Open Letter from Mothers of Iranian Political Prisoners

The following letter from Mothers of the Laleh Park in Iran has been addressed to Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein,  United Nationas High Commissioner for Human Rights.

May 2016

Translator Unknown


We Demand an Intensive Investigation on the Violation of Human Rights in Iran and Ask for the Authorities to Be Held Accountable
The systematic violation of human rights in Iran is beyond description and we must find a way to put an end to it. Freedom of thought and expression is virtually non-existent in our country. No dissidents, whether social and political activists, or religious minorities such as Baha’is, Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, Sunni, atheists and people with diverse ethnic backgrounds like Turks, Kurds, Baluch, Turkmen are exempt from the state’s torments. Labour activists, teachers, women, writers, artists and journalists of various organizations, and artists are also prosecuted and pressurized to conform to the state’s ideals. Even families of the victims of oppression are not spared; they are threatened or prevented from employment.
Such injustices have been the foundation of the Islamic government of Iran ever since it was established in 1979 and the same cruelties are continuing in various forms today .Freedom-seekers are brutally oppressed by unjust incarceration, heavy collateral demands for bail, execution and severe physical and psychological torture within and outside prisons. Those who are imprisoned face the risk of dying as a result of a lack of standard prison requirements or negligence of prison authorities. The detainees in Iran lose their physical and mental health, often for the rest of their lives, or die under suspicious circumstances. Some of the prisoners are forced to go on hunger strike to display their opposition to the authorities’ unjust rules and as a result, their health further deteriorates.
Iranian prisons are monitored by three different organizations, the Ministry of Intelligence, the Iranian revolutionary guards, and police forces. As a result, prison sentences, for similar cases, might vary in severity depending on which organization apprehends the offenders. The punitive measures taken by revolutionary guards are comparatively much harsher. The only explanation for the existence of such severe measures is that the government aims to create fear and terror in order to influence the will of the people and prevent activism.
The lack of human rights based laws and respect for human dignity in prisons creates various crises which necessitates a serious investigation of human rights violations in Iranian prisons.
Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein
The situation in Iran is intolerable. We ask that you acknowledge the violation of human rights in Iran. The massacre of political prisoners in the summer of 1988 and the way that the UN disregarded the brutal incident has not been forgotten .We are still pursuing the truth about the haunting tragedy. You have an immense responsibility that is the result of years of struggle, frequent wars among countries and widespread injustice in the world; your responsibility is crucial to prevent the violation of human rights around the world. We would like to request you to not compromise the protection of human rights in Iran for the economic interests of other members.
We realize that social change in any country is a result of the continuous efforts of the people, and in Iran, despite the oppression, the struggle of social and political activists and families of victims continues in various forms and with specific objectives. The government authorities cannot stop people’s resistance to dictatorship.
As we acknowledge the necessity of Iranian people’s efforts in achieving their goals, we also rely on the UN, as well as Iranian and international human rights organizations, and ask them to pressurize the government of Iran and to hold it accountable for its international commitments.
Your assistance can be effective the way the arrival of the Red Cross in 1977 was in preventing the execution of prisoners and in leading to slight improvements of prison conditions.

We Would like You to Urge the Islamic Republic of Iran to Fulfil the Following Demands:
1.    The special rapporteur of the UN (Ahmed Shaheed) should visit Iran immediately and closely investigate the status of human rights, and the condition of prisons, and prisoners.
2.    A detailed and transparent report on the condition of prisons, and on how the detainees are treated, should be provided to the public.
3.    The exact number of political prisoners in all prisons of the country should be known and the length of their sentence, as well as their current condition, should be disclosed to the public.
4.    Accurate and transparent reports regarding all prisons in the country (whether formal, or informal prisons) should be provided to the public.
5.    Defendants should be able to appear in court along with their chosen lawyers.
6.    Death sentences, long prison terms, and heavy collateral demands for bail should be eradicated, and the families of the defendants should not be overburdened.
7.    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights should be adopted; cruel medieval punishments like stoning and flogging, attacking people in their homes and at parties, torturing prisoners for obtaining confessions, and the detention of government critics, should be eradicated.

