Iran: An Overview of Human Rights Abuses September – October 2018

Posted on: October 29th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – The following is an overview of human rights violations in Iran between September 23rd and October 22, 2018, per information compiled and verified by the Statistics, Publications, and Achievements Division of Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRAI).

Domestic restrictions in Iran on independent human rights reporting make it difficult to capture the full extent of these issues on the ground. The following overview draws on the work of HRANA reporters, as well as a network of independent and verifiable sources, including other human rights associations operating outside Iran’s borders.

Summary

Human rights violations continued all across the country over the past month, and included, but were not limited to: executions, child abuse, mass arrests, violation of prisoners’ rights, violation of freedom of expression, labor abuses, and unchecked environmental pollution.

Death Penalty

Capital punishment remains the most egregious violation of human rights in Iran. On October 10th — the World Day against the Death Penalty — the Center of Statistics at HRAI published its annual report to sensitize the public about the situation of the death penalty in Iran. The report provides statistics about executions carried out in this country between October 10, 2017, and October 9, 2018.

More than 25 citizens, including a juvenile offender, were executed in the last month (between September 23rd and October 22, 2018). More than 20 individuals, including a juvenile offender, were sentenced to death. Four people were executed in public.

HRANA was able to identify or gather details about death row prisoners, including a former member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Arsalan Khodkam, the ex-spouse of Leila Tajik, Hedayat Abdollahpour and three individuals convicted of financial crimes. New details on the executions of Zanyar Moradi, Loghman Moradi, and Ramin Hossein Panahi were also reported during this period.

Freedom of Thought and Expression

Freedoms of thought and expression were also widely restricted over the past 30 days.

Arrests: Arrestees in this category included a Shiraz city council member, Ahmad Alinejad and his wife, at least 20 residents of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad province, writer and Mashad resident Abbas Vahedian, Zahra Majd in Isfahan, and six individuals involved in the Freedom Movement of Iran, arrested in Nain (near Isfahan).

Convictions: Leila Mir-Ghaffari was sentenced to 2 years in prison, Ejlal Ghavami to 8 months, Hassan Abbasi to 35 months (five 7-months prison terms), an Arak resident to 1 year and 30 lashings, Hamidreza Amini to 11 years. Women who protested this past August were sentenced from 6 months to 1 year in prison, Mohammad Mahdavifar was sentenced to 4 years and 6 months, a dual-nationality defendant faces 8 years and 6 months in prison, Soheil Arabi faces 3 years in prison, 3 years in exile, and a fine; the prison sentence of Abdolreza Ghanbari was increased to 15 years, Alireza Moeinian was sentenced to 8 months in prison; a new 6-month sentence extended the prison term of Saeed Shirzad through 2020; six Arak residents arrested amid the January protests were collectively sentenced to a total of 6 years in prison and 444 lashings, and a group of political activists in Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad province were sentenced to exile and prison terms ranging from 8 to 18 years.

Eleven civil activists, including Mohammad Najafi, Ali Bagheri, and Abbas Safari were sentenced to 3 years in prison and 74 lashings. Behzad Ali Bakhshi, Mohammad Yaghoubi, Yousef Shirilard, Neda Yousefi, Davoud Rahimi, Massoud Ajlou and Mohammad Torabi were sentenced to 1 year in prison and 74 lashings, suspended over five years. Kian Sadeghi faces 3 years in prison and 74 lashings, suspended over five years. Morteza Nazari was sentenced to a total of 13 years in prison, 2 years of exile, and a fine; Zahra Zare Seraji, on the same convictions, to 8 years in prison and a fine. Their co-defendants Ali Kabirmehr and Ali Bazazadeh were both sentenced to 13 years in prison and exile.

Summons: Hamid Farrokhnezhad, Parastoo Salehi, a number of reformist political activists, Tehran city council member Kazem Imanzadeh, Hossein Ahmadi Niaz, and Mohammad Najafi were all summoned by courts and the Ministry of Intelligence.

Censorship: The weekly magazines “Nabze Bazaar” and “Paytakht Kohan,” as well as the website “EntekhabKhabar,” were convicted in press court. Courts also issued indictments for the Chief Executive Officers of “Shargh” and “Shahrvand” newspapers for their reporting on sexual tourism. The National Front of Iran was prevented from holding its Central Council meeting in Tehran, a journalist was beaten by Qazvin municipal agents, and a Kurdish student was barred from education, presumably for his political affiliations.

