Open Letter: Kurdish Citizen Fears for Imprisoned Brother’s Life

Posted on: October 24th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – On August 7th, Iranian state-sponsored television broadcast footage of what appeared to be a confession: two prisoners can be heard owning up to their part in an armed attack on the military base of Saqqez. One of these two men, Houshmand Alipour, is the subject of an open letter written by his brother Hejar, who sees this footage as a sham excuse to end his brother’s life.

Hejar has written in his brother’s defense before, asking human rights organizations in a recent open letter to address Iranian authorities’ restrictions on Alipour and his co-defendant’s visitations, extra-prison communications, and access to legal defense. Alipour, a Sardasht native, was detained August 3rd of this year alongside the prisoner seen beside him in the video, Mohammad Ostadghader. On charges of membership in Kurdish opposition parties, he has been confined to the Sanandaj Intelligence Office in circumstances increasingly dire.

A close source stated earlier this month that Alipour was being bounced between interrogation, intelligence detention, and Saqqez prosecution court, without the presence of a defense attorney and to the great confusion of his family. HRANA previously reported on authorities’ hindrance of Alipour’s defense proceedings as his October 4th investigation date drew near, only to be postponed.

In a prior statement, Amnesty International expressed concerns about Alipour and Ostadghader’s detention, particularly over their purported confession tapes. “The pair were held in an unknown location without access to their families or lawyers […],” the statement read. “The nature of the accusations against them and their forced televised ‘confessions’ may be a precursor to charges that incur the death penalty.”

Amnesty also detailed the plight of Ostadghader, who — as of the date of their statement — was denied medical since sustaining a gunshot wound at the time of his arrest.

The full text of Hejar’s second plea for his brother is below, translated into English by HRANA:

“Houshmand Alipour and Mohammad Ostadghader have thus far spent around three months in custody of the Islamic Republic. They are subjected to a variety of physical and psychological tortures. Their lives are at stake. Houshmand is a man 25 years young whose life is being squandered by the oppression of the Islamic Republic and its abuses of our family.

I want to narrate a part of Houshmand’s life here, for everyone to read. Houshmand was born in November of 1993 in Sardasht. He has a twin sister. He was born to a big family. Although there were ten of us children, our parents worked hard to make sure we wanted for nothing. Our father worked day and night, in the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter, all to provide for us.

The family Houshmand was born into is no stranger to oppression and injustice. Our father, Mostafa Allipour, is one of the better-known activists of the Sardasht region. Advocating to free the people and to better their lives bought him persecution from the Islamic Republic, which trailed him through the years with prison time and fines. My father always said, “Because we wanted fortune for all, much misfortune befell us [….]. The regime gave our family no respite.” Our mother, Ameneh Mowludian, bears the sufferings of the continued threats and pressures imposed on our family by the Islamic Republic. Our paternal uncle, Hossein Alipour, was executed in 1983 by the Islamic Republic. Our father’s paternal uncle Molla Ali Bijavi was executed in 1985 by Islamic Republic operatives, and the mercenaries of the Baʿthist regime in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Bearing witness to the insults and disdain that the government has always borne towards his family, Houshmand was haunted by anger and hatred. No matter how how hard he tried, he could never find peace.

In 2009, when he was only sixteen, he was arrested during a celebratory feast in Sardasht. Of his arrest, he said:

“Officers of the Islamic Republic attacked us with tear gas, batons, and pepper spray. I fell to the ground where they beat me and placed me under arrest. In their car, they tied my hands behind my back, blindfolded me, and transported me to the Intelligence Office. There they beat me savagely, insulted me, and spit obscenities at me. During the beatings and while I was blindfolded, they took my fingerprint as a ‘signature’ on documents, the contents of which I was wholly unaware. They forcibly extracted confessions in there.”

Houshmand is sentenced to four years’ imprisonment and 75 lashes. As a minor he spent time in the Juvenile detention center of Urmia before being transferred to the Juvenile Ward (1A). This is where he passed the days of his sentence and endured floggings.

