public or in private.

Though unofficial sources estimate the Baha’i population of Iran at more than 300,000, Iran’s Constitution officially recognizes only Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism, and does not acknowledge the Baha’i faith as an official religion. As a result, the rights of Baha’is in Iran are systematically violated.

* NOET is established with the mandate to develop and implement the rules of admission to higher education with the collaboration of the universities http://www.sanjesh.org/en/aboutus.aspx
** The Islamic Republic’s constitution does not recognize Baha’i followers as a religious minority, but articles of the Constitution guarantees the right to association for everyone
*** The Council was founded in 1984 on the order of Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, to ensure the “Islamization” of universities, survey academia to ensure their allegiance to the regime and their adherence to “Islamic” values.

Ahwazi Arab Activist Ahmad Neisi Released After Completing Prison Sentence

Posted on: September 17th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Ahwazi Arab activist Ahmad Neisi (Tamimi) has completed his two-year prison sentence and was released Tuesday, September 11th from Sheyban Prison in Ahvaz, southwestern Iran.

Neisi, age 32, was among a group of four arrested by Iranian Cyber Police (FATA) in 2016 in Khuzestan province in connection to their social network activity. Along with Taregh Achrash 28, Mohammad Mahavi, 29, and Majed Achrash, 26, he was transferred upon his arrest to Evin Prison in Tehran. All four were transferred to the Ahvaz Sheyban Prison one month later.

Neisi, Achrash, Mahavi, and Achrash’s case was reviewed by Branch 2 of the Ahvaz Revolutionary Court presided by Judge Zare. After four months, they were released on bail of 2,000,000,000 Rials (approximately $15,000 USD).

Shortly afterwards, all four defendants were tried again in the same court on a charge of “acting against national security” for their social network activity, and were each sentenced to a two-year imprisonment. The conviction was upheld in appeals court.

While the conviction was being forwarded to the Enforcement Department, Neisi was unable to post bail in the interim, and turned himself in to Sheyban Prison on August 12th, 2016.

At Home and Abroad, Civil and Union Activists Continue to Rally Behind Detained Teacher Mohammad Habibi

Posted on: September 17th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- In the interest of obtaining Mohammad Habibi’s medical treatment and release from detainment, over 1400 Iranian civil and union activists have signed a letter to the attention Iran’s Supreme Leader, as his case steadily gains exposure with syndicates abroad.

Habibi, himself a union activist, educator, and member of the Teachers’ Union Association Board of Directors in the Province of Tehran, is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence ruled Saturday, August 4th in Branch 26 of Tehran Revolutionary Court. In addition to prison time, Habibi’s sentence included a two-years ban on civic activity, a two-year travel ban, and 74 lashings.

Since his detainment, Habibi’s requests for medical furlough have been repeatedly denied. On the one occasion his leave was granted, he was released from Great Tehran Penitentiary, prematurely dismissed from the hospital without receiving treatment, and then transferred to Evin on Monday, September 3, 2018, where he has remained since.

In one letter addressed to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the French trade unions SFDT, SGT, FSO, Solidaires, and UNSA called Habibi’s imprisonment a violation of both human rights and the fundamental freedoms of syndicates, and held the Supreme Leader accountable for his fate.

“Prison authorities continue to refuse him the medical treatment he sorely needs. Without proper care, his condition is at risk of rapid decline,” their letter reads. “We mean to impress upon you that as the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, you are responsible for the life and health of Mohammad Habibi.”

The signatories of the Iranian letter below are currently at 1400 and steadily increasing. Its full text is below, translated into English by HRANA:

“The Noble People of Iran,
Dear Teachers,
Political, Civil, and Union Activists,
Sensible people of the world,

As you know, Mohammad Habibi — member of the board of directors of the Teachers’ Union Association of the Province of Tehran, and protector of the rights of students, retired educators, and currently working teachers– has been subjected to the hostility of authorities and unlawfully detained in the Great Tehran Penitentiary, weakened in body but vigorous in spirit, and was recently sentenced to ten and a half years in prison, a 2-year travel ban, and a 2-year ban on civic activity.

The verdict against this unionist, coupled with the sentences of fellow unionists and political and civil activists, betrays the will to choke freedom of speech with medieval punishments such as lashings, exile, and internment in prisons reminiscent of POW detainment centers– so many efforts to inject fear and trepidation into the civil activist’s drive for justice.

Habibi’s verdict is reminiscent of the heavy sentences imposed on student activists and of the lashes inflicted on Agh Tappeh mine workers, sentences that are the latent dread of every civic society.

These sentences are issued for teachers, workers, students, etc… meanwhile, the thieves, the embezzlers, and the corrupt, in comfort and security, violate and withhold the rights of ordinary people and laborers, continuously lowering the bar on their livelihood.

It is our human duty in such circumstances to raise our collective voice against these cruel punishments, in order to put an end to the imprisonment, flogging, and persecution of sick prisoners.

To intercept a looming human tragedy, the Defense Committee of Mohammad Habibi calls for his immediate medical admission, and with a greater sense of solidarity than ever before will continue to fight for his release as well as the release of other imprisoned teachers.

