Armin Najafali rymde till Sverige 2014. Från första dagen han anlände i Sverige har han varit medlem i samma kyrka som sin mamma har varit aktiv medlem i under många år. Han är en av de nykristna från Iran som öppet visar sitt stöd för alla sina bröder och systrar som kämpar för sina mänskliga rättigheter i Iran. Som han själv har sagt: -”jag blir starkare med hjälp av Jesus Kristus – ingenting kan hindra mig från att fortsätta på vägen som jag har valt”. Armin har bjudit in folk till kristendomen – svarat på deras frågor och delat olika stycken ur Bibeln på sin Facebooksida. Han har visat sitt stöd för olika religiösa minoritetsgrupper i Iran på sin blogg. T.ex. har han skrivit i sin blogg om situationen i Iran för nykristna personer och om hur de blir brutalt behandlade av regimen i Iran. Han har även visat sitt stöd till den nya kampanjen # من نفر پانزدهم هستم (Jag är 15de personen) på sin egen Facebook-sida och Shahrvandyar-sidan på Facebook. Jag är 15de personen, är en kampanj som började med ett öppet brev undertecknat av 14 politiska aktivister i Iran, inriktat mot People of Iran, och kallar Ali Khamenei att avgå sin tjänst som högsta ledare efter en 20-årig mandatperiod. Veckor efter att brevet släpptes gav 14 kvinnliga aktivister i Iran ett liknande uttalande den 5 augusti 2019. Dessa kvinnor sa att teokratiskt styre har lett till ett “köns-apartheid” och “raderat” rättigheterna för hälften av landets befolkning; De uppmanade Khamenei att avgå. Från och med september 2019 har 16 av 28 undertecknare som är bosatta i Iran arresterats. Armin har skrivit en artikel som har blivit publicerad i både Shahrvandyar och Got free give free group i Facebook. Han har där skrivit om vilka problem han möter som en kristen även när han inte bor i Iran längre, samt hur skamlös Irans utrikesminister och Irans regim är som förnekar orättvisor mot personer såsom Armin. Han har fått både positiv och negativ återkoppling, där några hotar honom eller säger fula ord till honom och några personer stödjer Armin. Enligt Armin själv: -”Jag kommer inte sluta min kamp – jag vill hjälpa folk att känna Kristendomens sanna natur och Jesus kärleksbudskap. Irans regim målar en falsk bild av hur Kristendomen och dess utövare är – jag vill visa folk att kristendomen handlar om kärlek och vänskap, inte om våld och hämnd som Irans regim påstår att den gör”.
Dear President Trump,
I, Gohar Eshghi, mother of Satar Beheshti who was murdered by Kamenei’s agents, greet you.
And by greeting you, I greet the American people.
And by greeting you, I declare that we Iranians love Americans as well as all people of the world.
I personally apologize from every single American for years of chanting of “Death to America” by Iranians.
I apologize to myself, my conscience, for years of intellectual regression that I and others like me have been inflicted with.
We were deceived by Khomeini, Khamenei, and the regime’s clerics.
Many like me have been deceived by corrupt and immoral clergy whose hands are tainted with blood and their pockets filled with a nation’s wealth and blood money. And yet, they invite us to be patient, to endure.
I, without any reservation announce that we were wrong when we sided with the regime in chanting “Death to America”, “Death to U.K.”, “Death to Israel”.
I, in the final stage of my life have evolved enough not to hate anyone, not to seek revenge or death for my son’s murderers. Many times I have said that if my son’s murderer comes to my house as a guest, I will host him and treat him as such.
Seven years ago, before my eyes, Khamenei’s agents dragged my son out of our home and took him to a briefing station. Three days later they returned his corpse to me. His only crime was that he was a blogger talking about the social issues. He had but a handful of followers.
Over the past seven years I have reached out to every conceivable resource, from Khamenei himself, head of judiciary, government officials to members of parliament, to ask not for vengeance or blood money for my son, but for an open and fair court of law to look into my son’s murder. To find the reason for my son’s murder and identify those responsible for this crime. All my efforts have fallen on deaf ears.
Dear President Trump, you may ask yourself why am I writing this letter to you rather than Khamenei, the person responsible for my son’s murder. The answer is simple. To me Khamenei is no more than a corpse. He has been dead for decades. He died when he lied to Iranians, when his hands got tainted with the blood of the children of this land. Khamenei has no ties or allegiance to Iran or Iranians. His allegiance and his devotion is to his ideology. An ideology represented by his turban. A turban drenched in blood and deceit.