Prisoners’ Rights
Prisoners are rarely protected from cruel and unusual punishments, and their rights to proper nutrition, hygiene, and medical treatment are systematically violated. A few of these victims are detailed below by category of violation.

Raids and beatings: Prison agents punched Arash Sadeghi on his cancer surgery site; Urmia prison authorities attacked political prisoners and injured them severely, inciting them to hunger strike by the dozens; another Urmia prisoner was assaulted; a prisoner was beaten and injured by Rajai Shahr Prison personnel; Bandar Abbas Prison authorities broke an inmate’s fingers; an Urmia prisoner suffered a TBI after a beating by authorities; and prisoners were forcefully undressed and beaten in Zahedan Prison.

Withholding of medical treatment: A prisoner died after being denied medical care in Zahedan Prison. Farhad Meysami, Arash Sadeghi, and a prisoner in Sanandaj were also denied medical treatment.

Going without: Dozens of Gachsaran prisoners launched protests and hunger strikes in opposition to prison conditions. Six Gonabadi Dervish prisoners continued in an ongoing hunger strike. Reza Sigarchi, also in an act of protest, refused food and medicine in Great Tehran Penitentiary, while 8 Gonabadi Dervishes at the same penitentiary and 8 Baha’i prisoners of Karaj disappeared off of the administrative radar for 30 days. Houshmand Alipour was denied access to an attorney. Three prisoners in the Women’s Ward of Evin Prison were blocked from receiving visits, and the fate of sequestered labor activist and Sanandaj resident Zanyar Dabbaghian was still unknown.

Three prisoners attempted suicide in Zahedan, Urmia, and Saravan prisons. Local sources consistently impute prisoner suicides and suicide attempts to the violence and oppression of prison life.

Religious and Ethnic Minorities

Religious and ethnic minorities remained under threat and consistent judicial pressures this past month.

Baha’is: Eight Baha’i citizens were arrested in Baharestan (near Isfahan), four were arrested in Karaj, one of whom had his business forcibly shut down, and three were arrested in Shiraz.
[Some of these arrests reflect coordinated or group arrests, and linked articles will reflect that information overlap].
A Baha’i resident of Yazd who had been blocked from pursuing education was fired from work for their faith, and the parents of a Baha’i prisoner were temporarily detained following a search of the prisoner’s home.

Sunnis: Five Sunni scholars were sequestered for hours in the Zahedan-Khash road patrol office. Three Baluchi citizens, who are scholars of the Ghalamouei seminary, were arrested in Sirik County (southern Iran). Sunni scholars expressed outcry over the public statements of a soccer player they alleged to be disparaging of Sunni sanctities.

Six members of the Yamani Religious Group in Izeh County were also arrested, presumably for their beliefs.

Ethnic minorities: Arab citizens were arrested, and are still being arrested en masse in wake of the Ahvaz Parade Attack. HRANA is still in the process of confirming the identifies of the arrestees, which according to local reports number into the hundreds. Other arrests suspected to be ethnically discriminatory include Nasim Sadeghi, Mohammad Abdolmohammad-Zadeh, Mojtaba Parvin, Ebrahim Divazi, as well as residents of Ilam, Ahvaz, Marivan, Urmia, Sanandaj, Kermanshah, Saqqez, Pevah, Oshnavieh, and Sardasht.

News emerged on the convictions of Abbas Lasani, Kiumars Eslami, Eghbal Ahmadpour, Keyvan Olyali, Hossein Ali Mohammadi Alvar, as well as defendants in Sanandaj, Urmia, Kamyaran, and two detainees of the Afrin battles in Syria. Turkic activist Javad Ahmadi Yekanli was summoned by county security police in the city of Khoy.

Children’s Rights

Children are among the most vulnerable to human rights abuses in Iran. Over the past month, four wrongful child deaths were reported in the cities of Tehran, Falavarjan (Isfahan Province), Qaem Shahr (Mazandaran province) and (Isfahan Province).

The national director of Iran’s social emergency hotline said that 30% of reports called into the center are flagging some form of “domestic violence,” 30% of which turn out to be child abuse cases. Of this 30%, 50% were related to educational negligence, 30% to physical abuse, 15% to psychological abuse, and 4% to sexual abuse of children.

