Iran: Open letter to President Hassan Rouhani: Stop the persecution of HRDs

Open Letter
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Paris-Geneva, September 28, 2018

RE: Stop the persecution of human rights defenders

Mr. President,

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), is writing to you to express its deepest concern over the ongoing wave of arbitrary arrests, prosecutions, persecution and judicial harassment of human rights defenders in Iran, including women’s rights defenders.

The Observatory is particularly concerned over the arrest of Mr. Reza Khandan, human rights activist and husband of lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh; Ms. Rezvaneh Mohammadi, Ms. Hoda Amid, Ms. Najmeh Vahedi and Ms. Maryam Azad, four women’s rights defenders involved in various campaigns for the defence of women’s rights, including against the imposition of the hijab; and of Mr. Farhad Mayssami, also involved in the promotion of human rights and opposition to the imposition of the hijab.

Mr. Reza Khandan
Mr. Reza Khandan was arrested on September 4, 2018, at his home in Tehran by agents of the Ministry of Intelligence and subsequently taken to Branch 7 of the Prosecutor’s Office in the capital’s Evin prison. He was detained on charges of “gathering and colluding against national security” (Article 610 of the Penal Code), “spreading propaganda against the system” (Article 500 of the Penal Code), and propagating and promoting disregard for hijab in the society. The Prosecutor’s Office ordered him to deposit bail to the amount of 7,000 million Iranian rial (approximately 55,000 Euros). To date, Mr. Reza Khandan has refused to pay the bail, arguing that he did not commit any offence, and remains detained in Evin prison.

Mr. Reza Khandan has been consistently raising human rights concerns, including the imprisonment of human rights defenders and the prosecution of women who have campaigned against the imposition of the hijab. He had previously been arrested several times, including on June 13, 2018 for a few hours, while protesting the arbitrary detention of his wife, human rights lawyer Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh, in front of Evin prison.

Ms. Rezvaneh Mohammadi
Ms. Rezvaneh Mohammadi was arrested on September 3, 2018, at her home in Tehran by the security forces of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and taken to the IRGC-run Section 2A, within Evin prison. Her phone and other electronic devices were confiscated and her family was not informed of her whereabouts for two days. The authorities did not provide a reason for her arrest and she has since been denied family visits.

Ms. Rezvaneh Mohammadi is a gender studies student who has been promoting gender equality online and participating in gender equality workshops. This is not the first time she suffers judicial harassment. A few months ago, Ms. Rezvaneh Mohammadi was also arrested by the Gorgan city morality police force for not wearing “Islamic clothing”. She was held for one night in a police detention centre and released on bail. She was then acquitted by the Gorgan city court.

Ms. Hoda Amid and Ms. Najmeh Vahedi
Human rights lawyer and women’s rights defender Ms. Hoda Amid, was arrested on September 1, 2018, at her home in Tehran. Ms. Najmeh Vahedi, another women’s rights defender, was also arrested a few hours later on the same day. The authorities did not provide reasons for their arrests. The two women’s rights defenders are known for jointly organising educational workshops on topics related to marriage, women’s rights and the legal status of women in Iran. They have been involved in various campaigns for the defence of women’s rights. They are being held incommunicado in the IRGC-run Section 2A of Evin prison. Ms. Vahedi spent the first 10 days of her detention in solitary confinement. The authorities have not disclosed the charges against the two women, who have also been denied access to lawyers. While Ms. Vahedi has been allowed once to meet her mother, Ms. Amid has been denied family visits to this date.

Ms. Maryam Azad
A women human rights defender very active in the promotion of gender equality from the city of Shiraz, Ms. Maryam Azad was arrested on September 25, 2018, after she boarded a flight at Tehran airport bound for Turkey. The authorities did not provide any reasons for her arrest or disclose charges against her. She is believed to be under incommunicado detention with no access to lawyer in Ward 2A within Evin prison.

Mr. Farhad Mayssami
Mr. Farhad Mayssami was arrested on July 31, 2018, at his office in Tehran, following an order of the Prosecutor’s Office Branch 2 and taken to the Ministry of Intelligence-run Ward 209 within Evin prison. On August 1, Mr. Mayssami started a hunger strike to protest against his detention. He was kept in solitary confinement for 20 days before being transferred to a dormitory ward. A friend of Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh, Mr. Farhad Mayssami was arrested for being in possession of copies of two books - “Small Acts of Resistance” by Steve Crawshaw and John Jackson, and a book on human rights translated by Mohammad Jafar Pouyandeh, a translator and writer assassinated by Ministry of Intelligence agents in 1998 – and a number of badges reading “I am opposed to forced hijab.” He has been charged with “gathering and colluding against national security” (Article 610 of the Penal Code), “spreading propaganda against the system” (Article 500 of the Penal Code), and insulting the hijab as one of the essential sanctities of Islam. Mr. Mayssami was not given access to a lawyer and the authorities refused to allow Mr. Arash Kaykhosravi to act as his lawyer, before the latter was arrested in front of the Parliament on August 18, 2018. [1] The authorities have also refused to allow another lawyer of his choosing, Mr. Mohammad Moqimi, to have access to him. Mr. Mayssami is reportedly still on a hunger strike and his health is deteriorating. On September 26, 2018, he was forcibly transferred by force to Evin prison’s clinic and is being kept incommunicado.

The Observatory calls on you to ensure the immediate and unconditional release of the aforementioned human rights defenders. In the meantime, Iranian authorities should guarantee their physical and psychological integrity. The Observatory also calls on you to instruct the relevant authorities to cease the repression and prosecution of all human rights defenders in Iran.

Lastly, the Observatory urges you to ensure that authorities conform to the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 9, 1998, to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and to all other international human rights instruments to which the country is a state party.

We thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Yours sincerely,

Dimitris Christopoulos Gerald Staberock
FIDH President OMCT Secretary General

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.
To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

Tel and fax FIDH +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
Tel and fax OMCT +41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / +41 22 809 49 29

[1] See the Observatory Urgent Appeal n° IRN 003 / 0818 / OBS 106

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