I want you to know that August, 23rd is my murdered son’s birthday. After much pondering, I wondered if Americans are heartbroken and disappointed with Iranians for years of chanting “Death to America”. Chants by misguided and deceived people like myself.
By sending this letter to you, I want to tell Americans that we, the people of Iran are prisoners of Khamenei and his regime. That we bear no ill will towards you or anyone else for that matter. That we count the days for this regime’s demise. That we are friends of Americans.
This letter is written by an elderly mother who lost her sole breadwinner. A mother who has been wearing her black mourning clothes for seven years. And this mother extends her hands of friendship to you and asks you to extend her greetings, her message of friendship to all Americans. Please tell them that GoharBeheshti loves all peoples of this world and only wishes death for Khamenei’s regime and diseased ideology.
Dear President Trump, I have an idea, a suggestion, a request. An idea for friendship. I would love to dedicate my son’s life and memory to the friendship between our two nations. And to commemorate it, I ask of you to declare August, 23rd, my son’s birthday, as the day of “Friendship” between our two nations. I wish to have the serenity before I pass, in knowing that my son’s life was not taken in vain. Such beautiful title, August 23rd, SatarBeheshti’s birthday, the day of friendship between people of Iran and U.S.A.
With utmost respect,
GoharEshghi, SatarBeheshti’s mother.
Bästa Margot Wallström,
Med anledning av att Irans utrikesminister, Javid Zarif, besöker Sverige den 20 augusti, vill vi framställa en vädjan om att utrikesministern tar upp den oerhört allvarliga situationen för mänskliga rättigheter i Iran. PEN International och Svenska PEN är djupt engagerade i ett antal fall där personer dömts till långa fängelsestraff och i vissa fall även spöstraff som ytterligare bestraffning. Samtliga har dömts, enbart för att de med fredliga medel använt sin grundläggande rätt till yttrandefrihet, helt i strid med internationell rätt.
De fall Svenska PEN särskilt vill lyfta är:
Narges Mohammadi är en central person i kampen för mänskliga rättigheter i Iran. Under flera år har hon fört kampen för kvinnors rättigheter, yttrandefrihet och mot dödsstraff. Hon är en av grundarna till Iranian National Peace Council, som består av författare, artister, advokater och aktivister som arbetar för mänskliga rättigheter i Iran. Hon är även engagerad i Defenders of Human Rights Centre, som förser politiska fångar med försvarsadvokater. Hon har tillbringat flera år i fängelse och 2016 fastställdes ytterligare en dom på 16 års fängelse. År 2011 tilldelades hon den svenska regeringens Per Anger-pris.
Nasrin Sotoudeh, är advokat och skribent. Hon har under många år försvarat fängslade och hotade författare, journalister och kvinnoaktivister i landet.I november 2018 tilldelas Nasrin Sotoudeh Svenska PENs Tucholskypris.Den 11 mars 2019 dömdes Nasrin Sotoudeh till 33 års fängelse och 148 piskrapp, för att ha ”konspirerat mot regimen” och ”förolämpat” Irans högste andlige ledare Ayatolla Ali Khamenei.
Baktash Abtin, Reza Khandan-Mahabadi, och Keyvan Bazhan
Tre medlemmar i Irans författarförbund; Baktash Abtin, Reza Khandan-Mahabadi, och Keyvan Bazhan dömdes i maj i år till sex års fängelse. De tre författarna dömdes bland annat för ”spridande av propaganda mot regimen” och ”sammansvärjning mot nationens säkerhet”. Allt pekar på att anklagelserna är politiskt motiverade och kan kopplas till författarnas kritik mot den hårda censuren av konst och litteratur i Iran.
ordförande i Svenska PEN
ordförande i Fängslade författares kommitté, Svenska PEN
Iranian-Swedish academic Ahmadreza Djalali has been subjected to enforced disappearance since 29 July, when Iranian authorities transferred him from Tehran’s Evin prison to an unidentified location. He is under pressure to “confess” to new crimes and has been threatened with the implementation of his death sentence if he does not.
The flogging of Kurdish singer and prisoner of conscience Peyman Mirzazadeh 100 times demonstrates the shocking brutality of Iran’s justice system, said Amnesty International.
Peyman Mirzazadeh had been sentenced to two years in prison and 100 lashes after being convicted of “drinking alcohol” and “insulting Islamic sanctities”. The flogging was carried out on 28 July and left him in agonizing pain with a severely swollen back and legs. He is currently on hunger strike in protest at his treatment and sentence.
