Open Letter To Ahmad Shaheed; Freedom Movement of Iran – Abroad (FMI)

This article was last updated on April 16, 2022

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Members of one of the oldest political parties in Iran, the Freedom Movement of Iran(FMI) – abroad (Nehzat e Azadi Iran – NAI) has sent an open letter to Ahmad AShaid.

General situation of the human rights in Iran has been reminded to Mr. Shahid & in some cases, FMI – abroad has highlighted some individual cases.

One part of this letter says : “Honorable Dr. Shaheed, the most urgent of all tasks is condemning the regime for denying health care to its political prisoners. Mir Hossein Musavi, Mehdi Karoubi, Sayyed Ali Asghar Gharavi, Mostafa Tajzadeh, Abdollah Momeni, Keivan Samimi and Hossein Ronaghi Maleki are just a few examples of political prisoners who desperately need medical attention. Denial of health care to these individuals and others is against international law and conventions and considered a crime in and of itself.”

Complete text of this letter :

Honorable Dr. Ahmad Shaheed

United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran
OHCHR-Palais Wilson
United Nations Office at Geneva
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Honorable Dr. Ahmad Shaheed,
The 2013 Iranian presidential election brought with it the hope that Iran could improve its relations with the rest of the world, mend its differences with the international community and the West in-particular regarding its nuclear program, attempt to ameliorate the state of its economy after years of sturdy sanctions and enhance its human rights by recognizing the rights of dissent and citizenship. Although the Rouhani government has started to work on many of these issues, the human rights of Iranians in various areas continue to be neglected and undermined by the Iranian theocratic regime. In collaboration with various institutions that are directly and indirectly in charge of the security of the nation, the judiciary system of the country has not only continued but also increased its disregard for the basic rights of Iranian citizens in recent months by intimidating, arresting, and jailing them, as well as neglecting the health conditions of prisoners and torturing those who contest the endorsed ideological dictum and oppose the regime’s policies. The unrestricted authority of Iran’s leadership along with its unresponsiveness to its people has created an environment of distrust toward the regime and exasperation among the public.

The most recent victim of the theocratic regime in Iran is Dr. Sayyed Ali Asghar Gharavi, a 68 year old religious scholar, social thinker, political activist and a member of the Freedom Movement of Iran (FMI), who differentiated in an article the spiritual and political leadership in Shiite doctrine. In this article, “Imam, a Political Leader or Religious Role Model,” which was published in October in the daily reformist newspaper, Bahar , he argued that religious leadership should be distinguished from political leadership and the latter should be only elected by people and not selected. This position, the distinction between the two, was held, emphasized and advocated by the current Supreme leader of Iran before he was chosen by the Assembly of Experts for his new position after the death of Ayatullah Khomeini in 1989. The Bahar daily was closed down and Dr. Ali Asghar Gharavi was arrested and has been imprisoned since then. This is the sixth time that Dr. Gharavi has been arrested for his religious and political views after the revolution by the theocratic regime of Iran.

All political prisoners of Iran are prisoners of conscience and have a faith similar to Dr. Ali Asghar Gharavi; they have either opposed the policies of the regime or rejected the establishment version of religion and its teachings. After the fraudulent election of 2009, the authoritarian regime of Iran produced more animosity and distrust among the Iranian people aimed at itself. The regime also increased its distrust toward the public. The bond of trust was broken between the regime and the people because the regime responded violently to the legitimate concern of the people over issues which questioned the legitimacy of a free and fair election. Since then, the people have taken advantage of any opportunity and opening to participate in the national politics with the goal of imposing their will on the regime to change the course. Dr. Hassan Rouhani was elected by the majority of the Iranians for that purpose and with the intention to facilitate reform in the political institutions of the country.

The Iranian judicial system which is directly under the influence of the Supreme Leader, Ayatullah Ali Khamenei, and is only accountable to him, has several fundamental credibility problems that have raised question about its integrity and impartiality in the execution of justice. First, there is not a precise definition of legitimate legal political activities or political culpability and illegal political undertakings. The regime and its judicial system accuse anyone who opposes the policies of the regime and its ideology with two primary labels; making and propagating false allegations against the regime and encouraging the public opinion against the regime. These two accusations mostly constitute the foundation of the regime’s charges against political dissent in Iran. A decree by Ayatullah Khamenei argues and explains that people are forbidden to expose corruption of the regimes’ authorities. Exposure of the authorities, according to him, is considered anti-Islamic and a sin since that may lead to questioning of the legitimacy and trust for the regime. Political prisoners of Iran are paying a heavy price for this decree. The regime still considers itself immune to any criticism.

