Open Letter: Atena Daemi Lauds the Emotional Labor of Iranian Mothers

Posted on: October 24th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – Atena Daemi, a civil rights activist imprisoned since October 21, 2014, has written an open letter to her mother marking her fourth year of incarceration.

In the note, Daemi describes the difficulties endured by her family — particularly her mother — who she characterizes as one of her most important sources of strength in recent years.

With fellow political prisoners Maryam Akbari Monfared and Golrokh Iraee, Daemi was punished October 3rd with a three-week ban on family visits, per verbal orders from the Women’s Warden at Evin. All three were told the ban served to punish them for refusing an unlawful interrogation this past September.

HRANA has translated the full text of Daemi’s letter below:

Four years ago to this day, I was on my way to work on a cold autumn morning. You had gone to buy fresh bread for us. I was running late, so I didn’t get to see you before dad and I left the house. Before we could reach the end of the alley, they blocked our way, arrested me, put me in another car, and returned to the house with dad, all 11 of them. I don’t know how you reacted when you saw them. After an hour, they brought me back home. I was shocked to see you. I was shocked by your screams at the agents.

“Go on and take my daughter too. You took all of these young people – and how far did that get you? You know what? Go ahead and kill my daughter too. You killed Sattar Beheshti [a blogger who died in prison in 2012] and all those other young people. And what came of it?”

They threatened to detain you too, and you shot back, “Take me! You’ve outdone yourselves putting mothers behind bars and bereaving them.”

I thought you would be scared, but you weren’t; I thought you would blame and reproach me, but you didn’t. In our own language, you told me to go– that this would be the first night I would spend away from home, but that you were still behind me, still with me, and that one day no child would be separated from their mother. That lifted a weight off my shoulders; it felt as though you had given me wings. I went, but you never left me for a moment; we were bonded more than ever, together, united.

I remember your face that day in the Revolutionary Court when I was sentenced to 14 years in prison. Giddily and sarcastically, you quipped, “14 years is nothing– we expected the death penalty!” I know you felt a quiver of fear, but you didn’t show it. Sixteen months later, I returned home and you were in good spirits, though you knew I wouldn’t be staying long. They came back for me nine months later. You weren’t in Tehran then. I called you to let you know they were taking me. You told me to put you on speakerphone so that they could hear you. You were screaming “What do you want from our children? What have they done? What did they ever ask of you? The day will come when us mothers will hold you accountable…”

After I went, they opened cases against your other two daughters, convicting them. You laughed and said that we should ask them to set up a family suite in the prison that would house us all!

I went on hunger strike. I will not forget the concern in your eyes, but your words, filled with hope and promise, only made me more steadfast. Your daughters were acquitted, and I stayed. They filed new cases and lawsuits against me, one after the other. Then, they dragged me to Gharchak Prison, beating me and insulting me. That following Thursday I called home. You were happy to hear my voice and asked how the prison administrators had come to be so charitable on a Thursday [the beginning of the weekend in Iran].

I laughed and said, “I’m calling you from Gharchak Prison.” You replied that it was only right that I see the women held in Gharchak as well. “Let’s see how far they want to go!” you said.

When I contacted you a few days later, you did not answer. I was told that you went to the Prosecutor’s office to see about my case. The more time passed without any news from you, the more worried I became. You finally replied after 7 p.m. and told me that they had detained you along with Hanieh [my sister]. You told me how they beat you both and shocked you with stun guns. My body trembled at that thought.

You told me they shocked your leg when you refused to get into their car. You said it didn’t hurt, that it felt like stinging nettles. I was trembling with anger, but you were laughing and said that you didn’t back down and gave them a piece of your mind.

My phone rights and visits were cut.

Then came your little girl’s wedding day– my sister Hanieh was getting married…

They did not let me go on furlough to come to the wedding. You came to visit me in Gharchak. Hanieh was restless but you calmed her down, telling her not to cry but to laugh and be joyous so that the authorities wouldn’t get the idea that their tactics can break [me]. I remember that you reminded her that Fariba Kamalabadi [Baha’i prisoner of conscience] hadn’t been granted furlough to attend her own daughter’s wedding. You asked me to distribute sweets to my cell and ward mates to celebrate my sister’s wedding inside the prison. What a memorable night that was!