“It is appalling that Peyman Mirzazadeh was subjected to such an unspeakably cruel punishment. His flogging highlights the inhumanity of a justice system that legalizes brutality. He is a prisoner of conscience detained merely for exercising his freedom of expression and the Iranian authorities must release him immediately and unconditionally,” said Philip Luther, Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“There can be no justification for carrying out flogging, which amounts to torture and is therefore a crime under international law. As a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Iran is legally obliged to abolish the practice, as well as other forms of corporal punishment such as amputations and blinding.”
According to the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), an Iranian human rights group, Peyman Mirzazadeh had been sentenced to two years’ imprisonment and 80 lashes for “insulting Islamic sanctities” and 20 lashes for “drinking alcohol”. He had also been sentenced to two years in prison in a separate case on charges including collaborating with an opposition group.
He had also been arrested in December 2017, following which he was sentenced to six months in prison for “spreading propaganda against the system” through singing songs in support of opposition groups. He was released in June 2018 after completing this sentence.
He was arrested again in February 2019 and has since been in prison.
Iranian labour rights activists Anisha Assadolahi, Atefeh Rangriz and Neda Naji and Iranian journalist Marzieh Amiri have been arbitrarily detained, without access to a lawyer, for weeks and accused of spurious national security offences in connection with a peaceful International Workers’ Day gathering in Tehran on 1 May 2019. They were initially held in prolonged solitary confinement amounting to torture or other ill-treatment. Now held next to women convicted of violent crimes, Atefeh Rangriz and Neda Naji are at risk of assault.
Human rights lawyer Amirsalar Davoudi has been sentenced to 29 years and three months in prison and 111 lashes on charges stemming from his human rights work. He was interrogated in detention without a lawyer present and was convicted and sentenced in his absence. Under Iran’s sentencing guidelines, he is required to serve 15 years of this sentence. He is a prisoner of conscience.
A lawyer for a detained Iranian social media activist says he has died in a notorious prison in what one rights group described as a brutal killing by fellow inmates charged with drug and murder offenses.
In a Tuesday phone interview with VOA Persian from his base in Tehran, lawyer Mohammad Hadi Erfanian-Kaseb said the body of his client, Alireza Shir-Mohammad-Ali, had been identified by the man’s mother following Monday’s incident at the Greater Tehran Penitentiary.
“We must wait until medical authorities examine his body before considering further legal steps,” Erfanian-Kaseb said, declining to provide further details of what happened.
The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran quoted a source “with detailed knowledge of the circumstances of Shir-Mohammad-Ali’s death” as saying two male inmates confronted the activist and stabbed him multiple times with a sharp object. The CHRI source said one of the assailants was on death row for murder while the other was jailed for drug-related offenses.
CHRI said Iranian authorities arrested Shir-Mohammad-Ali in July 2018 and charged him with crimes including “insulting the sacred,” “insulting” Iran’s supreme leader and “propaganda against the state.” It said he was sentenced to eight years in prison in February and was awaiting the result of his appeal before his death.
CHRI said it also spoke to Erfanian-Kaseb on Tuesday and cited the lawyer as saying Shir-Mohammad-Ali had been jailed because of content posted by the activist on the Telegram messaging app.
Iranian rights activists previously had reported that Shir-Mohammad-Ali and fellow detained activist Barzan Mohammadi started a more than month-long hunger strike at the Greater Tehran Penitentiary on March 14. The rights activists had published what they said was a letter written by the two detainees, in which the men complained of poor conditions at the prison and threats to their personal safety.
“The prison conditions are unacceptable and the holding of political prisoners like Shir-Mohammad-Ali and Gonabadi Dervishes alongside common criminals is a matter of concern,” Erfanian-Kaseb told VOA Persian. He added that Shir-Mohammad-Ali and Mohammadi had ended their hunger strike after being promised that they would be transferred from the prison.
Iran imprisoned male members of its Dervish religious minority at the Greater Tehran Penitentiary after detaining them in February 2018 during anti-government street protests by Dervishes in Tehran. CHRI said the prison was built in 2015 primarily for holding suspects and inmates convicted of drug-related offenses, but the Iranian judiciary also has used it to “unlawfully” incarcerate activists and dissidents.
Article 69 of the regulations of Iran’s State Prisons Organization says prison inmates are supposed to be housed based on the type and duration of their alleged offense, their character and education level, among other criteria.
“A 21-year-old-person has lost his life in prison for charges that should not even be on the book,” Human Rights Watch Iran researcher Tara Sepehri Far wrote in a Tuesday email to VOA Persian, referring to Shir-Mohammad-Ali. Rather than protect the rights of political prisoners, she said Iranian authorities instead appear to have used the “tactic” of detaining them alongside violent offenders as a way to increase pressure on them.