After his release from prison, Houshmand Alipour was repeatedly summoned by the Ministry of Intelligence in connection to his family members’ politics. He eventually decided to flee to Iraq. He spent about four years in Iraqi Kurdistan, and even participated in the Kurdish war against ISIS, and incurred a few injuries in the process. A while later, following in the footsteps of his family members, he travelled to Turkey to seek asylum. His case file was registered at the UN Refugee office in Turkey. Upon his return to Iraq, where he went about working […] in the city of Baneh, Iranian Kurdistan, he was arrested alongside Mohammad Ostadghader.

The Islamic Republic pummeled and stifled the dreams of a young man, and we cannot stand by as they try to take his life. For this reason, I entreat all freedom-lovers and human rights organizations to do all in their power to rise up and save Houshmand’s life, to bring him back into the loving arms of his parents, sisters, and brothers.

Hejar Alipour,
20 October 2018”

Another Ahwazi Arab Citizen Arrested

Posted on: October 21st, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) –On Friday, October 19th, local Intelligence agents arrested Ahwazi Arab citizen Qais Ghazi, 33, transferring him to an undisclosed location.

Describing Ghazi as an advocate for peaceful methods of protest, an informed source speculated to HRANA that he was being arrested under a flimsy guise of counterterrorism that authorities have used liberally since the September 22nd attack on an Ahvaz military parade.

“It seems that after arresting hundreds of Ahwazi Arab activists, the security apparatus is now targeting independent civil rights activists,” the source said. “This is despite the government’s announcement that Daesh [ISIS] claimed responsibility for the [parade attack]. They are using it as an excuse to crack down on Ahwazi Arab civil and cultural activists and intellectuals.”

At the time of this report, no further information was available on Ghazi’s whereabouts or the reasons behind his arrest.

On October 17, 2018, for reasons unknown, Ahwazi Arab citizens Sajjad Silavi and Seyed Sadegh Nazari were also arrested by intelligence agents before being transferred to an undisclosed location.

Since the Ahvaz parade tragedy, dozens of Ahwazi Arab citizens across Khuzestan province have been arrested and transferred to unknown locations. In recent reports, HRANA has covered the steady stream of arrests being reported by locals in the region.

Despite the urgency to hold the assailants accountable for wounding and killing civilians, including women and children, Iran’s security establishment is marred by a history of questionable investigative methods, raising public concern that innocent scapegoats may be subject to torturous interrogations and impugned for the attacks.

Ahvaz is the capital of Khuzestan province, located in Iran’s southwest.

Ahwazi Arab Arrests Continue in Environs of Ahvaz Parade Attack

Posted on: October 20th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – Eight more Ahwazi Arab citizens, including two women, join the ranks of 55 locals already scooped up by authorities in a haphazard arrest campaign, purportedly an element of investigation into an armed attack on an Ahvaz military parade that claimed the lives of several civilians on September 22nd.

On October 15th, in the villages surrounding Susangerd, forces from the IRGC Intelligence Department arrested eight Ahwazi Arab Sunni citizens identified by HRANA as follows: Fayez Afravi, 30, married with one child; Afravi’s 45-year-old mother; Mohammad Amin Afravi, married, together with his 37-year-old mother; Abbas Moghinami, 26, married; Morteza Beyt Sheikh Ahmad, 24; Aref Moghinami, 27; and Morteza Moghinami, 22.

Fayez and Mohammad Amin Afravi are residents of Albu Afri village in Susangerd, a source told HRANA. Abbas Moghinami owns a tailor shop in the nearby village of Hojjie that specializes in Arabic garments known as thawbs or dishdashas, and where Morteza Beyt Sheikh Ahmad and Morteza Moghinami are currently employed. All three were arrested while leaving the shop with Aref Moghinami.

Susangerd is located in Dasht-e Azadegan County, Khuzestan Province.

HRANA identified 55 prior arrestees in its recent reports.

Twenty-four civilians, including a four-year-old child, were killed in the September 22nd gun attack on Ahvaz; fifty-seven more sustained injuries. The four assailants were apprehended and killed.

Following the attack, Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence announced that it had 22 suspects in custody, backing their announcement with a video recording of blindfolded, unidentified detainees facing a wall. Local sources estimate that detainees number closer to 300, and hail mostly from the cities of Ahvaz, Khorramshahr, Susangerd, and Abadan. Most of the arrestees have a previous track record with police.