Maryam Sedighi, deputy director of the social welfare department of Alborz Province, said that 12% of “123” social emergency calls made in Alborz — i.e. an average of 40 calls per month — are child abuse reports.

Reports indicate the rape of a young girl by her father in Tehran; a boxing coach accused of raping his teenage student; a father pouring boiling water over his 7-year-old daughter in Genaveh, Bushehr Province; and a teacher using corporal punishment on a pupil in Kazeroon, Fars Province.

Three juvenile suicides were also reported: one student in Rigan County, Kerman Province, and two teenage girls, aged 14 and 16, in the cities of Abadan and Sanandaj.

The Iranian education system allocates fewer and fewer resources to its pupils, and educational facilities across the country — particularly in rural or underprivileged areas — can be found in varying states of wear and disrepair. One pupil in Razan, Hamadan province was injured in the chest, neck, and shoulders when he was caught in falling debris of a school wall that suddenly collapsed. The Razan director of education said that he is currently stable, but will require surgery.

Elementary-school student Donya Veisi of Garmash village, Kurdistan Province, fell victim to her own school’s disrepair when one of the walls surrounding her school yard collapsed, killing her. Later — amid allegations that Donya had in fact been raped and killed — the Kurdistan Prosecutor verbally engaged to investigate the matter.

Women

The question of women’s rights at sporting events gained heightened public attention this past month when, under pressure from FIFA to permit their entry into stadiums, a select number of Iranian women (most of them family members of players and federation employees) were finally allowed to witness a kickoff in person (Iran vs. Bolivia). Authorities’ exclusive selection criteria were highly criticized.

Meanwhile, Shiraz-based activist Maryam Azad was arrested by security forces at a Tehran Airport as she was leaving the country for Turkey.

The managing director of the office of forensic medicine in Kohkiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad province indicated that, of the 429 domestic violence crimes recorded in his office over the past 6 months, 404 were incidents of violence by husbands against their wives.

Additional cases of violence against women included a man’s murder of his ex-wife when he failed to meet “mehrieh” obligations [a type of alimony settlement], and the circumstances surrounding one woman’s decision to set herself on fire in Mashad.

Two women, long hounded by the judiciary for participating in a rally on International Women’s Day, were recently acquitted of their charges.

Laborers and Guilds

This past month was rythmed by strikes, sit-ins, and rallies organized by guilds and employees across sectors who demanded more secure working conditions.

Commercial Transport: This past month, truck drivers in Iran went on a nationwide strike for the third time [in 12 months]. Over the course of their 20-day strike, at least 261 striking drivers in 19 different provinces were arrested and threatened with heavy sentences, including the death penalty. Strikers’ demands did make significant headway: after years of guild activism, the High Council of Transportation Coordination approved a new freight transport measurement rate known as the tonne-kilometre (tkm) method, which was among the most pressing demands of truck drivers. Despite this partial victory, the fates of the 261 detained protesters are still unknown.

Education: Six Educator-Activists who participated in demonstrations May 10th were sentenced to 9 months in prison and 74 lashings. Also reported was the conviction of schoolteacher and University of Tehran student Ruhollah Mardani, who was arrested earlier this year in connection to nationwide protests. Five teachers were summoned by the Bureau of Public Places in Saqqez.

Following a call to strike by the Coordinating Council of Teachers Syndicates in Iran (CCTSI), Iranian teachers staged sit-ins [on October 14th and 15th] to demand more liveable salaries and justice for their persecuted colleagues. Strike activity was recorded across the provinces of Kerman, Lorestan, Khuzestan, Kermanshah, Isfahan, Kurdistan, Alborz, Hamadan, Fars, Zanjan, Qom, Mazandaran, Tehran, North Khorasan, Ilam, East and West Azerbaijan, Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad, Bushehr, Gilan and Hormozgan.

Merchants: Merchants went on strike against the many interconnected symptoms of Iran’s current recession, including unstable exchange rates, inflation, rising prices, and unemployment. Merchant strikes went on for two consecutive days in the cities of Karaj, Shahreza, Shahriar, Shiraz, Kermanshah, Tabriz and Sarab.

Two street vendors were reportedly beaten by municipal agents in Qazvin and Gorgan.

Health and Environment:

Five environmental activists arrested 8 months ago have been indicted with charges of “corruption on earth,” which can carry the death penalty.