“There is an urgent need for an investigation at highest judicial level focused on identifying if authorities’ lack of oversight or negligence has played a role in this tragedy,” Sepehri Far said.
There was no comment on Shir-Mohammad-Ali’s death in Iranian state media on Tuesday.
A contemptible amendment to Iran’s code of criminal procedure could effectively strip detainees who are facing punishments such as the death penalty, life imprisonment and amputation, of the right to access a lawyer while they are under investigation, said Amnesty International.
An analysis of the bill published by the organization today details how, if passed, the amended law would permit the prosecution to immediately deprive individuals arrested on “national security” and certain other serious criminal charges of access to a lawyer for 20 days, which could be extended to cover the whole investigation phase. In Iran, those charged with “national security” offences include human rights defenders, journalists and political dissidents targeted solely for the peaceful exercise of their human rights.
“This is a regressive piece of draft legislation which would effectively remove the right to a lawyer in a wide range of criminal investigations and contravene Iran’s obligations under international law. If passed by MPs it would be a crushing blow to Iran’s already deeply defective justice system and could further consolidate patterns of torture and other ill-treatment against detainees to extract forced confessions during interrogations,” said Philip Luther, Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.
“Denial of prompt access to a lawyer is a serious violation of the right to a fair trial in all circumstances, but it is particularly shocking in cases where individuals are at risk of being sentenced to severe or irreversible punishments such as execution, amputation and life imprisonment.”
Denial of prompt access to a lawyer is a serious violation of the right to a fair trial in all circumstances, but it is particularly shocking in cases where individuals are at risk of being sentenced to severe or irreversible punishments such as execution, amputation and life imprisonment
For decades Iranian authorities have failed to ensure that the right to access a lawyer is respected, particularly during the investigation phase.
The proposed amendment is intended to replace an already flawed provision in the Note to Article 48 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. This provision requires individuals facing charges related to “national security” and certain organized crimes to select their lawyer from a list of names approved by the head of the judiciary.
Iranian lawmakers involved with the legal and judicial parliamentary commission had announced in June 2018 that they would look into reforming this law to grant detainees access to a lawyer of their choosing, but instead they have taken a huge step backwards.
“Iranian lawmakers should focus their attention on introducing legal reforms that would strengthen rather than further undermine the right to a fair trial. The Iranian parliament must urgently revise this proposed amendment to bring it into line with Iran’s obligations under international human rights law and guarantee the right of all detainees to access a lawyer of their choice from the time of arrest and at all stages of judicial proceedings, including pre-trial detention, questioning and investigation,” said Philip Luther.
Iran’s legal and judicial parliamentary commission announced on 6 May 2019 that it had a prepared a draft amendment to the Note to Article 48 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which came into force in its current form in 2015. The proposed amendment is expected to be scheduled for a vote in Iran’s parliament in the coming weeks.
Iranian lawyer and women’s rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh’s heartbreaking letters from prison reveal the trauma inflicted on families by the government that claims to protect them.
Nasrin Sotoudeh is a lawyer who has never shied away from doing what’s right in Iran. In her long and impressive career, she has exposed the injustices of the death penalty and campaigned for children’s rights. Most recently, she defied degrading laws that force girls as young as nine to wear a hijab or face prison, flogging or a fine. Nasrin has been sentenced to a total of 38 years and 148 lashes after two unfair trials because she demanded choice for women and girls. She will have to serve 17 years of this sentence.
Nasrin Sotoudeh is also a mother of two. Her commitment to justice and equality for her clients set Iran’s authorities against her. They have thrown her in jail twice: once in 2010 and now again in 2018. Both times, Nasrin was torn from her beloved children – and her children from their brave and loving mother. Over that period, she wrote a number of letters from prison to her son Nima, now aged 11 and her daughter Mehraveh, now 19. As these excerpts show, Nasrin’s anguish at being what she is – someone who must defend what’s right at all costs – makes her question her own choices as a mother. It is an unjust situation wrought not by her choices, but by a repressive government determined to break her. As many would agree, Nasrin is being the best mother she can be, by showing her children that truth and justice are principles worth fighting for – and that being a good mother doesn’t mean choosing between your values and your kids.
Hello my dearest Nima,
Writing a letter to you is so very difficult. How do I tell you where I am when you are so innocent and too young to comprehend the true meaning of words such as prison, arrest, sentence, trial and injustice?
Last week you asked me, “Mummy, are you coming home with us today?” and I was forced to respond in plain view of the security agents: “My work is going to take a while so I’ll come home later.” It is then that you nodded as if to say you understand and took my hand, giving it a sweet, childlike kiss with your small lips.
