Authorities Flip-Flop as Truck Driver Strike Wages on

Posted on: September 26th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – A strike that started September 21st in the Iranian trucking industry continued for its fourth consecutive day, causing long delays at gas stations and spikes in the price of produce that drivers refuse to mitigate until authorities take action to resolve their complaints.

Stalling commercial transport across several Iranian cities–including Tehran, Arak, Sari, Qazvin, Asadie, Bandar Imam Khomeini, Khomeyn, Isfahan, Varzaneh, Shahr-e Kord, Abhar, Kermanshah, Darab, Ardabil, Shahr-e Babak, Ziabad, Shiraz, Zanjan, and Kazerun–striking drivers are heeding the call of the national truck-driver’s trade union to cease their operations until authorities concede to increase truck driver pensions, reduce the price of truck parts, increase driver wages by 70 percent, lower insurance premiums, and crack down on corruption in the industry.

Fuel stations short on truck-supplied petrol are struggling to serve the long lines of customers forming at the pump as the strike wears on. Meanwhile, potato and tomato prices have reportedly increased in certain localities.

This is reportedly the third coordinated truck drivers’ strike to occur in the span of a few months. The first two each lasted ten days, beginning, ending, and resuming when authorities failed, promised, and failed again to make good on their verbal engagements.

Hassan Nasiri, head of a truck-owners’ co-op in Jooybar, said that the biggest frustration hindering truck drivers was the inadequate provision of truck tires and parts, adding that the quantity of parts supplied by the Industry Ministry to the truck-owners’ union has not been sufficient in meeting the demand.

In an interview with the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), head of the Alborz province truck-owners union Naser Kaviani said he was hopeful that their principle issues, such as the shortage of motor oil and parts, could be resolved with a reduction of market prices.

In a meeting with authorities including the Isfahan provincial governor, head of the national truck-owners union Ahmad Karimi, who is also from Isfahan province, said he was promised the provision of the sorely needed parts. According to Daryoosh Amadi, deputy head of the Iran Road Maintenance and Transportation Organization, or IRMTO, a subsidiary of the Roads and Urban Planning Ministry, the Industry Ministry refuses to fulfill drivers’ demands for tires.

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.

Mohammad Habibi’s Case Enters Appellate Stage: a Review of the Stakes

Posted on: September 20th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- The case of imprisoned teacher Mohammad Habibi—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.

If all goes according to Taj’s hopes, Branch 36 will at best exonerate him, and at worst put him behind bars for seven and a half years. The precarity lies with Article 134 of the Islamic Penal Code, which in theory protects defendants from serving the sum of multiple sentences, but is not applied consistently in practice.

Cumulatively, Habibi’s 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.

Under Article 134, Habibi’s sentence, if upheld, would put him behind bars for a maximum of seven and a half years, i.e. the heaviest one of his three sentences. But Taj, his attorney, remains on guard: the Article 134 rights of imprisoned teacher Esmaeil Abdi, who is also on Taj’s client list, have not been honored: “…Abdi was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment, which by Article 134 should have been five,” Taj explained.

Taj elaborated that Abdi has also been denied both medical care and conditional release from prison, a privilege for which he became eligible after serving half of his sentence. “We have re-submitted my client’s conditional release request, and it is under review,” the lawyer said.

A former teacher of mathematics and Teachers’ Union General Secretary, Abdi has been in prison since November 2016 on charges of “Propaganda Against the Regime” and “Collusion Against National Security.” Habibi, a union activist and member of the Teachers’ Union Association Board of Directors in Tehran province, was arrested amid May 2018 rallies that were staged in observance of a national teachers’ holiday.

Habibi’s case–particularly his own 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.

“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.”

On the one occasion Habibi’s medical leave was granted, according to HRANA reports, he was released from Great Tehran Penitentiary to a hospital that dismissed him without treatment. He was then transferred to Evin Prison on Monday, September 3, 2018, and has remained there since.

According to a letter from his HR office, Mohammad Habibi is no longer receiving his salary.

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.

