Nabz News Review - June 3, 2016

2016/06/05
Theme: 

This month in human rights in Iran

Freedom of expression

On May 25, a Maziar Fallahi concert was canceled in Yazd. In recent months, many concerts have been canceled throughout Iran.

On May 28, a Shahram Nazeri concert was also canceled in Nishapur.

On May 30, the three filmmakers Saeed Malekan, Mostafa Shayesteh, and Mansour Lashgari Ghoochani were summoned to court for the broadcast of their films on Farsi-language satellite networks. Iranian authorities are sensitive toward the operation of independent satellite networks.

On June 1, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) published a report announcing that the messaging app Telegram is not safe for Iranian journalists. According to the CPJ, Telegram’s security issues could put journalists working in Iran in danger.

Trials

On May 12, over 30 major European filmmaking companies called on Iran to revoke a court ruling, sentencing Kayvan Karimi to 223 lashes. Karimi is a young Iranian documentary filmmaker who was arrested, imprisoned, and sentenced to lashing in connection with a documentary he made on street graffiti in Tehran.

On May 18th, Alireza Golipour, a political prisoner in Evin Prison was sentenced to 39 and a half years in prison and 174 lashes. Golipour has been held in detention without a trial since September 2012. The charges against Golipour include support for the Mujahedin-e Khalgh (MEK), assembly and collusion against the Islamic Republic, and insulting the Supreme Leader.

Concurrent with Golipour’s sentencing, Narges Mohammadi, an imprisoned journalist and human rights activist, was sentenced to 10 years in prison, leading to demands for her release by the international community. Reporters Without Borders has asked President Hassan Rouhani to not remain silent in the face of her sentence. Meanwhile the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called the sentence a “travesty” and asked for her immediate release.

On June 2, a lower court in Tabriz sentenced 11 individuals who protested the television program Fitileh to prison and lashings. Last year, Fitileh led to anger and protests from groups of people from the Azeri-populated regions of Iran who interpreted one of the program’s jokes as an insult against their ethnicity.

Arbitrary arrests

On May 8, news outlets reported the arrest of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a program manager with the Thomas Reuters Foundation, who has spent over a month in solitary confinement and has been denied the right to see her baby daughter. Zaghari-Ratcliffe is a British-Iranian national who was arrested upon leaving the country with her daughter.

On May 14, political activist Heshmatollah Tabarzadi was arrested. The reason for his arrest is still unknown, but it is being suggested that he was transferred to Ward 209 of Evin Prison.

On May 16, the arrests of 8 fashion models and photographers and criminal cases against a further 29 people were announced in Iran. The individuals are among 170 people who have been summoned for questioning in the past 6 months. The arrested individuals were active on social media, especially Facebook and Instagram, where they had posted pictures and videos.

Mehdi Boutorabi, managing director of the first Iranian blogging service, PersianBlog, was arrested on May 16. The reasons behind and location of Boutorabi’s arrest are still unclear. He had previously been arrested in 2009 and had refused to share user information from PersianBlog with the IRGC.

Omid Soleimani, a member of the writers’ union of the province of Kermanshah, was arrested in Sanandaj on May 17. The reason behind and location of this Kurdish writer’s arrest remain unknown.

On May 18, it was reported that Mahmood Masoomi has yet to be charged with a crime five days after his arrest. He was arrested along with three others at a protest led by the followers of Erfan-e Halgheh, a spiritual association established in Iran by Mohammad Ali Taheri. The founder and followers of this group are persecuted in Iran, despite the fact that association with it is legal in Iran.

On May 19, Kurdish activists Shaher Sadeghi and Aram Mohammadi were arrested and transferred to an undisclosed location. The reasons behind their arrests are still unclear. A few weeks prior to the arrests, Sadeghi’s brother Nezam Sadeghi was arrested and released on bail. Nezam Sadeghi is a labor rights activist.

