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.

Prisoner of Conscience Voices Support for Striking Truckers

Posted on: October 12th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – Rajai Shahr prisoner of conscience Ebrahim Firoozi has written an open letter in support of Iranian truck drivers, who authorities have arrested in droves since they began striking September 22nd.

As the trucker strikes approach their 21st consecutive day, 261 arrestees face “corruption on earth,” “disrupting public order”, and “robbery” charges. As the country’s top prosecutor Mohammad Jafar Montazeri has emphasized to strikers, some of these charges carry the death penalty.

In his letter, Firoozi tells authorities that continued arrests “won’t stop truck drivers from pursuing their rights,” and criticizes them for “arresting the drivers rather than solving problems rooted in [authorities’] incompetence and lack of foresight.” The truckers are demanding more affordable truck parts, better compensation, and a crackdown on bribery in the industry.

Firoozi, a Christian convert, has a long history of imprisonment due to his religious activities, including a September 16, 2013 arrest. He was convicted in Spring 2016 of “forming a group with intent to disrupt national security” by Judge Moghiseh in Tehran Revolutionary Court Branch 28. Tehran Appeals court later upheld his five-year prison sentence.

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.

Civil Rights Activist Mehrnaz Haghighi Conditionally Released

Posted on: October 2nd, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Mehrnaz Haghighi, a civil rights activist and doctor from Bandar Abbas on the Persian Gulf coast, was conditionally released on Monday, October 1st after meeting a minimum detention requirement for previous time spent in custody.

HRANA reported September 22nd on Haghighi’s transfer to Bandar Abbas Prison to serve her six-month sentence for “propaganda against the regime.”

Haghighi was first arrested by intelligence agents in her home on February 19, 2017. For a week after her arrest, she was held in solitary confinement in the city’s intelligence office before being transferred to the Women’s Ward of Bandar Abbas Prison. She was sent to Ward 209 of Evin Prison on April 12, 2017, where she stayed until being released on bail May 28th, 2017.

Nationalist-Religious Activist Reza Aghakhani Denied Conditional Release

Posted on: September 27th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Despite his eligibility for conditional release for already having served a third of his sentence, authorities have said “no” to Evin Prisoner Reza Aghakhani, a nationalist-religious activist.

An informed source told HRANA, “The assistant prosecutor of the prison cited an objection from the interrogator as the reason for the negative response, despite the fact that his wife recently just had a kidney transplant and his child is dealing with a physical disability.”

Aghakhani was sentenced to three years in prison by Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court on a charge of “acting against national security.” In its processing of the case, Branch 35 of the Supreme Court did not assent the charges. They were nonetheless confirmed later in Branch 54 of Appeals Court.

Aghakhani was previously detained for 45 days in May 2013 and served a few years in prison in the eighties for his political activities. Along with some of his fellow prisoners, Aghakhani previously went on hunger strike for three days in protest of human rights violations across the country.

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

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).

Civil Rights Activist Mohammad Davari Arraigned

Posted on: September 22nd, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Mohammad Davari, a civil rights activist from Yasouj in the province of Kohgiluyeh and Boyerahmad, was read his charges in Branch 4 of the Investigation and Prosecution office on September 19th, after presenting himself in response to a summons he received last week.

After a round of questioning, judicial authorities issued a charge of “disseminating propaganda against the regime” and released him on bail pending completion of the investigation.

A source close to Davari’s family confirmed the news to HRANA, adding that the plaintiff in the case is the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Intelligence Unit and that the judge admitted into evidence Davari’s “notes on cyberspace” and his promotion of books “against the regime and the Islamic Revolution.”

Contrary to the judge’s implication, Davari contests that his notes only touched on such subjects as the Tehran-Yasouj plane crash, labor conditions, and the environmental conditions in his home province. The books in question, published by Davari with the permission of the Ministry of Culture and Guidance, were about women’s rights, culture, and art.

Davari was arrested by Ministry of Intelligence forces on August 10, 2018. During his custody and until his August 27th release on a 200 million toman (approximately $20,000 USD) bond, he was denied medical care.

He was previously detained on March 5, 2018, for taking part in widespread popular protests in Iran. He was released ten days later on a 50 million toman (approximately $10,000 USD) bail.

Born in Dehdasht, about 90 miles west of Yasouj, Davari is a master’s student of political science who faced temporary detention on a prior occasion for pulling down a banner bearing the photo of late politician Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Imprisoned Civil Rights Activist Farhad Meysami Reaches 50th day on Hunger Strike

Posted on: September 21st, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Farhad Meysami has not had a single meal, or any food at all, for 50 days and counting, as his health condition continues to deteriorate.

