18 Dervishes starving to death; prison warden says “So what?”

Posted on: September 23rd, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – In the past month alone, eighteen hunger striking Gonabadi Dervish prisoners in Iran have been beaten with batons, tased, and electrically shocked – and now, the prison’s warden has outwardly stated that it is not his concern if they die.

The prisoners were first beaten by prison guards at Great Tehran Penitentiary on August 29th, after they held a sit-in to protest the beating of female members of their religious minority in Gharchak Prison in Tehran’s east. After guards violently broke up the sit-in, 18 Dervishes were transferred to solitary confinement, and all 18 went on hunger strike in protest. To date, they have not had a single meal, or any food at all, in more than 30 days.

When some of their fellow cellmates expressed concerns about the physical conditions of some of the hunger strikers, the prison’s warden, known only as Farzadi, responded thusly: “So what if they die?”

According to Majzooban Noor, a news website that focuses on Dervish issues, the hunger strikers are suffering from vertigo and reduced blood pressure. Specifically, the physical condition of Mojtaba Biranvand has been described as critical. He had previously been sent to a clinic due to severe physical weakness. Refusing to break his hunger strike, he has rejected supplemental injections.

Abbas Dehghan, another hunger striker held in the same penitentiary, has only one kidney and is greatly suffering from the toll the strike has taken on him.

The August 29th attack targeted Dervishes in ward 3 of the prison. Eighteen Dervishes from Section 4 who protested the treatment of their fellow prisoners were also sent to solitary.

Previously, on September 1st, HRANA reported that three Dervishes had gone on hunger strike: Ali Bolboli, Salehodin Moradi and Mohammad Reza Darvishi. On September 2nd, Majzooban Noor added six more hunger strikers to the list: Abbas Dehghan, Ali Mohammad Shahi, Mojtaba Biranvand, Ali Karimi, Jafar Ahmadi, and Ebrahim Allahbakhshi, On Monday, three more people joined them: Heydar Teymoori, Majid Yarahmadi, and Saeed Soltanoor. On Tuesday, five more dervishes joined the hunger strike: Babak Taghian, Ehsan Malekmohammadi, Sekhavat Salimi, Reza Bavi and Akbar Dadashi. The last Dervish to join was Majid Rashidi.

The Dervishes demand the end to the house arrest of their spiritual leader, Noor Ali Tabandeh. Their other demands include releasing female dervish prisoners from Gharchak Prison and reuniting all imprisoned dervishes in one single section of the GTP.

All of the Dervishes were arrested in relation to what has become known as the Golestan Haftom incident, named after the street on which it occurred. The incident occurred when a gathering of several hundred Gonabadi Dervishes was violently confronted by Iranian police and plainclothes members of the Revolutionary Guard’s Basij faction outside the residence of their spiritual leader, Noor Ali Tabandeh. The Dervishes had gathered to prevent his possible arrest.

In the violence that followed, hundreds were injured and many arrested. 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.qqqgonabado

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.

Baha’i Crackdown Intensifies with Three More Arrests in Karaj

Posted on: September 23rd, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – Crackdowns on Iran’s Baha’i community continued this week with the arrest of three residents of the northwestern Tehran suburb of Karaj, who were transferred to Evin Prison on Sunday, September 16th and are now being held on approximately $23,000 USD (3 billion IRR) bail.

Maryam Ghaffarmanesh, Jamileh Pakrou, and Kianoush Salmanzadeh–participants in an environmental education session led by Ghaffarmanesh and hosted in the private residence of Ramin Sedighi–were arrested when intelligence agents showed up demanding their cell phones and pressing them to fill out personal information forms.

After confiscating Sedighi’s hard drive, pamphlets, and religious materials, the agents moved on to search Pakrou’s residence, a close source told HRANA.

Ghaffarmanesh, Pakrou, and Salmanzadeh were transferred to Evin Prison. Ghaffarmanesh’s family learned of her bail some 20 hours later, on a call with her from ward 209 of the prison.

The same day, HRANA reported that intelligence ministry agents had arrested and searched the homes of six Baha’i residents of the central Iranian city of Shiraz: Soudabeh Haghighat, Noora Pourmoradian, Elaheh Samizadeh, Ehsan Mahboob Rahvafa, and a married couple, Navid Bazmandegan and Bahareh Ghaderi.

Shiraz had already seen a string of Baha’i arrests one month earlier that landed a number of its residents in an intelligence ministry detention center.

On the morning of September 19th, Baha’i Yazd resident Mehran Bandi Amirabadi was released after being held in custody for 43 days without a warrant. After being tried with six other Baha’i citizens in Branch 3 of Yazd Appeals Court, located in central Iran, Amirabadi was sentenced to one and a half years in prison and one year in exile to be served in Divandareh, a remote city in Iranian Kurdistan.

