Political Prisoner Maryam Akbari Monfared Joins Chorus of Eulogies for Executed Kurds

Posted on: September 21st, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Maryam Akbari Monfared, a political prisoner held in the women ward’s of Evin Prison, has penned an open letter in response to the highly controversial September 8th executions of Kurdish political prisoners Ramin Hossein Panahi, Loghman Moradi, and Zanyar Moradi.

Monfared, whose own siblings have been executed, expressed her sympathy for the mothers and sisters of the executed prisoners and chastised the broken promises of both current president Hassan Rouhani and the past 40 years of Iran’s Islamic governance.

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

Maryam Akbari Monfared

It has been a week since that day, September 8th, 2018.
September is the month of blood in Iran: September 8th, 1978*, and September of 1981**.

September 8th: Everyone is worried. My ward mates and I have heart palpitations. We are in a swarm of contradictory news flashes. Some say the families were told the executions have stayed; someone else says that their families visited them yesterday for the last time.

And then comes the 8 p.m. news, broadcasting a speech from a figurehead of a government touting “prudence and hope.”*** I think to myself, “Hope is such a beautiful word!”. Rouhani promises to break the chains of injustice with a golden key and to sow new hopes in the souls of the nation. He campaigned as his predecessors did before him, riding the wave of the country’s emotional elan. The ink on the ballots was still wet when he changed his stripes. How despicable of him to preside over the nation’s highest rate of executions and civilian crackdowns in 30 years.

All eyes in the ward are transfixed on the TV screen and the news ticker running at the bottom. Ears in the ward are attuned to the speaker’s’ every word.

Finally, the 10:30 p.m. broadcast: “Three terrorists…”

That’s right. For 40 years, they sent this land’s youth to the gallows, lined them up before firing squads, sent them off wholesale to torture chambers and prisons. Then, brazenly, they speak of their actions under the guise of eliminating “terrorism” and other excuses of this ilk. The chariots of oppression, torture, and captivity have been riding unbridled for 40 years.

I don’t intend to re-narrate the crimes of the regime, for the vileness and cruelty of the establishment are readily apparent. The news is abuzz with sympathy and condolences. Perhaps now it is too late to add my own….but for a while, I was unable to muster the presence of mind to pen even a few lines to the mothers and sisters of these beloved men.

To my mothers and sisters: I know your pain very well. I can almost sense the unbearable, scalding pain in your hearts. I know the whispers of the warm lullabies you used to sing, even those lost in the wrinkled lines of your bodies or drowned out by screams in a faraway land. I know the bitter taste of those tears shed by poppy flowers.

I know that you are adding a page to what will be the proud and bright history of Iran’s fight for freedom. I wish to honor your motherhood, this exalted, humane quality, and to thank you for your endless, unabating kindness. Your name is a comforting breeze in the sky. Your familiar faces and your kind gaze bear the promise of life, love, and resistance. When the flames of injustice burn your cheeks, I will put out the flames by touching your cheek to my own, which is frozen in the grimace of injustice.

I am brimming with unspoken words. My tears and the lumps in my throat are bursting with the pain of oppression. But now is not the time to cry. We have to spread our screams all over like ashes. I will lean against your warm chest from behind these stony and cold prison walls. My heart is ablaze with pain, and the tip of the flames reach my throat. This is not only the fire of pain–it is also the fire of life. I wish to carry your tears and your anguish on my shoulder, to feel the burden of this responsibility for the rest of my life. My mothers! My sisters! We must harness the power of our collective pain to soothe the wounds of the Iranian freedom movement.

The vampire will not leave its throne of darkness unless we shake that throne and force it to flee. Let me hold your warm hands with my cold hands, and together, we will join the ranks of the justice movement for our loved ones. To bring to justice the ones responsible for these horrific crimes, we must join forces.

Maryam Akbari Monfared
Evin Prison
September 2018

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Maryam Akbari Monfared was arrested amid the 2009 Green Movement protests, and in June 2010 was sentenced to 15 years in prison by Judge Salavati in Branch 15 of Revolutionary Court for “enmity against God and the Islamic government through membership in the Iranian Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK).” Monfared has denied these accusations.

