Nabz News Review - April 4, 2014

This week in human rights in Iran

PRISONER RIGHTS

The Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei agreed to pardon or reduce the sentences of 920 prisoners to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the founding of the Islamic Republic. The announcement did not indicate however, whether those pardoned included any of the people the United Nations says are currently in jail for political offenses . The latest report released in March 2014 by UN Special Rapporteur to Iran Ahmed Shaheed documents at least 895 prisoners of conscience and political prisoners imprisoned, including 379 political activists, 292 religious practitioners, 92 human rights defenders (including 50 ethnic rights activists), 71 civic activists, 37 journalists and netizens, and 24 student activists. Since being elected President Hassan Rouhani has promised to increase political freedoms, and while 80 political prisoners were freed last September, Rouhani has not made significant policy changes on political freedoms. Some argue that the reason Rouhani has not made significant steps in addressing political freedoms is because he may be a bit wary of antagonizing the powerful hardliners sceptical of his rapprochement with the West over the nuclear program. Meanwhile, Arjang Davoodi, a political prisoner at Central Bandar Abbas Prison has been in solitary confinement for four months ago; labor activist and political prisoner Reza Shahabi Zakaria who was out medical furlough was suddenly sent back Evin Prison against his physicians recommendations; and two Arab political prisoners sentenced to death, Seyed Khalid Mousavi and Ali Chabishat, were transferred from Dezfool Prison to an unknown location.

ETHNIC MINORITY RIGHTS

While Iran is a multinational and multiethnic country that consists of Khuzestani Arabs, Azerbaijani Turks, Balochs, Kurds, Turkmen, and many more, minorities are discriminated against and many cultural manifestations of non-Persian traditions are suppressed. In the same report released by the UN in March, since January, at least 50 ethnic rights defenders, 28 civic and cultural activists and 200 ethnic political activists were reported detained or imprisoned. Many sources have challenged the legality of these detentions and convictions, alleging torture and denial of fair trial standards for a majority of these individuals. In late March, two Kurds, Seyed Velayat Hossaini and Kavoos Abdollah Zadeh, were summoned the intelligence service for their cooperation with Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK). Similarly, imprisoned Kurdish journalist Adnan Hassanpour was sent into exile to the Central Prison of Zahedan. Hassanpour was a journalist for of Yasou Hafteh Nameh, which was published in Kurdish and Persian. This publication had been charged with acting against national security and disturbing the public and banned in 2005.