April 27, 2023

Three Arrested in Connection with “Save Iran” Conference

برای خواندن این مطلب به فارسی اینجا را کلیک کنید

At least three activists have been arrested in connection with the “Save Iran” conference held April 21-22 – Keyvan Samimi, Alireza Beheshti Shirazi and Abdullah Momeni.

According to Jam Jam Online, a news website associated with Iran’s state television, Beheshti and Gurban Ali Behzadian Nejad – another participant in the Save Iran conference – have been prosecuted. Both are members of the board of directors at Tarbiat Modares University and served as advisor and head of election headquarters respectively during Mir Hossein Mousavi’s 2009 campaign. According to the report, the grounds for the legal action against Mr. Beheshti and Behzadian Nejad include “their ties with foreign opposition and anti-revolutionary individuals”, “a presentation during a virtual conference on dialogue for Iran’s salvation in Clubhouse, discussing subversion, the Constituent Assembly, and the creation of a new fundamental law”, “communication with Ardeshir Amirarjamand, an anti-revolutionary figure residing in France”, and “the concept of Mir Hossein Mousavi’s shift from the Islamic Republic system.”

Furthermore, the Kalema Telegram channel has provided coverage on this issue: Continuing to exert pressure on the group of high-ranking advisers to Mirhossein Mousavi, security officers went to Gurban Behzadiannejad’s residence last night. During their search, they confiscated certain belongings and seized his electronic devices. As per the notice given by the security officers, Behzadiannejad has been called to appear in Evin court on the morning of Sunday, April 30.

The virtual conference was attended by political, social, and human rights advocates from both inside and outside Iran, and included video messages from prominent human rights defenders currently imprisoned for their work, including Narges Mohammadi and Mustafa Tajzadeh. The arrest of Samimi, Beheshti Shirazi and Momeni underscores the risks of these long-time advocates laying out their visions for how to secure a transition from the Islamic Republic.

Samimi, who was arrested the day before the conference, was able to submit a video message which played during the conference. Samimi emphasized that Iranians both within and outside the nation should collaborate in forming a comprehensive democratic coalition and a unified “National Salvation Front,” acknowledging the diversity of perspectives, beliefs, and professions.

Samimi continued, “This front, which includes those committed to democracy, as well as political and social activists, should attract the highest number of dissenting and disgruntled individuals to work towards national unity, enabling us to challenge the ruling authority and break free from oppression.” He explained, “The National Salvation Front has the potential to assemble the largest group of dissatisfied and protesting individuals, with the involvement of all those dedicated to democracy, along with political and social activists.”

Beheshti Shirazi was arrested on the evening of Tuesday, April 25th. The former deputy of Mir Hossein Mousavi, who issued a call for a referendum on the Islamic Republic, declared at the conference “Change is inevitable, sooner or later. To minimize the costs of this transformation, society needs to unite, which requires self-sacrifice.”

Momeni was arrested on April 27th, with Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) reporting that security forces raided his home and confiscated his belongings. At the conference, the former student activist declared “The motivation behind the plan to rescue Iran through the creation of a new constitution stems from the government’s inability to competently manage the country or make progress. They struggle with even their daily affairs.” 

Behzadian Nejad focused his remarks on the need to prevent societal collapse, foreign interference and a descent into fragmentation and a vortex of violence. He stipulated that, despite the dangers, the nation had the capacity to effect change and move forward toward a transition. For more on the Save Iran conference, see our latest Iran Unfiltered.

All of the arrests, and the conference itself, follow Supreme Leader Khamenei’s heavily criticized April 18th dismissal of the referendum idea, suggesting that many of those who would participate in a referendum are unable to “effectively analyze” the topics they would vote on.

Samimi, Beheshti Shirazi and Momeni have all faced multiple arrests and prison sentences for their activism. Keyvan Samimi, born in 1948, is the editor-in-chief of Iran Farda magazine and a member of the Iranian Writers Association. He has been a member of groups such as the national peace council and the committee to investigate arbitrary arrests. Keyvan Samimi had been incarcerated thrice prior to the Bahman revolution of 1979, and subsequently, following the revolution, he was apprehended and imprisoned four times.

Seyed Alireza Beheshti Shirazi, born in 1950, is an Iranian political figure and journalist who is considered one of Mousavi’s closest advisors. During Mousavi’s tenure as prime minister, Beheshti Shirazi held the position of secretary on the government board. Following Mousavi’s resignation, he stepped away from politics and established the Rozeneh publishing house. However, with Mousavi’s decision to run for office, Beheshti Shirazi re-entered the political sphere and assumed an advisory role alongside Mousavi. As the 2009 presidential election approached, he took on the role of editor for the “Kalmeh Sabze” newspaper. In the midst of the Green Movement and demonstrations against the 2009 election outcomes, Beheshti Shirazi was arrested and spent approximately five years in prison.

Abdallah Momeni, born in 1977, is a political activist who formerly served as the head of the Tahkeem Vahdat Office and its spokesperson. His political activities have led to numerous arrests and incarceration. Momeni holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Tarbiat Moalem University (Kharazmi) and a master’s degree in sociology from Allameh Tabatabai University. Presently, he is pursuing a PhD in Political Sociology at Tehran University of Science and Research, a program that has been banned by the Ministry of Information.

During the Green Movement, Momeni was arrested and served a five-year prison sentence. He was initially held for nine months in the 209 security ward, with eight of those months in solitary confinement, before being transferred to the 350 ward of Evin prison for the remainder of his sentence. Throughout his five-year term, he was granted leave only once and spent four years without a single day of leave.

NIAC calls on the Islamic Republic to release and drop charges against Samimi, Beheshti Shirazi, Momeni and Behzadian Nejad, along with all prisoners of conscience unjustly suffering for their statements and beliefs, in line with their international human rights obligations. We look forward to the day when the people of Iran are able to freely debate and work toward a future where their government reflects their aspirations and allows them a say in its future.

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