Two of her brothers were executed in 1981 and 1984 by revolutionary courts for membership in the MEK. In the summer of 1988, two more of her siblings — a brother and a sister — were executed as part of a widespread massacre of political prisoners. In a letter to former UN Special Rapporteur Ahmad Shaheed, Monfared quoted her sentencing Judge: “You [Monfared] are bearing the burden of your siblings’ [political activities].”

Monfared served the first two years of her sentence in Karaj’s Rajai Shahr Prison on the western outskirts of Tehran. She was then transferred in May 2011 along with eight other female prisoners to Gharchak Prison in Varamin, southeast Tehran. Shaheed protested the transfer and shed light on the deplorable conditions at Gharchak. As a result, Monfared was then transferred to the Evin Prison women’s ward, where she is serving the remainder of her sentence.

* In the last months of the Shah’s reign preceding the revolution, September 8th, 1978 came to be known as “Black Friday” when soldiers opened fire on protesters assembled in Jaleh Square, killing many.
** Iran’s then-new Islamic government intensified its crackdown on the opposition in the summer of 1981, arresting and executing a countless number of people.
*** “Prudence and Hope” was Rouhani’s slogan during both of his presidential campaigns.

Letter from Afshin Hossein Panahi Honors Executed Brother, Supporters

Posted on: September 15th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Following the execution of his brother Ramin, political prisoner Afshin Hossein Panahi has expressed his gratitude and solidarity in the form of a letter, addressed to an international community which continues to champion the memory and cause of his late sibling.

At an undisclosed location in Tehran province on September 8th, Ramin Hossein Panahi was hanged to death alongside Zanyar Moradi and Loghman Moradi, without notice to their respective families or lawyers, and pursuant to a legal process on which human rights organizations had already cried foul.

Once the brothers were hanged to death, their families received threatening messages from the Ministry of Intelligence and were refused the right to inter their bodies.

In the wake of these executions, residents and merchants of several Iranian cities where Iran’s Kurdish population is highest– particularly in the provinces of Kurdistan, Kermanshah, and West Azerbaijan –went on a general strike. In response, civil activists in the cities of Sanandaj, Marivan (Kurdistan), Oshnoviyeh, Sardasht (West Azerbaijan), and Ravansar (Kermanshah) have been taken into custody.

Seven political detainees at Evin Prison, including Atena Daemi, Nasrin Sotoudeh, and Golrokh Iraee, have written letters to express their condolence to the families of Moradi, Moradi, and Panahi.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet responded to the executions in the following statement: “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.

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

A whisper echoes through the iron labyrinth
It sings, “endure! dawn is upon us!”

To the dear civil rights activists, and political parties and groups both inside and outside Iran,

I am thankful and grateful for your unfaltering efforts and support over the past year in trying to stay the execution of my innocent yet audacious brother.

I have a heavy heart and tearful eyes in my grief over the loss of Ramin, who died with dignity. He was proud to fight for the freedom of those who would *later rise in [his] defense and honor, those who have peacefully troubled the foundation of despotism.

Fettered in prison, I am no free man. Notwithstanding my innocence, and my faith in the righteousness of the freedom march, I suffer pains common to all Iranian civil and political activists, and my demands have become one with theirs. I demand my rights be realized, and I will not rest or falter until they are restored. I am infinitely thankful to those comrades who strive to raise the voice of Iran’s political hostages.
Let it be known that the strength of our pact and the spirit of our fight will prevail.

Afshin Hossein Panahi,
Sanandaj Central Prison

* Referring to the general strike in Kurdish areas of Iran

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Afshin Hossein Panahi is a political activist who was arrested on June 26th, 2017 in his home. He was sentenced to eight and half years in prison by judge Saeedi of Branch one of Sanandaj Revolutionary Court on charges of “disseminating propaganda against the regime” and “collaboration with a Kurdish opposition group through participation in a Nowruz ceremony.” This sentence was upheld in appeals court. He was also arrested in 2011 for inquiring into the suspicious death of another one of his brothers, Ashraf Hossein Panahi. In that case, he was sentenced to one year in prison for “propaganda against the regime.”

Prisoner of Conscience Atena Daemi Rebukes Authorities, Eulogizes Executed Kurds

Posted on: September 12th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – From the walls of Evin Prison, detained civil rights activist Atena Daemi has written a letter in response to the executions of Ramin Hossein Panahi, Loghman Moradi, and Zanyar Moradi, three Iranian Kurdish political prisoners who were hanged to death in secret on Saturday, September 8th.

