CCTSI Rallies Teachers into Second Round of Strikes

Posted on: November 15th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- The Coordinating Council of Teacher Syndicates in Iran (CCTSI) rallied educators across the country into a second round of general strikes November 13th, mobilizing in protest of the “Full-Time Teacher” bill, which continues to move forward despite significant pushback.

Strike activity was reported in several provinces, as teacher-activists and their allies staged sit-ins in the principal’s offices of their respective schools. “The goal of the sit-in,” a CCTSI statement read, “is to oblige our rulers to uphold the constitution by providing free, quality, and accessible education to students, and to stop their attack on the livelihood of teachers.”

CCTSI and their sympathizers voiced similar demands during a first round of strikes in October of this year.

Teachers made their demands known on handheld placards protesting low teacher salaries, environmental conditions unsuitable for learning, the Full-Time Teacher Bill, class discrimination in the education system, privatization, language discrimination, and the continued persecution of teacher-activists.

From Evin Prison, Vice President of the Centre for Human Rights Defenders Narges Mohammadi sent a message in support of the strikers:

“The children of this land learn “D E C E N C Y” from their teachers, and a teacher’s [decency] manifests in free expression and conscience.

The children of this land learn “P E A C E” and “F U L F I L L M E N T” from their teachers, and their teachers’ fulfillment lies in a humane, dignified life.

We support the teachers’ general strike of November 13 and 14, to free the fettered “T E A C H E R,” to elevate the teacher’s status, and preserve the right to peaceful protest.

Narges Mohammadi”

Iran: Prisoner Updates as of November 14, 2018

Posted on: November 14th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – Iranian citizens and legal residents, once placed behind bars or accused of a crime, have seen their lawful rights and dignities abruptly revoked. Below are a few of their stories.

Sunni Kurdish Prisoner Slapped with “Propaganda” Charge Whilst Behind Bars

Sardar Osman Bakr, a Sunni Kurdish prisoner serving a five-year sentence in Urmia Central, has been charged with “propaganda against the regime” and will now be serving six.

An Iraqi national who has held legal residence in Iran for the past 10 years, Bakr was arrested, charged, and sentenced in 2016 on charges of “membership in anti-regime groups with religious ideologies.” He was held in solitary confinement for 10 days in a Ministry of Intelligence Detention Center earlier this year, before being transferred back to Urmia Central Prison to be interrogated on the “propaganda against the regime” charge.

Branch 3 of Urmia Revolutionary Court convicted Bakr of the new charge in September 2018, compounding his prison term by an additional year. He is currently being held in Ward 12 of Urmia Central.

Ulduz Ghasemi (Center)

Azerbaijani Activist Sentenced in Absentia

On November 10th, Azerbaijani activist Ulduz Ghasemi was sentenced in absentia to one year in prison by Urmia Revolutionary Court Branch 1.

Ghasemi is from Urmia, in Iran’s northwest. Read more about Ghasemi’s activism and legal ordeals here.

Sentence Upheld for Sunni Prisoner

West Azerbaijan Appeals Court Branch 13 has upheld a five-year prison sentence for Sunni prisoner Eslam Mostafaie, of Mirabad. He has been in Urmia Central Prison for the past three months.

Charged with “membership in Salafi groups,” a close source said, Mostafaie was denied a lawyer throughout judicial proceedings that ended with his August 2018 conviction in Urmia Revolutionary Court Branch 2.

According to the source, he was held in solitary confinement in a Ministry of Intelligence detention center for 17 days after his arrest and is now being held in Ward 12 of Urmia Central.

Mirabad is a city in West Azerbaijan Province.

Conditional Release Denied to Urmia Prisoner

Judge Ali Sheikhloo of Urmia Revolutionary Court Branch 2 has denied the conditional release request of political prisoner Azad Mohammadi, currently being held in Ward 12 of Urmia Central prison. The court’s decision was dictated to Mohammadi on Tuesday, November 13th.

Mohammadi had previously stopped hunger striking when prison authorities verbally engaged to negotiate with the Judiciary for his conditional release. Mohammadi was among a group of prisoners swayed to end their coordinated hunger strike on October 23rd by similar promises from prison authorities.

Upon his arrest in 2015, Mohammadi spent three months in an IRGC Intelligence detention center. Without ever having access to a lawyer, he was sentenced to five years in prison for “Cooperation with the Kurdistan Democratic Party.” He was subsequently transferred to Urmia Prison.

