Authorities Intimidate National Front of Iran into Cancelling Meeting

Posted on: October 17th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Before it could assemble for the first time in 12 months, the National Front of Iran again had to cancel a meeting due to threats of detainment from security forces, who have been impeding the group’s gatherings for the past three years.

The political group had intended to hold leadership elections on Monday, October 15th in the home of one of its members. A close source told HRANA that the elections were scheduled to fill the position of late central council chairman Adib Boroumand.

The National Front of Iran is a nationalist political organization that has faced restrictions to its activities since it was founded in 1949.

Activist Mohammad Najafi Charged with Visiting the Family of Ramin Hossein Panahi

Posted on: October 17th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Attorney and human rights activist Mohammad Najafi was charged with “spreading lies with intent to disrupt the public mind” after travelling to Iran’s Kurdish region to meet with the family of Ramin Hossein Panahi, a political prisoner who was recently executed.

Najafi confirmed to HRANA that he was read his charges in Branch 1 of Shazand’s General and Revolutionary Investigation Court on October 14th, pursuant to a summons he received the day before.

Though Shazand Criminal Court No. 2 recently opted not to suspend Najafi’s internet activity, he said more charges would be forthcoming against him for content he posted online.

Najafi was previously detained for inquiring into the death of civilian Vahid Heydari, who died in Police Detention Center No. 12 amid the January protests. Najafi challenged Iranian judicial authorities who had claimed Heydari was a drug dealer that committed suicide while in custody. Najafi’s interviews with Heydari’s loved ones suggest that Heydari was a street peddler with no criminal record, whose autopsy report showed none of the typical markers of suicide, but did indicate head injuries consistent with blunt-force trauma.

When news of Najafi’s situation reached Tehran MP Mahmoud Sadeghi, he accused security forces of fabricating the grounds for his case, and defended Najafi by saying he had only gone as far as clearing Heydari’s name of a drug-dealing charge.

Najafi was detained in July 2018 along with 10 others who participated with him in the January protests in Shazand. The group was charged with “disturbing the public peace and spreading lies with intent to disrupt the public mind.” Judge Mohammad Reza Abdollahi of Criminal Court No. 2 Branch 102 of Arak, the provincial capital of Markazi Province, convicted and sentenced the group to three years of imprisonment and 74 lashes each.

The sentence is currently being appealed in hearings that began October 3rd in Markazi Province Appellate Court Branch 1.

Shazand is located in Markazi Province, central Iran.

Zahra Majd Sequestered for Opinions of her Dissident Spouse

Posted on: October 15th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Upon her arrival to Iran via the Isfahan airport on Thursday, October 11th, security forces arrested Zahra Majd — wife of Mohammad Hedayati, a critic of Iran’s ruling clergy — along with her children, ages three and five.

The children were put in the care of relatives late that night, Hedayati said, and Majd was transferred to an undisclosed location in Tehran the next morning.

The Secretary-General of the Traditional Cleric’s Association of America, Hedayati is a vocal dissident of the Iranian regime who lives in the United States with Zahra and their two children.

Hedayati confirmed the news of his family’s arrest to HRANA, adding that Majd and their children had previously traveled to Iran for family visits without running into any trouble.

“Last week, our three-year-old daughter was hospitalized for six days in the United States because she fell into critical condition from diabetes,” Hedayati said. “She was hospitalized again this morning, after being arrested with her mother, because she missed the insulin she needs to get after each meal.”

Majd was initially told she was being arrested on a personal civil case, Hedayati said, until it was revealed that her detainment was ordered by Iran’s Special Clerical Court. “The condition of her release is that I go to Iran and present myself to this Court,” Hedayati explained.

According to Hedayati, Zahra was scheduled for transfer to the Clerical Court on Saturday, October 13th at 9 a.m.

The Special Clerical Court has been trying cases involving the clergy, as well as graduates of Iran’s Islamic seminaries, since its establishment at the time of the Iranian Revolution. HRANA previously published a report marking the 40th anniversary of this judicial institution.

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.

Writer and Activist Abbas Vahedian Arrested in Mashhad

Posted on: October 12th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Abbas Vahedian Shahroudi, a writer and activist, was arrested at his Mashhad residence and transferred to an unknown location by security forces on October 11, 2018.

As of the date of this report, no further information was available on his location or the reasons behind his arrest.

A source close to the matter confirmed Vahedian’s arrest and told HRANA that he, along with a number of other activists in Mashhad, had recently been providing financial support to the families of several prisoners.