Mehran Bandi Amirabadi

Iranian Baha’i citizens are systematically deprived of religious freedoms, in contravention of international treaties including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Based on unofficial sources, more than 300,000 Baha’is live in Iran. Iran’s Constitution, however, 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.

Author and Humorist Kiyumars Marzban Detained

Posted on: September 22nd, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – On August 26, 2018, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Intelligence forces arrested author and satirist Kiyumars Marzban in his home, confiscating several personal items including his mobile phone and laptop.

Last year, Marzban, 26, came back to Iran after eight years abroad to visit his ailing grandmother. While he entered the country without event, Branch 1 of the Evin Prosecutor’s Interrogation office opened up a case file and arranged for his arrest within his first year back home.

While Marzban alleges he never traveled to the U.S., a state-affiliated news site has accused him of “Networking in Iran” on contract with American partners. The same news site accuses Marzban, who also teaches art, of entering Iran with the intent to sensationalize and divide the community with his classes. As of the date of this report, no further information was available about the reasons for Marzban’s arrest.

Human Rights Watch revealed in a press release that he has not been allowed to visit his family yet.

Kiyumars Marzban began his career with filmmaking in 2005. By 2009 he had produced eight short films and left Iran to develop his portfolio in Malaysia. Shortly afterward, via Facebook, he launched the world’s premier Persian-language comedy podcast, called “Radio Sangetab” (Sangtab, the name of a village in northern Iran, is also a cooking method using hot stones). His works include “Kham Bodam Pokhte Shodam Balke Pasandideh Shodam” (I was raw, I became ripe and rather pleasant) and “Aziz Jan” (Dear darling).

Baha’i Arrests Persist in Karaj

Posted on: September 22nd, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Iranian authorities continued in their raid of the Iranian Baha’i community with the arrest of another Baha’i resident of Karaj, a northwest suburb of Tehran, on Sunday, September 16th, 2018.

An informed source told HRANA that Ministry of Intelligence agents raided the Andisheh Karaj residence of Peyman Manavi on Sunday, September 16th, confiscating his mobile phones, personal computers, and books before taking him into custody at an unknown location. The source observed more than 10 arrest warrants listed on papers the agents were holding.

In last few hours, HRANA reported on the arrest and transfer to Evin prison of three other Baha’i Karaj residents: Maryam Ghaffaramanesh, Jamileh Pakrou, and Kianoush Salmanzadeh.

Reformist Ex-deputy Minister Summoned for Interrogation

Posted on: September 22nd, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Mostafa Tajzadeh, a leading reformist politician who was previously imprisoned on political grounds for seven years, has been summoned by Branch 4 of the interrogation office of the city of Qazvin, 90 miles northwest of Tehran.

Tajzadeh is a leading member of a group known as the Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization (MIRO), as well as a central council member of the Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF). Both organizations have been banned by the Iranian authorities.

On September 18th, Tajzadeh published a note on social media attributing the summons to a speech he had made in the house of Ayatollah Ghavami.

“The note says that I have five days to present myself, otherwise I am to be arrested,” his note said.

Tajzadeh complained about being summoned in the same year that Iran’s Supreme Leader issued new year’s vow not to arrest citizens exercising their freedom of speech.

“It will soon be known who this summons order came from,” Tajzadeh wrote.

After Tajzadeh’s September 15th speech, he reported that the Intelligence Department of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps summoned a number of those in attendance.

Tajzadeh, who was a deputy interior minister during the self-proclaimed reformist government of President Mohammad Khatami, was previously arrested amid widespread protests known as the Green Movement that broke out across Iran after the 2009 presidential election. Convicted of both “gathering and collusion aimed at disrupting national security” and “propaganda against the regime,” he was sentenced to six years in prison by Judge Salavati in Branch 15 of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court. An appeals court later confirmed the sentence.

While in prison, he wrote critical letters addressed to Iran’s Supreme Leader, which put him on the radar of the IRGC. This culminated in an additional charge of “propaganda against the regime,” for which he was convicted and subsequently sentenced to a year in prison by Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court, presided by Judge Moghiseh. He served a total of seven years in prison before his June 4, 2016 release.

Tajzadeh was also summoned to court last December, pursuant to complaints from Tehran prosecutors.

Intensified Muharram Rituals Becoming Unbearable for Residents

Posted on: September 21st, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Muharram in Iran has so far delivered on its annual promise of month-long public dirges and processionals in honor of the 3rd Shiite Imam Hossein, who died in battle in the 7th century AD. Filling side streets and alleyways with self-flagellation, drumbeats, and wailing, observers of this religious holiday have more recently come to serve the additional purpose of encroaching on religious minority groups.

