Washington, DC – NIAC condemns the imprisonment of Iranian human rights activist Shiva Nazar Ahari and reiterates its call for the Iranian government to release all political prisoners, including Ms. Ahari, who are being held in contravention of Iran’s constitutional international legal obligations. Ms. Ahari faces trial on September 4th and a possible death sentence for charges related to her human rights activism. NIAC strongly encourages the international community to continue to speak out publicly and strongly in support of Ms. Ahari as her trial approaches.
“Shiva Nazar Ahari is only twenty-six but has spent her entire adult life advocating on behalf of the human rights of the Iranian people and exposing the abuses of Iran’s government,” said Jamal Abdi, NIAC Policy Director. “Because of her resolve, Ms. Ahari may now face life imprisonment or even death. Iran’s government continues to carry out these draconian measures in order to intimidate Iranians and prevent them from seeking their rights. These rights are non-negotiable. The Iranian-American community joins the calls of the international community for Iran to free Ms. Ahari immediately.”
Ms. Ahari is a founding member and spokeswoman of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters and has been active in several other human rights, women’s rights, and humanitarian organizations. She has been arrested at least seven times since September 2002, but has remained a tireless advocate, including on behalf of those who have been imprisoned and denied a voice by Iran’s government. Her dedication to human rights has come with many personal sacrifices. In addition to the detentions and harassment Ms. Ahari has experienced, she has also been barred from attending graduate school by the Ministry of Intelligence because of her activism, a common practice since 2005 under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s administration.
Ms. Ahari has been charged for “action against national security” for her participation in demonstrations and “propaganda against the regime” for her reporting and activism. She has also been charged with moharebeh, or enmity against God, which is a capital offense in Iran and has been employed increasingly as a basis for the detention, conviction, and execution of Iranian political prisoners by authorities since the June 2009 elections. Iranian authorities have sought to link Ms. Ahari to the Mojahadeen-e-Khalq (MEK), another charge that has been increasingly leveled against activists as the basis for politically motivated executions. Ms. Ahari has strenuously denied any links to the MEK.
Ms. Ahari was arrested on June 14, 2009, shortly after the post-election protests, and released on bail in September of that year. She immediately began publicizing cases of torture against her fellow inmates at Evin and was instrumental in revealing abuses at Kahrizak detention center, which has since been closed by Iranian authorities. She was then arrested again on December 20, 2009, along with her colleague on the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, Kouhyar Goudarzi, and has been in Evin prison since then. Ms. Ahari has been reported to have spent much of her current imprisonment in solitary confinement and has had no access to her lawyers and only limited access to her families.
Ms. Ahari’s case has been the subject of international concern. In June 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for Iran to release Ms. Ahari and other political prisoners; human rights organizations and international bodies, including most recently the European Parliament, have also issued calls for her release. Ms. Ahari’s trial had been delayed several times but it now appears that she will face authorities this Saturday, September 4.
The human rights crisis in Iran continues, with activists, student leaders, political opposition, and religious minorities continuing to be terrorized and detained by the government, and subject to physical and psychological torture in prison. On August 12, a twenty year sentence was issued for seven Iranian Baha’I leaders who had been detained for two years. The sentence was met with widespread international condemnation. Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, who had been sentenced to death by stoning until international scrutiny led Iranian authorities to reconsider, was allegedly tortured to elicit a false confession on state television and continues to face threats of imminent execution. And three American hikers who were detained by Iranian authorities in July 2009 continue to languish in Evin prison with no formal charges having been brought against them.