Intelligence agents halted a group of environmental journalists, including Javad Heydarian, before they could board a flight to Germany for work. Their passports were confiscated.

Public concern over pollution and waste issues is ballooning, and [many citizens are critical of the government’s inaction in face of myriad threats to the public health].

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Iranian Ministry of the Interior, Iranians surpass the worldwide average of daily waste production (300 grams) by a whopping 400 grams every day.

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency of Miandoab (West Azerbaijan Province) announced that contamination of the Zarrinehroud River from the city’s sugar factory, coupled with poor ecological management of the river and its dam system, has caused thousands of fish to die in the river.

High levels of air pollution were reported this month in the cities of Kerman, Mahshahr, Ramshir, Rigan, and the provinces of Sistan and Baluchestan and Kerman.

Cultural Rights and Censorship

A number of photographers from Shiraz faced persecution for their instagram activity this month [which was cited as “improper”].

Two cultural directors from Sistan and Baluchestan province were summoned to the Intelligence office for attempting to host a peaceful community celebration.

Pending content modifications and the resolution of charges against the Home Video Entertainment Network, the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance banned distribution of the network’s TV series “13 Shomali” (Northern 13), which previously aired on Saturdays.

Military and Law-Enforcement Power Abuses

Several citizens were killed as a result of power abuses and negligence by security forces this past month.

Police car chases, inappropriate shootings by border authorities, and authorities’ failure to warn civilians of road barriers led to 2 civilian injuries and 5 civilian deaths in Iranshahr (Sistan and Baluchestan Province), Jask (Hormozgan Province) and Azadshahr (Golestan Province) and Razavi Khorasan.

Security forces reportedly assaulted fuel vendors in Saravan (Sistan and Baluchestan Province).

More than a dozen “Kulbars” [laborers who make their living carrying goods across border areas] were wounded and killed across the country, namely in Sardasht (West Azerbaijan Province), Piranshahr (West Azarbaijan Province), Urmia (West Azerbaijan Province) Nowsud (Kermanshah Province), Marivan and Baneh (Kurdistan Province) and Ilam (Ilam province).

A prisoner in Urmia was sentenced to hand amputation, and a robbery convict was dealt 74 lashes in public in the Zeberkhan Rural District (Nishapur County, Razavi Khorasan Province).

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The above-cited reports are only a few examples of dismally more widespread trends. Their mention in this overview by no means implies their significance over those incidents which went unreported, due to tight restrictions on investigative journalists on the ground.

Among available reports of human rights abuses, however, some are more oft-cited due to their sensitive nature or predominating presence in public opinion. It bears mention that all human rights abuses are worthy of the news coverage and social media activism that has come to the aid of so relatively few. Bearing in mind their roles as public opinion influencers, social media activists and human rights reporters must be wary not to underlie existing human rights abuses with unintentional discrimination in their reporting.

In Solidarity with Fellow Gonabadi Dervish Prisoners, Reza Sigarchi Forgoes Food, Medicine

Posted on: October 21st, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – In an act of protest, Reza Sigarchi, a Great Tehran Penitentiary prisoner of conscience and member of the * Gonabadi Dervish religious minority, announced Saturday, October 20th that he will be abstaining from both food and medicine.

Sigarchi’s strike is a demonstration of support for his fellow downtrodden Dervishes, according to Majzooban Noor, a website covering Dervish community news. He will reportedly not eat or ingest medicine until the following demands are met: lift the house arrest order on Dervish leader Noor Ali Tabandeh; release female Dervish prisoners; reunite separated Dervish prisoners into the same Ward; return Abbas Dehghan to Great Tehran Penitentiary.

Sigarchi, who suffers from heart disease, was hospitalized last week in Imam Khomeini Hospital where he underwent an angiography.

Five other Dervish prisoners in Great Tehran Penitentiary — Salehodin Moradi, Mojtaba Biranvand, Mohammad Reza Darvishi, Saeed Soltanpour, and Ali Mohammad Shahi — have been on hunger strike since a violent raid on their sit-in by prison guards on August 29th.

Hunger-striking Dervish Abbas Dehghan still hasn’t eaten since September 2nd. Dehghan reportedly spent one hour in Great Tehran Penitentiary post-trial before being transferred to Ward 2A of Evin Prison, under IRGC jurisdiction, where he has remained since.

