News & Publications

June 2, 2023

Unyielding Voice: The Life, Activism, and Imprisonment of Mohammad Hossein Razzagh

برای خواندن این مطلب به فارسی اینجا را کلیک کنید

Born in Tehran in 1980, Mohammad Hossein Razzagh – an Iranian media activist – is now in Evin prison. Once the youngest son working in his father’s thriving stationery business, Razzagh was inspired to enter politics during Seyyed Mohammad Khatami’s reformist wave.

Razzagh leveraged his father’s business to create an advertising hub for Khatami amid claims by conservative factions that the bazaars were siding with his opponent. After Khatami’s victory in 1997, Razzagh joined the newly formed “Islamic Iran Participation Front” helping shape the turbulent era that defined his generation.

Razzagh’s political engagement took a new turn in the 2009 presidential elections, supporting Mir Hossein Mousavi by turning his business into Mousavi’s advertising headquarters. However, the turmoil following the controversial results of the 2009 elections led to Razzagh’s arrest in 2010, the same year he was diagnosed with a rare nerve disorder–Guillain-Barre Syndrome–leading to a prolonged period of medical leave.

Razzagh’s media involvement saw a resurgence in 2016 when he shifted to Mazandaran province. Coinciding with the rise of social networks, Razzagh established his unique identity within the Persian-language media landscape, earning both recognition and scrutiny from the security establishment.

Documenting Protests and Rights Violations

The pinnacle of Hossein Razzagh’s activities during this period was defined by his response to the November 2019 protest suppression. After three years of consistent engagement in social networks and digital content creation, he had amassed a stable audience and a noteworthy reputation, dedicating all of his accounts on popular platforms such as “Telegram”, “Instagram”, “Twitter”, and “YouTube” to highlighting the protests and revealing the violent crackdown on protesters and the casualties of these demonstrations.

In the summer of 2021, when protests erupted among the people of Khuzestan, Hossein Razzagh seized the earliest opportunity to be present on site. As a “citizen reporter,” he traveled to Khuzestan in the closing days of July. Leveraging social networks and contacting reliable Persian-language media outside of Khuzestan, he took on the task of reporting news, transmitting pictures, and providing coverage of violent incidents and suppressions.

Based on his tweets and online writings, the process of his case filing and summons to various branches of the Revolutionary Court and the Culture and Media Prosecutor’s Office had begun far back in November 2019. However, this process escalated after his trip, particularly since he was not present for any of these proceedings. According to his Twitter account, he was summoned in January 2021 by Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court and later in September 2021 by Branch 1060 of the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Alongside the Khuzestan protests, the presidential election also took place in 2021. The election procedures and the Guardian Council’s arbitrary candidate selection drew criticism from Razzagh and his allies, as it had in the past. But this time, Hossein Razzagh, from his position as a political and media activist, was among the advocates for election boycott, expressing his dissent against the undemocratic process, which resonated within society.

As the ups and downs of the 2021 presidential election unfolded, the Clubhouse voice chat application gained popularity among Iranians and digital activists. Razzagh was among the activists who were present in this new virtual space from the start of Clubhouse’s introduction in Iran. Eventually, he distinguished himself by hosting high-profile rooms, inviting political figures for discussions. For instance, the “Freedom Square” club, held weekly by him and several other media activists, primarily echoed the views and stances of activists and supporters of the Green Movement. However, it was halted due to intense pressure from security institutions and their intimidating calls.

Incarceration and Imprisonment

At the peak of the Isfahan residents’ protests over water shortages on December 5, 2021, Hossein Razzagh was forcefully arrested by seven agents from the Ministry of Intelligence. This occurred at midday, following a house search and confiscation of all his and his family’s communication devices, in front of his son. Initially detained for ten days, Razzagh was moved from “Amol” to Dareh in “Sari”. According to his lawyer Ali Mojtahedzadeh, Razzagh was released after posting a bail of two billion tomans. On August 21, 2022, he was summoned to the Amol prosecutor’s office. He was then abruptly arrested by Ministry of Intelligence forces, severely beaten in the street, and promptly taken to Evin prison.

On September 11, 2022, Saeed Dehghan, lawyer, reported that three new charges had been levied against Hossein Razzagh: gathering and collusion against regime security through hosting Clubhouse rooms; propaganda against the regime through defense of the Baha’is; and the dissemination of falsehoods to unsettle the public mind, notably regime officials, due to tweets supporting Sepideh Reshnou and others.

The “Iranwire” website reported that Razzagh was sentenced to six years and six months imprisonment by the 26th branch of the Revolutionary Court, shortly thereafter adding the charge of “establishing a subversive club in Azadi Square in the Clubhouse” to his existing accusations. This resulted in Hossein Razzagh becoming a long-term inmate of Evin prison.

Taking a Position from Within Prison Walls

These several months in prison can be considered the commencement of the third phase of Razzagh’s activities. Late October 2022 brought news of his prohibition from in-person meetings and a mandate to delete his Instagram account, according to Iranwire. Razzagh’s final Instagram posts pertained to “Gasht Ershad”.

In the final months of his imprisonment, during the protest uprising of “Freedom Life Woman,” Razzagh, along with other political prisoners in Evin, issued various statements in support of the protests as well as fellow prisoners. 

Razzagh also lent his voice to Mousavi’s call for a referendum from within the confines of Evin prison. Based on reports from Hossein Razzagh and six other political prisoners, they underscored the fundamental right of nations to self-determination a day after the release of Mousavi’s statement by sharing a text in support. They also expressed their endorsement for a fair and uncorrupted referendum aimed at altering or drafting a new constitution and to establish a parliament truly representative of the people.

Less than a fortnight following the release of the prisoners’ statement, prison officers raided the cell housing Hossein Razzagh, Mustafa Tajzadeh, Saeed Madani, and Mohammad Reza Jalaipour. Their personal possessions were searched amid a barrage of insults. Subsequently, on February 25, 2023, Razzagh and Dr. Madani was relocated to Ward 209 of Evin Prison, a detention center under the Ministry of Information’s jurisdiction, as reported by news outlets.

Following a brief stint in Ward 209, Hassan Razzagh was returned to his cell in Ward 4 of the prison. He reported that the interrogators were brewing new charges against him. As of now, he continues to reside in the same cell in Evin prison.

Back to top