Mohammadi’s sentence was reduced by 15 months when he chose to not protest the charges. He is scheduled to be released in seven months.

Masoud Kazemi and Hashem Khastar Released from Custody

Posted on: November 14th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – Journalist Masoud Kazemi was released on bail Sunday, November 11th. He was arrested in his home November 5th, one day after tweeting critical remarks about Iranian authorities. Kazemi is the editor-in-chief of Sedaye Parsi, a monthly political magazine.

Retired teacher and current union activist Hashem Khastar, who was arrested and sequestered in Mashhad’s Ibn Sina hospital psychiatric ward for unknown reasons October 23rd, was released November 10th. He has no history of mental illness.

Hashem Khastar

During his forced hospital admission, Khastar’s family and friends were arrested for gathering outside Ibn Sina to demand his release.

On June 21, 2018, Khastar was placed in a Security Police detention center on Abbas Abad (formerly Vozara) street for participating in silent teacher protests. In 2009, he was arrested in connection to widespread protests following that year’s Iranian presidential elections and was fined by Iranian courts for two letters he wrote from Vakilabad Prison. He was released, only to be arrested again later for refusing to pay the fine.

Open Letter: Golrokh Iraee Champions the Healthcare Rights of her Ailing Husband

Posted on: November 14th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Civil rights activist and Evin prisoner of conscience Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee has written an open letter to protest the IRGC’s continued medical blockade on her husband, Arash Sadeghi, who has been effectively deprived of chemotherapy since undergoing surgery for chondrosarcoma on September 12th.

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

Authorities have offered no explanation for blocking visits and phone calls between me and my husband Arash Sadeghi. Since December 2017, the only contact we’ve had is a two-hour visit. And that was five months ago.

I have heard many reports that Arash is faltering in his battle with cancer. Only two days after undergoing surgery for his condition, he was harried out of the hospital against medical advice by the Sarallah IRGC [based in Tehran and responsible for securing the capital city]. Mal-equipped to counter the progression of Arash’s disease, the Rajai Shahr Prison clinic abdicated responsibility for his post-surgery care. Despite an infection to his surgery site, authorities have denied his request to be transferred to a hospital.

Specialists have stressed that the next stages of Arash’s treatment will require chemotherapy, and the state physicians in Gohardasht (Rajai Shahr) prison have asserted their inability to administer or monitor this treatment. No action has been taken to hospitalize him so that his chemo can begin.

Arash has been detained multiple times. He lost his mother to a raid by regime agents. He was denied the right to continue his studies and has been stripped of his civil rights. Finally, he was sentenced to 19 years in prison without any proof or evidence [of a crime]. Now he faces the rancor and spite of the Sarallah IRGC.

Arash is being denied medical care, one of the most basic rights promised to prisoners in the laws of the Islamic Republic.

Throughout our prison terms, we never asked to be spared their spite, but this time Arash’s life is at stake. My worst fear has come true, and we are well past the tipping point; I don’t know to what extent Arash’s health can be restored.

In the present circumstances, laws that profess to protect prisoners are unveiled as masks of humanity, a farce for the international stage. Despotism can no longer contain the true motive of these laws, which rulers make no effort whatsoever to enforce.

We cannot expect humanity from those who have already proven devoid of it. What matters is the fleeting sands of time, the dissipating moment, the joy that seems a more distant dream each day.

I am certain that with each display of callousness towards his health, Arash will be all the more emboldened. He will do as he has done with every other injustice, coercion, and anguish: he will overcome.

I thank every friend and organization standing shoulder to shoulder with us, and am grateful for the dear comrades who have stood by Arash in Gohardasht. May conscience break dawn on the dark night of ignorance.

Golrokh Iraee
Evin Prison
November 12, 2018

____________________________________________________________________________________

Golrokh Iraee was arrested along with her husband on September 6, 2014. First held at an IRGC safe house for two days, she then spent 20 days in the solitary cells of Evin’s Section 2A, under IRGC jurisdiction, before being released on a bail of 800 million rials [approximately $19,000 USD].

On October 24, 2016, the IRGC arrested Iraee again without a warrant. She was sentenced to six years in prison for blasphemy and “gathering and collusion against the regime.” She was later granted amnesty per Article 134 of Islamic Penal Code, which reduced her prison term to 2.5 years.

Iraee’s husband Arash Sadeghi is serving a 19-year sentence in Karaj’s Rajai Shahr Prison.