All of the aforementioned prisoners were arrested amid the “Golestan Haftom” incident in February 2018, where Iranian police and plainclothes members of the IRGC’s Basij faction confronted hundreds of Gonabadi Dervishes who had rallied outside the home of their spiritual leader Noor Ali Tabandeh. The Dervish demonstrators sought to prevent the possible detainment of Tabandeh, who has reportedly been placed under extended house arrest by Iranian authorities.

Hundreds of Dervishes were beaten, wounded, and arrested during the Golestan Haftom incident. A similar attack occurred on January 24th after an intervention from security forces on the same street, heightening the sense of fear within the Dervish community.

Though Iranian judicial authorities estimate that around 300 people have been arrested in connection with Golestan Haftom, HRANA has thus far published the names of 324 arrestees and estimates that the actual number is considerably higher.

* There are various divisions among Dervishes in Iran. In this report, the term “Dervish” refers to Nematollahi Gonabadis, who declare themselves as followers of Twelver Shi’ism, Iran’s official state religion.

Five Sentenced in Connection to 2017 Armed Attack in Tehran

Posted on: October 20th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Five Sunni prisoners detained in connection to a 2017 attack on both Iranian Parliament and the late Ayatollah Khomeini’s mausoleum have been sentenced to prison terms in Branch 2 of Urmia Revolutionary Court.

HRANA has confirmed the identity of the prisoners as Ebrahim Moradi, Mohammad Nikzad, Ahmad Ghanbardoust, Mohammad Ghanbardoust, and Ghader Salimi. They have been held in Urmia Prison’s Ward 13 since their arrests one week after the attack.

An informed source detailed their sentences to HRANA: Moradi was sentenced to three years; Nikzad to nine months, Ahmad Ghanbardoust to three years; Mohammad Ghanbardoust to four years; and Salimi to five years. All were charged with “collaboration with ‘Takfiri’ groups [a term commonly used by Iranian authorities to denote Daesh (ISIS) sympathizers].”

The attack in question, which took place on June 7, 2017, injured 52 and took the lives of 17 civilians and parliamentary security agents. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.

Two days later, the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence announced that 41 people had been arrested on suspicion of ISIS collaboration in Tehran, Kermanshah, Kurdistan, and West Azerbaijan provinces. Local sources counter that the total number of arrestees was closer to 70. As of now, HRANA has no further information on the arrestee’s interrogations, wellbeing, or access to due process.

Eight people accused of ISIS affiliation were executed July 7, 2018, on charges of “Baqi” [rebellion] and “abetting corruption on earth.” All had been sentenced to death in May 2018 by Judge Salavati of Revolutionary Court Branch 15, a sentence later upheld in Branch 39 of the Supreme Court on June 10, 2018.

Baha’i Crackdown Continues with Two More Arrests in Karaj

Posted on: October 19th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Two Baha’i residents of Karaj, a northwestern suburb of Tehran, became the latest victims of the Iranian authorities’ crackdown on the Baha’i community when they were arrested October 16, 2018.

Parvan Manavi and Elham Salmanzadeh became the seventh and eighth Baha’is to be arrested in their city after authorities confiscated some of their books and personal belongings during a raid of their homes.

A close source told HRANA that security forces first searched the workplace of Manavi, a greenhouse operator, before escorting him to his home where they carried out a search and seizure. “They raided Elham Salmanzadeh’s home at the same time, and then arrested her afterward too,” the source added.

On September 16th, HRANA reported on the arrest and transfer to Evin Prison of four Baha’i Karaj residents: Peyman Manavi, Maryam Ghaffaramanesh, Jamileh Pakrou, and Kianoush Salmanzadeh. HRANA also reported on the arrest of two more Baha’i Karaj residents, Hooman Khoshnam and Payam Shabani, on September 24 and 25, 2018. In recent weeks, HRANA also reported on the arrest of a number of Baha’i citizens in Shiraz and Isfahan.

Over the past month, members of Iran’s Baha’i religious minority have faced increased pressure across the country from Iran’s security and judiciary establishment.

Iranian Baha’i citizens are systematically deprived of religious freedoms, while according to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, everyone is entitled to freedom of religion and belief, and the right to adopt and manifest the religion of their choice, be it individually, in groups, in public, or in private.