If noise pollution, traffic jams, and road blockades don’t seem major issues on their face, religious-minority citizens and eyewitness reports describe Muharram as a month-long “psychological persecution” that has enjoyed a history of strong government sponsorship, especially in non-Shiite locales [1].

Ararat, Tehran resident and member of a religious minority he preferred not to name, told HRANA that the eve of Muharram this year turned “ghastly” when the ceremonies reached his home on Ejarehdar Street and jolted his pregnant wife from her sleep.

“Suddenly, the windows started to tremble from the incessant drumming. You cannot imagine how she was woken up, and how she was shaking,” Ararat said. “Worried that something could have happened to the baby, we decided to go to the hospital.”

Making their way through streets clogged with parades, the route to the hospital that night was a long one.

“We moved in with my wife’s parents in Jajroud [north of Iran]. We were worried something terrible could happen, so we escaped for the safety of our baby.”

The Muharram rituals, according to Ararat, were bearable until a few years ago. Over the past decade, due in part to the failing economy, religious hubs have multiplied in tandem with a decreased public interest in worship. To address waning public participation, Ararat said, congregations have purchased audio equipment to broadcast their Muharram lamentations across greater distances.

“Most congregations consist of only a dozen people with flags and drums, slapping their chests or engaging in self-flagellation,” Ararat said. “They are led by a van carrying loudspeakers blasting the monodies [melodic laments].”

Revelations last year that the city of Tehran had given $14 million USD (55 billion IRR) to religious congregations caused such a stir among Iranians that the current mayor and city council have made clear that such funding would not be available this year. According to HRANA reports and eyewitness accounts, however, the disproportionate national and municipal budgets allocated to associations funding Muharram rituals has already mobilized the practice of such rites into a deliberate and systematic violation of religious minority rights.

Through its construction projects alone, city administrators seem to harbor a wish to maintain Shiite presence in neighborhoods where very few of them live. As one Isfahan tourist put it, Christian, Jewish, and other minority localities look deceivingly like the most Shiite-dominated areas of the city. Shiite congregations dot the map of Tehran’s Felestin (Palestine) neighborhood, which is home to many Jewish residents; the Villa neighborhood in Tehran, predominantly inhabited by Christian Armenians, is home to three Shiite mourning congregations; and several Shiite religious associations are housed in Tabriz’s Barnava district, as well as in the Christian-Armenian neighborhoods of Julfa and Isfahan’s Sangtarashha quarter.

As eyewitnesses attest to a growing fervor in sectarian rituals this year, and as religious-minority neighborhoods become host to some of the largest, most cacophonous dirges in the city, the slight against minority residents is twofold: their local taxes are not only being funneled away from projects that would otherwise benefit them, they are also being pooled into the government’s ideological propaganda campaign. Not to mention the noise.

“You cannot believe the horrendous conditions of our street,” said Ararat, who lives on an arterial sidestreet of Tehran’s Imam Hussein Square, one of many feeder streets into a larger collective mourning ceremony that brings loudly-wailing passersby, at all hours of the day and night, to the square. “I tried to reason with the parade administrators, but they told us it was all for Imam Hussein. They claimed there was nothing we could do, and advised us to stay up these nights to reap our benefits in the afterlife!”

An atheist Tabriz resident told HRANA that in order to escape the 24/7 stream of noise this year, he retreated to a vacation home and took a 10-day leave from work.

“Perhaps those who are religious won’t believe me, but I can’t stand even a second of monodies and chest slapping. We have seen enough of this on TV, at school, and at our universities. Every year, the number of congregations [that carry out these activities] increases. It is as though, by virtue of not being Muslim Shiites, we have no rights, and we do not even exist.”

Government backing of these observances not only violates the rights of religious minorities acknowledged in the Constitution–namely Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians–but also infringes on the rights stipulated in constitutional articles 19 [2] and 20 [3] pertaining to all Iranian citizens, including Baha’is, Dervishes, Yareshan, Mandayis, and others not expressly protected by law.

[1] Heya’at, religious associations or congregations, are formed via municipal permit process prior to Muharram, the Islamic month in lunar calendar marked by rituals commemorating Imam Hossein. The rituals include the broadcast of loud monodies broadcast through loudspeakers and processions held in the streets, where participants clad in black walk the streets while slapping their chests and chanting.
[2] Article 19: The people of Iran enjoy equal rights, regardless of the tribe or ethnic group to which they belong. Color, race, language, and other such considerations shall not be grounds for special privileges.
[3] Article 20: Members of the nation, whether men or women, are equally protected by the law. They enjoy all the human, political, economic, social, and cultural rights that are in compliance with the Islamic criteria.

Anemic Political Prisoner Denied Medical Treatment on 10th Day of Hunger Strike

Posted on: September 21st, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – On the shore of the Caspian Sea in the city of Tonekabon, authorities at Nashtaroud Prison are still withholding medical care from political prisoner Mahin-Taj Ahmadpour, who has now been on hunger strike for ten days.