On May 24, civic activist Mostafa Gholamnejad was arrested, though the reason for his arrest and where he is being held are unknown.

On May 26, children’s rights activist Shima Babaei was arrested.

On May 27, it was reported that two Arab activists have been arrested in the province of Khuzestan. Intelligence Ministry officials arrested Reza Kaebi and Ali Jalali in Ahvaz on May 17 and May 20, respectively. It is unknown why they were arrested or were they are being held.

Minority rights

On May 9, Mohammad Sedigh Kaboudvand, a journalist and head of the Human Rights Defenders organization of Kordestan, went on a hunger strike. Kaboudvand, who is currently serving a sentence of ten years and six months, started his hunger strike in response to additional unfounded charges against him.

On May 13, it was reported that women’s rights activist Faezeh Hashemi paid a visit to the home of Fariba Kamalabadi, a Baha’i leader held in the ward for Baha’i prisoners during her time in prison. She was also in the same ward as Hashemi, where she spent eight consecutive years without furlough. Hashemi’s visit to Kamalabadi’s home led to a variety of reactions within the country and prompted the U.S. Department of State to call for the release of seven imprisoned Baha’i leaders.

On May 17, in an open letter to the European Union, a number of human rights organizations called for pressure on Iran to release 32 imprisoned and detained Baha’is in Golestan province.

Zakiyeh Hor Nisi, an activist opposed to redirecting water from the Karoun River was arrested in Ahvaz on May 18. In an interview with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, her brother stated that despite the assertions of security officials, she is still being held in detention and has not returned home. She is an agricultural expert who has headed environmental campaigns to draw attention to air quality in Ahvaz and the redirection of Karoun’s water.

On May 25, seven Sunni prisoners were condemned to death at Rajaei Shahr Prison in Karaj. These individuals had been held in prison without a trial since December 7, 2009. The charges against them include acting against national security, propaganda against the regime, and membership in Salafist groups.

On May 29, a number of shops owned by Baha’is were shut down for closing during Baha’i holidays. Recently there has been a rise in such shutdowns of Baha’i shops for this reason throughout the country.

On June 2, the U.N. called on Iran to release Kurdish political prisoner Zeynab Jalalian, who is serving a life sentence, and to compensate her for all damages. Jalalian is a civic activist who was engaged in training, social work, and improving the situation of women, but who was arrested and sentenced for ties with the Kurdish political party PEJAK.

Prisoners' rights

On May 17th, in a statement addressed to the Iranian government, Amnesty International conveyed that Omid Kokabi’s return to prison may lead to his death. Kokabi is an Iranian physicist who has been imprisoned for his refusal to work on Iran’s nuclear program. He was diagnosed with cancer while in prison and due to lack of treatment has seen his cancer progress. Kokabi has already had one kidney removed. On May 25, Kokabi was allowed two weeks of medical furlough after posting a bail of 500 million tomans.

On the same day, authorities at Evin Prison blocked the transfer for medical care of Maryam Naghash Zargaran, a prisoner of conscious in Evin prison. Naghash Zargaran’s physicians have advised special treatment for her and have said she might require surgery for her condition. Naghash Zargaran is a Christian who was arrested and sentenced to four years imprisonment for her religious beliefs.

On May 19, four human rights organizations issued a statement expressing concern over the physical state of Afshin Sohrabzadeh, who is serving a 25-year sentence for association with Kurdish organizations, and who is suffering from cancer and in need of medical attention. Sohrabzadeh is not eligible to request furlough. According to reports, Semnan’s prosecutor stated in response to a furlough request by Sohrabzadeh that “it’s not important, you will die in prison and we will hand over your body to your family”.

The same day, Narges Mohammadi published an open letter protesting the heavy sentences against human rights and civic activists and against political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. She described the use of solitary confinement against these individuals as inhumane and psychological torture.