I was returned to Evin Prison. Then we heard news of the execution of Zanyar, Loghman, and Ramin. You went on a hunger strike, wore black, and came to visit me in tears. They had harassed me that day, but the three of us just held hands and sang a song for our fallen brothers. Again, they cut me off from family visits.

Mother, would you look at how pathetic and short-sighted they are? When Zanyar Moradi hadn’t seen his mother in nine years when he was killed, and they think they’re going to break me by withholding my visiting rights for a while? The pain of mothers never ends. If they think they can reform us, silence us, or make us remorseful with such childish measures, they are sorely mistaken. We won’t be disciplined; rather, we will carry on with more resolve than before.

It has been three weeks since we last saw each other. You’ve gone to visit with Ramin’s mother, Zanyar and Loghman’s families, and the family of Sharif, who died in the fire[Kurdish activist who died fighting wildfires in western Iran]. You visited Narges [Mohammadi] and the family of Homa [Soltanpour]. While we haven’t seen each other, you have embraced the pains and sorrows of fellow mothers.

Send my regards to all the mourning and bereaved mothers of Iran and tell them I shall call for justice for them as long as I live!

Atena Daemi
October 21, 2019
Evin Prison

___________________________________________________________________________

After her arrest on October 21, 2014, Atena Daemi spent 86 days in solitary confinement before being transferred to the Women’s Ward of Evin prison. In May 2015, Judge Moghiseh of Revolutionary Court Branch 28 sentenced her to 14 years’ imprisonment on charges of assembly and collusion against national security, propaganda against the regime, and insulting the supreme leader. She was released February 2017 on 5.5 billion IRR [approximately $140,000 USD] bail. Her sentence was then reduced to seven years on appeal. She was detained November 26, 2016 to serve her sentence, which since been reduced to five years.

Bail Release of Syndicate Chairman Arrested Amid Teacher Strikes

Posted on: October 24th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Mohammadreza Ramezanzadeh, Chairman of the Coordinating Council of Teachers Syndicates in Iran (CCTSI), was released today, October 23, 2018, on a bail of 100 million tomans [approximately $7,000 USD] pending trial.

Ramezandzadeh was arrested October 14th in the northeastern city of Bojnourd, amid two-day-long general strikes of Iran’s teaching community. CCTSI had called for the strike to protest the low compensation grade of teachers.

Strikers also demanded the release of their still-imprisoned colleagues, including Mohammad Habibi, Esmaeil Abdi, and Mahmoud Beheshti Langroudi.

Two Ahwazi Arab Citizens Arrested, Transferred to Undisclosed Location

Posted on: October 21st, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – On October 17, 2018, two residents of Ahvaz were arrested by local intelligence agents and transferred to an undisclosed location.

HRANA was able to confirm the identity of both arrestees as Sajjad Silavi, 25, and 63-year-old father of five Seyed Sadegh Nazari, who has a previous track record with police.

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

Ahvaz is the capital of Khuzestan Province.

Once-Buried Case Pulls Abdolreza Ghanbari Back to Evin Prison

Posted on: October 20th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Teacher and former political prisoner Abdolreza Ghanbari was arrested Saturday, October 13th, and transferred to Ward 8 of Evin Prison to serve the remainder of a recently-resurrected prison term.

Amid re-reviews and permutations of his case under a changing penal code, Ghanbari has been pulled through the judicial wringer since his initial arrest in 2009, when he was detained in his workplace amid widespread “Ashura” demonstrations following the contentious Iranian election cycle of that year.

In February 2010, after two months of interrogation, Judge Salavati of Revolutionary Court Branch 15 sentenced him to death for “Moharebeh” [enmity against God],” through his alleged ties to the opposition group People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK).

Four years later, in June 2013, Ghanbari’s death sentence was reversed in Supreme Court and commuted to 15 years’ imprisonment by Revolutionary Court Branch 1.