Second, in the judicial system of Iran, individuals are accused by the regime without a convincing argument or sufficient evidence. The accused are responsible for proving their innocence. Although highly emphasized in the Islamic faith, the concepts of judicial integrity, fairness of the process and respect for the rights of the accused, do not have any standing in Iran. A prisoner can stay in prison for years without a trial because he is accused by the regime and he or she cannot prove his or her innocence by navigating the current judicial system the regime has established. The whole process is political and lacks integrity and fairness. It is completely incompatible with the fair processes existing in countries that respect the rule of law and the notion of justice. There are prisoners who have been convicted and served their terms but who are still in prison. Abdolfattah Soltani, a brave lawyer who is still in jail after serving his term but who has not yet been released because the regime has ruled that his defense was not up to the expected standards. His defense has been challenged by the judge mostly because the judge is political and not equipped with the appropriate legal training with which Mr. Soltani is prepared. There are many cases in which the regime keeps prisoners in jail without offering them a chance for a fair trial. The leadership of the Green Movement, including Mir Hossein Musavi, his wife Zahra Rahnavard and Mehdi Karoubi, have remained imprisoned for the last three years in a house maintained by the security forces affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard and the intelligence ministry. These houses are designed mostly with psychological torture in mind as prisoners are kept separated and completely in isolation from the public. Visitation rights are denied to these prisoners and under rare conditions they may be visited by their relatives and loved ones. The Green Movement’s leadership has been denied access to a fair trial and has not been charged officially in any court but remains accused by the regime. These individuals continue to wait for the opportunity to defend themselves.

In reaction to reports published by various human rights organizations, the head of the Judiciary, Sadiq Larijani, claimed in early December that “arresting people without proof and keeping political prisoners without trial is a lie.” The families of many political prisoners responded to Mr. Larijani in a letter accusing him of deception, masking the truth and trying to mislead Iranians and the international community by obscuring the reality of what is taking place in the prisons of Iran. In this letter, they accused Iran’s judiciary system with keeping the leadership of Iran’s Green Movement in jail without offering them a fair trial.

Third, the courts tasked with cases related to political activism are convened without allowing prisoners and their families to take advantage of the constitutional rights of the accused in having access to a jury trial. In these courts, the judges are also the prosecutors. The rights to a defense with a lawyer and using the expertise of lawyers are limited. Lawyers representing these clients are not allowed access to all the information related to their client’s cases, are threatened occasionally and jailed in some cases. Typically, the judges are not properly equipped with apposite training, and they are ill-informed about civil laws. The best example in this regard was the notorious Judge Saiid Mortazavi who was politically motivated to give harsh sentences to critics of the government, to close down reformist newspapers via his instructions, to torture and kill prisoners under the jurisdiction of the judicial system such as the Iranian-Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi in July 2003, to participate in the torturing of detainees in Kahrizak prison after the fraudulent election in 2009. He is currently charged with massive corruption during his time leading the Social Welfare Organization under the presidency of Ahmadinejad. This only became possible as Mortazavi’s fortune changed with his support of the previous unpopular president and his use of his patronage for his own good. The verdicts in these courts are not decided by the judges but by the interrogators. Interrogators decide how long a political activist should stay behind bars. Emad Bahavor, a political activist, a member of the Freedom Movement of Iran (FMI) and an organizer for Mr. Mussavi’s 2009 presidential campaign, was arrested in 2010. He was sentenced to ten years imprisonment in 2010. He appealed recently after the election of the new president and finally the court decided to lessen his sentence. He had served more than three years of his sentence when the judge in the appeal court decided to reduce his sentence. The new attorney general, Mr. Pourmohammadi, announced to Mr. Bahavor’s family that he would serve a few less years, but his interrogators who are linked to a hardline predilection within the security forces of the country and the intelligence ministry did not agree, resulting in the judiciary’s later announcement that Mr. Bahavor must serve his full term. One of these interrogators under the alias name, Mahdavi, is currently in charge of interrogating and sentencing many of the political prisoners.