Iran: Update on Strike Arestees in Kurdistan

Posted on: September 16th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Iranian authorities continue to detain members of the country’s Kurdish minority, in mounting tensions sparked by the September 8th execution of Kurdish political prisoners Zanyar Moradi, Loghman Moradi, and Ramin Hossein Panahi.

Since September 11th, seventeen civil and political activists have been arrested by security forces in the Kurdish cities of Sanandaj, Marivan, Oshnavieh, Sardasht, and Ravansar. At least twelve were released on bail in the past 24 hours, while the whereabouts or statuses of the others remain unknown.

Earlier this week, Kurdish activists and political parties rallied on social media for a general strike in response to the untimely deaths of Moradi, Moradi, and Panahi, who were hanged to death in dubious circumstances on September 8th, according to HRANA reports.

Security attentions have since zeroed in on Kurdistan, Kermanshah, and West Azerbaijan since merchants of these provinces went on strike to protest the young men’s hangings, protests which are being met by civic arrests and spray-painted threats onto the merchant’s shuttered shops.

The omnipresence of security forces in various Kurdish cities, particularly in the wake of the executions and IRGC’s recent missile attack on Kurdish political parties, has contributed to a growing sense of insecurity for Iranian Kurds.

There is still no update on the whereabouts of Jafar Rasoulpour, who was arrested on September 11th in Sardasht, West Azerbaijan Province, nor on Bagher Safari, age 60, who was taken away on Wednesday September 11th by security forces in Ravansar, Kermanshah.

Khaled Hosseini, Mozafar Salehania, and Mokhtar Zarei, who were arrested by security forces in Sanandaj and transferred to the Central Prison of this city on Tuesday and Wednesday, have reportedly been released on bail. Suran Daneshvar and Aram Fathi, two other activists arrested on Tuesday in Marivan, have been transferred to the detention center of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Eight other Marivan arrestees have since been released on bail: Moslem Bahrami, Mohammad Azkat, Dalir Roshan, Ahmad Tabireh, Nishervan Rezaei, Nooshirvan Khoshnazar, Aram Amani and Ahsan Partovi.

Oshnavieh resident Rashid Naserzadeh was also detained on Tuesday, and released on bail a few hours later.

On September 13th, HRANA reported on the arrest of 13 civil activists in the Iranian Kurdish cities of Marivan, Oshnavieh, Sardasht, and Ravansar in connection to the merchant strikes. That day, Soraya Khadri, a civil activist from Sanandaj and a member of Kurdistan’s Rojyar Charity Foundation, was arrested by security forces and transferred to an unknown location. Though the reason for her arrest has yet to be confirmed, it is suspected to be tied to the strike crackdown.

Zanyar and Loghman Moradi were put on death row after Iranian authorities accused them of murdering the son of a Friday prayer leader in Marivan, a charge they have always denied. Censured by human rights organizations from the outset for its shoddy documentation and lack of evidence, the Moradi’s case was still incomplete at the time they were put to death.

The Moradis wrote an open letter, published in May 2017, detailing their ordeal along with case facts they alleged were constructed by the Ministry of Intelligence. The letter also described torture they experienced at the hands of authorities.

Ramin Hossein Panahi, the third executed Kurd, was tried and sentenced to death by Branch One of the Revolutionary Court in Sanandaj on a charge of “acting against national security by violating the rights of others” on January 16, 2018. His sentence was upheld in mid-April by the Supreme Court before being forwarded to the Execution of Sentences Unit.

Eventually, these three Kurdish political prisoners were executed on the morning of Saturday, September 8th, after having been transferred to solitary confinement in Karaj’s Rajai Shahr Prison.

Merchant Strikes Sparked by Recent Executions Lead to Backlash and Arrests

Posted on: September 14th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Kurdish merchants in Iran’s Kurdistan, Kermanshah, and West Azerbaijan provinces have shut down shop and gone on strike, heeding a call from Kurdish activists to organize a rebellion in response to the recent execution of three Kurdish political prisoners.

Loghman Moradi, Zanyar Moradi, and Ramin Hossein Panahi were hanged to death in dubious circumstances on September 8th, sparking international outcry and rebuke from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Kurdish opposition parties reacted to the untimely deaths of Moradi, Moradi and hossein Panahi by sounding the call to strike through Kurdish regions of Iran, inviting fellow Kurds to protest their comrades’ executions, HRANA previously reported.

