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.

Golrokh Iraee Calls Citizens to the Defense of Persecuted Activist Soheil Arabi

Posted on: October 18th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee, a civil rights activist imprisoned at Evin, has written an open letter in response to the recent re-sentencing of Soheil Arabi, a prisoner of conscience in Great Tehran Penitentiary who has been held without furlough since November 7, 2013.

On new charges of “propaganda against the regime” and “disturbing the public mind,” Tehran Revolutionary Court Branch 26 sentenced Arabi to three more years of imprisonment and three years of exile on September 22, 2018. Cited as evidence against him were voice files he allegedly sent from inside the prison, in which he can be heard comparing Evin to a torture chamber.

In her letter, Iraee accuses authorities of using the exile sentence to banish dissidents like Arabi from public memory.

Golrokh Iraee pictured here with husband and fellow prisoner of conscience Arash Sadeghi

While behind bars on separate charges in June of this year, Arabi was issued a six-month prison sentence by Judge Moghiseh on charges of “blasphemy” and “propaganda against the regime.” The charges stemmed from a case file opened up against Arabi and his ex-spouse Nastaran Naimi, who was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment for “blasphemy” and “aiding and abetting.”

Iraee’s letter warns the Iranian public that apathy towards the extension of Arabi’s detainment would be ignoring symptoms of a malaise for which all Iranian citizens are responsible.

The full text of her letter, translated into English by HRANA, is below:

“He has been behind bars for years without having committed a crime. He is held captive by a vengeful system that has no tolerance for dissenting views, that stifles them instead in bondage, with physical and mental tortures.

Soheil Arabi was first detained on a misunderstanding that devolved into a blasphemy charge. After spending years behind bars and nearing the end of a sentence that tore his family apart (after the immoral and inhumane pressures they submitted him to, to break his spirit), yet another case file emerges, yet another prison sentence is leveled against him. After compounding his suffering with a ban on visits from his daughter, they now want to do with him what they did with Arjang Davoudi and Gholamreza Kalbi: exile him to the middle of nowhere, remove him from public memory, and let his existence perish into the abyss.

After the hunger strikes and beatings he endured in prison, Soheil’s condition is worrisome indeed. It is fitting that we be reminded, after commemorating the World Day against the Death Penalty, of Soheil’s initial execution sentence. He was made to suffer for a long time under the threat of execution, and the [long-term] imprisonment to which his death penalty was commuted, yet we are still witnessing concerted efforts to annihilate him with continued torture and new case files extending his imprisonment.

This method of eliminating activists, protesters, and dissenters may be the current status quo of the judicial system, but it is critical we consider these actions as the red flags that they are, and that we increase public sensitivity and attract the attention of international organizations so that we can put a stop to the annihilation of political and ideological activists. Abandoning them in this state renders us guilty of spreading the disease of our judicial system, and condoning the repetition of such crimes.

Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee, Women’s Ward of Evin Prison, October 2018.

***

Golrokh Iraee was arrested along with her husband on September 6, 2014. She was first held at an IRGC safe house for two days and then spent 20 days in the solitary cells of Evin’s Section 2A, which is under IRGC jurisdiction, before being released on a bail of 800 million rials. On October 24, 2016, the IRGC arrested Iraee again, without a warrant. Her husband Arash Sadeghi, who was sentenced to 19 years in prison, is currently in Karaj’s Rajai Shahr Prison and has undergone operations for cancer. Iraee was sentenced to six years in prison, which was reduced to 2.5 years based on amnesty and Article 134 of the Islamic Penal Code. She was convicted of “insulting the sacred” and “gathering and collusion against the regime.”

Prison Authorities Withhold Medical Care from an Ailing Arash Sadeghi

Posted on: October 13th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Per orders from Assistant Prosecutor Rostami, who manages the political prisoners of Rajai Shahr, imprisoned civil rights activist and bone cancer patient Arash Sadeghi has been denied transfer to a hospital despite a severe infection to the surgical site on his arm.

A close source told HRANA that Sadeghi was recently sent to Imam Khomeini hospital after his infection and biopsy results were flagged for concern. “If the infection does not go away, it will lead to a bad outcome for him,” the source said. “Yet it’s been more than two weeks, and Rostami is still ordering that all political prisoners be denied transfers for outside medical treatment.”

Against the orders of his doctor, Sadeghi was returned to prison just three days after a September 12th surgery for chondrosarcoma at Imam Khomeini hospital. His surgical site would contract a severe infection soon after, prompting his return to the hospital September 22nd at noon. Despite his decline into critical condition, he was again returned to prison, reportedly due to the absence of an appropriate specialist to treat him.

Chondrosarcoma is the most prominent malignant bone cancer in youth, affecting an estimated 100 patients per year in Iran. In this type of cancer, malignant tumors are composed of cartilage-producing cells.

