Open Letter: Hundreds of Doctors and Publishers Plead for the Release of Farhad Meysami

Posted on: September 30th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Hundreds of medical doctors, publishers, bookshop owners, and university graduates wrote an open letter September 28th to raise their concerns about Farhad Meysami, a civil rights activist detained in Evin Prison who is in dire medical condition on this 57th day of his hunger strike. The letter pleads for Meysami’s release.

Meysami started his hunger strike one day after his July 31st arrest, in protest to authorities’ refusal to appoint the attorney of his choice.

He was taken to the prison clinic by violent force on September 26th, raising suspicions with close sources that authorities are deliberately isolating him from contacts with the outside.

Previously, Mahmoud Beheshti Langroudi and Esmaeil Abdi, two teachers imprisoned in Evin, asked for Meysami’s transfer to a hospital in their own open letter to judicial authorities.

The most recent open letter, representing the will of 1,400 doctors, publishers, bookshop owners, and university graduates, reflects the same concern for Meysami’s well-being.

“We know Dr. Farhmad Meysami’s character, disposition, and reputation of accountability, and we believe that he doesn’t belong in prison,” the letter says.

Meysami is noted in the letter as founder and manager of Andisheh Sazan, a publishing house in Iran.

“Meysami raised his criticisms in peaceful and non-violent ways,” the letter goes on. “Some of us don’t necessarily agree with him, but we don’t think this is a way to treat any dissident in this country, let alone a doctor and a publisher.”

The letter specifically implores the support of Culture Minister Abbas Salehi, Health Minister Hassan Ghazizade Hashemi, Parliamentary Health Committee Head Hosseinali Shahriari and Parliamentary Culture Committee Head Ahmad Mazani.

Their letter concludes with a verse from the Qur’an: “He who gives life to anyone has given life to all.”

Azerbaijani Activist Sentenced to 1 Year in Prison for Cultural Rally

Posted on: September 29th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Kiumars Eslami, an Azerbaijani activist arrested during the July 4th Azerbaijani rallies at Babak Fort, has been sentenced to one year in prison by Judge Firooz Farahani Mazrae Jahan, on the charge of “propaganda against the regime.”

Babak Fort is a site in northwestern Iran, home to the country’s Azerbaijani minority group, that has gained popularity in recent years as an annual cultural rallying spot for Azerbaijani activists during the first week of July.

In justifying his verdict, the judge cited Eslami’s cultural and ‘separatist’ activities: “The defendant is one of the ethnic, separatist, and Pan-Turkic activists in Parsabad,” Jahan wrote. “In order to carry out this separatist activity, he prepares reports, translates Persian books into Turkish [In Persian, the Azerbaijani language is often referred to as Turkish], distorts them in cyberspace, and disseminates them to foreign networks associated with the opposition. He is a leader and a member of the sub-branches of the Pan-Turkic movement in Parsabad county.”

Another reason cited for Eslami’s conviction was his reference to Iran’s Azerbaijani provinces as “South Azerbaijan” in social media posts.

According to an informed source, the head of Parsabad’s intelligence office, known only as Hazrati, previously told Eslami that his case file would be closed if he announced on the news that he would cease his Azerbaijani-related activism and cut off contact with fellow activist Abbas Lasani, who was recently convicted of similar charges.

A native of Parsabad-e Moghan, also located in northwestern Iran, Eslami was previously held in Moghan Prison, where he reportedly sustained head wounds and bleeding during violent interrogations by Iranian authorities. He went on a nine-day hunger strike beginning July 28th to protest the prison conditions and his oppression in the judicial system. He was released on approximately $650 USD (120 million IRR) bail on August 9th.

An Academic Year of Teacher Crackdowns

Posted on: September 25th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Iranian authorities have tightened their grip on union activities in recent years, and teacher union activists are far from the exception. Indeed, if representatives of various industries have been met with blowback for organizing in defense of their colleagues’ collective rights, a retrospective of crackdowns in the education field gives reason to believe that authorities reserve particular vitriol for the nation’s educators.

So far this year, Iranian teachers and educator-activists have been arrested by security agents, brought to court under various allegations, issued lengthy prison sentences, flogged, and exiled. On this turning of Iran’s new academic year, HRANA looks back at the cases of several teachers who were persecuted by authorities this year.