Authorities Impassive in Sunni Prisoner’s 49th Day of Hunger Strike

Posted on: November 14th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – In Rajai Shahr Prison, the effects of a 49-day-strong hunger strike have begun to take hold on Sunni prisoner Hamzeh Darvish: hypotension, a 29-pound weight loss, and chest and abdominal pains that have left him speechless.

A source close to Darvish’s family told HRANA that he would end his hunger strike on two conditions: that his reconsideration petition is tried in the Supreme Court, and he is granted legal representation. “No action has been taken on those demands yet,” the source said.

According to the source, Rajai Shahr Prosecution Representative Rostami deferred the reconsideration decision to the Ministry of Intelligence. Barring cooperation with them, Rostami reportedly said, Darvish’s sole recourse is “suicide.”

Hamzeh Darvish has not eaten since September 23rd. After announcing his hunger strike that day, he was reportedly held in solitary confinement for three days.

Residing far from Karaj, Darvish’s family is rarely able to afford the transport costs to see him. Meanwhile, Rajai Shahr authorities have placed restrictions on his extra-prison contacts.

In response to a prior hunger strike — protesting a lack of due process in his judicial proceedings — Prison Director Gholamreza Ziaei, Rajai Shahr Deputy Vice President Esmaeili, and Security Director Zolfali beat Darvish black and blue, sent him to the quarantine ward for three weeks, then transferred him to the coroner’s office in handcuffs and shackles.

Hamzeh Darvish was reportedly lured to Syria by ISIS (Daesh) agents in 2014, where he was transferred to the Islamic State’s prison in Raqqa before fleeing to Iran. In hopes of remaining free by posting bail or pledging allegiance to Iran — after which he planned to earn a living as a quail farmer — he turned himself in to the Iranian security forces. A short while later, however, he was back in custody facing an 18-year prison sentence.

Darvish told his story in an open letter published August 2017, in which he asked human rights advocacy groups for help.

He emphasized in his letter that his appeal request was essentially ignored and that Article 134 of the Islamic Penal Code permits his release in year 15 of his 18-year sentence.

Impromptu Exile Transfer Prompts Abdolreza Ghanbari to Hunger Strike

Posted on: November 13th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – Teacher and political prisoner Abdolreza Ghanbari, who on October 13th of this year was taken to Evin Prison’s Ward 8 to serve the remainder of a once-dormant sentence, has reportedly declared hunger strike following his November 10th transfer to the Quarantine Ward of Rajai Shahr Prison.

Confirming news of Ghanbari’s current hunger strike to HRANA, a close source added that his most recent sentence made no mention of an exile order.

Ghanbari’s judicial ordeal has been rife with major upsets, as previously reported by HRANA. After being arrested at the school where he taught in 2009 for backing the “Ashura” protests tailing that year’s contentious presidential elections, he was interrogated for two months and found himself facing a death sentence: Judge Salavati of Revolutionary Court Branch 15, convicting Ghanbari of “Moharebeh” [enmity against God]” through alleged ties to the opposition group People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), ruled to send him to the gallows.

Four suspenseful years later, the Supreme Court acquitted Ghanbari of the Moharebeh charge, effectively sparing his life. Branch 1 of Revolutionary Court settled his remaining charges with a 15-year prison sentence, which was later reduced to 10 years in appeals court.

After enduring more than 6 years of his 10-year prison term, he went free in the Spring of 2016 — only to be re-sentenced the following Fall to 15 years in prison, per reconsideration proceedings led by Judge Moghiseh in Branch 28 of Revolutionary Court.

Ghanbari is currently detained in Rajai Shahr.

Furlough Granted to Bereaved Baha’i Prisoner Azita Rafizadeh

Posted on: November 12th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Authorities have granted a November 7th to November 10th furlough period to Baha’i prisoner Azita Rafizadeh, who will attend memorial services for her father, Seyed Yadollah Rafizadeh, who recently died in a car accident.

Azita Rafizadeh is serving a four-year sentence for her Baha’i affiliations, including the Baha’i Institute of Higher Education, as well as a charge of acting against national security.

The furlough request of her spouse Peyman Koushk-Baghi, who is currently serving a five-year sentence on the same charges, was denied.

Former Civil Servant to Begin Prison Sentence

Posted on: November 12th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Former political prisoner and ex-public official Feizollah Arabsorkhi has been summoned to begin his one-year prison sentence within the next five days.

Arabsorkhi was tried on charges of “propaganda against the regime” by Judge Ahmadzadeh in August of 2015 and issued a two-year ban on civic activities in addition to his one-year prison term.