Based on unofficial sources, more than 300,000 Baha’is live in Iran. Iran’s constitution, however, recognizes only Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism, and does not acknowledge the Baha’i faith as an official religion. Consequently, the rights of Baha’is are systematically violated in Iran.

Under Pressure from Security Forces, Samsung Company Fires Baha’i Employee

Posted on: October 18th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – In continued efforts to marginalize the Iranian Baha’i community, Yazd security officials put pressure on the administrator of a Samsung subsidiary to fire marketing representative Sahar Rouhani on the grounds of her faith.

An informed source told HRANA that Rouhani was already being commended by Samsung executives as one of the best employees in the company after working there for little more than a year.

Rouhani’s university photography studies were cut short for the same reason in 2009, the source added. “She was expelled from the university in the middle of the fourth semester, after paying full tuition fees, because of being Baha’i.”

In August of this year, HRANA reported on the sudden and permanent dismissal of Baha’i Shiraz residents Sabah Haghbin, Samira Behinayeen, and Payam Goshtasbi from their private companies. Their company’s executives, like those at Samsung, had been harried by security agents to fire them.

Ever since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, when Baha’is were fired from public-sector positions en masse in a process known as Paksazi (cleansing), state authorities have consistently quashed the efforts of Baha’i citizens to improve their social status, shuttering their bodegas, confiscating their property, blackballing them from schools, and pulling strings to terminate their employment.

UN Human Rights Rapporteurs have repeatedly objected to Iran’s history of repressing Baha’is, citing it as a token example of the regime’s neglect of human rights treaties.

Baha’i citizens of Iran are systematically deprived of religious freedoms, while according to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, all people are entitled to freedom of religion, belief, and changes thereof, as well as the right to express and practice those beliefs as individuals or collectives, in public or in private.

Though unofficial sources estimate the Baha’i population of Iran at more than 300,000, Iran’s Constitution officially recognizes only Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism, and does not acknowledge the Baha’i faith as an official religion. As a result, the rights of Baha’is in Iran are systematically violated.

Six Members of Yamani Religious Group Arrested in Izeh

Posted on: October 13th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – After a month of interrogations, six citizens arrested by security agents in the city of Izeh on September 8th have been accused of “contact with the ‘Mahdaviat’ religious group” and transferred to Izeh prison in the southwestern province of Khuzestan.

HRANA has identified the arrestees as Moslem Asadzadi, Sajjad Asadzadi, Abdollah Kavoosi, Habib Mohammadi, Peyman Andaveh, and Ali Ahmadi. A source close to the matter told HRANA that all six were members of a minority religious group called “Ansar Imam Mehdi” and their homes were searched upon their arrests.

“One of the people arrested was an 18-year-old,” the source said. “After one month of scrambling to learn about their whereabouts, we were informed this week that they’ve been transferred to prison and that a bail has been set.”

The source added that the wait has been difficult for their families. “These people were arrested for their faith and for supporting a religious movement,” they said.

Ansar Imam Mehdi is considered a sect of a larger Iranian religious movement called the Yamani faith. Yamanis are devotees of their spiritual leader Ahmad al-Hasan Yamani, who claims to be in contact with the 12th Shiite Imam.

The 12th Imam, known as Mehdi or Mahdi, is an eschatological figure who Shiites believe to be alive, hidden, and biding time to return and restore Islamic utopia. In recent years, many individuals claiming to be in contact with Mehdi were met with intolerance by Iranian authorities. Such claims run counter to the ideology of the Iranian authorities and have provoked the security apparatus to appoint divisions that specialize in quelling belief groups like the Yamanis.

HRANA reported earlier this year on crackdowns on Yamani followers in Torbat-Heydarieh and Qom.

High Arrest Risk for Shirazi Baha’is

Posted on: October 8th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Baha’i Shiraz resident Niloofar Hakimi was arrested by Shiraz Intelligence agents October 6th and transferred to a local detention center, continuing a recent wave of arrests of Baha’i locals, according to an informed source.

HRANA reported on the arrest of five other Baha’i Shirazis on September 15th and 16th: Noora Pourmoradian, Elaheh Samizadeh, Ehsan Mahbub-Rahvafa, and married couple Navid Bazmandegan and Bahareh Ghaderi.