The executions of the Moradis and Panahi drew outrcry from human rights institutions internationally. The attorneys representing them called their convictions and executions — the latter which took place without the mandatory notice to, or presence of, their lawyers — legally ambiguous under both Iranian and international law. Caught unawares, none of the families were present during their sons’ final moments, as the executions were carried out at an undisclosed location in Tehran. The Ministry of Intelligence has since issued detention threats to the family members of the deceased men.

Condemning Iranian authorities for their treatment of the three men, and extending her condolences to their families, Atena Daemi’s letter joins the many voices of outrage over the course of the young mens’ fate. Daemi, imprisoned since 2014, is serving a seven-year sentence for “propaganda against the regime,” “assembly and collusion to act against national security,” and “insulting the supreme leader [Ayatollah Khamenei] as well as the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini.”

The text of Atena Daemi’s eulogy, translated into English by HRANA, is below:

They killed our loved ones, and claim with pride that in doing so they have administered justice.

The “justice” they refer to is not the one represented by Lady Justice holding a fair and balanced scale. It is instead a man — a man with a turban on his head [a cleric], whose forehead bears the mark of the clay which grazes his head during prayers. He is blindfolded, not as a sign of impartiality, but of blindness to the truth. In one hand is a rosary. In the other, a scale suspended by a noose.

These scales are so unbalanced that one tray is a speck in the heavens, while the other is laden with dead bodies dragging it deep into the ground. This “justice” they invoke has been neither seen nor heard in *40 years.

In this troubled time – a time of economic turbulence, poverty, and unemployment – what problem was solved by murdering these three beloved men? Has their killing soothed any of the ailments suffered by the Iranian people?

Your majesties– where is this mania taking you? By deceit and without warning, you led our loved ones to the killing fields. Even in the short lives granted them, you wouldn’t offer them peace. While they were still **hungry and thirsty, you cut their lives short. How it must have incensed you to your core to never see them falter. As you, dry-eyed, pitied them in their walk to the gallows to die for the ideals, their heads were held high, their steps steady…

How insolently you watch our loved ones draw their last breaths! It must burn you to hold them hostage from their families and brand them as terrorists, only to see them rise as steadfast symbols of democracy for the rest of us. For nine years, they showed friendship to inmates of different creeds and beliefs; they were endeared to their fellow prisoners, loved by us, and cherished by the Iranian people.

Before the start of religious months of Moharram and Safar(1) each year, you prepare yourself for mourning with a savage display. Drunk and armed with handguns, you launch into a monologue about Imam Hussein, who, lips dry from thirst, was beheaded by Yazid. What a repugnant contradiction–what abhorrent hypocrisy! You mirror Yazid’s troops, and for the past 40 years, you have tightened ropes around resolute throats, pulled the stool from beneath the feet of persistent and patient youth. You instigate sectarian war between Sunni and Shiites. Then, your pockets brimming with billions, you pretend to be mourning Hussain.

I am sure that you know your savage acts only dig you deeper into public contempt. Your path is one of self-annihilation. Today, you only dug your graves deeper. You did not kill Zanyar, Loghman, and Ramin. You have only endeared them in our hearts, inspiring the world into mourning the true martyrs of our time.

You have tarnished Iran’s standing and dignity in the world. They see us as a terrorist country for the cutthroat, blood-thirsty, and rapacious actions of a select and powerful few. How long and how far will you continue on this road? Dream on about imposing war on your people: they will rise to the challenge again and again. Stop your killing machine. Lift your lead boots from the throats of Iran and Kurdistan.

How tightly you cling to your towering throne, oblivious to the fact that you could tumble from your high horses at any moment to the miry earth below. Throughout history, many who rode high thought of themselves as invincible, only to take refuge in sewage tunnels, where they were tracked down and punished for their crimes.

Iran is a pile of live embers cloaked in a thin layer of ash. Lest your actions arouse the flames that lie beneath.

We congratulate the steadfast families of these martyrs.

Atena Daemi – Evin Prison Women Ward
September 8th, 2018

(1) Months in the Islamic lunar calendar commemorated by Shiite Muslims in mourning of Imam Hussein, the 3rd Shiite Imam, who was killed in battle against Yazid (Imam Hussain has come to symbolize the force of Good while Yazid stands for Evil).