Mohammad Habibi: Union Activist, Member of the Teachers’ Union Association Board of Directors in Tehran Province

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 beaten and arrested and five days later Habibi was transferred to Great Tehran Penitentiary; all but Habibi were released on bail.

Now, Habibi’s case—which recently inspired more than 1400 civil and union activists to write to Iran’s Supreme leader demanding that he receive medical treatment—will be reviewed in Branch 36 of the Tehran Appeals Court, presided by Judge Seyed Ahmad Zargar. Habibi’s attorney Hossein Taj told a correspondent from the state-run news agency IRNA on Monday, September 17th that a date for the hearing has yet to be set.

Cumulatively, his charges would carry a sentence of ten years: seven and a half years for “National-Security Related Crimes”, 18 months for “Propaganda against the Regime”, and another 18 months for “Disrupting Public Order.” In addition to prison terms, he was dealt a two-year ban from political and civic activities, a two-year travel ban, and 74 lashings.

Habibi suffers from chest pain and throat and lung infections secondary to assault wounds inflicted by authorities during his arrest, yet continues to be denied medical treatment. On the one occasion his medical leave was granted, according to HRANA reports, the receiving hospital dismissed him without treatment, sending him back to Evin Prison’s Ward 4 on Monday, September 3, 2018, where he has remained since.

Habibi’s case–particularly his compromised medical condition–recently drew the support of teacher organizations abroad. In a letter addressed to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the French trade unions SFDT, SGT, FSO, Solidaires, and UNSA held the Supreme Leader accountable for Habibi’s fate, and called his imprisonment a violation of both human rights and the fundamental freedoms of syndicates. In May 2018, General Secretary of Education International (EI) David Edwards vehemently denounced Habibi’s arrest and detention, demanding his immediate release in a letter to Iranian president Hassan Rouhani.

The Teachers’ Union Association of the Province of Tehran has publicly condemned the recent persecution of union advocates, also demanding that the necessary steps be taken for Habibi’s immediate release.

Habibi was 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) pending his trial the following August.

A letter from Habibi’s HR office confirmed he is no longer receiving his salary.

Mahmoud Beheshti Langroodi: Former Spokesman of the Teachers’ Union Association

Mahmoud Beheshti Langroodi, former spokesman of the Teachers’ Union Association, has been persistently following up on his requests for conditional release, having already served half of the five-year sentence he began September 6, 2015 in Evin. Authorities have thus far been unresponsive.

According to his wife Adineh Beigi, Langroodi started his teaching career in 1983 and remained an hourly employee for the first seven years, suspended in the recruitment process due to his allegedly oppositional intellectual leanings. In the genesis of the Teachers’ Union Association in the early 2000s, he was one of the first to join its board of directors, and was elected general secretary for two terms. He has also served on the board as an inspector and spokesman.

Langroodi had been sentenced to a total of 14 years in prison for three separate cases tried in revolutionary courts, all presided by judges known as “Salavati and Moghiseh.” In April 8, 2017, with the application of article 134, which limits defendants of multiple charges to the single heaviest among their sentences, his 14-year prison sentence was reduced to five years. Now, having served two third of his prison term, his family awaits his release.

On July 2, 2018, Langroodi went on hunger strike to protest the continued mistreatment of political prisoners, and wrote an open letter imputing the eventual consequences of his hunger strike on those who had put him behind bars, particularly the judges and prosecutor’s office.

On July 16th of this year, the Teachers’ Union Association of Tehran Province issued a statement condemning the judiciary’s disregard of the law, and criticizing the assistant prosecutor in charge of Evin Prison for negligence. The letter validated the demands of Beheshti and his fellow imprisoned teachers, urging them to cease their hunger strike.

Moved by his comrades’ letter and concerned about his declining health, Beheshti ended his hunger strike after 14 days.

Langaroudi has been summoned, interrogated, arrested, and detained several times during the past few years for his peaceful trade union activities.

Esmaeil Abdi: General Secretary of the Teachers’ Union Association

Esmail Abdi, former secretary general of the Teachers’ Union Association, is serving a 6-year sentence in Evin Prison.