Amnesty International issued a statement on Wednesday, September 26, 2018, saying “The Iranian authorities are torturing jailed human rights defender Arash Sadeghi, who has cancer, by deliberately depriving him of the specialist medical care health professionals have said he desperately requires.”

On July 21st of this year, HRANA reported on Sadeghi’s transfer to the hospital under tight security controls. Saying that the doctor was not present, hospital officials turned him away, postponed his scheduled treatment, and returned him to the prison.

Arash Sadeghi was sentenced to 19 years’ imprisonment by Tehran Revolutionary Court. In December 2016, he staged a 72-day hunger strike to protest the continued imprisonment of his wife, Golrokh Iraee.

Against doctor’s orders, authorities take Arash Sadeghi back to prison after surgery

Posted on: September 23rd, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Arash Sadeghi, a human rights activist imprisoned in Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj, underwent a critical operation on September 12th for malignant bone cancer at Imam Khomeini hospital and was returned to prison just three days later, against the orders of his doctor.

According to an informed source, an individual introducing himself a judicial official insisted on the early transfer against the clear orders of doctors.

Sadeghi’s doctor had instructed that he be hospitalized under close medical supervision for at least 25 days following a very difficult surgery, said the source. According to the source, the doctor explained that Arash needs to stay in the hospital as he requires a medical team in case of stroke, infection, or severe fever. Furthermore, the medical team needs the 25 days to determine whether a patient will require chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or additional surgery.”

A source with information about Sadeghi’s condition told HRANA that specialists had determined Sadeghi needed to be hospitalized three days prior to his surgery, due to an irregular heartbeat and severe weakness, so Sadeghi could be prepared for the intensive surgery through proper nutrition and vitamin injections.

The surgical department had contacted the prison several times on September 8th, asking for Sadeghi’s transfer. Prison officials claimed, however, that the prosecution office had not issued the necessary permits for his early hospitalization. Just one day remaining until his surgery, the authorities finally transferred Sadeghi to the hospital on September 11th.

The source added that there was a heavy presence of plainclothes agents, whose organizational affiliation was unclear, in the cancer department of the hospital since early Tuesday, before Arash arrived.

Sadeghi’s surgery time had been given to another patient due to his late transfer, however, the doctor responsible for Sadeghi reportedly managed to secure an operating table. Sadeghi underwent a 7.5-hour operation, beginning on the morning of Wednesday, September 12th. Doctors removed a bone tumor from his right arm and collarbone, and samples were collected from areas suspected of metastasis, such as his rib cage and underarm. Bone taken from his pelvis was mixed with platelets and special [injectable] cement to replace the removed sections of his arm bone.

The source said that agents imposed restrictions on Sadeghi from the moment the surgery ended, thus complicating his recovery process. They prevented his stay in the recovery room as required by post-surgery procedure.

“While he was still unconscious, they handcuffed and shackled his left hand and leg, and blockaded the area around his bed, a move that prevented his doctor’s required constant checkups, and which was protested by his doctor,” the source said.

According to the source, Sadeghi suffered from wounds similar to bedsores from having to lie on his back due to handcuffs on one hand and operation bandages on the other.

Sadeghi was allowed to use the bathroom only three times a day, accompanied by three agents each time. The inhumane conditions and the restrictions imposed on Sadeghi provoked negative reactions from the hospital staff, and in several cases led to verbal altercations between them and the security agents.

Arash Sadeghi was not allowed any visitors during his stay at the hospital. His wife, Golrokh Iraee, remains imprisoned at Evin Prison serving a six year sentence.

Tensions Mount over Unlawful Execution of Three Kurdish Political Prisoners

Posted on: September 12th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Shock, sorrow, and censure over the executions of Zanyar Moradi, Loghman Moradi, and Ramin Hossein Panahi continue to pour in from both international institutions and Iranian citizens in-country, further straining relations between Iranian authorities and the human rights activist community at large.

A number of Kurdish opposition groups have sounded the call to strike to Kurdish regions of Iran, inviting fellow Kurds to protest their comrades’ executions.

Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, has stated, “I deeply deplore the executions last week of three Iranian Kurdish prisoners despite the serious concerns raised by Special Procedures mandate holders that they were not afforded fair trials, and were subjected to torture.” Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, has also condemned these executions.

Imprisoned civil rights activist Atena Daemi was among a number of imprisoned civil rights activists publishing separate letters expressing sorrow and outrage over the men’s deaths. Golrokh Iraee and Human Rights Lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, two more imprisoned activists, wrote and published their own messages of protest and sympathy, with Sotoudeh likening their executions to the *political massacres of 1988.