Arabsorkhi has speculated that the charges are a vindictive move from the Intelligence Unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in response to his signature on a letter once published from prison.

In protest of the highly-contested Iranian presidential election of 2009, Arabsorkhi co-authored a letter with a number of political activists, interpreting a speech by security-judiciary agent Commander Moshfegh as evidence of corruption both before and after the ballots had been cast. Later arrested by the IRGC, he was convicted in Revolutionary Court Branch 15 of “propaganda against the regime” and “assembling and colluding against national security” in July of that year. He was released from Evin Prison in 2013 after completing his sentence.

Born September 23, 1958, Arabsorkhi holds a bachelor’s degree in social communications and membership in the reformist political group Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution. He has served both on the cabinet of Mir-Hossein Mousavi as general manager of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance security office, and in the Khatami administration [1997 – 2005] as deputy trade minister for the Ministry of Commerce.

Kurdistan Court Condemns Juvenile Offender with History of Mental Illness

Posted on: November 8th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Sanandaj prisoner Shayan Saeedpour, now 20, has been sentenced to death by Judge Vafayian in Branch 1 of Kurdistan Criminal Court for a murder he committed at age 17, at a time that he may have been under monitoring for a psychiatric condition.

A member of Saeedpour’s family told HRANA that the young man stands accused of murdering Soleyman Azadi in a scuffle on August 16, 2015, just two months shy of his 18th birthday. “Saeedpour said he was acting under the influence of bootleg alcohol and wasn’t in his right mind,” the source said.

Saeedpour turned himself over to police two days after the incident, accompanied by his father.

An appeals request submitted by Saeedpour’s lawyer is currently under review. “[…]Despite evidence and witness testimony, the coroner’s office has left the judiciary to determine whether or not he was intoxicated,” the attorney said. “…[He] was under the influence of alcohol and two witnesses have testified to the veracity of this claim.”

The attorney added that Saeedpour didn’t know the victim prior to the incident.

Saeedpour’s loved ones say he has a history of inflicting self-harm, impulse control disorder, and — since 2014 — consistent psychiatric oversight. According to his family, Saeedpour betrayed no indication of grasping what had transpired after Azadi was killed. The coroner’s office disagreed: as relayed by Saeedpour’s lawyer, they ruled he had “the mental maturity and capacity to distinguish right from wrong and to discern whether his action was criminal.”

Seeking a second opinion, the case investigator sent the case to the Kermanshah coroner, who concurred with the initial evaluation.

In addition to the death penalty, Saeedpour was sentenced to 80 lashes for drinking.

A close source shared with HRANA that Saeedpour was once a member of a traditional Iranian gym. Previously the bodybuilding champion in his province, he once placed third in a national tournament.

The punishment of children — particularly death sentences for minors caught up in skirmishes, crimes of passion, or the drug trade — remains one of the premier human rights battles in Iran.

Iran has been a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child for the past 25 years. Article 37 of the Convention reads, “Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age”. In 2017, at least four juvenile offenders were executed in Iran after their 18th birthday. Since the beginning of 2018, multiple child offenders have been executed or sentenced to death.

Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen are among the few countries where offenders can be executed for crimes they committed as minors. In response to one of these executions in February of 2018, Human Rights Watch issued a statement urging Iranian authorities to “ …]immediately and unconditionally end the use of the death penalty for crimes committed by children under age 18, and move toward a complete ban on capital punishment.”

Identity of Leila Tajik’s co-Defendant Confirmed

Posted on: November 8th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- HRANA has identified Leila Tajik’s co-defendant and former spouse — sentenced to death on espionage charges, per a HRANA report dated October 11, 2018 — as Seyed Jamal Hajizavar, 47, a former staff member on the IRGC Aerospace Force.

In the same report, HRANA reported on Tajik’s sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment in exile for the same charges, ruled in Branch 4 of Tehran Military Court.

Pursuant to a joint case opened up against the two by the IRGC intelligence unit, the former couple was arrested September 5, 2017, and held in an IGRC outpost. Tajik was later transferred to the Evin Prison Women’s Ward on March 19, 2018.

Over the course of his 14-month detainment, reports of Hajizavar’s violent torture — including de-nailing and electric shock in so-called “death cells”– have been conspicuously absent from the state-run news media.

An informed source previously told HRANA, “their children, Sabah, 16, and Sahand, 19, are hurting over the breakup of their family, and are feeling additional pressures from IRGC agents.”