Thomas Erdbrink Denied Permission to Work in Iran

The New York Times has reported that the Iranian government has denied Tehran-based journalist, Thomas Erdbrink, permission to work since February of this year–a troubling sign of the diminishing position of journalists in Iran. The news comes after reports of increased harassment and arrests of Iranian journalists, including of Masoud Kazemi, who was handed a four and a half year prison sentence followed by a two-year writing ban. 

Erdbrink lives in Tehran with his Iranian wife, Newsha Tavakolian, who is a well-known photographer and has also been barred from doing her work. Erdbrink is one of the only foreign journalists who has been able to work in Iran for so many years, with a fair amount of access. Erdbrink’s evenhanded reporting has been a bridge between Iran and the outside world, showcasing parts of the country and population that are rarely seen or reported.

Arrest of Masoud Kazemi

On May 22 the Committee to Protect Journalists reported that prominent Iranian reformist journalist, Masoud Kazemi, was arrested for the second time in 6 months. Kazemi, the editor of Iran’s political magazine, Sedaye Parsi (Persian Voice), was first arrested in November 2018 after drawing the ire of officials with claims of corruption against Iran’s Ministry of Industry. 

Though he was initially released on bail in November, Kazemi was rearrested on May 22, 2019 on charges of anti-government propaganda and additional charges of conspiring against national security. 
 
As observers have noted, the judge in the case did not refrain from insulting Kazemi and showing his contempt for journalists. Not only were new charges added for Kazemi, his bail was set at $70,000, which his fiancée Shima Tadrisi noted will be impossible for them to pay. 
 
Other Iranian journalists have also been detained within the last month, including Keyvan Samimi of Iran Farda and Marzie Amiri of Shargh newspapers. These arrests, along with the denigrating language of Kazemi’s judge are indicative of a growing crackdown on journalists in Iran. 

Student Stage Anti-mandatory Hijab Protest at Tehran University

On May 13th, students at Tehran University staged a demonstration against “hijab and chastity plans.” In a statement, the students said they were protesting “the presence and deployment of ‘women’s protection forces’ that have joined previous university guards.” They said these new security forces amounted to a “clear offense to students’ private lives and directly violated their human rights and were a naked injustice against female students.”

Videos of the demonstration showed clashes between the protesting students and students belonging to the state-backed Basij force.

The protesting students stated that defending “freedom of clothing” was an “obvious right.” They also stated that the “minimal freedom on clothing that exists at Tehran University” was due to “resistance and pressure” from students. The protesting students shouted slogans against mandatory hijab and their placards called for the freedom of three activists arrested during May Day protests on campus: Marzieh Amiri, Atefeh Rangriz, and Neda Naji.

Majid Sarsangi, Tehran University’s vice president for cultural affairs, denied the claim that “morality police” had been deployed to Tehran University. He stated: “Some are ignorantly and deliberately creating tensions in the students’ environment.”  

However, Sarsangi stated that more strict social rules were indeed being implemented due to the start of the Islamic month of Ramadan. He said: “The only thing that has happened is that—just like every year for Ramadan—to preserve the sanctity of this month there should be no visible signs of not observing fasting or wearing attire that doesn’t respect the sanctity of this month.”

He added: “To this end, security forces are at Tehran University to give warnings to people who don’t respect the sanctity of fasting.”

Sarsangi also stated that Tehran University must implement the law, but that it doesn’t have a say in whether the law is “good or bad.” He said that it was “unfortunate” that there were clashes between students who have “different beliefs and ideas.” He added: “We tried to calm the students who were angry … we hope that we never have to see such behavior at the university.”

Iran Executes Two Minors

Amnesty International reported that two Iranian youths under the age of 18 were executed in Adelabad prison in Shiraz on April 25th. Mehdi Sohrabifar and Amin Sedaghat were arrested at the age of 15 and convicted on multiple rape charges. According to Amnesty, their sentences were carried out in secret without their families being notified, a fact that “reinforces the organization’s concern that the real number of executions of juvenile offenders in the country is actually higher than the figure it has recorded.” Their executions were also not covered by Iranian media.

According to Amnesty, Iran has executed 97 individuals under the age of 18 between 1990 and 2018 in violation of international conventions to which it is party. This includes the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Iran ratified in 1994 but on the condition that “if the text of the Convention is or becomes incompatible with the domestic laws and Islamic standards at any time or in any case, the Government of the Islamic Republic shall not abide by it.”

 

Vida Movahed sentenced to year in prison

Vida Movahed, an Iranian activist who triggered anti-compulsory hijab protests last year by removing her headscarf and brandishing it on a stick, was recently sentenced to one year in prison.