On May 23, Amnesty International launched a campaign in support of Lebanese national Nizar Zakka, who is being detained in Iran. Zakka has been kept in solitary confinement since his arrest on September 18, 2015. He had traveled to Iran to speak at a conference on the role of women in sustainable development. Zakka’s trial is scheduled to begin on June 5.

On May 24, Reporters Without Borders issued a statement expressing concern over the condition of Mohammad Sedigh Kaboudvand and the disappearance of Ehsan Mazandarani. Kaboudvand was the managing director of Payam-e Mardom, a suspended newspaper, and has been in prison since 2007. Mazandarani was arrested in November in the recent wave of arrests of journalists. His family was initially told that he was transferred to Evin Prison’s Ward A, which is under the IRGC’s control, but prison authorities later rejected that claim. As a result, it is unknown where he is being held.

Elections

On May 18th, the Guardian Council declared the second round of parliamentary elections in Bandar-Lengeh, Bastak and Parsian invalid. The Guardian Council also ordered the recounting of ballots in the Tabriz area and a review of results in Ahar and Heris areas. Controversy has persisted throughout the last month over the case of Minoo Khaleghi, who was elected to parliament from Isfahan. Hamed Talebi, the administrator of a Telegram channel supportive of conservative views was arrested after orders from Iran’s Minister of Interior to identify the individual who had distributed images of Khaleghi. Simultaneous with his arrest, the disputes resolution council established to settle disagreements among the three branches of government announced their decision in support of Khaleghi’s disqualification, which was confirmed by the Supreme Leader. Although the Interior Ministry stated that a final decision on her disqualification has yet to be conveyed to the Ministry. The Guardian Council has deferred determining her replacement until the mid-term parliamentary elections, even though the Interior Ministry believes that the sixth-place finisher from Isfahan has enough votes to replace Khaleghi. Majles representative Ali Motahari called on the interior minister to resign because of his hesitation on this issue.

In this round of Majles elections, for the first time in the history of the Islamic Republic, women outnumber clerics in parliament. Nabz-Iran partner and cartoonist Kianoush Ramezani drew a cartoon related to this.

Human rights

On May 26, 35 men and women who had been arrested at a party in Ghazvin were sentenced to 99 lashes each in a one-day trial, and the punishments were carried out the same day. This action by the judiciary led to protests from civic activists inside and outside Iran and condemnation from the U.N. as well.

The same day, ILNA reported that 17 workers from the Agh Darreh gold mine were flogged for “insulting the company’s guard”. These individuals were among the group of 350 workers protesting against the mine’s officials over unpaid wages. Two workers’ organizations have protested this verdict.

On May 31, the annual Global Slavery Index was published for 2016. According to this report, about half a million people live in modern slavery in Iran.

Executions

On May 10, a 19-year-old man was hanged in Mashhad for murder charges.

On May 15, the execution of Alireza Tajiki, a youth sentenced for a crime before the age of 18, was halted. His execution has been postponed as a result of international pressure, although his life is still under threat. International human rights activists have advocated against Tajiki’s death sentence on Twitter by using the hashtag #SaveAlireza.

On May 16th, Javad Larijani, the secretary of the Human Rights Council of Iran’s Judiciar questioned the death penalty for drug trafficking in Iran and called for a slowing down in the handing down of death sentences for drug trafficking. Iran has one of the highest rates of executions in the world. The Islamic Republic has long been under pressure by international bodies to reduce the number of executions in Iran.

On May 17, six people were executed in Yazd: three of the individuals for drug trafficking-related charges, two individuals for armed robbery charges, and one individual for sexual assault charges.

Two prisoners from Tabriz Central Prison, two prisoners from Urmia Central Prison, and one person from Sari were hanged on May 19.

On May 25, two prisoners were executed at Adelabad Prison in Shiraz for narcotics-related charges. The same day, 11 prisoners were also executed at Rajaei Shahr Prison in Karaj on murder charges. One of the individuals executed in Karaj was 16 years old when the crime took place.