Vahedian’s works include “The Return of the Genghis Khan Mongol,” published by Khatam Publications in Mashhad.

Teachers’ Association Sounds Call to General Strike on October 14th & 15th

Posted on: October 12th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- The Coordinating Council of Teachers Syndicates in Iran (CCTSI) has issued a statement critical of the Ministry of Education, drawing public attention to a trend of paltry compensation for teachers.

The statement calls for teachers and other pedagogical staff to stage sit-ins in the administrative offices of schools this coming October 14th and October 15th [the work week in Iran runs from Saturday to Thursday]. It also asks teachers to sensitize students by explaining to them in advance the civic impetus behind the sit-ins to come.

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

Dear Iranian teachers,
Cherished students,
Esteemed parents,

Teachers both active and retired have been scraping by on painfully low wages for years. They protest cuts to school budget allocations and the unconstitutional shift of educational duties from the shoulders of schools to the shoulders of the people. Teachers have stood their ground in civic and community actions [on behalf of concerns] that officials never deign to acknowledge. No, it seems they are preoccupied with staying in power, defensively clutching their spoils. They think only of their own interests, those of their small inner circle, and those of some citizens in other countries.

Out-of-control inflation and climbing prices have gripped the country, and the purchasing power of teachers, like that of many other hard-working classes, has fallen significantly. What’s more, the cost of education is on the rise, and the Iranian government and parliament have failed to answer to teachers’ faltering quality of life and the ailing education system. The time has come for us to protest this systemic disorder.

All have come to feel that the Ministry of Education, as the face and custodian of this system encompassing millions of people, is without a practical program or vision for improving our educational infrastructure. Instead of attending to the quality of formation and to teachers’ livelihoods, the ministry opts increasingly for monetizing education and impoverishing teachers.

The Public Service Law, which was passed in 2007, has yet to be implemented 10 years later.

The bill on teacher ranking is postponed month after month.
The Teachers’ Savings Fund has been looted, and according to the Fund’s inquiry committee, 18 million tomans [approximately $1,200 USD] is missing from each teacher’s share.

Teacher’s salaries have not kept up with the rate of inflation, and in practice, a majority of teachers live below the poverty line. At the same time, there are fewer and fewer public schools, and those still in operation [depend on separate funding] to run.

The security apparatus and judiciary, rather than pursuing those responsible for corruption and the robbery of our society, prefer to threaten, exile, fire, and imprison teachers who express their needs and pursue justice.

On behalf of workers in the education system both active and retired, CCTSI has exhausted available paths for bettering our current conditions. Teachers have voiced their demands in meetings and letters to officials, published them in statements, launched them as campaigns, and hosted syndical rallies for them. But the regime and the government refuse to take even a single step towards addressing those issues.

Honorable People of Iran,
Imprudent Iranian officials,

We are going to stage sit-ins because teachers can’t go to class in these conditions. In any case, classes held in makeshift camps, overcrowded to the extreme, can hardly be put to any use.

For the reasons discussed above and the many others we have voiced before, CCTSI calls on educational staff of all levels across the country to stage sit-ins in the offices of their schools on Sunday, October 14 and Monday, October 15. We ask that they refuse to go to classes and that they raise students awareness on the factors compelling this initiative.

We ask the school principals to join in and to refrain from harsh treatment of our colleagues. We warn security offices and institutions not to retaliate against the teachers taking part in demonstrations. We have tasted detention and incarcerations, and some of our brave colleagues are still in chains today. We ask that you lay down your weapons of repression.

This October sit-ins are only the beginning: if we don’t see swift, constructive, and concrete changes to the pay slips of active and retired educational employees, and to per-capita funding of students, we will escalate our general strikes come November.

We ask our retired comrades to come visit their local colleagues carrying a flower. Employed colleagues who are off on [the strike days] must also join in, at a school close to their home or in the school where they work.
Teachers believe in the common right to a dignified life, and in access to free, fair, and quality education for all children.

The Coordinating Council of Teachers Syndicates in Iran
October 10th, 2018

Shohada Square Protestor Dariush Darabi Sentenced to Prison

Posted on: October 11th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Arak resident Dariush Darabi, who was arrested in a protest rally in Shohada Square of Arak, central Iran, has been sentenced to one year in prison and 30 lashings, on charges of disturbing the public order and insulting the Supreme Leader. As evidence against him, the court cited text messages retrieved from his phone.