The Kurdish shop owners began staging strikes September 12th, which have thus far led to the arrest of 16 political and civil activists in the Iranian Kurdish cities of Sanandaj, Marivan, Oshnavieh, Sardasht, and Ravansar. In addition to civic arrests, security forces have responded by spray-painting threats onto shuttered bodegas.

On Tuesday, Labor activist Khaled Hosseini was detained by security forces in Sanandaj–the Iranian city with the largest Kurdish population–along with Mozaffar Salehnia and Mokhtar Zarei, who were arrested one day later. All were transferred to Sanandaj Central Prison with a bail set at approximately $8000 USD (800 million IRR).

Meanwhile, the western border city of Marivan is experiencing the brunt of the crackdown: Moslem Bahrami, Suran Daneshvar, Aram Fathi, Mohammad Azkat, Dalir Roshan, Ahmad Tabireh, Nishervan Rezaei, Nooshirvan Khoshnazar, Aram Amani and Ahsan Partovi were all reportedly arrested there Tuesday.

Oshnavieh resident Rashid Naserzadeh was also detained on Tuesday, and released on bail a few hours later.

Jafar Rasoulpour was arrested the same day in Sardasht, West Azerbaijan Province. Bagher Safari, age 60, was taken in Wednesday by security forces in Ravansar, Kermanshah.

Zanyar and Loghman Moradi were put on death row after the Iranian authorities accused them of murdering the son of a Friday prayer leader in Marivan, a charge they have always denied. Censured by human rights organizations from the outset for its shoddy documentation and lack of evidence, the Moradi’s case was still incomplete at the time they were put to death.

The Moradis wrote an open letter, published in May 2017, detailing their ordeal along with case facts they alleged were constructed by the Ministry of Intelligence. The letter also described torture they experienced at the hands of authorities.

Ramin Hossein Panahi, the third executed Kurd, was tried and sentenced to death by Branch One of the Revolutionary Court in Sanandaj on a charge of “acting against national security by violating the rights of others” on January 16, 2018. His sentence was upheld in mid-April by the Supreme Court before being forwarded to the Execution of Sentences Unit.

Labor Activist Behnam Ebrahimzadeh Released on Bail

Posted on: September 13th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- On September 11, 2018, labor activist Behnam Ebrahimzadeh was released on a bail of approximately $4,000 USD (400,000,000 Rials) and is awaiting trial.

Ebrahimzadeh was arrested by security forces near Kermanshah (western Iran) and transferred to the local detention center of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on Friday, August 17, 2018.

On August 31st, Ebrahimzadeh’s case garnered international attention when a statement from Canadian Union of Postal Workers President Mike Palecek condemned his arrest and demanded his immediate release.

In a previous report, a source close to Ebrahimzadeh’s family told HRANA that he was apprehended “en route to assist survivors of the Kermanshah earthquake.”

Ebrahimzadeh, born in 1977 in Oshnavieh (West Azerbaijan province), has been detained several times since 2008 in cases related to his labor activism. In May 2017, HRANA announced his release from Rajai Shahr Prison after serving a seven-year sentence.

Urban Exposé: the lost voices of Iran’s foragers

Posted on: September 12th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – For years, piles of giant parcels could be seen on the street corners of almost every Iranian metropolis, each representing the bounty of a few hours of foraging. A morning stroll in the city reveals “dumpster divers” hunched over almost every visible waste bin, toiling in the day at what used to be a moonlight gig. Now, this mainstay of urban culture is coming under fire for its poor regulation, safety hazards, incorporation of child labor, and–in the current economic crisis– its rapid expansion into smaller cities.

Many of Iran’s municipalities have on payroll designated foragers of recyclable goods, who often work in deplorable conditions and have been known to outsource this work to young children. In cities like Abadan and Khorramshahr, dumpster divers have become enmeshed in the fabric of the city, all while a creeping trend of privatization has heightened both its precarity for workers and its appeal for would-be entrepreneurs that are hiring them.