According to her lawyer Payam Derefshan, Movahed’s was sentenced on charges of “encouraging corruption and prostitution to the public” in early March.

However, Derefshan says that she has since been paroled by the judge in her case and pardoned by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Despite this, she has yet to be released from prison.

Movahed, who is the mother of a 2-year-old child, was first arrested on January 21, 2018, after standing on an electricity box in Tehran’s Revolution Street and removing her headscarf. Although she was released soon after on January 27th, she started a wave of similar actions by other anti-compulsory hijab activists—who became known as the “Girls of Revolution St.”

Movahed was re-arrested on October 29, 2018, after standing on another platform in Tehran’s Revolution Square and holding balloons. Her sentence stems from this second arrest, according to her lawyer.

http://www.bbc.com/persian/iran-47925057

https://www.alef.ir/news/3980125238.html

Iran’s Freedom Movement Condemns US Sanctions

The Freedom Movement, one of Iran’s oldest pro-democracy groups, has written a letter condemning US sanctions and “unilateral” US policies against Iran. The letter states US policies are empowering “domestic hardliners [in Iran] & warmongers abroad.

The letter states regarding the destructive impact of US sanctions: “It is the Iranian people who suffer the most harm and economic hardship from sanctions. These sanctions have weakened the middle class and the downtrodden and disrupt Iran’s democracy-seeking trend.”

The letter says that the Freedom Movement is among the most ardent critics of Iran’s ruling system and referenced how its members have been imprisoned and tortured.

Despite this, the letter calls for the US to abide by the nuclear deal—calling it a guarantor of global peace and security.

http://www.bbc.com/persian/iran-47343732

Rouhani Opens Possibility for Engaging US

On February 6th, President Rouhani suggested before an audience of foreign ambassadors and diplomats in Tehran that Iran would deal with a “repentant” United States. Rouhani stated that the U.S. was an “oathbreaker” and that Iran had “proven in these years that it’s precise when it comes signing commitments” and that it “stands with its signature.”

Rouhani dangled the possibility of engaging the United States: “If America reverses course on its wrong path and apologizes for its past interventions and talks with respect with our people, we are ready to accept its repentance.” 

Yashar Soltani Sentenced

Today, investigative journalist Yashar Soltani was sentenced to five years imprisonment. Two years ago, Soltani had released a report documenting corruption in the Tehran municipality having to do with giving away government property for political purposes.

According to his lawyer, his charges include “collecting and publishing classified information related to the Judiciary’s General Inspection Office and publishing false information with the aim of disturbing public sentiment.”

Soltani has 20 days to appeal his sentence.

http://www.bbc.com/persian/iran-46982106

Political Prisoners Sentenced

On Saturday, Abolqasem Salavati, the head judge of Tehran’s infamous Revolutionary Court Branch 15, handed out 6-year sentences against political prisoners Farhad Meysami & Reza Khandan.

Their lawyer says the ruling is not final & they will appeal it.

On January 5th, Meysami had written a letter criticizing both the Revolutionary Court 15 & the Trump administration’s policies.

Update in Esmail Bakshi Case

In the aftermath of the rearrests over the weekend of activist Sepideh Gholian & labor leader Esmail Bakhshi, 21 Iranian judiciary lawyers have signed a letter saying that Bakhshi can’t get a fair trial in Shush.

The lawyers say that to try him in Shush would have no “legal justification” given Bakhshi’s allegation of torture while in the custody of Shush judicial authorities.

http://www.bbc.com/persian/iran-46963549

Esmail Bakshi Rearrested

Labor leader Esmail Bakhshi was rearrested last night in Iran.

He was first held for a month over his role in the Hafte Tapeh worker protests in the city of Shush. Upon release, he alleged he was tortured, leading to public outcry and investigations by various government institutions.

Officials eventually stated that Bakhshi was not tortured and state television aired a film of Bakhshi’s “confession” on Saturday.

Another former detainee alleging torture, activist Sepideh Gholian, was also arrested again over the weekend. She has since called for a public trial.

http://www.bbc.com/persian/iran-46941685

Arrest of Sepideh Gholian

Today, activist Sepideh Gholian was arrested once again in Ahvaz.

She was first arrested in November in connection with the labor protests by workers of the Ahvaz Steel Company. On Saturday, Iranian state TV aired a film of her “confession.” She, along with labor leader Esmail Bakhshi, says she was tortured while in custody.

http://www.bbc.com/persian/iran-46937475