A former teacher of mathematics, Abdi was arrested by security forces June 27, 2015 and sentenced February 2016 by Judge Salavati in Branch 15 of Revolutionary Court on charges of “Propaganda against the Regime” and “Assembling and Colluding against National Security.”

On May 14, 2016, after serving 11 months, he was released on bail until his trial the following October, when Branch 36 of the Tehran Appeals Court upheld his six-year prison sentence. He has been in Ward 8 of Evin prison since being arrested in his home by security forces on November 9, 2016.

Under Article 134, Abdi’s sentence should be limited to the heaviest one of his multiple sentences, and thus should not exceed five years. It remains to be seen if the judiciary will uphold Article 134 in his case.

Over the course of Abdi’s imprisonment, several groups have spoken out against his treatment by the judicial system and pleaded for his release, including the Syndicate of United Bus Company Workers of Greater Tehran (known as ‘Sandicaye Sherkat Vahed’), the International Education Organization, the Iran Teachers’ Organization, a number of individual labor and union activists, the Coordinating Council of Iranian Teachers’ Trade Associations, the Kurdish Teachers’ Association, and the Canadian Teachers’ Federation.

In April 24, 2018, Esmail Abdi staged a 23-day hunger strike to protest the “widespread violation of teachers’ and workers’ rights in Iran.” Amnesty International was prompted by the urgency of his hunger strike to issue their own demand for Abdi’s release on April 28, 2018.

Abdi had previously gone on hunger strike one year earlier in protest of his trial proceedings, the judiciary’s lack of autonomy, and the continued unlawful repression of teachers and labors union activists. More than a month into the strike he was transferred to a hospital and began eating again on June 7th at the requests of his family and the Teacher’s Union Association.

Abdi was the 2018 recipient of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) Solidarity Award at its annual conference in Birmingham, England.

Mohammad Sani, a Teacher of Exceptional Schools in Southern Iran

Mohammad Sani, a teacher from Bushehr, southern Iran, was sentenced to two years in prison and 74 lashings for his union activities, which landed him a conviction of “spreading misinformation and disturbing public opinion” this past August. He is currently waiting for the Enforcement Department to deliver his summons and begin his prison time.

An informed source previously told HRANA that Sani’s charge is related to the widespread teacher protests in 2015, which prompted the County Governorate of Dashtestan, Bushehr province to open a case against the protestors. “When Mr. Sani responded to the county governor’s insults to the teachers at the sit in, they opened a case on him,” the source said.

In October 2015, Iranian teachers staged peaceful protests across the country, demanding the release of their imprisoned colleagues, the fulfillment of union requests, and public consideration for the threatened livelihoods of educators.

Ruhollah Mardani: Teacher and Tehran University Student

In Ward 4 of Evin Prison, Ruhollah Mardani is currently serving a sentence of six years, plus a two-year ban on typical citizen rights including travel.

Mardani was arrested and transferred to Evin Prison on February 17, 2018 for his participation in the widespread January protests one month earlier. His initial court hearing, which convened in June of this year, convicted him on charges of “Propaganda against the regime” and “Gathering and collusion aimed at disrupting national security.”

Mardani started a hunger strike April 24th 2017 to protest his detainment and stalled court proceedings while in prison. When authorities promised to accelerate their investigation of his case on May 21st, he began eating again after twenty seven consecutive days of strike.

An informed source previously told HRANA that the Education Security Office cut off his salary in the first month of his arrest, arguing that he could not be paid during his detention. “His job security is under threat right now,” the source said.

Mardani was working as a consultant teacher in region 4 of Karaj while studying at Tehran University.

Bakhtiar Arefi: Teacher in Sardasht, northwestern Iran

Bakhtiar Arefi began serving his 18-month prison sentence on Tuesday July 24, 2018 in Mahabad Prison. He was arrested January 25, 2015 for non-union reasons including “Membership in a Reformist Organization” and released on bail after one month.

Shortly thereafter in Revolutionary Court on February 25, 2017, Arefi was sentenced to three years in prison. His sentence was upheld in Branch 40 of Supreme Court, only to be later reduced to eighteen months in Branch 13 of Urmia Appeals Court on October 30, 2017, via application of Article 18 of Islamic Penal Code. If he serves his sentence as indicated, he will be released December 23, 2019.