As authorities work to confirm which body or group may have masterminded the attack, public urgency to find closure is tinged with the concern that innocent arrestees will be subject to inhumane interrogation methods.

Former Death Row Juvenile Offender Saman Naseem Released on Bail

Posted on: October 19th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Saman Naseem, a Kurdish juvenile offender who was arrested seven years ago and was once on death row, was freed on a five billion IRR (approximately $35,000 USD) bail on October 16, 2018.

Naseem’s death sentence was commuted to five years in prison by the Appeals Court of West Azerbaijan Province, located on Iran’s northwestern border with Turkey and Iraq.

Originally scheduled in February, Naseem’s release was delayed by a new lawsuit brought against him in August 2018 by the family of a late agent of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The agent’s surviving family members — along with the family members of three others who were injured in armed clashes in 2011 — demanded “Qesas,” or “eye-for-an-eye” retribution permissible under Iran’s Islamic Penal Code.

Naseem was 17 years old when he participated in the clashes on the side of the Kurdish opposition. His role incurred charges of “Moharebeh [Enmity against God]” and “corruption on earth” in Mahabad Revolutionary Court, which sentenced him to death in 2013. Iran’s Supreme Court upheld the sentence in December of that year.

Naseem’s lawyers appealed the verdict, obtaining a retrial in a parallel appeals court. This court acquitted Naseem, commuting the capital punishment sentence to five years in prison, upholding the charge of “membership in an armed opposition group, namely the Kurdistan Free Life Party [commonly known by its Kurdish-language acronym PJAK].” The Supreme Court upheld his commutation.

Naseem — who had no access to legal representation during the preliminary investigation of his case — alleges that authorities tortured him while he was in custody, pulling nails from his fingers and toes and suspending him upside down from the ceiling.

Iran: Parade Attack Continues to Drive Ahwazi Arab Arrests

Posted on: October 19th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Authorities continue to arrest Ahwazi Arab citizens in connection to the attack on an Ahvaz military parade that shook the country on September 22nd.

Two more Ahwazi Arab arrestees — identified by HRANA as Mohammad Mohammadi (Abyat), 22, and Ghassem Kabavi (Kabi), 24 — join the 53 who had already been detained as of October 15th.

Ministry of Intelligence agents in Hamidiyeh County transferred Mohammadi and Kabavi to an undisclosed location after arresting them on October 16th.

The day of the attack, a military parade in Ahvaz commemorating the Iran-Iraq war was interrupted by a sudden spray of gunfire on soldiers and spectators. That day, more than 20 civilians were killed, including a four-year-old child, and 57 more were wounded. All four of the gunmen have reportedly been killed.

While Iranian news media is abuzz with speculation over which group might have ordered the attack, authorities’ investigations have thus far been inconclusive. Four days after the attack, the Ministry of Intelligence announced that it had 22 suspects in custody, backing its announcement with a video recording of blindfolded, unidentified detainees facing a wall. Unofficial sources have countered this report, estimating the tally of those detaineth far to be closer to 300. The majority of the arrests have taken place in the cities of Ahvaz, Khorramshahr, Hamidiyeh, Susangerd, and Abadan, all located in the Khuzestan province.

Many of the recent arrestees have a previous track record with police, and the continued arrest campaign — led by a security establishment known for its questionable investigative methods — has done little to assuage public concern that authorities will force confessions from innocent prior offenders.

Hamidiyeh is a city and capital of Hamidiyeh District, in Ahvaz, Khuzestan Province.

Amid Parade Attack Investigations, Ahvaz Authorities Arrest More Citizens

Posted on: October 15th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Dozens of citizens were rounded up October 13th and 15th in the Malashieh and Kouy-e Alavi neighborhoods of Ahvaz, the capital of southwestern border province of Khuzestan now known as the site of a violent shooting on a military parade on September 22nd of this year.

