The International Emergency Campaign to Free Iran’s Political Prisoners Now was inspired by and formed in solidarity with the Call for unity from supporters, friends, and families of Iran’s political prisoners and the “Burn the Cage, Free the Birds” movement in Europe to free Iran’s political prisoners (@burnthecage on Instagram).  It builds off a Statement by Carol Downer and Dolly Veale in late 2020 and is mainly based among, and directed to, people in the U.S. to stand with resisters in Iran. Our mission and goals are spelled out in this Emergency Appeal, and we encourage all who share these concerns and objectives to join with us.

Frequently Asked Questions about our International Emergency Campaign to Free Iran's Political Prisoners Now (IEC)

Q: How did this Campaign begin and who is involved?  

A: The IEC was formed in the U.S. in late 2020 in solidarity with a call from supporters, friends, and families of Iran’s political prisoners and the “Burn the Cage, Free the Birds” movement in Europe. Their call was sparked by a new wave of repression and arrests targeting wide swaths of Iranian society launched by the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) in October 2020.  

The Campaign was co-initiated by feminist activist Carol Downer and supporter Dolly Veale.  It was put on an emergency footing in March 2021. Its mission and goals are spelled out in its Emergency Appeal: The Lives of Iran’s Political Prisoners Hang in the Balance—We Must ACT Now.   People from a broad range of viewpoints have endorsed this call.  

They include former Iranian political prisoners and relatives of current prisoners such as Mariam Claren, Elika Ashoori, and Taghi Rahmani; prominent voices of conscience Noam Chomsky, Cornel West, Gloria Steinem, and Daniel Ellsberg; writer Ariel Dorfman; 1997 Nobel Laureate Jody Williams; Jeff Kaufman and Marcia Ross, producers of the documentary film NASRIN; Raymond Lotta, NY Revolution Books and advocate for the new communism developed by Bob Avakian; as well as academics, activists, people of faith and over 4,500 others. (See full list of signers.)

Q: What can this Campaign accomplish?

A: Our goal is nothing less than freeing Iran’s political prisoners.  We aim to put the issue of the IRI’s brutal, illegitimate treatment of its 500 plus political prisoners, and the prisoners’ courageous resistance, boldly into the public square beginning with the publication of our Emergency Appeal in the Summer 2021 issue of The New York Review of Books, which reaches a large, critical, international audience of writers, artists, intellectuals and thinking, caring people.  

This will be an important step in building a broad, diverse wave of global condemnation of the IRI’s actions which will increase pressure on the IRI to release them, while giving heart to the prisoners, their loved ones, and millions of Iranians.

Q:  Isn’t it the case that calling out the Islamic Republic for its repression will only legitimize U.S. bullying and threats against Iran?

A: First, the Emergency Appeal is firm and clear in its condemnation of U.S. war threats and intervention.  

And standing with the courageous political prisoners of Iran does not equal supporting U.S. aggression.  Ignoring the horrendous suffering inflicted by the IRI and refusing to speak up for courageous Iranian resisters would be unconscionable and would help maintain the oppressive status quo.

The Campaign’s Emergency Appeal states clearly that we proceed from the interests of humanity, not the interests of either the Iranian or the U.S. government:  

The governments of the U.S. and Iran act from their national interests. And, in this instance, we the people of the U.S. and Iran, along with the people of the world, have OUR shared interests, as part of getting to a better world: to unite to defend the political prisoners of Iran. In the U.S., we have a special responsibility to unite very broadly against this vile repression by the IRI, and to actively oppose any war moves by the U.S. government that would bring even more unbearable suffering to the people of Iran”.

And it makes clear:

We demand that Iran’s Islamic Republic “FREE ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS NOW!

What We've Done

"I know that this initiative will effectively call attention to the situation of men and women in that country who, if enough pressure is brought to bear on its leaders, could tomorrow be liberated from terrible conditions and extraordinary injustice.  And even if those leaders do not listen, I am convinced – from personal experience – that the prisoners themselves are given strength to survive and persevere, they are listening. They know others, faraway, care what happens to them, and we should not let them down.”
- Ariel Dorfman, Argentine-Chilean-American author, playwright and human rights activist

Let Us Unite and Fight Together Against Waves of Suppression in Iran

Full text of the call issued by friends and supporters of resisters inside Iran, and re-posted from social media.

November 2020