A civil rights activist imprisoned in Tehran’s Evin Prison, Meysami announced his hunger strike August 1st, one day after his arrest by Iranian authorities, in protest of their refusal of the attorney of his choosing. Despite the decline of his health during the hunger strike, authorities have yet to send him to a hospital.

HRANA reported on Meysami’s weight loss and poor physical state on September 8th.

Mohammad Moghimi–lawyer of fellow Evin prisoner Reza Khandan, and incidentally, the attorney Meysami would have appointed if given the choice–said his client called him from Evin to report that Meysami’s strike had put him in mortal danger, and that he needed a transfer to the hospital right away.

Moghimi said that authorities’ denial of Meysami’s attorney of choice puts them in conflict with Iranian law. Once initial interrogations are over, each prisoner has a right to a lawyer of his or her choosing, according to Moghimi’s reading of Article 48 of Iranian penal code.

Meysami was arrested in his personal study on July 31st. He was originally charged with “gathering and collusion aimed at disrupting national security,”; “propaganda against the regime”; and “insulting hijab, a necessary and sacred element of Islam.”

On September 3rd, however, Branch 7 of the Evin prosecutor’s interrogation department claimed that charges have since changed, with the last one replaced with “spreading corruption and prostitution.”

Meysami, who suffers from ulcerative colitis, has said that during his hunger strike he will take only the medication that treats this condition, as he has taken for the past 18 years. Meysami has previously said that he would break his hunger strike only if his friend and fellow inmate Reza Khandan, who was arrested after Meysami’s hunger strike began, is released unconditionally.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have both asked for Meysami’s release.

Mohammad Habibi’s Case Enters Appellate Stage: a Review of the Stakes

Posted on: September 20th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- The case of imprisoned teacher Mohammad Habibi—which recently inspired more than 1400 civil and union activists to write to Iran’s Supreme leader demanding that he receive medical treatment—will be reviewed in Branch 36 of the Tehran Appeals Court, presided by Judge Seyed Ahmad Zargar. Habibi’s attorney Hossein Taj told a correspondent from the state-run news agency IRNA on Monday, September 17th that a date for the hearing has yet to be set.

If all goes according to Taj’s hopes, Branch 36 will at best exonerate him, and at worst put him behind bars for seven and a half years. The precarity lies with Article 134 of the Islamic Penal Code, which in theory protects defendants from serving the sum of multiple sentences, but is not applied consistently in practice.

Cumulatively, Habibi’s charges would carry a sentence of ten years: seven and a half years for “National-Security Related Crimes”, 18 months for “Propaganda Against the Regime”, and another 18 months for “Disrupting Public Order.” In addition to prison terms, he was dealt a two-year ban from political and civic activities, a two-year travel ban, and 74 lashings.

Under Article 134, Habibi’s sentence, if upheld, would put him behind bars for a maximum of seven and a half years, i.e. the heaviest one of his three sentences. But Taj, his attorney, remains on guard: the Article 134 rights of imprisoned teacher Esmaeil Abdi, who is also on Taj’s client list, have not been honored: “…Abdi was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment, which by Article 134 should have been five,” Taj explained.

Taj elaborated that Abdi has also been denied both medical care and conditional release from prison, a privilege for which he became eligible after serving half of his sentence. “We have re-submitted my client’s conditional release request, and it is under review,” the lawyer said.

A former teacher of mathematics and Teachers’ Union General Secretary, Abdi has been in prison since November 2016 on charges of “Propaganda Against the Regime” and “Collusion Against National Security.” Habibi, a union activist and member of the Teachers’ Union Association Board of Directors in Tehran province, was arrested amid May 2018 rallies that were staged in observance of a national teachers’ holiday.

Habibi’s case–particularly his own compromised medical condition–recently drew the support of teacher organizations abroad. In a letter addressed to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the French trade unions SFDT, SGT, FSO, Solidaires, and UNSA held the Supreme Leader accountable for Habibi’s fate, and called his imprisonment a violation of both human rights and the fundamental freedoms of syndicates.

“Prison authorities continue to refuse him the medical treatment he sorely needs. Without proper care, his condition is at risk of rapid decline,” their letter reads. “We mean to impress upon you that as the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, you are responsible for the life and health of Mohammad Habibi.”

On the one occasion Habibi’s medical leave was granted, according to HRANA reports, he was released from Great Tehran Penitentiary to a hospital that dismissed him without treatment. He was then transferred to Evin Prison on Monday, September 3, 2018, and has remained there since.

According to a letter from his HR office, Mohammad Habibi is no longer receiving his salary.