Nabz News Review - March 20, 2015


This week in human rights in Iran

Rights of religious minorities

In recent months, authorities across Iran have stepped up harassment of Bahá’í citizens. On March 8, a Bahá’í man and his 17-year-old son were arrested and taken to Yazd Prison after security forces raided their home. Their family members reported that the two men have been charged with “actions against national security,” and that a computer, books, and mobile phones were also confiscated in the raid.

On March 9, a number of Bahá’ís were arrested in Varamin after security forces raided the home of Laleh Mahdinezhad. Although the others were released several hours later, Mahdinezhad has been detained in Evin Prison.

HRANA also reports that in the last few weeks, more than 20 Bahá’í households in Shiraz have been subject to similar raids, searches, and confiscations of personal property.

Violations of Bahá’ís' right to work

Activists in Iran have spoken out in solidarity with the Bahá’í community over this recent crackdown. In an open letter to Sadegh Larijani, head of the Iranian judiciary, a group of 75 prominent activists called on authorities to be accountable to the principles of the Iranian constitution and to respect the rights of Bahá’í citizens.

As part of its ongoing coverage of issues related to the rights of Iran’s ethnic and religious groups, Nabz-Iran published its Nabz-Nameh Esfand 1393: The Rights Situation of Bahá’ís in Iran.

Freedom of expression

In response to cancellations of concerts throughout Iran and the debate surrounding the issue in recent months, the cultural deputy of the Iranian judiciary stated on March 16 that concerts are not against the law. He did however note that concerts should not cause social problems, referring to the mixing of men and women singers, the reason behind some recent cancellations. Meanwhile, some Iranian musicians and artists wrote to the governor of Khorasan province, requesting an end to the ongoing ban on all concerts in the city of Mashhad.

Reporters Without Borders launched an initiative called “CollateralFreedom”, in which it uses mirroring to provide access to 9 websites that are otherwise blocked in 11 countries. Among these sites is Gooya News, which is now accessible in Iran via a mirrored page.

Another trend in recent months has been a crackdown on Internet users by Iran’s cyber police through the so-called “Operation Spider”. Over 200 people have been arrested in Sistan and Baluchistan province this month on Internet-related charges.

Women’s rights

Amnesty International has strongly criticized the proposed laws to boost population growth in Iran, arguing that the laws would reduce Iranian women to “baby-making machines”. The “Bill to Increase Fertility Rates and Prevent Population Decline (Bill 446)”, which eliminates voluntary sterilization and funding for family planning, is currently under review by the Guardian Council before it can become law. The other bill in question is the “Comprehensive Population and Exaltation of Family Bill (Bill 315)”, which would further hinder childless women’s employment opportunities.

To mark International Women’s Day (March 8), the Armanshahr Foundation, a member of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), has published a Persian translation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

Prisoners’ rights

The father of Hossein Ronaghi Maleki, a blogger who has been imprisoned multiple times in recent years, has threatened to set himself on fire in front of the Tehran prosecutor’s office unless his son is granted medical furlough. The younger Ronaghi Maleki is suffering from kidney failure and his condition is described as critical.

The Campaign in Defense of Civil & Political Prisoners reported that on March 10, security forces raided the cells of political prisoners in Rajaee Shahr Prison and wreaked havoc in them.

Amnesty International described as “unspeakably cruel” the blinding of a man’s eye in Iran through the retributive punishment known as “qesas”. The victim, who was convicted of blinding another man by attacking him with acid, is set to have his other eye blinded at a later date.

A revolutionary court has handed down cumulative sentences of 18 months for three men who publicized the April 2014 attack by security forces on political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Ward 350 of Evin Prison. Reza Shahabi, Kamran Ayazi, and Omid Zareinejad were present at the attacks, which have come to be known as “Black Thursday.”

On March 8, human rights groups REDRESS and Justice for Iran called on the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to help free Kurdish prisoner Zeynab Jalalian, currently serving a life sentence. Jalalian was imprisoned in 2008 on the charge of moharebeh (“enmity against God”) and is suffering from severe medical problems, including a degenerative eye disease.

Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine who is currently serving a 10-year sentence in Iran, is attempting to renounce his Iranian citizenship in a bid to be deported back to the United States.

Workers’ rights

On March 16, after months of debate, negotiations, and controversy, the Supreme Council of Labour set a 17-percent increase in the minimum wage for the year 1394. The new monthly minimum wage of 7,124,250 rials is below the 25-percent raise that workers’ representatives had been demanding and that had been granted the previous two years.

On March 14, a street vendor committed self-immolation in front of the Khorramshahr City Hall as an act of protest after municipal authorities closed down his business. He is currently hospitalized and in grave condition after suffering burns over most of his body.

Political rights

On March 9, Member of Parliament Ali Motahari was attacked by a group of men on his way to deliver a speech at Shiraz University. Although a conservative, Motahari has been at the center of controversy in recent months for his outspokenness against the ongoing house arrests of the Green Movement leaders. On March 14, the governor of Fars province said that the perpetrators of the attack have been identified, but to date no arrests have been made.

On March 19, 608 university professors in Iran issued an open letter to Sadegh Larijani in which they labeled the ongoing media ban on former president Mohammad Khatami unconstitutional and called for the ban to be lifted.

On March 13, the families of political prisoners who were executed in 1988 were stopped from visiting the Khavaran mass graves, where thousands of those executed are buried. Traditionally, these families try to gather at the site on the last Friday of every summer and winter.

Activists' rights

On March 7, Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court issued activists Omid Alishenas, Atena Daemi, Aso Rostami, and Arash Sadeghi with various charges, including propaganda against the regime and insulting the Supreme Leader. Each of the four had been detained without formal charges for at least six months. Sadeghi was released on bail on March 15.

Human rights

Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, published his March 2015 report, in which he reviews the human rights situation in the country following Iran’s participation in the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in October 2014. Shaheed said on March 16 that he believes that the “overall situation has worsened.” On March 19, FIDH released a statement in which it criticized the ongoing deterioration of the human rights situation in Iran and the Iranian government’s “failure to implement a large majority of the recommendations from its first UPR cycle.”