* The Islamic Republic of Iran was founded after the Iranian Revolution approximately 40 years ago
** Zanyar and Loghman Moradi and Ramin Hossein Panahi were all reportedly on hunger strike before they were executed.

Political Prisoners Pen Condolences in Wake of Deadly Forest Fire

Posted on: August 31st, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Four political prisoners in Rajai Shahr Prison (a.k.a Gohardasht), Karaj, have written an open letter to express compassion over the deaths of four environmental activists who lost their battle with the forest fires of Marivan, located in Kurdistan in western Iran.

The deceased activists — Sharif Bajour and Omid Kohnepoushi, both members of Chya Green Society, and Mohammad Pazhouhi and Rahmat Hakiminia, members of Marivan Environmental Office — were fighting wildfires near the Iraqi border in Salasi and Pileh. Marivan’s county governor revealed their cause of death to be asphyxiation due to smoke inhalation.

Two other activists, Mokhtar Aminejad and Mohammad Moradveisi, were injured in the same fire.

Below is the full text of their letter, translated into English by HRANA:

It is not my lot to die a natural death;

Better for the holy grail than in blissful sleep,

And on truth’s command, I welcome that death

which releases freedom from chains of darkness

It was with great shock and sorrow that we heard the news that Sharif Bajour and the others had perished; grief engulfed us like flames. We struggle to reconcile with the sad reality that the chestnut oaks of Zagros Mountain (1) have lost a dear friend.

Sharif Bajour, so appropriately named (2), leaves the Zagros bereft. He was a true friend to the mountains, plains, and forests of Kurdistan. Had he lived anywhere else on earth [but here], his death would have roused the lament of a nation. If the state-run media shrouds his death in silence, he remains an eternal hero in the hearts of the people. His loss leaves a void in the heart of his nation, who has seldom known so noble and gentle a soul as his. His new and creative path of resistance is his legacy.

Bajour’s resistance involved guarding the chestnut oaks of Zagros with his body and soul, biking for the cause of peace on earth, and staging a hunger strike outside the media spotlight.

As political prisoners of Gohardasht prison, we express our condolences to the families of this respectable man, as well as to the families of the other Zagros fire victims, whose names we regrettably do not know. We extend our deep sympathy to his friends and comrades from the Chya Green Association, to all those who care about the environment, and to the people of Kurdistan. They have lost some of the most honorable men of their time. Much like the fire that took their lives, the loss of these beloved souls has burned our spirit.

Arash Sadeghi,
Loghman Moradi,
Zanyar Moradi,
Saeed Shirzad

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(1) Mountain range in western Iran and scene of the fatal forest fire
(2) Sharif means “honorable” in Arabic

Nasrin Sotoudeh Starts Hunger Strike in Evin Prison

Posted on: August 25th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Nasrin Sotoudeh, prominent lawyer and human rights activist, who has been detained in Tehran’s Evin Prison since June 13th, started a hunger strike on Saturday, August 25th.

Sotoudeh has published an open letter to declare her hunger strike. The arrest and harassment of her family members and friends is the reason behind her protest, she says in the letter.

Sotoudeh’s husband, Reza Khandan, published a note to confirm his wife’s hunger strike.

The full text of Nasrin Sotoudeh’s letter, translated by HRANA:

My fellow Iranians,

After I was arrested two months ago, agents of the Ministry of Intelligence undertook the unlawful action of arresting the esteemed citizen, Dr Farhad Meysami. They searched his house and that of his relatives and friends to discover evidence of protest against mandatory veiling.

After they failed to find anything in the house of my husband’s sister, they confiscated a satellite device [instead].

Since none of my correspondences to the authorities has been so far responded to, I have no choice but to embark on a hunger strike to protest against the arrests and judicial pressures brought upon my family, relatives and friends.

In the hope that law and justice will one day prevail in our beloved country, Iran.

Nasrin Sotoudeh
August 2018

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Nasrin Sotoudeh had recently refused to appear in court, despite a summons order issued by the authorities. She wrote an open letter to explain why.

According to a report published by HRANA on August 18th, Reza Khandan’s house and the house of other relatives and friends of the family were raided by the authorities.

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<h3> UPDATE: </h3> Nasrin Sotoudeh ended her hunger strike on October 3, 2018, her lawyer Mohammad Moghimi told HRANA.