How do I explain that coming home is not up to me, that I am not free to rush back to you, when I know that you had told your father to ask me to finish my work, so I can come back home? How do I explain to you that no “work” could ever keep me so far away from you?
My dear Nima, in the past six months, I have found myself crying uncontrollably on two occasions. The first time was when my father passed away and I was deprived of grieving and attending his funeral. The second was the day you asked me to come home and I couldn’t come home with you.
My dearest Nima, in child custody cases, the courts have repeatedly ruled that, when it comes to visitation rights, a three-year-old child cannot be left with their father for 24 consecutive hours. This [is] because the courts believe that young children should not be away from their mothers for 24 hours and that such a separation would result in psychological damage to a child.
This same judiciary, however, is ignoring the rights of a three-year-old child under the pretext that his mother is seeking to “act against the national security” of the country.
It goes without saying that I was not seeking in any way to “act against national security” and that, as a lawyer, my only objective has always been to defend my clients under the law.
I want you to know that, as a woman, I am proud of the heavy sentence rendered against me and honoured to have defended many human rights defenders. The relentless efforts by women have finally proven that regardless of whether we support or oppose them, we can no longer be ignored.
Hoping for better days,
To my dearest Mehraveh, my daughter, my pride and joy,
It has been six months since I was taken away from you my beloved children. Throughout these six months we were only allowed to see each other a few times and, even then, in the presence of security agents. During this time, I was never allowed to write to you, to receive a picture, or even meet with you freely without any security restrictions. My dear Mehraveh, you, more than anyone, understand the sorrow in my heart and the conditions under which we were allowed to meet. Each time, after each visit and every single day, I struggle with the notion of whether or not I have taken into consideration and respected my own children’s rights. More than anything, I needed to be sure that you, my beloved daughter, whose wisdom I very much believe in, did not accuse me of violating my own children’s rights.
I once told you: “My daughter I hope you never think that I was not thinking of you or that it was my actions that deserved such punishment… Everything I have done is legal and within the framework of the law.” It was then that you lovingly caressed my face with your small hands and replied: “I know, Mummy… I know…” It was on that day that I was freed of the nightmare of being judged by my own daughter.
My dearest Mehraveh, just like I was never able to disregard your rights and always sought to protect them to my fullest capacity, I was also never able to disregard the rights of my clients.
How could I abandon the scene as soon as I was summoned by the authorities, knowing that my clients were behind bars? How could I abandon them when they had hired me as their legal counsel and were awaiting their trial?
It was my desire to protect the rights of many, particularly the rights of my children and your future, that led me to represent such cases in court. I believe that the pain that our family and the families of my clients have had to endure over the past few years is not in vain. Justice arrives exactly at the time when most have given up hope.
I miss you my dearest and send you one hundred kisses,
Hello my dearest Nima,
I don’t know how to start this letter. How can I forget that this year you have to start school without me and even without your father by your side, and simply tell you that this year is a normal year like any other year? How can I ask you to go to school on time, do your homework, study well and be a good boy until we return?
I would hate to speak such words to you as a mother because I know that in your young life you have had to live through the constant trauma of visiting me in prison, being prohibited from visiting me, and the fear of injustice.
As a mother, I cannot ask you to forget my existence and think to yourself that you do not have a mother at all, just so that I can pursue my work and struggle [for human rights] with a clear conscience. May I never be this cruel to you.
My job as a lawyer, which is under constant attack in Iran, is pulling me – and this time also your father – into the storm of injustice and cowardice that is destroying the community of Iranian lawyers.
These days I am thinking about you constantly, about how lonely you must feel and about our dear Mehraveh, who has made us proud and who is now forced to care for you and be your mother and father at the same time.
I am sending you my tears of love, hoping they make the injustice of our time a little more tolerable for you.
I send you thousands of kisses for I have not seen you in far too long.
Nasrin Sotoudeh was sentenced to an additional ten years — 38 years in total plus 148 lashes — according to her husband. Human rights activists are calling for her immediate and unconditional release.
Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Soutoudeh, was sentenced to an additional 10 years in jail on top of the five-year term she is already serving, her husband said Tuesday.
“She was sentenced to a total of 38 years imprisonment with 148 lashes, five years in jail for the first case and 33 years in prison with 148 lashes on the second charges,” Sotoudeh’s husband, Reza Khandan, told DW noting that she had been told of her sentence while in prison. The new 10-year sentence was the longest of her seven verdicts.