Iranian teachers who have faced judicial persecution along with their unionist colleagues include Mokhtar Asadi, Taher Ghaderzadeh, Rasool Bodaghi, Aliakbar Baghani, Nabiollah Bastan Farsani, Abdolreza Ghanbari, Mahmud Bagheri, Mohammad Davari, Alireza Hashemi, Jafar Ebrahimi, Hashem Khastar, Mohsen Omrani.

Author and Humorist Kiyumars Marzban Detained

Posted on: September 22nd, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – On August 26, 2018, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Intelligence forces arrested author and satirist Kiyumars Marzban in his home, confiscating several personal items including his mobile phone and laptop.

Last year, Marzban, 26, came back to Iran after eight years abroad to visit his ailing grandmother. While he entered the country without event, Branch 1 of the Evin Prosecutor’s Interrogation office opened up a case file and arranged for his arrest within his first year back home.

While Marzban alleges he never traveled to the U.S., a state-affiliated news site has accused him of “Networking in Iran” on contract with American partners. The same news site accuses Marzban, who also teaches art, of entering Iran with the intent to sensationalize and divide the community with his classes. As of the date of this report, no further information was available about the reasons for Marzban’s arrest.

Human Rights Watch revealed in a press release that he has not been allowed to visit his family yet.

Kiyumars Marzban began his career with filmmaking in 2005. By 2009 he had produced eight short films and left Iran to develop his portfolio in Malaysia. Shortly afterward, via Facebook, he launched the world’s premier Persian-language comedy podcast, called “Radio Sangetab” (Sangtab, the name of a village in northern Iran, is also a cooking method using hot stones). His works include “Kham Bodam Pokhte Shodam Balke Pasandideh Shodam” (I was raw, I became ripe and rather pleasant) and “Aziz Jan” (Dear darling).

Appeals Court Fines Poet and Filmmaker in Connection with 2016 Instagram Post

Posted on: September 20th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Bektash Abtin, a poet, filmmaker, and former board member of the Iranian Writers Guild, was fined $1,200 USD (5 million IRR) on a charge of “propaganda against the regime” for a photo he posted on Instagram in 2016.

The above order is an appeal of his June sentencing, in Branch 2 of the Revolutionary Court of Karaj, to three months of forced labor in the State Welfare Office in addition to the 5 million IRR fine.

When police raided a memorial service at Imamzadeh Saleh shrine in Karaj in November 2016, Abtin snapped a photo of his comrade’s injuries and published it to Instagram. The service was intended to commemorate writers Mohammad Mokhtari and Mohammad Jafar Pouyandeh, victims of serial murders in December 1998 that were suspected to be the work of Iranian government operatives.

Security forces stormed the memorial service, which quickly devolved into a violent clash. In attempts to protect 75-year-old civilian Fatemeh Sarhadizadeh from harm, Mazdak Zarafshan sustained severe injuries to his face. Abtin, Zarafshan, and a number of fellow attendees–including Mohammad Mehdipour, Naser Zarafshan, and Reza Akvaniyan–were subsequently taken into custody.

(subphoto text: image of Mazdak Zarafshan after he was beaten by the security forces. Baktash Abtin published this image on his Instagram account.)

After his release, Abtin published photographic evidence of Zarafshan’s injuries to his social media account, inciting Karaj prosecutors to accuse him of “propaganda against the regime” and open up a case file against him.

This is not the first entry on Abtin’s rap sheet. Pursuant to a lawsuit from fellow writer and Writer’s Guild board member Reza Khandan Mahabadi, Abtin was previously charged with “propaganda against the regime” and “publishing an illegal journal”. At the time of Mahabadi’s accusations against him, security forces stormed both of their homes and confiscated their personal property.

In 2015, Abtin was interrogated for three consecutive days by intelligence officers, who reportedly drilled him about his films, his membership in the Iranian Writers Guild, and his participation in the 2009 post-election protests.