Fourth, Iran’s political prisoners are tortured, the evidence of which was exposed in the Kahrizak case following the 2009 election. In this case, male political prisoners were abused sexually, three lost their lives and many were treated in a manner well outside the scope of societal norms. But another kind of torture that almost all political prisoners endure is their detention in houses by the security forces. These houses are totally isolated from the rule and oversight of the public prison system and prisoners are kept in total isolation from the rest of the society. Many prisoners wish they could do their time in the notorious Evin prison because they would then be with other prisoners and have more freedom to communicate with others and receive visitors. With security houses, prisoners are stripped of every basic right, including the right to be visited on a regular basis by their families and loved ones. Prisoners in these security houses are kept totally isolated and disconnected from the news and other developments in the country. The prisoners in these security houses are kept in dark rooms while the windows are covered, preventing prisoners from seeing outside and receiving sunlight inside.

Occasionally, the families of these prisoners are treated disrespectfully and harshly when attempting to visit. In November of this year, the daughters of Green Movement leader Mir Hossein Mousavi were beaten outside the house in which their parents were being detained. Unfortunately, Mr. Musavi and Mrs. Rahnavard were painfully witnessing this beating from the windows of the security house, powerless to stop it.

Treatment of political prisoners’ families has reached new levels. Mohammad Amin Hadavi, the son of Mehdi Hadavi who was a well-respected prosecutor general of Iran under the provisional government of late Mehdi Bazargan, was arrested in 2010 for his contact with leading figures of the Green Movement, their families and the victims of atrocities committed by the regime after the 2009 election. He was sentenced to six years imprisonment for what was described by the regime as a crime against the state. His son was also later arrested for no obvious reasons while his father was serving his time in Evin prison. The security apparatus decided to put more pressure on the father by arresting his son. Mohammad Amin Hadavi started and endured a sixty day hunger strike before his son was released. He wrote a letter in early December of this year to Sadegh Larijani, the head of the judiciary system of Iran, accusing him of impartiality and unfairness within the system while under his supervision.

Fifth, another ultimate torture that Iranian political prisoners endure is their lack of access to timely, correct and applicable healthcare. Although there is a strong tradition of and instruction on respecting the rights of those who are under the control and protection of the political authorities in Islam, these rights are malevolently denied to political prisoners in Iran. In June 2011, Hoda Reza zadeh Saber, a political activist who was imprisoned in Evin prison, was on a hunger strike and needed immediate access to healthcare because of his rapidly declining health as a result of internal bleeding. He was denied critically needed access to healthcare and subsequently lost his life. Currently, there are many political prisoners who desperately need access to healthcare facilities. Sayyed Ali Asghar Gharavi, Mustafa Tajzadeh, Abdullah Momeni, Keivan Samimi and Hossein Ronaghi Maleki are among the most critically ill prisoners who need care urgently. Gharavi has been suffering from various illnesses including neurological and back pain problems at the age of sixty eight. Tajzadeh has been kept in solitary confinement for the last three years and has been treated harshly during his imprisonment. He lives with atrocious chronic back pain and is denied proper care. Ronaghi Maleki has an internal bleeding and kidney problem, and Momeni is very much dealing with various illness as a result of years of imprisonment and lack of access to proper care. The health conditions for many prisoners became so critical that in November this year four political prisoners, including Abdolfattah Soltani, Saiid Madani, Mehdi Khodaii and Amir Khosrow Dalirsani, went on a hunger strike in protest to the inhumane health treatment of fellow prisoners. Limited access to healthcare always accompanies limitations on visitations by family and friends of prisoners. In cases where family members are able to visit and witness prisoners’ deplorable health first hand, they are threatened for disseminating the news of widespread, chronic illness among prisoners to media inside and outside of the country.

Honorable Dr. Shaheed: Iran’s political prisoners need the support of the United Nations, human rights organizations and the international community. They need their voices heard and avenues through which they may share their stories of anguish with the world. Iran’s regime intended to gradually solve its international relations problems through a newly elected president, but the domestic politics and policies of this regime have not moved toward recognition of the rights of Iran’s citizens. Since the election of the new president, Dr. Hassan Rouhani, the theocratic regime and its security institutions have collaborated with the judicial system, the Revolutionary Guard and the Basij to intensify pressure on Iranian citizens and the country’s weak civil society. The Revolutionary Guard has established its own intelligence organization, the Guard Intelligence Organization, and autonomously gathers intelligence information and imposes its control, influence and prerogatives throughout the country’s politics via various established security forces. This is the same organization that in 2011 closed BBC offices in Iran and put pressure on the families of Iranians who worked for the BBC both domestically and abroad. The Guard and its security forces have gone far beyond the control of the government in punishing political prisoners through their random executions of justice and killing of prisoners. In November, three Kurdish political prisoners, Habibullah Golparipour, Reza Esmaili and Shirkoo Maarefi were executed. Iran’s president denounced the act and made it known that he opposed it, but the Guard and its affiliated security forces have not shown any remorse. Prior to this incident, similar instances occurred in Baluchestan. Iran’s new president and his government are genuinely trying to bring calm to Iranian society by restoring security among the public, especially after the environment of intimidation that followed the 2009 fraudulent election. During this time, the security forces and the institutions comprising Iran’s police state promoted and established a sense of trepidation among the people. Today, the Judiciary, the Guard and its security forces continuously try to embarrass and discredit the government. The execution of political prisoners by the security forces has been increased since the June election. Those who commit this crime, do it with complete immunity.