Labor activist *Mehrdad spoke to HRANA about the society’s low bar on working conditions for child foragers who aren’t even of age. “All of them suffer from a host of skin, digestive, and respiratory conditions,” Mehrdad said, identifying basic gear like gloves, masks, or protective uniforms as virtually-unheard-of commodities. “What’s worse, instead of telling our municipalities that these children should not be employed– that we need to abolish child labor and think about their welfare–we’re fighting for improved sanitary conditions, and to protect them from sexual harassment.”

Off-the-rolls workers–especially children–are not entitled to complain about their conditions, let alone expect better. Mehrdad said that many of these foragers make do, and even spend the night, in factories and storage spaces used for waste separation. “Obviously, these children work in a contaminated environment.”

Journalists, along with children’s’ rights and civil rights activists, have drawn attention to a burgeoning “garbage mafia” that exploits those willing to accept paltry wages, such as freelance dumpster divers and children.

While waste management officials in some cities have maintained management of the foraging sector and verbally committed to refining the rights and status of these workers–like the waste management office supervisor of the city of Zanjan, who has promised them ID cards and more organized labor administration–such supports have a low chance of survival in an environment of economic downturn and unregulated outsourcing.

Indeed, Mehrdad attributes the recent spike in dumpster diving to Iran’s new wave of economic crisis. “Within the last year, the hard-working class of society has become poorer […] the unemployed have have taken to dumpster diving, while the employed recruit their own kids to do it. Dumpster diving is the last resort of a working class struggling to stay afloat.”

Two months ago, a Hamedan city councilman announced that 550 dumpster divers were active in that city. Disheveled and dressed in dirty clothes, they roam encumbered by large bags of paper, plastic, and metal cans. According to one children’s rights activist studying the child foragers of Tehran, child dumpster divers are expected to collect an average of 170 pounds of recyclables daily, a quota they must trek miles across the city to meet.

These children may be outsourced by contractors, who themselves are managed–and paid–by the city. “What’s awful about it,” said Mehrdad, “is that the municipality and its contractors are capitalizing on their vulnerability.”

Foragers in larger cities won’t necessarily fare better. “The conditions for such children outside the capital, if not harder than in Tehran, aren’t any better. At least in Tehran there’s some media coverage on dumpster divers. In smaller cities, hardly anyone talks about them.”

While article 7 of Iran’s Declaration of Citizenship Rights mandates that “all citizens enjoy equal access to human dignity and the benefits prescribed in laws and regulations,” city councils and municipal authorities in affected cities have yet to make concrete strides toward the protection of the human dignity of foragers. On the contrary, several municipalities have reportedly evaded accountability for underage citizens working in the workshops and waste separation centers of their cities, repeatedly deferring to the very contractors they hire and supervise. “The root of the issue is that these contractors win the municipality’s bidding process by offering the lowest price, and compensate for this low fare by mining the cheap labor pool of children and poor individuals,” said Mehrdad, who anticipates that dumpster diving will remain on the rise until a labor law makes these issues explicit, and is pushed to implementation with considerable pressure from the Iranian people.

Privatization, according to Mehrdad, is the scourge of the freelance forager. “Conditions for dumpster divers was bad enough in the past, but privatization, and the issuing of permits by contractors, have turned the situation downright deplorable. Where some foragers were able to work independently before, now contractors have monopoly on the market and are free to enforce their own restrictions.” Contractors hired by the municipality currently have no legal responsibility to address these issues.

As this HRANA reporter has observed, as long as municipalities skirt their responsibilities of contractor oversight, the number of dumpster divers–along with their quotas, pressures, and hazards–will steadily climb. The voices of these working citizens, for now, are drowned out by financial crisis and political turmoil.

* Mehrdad’s last name was not published due to safety reasons.

Iran, an open-air prison for lawyers: A report

Posted on: September 9th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – This past week has seen a sharp increase in the arrests of lawyers in Iran, many among them specialists in defending civil rights, women’s rights, and human rights activists.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi shed light on this trend in an exchange with HRANA, stating that Iranian officials and its judiciary aim to create a climate of intimidation in which citizens find it easier to turn a blind eye to government abuses of power.

