- Dual British-Iranian Academic Arrested August 19, 2019
Kameel Ahmady, a British-Iranian academic, was arrested on August 11th in Tehran, according to his family. The charges against him have not been announced and it is unclear which institution arrested him. Last year, Ahmady won the World Peace Foundation’s Literature and Humanities Award at George Washington University.
Ahmady’s wife, Shafagh Ahmady, has said that security forces raided their house: “Security forces came with Mr. Ahmady to our house. They totally messed up the place and took documents like birth certificates.”
- Members of the Baha’i Faith Arrested August 19, 2019
At least ten members of the Baha’i faith have been arrested throughout Iran in recent days. On August 10th, three Baha’i Iranians were arrested in Tehran and sent to Evin prison. Another was arrested in Shiraz and has been imprisoned. Other Baha’i Iranians have been arrested in Birjand and Tehran recently.
According to reports, security forces searched the homes of all these individuals and confiscated their personal belongings, including cell phones, identification documents, and computers. Security forces also interrogated and searched the home of Jamaloldin Khanjani, the leader of the Baha’i Society of Iran. Khanjani was imprisoned from 2008 to 2017.
- Iranian Environmentalists Begin Hunger Strike in Jail August 14, 2019
In January 2018, nine Iranian environmentalists were detained by Iranian authorities and accused of “spying” after filming an endangered cheetah. One of the activists, Kavous Seyed Emami—an Iranian-Canadian professor and prominent environmentalist—died while in custody.
Last year, over 300 conservationists pleaded with Iranian authorities to free the eight environmentalists still in jail. Other activists and human rights organizations have also called for the release of these experts. Unfortunately, these appeals have gone unheeded and, according to Human Rights Watch, these activists have spent over 550 days in legal limbo.
Last week, a number of the detainees embarked on a hunger strike in protest of their conditions and to demand due process before the law. The eight detainees—Taher Ghadirian, Niloufar Bayani, Amirhossein Khaleghi, Houman Jokar, Sam Rajabi, Sepideh Kashani, Morad Tahbaz, and Abdolreza Kouhpayeh—are to be applauded, not criminalized, for their efforts to tackle the issue of climate change and environmental degradation in Iran and globally.
- Saeed Malekpour Reunited with Sister in Canada August 5, 2019
Iranian-Canadian resident, Saeed Malekpour, escaped Iran after being released from prison for a few days on furlough. His sister, Maryam Malekpour, posted a video of their long-awaited reunion in Canada on August 2nd, saying, “The nightmare is finally over!”
Malekpour was first arrested in 2008, on a trip to Iran to visit his sick father. His arrest came after he developed a program for uploading photos to the web. Malekpour was detained by Iranian authorities for insulting Islam when the program was used to share pornographic images on Persian language sites. He has long maintained his innocence, stressing he had no knowledge of the program’s use in disseminating pornography.
After a confession under torture, Malekpour was sentenced to death in 2010. After pressure from the Canadian government and human rights groups, Malekpour’s death sentence was commuted and he was given a life sentence. After being granted furlough, Malekpour escaped Iran and returned to Canada where he was welcomed by his sister. The video of their reunion has been viewed and shared extensively on social media, and though heartwarming, the moment is bittersweet given Malekpour has lost 11 years of his young life wrongfully imprisoned.
- Mohammad Rasoulof Sentenced to One Year in Prison July 29, 2019
Award-winning Iranian filmmaker, Mohammad Rasoulof, was sentenced to one year in prison by an Iranian court last week on charges of ‘propaganda against the state.’ The sentence also includes a two-year ban on leaving Iran and involvement in social and political activities. This is not the filmmaker’s first clash with Iranian authorities, which are notorious for their censorship and strict guidelines on artists. Rasoulof has been targeted several times by authorities for his films, which examine government corruption.
The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance in Iran sets rules and restrictions on artists, impeding their ability to express ideas that may be deemed in conflict with state authorities. Despite these hurdles, Iranian cinema has garnered a reputation as a premier international cinema and collected many awards. However, Iranian independent filmmakers, such as Rasoulof, often have their films banned and their permission to work prohibited.
