Update: Arrests and Detainments as of November 14, 2018

Posted on: November 14th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – Local sources have recently reported the violent arrests of two ethnic-minority cultural activists. Their stories are below.

Azerbaijani Activist Violently Arrested by Security Forces in Ardabil

Ardabil security forces assaulted and arrested Azerbaijani activist Habib Sassanian November 8th, releasing him one hour later on bail. His court hearing was scheduled to take place on November 10th.

According to a close source, security forces showed up at the home of one of Sassanian’s relatives, laying into him immediately and arresting him without a warrant. Photos of Sassanian’s wounded face were provided to HRANA, and a close source affirmed that his face, right eye, and scalp were left swollen.

Sassasian spent 16 months in Tabriz Central Prison after an August 2017 arrest before going free on a 3.5 billion IRR bail [approximately $83,000 USD]. He was also among a group of Azerbaijani activists arrested in Ardabil May 15, 2016, dubbed the “six-man Gamo spy gang” by the Chief Justice of East Azerbaijan Province in June 2017. They were charged with forming, participating in, and providing guidance to the Azerbaijani political group “Gamo,” as well as “spying for foreign countries” and “leaking confidential IRGC information to foreign countries.”

Ardabil is a city in northwest Iran, home to Iran’s Azerbaijani ethnic minority.

Authorities Assault the Parents of Ahwazi Arab Arrestee

Ahwazi Arab cultural activist Yousef Savari, of Dasht-e Azadegan County in Iran’s southwestern Khuzestan Province, was arrested by security forces and taken to an undisclosed location on November 8th. Security forces reportedly assaulted his parents at the time of his arrest.

A local source told HRANA that IRGC intelligence agents stormed the Savari family home in the morning of November 8th, beating 76-year-old Mehdi Savari and 65-year-old Nasimeh Savari before taking their son Yousef into custody.

Recording with their cell phones, the intelligence agents then coerced Savari’s parents to make incriminating statements about their son Isa Savari, who currently works for a television station in Holland.

No information is currently available on Yousef Savari’s whereabouts or the reasons behind his arrest.

Hundreds of Ahwazi Arab activists have been arrested and detained since the September 22nd armed attack on an Ahvaz military parade that killed and injured dozens of civilians.

Khuzestan Province, located on Iran’s southwest border with Iraq, is home to Iran’s Ahwazi Arab ethnic minority.

One Azerbaijani Activist Back In Detention, Another Free on Bail

Posted on: November 2nd, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – Azerbaijani political prisoner Hakimeh Ahmadi, who underwent hospital treatment for ribcage and finger injuries sustained at the hands of Iranian security forces, is back in Intelligence detention in Marand County.

Marand-based security forces entered Ahmadi’s home on October 18th, threatening both her and her spouse with a weapon. She was arrested and transferred without explanation to an undisclosed location, later reaching out to her family from Tabriz Prison.

In a video he published October 30th, Ahmadi’s husband Gholamreza Ghorbani related news of her hospital transfer, explaining that authorities had refused to disclose where she had been admitted, forbade him from visiting, and advised him that pending treatments would be at his and Ahmadi’s expense.

Ahmadi was previously detained this past September and went free on one billion Rials [approximately $7,000 USD] bail.

Meanwhile, on November 1st, Azerbaijani activist Rahman Ghasemi of Urmia was released on bail pending trial. He was arrested October 29th in Tabriz.

Ghasemi was previously arrested and interrogated by Urmia police for his attendance at the strictly-sanctioned Babak Fort gatherings this past July.

Activist Maharam Kamrani Arrested in East Azerbaijan Province

Posted on: October 27th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – Azerbaijani activist and medical doctor Maharam Kamrani was arrested Thursday, October 25th at his workplace in East Azerbaijan Province’s Ahar county.

Kamrani’s medical practice was raided by security forces who seized his computer, laptop, books, and other personal belongings. He was then sent home under tight security controls and interrogated for three hours in front of his children.

Neighbors were reportedly assaulted when they protested the presence of plainclothes and security agents around the perimeter of Kamrani’s house.

After the interrogation, Kamrani was sent to an undisclosed location. His whereabouts and the charges against him have yet to be confirmed.

Kamrani was previously arrested for taking part in street protests against the TV show “Fetileh,” believed by many to have portrayed Azerbaijanis in a derogatory light.

Four Activists Arrested in East Azerbaijan Province

Posted on: October 27th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Three Azerbaijani activists residing in Tabriz — Sajjad Afroozian, Ebrahim Ranjbar, and Sadollah Sasani — were arrested by security agents Friday, October 26th for participating in a memorial service for Gholamreza Amani. A fourth, Hakimeh Ahmadi, was arrested for undisclosed reasons in Marand.

Gholamreza Amani was a renowned Azerbaijani activist who died in a car accident along with his two brothers on October 23, 2008. Amid public suspicions around the circumstances of his death — believed by some to be a “premeditated murder” — security forces have kept an anxious eye and grip on the gatherings held in his memory.