When Article 186 of the Islamic Penal Code was eliminated, Ghanbari requested and obtained a retrial, which resulted in the suspension of his sentence. He was released March 16, 2016 after having served more than six years in prison.

The return to normal life was relatively short-lived, as a close source explained to HRANA: “In September 2017, his prison sentence was reviewed again by Branch 28 of [Tehran’s] Revolutionary Court, presided by Judge Moghiseh, and increased from 10 years to 15 years in prison.”

Ghanbari’s new scheduled release date has yet to be confirmed by HRANA.

Open Letter: Reza Khandan Echoes Public Support of an Ailing Farhad Meysami

Posted on: October 20th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Imprisoned civil rights activist Reza Khandan has published a letter calling attention to fellow activist Farhad Meysami’s mistreatment by prison authorities, who are reportedly unmoved by the steep decline of Meysami’s health since he declared hunger strike on August 1st.

Since forcibly taking Meysami to the prison clinic on September 26th, prison authorities have kept him in quarantine-like conditions, restricting all of his contacts with the outside. In protest of his arrest, as well as authorities’ refusal to appoint the lawyer of his choice, Meysami has already been on hunger strike for more than 75 days.

Medical doctors, publishers, bookshop owners, and university graduates numbering 1400 in all have published an open letter raising their own concerns over Meysami’s condition and pleading for his immediate release. The voices of two teachers incarcerated at Evin also got behind what has become a burgeoning public campaign for, at the very least, Meysami’s transfer to an outside medical facility.

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

Dear Compatriots,

Fellow human rights activists,

It has been 75 days since Dr. Farhad Mesyami started his difficult and worrisome hunger strike. Three weeks ago, he was forcibly transferred to the prison clinic from the general ward. Reportedly on orders from the prosecutor’s office, and with the cooperation of the clinic’s director, prison officials have repurposed the clinic into a security detention unit where patient spaces can be used as solitary confinement cells.

Currently, Farhad Meysami is being held in one of those rooms under tight security controls. In his frail state he has reportedly been subjected to inhumane treatment whereby, against his will and without the presence of family or a lawyer, he was strapped to a bed and given injections.

In these instances, we must hold accountable not only judiciary authorities but also the Ministry of Health and the President himself, who has sworn to protect the rights of the people.

Moreover, we must advocate that medical professionals be held accountable, those who have in an unprofessional and unprincipled manner taken action against the will of the patient, heeding any and all orders [from authorities], however unethical they may be.

Farhad Meysami’s health and life is at risk now more than ever, and it is urgent he is transferred to a hospital outside the prison for medical care.

Reza Khandan, October 14, 2018, Ward 4 of Evin Prison

****

Reza Khandan Khandan was arrested in his home by security forces on September 4, 2018, before being charged in Branch 7 of the Evin Prosecutor’s Interrogation office. He was summoned to Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court on October 5th but refused to attend as an act of protest against the unlawfully late subpoena.

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.

Exile and Death Sentences Await Leila Tajik and her Former Spouse

Posted on: October 11th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Leila Tajik, a prisoner in Evin’s Women’s Ward, was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in exile on espionage charges. Her ex-husband, who reportedly served in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and faced the same charge, was sentenced to death.

An informed source confirmed to HRANA that Tajik has been in custody for the past 13 months, and recently learned of her sentencing to exile in Karaj.

HRANA is in the process of confirming the identity of Tajik’s ex-spouse, who was arrested along with her on September 5, 2017, pursuant to a joint case opened up against the two by the IRGC. Following the arrest, Tajik was interrogated for seven months in an IRGC outpost.

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.”

News sources, including the Dolat-e Bahar [a news site associated with former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad], have reported the arrest of a number of security forces, mostly employed by the Ministry of Intelligence or the IRGC, accused of espionage, especially for Isreal.

Security and judicial authorities have been unforthcoming with any further details on Tajik or her ex-spouse’s status.

Zahedan Appeals Court Ups Prison Sentence into Capital Punishment

Posted on: October 3rd, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Zahedan Appeals Court has increased the 15-year prison sentence of Ward-4 Zahedan prisoner Abdolhamid Mirbaluchzehi to the death penalty. The final appeals verdict also upheld the capital punishment sentence of his co-defendant Javid Dehghan.

