Prisons and human rights in Iran

Article published on July 7, 2016
Article published on July 7, 2016

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

Par Dominique Hollard

Within what we commonly call the Concert of nations, human life seems to matter less in some of those nations than in others. Following that logic, a terror attack in Iraq, even if it claims over 200 deaths, won't cause much of a stir, while the same attack, set in the West, will arouse horrified reactions of the press and of the international community. As though emotion ought to follow a certain hierarchy before being voiced. Thus do our grand democracies care about the rest of the world. Everyday, the Iranian people suffers from such a stance. It has to weather the harshness of the fascist laws of a regime that is only republican by name, while our nations, who like to present themselves as heralds of human rights, rush to sign juicy contracts with its  persecuters. Money comes before the human factor...

It is high time, as multinational corporations are making billions after the partial lift of international sanctions on Iran, to remind our elites that life should always come first. It is hight time to acknowledge those women, teenagers and men who struggle for their right to live, day after day.  

Sara Akhlaghi

Sara Akhlaghi is a young woman from Chiraz, in southern Iran. She designs wedding gowns and sells them online, which displeases the mullahs. Her internet account was blocked, her house was put under sceal by security agents, and she was called before a tribunal on June 16th, on the grounds that the pictures on her website were obscene and encouraged others to break public decency rules. She was arrested on the day of her trial, and no one has heard from her case since then. 

Maryam Naghash Zargaran

Maryam Naghash Zargaran is a so-called "prisoner of conscience", she needs regular medical attention since her heart operation nine years ago and also struggles with a type of autism. She started a hunger strike on May 26th in order to protest against the way she is treated in jail. She wasn't even allowed a sip of water during the first four days of her strike, and while she was taken to the prison's clinic after she fainted, none of her health requests were taken into account for 11 days. International pressure finally paid off... for a while. She was granted a sick leave, but the Tehran's prosecutor refused to prolong it.

Farzad Bizhani and Farhad Souri

Farzad Bizhani and Farhad Souri are two Iranian prisoners waiting on death row. While the Ramadan month is traditionally seen as a month for tolerance, kindness and generosity, the government, which some still dare call "moderate", won't soften its harsh posture. Ironically, those men were imprisonned on the very day of the visit of Iranian Foreign Affaire minister, Javad Zarif, in France and in the Netherlands, on June 22nd. Around the same time, three people were sentenced to hand amputation for theft. 

Hassan Sadeqi

Hassan Sadeqi is a political prisoner like so many others in Iran.  In a letter he managed to send the UN, he denounced the conditions of his incarceration. He and his wife are being held in two different jails (he's in Gohardasht, she's in Evin) for 15 years, on the grounds that they supported the Iranian opposition movement, the People's Mujahedin of Iran. He is not allowed to visit his wife or even to make phone calls. His son was also arrested for trying to get in touch with him to check in his health. Torture and violation of fundamental rights are common practice in Iranian jails: they are the norm, and thousands of people pay the price for it.

Hossein Rajabian, Mehdi Rajabian and Yousef Emadi

Mehdi Rajabian and Yousef Emadi are musicians. Hossein Rajabian is a film director. The three of them were sentenced to six years in jail for having "insulted holy Muslim sites", for "propaganda against the state", and for having led illegal activities in audiovisual media, including producing forbidden material and designing an illegal underground music website.  Even though the sentence was reduced to three years after appeal, it is unimaginable to think of artistic expression as a crime. Artists are being consistently silenced in the mullahs' regime, and they were asked to make public excuses for broadcasting female singers. 

And everyone else…

All those cases aren't unique, unfortunately. You could fill a phone book's worth with them. And yet, the government of  "moderate Hassan Rohani", in spite of international human rights regulations, continues terrorizing its people. Worse even, while those men and women are sitting in jail, are being harassed, tortured, amputated or executed, Western leaders keep on welcoming their Iranian counterparts in comfortable rooms in order to discuss the next trade agreement, investment, or financial growth.

As the 270 Euro-deputees who signed the declaration in condamnation of the repeated violations of human rights by Iran stated again and again, there can be no economic agreements without human right respect. 

On July 9th, at Le Bourget, over 70 international commissions will step to the podium to renew their commitment to democracy, freedom of speech and religion, and to the respect of human rights in Iran. It is most important that our leaders listen to the voices of their people. It is incumbent upon us, freedom lovers, to give our imprisoned brothers and sisters a voice, and to join the meeting on July 9th. Our voices and hearts will carry that message, so strong, powerful and united, that our representatives will have to take it into account.