Judge Mohammad Moghiseh, head of Branch 28 at Tehran’s Revolutionary Court, said that Sotoudeh had been sentenced to five years for colluding against the system and two years for insulting Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Reza Khandan, however, said in a conversation with DW that he was not aware his wife had been charged with insulting the leader.
“We do not know the case which Judge Moghiseh is speaking about. My wife has been sentenced to 33 years in a court in absentia. Eight months earlier she had been told that the five-year prison sentence issued earlier would be enforced,” he said.
“Only the longest sentence will be served,” Khandan told AFP by telephone.
Khandan likewise expressed his dismay at the sentencing to The Center for Human Rights in Iran.
“It’s shameful for Iran’s judicial system to issue such a heavy sentence against a human rights activist. This verdict shows that making statements in our country comes with such a high price. This sentence is unjust, illogical and unusual,” he said.
Sign of ‘deepening repression’
The award-winning activist was charged in absentia with espionage and endangering Iran’s national security and was arrested in June 2018. Before her arrest, Sotoudeh, 55, had taken on the cases of several women arrested for appearing in public without headscarves in protest at the mandatory dress code in force in Iran. She began a hunger strike on August 23 from her cell in Evin Prison to protest the charges.
“It is deeply concerning — there is deepening repression,” Javaid Rehman, the United Nations’ top expert on human rights on Iran told reporters on the sidelines of a UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva.
“The state is becoming increasingly intolerant,” the London-based law scholar and human rights lawyer added. The reported conviction, he said, was “a crystal-clear illustration of an increasingly severe state response.”
Sentenced to lashing for defending women
Rehman was not the only human rights activist to have spoken out in Sotoudeh’s defense. Amnesty International called for her immediate and unconditional release, condemning the latest case against Sotoudeh as an “outrageous injustice.”
“Nasrin Sotoudeh has dedicated her life to defending women’s rights and speaking out against the death penalty — it is utterly outrageous that Iran’s authorities are punishing her for her human rights work,” the organization said in a statement.
Iran Human Rights likewise issued a statement. ”Sotoudeh has been sentenced in a Kafkaesque trial severely lacking in international standards of due process,” said executive director Hadi Ghaemi.
“The Iranian Judiciary is punishing Sotoudeh for trying to uphold the rule of law and the right to a fair defense in cases involving defendants facing politically motivated charges,” he added. “First they went after the journalists, activists and dissidents. Now they’re going after their only line of defense.”
Sotoudeh had received the European Parliament’s prestigious Sakharov Prize in 2012 for her work on high-profile cases, including those of convicts on death row for offenses committed as minors. She had previously spent three years in prison after representing dissidents arrested during mass protests in 2009 against the disputed re-election of ultra-conservative president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Iran has arrested more than 100 Christians in the last week, charities report, amid a growing crackdown by the Islamic Republic.
Many of the 114 detained were converts to Christianity from a Muslim background, accused of “proselytising”.
They had to report the history of their Christian activities and were told to cut contact with any Christian groups, according to Open Doors UK, a charity which speaks out on persecution against Christians.
While Christianity has existed in Persia since Christ’s death, many believers fled after the Shah was deposed in a coup and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was installed in the Islamic revolution of 1979.
There are no official records, but there are estimated to be some 350,000 remaining in Iran – some one per cent of Iran’s population, with a rising trend toward converting to Christianity.
Christian advocacy groups report a growing underground evangelical movement in Iran, where they say increasing numbers of people who have become curious about the minority religion.
While worship is permitted under the Islamic Republic’s constitution, conversion to Christianity can be a crime meriting a sentence of more than 10 years imprisonment.
Iran’s powerful mullahs are committed to expanding the influence of Shia Islam and blame “foreign influence” for the conversions.
Some groups say they have reported a worsening of treatment of Christians following the U’s reinstatement of sanctions on Iran.
“There are many reports that this has contributed to the government’s ever-increasing dependence on hardline Islamic ayatollahs, who naturally see Christianity as a threat to their power,” Jeff King, president of International Christian Concern.
“For this reason, it’s not surprising that we’re seeing an increase in Christian persecution.” It has become increasingly common for authorities to arrest worshippers, raid house churches, and confiscate Bibles.
At the end of September, Christians Saheb Fadaie and Fatemeh Bakhteri were also sentenced to 18 and 12 months in prison, respectively.
The two men were found guilty of “spreading propaganda against the regime,” apparently for preaching about the ascendancy of Jesus Christ.
A report released earlier this year by the Commission for International Religious Freedom observed that, “in the past year, religious freedom in Iran continued to deteriorate for both recognised and unrecognised religious groups, with the government targeting Baha’is and Christian converts in particular.”