Both were initially tried in Branch 1 of Zahedan Revolutionary Court on charges of acting against national security and Moharebeh [enmity against God] in connection to an armed attack on police.

According to a close source, the fifteen-year prison sentences of co-defendants Mahmoud Kalkali, Omid Imani, and Alireza Bampouri — who did not request an appeal — were finalized “long ago.”

The charges of all defendants were reportedly prepared after their torture in a Ministry of Intelligence detention center in Zahedan, where according to a source they were “stripped naked, flogged,[…] disparaged and humiliated.”

Soheil Arabi Sentenced to More Prison Time

Posted on: October 3rd, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – Pursuant to a new case brought against him by Judge Ahmadzadeh of Tehran Revolutionary Court Branch 26, Soheil Arabi, a prisoner of conscience in Great Tehran Penitentiary, was sentenced September 22nd to three years in prison, three years in exile, and a fine of approximately 40 million IRR [approximately $400 USD] on charges of “propaganda against the regime” and “disturbing the public mind.” His lawyer did not learn of the verdict until eight days later.

A source close to Arabi told HRANA that the courts pursued new charges against him because of voicemail messages he left from prison; in one of these, he reportedly compared the Great Tehran Penitentiary to a torture chamber.

Arabi’s mother Farangis Mazloum told HRANA, “When I went to Great Tehran Penitentiary to see Soheil this morning, prison authorities told me that they had taken my son to court and that he is banned from having visitors,” she said.

Judge Moghiseh previously sentenced Arabi, along with his ex-wife Nastaran Naeimi, to prison time: six years for Arabi on charges of “blasphemy” and “propaganda against the regime,” and a year and a half for Naeimi, for “propaganda against the regime” and “aiding and abetting.”

Soheil Arabi, a 33-year-old photographer, was arrested by Sarallah-based agents of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) on November 7, 2013, for comments he had posted on his Facebook page. Judge Siamak Modir Khorasani cited the Facebook posts as evidence of “insulting the prophet” — a charge that can incur capital punishment — in Branch 76 of Tehran’s Criminal Court.

Arabi’s lawyers subsequently appealed to Branch 36 of Supreme Court, pleading Article 263 of the Islamic Penal Code. While Article 262 recommends the death sentence for those who insult the prophet, Article 263 reduces the death sentence to 74 lashes for defendants whose statements “have been under coercion or mistake, or in a state of drunkenness, or anger or slip of the tongue, or without paying attention to the meaning of the words, or quoting someone else…”.

Unmoved by the Article-263 argument, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence, unlawfully adding to his case file the charge of “corruption on earth.”

A retrial request was later accepted in Supreme Court Branch 34, which acquitted him of “insulting the prophet” and commuted his death sentence to seven and a half years’ imprisonment, plus a two-year travel ban and two years of religious probation to evaluate his repentance upon his release.

Arabi had not seen the end of his legal troubles, however — in 2014, Branch 10 of Iran’s Court for Government Employees would sentence him to a 5 million IRR fine [approximately $50 USD] and 30 lashings for insulting the following three people with his Facebook posts: Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, Gholamali Haddad Adel, and the Director of Allameh Tabatabai University. That same year, Judge Abolghassem Salavati of Revolutionary Court Branch 15 would sentence him to three years in prison for “insulting Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic” and “propaganda against the regime.” Branch 54 of Appeals Court upheld the latter sentence a short time later.

Arabi has been in prison without furlough since November 7, 2013.

Testimony: the Homeless Families of Tehran’s Public Parks

Posted on: October 2nd, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA)- Aside the commotion of families excitedly prepping their children for the back-to-school season, homeless daughters carry a burden of shame for their families. From parks across the city where they’ve taken up residence, many displaced parents anguish over whether school will even be an option for their children this year.

In order to attend school, nine-year-old Nazanin will have to cease the freelance fortune-telling that has bolstered the income of her family since four months ago, when they first took up residence in Tehran’s public Laleh Park.