The case of Rasoulof shows the various forms of arbitrary punishment Iranian artists suffer. The Cannes Film Festival, of which Rasoulof has been a past winner, condemned the sentence and called for the filmmaker’s “immediate and unconditional release…So that art and freedom can live.”
- Iranian Student Activist Sentenced to Prison July 23, 2019
University of Tehran student activist, Ali Mozaffari, was first arrested in December 2017 for participating in street protests, along with other student protestors. According to human rights activists in Iran, the charges brought against Mozaffari include conspiracy against national security, insulting the leadership, disturbing the peace, and propaganda against the state.
According to Iranian news reports, after months of court hearings and trials, this week Mozaffari was given a final sentence of 30 months in prison by the court of appeals. As Iranian activists have noted, harsh punishments–especially for student protestors–have become commonplace.
Cases such as Mozaffari are significant for the types of charges brought, which prohibit peaceful and lawful protest activities of Iranian students, as well as the improper treatment they receive once in custody, such as solitary confinement and denial of due process.
- French-Iranian Academic Arrested in Iran July 15, 2019
Fariba Adelkhah, a French-Iranian Anthropologist, was reportedly detained in June on a visit to Iran. Dr. Adelkhah is a researcher at Sciences Po, an elite French research institute focused on Social Sciences and Political Studies.
French authorities have asked for consular access and more information on Adelkhah’s current status, which Iranian authorities have yet to provide. The arrest of a prominent academic such as Adelkhah is a continued pattern of Iranian authorities that wrongfully detain dual nationals on charges of espionage.
Dr. Adelkhah is known for her fieldwork in Iran and research on post-revolutionary Iranian society. In her most celebrated work, Being Modern in Iran, Adelkhah asserts, “to be modern in Iran is to set oneself up as a moral being in a relatively precise context.” Unfortunately, her immoral detention reflects a growing crackdown inside Iran.
- International Campaign to Free Nasrin Sotoudeh July 3, 2019
Over one million people across the world have added their names calling on Iranian authorities to release Nasrin Sotoudeh, the well-known human rights attorney who has twice been imprisoned and is currently serving a 38-year sentence in Iran for her work as an advocate of women’s rights. Read more about her case in a previous NIAC statement.
Sotoudeh’s circumstance has grabbed the attention of a wide range of figures, from celebrities to Nobel laureates. Notably, when a group of prominent women’s rights activists gathered in France earlier this year to discuss the movement for gender equality, a seat was left empty in honor of Sotoudeh.
While Sotoudeh has garnered the admiration and support of human rights activists around the globe, her case is emblematic of a larger crackdown on Iranian human rights lawyers, such as Amirsalar Davoudi, who was also recently given a cruel prison sentence of 30 years. Click here to add your name to Amnesty International’s growing petition, demanding Sotoudeh’s release.
- Iranian Dual National Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe Begins Hunger Strike June 26, 2019
British-Iranian dual citizen, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, was detained by Iranian authorities in April 2016 during a trip to Iran to visit her family. Similar to the cases of several other dual nationals detained in Iran, Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been accused of spying and charged with conspiracy to topple the Iranian government. Traveling with her one-year-old daughter at the time, Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been separated from her child, who has been in the care of Nazanin’s family in Iran since her arrest, and sentenced to five years in prison.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe maintains her innocence, and many suspect the detention was motivated by politics and her work at BBC and Reuters. The U.K. government escalated the matter with Iran in March 2019 by granting Zaraghi-Ratcliffe formal diplomatic protection.
On June 11, 2019, Nazanin marked her daughter Gabriella’s fifth birthday by beginning a new hunger strike and demanding her “unconditional release.” Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, joined his wife’s hunger strike from Britain to show solidarity and to draw public attention to Nazanin’s imprisonment. Amnesty International UK is also aiding this effort with an online petition, which can be found here.
- Thomas Erdbrink Denied Permission to Work in Iran June 11, 2019
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 May 30, 2019
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.
- Students Stage Anti-mandatory Hijab Protest at Tehran University May 16, 2019
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 May 1, 2019
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 April 16, 2019
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.
- Iran’s Freedom Movement Condemns US Sanctions February 25, 2019
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.