“This spike in arrests is highly concerning,” said Zoe Smith, head of advocacy at Open Doors. “It follows an established trend of the Iranian government – as the number of converts to Christianity increase, so the authorities place greater restrictions on churches.
“The restrictions are worse for churches seen to be attended by Christians who have converted from Islam. Not only that, but the government is asking unreasonably high bail amounts and seeing longer prison terms for Christians.”
She warned that some Christians disappear from their communities after serving prison sentences. “Church leaders are put under pressure to leave the country or face an arrest,” she said.
“House churches weaken as their members choose to decrease their meeting hours and minimise their activities; some Christians lose the contact with their churches altogether becoming isolated.”
Atena Daemi is an anti-death penalty campaigner and a women’s rights activist serving a seven-year prison sentence in Iran for her peaceful activism. Her crime? Handing out anti-death penalty leaflets and criticizing Iran’s execution record on social media.
In 2014, aged 26 years, Atena was blindfolded and arrested outside her home. For the first 28 days of her detention, she was held in a cell infested with insects and with no toilet. She said her interrogators offered to grant her easier access to the toilet in exchange for her “co-operation”. Unfortunately, this was just the beginning of Atena’s mistreatment.
Later, while serving her seven-year prison sentence, Atena was moved – secretly and unlawfully – to a prison where guards harassed her and encouraged other inmates to attack her. While on hunger strike in May 2017, she coughed up blood, suffered severe weight loss, nausea, vomiting and kidney pain. She now urgently needs specialized medical care, including for a gum condition, which is not available inside prison.
Despite all this, Atena refuses to stop fighting.
These arrests, detentions, threats and intimidations are the sacrifices we need to make to gain our freedom and rights… we should never stop resisting or standing up against oppression. No victory comes easily, and no injustice lasts forever. – Atena Daemi
Atena is an inspiration to human rights defenders in Iran and around the world. And she’s also a regular young woman, who loves nature and spending time outdoors. She must be freed.
Sign this petition, calling on Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to release Atena from prison.
The authorities heavily suppressed the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, as well as freedom of religion and belief, and imprisoned scores of individuals who voiced dissent. Trials were systematically unfair. Torture and other ill-treatment was widespread and committed with impunity. Floggings, amputations and other cruel punishments were carried out. The authorities endorsed pervasive discrimination and violence based on gender, political opinion, religious belief, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity. Hundreds of people were executed, some in public, and thousands remained on death row. They included people who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime.
Freedom of religion and belief
Freedom of religion and belief was systematically violated, in law and practice. The authorities continued to impose codes of public conduct rooted in a strict interpretation of Shi’a Islam on individuals of all faiths. Non-Shi’a Muslims were not allowed to stand as presidential candidates or hold key political offices.
Widespread and systematic attacks continued to be carried out against the Baha’i minority. These included arbitrary arrests, lengthy imprisonment, torture and other ill-treatment, forcible closure of Baha’i-owned businesses, confiscation of Baha’i properties, bans on employment in the public sector and denial of access to universities. The authorities regularly incited hatred and violence, vilifying Baha’is as “heretical” and “filthy”. There were renewed concerns that hate crimes could be committed with impunity after two men who had admitted to killing Farang Amiri because of his Baha’i faith were released on bail in June.
Other religious minorities not recognized under the Constitution, such as Yaresan (Ahl-e Haq), also faced systematic discrimination, including in education and employment, and were persecuted for practising their faith.
The right to change or renounce religious beliefs continued to be violated. Christian converts received harsh prison sentences, which ranged from 10 to 15 years in several cases. Raids on house churches continued.
Gonabadi dervishes faced imprisonment and attacks on their places of worship. A number were arbitrarily dismissed from employment or denied enrolment in universities.
Those who professed atheism remained at risk of arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and other ill-treatment and the death penalty for “apostasy”.
Sunni Muslims continued to report discrimination, including restrictions on holding separate prayers for Eid al-Fitr celebrations and exclusion from high-ranking positions.
In a departure from Iranian law, the Court of Administrative Justice suspended the membership of Sepanta Niknam, a Zoroastrian man, from Yazd’s City Council in October, based on an opinion from the head of Iran’s Guardian Council who said it was against Shari’a law to allow the governance of non-Muslims over Muslims.
At least two people were sentenced to death for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of religion and belief (see below).
Torture and other ill-treatment
Torture and other ill-treatment remained common, especially during interrogations. Detainees held by the Ministry of Intelligence and the Revolutionary Guards were routinely subjected to prolonged solitary confinement amounting to torture.