Ever since this government’s officials came to power in 1979, they have detained, tortured and killed a large number of political prisoners in order to silence the voice of the people who opposed their policies. With the agreement resolution of 598 and the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988, by an order of Ayatollah Khomeini (the Supreme Leader of the time), thousands of political prisoners who had remained in prisons were killed secretly and silently in a most brutal manner. They killed the political prisoners, buried them in mass graves, concealed the evidence of their crimes and created horror, suppression and conformity. All the political activists were either killed, had to escape the country or were isolated. Gradually no opposition was left, while the government authorities boasted making great progress in reconstructing and developing the country.
During the next decade, the 90s, conflicts amongst government authorities regarding the distribution of political power increased and from higher levels of government, some reformists began questioning the absolute power concentrated in the hands of the supreme leader, while on lower levels, women, students, workers, ethnic minorities and others who could no longer tolerate the oppression began pursuing civil rights activities. However, the attempts of these two groups to challenge the existing governmental structure were incomparable, as the government reformists could utilize their power and resources whereas other dissidents had no such means and had to sacrifice their lives for their demands. They faced consequences such as imprisonment, job loss, expulsion from universities and so on. The activists in smaller cities encountered even more adverse challenges.
Government-level reformists were gradually forced out of government, and as a result, they chose to re-establish their positions by running as political candidates in elections. During the presidential elections in 1987, reformists won presidency and tried to gain the majority in assembly, however, due to the lack of provisions for change in the governmental structure, they were unable to achieve reform. Some of the main crimes committed by the government during this period were: the chain murder of Iranian authors, and the attack on Tehran University students in their residence.
In April/May 2001, the reformists regained executive power in government, however, their efforts proved to be futile once again. Mohamad Khatami, the president at that time, stated: “I have been nothing but a facilitator”. In May 2005, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became the Iranian president and the country’s overall stability was severely compromised. He created a massive financial crisis for the country. During this period, reformists were once again attracted to opposition and were attacked by extremists. In May 2009, again with electoral fraud and massive suppression of dissidents, we witnessed the assaulting, killing, imprisoning, and detaining of hundreds of demonstrators. However, Ahmadinejad retained power, and other presidential candidates were placed under house arrest and nothing has been done to change their situation ever since .From 2013 to date, the Islamic government has reached the conclusion that in order to retain power it is essential to use a government that favours neither reformism nor extremism and instead one that is moderate and capable of handling their affairs. Hassan Rouhani met the government’s criteria and became president .On February 25th 2013, a group of moderates gained power in the 10th assembly and many of us ignored the election of those who were involved in the state’s crimes. However, we witnessed the continuation of detaining, capturing, torturing, and attacking the homes of dissidents. As in recent days, we have witnessed the flogging of people in public to create horror in society. These medieval techniques have not merely injured the Ghazvin university students who were celebrating their graduation, but has also injured the workers who were fired from the Agh Darreh gold mine, with similar justifications. Various government institutions do not hesitate to arrest activists who participate in peaceful gatherings; a recent example is the apprehension of Shima Babaie, a 21-year-old girl.
We recognize that all the ruling parties during these years, at some point, have been in power, but all of them have been united in violating human rights. They have not improved anything, or at the very best, have not been able to do anything for improving the status of human rights in Iran, because of the fundamental flaw that exists in the structure of power in the country. Under these circumstances, the government requires to kill, detain, and torture, in order to remain in power. At the same time, when our votes are needed, they try to attract us with deceptive claims and propaganda to preserve their image, and some of us, out of helplessness, accept the illusions, believe in their false promises, and ultimately lose hope– as we realize that they only act in their own interests and people’s peace and comfort is meaningless to them. These are the same people who shamelessly announce that there is no political prisoner in the country and that Iran is a democratic country.
Examples of sentences imposed on activists: Amir Amirgholi: 21 years, Arash Sadeghi: 19 years, Narges Mohammadi: 16 years, Alireza Golpour: 39 years (was reduced to 15 years), Athena Daemi: 14 years, Mahmoud Beheshti Langroodi: 14 years, Omid Alishenas: 10 years, Mahmoud Salehi: 9 years, Golrokh Ebrahimi Iriaayie: 6 years, Ismaeal Abdi: 6 years, Jafar Azimzadeh: 6 years, Davoud Razavi: 5 years, Behnam Mosivand: 1 year (and two years of probation), Naveed Kamran: 1 year, Reza Shahabi: 1 year, Osman Ismaili: 1 year, and many others cases that cannot be listed. Currently, Arash Sadeghi and Golrokh Iriaayie’s sentences are confirmed and they are expected to be imprisoned. Omid Alishenas and Athena Daemi have been released on heavy collateral bail, while they wait for the appeal court. The prisoners whose families cannot afford the heavy collateral demands for bail have to remain in jail waiting for the court of appeals. This is the case of Zeinab Jalali who has lost sight in one of her eyes in jail.
Critical Conditions in Prisons
–    Keeping prisoners waiting for their trials in uncertain situations indefinitely.
–    Lack of life security and healthcare in prisons.
–    Torturing and persecuting prisoners to obtain false confessions.
–    Prisoners attempting hunger strikes for achieving their fundamental rights.
–    There has been an unprecedented increase in execution in the last two years.
–    A large increase in the number of political and non-political prisoners (200 thousand as indicated by government records)
