Iran's Human Rights Crisis
Anybody visiting Iranian websites or Facebook pages will see news of executions and long prison sentences imposed upon political prisoners accompanied by reports of physical and psychological torture. There are also accounts of arrests of students, political and labor activists, and members of ethnic and religious minorities. It is easy for people to shrug their shoulders and say that human rights in Iran are in crisis—as they have always been.
Except that something has changed since the stolen election of June 2009. First, the regime is now more willing to imprison and abuse people with very little record of political or civic activism than it has been for decades. Second, the regime is imposing the death penalty on Iran’s Kurdish minority to an extent not seen since the vicious war in Iranian Kurdistan during the 1980s.
Iran’s prisons are now filled with detainees whose names have never been heard before. Many are demonstrators who were arrested on Ashura (December 27, 2009) and on 22 Bahman (the official anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, February 11, 2010). In many cases their families are still uninformed about their situation and conditions of incarceration. Prisoners without previous history of political activity, who have been accused of “rebellion against God” have received death sentences for merely participating in demonstrations. As is well known, Iran is one of the world’s most active users of the death penalty, second only to China. The number of announced executions was 339 in 2009, up by 20% from 282 in 2008. This figure is probably an understatement as it is based on official reports (63 executions were not announced in 2009). Many executions in Iran are never reported. In January 2010, the regime executed Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani and Arash Rahmanpour, political prisoners accused of “mohareb” (rebellion against God) and membership in an anti-Islamic Republic group. At present, six prisoners in Tehran await execution. One of the six has been sentenced for apparently chanting slogans against the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khamenei.
Although second to China in executions, Iran is first when it comes to oppression of the media. Iran has become the world’s largest prison for journalists. In June of 2009, 90 journalists were held in prison in Iran. Well known journalists such as Ahmad Zeidabadi, Emadeddin Baghi, Eisi Saharkhiz, Masoud Bastani, Sassan Aghai, and Hengameh Shahidi are still in prison. In addition to widespread arrests, the ongoing closure of newspapers is depriving numerous journalists of any livelihood, encouraging many to flee abroad.
Human rights activists are suffering long-term prison sentences for “activities against national security,” “disseminating falsehoods” or for cooperating with the Mujaheddin-e Khalq (a group designated by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization and which fought against the Islamic Republic). Human rights and student activists such as Shiva Nazar Ahari, Shabnam Madadzadeh, Koohyar Goodarzi, Abdolreza Ahmadi, Mahdieh Golroo, Laleh Hassanpour, Hesam Firoozi, and Alireza Firoozi are among the prisoners who have been held without any formal charge against them. Sometimes conditions of detention are almost deliberately humiliating. Mahdieh Golroo is being kept in the public section of Evin prison despite the fact that she suffers from a gastro-intestinal disorder that requires a modicum of privacy. The payment of bail, originally set at 700 million tomans ($700,000) but lowered to 500 million tomans ($500,000) following family objections, remains beyond her husband’s means. As a result, Golroo has no choice but to remain in prison and in the public section.
The executions of Kurds in recent months have not been received sufficient attention. A total of 22 political and civil society activists now await execution in Iranian Kurdistan. The accusation against one of these activists who will soon be executed, Habibollah Golpari, was his simple possession of a few books that the regime deemed dangerous. In addition, the regime is pressuring Kurdish students. Many students in Iranian Kurdistan are currently unable to pursue their studies. Hooshang Shanvazloo, Farzad Ali Soltani, Kazem Kazemi Nasb, Shervin Asadi, Mohammad Hamidi, Rasul Hosseini, Mehdi Kahbor, Sina Roshani, Seyed Shahabeddin Fazeli, Hamzeh Hassani and Parya Nikbeen are among those students who have recently been prohibited from attending university. The regime is worried that the Kurds might ask for self-determination—in rather the same way that all Iranians are asking to be able to choose their own rulers.
The regime is also manipulating the health problems of detainees. Many of the anti-regime political activists who are currently in prison have serious health problems that require immediate medical attention and hospitalization. Seyed Mostafa Tajzadeh, political activist and member of the Islamic Iran Participation Front was directly transferred from hospital to prison. Behzad Nabavi, Abdollah Momeni, Mohammad Maleki, are among the political prisoners, who, despite a range of illness, are enduring long term prison sentences and solitary confinement.
The Baha’is, a religious minority in Iran, have consistently been the target of harassment and are denied their basic rights of citizenship. The widespread arrests of Bahais after Ashura (December 27, 2009) and the long sentences ahead of them are among the pressures that they have had to face in recent months. Attacks on the homes of Baha’is in Shiraz and Tehran and the prohibition of their peaceful activities are clear cases of human rights abuses.
The picture is bleak, but it is far from hopeless. Gozaar, in recognition of this humanitarian crisis and as part of its mission to promote human rights and to protect the dignity of the individual, will be presenting this regular analytical report on the state of human rights in Iran. Within this new format, we will publish an analysis of human rights abuses in Iran, with attention to the rights of political prisoners, the convicted, women, children, workers, homosexuals, religious and ethnic minorities. In this way, Gozaar will contribute towards defending the basic human rights of Iranians.
As part of the research for these analyses, we will rely also on the assistance of our friends and readers. We will continue to accept in confidence documented and verifiable news of human rights abuses and the stories of those who are victims of human rights abuses. To contact Gozaar, please send an e-mail to the following address firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Dr. Mohammad Maleki, who is currently in prison, was the former president of Tehran University. The security forces took away his computer, notes, personal documents and books. Maleki was appointed as the university president right after the Iranian revolution in 1979. He has been suffering from a serious illness and was just recovering at home when the raid took place.