Failure to investigate allegations of torture and exclude “confessions” obtained under torture as evidence against suspects remained systematic.
The authorities continued to deprive prisoners detained for political reasons of adequate medical care. In many cases, this was done as a deliberate punishment or to extract “confessions”, and amounted to torture.
Prisoners endured cruel and inhuman conditions of detention, including overcrowding, limited hot water, inadequate food, insufficient beds, poor ventilation and insect infestations.
More than a dozen political prisoners at Karaj’s Raja’i Shahr prison waged a prolonged hunger strike between July and September in protest at their dire detention conditions. Some faced denial of medical care, solitary confinement and fresh criminal charges in reprisal.
Cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment
Judicial authorities continued to impose and carry out, at times in public, cruel and inhuman punishments amounting to torture.
Scores of individuals, including children, faced up to 100 lashes for theft and assault as well as for acts that, under international law, must not be criminalized − including extra-marital relationships, attending mixed gender parties, eating in public during Ramadan or attending peaceful protests.
In January, journalist Hossein Movahedi was lashed 40 times in Najaf Abad, Esfahan province, after a court found him guilty of inaccurately reporting the number of motorcycles confiscated by police in the city. In August, a criminal court in Markazi province sentenced trade unionist Shapour Ehsanirad to 30 lashes and six months’ imprisonment for participating in a protest against unjust work conditions.
In February, the Supreme Court upheld a blinding sentence issued by a criminal court in Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad province against a woman in retribution for blinding another woman.
Dozens of amputation sentences were imposed and subsequently upheld by the Supreme Court. In April, judicial authorities in Shiraz, Fars province, amputated the hand of Hamid Moinee and executed him 10 days later. He had been convicted of murder and robbery. At least four other amputation sentences were carried out for robbery.
The authorities also carried out degrading punishments. In April, three men accused of kidnapping and other crimes were paraded around Dehloran, Ilam province, with their hands tied and watering cans used for lavatory washing hung around their necks. Eight men were similarly humiliated in Pakdasht, Tehran province, in July.
In May, a woman arrested for having an intimate extramarital relationship was sentenced by a criminal court in the capital, Tehran, to two years of washing corpses and 74 lashes. The man was sentenced to 99 lashes.
Trials, including those resulting in death sentences, were systematically unfair. There were no independent mechanisms for ensuring accountability within the judiciary. Serious concerns remained that judges, particularly those presiding over Revolutionary Courts, were appointed on the basis of their political opinions and affiliation with intelligence bodies, and lacked legal qualifications.
Fair trial provisions of the 2015 Code of Criminal Procedure, including those guaranteeing access to a lawyer from the time of arrest and during investigations, were routinely flouted. The authorities continued to invoke Article 48 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to prevent those detained for political reasons from accessing lawyers of their own choosing. Lawyers were told they were not on the list approved by the Head of the Judiciary, even though no official list had been made public.
Trials, particularly those before Revolutionary Courts, remained closed and extremely brief, sometimes lasting just a few minutes.
Foreign nationals and Iranians with dual nationality continued to face arbitrary arrest and detention, grossly unfair trials and lengthy imprisonment. The authorities claimed that they were countering foreign-orchestrated “infiltration projects”. In reality, such individuals were often charged with vague national security offences in connection with the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and association.
U.S. sanctions on Iran have inadvertently led to a crackdown on its persecuted Christian community as the ayatollahs move to consolidate their power in the face of growing unrest across the country.
The U.S. on Tuesday re-imposed a wave of robust sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic’s automobile industry, precious metal trade, and a ban on purchasing U.S. dollars.
Meanwhile, the plight of Iran’s persecuted Christian community has become significantly worse over the past few weeks, with the Islamic Republic ramping up prison terms and other judicial actions.
An organization that promotes religious freedom and supports Iran’s repressed Christians, tweeted on Thursday: “A Christian couple have reported that a court in Boushehr has just sentenced them & 10 other Iranian Christians to one year in prison each for ‘Propagating against the Islamic Republic in favor of Christianity.’ This group of Christian converts were arrested on April 7th, 2015.”
Christian website Mohabat News also reported that the Iranian couple, who were part of a group of converts, were charged with “orientation toward the land of Christianity.”
“Getting information on the arrests of Christians is incredibly challenging given the heavily censored nature of Iran, but based on the cases we have been tracking, this is the first time this year that we’ve seen a jail sentence being given based on the charge of ‘inclination to the land of Christianity’,” King said.
“This could be interpreted as a reference to Israel, the birthplace of Christianity and also a country that Iran has adopted a very aggressive stance towards.”