Nabz News Review - March 6, 2015


This week in human rights in Iran

Minority rights

On March 4, more than 1,800 Azerbaijani students issued an open letter to Hassan Rouhani, calling on the president to honor his promise to promote minority language rights in Iran, including official recognition of the Azerbaijani language and the right to education in one’s mother tongue in Iran.

Six Sunni prisoners of Kurdish descent were executed in Rajaee Shahr Prison in Karaj on March 5 after several years’ imprisonment for the ambiguous charge of moharebeh (“enmity against God”). Human rights activists and international organizations, including Amnesty International, had campaigned for authorities to spare the prisoners’ lives, citing both humanitarian reasons and concerns over a severely flawed judicial process. Iranian filmmaker and human rights activist Mohammad Nourizad, who had been with the victims’ families, reported that he was attacked and beaten by intelligence officials near the prison, and his personal effects were confiscated.

Freedom of expression

After the judiciary formally announced a general media ban on images and references to former president Mohammad Khatami, the websites of Jamaran and Bahar News were filtered on February 26 following their coverage of the funeral of Khatami’s sister Fatemeh. Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei, spokesperson for the judiciary, stated on March 2 that the suspension on the sites was lifted after they committed to not publishing further images of Khatami. Iranians on social media, meanwhile, have challenged the judiciary’s ban by sharing Khatami’s image broadly.

On March 3, imprisoned journalist Massoud Bastani was returned abruptly to Rajaee Shahr. Bastani had been receiving treatment in a hospital after his health deteriorated, but Kaleme reports that he was returned without physicians’ consent and without completing his treatment.

Washington Post Tehran correspondent Jason Rezaian was granted access to a lawyer after spending more than seven months in prison. However, the court denied Rezaian the ability to be represented by Masoud Shafii, a prominent lawyer who has experience defending Americans detained in Iran. Instead, he will be represented by Leila Ehsan, who is already representing Rezaian’s wife. No date has been set yet for the commencement of Rezaian’s trial.

Human rights

On March 3, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon published his interim report on the human rights situation in Iran. The report outlines Ban’s concerns over ongoing and widespread reports of human rights violations in Iran, including the execution of juveniles, mistreatment of women and minorities, and severe restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly.

Khosro and Masoud Kordpour were announced as winners of the Südwind RAHA Human Rights Award, given to individuals who contribute to the improvement of human rights in Iran. The two brothers, who are of Kurdish descent and worked as journalists, were imprisoned two years ago on charges such as threatening national security and propaganda against the regime.

Activists’ rights

Civic activist and artist Atena Farghadani was hospitalized on February 26 after suffering a heart attack following a lengthy hunger strike. Her lawyer reported on March 5 that Farghadani ended her hunger strike after a judge agreed to transfer her from Gharchak Prison to the women political prisoners’ ward at Evin Prison. Farghadani was imprisoned in August for her artistic work on victims of the 2009 turmoil and re-imprisoned in January after posting a video message detailing her ordeal in detention.

Women’s rights

On February 24, Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad received the women’s rights award of the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy. Alinejad was recognized for her campaign “Stealthy Freedoms of Iranian Women,” which encourages women to post photos of themselves without the compulsory hijab. The Facebook page has garnered more than 770,000 likes since its launch last year.

A group of 190 Iranian activists sent an open letter to Sepp Blatter, president of FIFA (soccer’s global governing body), calling for Iran’s membership to be suspended until the stadium ban on women is lifted. Over the past year, the issue of women’s attendance at men’s sporting matches in Iran has been a burning issue, with the detention of Ghoncheh Ghavami and the temporary suspension of Iran’s volleyball federation.

Labor rights

Labor unrest continues in Iran as workers demand that the minimum wage be raised more than just by the rate of inflation, as employers insist. Negotiations are ongoing ahead of March 21, when the new minimum wage will take effect with the start of the Iranian year 1394.

On March 3, around 300 miners went on strike at the Zemestan Yurt mine in the province of Golestan and gathered in front of the mine’s administrative center. The miners are protesting unpaid wages over the last four months and the failure of authorities to meet the set deadline for compensating the workers.

On March 1, teachers gathered for silent demonstrations in front of Ministry of Education facilities in various cities across Iran. The protesting teachers argue that funds allocated for education in the proposed budget for the coming year would leave teachers below the poverty line.

Qasem Exirifard, a physics professor at Khajeh Nasir Toosi University of Technology in Tehran, discovered that the reason for his expulsion from the university was that the review and selection committee deemed his voice “feminine.”