We call on all free and righteous people to protest the imprisonment and flogging of Mohammad Habibi, and that of other unionists and civil activists, starting with their signature on the “No to Prison and Flogging” petition. Hopefully, this year, Mohammad Habibi’s students will see him again in the classroom, and not behind the bars of a prison.”

****

On May 10, 2018, the Council for Coordination of Teaching Syndicates urged teachers, be they retired or employed, to assemble in protest across the country. In Tehran, several of those who responded to the call were arrested and transferred to Evin Prison; all but Habibi were released on bail three days later.

Mohammad was previously arrested at his workplace on March 3, 2018 and jailed for 44 days in Evin Prison. On April 15, 2018, he was released on a bail of approximately $20000 USD (2.5 Billion Rials) in wait of his trial the following August.

Rajai Shahr Political Prisoners Share Final Memories of Moradis and Hossein Panahi

Posted on: September 16th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Almost one week after the hangings of Loghman Moradi, Zanyar Moradi, and Ramin Hossein Panahi (1), their fellow prisoners have written a letter to condemn their execution and relate the events leading up to it.

Dated Wednesday, September 12th, 2018, the letter was written from the Rajai Shahr Prison grounds in Karaj, on the western outskirts of Tehran, where the men were last known to be held.

The full text of their letter, translated into English by HRANA, is below:

“The tragedy happened Saturday, September 8th. As of Wednesday the 6th, [the mens’] prison visits were stopped, and on different pretexts, their comings and going within the prison, even to the clinic, were restricted. First they called Zanyar, then Loghman, up to the [prison] director’s office. Up to that point, nothing seemed out of ordinary. We paid little attention to the silence of our adjacent ward, which was usually abuzz. Silence meant that inmates there had been denied their courtyard time. Up until 4 p.m. that day, the absence of Zanyar and Loghman did not strike us as abnormal. At 4:30 p.m., though, we started to worry. When looked at all together, the anomalies of that day felt like the pulse of something sinister.

Then we were told that a truck had collided with a telephone cable, resulting in a service outage; a story we had heard before at around the same time a criminal act was about to take place. Hearing it again concerned us even more. Our only hope was that flaws had been found in their case, and that it had just been transferred to the Sanandaj Prosecutor’s Office to assign jurisdiction. In other words, we were clinging to the hope that their criminal case was not yet closed. Little did we know that rulers with snakes on their shoulders (2) were hungry for young brains, and that the court and judiciary of Zahakis are blind to the rule of law and due process.

When the sun sets on a dictatorship, the execution and massacring of prisoners is due course. Such are the workings of fate.

Miserable are those who, in face of these murders, will retreat in fear. Should that happen, the criminals will only gain resolve in their misdeeds. Cowardice conveys to them that the people can, and will, abide crime. Blessed are those who accept Zanyar, Loghman, and Ramin as their own children, children who were hanged in the prime of their youth to uproot the scaffolds and the gallows, to restore a clear skyline for the future.

Us prisoners and co-inmates of the fallen, we brace ourselves for this next, and hopefully last, wave of executions. What greater honor than to be among the last executed, to know that no young people after us will be forced to walk those gallow steps again.

If there were one single reason (although there are many) that this regime is incorrigible and will not be reformed under any circumstances, it is its killing of our nation’s noblest youth, like Zanyar, Loghman, and Ramin.

And so to those delusional people who put us on guard of how things would “get worse” [should the regime be toppled], we have to ask: what situation could conceivably be worse than this?

As fellow inmates of these three courageous martyrs of the gallows, we condemn their executions as criminal acts, and extend our condolences to their families. We have faith that their spilled blood will rattle the gates and guide a fettered nation to the dawn of freedom and justice.

Arash Sadeghi, Ebrahim Firoozi, Payam Shakiba, Pirouz Mansouri, Saeed Shirzad, Saeed Masouri, Javad Fooladvand, Hassan Sadeghi, Majid Asadi, Mohammad Banazadeh Amirkhzai

Rajai Shahr (Gohardasht) Prison
September 12th, 2018

More than 30 Baha’i College Applicants Denied Enrollment for their Religious Affiliation

Posted on: September 16th, 2018

Update: Authorities Continue to Hold Back Aspiring Baha’i Students

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – The number of Iranian Baha’is being denied college-enrollment eligibility despite successfully passing the national admissions test has reached 34, according to HRANA cumulative reports.

As part of a larger anti-Baha’i discrimination policy administered by the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution, the e-dossiers of Foroozan Noordel from Tabriz, Parsa Sheikh Zavareh, Hoda Hedayati, Arian Baghaei Amrei from Sari, Vafa Nobakht from Sari, Adib Rahmani from Sari (ranked #960, studying Mathematics), Parviz Rahmani, Kiana Rastak, Negar Iqani from Shiraz, Hooman Zarei Kadavi and Arsham Hashemi have all been flagged “deficiency on file.”

An informed source told HRANA that “deficiency on file” is the routine excuse for preventing Baha’i students from entering institutes of higher education.