Bazmandegan was arrested 6 p.m. on September 15th while teaching a psychology class, a source told HRANA. Authorities reportedly confiscated the identification cards, flash drives, email addresses, mobile devices, and mobile device passwords of all those present. Bazmandegan was subsequently escorted to his home, where authorities conducted a search and seized his personal belongings. His wife Bahareh Ghaderi was also arrested and transferred to an undisclosed location. Samizadeh was arrested the same day in Shiraz, and Mahbub-Rahvafa was arrested September 16th in his home. After searching Mahbub-Rahvafa’s house, authorities transferred him to Shiraz Intelligence Office Detention Center No. 100.

Baha’is in Iran do not have freedom of religion. This systematic repression is in violation of Article 18 of the International Declaration of Human Rights as well as Article 18 of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights. These documents assert the rights of every individual to freedom of religion, religious conversion, and expression of their religious belief as individuals or groups, publicly or privately.

Unofficial reports indicate that there are over three hundred thousand Baha’is living in Iran. Meanwhile, the Iranian constitution only recognizes Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism as permissible religions, effectively rendering the Baha’i faith illegal. This loophole allows the Iranian government to systematically violate the rights of Baha’is with impunity.

Lawyer Mostafa Daneshjoo Remanded to Evin Prison

Posted on: October 3rd, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Judge Moghiseh has extended the temporary detention period of lawyer and imprisoned Dervish activist Mostafa Daneshjoo, denying his request for bail despite the severe progression of his cardiac and lung disease.

Symptoms of Daneshjoo’s asthma were exacerbated by his stay in Evin Prison’s Ward 250 between 2011 and 2015, on charges of “membership in the Dervish cult,” “acting against national security,” “propaganda against the regime,” and “disturbing the public mind.” Despite orders from the assistant prosecutor that Daneshjoo is sent to a healthcare facility, Evin Prison authorities have barred his transfer.

Seven armed agents arrested Daneshjoo in his mother’s home on July 7th, taking him to solitary confinement in Evin Prison’s Ward 209 — which is under Intelligence Ministry management — where he stayed for 45 days. He was then sent to Ward 4, typically designated for convicts of financial crimes.

Daneshjoo was arrested pursuant to a case file against him in 2017 in Tehran’s Security Investigation Court, in connection to a violent clash that took place February 2018 near the Dervish spiritual leader’s residence on Golestan Avenue in the capital city.

Per a letter from the security office at Azad University, Daneshjoo’s alma mater, he has been barred from continuing his studies. Citing his defense of the Gonabadi Dervish religious minority, security authorities have revoked his permit to practice law.

In a note dated October 2nd, attorney Ali Sharifzadeh announced that he had been retained as Daneshjoo’s lawyer in Branch 28 of Revolutionary Court.

Open Letter: Baha’i Prisoner Hopeful Amid Fraught Traditions of New Academic Year

Posted on: October 2nd, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA)- As a new academic year unfolds in Iran, Baha’i prisoner Azita Rafizadeh speaks out in an open letter about the systemic barriers between post-secondary education opportunities and the country’s Baha’i citizens.

HRANA has reported on several cases over the past few weeks of students whose hopes of attending college have been eliminated by nothing more than the insidious alert of “deficiency on file.” Since 2006, this message has been a common method for disqualifying Baha’i students from university enrollment.

In direct violation of the law, Baha’is are prevented from pursuing degrees or employment in government offices, per under-the-table directives from the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution. Every year, a new cohort of Baha’is is either barred from higher education altogether or thwarted before culminating their degrees.

Since the 1979 revolution, the office of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Iran has repeatedly protested the Iranian government’s animosity towards its Baha’i population, particularly in preventing these citizens from furthering their studies. According to the UN, such directives demonstrate a blatant disregard of multiple international treaties.

Rafizadeh reacts to these prohibitions in the letter below, translated into English by HRANA:

It is the third year that I’ve languished in the corner of a jail cell as schools and universities reopen their doors. I’m kept far from the thrills of a new academic term, from seeing the bright-eyed university students excited to pursue their higher education, and from seeing upperclassmen resume their course.

Over the past few years, I have tried to preserve in my heart the warm glow of that atmosphere, and pray sincerely that all those who are striving, serving, and studying will succeed. Even still, these days, when news reaches me of those students who love learning yet get ‘deficiency on file’ for their 2018 results from Konkur [a nationally-competitive college entrance exam], the bitterness of discrimination and prejudice comes flooding back, and my hopes for doing away with these measures is diminished. To be sure, [this pattern] at least confirms the perseverance of hope and love for learning in young people who, despite a life of deprivation, still do their best to enter universities by participating in Konkur in hopes of gaining knowledge, the greatest virtue of the human world.