These charges were brought by Arak Criminal Court No. 2 Branch 103 and Arak Revolutionary Court Branch 2. Darabi’s defense lawyer Mohammad Najafi told HRANA that his client was taken to an Arak IRGC detention center after his arrest on August 2nd of this year, and temporarily released on bail thereafter.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) explicitly prohibits inhumane and degrading punishments like lashings.

Project Abroad Stalls for Environmental Journalists

Posted on: October 10th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – A group of environmental journalists was stopped from boarding a flight to Germany at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Airport on October 8th. Authorities’ reasons for obstructing them are still unknown.

One of the journalists in the group, Javad Heydarian, said that intelligence agents halted their departure and confiscated their passports. The group was then referred to the special court of financial crimes. HRANA is in the process of confirming the identities of the remaining 7 would-be travelers.

According to Heydarian, the German Embassy, along with Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Department of Environment, had advance knowledge of the group’s travel plans.

“The German Embassy was also aware of the sensitivity of this trip,” Heydarian elaborated, adding that their plans in Germany were a continuation of a project that Iranian judges, the Municipality of Tehran, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had already approved.

Environmental activists in Iran have recently faced increasing pressure from authorities. Many were detained for extended periods and subjected to judicial pressures on diverse pretexts, including two groups arrested in Tehran and Homorzgan this past spring, many of whom are still in detention, and 8 of whom have been charged with espionage.

Economic Frustrations Compel Merchants to Strike Nationwide

Posted on: October 9th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Over the course of the past few months, a 60-plus percentage drop in the value of the Iranian rial (toman) has plunged the residents of several cities into financial crisis. Across the country on Monday, October 8th, merchants fed up with recession, inflation, and steadily climbing prices shuttered up their shops and went on strike.

So far, strikes have been reported in the cities of Sanandaj, Tehran, Kermanshah, Andisheh, Iranshahr, Mashhad, Isfahan, Tabriz, Borazjan, Gorgan, Zanjan, Baneh, Marivan, Saghez, Arak, Chabahar, Hirmand, Konarak, Gorgab, Urmia, Zahedan, Kazerun, Genaveh, Parsabad Moghan, Sardasht, Piranshahr, Rafsanjan, Miandoab, Rasht, Paveh and Abhar.

The presence of security forces has palpably strained the atmosphere in many of the above cities, including Sanandaj, western Kurdistan province, which recently doubled down on its controls. The Kurdistan Chamber of Guilds has reportedly sent threatening text messages to local merchants in attempts to coerce them to end their strikes.

Head of the National Chamber of Guilds Ali Fazel confirmed to the Iran Student News Agency (ISNA) that shop-owners have suspended their operations in response to the recession and poor market conditions.

Iranian authorities have proven intolerant of prolonged strikes in the recent past. When merchants of several metropolitan bazaars shut down shop for the same reasons last July, the Tehran General and Revolutionary Prosecutor announced that many of the protesters had been imprisoned. More than 200 of the Iranian truckers who have been striking for the past 17 days have also been taken into custody.

Reza Khandan Spurns Second Illegitimate Court Summons

Posted on: October 9th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- In the face of the legal obligation to summon defendants a minimum of one week before their hearings, authorities summoned imprisoned civil rights activist Reza Khandan Friday, October 5th for a hearing in Revolutionary Court Branch 15 the very next day.

Khandan, who is married to imprisoned civil rights activist and lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, said he refused to respond to the unlawful summons. “Almost all prisoners are sent to the court in this manner. Some of them even attend court without a defense lawyer, because they can’t contact one on such a limited time frame.”

In a note yesterday, Khandan’s lawyer Mohammad Moghimi wrote that his client was within his right not to show up, as provisioned in Section 343 of Criminal Procedure Code. “[…] Such a trial is illegitimate,” Moghimi said.

Khandan was arrested by security forces in his home on Tuesday, September 4th after ignoring a September 3rd summons unlawfully issued by phone. He was charged at Branch 7 of the Evin prosecutor’s office and sent to prison the same day.

On September 22, 2018, HRANA reported on the referral of Reza Khandan’s case from Revolutionary Court to Evin Court in order to resolve deficiencies in his case file.

According to HRANA reports, Ministry of Intelligence security forces searched the homes of Mohammadreza (Davoud) Farhadpour, Jila Karamzadeh Makvandi, and Khandan’s sister on Saturday, August 18th. The forces reportedly confiscated pin-back buttons reading “I am against forced veiling” along with letters that Sotoudeh had written to Khandan from prison.