“[Authorities] prefer no one dare protest [their] unlawful actions,” Ebadi said.

She went on to note that arrests of lawyers not only put innocent people behind bars, but they also leave the lawyer’s clients–often prisoners of conscience and other political detainees–defenseless.

Ebadi drew on historical context to explain that authorities of the early Islamic Republic recognized legal scholars and independent lawyers as “nuisances,” or impediments to illicit activity, from the outset. This wariness on the part of the Iranian authorities led an appointee of the Judiciary to close the Iranian Bar Association for 18 years.

When authorities finally sanctioned elections for the Bar Association’s new board of directors, their permission roughly coincided with the passing of a law mandating all members be pre-approved by a Judiciary-controlled organ called the Disciplinary Court of Judges. Ebadi cites this filtering as the reason behind the Bar Association’s lack of autonomy, as it is known to refrain from advocating for its arrested members.

The following is a list of legal practitioners affected by this recent wave of repression.

Nasrin Sotoudeh, lawyer and human rights activist

Nasrin Sotoudeh was among the first lawyers arrested on June 13th of this year. She was arrested in her home and subsequently taken to Evin Prison.

According to lawyer Payam Derafshan, who was arrested himself on August 31st and has since been released, Sotoudeh is being held on three counts: a five-year sentence for espionage, which does not figure on her formal charge sheet; a lawsuit brought by a prosecutorial interrogator in the central Iranian city of Kashan; and an arrest order issued by Branch 2 of the Interrogations Unit.

The prosecutorial interrogator recently doubled down on his accusations against Sotoudeh, presenting new charges of “helping to form house churches,” “inciting the organization of a referendum,” and “attempts to organize gatherings.”

Sotoudeh declared hunger strike on August 25th to protest both her arrest and the judicial pressures being placed upon her family, relatives, and friends.

Abdolfatah Soltani, lawyer, activist, and human rights defender

Soltani’s September 10, 2011 arrest was followed by a sentence of 18 years in prison and a 20-year ban from the Iranian bar association. According to an Iranian court, his trespasses include his acceptance of the Nuremberg International Human Rights Award, statements he made to the media about his casework, and his role as co-founder of the Center for Supporters of Human Rights (CSHR).

Soltani’s prison sentence was reduced to 13 years in an appeals court. Pursuant to the principle of concurrent sentences per Article 134 of the Islamic Penal Code, his sentence was reduced again to 10 years, and his 20-year Bar-association ban was reduced to two.

Years of enduring poor living conditions in prison, including being cut off from nutritious food and [potable] water, have taken a toll on Soltani: he now suffers from a host of health issues including broken teeth, anemia, irritable bowel syndrome, and [abnormal] blood pressure fluctuations.

The formal record of Soltani’s charges equates his human rights activities to “acting against national security.” Ten of the accusations being levelled against him are listed below:

1- Forming the illegal anti-security body CSHR
2- Giving interviews to counter-revolutionary media and foreign enemies
3- Acting against the regime on the pretext of human rights
4- Waging anti-regime psychological campaigns via published statements
5- Portraying Baha’i cult members as victims
6- Publishing human rights reports, all while cognizant of their adverse impact on Iranian national security and foreign politics and of their potential exploitation by the enemies of the revolution
7- Slandering the judiciary regarding testimonies extracted by torture and intimidation in prison
8- Disseminating disparaging news about the country and compromising public faith in the judiciary
9- Defending human rights cases and extremist clients on a pro bono basis
10-Anti-Islamic propagandizing and violating the principles of Islam by indiscriminately condemning execution sentences and implicitly rejecting the principle of Qesas [retribution] by calling it violent

While Soltani was in prison, his daughter Homa died of a heart attack on August 3rd at the age of 27. He was granted restricted furlough to attend her funeral.

Ghasem Sholeh-Saadi and Arash Kaykhosravi, lawyers and human rights activists

On August 18th, a number of protestors were detained during a public demonstration before Tehran’s Parliament building in protest to both the Caspian Sea treaty and the vetting of election candidates by the Guardian Council. Three lawyers–Ghasem Sholeh-Saadi, Arash Kaykhosravi, and Masoud Javadieh–were among those detained.