HRANA has identified nine more Ahwazi Arab arrestees, who join the 44 already arrested as of September 27th: Mohammad Omuri, 26, Naim Heydari, 24, Aref Ghazalavi, Kazem Ghazalavi, Ali al-Hay (Hayyai), Shakir Savari, Shakir Savari, and Fadhil Shemousi, arrested Saturday, and Jassim Croshat, 45, a mechanic from Kouye Alavi in Ahvaz, who was arrested Monday, October 15th.

Merchant Arrested Amid Rumors of Impending Market Strike

Posted on: October 13th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Security forces in Tabriz arrested Azerbaijani activist Mohammad Abdolmohammad-Zadeh Namrour on Wednesday, October 10, 2018, and transferred him to an undisclosed location.

An informed source speculated to HRANA that Namrour, a manufacturer in the Tabriz shoe market, was arrested in anticipation of the shoe market’s upcoming strike. This connection has yet to be confirmed.

Urban bazaars across Iran are the site of increasingly frequent strikes among merchants fed up with the symptoms of the current recession, including an unstable currency exchange, rising prices, and inflation.

Tabriz is located in northwestern Iran.

Citing Constitutional Trespass, Abbas Lasani Rejects Court’s Second Summons

Posted on: October 13th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Azerbaijani activist Abbas Lasani’s public dissent with the Iranian judicial system continued this week with his spurning, via open letter, of a second court subpoena that he decries as illegitimate. “I will not abide by the rule of tyranny, and thus I express my protest and rebellion against this illegal process, and against your oppressive conduct unbecoming of a court,” he wrote.

Via SMS on September 24th, Lasani learned he had been convicted in absentia in Branch 2 of Tabriz Revolutionary Court. On October 10th, a writ summoned him to hear the conviction in court within the next ten days.

“My verdict was delivered by a totally illegal and unlawful process that is neither reasonable nor acceptable,” Lasani wrote, explaining that constitutional article 168 stipulates that verdicts in political, press, or conscience cases must be tried in public and in the presence of the media.

HRANA reported September 16th on Lasani’s refusal to respond to an initial summons via text message from the same court. “It’s impossible to ignore that the summons is illegitimate, arriving by text message with no official hard copy,” Lasani said in a public statement.

Abbas Lasani was among a group of four Azerbaijani (Turk) activists residing in Ardebil arrested by Intelligence agents 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 500 million rials [$3,500 USD] bail July 11, 2018. More than 80 Azerbaijani activists were arrested throughout Ardabil, West Azerbaijan, and East Azerbaijan provinces at the time of the Babak Fort gathering.

Amnesty International issued a statement on August 11th 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.

Forty-four Ahwazi Detainees Identified in Wake of Parade Attack

Posted on: October 13th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Since last month’s attack on an Ahvaz military parade, dozens of Ahwazi Arab citizens of Iran have been rounded up, arrested, and transferred to unknown locations in the Khuzestan province.

Public urgency to find those responsible for the attack — which claimed the lives of several civilians, including women and children — is matched only by mounting concern that Iran’s security establishment, with its history of questionable investigation methods, might be searching too aggressively for a scapegoat.

HRANA has identified 44 of the arrestees detained near Ahvaz in recent weeks: 1. Jamil Heidari, 33, 2. Majed Heidari, 25, 3. Ahmad Hamari, 29, 4. Seyed Jasem Rahmani (Mousavi), 33, 5. Majed Chaldavi, 6. Seyed Hamood Rahmani (Mousavi), 7. Ali Savari, 23, 8. Hatam Savari, 9. Adnan Savari, 10. Hossein Heidari, 11. Ahmad Bavi, 12. Abdolrahman Khosraji, 32, 13. Mahdi Saedi, 27, 14. Javad Badvi, 26, 15. Riaz Zahiri, 16. Zamel Heidari, 17. Mahdi Kooti, 18. Ali Kooti, 19. Sattar Kooti, 20. Ali Mansouri, 21. Mohammad Momen Timas, 55, 22. Ahmad Timas, 28, 26. Osama Timas, 26, 24. Adel Afravi, 25. Mohammad Savari, 26. Mokhtar Masoudi, 27. Abdollah Silavi, 28. Khaled Silavi, 29. Ali Albaji, 30. Maher Masoudi, 31. Javad Hashemi, 32. Yousef Khosraji, 33. Abbas Badvi, 34. Mohsen Badvi, 35. Hassan Ben Ali, 36. Jador Afravi, 37. Milad Afravi, 38. Ali Albaji, 39. Mohammad Masoudi, 40. Alireza Deris, 41. Adel Zahiri, 42. Adel Afravi, 43. Ahmad Heidari, 44. Fahad Neisi

The attack in question was a violent interruption to a military parade in Ahvaz on September 22nd, commemorating the Iran-Iraq war. Mid-ceremony, gunmen suddenly opened fire on soldiers and spectators alike.