December 7th was the anniversary celebrating the Day of Students (Rooz Daneshjoo-16 Azar). Thousands of reformist students representing various universities in Iran celebrate this day by condemning authoritarian rule. This was the first time after eight years of political suppression and intimidation under Ahmadinejad’s presidency that these students were able to participate in various gatherings that marked the day. The country’s president, Mr. Rouhani, spoke at the University of Beheshti and announced that students are the “guardians of science and politics.” He also told students that it is their right to actively participate in their nation’s politics. He said, “Universities are not the home to the political parties but the places to experiment politics.” He condemned dictatorship and the environment of fear and intimidation. Four brave student political prisoners, Hassan Asadi Ziedabadi, Emad Bahavor, Abdollah Momeni and Bahareh Hedayat, wrote a letter from their prison cells to students in all Iranian universities and asked them to be, “a force for change and the direct and sincere language of criticism of authoritarianism. Be the vanguard of democracy and a nationally represented government. Defend academic freedom and commit yourself to the causes of democracy, human rights and opposition to authoritarianism in government.” Students have been the vanguard of democracy and human rights in Iran, and they have paid a heavy price in this pursuit. Many students have been expelled from their universities, especially in the last ten years, and denied their right to education. In recent years, many university professors who supported the Green Movement were either expelled or forced to retire. Universities have been attacked by the security forces several times. One example comes from 1999 when Akbar Mohammadi, Ebrahim Lotfollahi, Mobina Ehterami, Fatemeh Barati, Kambiz Shoaii, Iman Namazi and Kasra Sharghi became the victims of such an attack and lost their lives either as a direct result of the attack on the university or due to the torture they were subjected to while in jail. After the 2009 election and the subsequent brutal attacks carried out by security forces in the streets and universities, the number of students who lost their lives in such a tragic manner increased. Students who have lost their lives now include Naser Amirnejad, Mostafa Ghanian, Ashkan Sohrabi, Yaghob Barvayeh, Kianoosh Asa, Masoud Hashem Zadeh, Ali Fathalian, Farzad Jashni, Amir Arshad Tajmir, Pooya Maghsood Beiki, Mohammad Javad Parnadakh, Sanea Zhaleh, Mohammad Mokhtari, Hamed Nourmohammadi, Amir Yousefzadeh, Behnood Ramazani, and Amir Javadi Far and Mohsen Rouh al-Amini, who both lost their lives in Kahrizak prison as a result of the torture they endured.

The following is only a brief list of the current political prisoners incarcerated in Iran. They are jailed because of their political views and activities, ideology and religion. In addition to the Green Movement’s leadership, including Mir Hossein Musavi, Zahra Rahnavard and Mehdi Karoubi, most of the following individuals were arrested and imprisoned during the aftermath of the 2009 fraudulent election. Their names are Hasan Asadi Zidabadi, Besmeh al-Jabouri, Amir Eslami, Reza Entesari, Akbar Amini, Kobra Banazadeh, Emad Bavor, Omid Behroozi, Ghorban Behzadian Neghad, Masoud Pedram, Mostafa Tajzadeh, Majid Tavakkoli, Nader Jani, Amin Chalaki, Mehdi Khodai, Amir Khorram, Mostafa Daneshjoo, Mohammad Davari, Majid Dorri, Hootan Dowlati, Mahdieh Golroo, Mohammad Amin Hadavi, Faran Hesami, Sayyed Ahmad Hashemi, Reihaneh Hajj Ibrahim Dabbagh, Zeinab Jalalian, Mohammad Sadegh Rabbani Amlashi, Alireza Rajaii, Fatemeh Rahnema, Mohammad Rezaii, Hossein Ronaghi Maleki, Mostafa Risman Baf, Abdolfattah Soltani, Sayyed Mohammad Seifzadeh, Keivan Samimi, Arvin Sadaghat Kish, Abolfazl Abedini, Mostafa Abdi, Behzad Arab Gol, Siamak Ghaderi, Abolfazl Ghedyani, Afshin Karampoor, Hamid Karvasi, Jafar Ganji, Masood Laddoni, Shabnam Madadzadeh, Hamid Reza Moradi, Mohsen Mohagheghi, Saiid Madani, Mehdi Moatamedi Mehr, Abdollah Momeni, Mohsen Mirdamadi, Nasoor Nahhi Pour, Behzad Nabavi, Zia Nabavi, Mostafa Nili, Maryam Sahifiipoor, Hakimeh Shokri, Farshid Yadollahi and Mohammad Hasan Yousef Poorseifi.