Several arrestees were released within hours, and Javadieh was released on bail the following day. Sholeh-Saadi and Kaykhosravi, facing charges from Branch 5 of the Evin prosecutor’s office, were sent to Great Tehran Penitentiary.

On August 21st, Sholeh-Saadi and Kaykhosravi, were sent again to the Evin prosecutor’s office, shackled and in prison garb. They were read their charges (“gathering and collusion against national security”), issued a one-month arrest order, and returned to prison.

Sholeh-Saadi is a legal scholar and former member of parliament. He had previously been convicted and jailed for “insulting the Supreme Leader” in a letter he infamously published in 2002.

Kaykhosravi has taken on such high-profile cases as that of lawyer Mohammad Najafi and Kavous Seyed Emami, the university professor and environmental activist who died in Evin Prison on February 8th. Prison authorities claimed Emami had committed suicide.

Kaykhosravi has since been transferred to Evin Prison.

Payam Dorafshan and Farokh Forouzan, lawyers

Attorneys Payam Dorafshan and Farrokh Forouzan were arrested in the home of their imprisoned colleague Arash Kaykhosravi on August 31st.

Dorafshan was among a group of lawyers suing Bijan Ghasemzadeh, interrogator in Branch Two of the Culture and Media court, for his decision to ban the popular messaging app Telegram. Forouzan works in children’s rights.

Both have since been released. The reason for their arrest remains unclear.

Mohammad Najafi, lawyer and human rights activist

On July 29th, Branch 102 of the Second Criminal Court in the central Iranian city of Arak sentenced lawyer Mohammad Najafi and dozens of other citizens to prison terms for participating in January’s Shazand County protests.

Najafi was convicted of “disrupting order and public peace by taking part in illegal gatherings” and sentenced to one year in prison plus 74 lashes. Prior charges of “publishing false information to disrupt the public conscience” brought the prison sentence to a total of two years.

Najafi is among those investigating the death of a protestor in January’s Shazand protests. He publicly spoke out about the death of Vahid Heydari, a citizen who died while in the custody of authorities after being arrested in Arak.

Zaynab Taheri

Lawyer Zaynab Taheri was arrested on June 19th, one day after the execution of her client Mohammadreza Salas Babajani, a Sufi Dervish prisoner convicted of killing three police officers. She had publicly advocated for Babajani on social media.

She was arrested by the Culture and Media court and convicted of both “publishing falsehoods to disrupt the public conscience” and “propaganda against the regime.” She was released on bail August 8th.

On August 31st, the International Federation of Human Rights, known by its French acronym FIDH, expressed concern over the harassment of Taheri by judicial authorities, asking Iranian officials to cease their harassment of her and other human rights defenders.

Taheri’s clients included Salas Babajani, Mohammad Ali Taheri, and Ahmadreza Jalali.

Hoda Amid, lawyer and women’s rights activist

On the morning of September 10th, security forces arrested Hoda Amid in her home along with Najmeh Vahedi, another women’s rights activist with a formal education in sociology who was with Amid at the time. Amid and Vahedi are known to have organized educational training workshops for women inquiring about their rights in marriage contracts.

The precise reason for Amid’s arrest and her current status remain unknown.

Eight Activists Condemned for Commemorating Forest Fire Victims

Posted on: September 6th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Eight labor and environmental activists were released from custody Wednesday, September 8th after being tried and interrogated for “Disturbing Public Order” and posting a bail of approximately $3000 USD (300 millon Rials).

HRANA confirmed the identities of the released activists: Khaled Hosseini, Mozafar Salehnia, Ali Mirzaei, Vali Nasri, Hajar Saeidi, Hossein Goili, Habibollah Karimi and Reza Amjadi, all residents of Sanandaj (Capital of Kurdistan Province).

Within two days of their trial, all eight were either summoned or detained for having organized a funeral in honor of Sharif Bajour and three other environmental activists who died of smoke inhalation and burns while fighting the Marivan forest fire.

HRANA reported on the arrests of Khaled Hosseini and Mozafar Salehnia on September 4, 2018.