Sentenced to 10 months in prison for her participation in the January protests, Ahmadpour has been on hunger strike since September 10th, in protest of her restricted access to both medical care and the prison telephone.
Her strike is also a revolt against prison authorities who, as a form of coercion or harassment, reportedly threatened to open new charges against her.

An informed source told HRANA that prison officials have displayed apathy toward Ahmadpour’s anxiety about her condition. “On Thursday, September 13th, Ms. Ahmadpour felt sick and asked prison authorities for a transfer to an outside hospital, or to allow her family to bring medications to her, but the authorities ignored her pleas,” the source said.

Concerned at her frail state and steep drop in blood pressure, Ahmadpour’s ward mates brought her to authorities again in hopes of obtaining her treatment. A few hours later, the ward mates learned she had instead been transferred to solitary confinement.

“They said that she would be held there until she broke her hunger strike,”  the source said. “She was sent back to the ward last night, without having been treated, and still on strike.”

Per her treatment plan for anemia, Ahmadpour should receive seven units of blood every month. An informed told HRANA that monthly blood infusions were also recommended for her as a preventative measure against leukemia. Despite her diagnosis and supporting medical documentation, however, prison authorities are adamant about denying her requests for a medical transfer.

Mahin-Taj Ahmadpour is a 46-year-old resident of Tonekabon. A peddler by trade, she was arrested along with 14 other residents during widespread rallies that took place in January 2018 across Iran, known as the January Protests. The Revolutionary Court of Tonekabon sentenced eight of these arrestees to 28 months’ imprisonment, divided among the defendants. Branch 101 of Criminal Court No. 2 of Tonekabon, presided over by Judge Ebrahimi, also sentenced six of the arrestees to 24 collective months of prison time.

Ahmadpour was first sentenced May 2, 2018, in Branch 101 of Tonekabon Criminal Court No. 2 to serve a six-month prison sentence on a charge of “disrupting the public peace through participation in an illegal gathering.” On August 11, 2018, Tunekabon’s Revolutionary Court compounded the sentence with four months’ imprisonment for “propaganda against the regime.” As evidence against her, the court cited a combination of law enforcement reports and images and video taken during the January protests in Tonekabon.

HRANA previously reported on Ms. Mahin-Taj Ahmadpour’s third day of hunger strike in Nashtaroud Prison.

Journalist Motahereh Shafiei Walks away from Appeal with Suspended Sentence

Posted on: September 21st, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – The former sentence of Motahereh Shafiei, editor of the politics beat of the Arman newspaper in Iran, was appealed to a six-month suspended prison term Monday, September 17th, Ensaf News reports.

Shafiei was previously tried and sentenced to six months in prison, plus a two-year ban on both media-related and political activity, by Judge Salavati in Branch 15 of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court.

As of the date of this report, there are no details available on her charges or the reason behind her conviction. She is among a group of reformist journalists arrested in 2012 by the Ministry of Intelligence during Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency.

Fars News Agency, an organization with close ties to the Iranian security establishment, reported in 2012 that these journalists were being investigated for “their contacts with foreign media.”

Iran: UK-Based Art Philosophy Student Detained on Charges of Threatening National Security

Posted on: September 21st, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Aras Amiri, an Iranian citizen and 10-year resident of the UK who was released on bail for national-security-related charges in March, was summoned to Evin Prison, read her charges, and transferred to the women’s ward on September 7, 2018.

Iranian intelligence officers apprehended the Kingston University graduate student on March 14, 2018, just prior to the Iranian New Year. She had been out of custody since posting a bond of $120,000 USD (500 million IRR) bail on May 21.

A source close to Amiri confirmed the news of her recent summons, and told HRANA that she is being pursued on charges of “action against national security.” “However,” the source added, “we are still in the dark about how she responded to that charge since the case file has yet to be sent to court.”

Prior to her arrest, Amiri–who studies the philosophy of art–was working to launch joint exhibition projects between Iranian and British artists, collaborating with bodies like the British Council and a UK-based charity with satellite offices worldwide. The British Council had its own office in Tehran until February of 2009, when security agents prompted the Council to cease its in-country operations by excessively questioning the employees there.

One of Amiri’s family members previously told the media that her cultural activities have been in concert and alignment with the various branches of the Iranian Ministry of Culture. During the ten years of her residence in the UK, she had repeatedly traveled to Iran without issue.

In recent years, a number of Iranian nationals residing outside of the country have been detained and imprisoned upon returning to Iran. Abbas Edalat, an Iranian-British dual citizen and professor of Mathematics and Computer Science at Imperial College in London, was traveling to Iran for an educational workshop when he was detained and sent to Evin Prison in April 2018.