A close source said security forces surrounded Maralan cemetery on Thursday, where Amani’s commemoration was scheduled to take place. Afroozian was among a number of activists contacted by security agents that day who threatened to detain them if they showed up.

Two of the arrested memorial attendees have been pursued by authorities in the past. Sasani was among a group of Azerbaijani activists arrested and interrogated in July 2017 during a gathering at Babak Fort. He was later released on a bail of 20 million tomans (approximately $5,000 USD). In one of his multiple run-ins with security agents and interrogators, Afroozian was violently apprehended in December 2016 in the city of Malekan and released the following February on a 50 million toman bond [approximately $12,000 USD].

Coinciding the three aforementioned arrests was the detainment of Hakimeh Ahmadi, arrested at her home in the city of Marand. Security agents reportedly roughhoused both her and husband, threatening them with a close-combat weapon. They offered no explanation for her arrest.

Ahmadi was previously arrested this past September and released on a 100 million toman bail [approximately $7,000 USD].

Afroozian, Ranjbar, Sasani, and Ahmadi have all been transferred to undisclosed locations.

Tabriz, Marand, and Malekan are located in the northeastern province of Azerbaijan, which borders the Republic of Azerbaijan and is home to Iran’s Azerbaijani minority.

Citing Constitutional Trespass, Abbas Lasani Rejects Court’s Second Summons

Posted on: October 13th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Azerbaijani activist Abbas Lasani’s public dissent with the Iranian judicial system continued this week with his spurning, via open letter, of a second court subpoena that he decries as illegitimate. “I will not abide by the rule of tyranny, and thus I express my protest and rebellion against this illegal process, and against your oppressive conduct unbecoming of a court,” he wrote.

Via SMS on September 24th, Lasani learned he had been convicted in absentia in Branch 2 of Tabriz Revolutionary Court. On October 10th, a writ summoned him to hear the conviction in court within the next ten days.

“My verdict was delivered by a totally illegal and unlawful process that is neither reasonable nor acceptable,” Lasani wrote, explaining that constitutional article 168 stipulates that verdicts in political, press, or conscience cases must be tried in public and in the presence of the media.

HRANA reported September 16th on Lasani’s refusal to respond to an initial summons via text message from the same court. “It’s impossible to ignore that the summons is illegitimate, arriving by text message with no official hard copy,” Lasani said in a public statement.

Abbas Lasani was among a group of four Azerbaijani (Turk) activists residing in Ardebil arrested by Intelligence agents July 2, 2018, a few days before an annual gathering at Babak Fort, a site that has acquired symbolic importance for Azerbaijani rallies in recent years. Prior to his arrest, he had shared a video encouraging people to attend the gathering. He was released on 500 million rials [$3,500 USD] bail July 11, 2018. More than 80 Azerbaijani activists were arrested throughout Ardabil, West Azerbaijan, and East Azerbaijan provinces at the time of the Babak Fort gathering.

Amnesty International issued a statement on August 11th of this year, calling the arrests of Azerbaijani activists “arbitrary” and unlawful, and demanded the immediate release of all individuals detained for their participation in Azerbaijani Turkic cultural gatherings.

Three Azerbaijani Activists Taken into Custody

Posted on: September 6th, 2018

Update: On September 6th, Ulduz Ghasemi was released on a bail of 500 million rials (approximately $4,000 USD).

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) Ulduz Ghasemi, Rahman Ghasemi, and Sahand Ma’ali, Azerbaijani Turkic minority rights activists from the cities of Urmia and Sarab, were apprehended today by local security forces.

Ulduz Ghasemi and Rahman Ghasemi had previously been summoned by security agents of Urmia’s Noh Pele Quarter and interrogated there by security forces. While both Ulduz and Rahman were summoned and interrogated, only Ulduz was taken into custody.

A credible source told HRANA that plainclothes forces went to Ulduz’s mother’s house, seizing a number of books, a laptop, and a mobile phone. According to the source, Ulduz and Rahman were interrogated for visiting relatives of one of those killed in protests that took place in Azerbaijan in 2006.

Ulduz was also among a number of activists arrested on May 26th of this year in the West Azerbaijan province, in connection to their participation in a commemoration gathering at Naqade County’s Golzaar cemetery. The gathering was in honor of those who had died in the 2006 protests.

Both Ulduz and Rahman were later arrested again after taking part in the Babak Fort celebrations on July 7th of this year. They were released five days later.

Meanwhile, Sahand Ma’ali faces a 10-month suspended prison sentence from the Revolutionary Court of Sarab County. Presided by Mehdi Shams, the court convicted Ma’ali of “Propaganda against the regime.” Ma’ali was among a group of regional activists who were arrested at Fort Babak gatherings on July 6.

Fort Babak, a monument built during the pre-Islamic Sassanian period, is named after Babak Khorramdin, known for leading an uprising against the Abbasid caliphate in 893. In recent years, it has become a place of symbolic gathering for Azerbaijani activists, especially during the annual commemorations in the first week of July.