Bektash Abtin, born in 1974, is a poet and documentary filmmaker who in 2014 was elected along with four other colleagues to the board of the Iranian Writers Guild. He previously served as secretary of the Guild for one term and as officer of the Guild’s Managing Committee for two terms. In the 2018 Guild elections, he was elected as one of the group’s financial auditors. A number of his documentaries have been screened at international festivals, including “13 October 1937,” a documentary about Iranian musician and orchestra conductor Loris Cheknavarian; “Ansor,” a documentary about censorship; and “Homayun Khorram,” a documentary about the famed Iranian musician of that name. He has also published a number of poetry books, including “When My Foot Was Clubbed It Wrote ‘Let’s Go Back,”; “My Lashes Have Stitched My Eyes Shut”; “Sledgehammer”; “A Lonely Birth Certificate”; and “The Ancestor of my Inner Ape.”

Appeals Court Upholds Convictions of Six Azerbaijani Activists

Posted on: September 10th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Six Azerbaijani activists accused of national-security related crimes for protesting Azerbaijani cultural misrepresentation in 2015 had their appeal rejected.

On September 1, 2018, Judge Hossein Farshi Radvar of Branch 3 of the East Azerbaijan Province Appeals Court moved to uphold the original ruling, issued to a total of seven activists in October 2017 by Branch 1 of Ahar Revolutionary Court. Ahar is situated in northwest Iran, home to Iran’s Azerbaijani ethnic minority.

On a conviction of “Assembly and collusion against national security by propagandizing against the regime,” the activists all face prison time: ten months for both Akbar Aboulzadeh and Ebrahim Noori, and seven months apiece for Esrafil Fathollahzadeh, Hamed Allahverdipour, Morteza Shokri, and Soleiman Kazemi.

Though the appeals court had also summoned Saleh Molla Abbasi, his name did not figure in the final verdict. The initial ruling indicated he faces a 10-month prison sentence.

From the group of seven, the four who attended the initial court hearing were the same ones present at the appeals hearing: Aboulzadeh, Fathollahzadeh, Allahverdipour, and Shokri. Three others – Saleh Molla Abbasi, Kazemi, and Noori – did not attend the court session. Noori is currently serving a sentence for other charges in Evin Prison of Tehran.

The activists were arrested in November of 2015 for their involvement in public protests against the state-sponsored television series “Fitileh,” parts of which were believed to portray the Azerbaijani ethnic minority in a derogatory light. The “Fitileh” protests reportedly involved around 25 participants. All but these seven were eventually acquitted.

HRANA previously reported on the activists’ pending appeals hearing.

Ahwazi Arab Poet Abbas Torfi Detained in Mashhad

Posted on: August 31st, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – On Thursday, August 30, 2018, an Arab poet and activist was detained in Mashhad after attending a private poetry reading. Security forces produced no warrants at the time of his arrest.

HRANA verified the identity of the detainee as Abbas Torfi.

Torfi is actively involved in Arab poetry, culture, and literature. The reasons for his arrest remain unknown. No information is currently available regarding his whereabouts or conditions post-arrest.

A Juvenile Offender Executed in Bushehr

Posted on: April 5th, 2018

HRANA News Agency – Ali Kazemi, a prisoner who had been sentenced to death at the age of 15 when he was charged with murder, was executed in Bushehr Prison, at noon on December 31. It is said that the prisoner was alive for an hour after the verdict was executed and he eventually died in the hospital.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency in Iran (HRANA), the death sentence of Ali Kazemi, juvenile offender, was carried out in Bushehr Prison, at noon on December 31. (more…)

Three historical sites were demolished in Yazd

Posted on: June 27th, 2013

HRANA News Agency – In spite of protests staged by the Friends of Heritage and Cultural Society, three historical sites have been demolished in Yazd. The city of Yazd is known to be an important historical city in the world, only second to Venice in Italy. Yazd is also one of the largest cities build almost entirely out of adobe.

(more…)

Mohammad Bagher Moradi is sentenced to 5 years of prison

Posted on: May 22nd, 2013

HRANA News Agency – Mohammad Bagher Moradi, a member of Saraye Ahle Ghalam has been sentenced to 5 years of prison.

 

According to a report by the committee of human rights reporters, after being summoned by a telephone call to the branch 26 of the revolutionary court of Tehran, Judge Pir Abbasi has sentenced Mohammad Bagher Moradi to 5 years of prison on charge of colluding and gathering to act against the national security. (more…)