Among this list of names, there are a prime minister, speaker of parliament, minister, members of the previous parliament, vice-ministers, lawyers, university professors and students, journalists, bloggers, engineers, owners of business and professionals. They all share the same opposition to the regime’s policies and politics. They are true advocates of democracy and human rights. A few played a pivotal role in Iran’s previous governments and governing institutions after the Iranian revolution. When a system imprisons its previous prime minister and speaker of parliament just because they question the legitimacy of an election, there is something fundamentally wrong with that system. Only authoritarian regimes who do not value freedom and human dignity resort to the intimidation, arrest, torture, and execution of their own critics.

Honorable Dr. Shaheed, Iran’s current regime has established a police state that it has come to rely on gradually and more heavily during the years of unlawful brute force perpetrated by its security apparatus in an attempt to govern at any expense. Through this process, rights are denied, anguish over insecurity is increased and society is left with less and less democratic institutions that are meant to encourage broad participatory politics. The history of authoritarian regimes tells us that they cannot continue to rule arbitrarily forever and deny their citizens their basic rights as citizens. Their reliance on force and lack of appreciation for justice and the individual’s rights have fostered an environment in which they are the target for much distrust and animosity. The majority of Iranians distrusts this regime and questions its legitimacy to hold power. As a critical country in the Middle East with abundant intellectual and mineral resources, those who live in this nation deserve a government that responds to their aspirations for a viable democratic system respecting the rule of law, human dignity and rights, and democratic norms. As an organization fighting for these norms since the 1960’s, we urge you to push for the realization of genuine human rights for all Iranians and the condemnation of Iran’s theocratic regime for violating these rights and denying the Iranian people’s aspirations and dignity.

Honorable Dr. Shaheed, the most urgent of all tasks is condemning the regime for denying health care to its political prisoners. Mir Hossein Musavi, Mehdi Karoubi, Sayyed Ali Asghar Gharavi, Mostafa Tajzadeh, Abdollah Momeni, Keivan Samimi and Hossein Ronaghi Maleki are just a few examples of political prisoners who desperately need medical attention. Denial of health care to these individuals and others is against international law and conventions and considered a crime in and of itself.

The Iranian regime should be held to its responsibilities as a sovereign government, including respecting the rule of law. There are many families in Iran who have lost detained loved ones through torture or disappearance while the government remains unaccountable for such heartless actions. There are many parents and mothers who want justice served for the killers of their children but are hindered from doing so by the regime. Recently, the regime and judiciary denied the mother and family of Sattar Beheshti, a blogger who lost his life in prison in 2011, the right to bring justice to the murderer of their son. You must push for this accountability and condemn Iran for its callousness in this regard.

Iran’s prisoners have the right to a fair trial under all circumstances. This right is denied to all political prisoners, especially to the leadership of the Green Movement. Your organization must condemn the Iranian regime’s violations of these rights. The majority of Iranians and supporters of the Green Movement are completely convinced that the Green Movement’s leadership can defend itself adeptly if given the chance to do so in a court that is monitored by international observers.

Lastly, we expect the United Nations and your office to urge the Iranian government to release all political prisoners. Over the last eight years and before the new president was elected, the Iranian government and the regime collaborated on the suppressive measures against Iran’s citizens. An illegitimate government under Ahmadinejad came to power through a fraudulent election supported by the regime and had a life-preserving interest in supporting the security forces, the Guard and Basijis in order to suppress dissent. The current government under president Rouhani is very much committed to the restoration of democratic norms, human rights and dignity in Iranian society. The time is ripe for pressure on the regime in Iran to commit itself to rule of law and accountability in government. We sincerely hope that you will intensify your efforts in the case of Iran as the payoff will be tremendous for Iranians, the region and the global community as a whole.

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