Stressed over transport costs for her daughter’s school — which is located far from the park, near the family’s former home — Nazanin’s mother shared the bitter memory of a retired man who, happy that his daughter did not want a master’s degree, celebrated the end of her studies. “We can’t even afford Nazanin’s transportation cost,” she said, “but we will send her to school even if it means carrying her on our backs […] We want her to remain in that school.” Though Nazanin’s elementary school has waived her enrollment fees, her mother dreads registering Nazanin in another institution that may not be so forgiving.

For her part, Nazanin dresses like a boy and continues to aspire to be a schoolteacher. When asked what she wishes for, she said, “I wish we had a house so I could go to school.”

Nazanin’s mother is tearful throughout her interview as she recalls the chain of events that lost them their apartment. First, despite 17 years of tenure at the Water Management office, Nazanin’s father was suspended from work without pay. “We had a home, […]” she said, “but when his salary was cut and we were late in paying rent, by just a few days, our landlord seized our furniture and put on the street with a few blankets and pillows.”

Homeless families and their children have taken up residence in parks all across the capital city. While I was interviewing in one of them, another young fortune teller — a 12-year-old who also sells chewing gum — drew close to my cell phone so that her story would be on the record, too.

Declining to have her picture taken, she said she hoped authorities would be moved to act on behalf of her struggling family. After moving to Tehran 5 months ago from Iranshahr in Sistan and Baluchistan province to seek treatment for her father’s neurological condition and her mother’s eye problems, she took to selling fortunes all day to supplement her family’s income. One of five children aged 6 months, 6, 12, 13, and 15, she works to fund her brothers’ educations, her parents’ medical treatments, and food for the family. She wants to go to school, she said; come winter, she could stay warm in the classroom.

According to Article 73 of the Charter on Citizens’ Rights, ratified by Hassan Rouhani’s administration and published on http://president.ir/en, “Citizens have the right to take benefit of a safe house suitable to meet their own and their family’s requirements. The Government will pave grounds for the realization of this right by observing priorities and by taking into account the resources.”

Some families are still waiting for the promises of Article 73 to materialize. The inflamed skin of Nazanin’s family members is suspect for skin conditions, but they attribute the discoloration to the insects in the park. They sleep in the pergola, where foxes pass by at night; they bathe in the public bathrooms, where hygiene conditions are out of their control.

The vulnerability of a life exposed to the elements makes it difficult for the family to explore other avenues of income. “We bought a brazier to sell grilled corn, but while we were sleeping, someone stole it. We wanted to sell tea, but someone stole our flask. Even our cell phones have been stolen multiple times[…]Even during Muharram, we were embarrassed to take food offerings. Now that Nazanin is starting school again, she can’t sell fortunes anymore, and I don’t know what we’re going to do!”

Red in the eyes and face, Nazanin’s father gets up and walks away without saying a word, saving what dignity he has left.

Touching a metal necklace around her neck, Nazanin fills the silence. “If someone would buy it, I’d sell this too. I am embarrassed to sell fortunes and things like that. I only do it for my mother.”

Nazanin has developed an aggressive nervous condition from her long-term exposure to the coarse walks of life that wander the park.

“She comes and tells me, ‘so-and-so said these words to me,’ then laughs and asks me what they mean,” her mother said, adding that she has lost the ability to provide structure and discipline to her increasingly agitated daughter. “She doesn’t know what these vulgar terms mean, but she is slowly learning them.” Pained tears stopped her from telling me more.

Nazanin’s voice offers up another memory. “One time, a man and a woman took me from my parents to a place with a sign above the door that said ‘Social Security Organization.’ People there were turning in children for 300 thousand tomans [approximately $100 USD] […]I ran away from them […] I ran so much that for two days, I was shivering and asleep. I don’t want to be separated from my parents.”

Nazanin’s mother seemed tormented by grief over the joys of childhood that, since her arrival in Luleh, evade the young girl in her care. “When Nazanin comes back from school, wouldn’t she want to rest? Wouldn’t she want to be indoors, somewhere warm and cozy? Wouldn’t she want clean and ironed clothes, a bathroom to shower in? Where is she going to do her homework?…”