–    Inhumane conditions for transgender prisoners in the Evin prison.
–    The usage of torture, particularly in the prisons of smaller cities.
–    Imprisonment, torture, and execution of children.
Prisoners are deprived of life security and healthcare, and their cases are kept undecided for a long time. For instance, in the case of Afsaneh Bayazidi who was arrested on April 25th by security agents, no organization has taken the responsibility for her apprehension (the mother of this Kurd citizen is extremely worried about her daughter). Oftentimes, prison authorities use extreme forms of torture to obtain false confessions. In the case of Ahmed Tamooei, who has been tortured since 2007, and many other prisoners, healthcare, nutrition, and medical support has been appalling. Detainees have been compelled to go on hunger strike for receiving medical support and forcing authorities to clarify their sentences.
We witnessed that after 23 days of Mahmoud Beheshti Langroodi’s hunger strike, he could only temporarily be freed by bail.
Ismeal Abdi was also released on bail after 17 days of hunger strike, but Jafar Azim Zadeh, who also went on strike along with him, is still on hunger strike in an uncertain critical condition. Other prisoners face similar hardships. MohammadAmin Agoshi, who has been detained and kept under harsh prison conditions for 8 years despite his illness, was sent from Zahedan prison to Tabriz prison. Arash Mokri, who has been in solitary confinement for over 2 months, has been on hunger strike since April 16th, as well. Mohammad Sadiq Kaboudvand, head of the Kurdistan Human Rights Organization, has been on hunger strike since May 10th and is in critical condition. Amnesty International reported on April 11th that Saeed Shirzad, Afshin Baymany, Masoud Arab Chobdar, Farid Azmodeh, Iraj Hatami, Behzad Tarahmoi, and other political prisoners at Rajai-Shahr prison were on hunger strike. They demanded that the political prisoners should be separated from non-political prisoners. Ramezan Ahmad Kamal, Syrian prisoner and Saeed Sadaghi are also political prisoners on hunger strike with various demands.
Abbas Lesani, an Azeri activist, was exiled to AdelAbaad prison in Shiraz and was on hunger strike from May 20thuntil May 26th when he was released on bail. Simultaneously Ayaat MehrAlibeiglou, Rasol Razavi, Hossein Alimohammadi and Morteza Moradpour in Tabriz central jail, MeisamJolanee, Morteza Parvin, Mostafa Parvin, Tohid Amir Amini, Saleh Pichghanlou, and Mohsen Mohsenzadeh in Ardebil prison, Dr. Latif Hasani in Rajaieeshahr prison were on hunger strike in solidarity with Abbas Lesani to oppose the false allegations that prevented his release from jail on time.
Ehsan Mazandarani, an imprisoned journalist, has been on hunger strike since May 18thin Evin prison. Heshmat Tabarzadi, a political activist who was again arrested recently, is on hunger strike in Evin prison, as reported by his family. Rasol Razavi, an Azeri activist, has been on strike in Tabriz central prison since 11 days ago to protest against the process of his apprehension and trial. Mariam Naghash Zargaran, a prisoner of conscience, has been on hunger strike in the women’s ward of Evin prison since May 26th to protest against the lack of medical care and conditional release, as well as the rejection of her request for leave. She has been ill and is in critical condition. Mohammad Abdollahi, a political prisoner sentenced to death in Uromieh central prison, has been on an open-ended hunger strike, since May 30th, to protest against his unjust sentence and the way his case has been handled. The same goes for many other unknown detainees whose conditions are unclear to us.
We keep hearing that prisoners are afflicted with detrimental diseases due to harsh prison conditions and the subsequent hunger strikes. Currently, Omid Kokabi, who has been sentenced to ten years for not accepting to participate in the military programs of the Iranian government, has developed kidney cancer. He recently underwent a kidney removal surgery (on May 26th, Omid received a two-week medical leave on half a billion Iranian toman bail).Afsheen Sohrabzadeh, who was exiled to Minaab prison, is also facing critical health conditions due to the development of colon cancer, however, the prison’s authorities are avoiding to send him to any hospitals outside of the prison. Under these circumstances, he went on hunger strike having sewn lips. Alireza Golpour, a security prisoner, is also afflicted with cancer. Hossein Ronaghi, who also was in a critical condition, was temporarily released on May 6th after 41 days of a hunger strike. Saeed Hosseinzadeh, despite struggling with various diseases and receiving a prison-administered certificate which indicates that he is unable to withstand the prison’s punishment, was denied leave by prison authorities. Ali Moazi and Abdol Fattah Soltani are also afflicted with various diseases. Haadi Ghaemi and Morteza Rahim Tayfeh, two elderly prisoners who are unwell in the Evin prison and Jaber Sakhravi in the Ahvaz prison, have been deprived of essential medical care.
Narcotics in Prisons
We have been informed that government authorities distribute addictive drugs in the Gohardasht prison.A few prisoners like Behnam Jafarzadeh and Arjang Davoodi have become aware of this plot, and thus have been persecuted. This implies that the government aims to trap prisoners in drug addiction so that they become unable to pursue political activities after being released. Gohardasht prison is only one of these types of prisons and the same issue exists in other prisons in the country.
·       Unjust sentences should be cancelled immediately and political prisoners should be released unconditionally and without bail.
·       The death penalty should be abolished.
·       A comprehensive and transparent report about the judiciary system, revolutionary courts and public security agencies, should be released to the public.
·       Mostafa Pourmohammadi and all those who have been involved in crimes should be removed from their positions.
·       The Islamic Penal Code should be revoked and the accused should be tried under internationally accepted regulations and not on ideology-based rules. Freedom of thought and expression should be recognized. All judgments should be made transparently and without discrimination.
·       An independent judiciary should be established based on the will of the people.
·       Conditions of prisons and prisoners should be investigated. The decision-making bodies should be unified and prison conditions should be regulated by internal public organizations under the supervision of specialized UN reporters

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