Some of these letters have reportedly incited blowback from prison authorities, who have subjected Daemi and Iraee to repeated non-routine body searches after their letters were published. When these women inquired about the reason for the searches, they learned the order for frisking had been issued by the Prison’s Director. A Prosecutor Assistant has since promised to investigate.

Excerpts from the letters of Sotoudeh and Iraee, translated into English by HRANA, are below.

Nasrin Sotoudeh:

“The judicial system has executed three Kurdish compatriots. Our Kurdish compatriots have been plagued by oppression for decades. The verdict and sentences of the Revolutionary Court, condemning these three compatriots to die, was the product of an unlawful process that runs counter to Human Rights principles and the laws of the Islamic Republic. In at least one of these trials, had due process been respected, the defendant may very well have been acquitted.

Zanyar and Loghman Moradi were on hunger strike when they were hanged, another testament to the inherent brutality of the judicial system, who itself is supposed to protect us from violence.

I extend my condolences to our Kurdish compatriots, who have had a steadfast, crucial presence in the cultural promotion of Iran; to all Iranians; and, in particular, to the families of Moradi, Moradi, and Panahi. I hope that in heeding the diverse manifestations of Iran’s judicial violence, the urgent need to renounce all forms of it will become clear.”

Golrokh Iraee

“[Their death] invites the wrath of Kurdistan’s Children […] Zanyar Moradi, Loghman Moradi, and Ramin Hossein Panahi, freedom fighters, Kurdistan’s immortal resistance, teachers of patience and persistence, have left behind a lesson in determination. They were hanged while on hunger strike, in protest of their mistreatment at the hands of authorities; they stood up to the monsters of despotism and reactionarism.

They unmasked those traitors who call themselves statesmen and rulers. Let it be known that the time for lip service has passed. To hold them accountable, we must act.”

****

After being hanged to death in an undisclosed location in Tehran on September 8th without notice to their lawyers, the bodies of the Moradis and Hossein Panahi were *confiscated by the Iranian authorities. The Ministry of Intelligence has since threatened the men’s surviving family members.

Ahmad Amouee, journalist and former prisoner of conscience, published an account of the Moradi and Moradi families’ visit to Tehran’s main cemetery, Behesht-e Zahra, where officials had summoned them to bid farewell to their sons’ bodies. Their final resting place remains unknown.

* In the summer of 1988, on the orders of Ayatollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran at the time, thousands of prisoners of conscience and political prisoners were executed after inquisition-style interrogation sessions. Almost all of these prisoners had already been tried and were either serving their sentence or, having completed their sentence, were awaiting release. All were buried in unmarked, often secret, mass graves.

Authorities deny familial visit between cancer-afflicted prisoner of conscience and his detained wife

Posted on: September 7th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Arash Sadeghi and Golrokh Iraee, a husband-wife pair of civil rights activists currently serving time in separate prisons, have been denied the right to see each other despite Sadeghi’s recent diagnosis of chondrosarcoma.

Separated by about 30 miles–Sadeghi held in Rajai Shahr in Karaj, and Iraee in the women’s ward of Evin prison in Tehran–have been permitted one visit, in June 2018, arranged in the interest of persuading Iraee to end her hunger strike.

An informed source told HRANA that in the wake of Sadeghi’s recent diagnosis, “Mr. Rostami, the assistant prosecutor in charge of Evin political prisoners, consented to the couple’s visit. [Rajai Shahr Prison Director] Gholamreza Ziaei, however, has opposed Sadeghi’s transfer to Evin for such visit. He cited Sadeghi’s activism in prison as the reason for his objection.”

Sadeghi’s recent diagnosis of chondrosarcoma, a malignant bone and joint cancer, has only heightened his loved ones’ anxiety over an already-shaky prognosis: in addition to bone cancer, Sadeghi suffers from asthma, acute ulcerative colitis, arrhythmia, dilated cardiomyopathy, kidney shrinkage, severe wounds in his large and small intestine, and IBS. His regime of 20 daily medications includes mesalazine, sulfasalazine, warfarin, clopidogrel, propranolol, pantoprazole, suprastine, domperidone, and bismuth subcirate. He went on a 72-day hunger strike in October 2016 to protest his wife’s arrest and incarceration over a story she had written in a private journal, and has yet to fully recover from the physical fallout of long-term starvation.

Sadeghi is serving a 19-year prison sentence imposed by the Revolutionary Court, while Iraee began serving her six-year sentence on October 24th, 2016. Since the recent Iranian New Year, or “Nowruz” celebration in March, her sentence was reduced to two and a half years.

On the orders of Evin Prison Director Chaharmahali, Sadeghi was previously transferred from Evin Prison to Rajai Shahr as a punitive measure. Iranian law has provisions allowing for monthly inter-prison visits between kin who are detained within the jurisdictions of Tehran and Alborz Province.