It is the existence of these hopeful and eager-to-learn youth that has, over the years, helped the Free Baha’i Institute of Higher Education (BIHE) to thrive in spite of the pressures and systematic attempts to dissolve it. This institute continues to steadfastly serve young Baha’is who are deprived of continuing their education.

When I heard the happy (albeit delayed) news of Holaku Rahmanian’s graduation from Santa Cruz University, my heart brimmed with happiness and resolve. I was certain that although I have been forbidden from serving the youth of my country, better and more qualified individuals will graduate from this institute every year, who are well-versed in the sciences of the day and whose hearts beat to serve the institute and their countrymen.

Hoping for the day when the cloak of discrimination is lifted from the country’s youth, so that they may serve each other and build our country’s future side by side.

Azita Rafizadeh
Evin Prison
October 2018

***

Azita Rafizadeh is an Iranian Baha’i whose spouse Peyman Kushak Baghi is also imprisoned at Evin. Prisoners of conscience, both were sentenced to 4 and 5 years in prison, respectively, on charges of “membership in the illegal and misguided Baha’i group with the aim of acting against national security through illegal activities at the BIHE educational institute.”

Iranian Baha’i citizens are systematically deprived of religious freedoms, while according to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, everyone is entitled to freedom of religion and belief, and the right to adopt and manifest the religion of their choice, be it individually, in groups, in public, or in private.

Based on unofficial sources, more than 300,000 Baha’is live in Iran. However, Iran’s Constitution only recognizes Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism, and does not acknowledge the Baha’i faith as an official religion. Consequently, the rights of Baha’is are systematically violated in Iran.

Soccer Player Shayan Mosleh Provokes Outcry from Sunni Imams

Posted on: October 2nd, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA)- While moonlighting as a Shia orator, Shayan Mosleh — a soccer player for Tehran’s popular Persepolis club — gave a poetry reading that gained wide circulation on the internet, inciting responses from Sunni scholars, Parliamentary representatives, and the public who found it “insulting [to] Sunni sanctities.”

On September 28th, Mosleh’s name resounded in speeches from Sunni prayer imams (listed below) across the country, who condemned his commentary to the point of asking he be held accountable through the judiciary and state-run news agencies.

Friday Prayer Leaders in Iran who protested against Shayan Mosleh:

Molavi Mohammad Hossein Gargij
Azadshahr, Golestan province

Seyed Abdolbaes Ghatali
Bandar Abbas, Hormozgan province

Molavi Habib al-Rahman Motahari
Head of Ahnaf Khavaf Seminary, Khorasan Razavi Province

Molavi Abdolghafar Sheikh Jami
Kheyrabad village, Taybad County, Khorasan Razavi province

Molavi Khodabakhsh Eslamdoost
Ramin, Chabahar county, Sistan & Baluchestan province

Molavi Abdolsamad Damani
Head of Sunni seminary in Haghanieh, Iranshahr county, Sistan & Baluchestan province

Molavi Abdolrashid Shahbakhs
Zabol, Sistan & Baluchestan province

Molavi Gholam Heyday Farooghi
Birjand, South Khorasan province

Abdolkarim Javar
Gonbad Kavoos, Golestan province

Molavi Abdolahad Sarbazi
Anza, Sistan & Baluchestan province

Molavi Seyed Ahmad Abdollahi
Asadieh, South Khorasan province

Molavi Kheyrallah Nikhoy
Friday prayer speaker in Khaf, Razavi Khorasan province

Molavi Abdolhakim Seyedzade
Friday prayer speaker in Gosht, Sistan & Baluchestan province

Molavi Mohammad Tayeb
Iranshahr, Sistan & Baluchestan province

Molavi Chahani
Friday prayer speaker in Rameshk, Kerman province

Sheikh Mohammad Saleh Kheradnia
Damahi, Bandar Abbas

Sheikh Mostafa Imam
Head of Masjid Jameh in Bandar Abbas’s Khajeh Atta quarter.

While the Iranian constitution recognizes Sunni as a religious minority, it defends a specific school of Shiism as the country’s official religion. As a result, Sunnis are victim to systematic discrimination and persecution.