Mojtaba Zolnour, member of the Iranian parliamentary committee for national security and foreign affairs, announced 29 deaths and 57 wounded. Several civilians, including a 4-year-old child, figured on the list of victims released by state-run news agencies.

It has yet to be determined which group is responsible for the attack, and on Iranian airwaves, theories abound. Not long after the attack took place, Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence released a video recording of blindfolded, unidentified detainees facing a wall, accompanied with the announcement that the Ministry had 22 suspects in custody.

Local sources have countered the Ministry’s report, estimating the tally of those detained so far to be closer to 300. The majority of these arrests have taken place in the cities of Ahvaz, Khorramshahr, Susangerd, and Abadan, all located in Khuzestan province.

Security measures now loom large over the Arab-majority neighborhoods south of Khuzestan, local sources say, while the families of those detained have been unable to obtain any indication from authorities on the status or location of their loved ones.

Previously, Iranian Minister of Intelligence Mahmoud Alavi made the public claim that “the terrorists who opened fire on the crowd have been killed,” adding, “Every single person behind the attack […] will be identified, and the majority of them have already been apprehended.”

Many of the arrestees have a previous track record with police, reinforcing public speculation that security forces are applying the timeworn approach of haranguing past offenders into culpability, current or relevant evidence be damned.

Iran’s Supreme Court Upholds Death Sentence for Hedayat Abdollahpour

Posted on: October 10th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Supreme Court Branch 47 has upheld the death sentence for Urmia prisoner Hedayat Abdollahpour, one of several defendants charged in connection to the Oshnavieh clashes, his lawyer Hossein Ahmadiniaz told HRANA. It also upheld the prison sentences of six of Abdollahpour’s co-defendants, who are currently free on bail.

Ahmadiniaz and Abdollapour’s family learned yesterday October 8th of the high court’s assent to his January 2017 capital punishment sentence in Urmia Revolutionary Court Branch 1, on a charge of “Baqi,” i.e. rebellion [often used against those accused of participating in armed uprisings]. Abdollapour maintains that he never took up arms and did not have a weapon at the time of his arrest.

Abdollahpour was arrested along with six others on June 15, 2016, in Qarah Soqol village near the city of Oshnavieh. His case was initially toggled from one court to another: charges were first ruled in initial court, reversed in supreme court, and then sent back to the parallel court branch that ultimately decided his fate.

Ahmadniaz told HRANA that his client was guilty simply of having been in the wrong place at the wrong time. “Hedayat Abdollahpour is being processed on something he knows nothing about, and towards which he would have no inclination,” Ahmadniaz said. “These honorable plaintiffs — the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) — want to put him to death for Baqi.”

Ahmadiniaz went on to iterate the upheld prison sentences of Abdollahpour’s co-defendants: Rasoul Azizi Alias Hassed, 25 years; Mohammad Zaher Faramarzi, 20 years; Jalal Masroori and Yaghob Ba Ekram, 15 years each; Kamal Masroori and Sedigh Baekram, 10 years each.

The Oshnavieh clashes were fights that broke out between the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps of Hamzeh in the summer of 2016. Many from both sides were wounded or lost their lives in the conflicts.

Many of those residing in the border region of Oshnavieh were arrested and convicted on suspicions of collaborating wwith the Kurdish opposition.

Abdollahpour’s brother Farhad was arrested by IRGC Intelligence forces June 30th of this year and taken to IRGC detention center in Urmia. He was transferred to Oshnavieh Prison September 13th and later released on a bail of 2 billion rials [approximately $20,000 USD].