Back to Current Prisoner News

Sepideh Gholian (Qolian) stepped out of Evin Prison after 4 years and 7 months of imprisonment for supporting striking sugarcane workers, and began shouting, "Khamenei the Zahak, we will drag you down under the ground!" Just hours later her car caravan was stopped by a large number of security forces on the highway on her way home to Khuzestan province, and she was forcibly kidnapped and returned to Evin.

To help provide supporters with resources to build support for Sepideh's freedom, IEC is posting on this page news, links, and graphics. If you have more graphics and links to share, contact

Recent News

Sept. 10, 2023: Sepideh Gholian spits in the face of pig interrogator, sentenced to 15 months more

Sept. 1, 2023: Sepideh's poem to Mehdi Yarrahi on his arrest

Background info: Sepideh's story

April 13, 2023: Sepideh Gholian, beaten in Evin and charged with "insult", refuses to participate in "illegitimate" trial

March 17, 2023: Press Release "Free Sepideh Gholian"

"Free Sepideh Gholian" Press Release PDF to print and distribute

Excerpt from: "New charges filed", Oct 2022

Sepideh’s Story – the Horrors of Iran’s Islamic Republic – and the Courage of Its Political Prisoners

Sepideh’s story offers a window into the horrors of Iran’s Islamic Republic and the enormous courage and heroism of many of its political prisoners – prisoners who must be freed now!

In a country where women are forcibly veiled, often covered in black cloth from head to toe, where showing a patch of hair is considered the crime of supposedly “tempting men”, she smiles proudly from under her blue, red, green, blond or sometimes multi-colored hair, and she has a preference for flowery-print clothing.

Sepideh was first arrested in November 2018, when she was 23 years old and was reporting on the workers’ struggle at a Khuzestan sugarcane factory.  She was brutally tortured for 30 days along with her fellow activist who was arrested with her, Esmail Bakhshi. She noted at one point, she noted that her body was “covered with bruises”.  She was sentenced to 19 ½ years, later reduced to 5 years.

In the face of this brutality, she has continued to use her sharp pen and even sharper voice to expose the criminality of Iran’s theocratic regime. She advocates for freedom for all Iran’s political prisoners, and staunchly opposes the savage oppression of women, labor activists and minorities such as Sunni Arabs (Iran’s theocracy is Shiite).

In late 2019, she released an audio message from Gharchak prison published by IranWire. Here are some excerpts:

…after days of back-to-back interrogations…[t]hey left me in the interrogation room for 16 hours where I could hear the sounds of them torturing a human being they called “Esmail” from the next room...I cannot stop hearing the sound of torture…women are arrested and sent to Gharchak Prison for eating ice cream on the charge of “spreading corruption and prostitution through eating ice cream on the street!”...they arrest women on the street and charge them with “prostitution through walking or standing in walkways at unusual times!”…because of their hair color or how they are dressed….Listen to my voice….This voice is the voice of somebody who has been sentenced to 19 years and six months [in prison] and who now is not about freedom and equality for herself….She demands an end to the dark days and nights…
Sepideh has written a 19-part prison memoir “Tilapia Sucks the Blood of Hur al-Azim” which some have called “a damning indictment” of Iran’s regime and “a call to arms.”

Excerpt from "URGENT! Sepideh Gholian Must Be Freed on Medical Release NOW!", March 2022

IEC Tweet, March 2021

On March 10, Center for Human Rights in Iran issued an urgent press release about their letter calling on the UN to intervene for the immediate release of Sepideh Gholian “…before another prisoner of conscience is silenced forever in an Iranian prison.”

Their alert is not hyperbolic as it comes just two months after the regime’s cruel murder of Baktash Abtin by medical neglect.

On March 6, Sepideh’s family issued an urgent cry for help to get her released. The letter begins with these chilling words, “We want to explain the situation briefly and clearly: It is enough to say in one sentence that Sepideh Gholian's life is in imminent danger.”

They tell us she had contracted Covid and was in such weak physical condition due to “prison transfers, her hunger strikes, the constant pressure of the past few years, plus untreated chronic conditions – such that even a cold can overwhelm her” (i.e., kill her). READ the full text of their letter....

What is being done to OUR youth, OUR future, our Dawn?

On October 11, 2021, Sepideh was brutally (re)arrested by 30 plainclothes thugs ofIran’s Islamic regime while she was out on medical leave from prison and at her sister’s home. She was taken to and held in Tehran’s Evin prison where she had previously been threatened with being raped and murdered.

Before her arrest that day, she concluded a series of tweets, writing, “I wonder what they’ve done to my youth. But the struggle continues. The streets of Khuzestan and Mahshahr, the killing of 1,500 people in November 2019, and 43 years of secret executions show that the struggle continues, no matter how much they suffocate and kill.”

The struggle continues, but it needs to be fought with an aim to win. Read her story and mobilize others to sign our Campaign’s Emergency Appeal, in which her case is highlighted. Join with journalists, human and women’s rights organizations, academics, and ordinary people on the streets to demand – with greater intensity – her immediate medical release. Find ways to make her known on your campus, on social media, among your social circle, and in social justice organizations as a real life people’s journalist, an unapologetic voice of the voiceless.

Courageous voices of youth such as Sepideh Gholian must not be “forever silenced” by the Islamic theocrats. A particular challenge now is to take the campaign to THIS generation as part of the fight to free ALL Iran’s political prisoners, including making Sepideh Gholian known on the campuses and among the youth. The challenge should be to say her name AND to emulate her example of impeccable, enduring courage.

Hash tags

سپیده قلیان - Sepideh Gholian (Qolian)
سپیده_قلیان# - #Sepideh_Gholian

Images to Share

Be sure to accredit (see captions) any images you download.

@Mehdi_Gholiyan on Instagram

@melikasaeeda on Instagram
Illustration by @channeldraw on the occasion of Sepideh being awarded the Terzani Prize in Italy, March 2023

Outside Evin Prison, March 15, 2023, wearing a Baluch dress in honor of protesters in Baluchistan. Photo: Mehdi_Gholiyan

Illustration by Roshi Rouzbehani, March 15 2023

Temporarily released for medical treatment, August 2021. Photo: @Mehdi_Gholiyan

Portrait by Sepideh of a fellow prisoner, published in her memoir, serialized in English by IranWire. Image: IranWire

Videos in Farsi

From IEC's YouTube Playlist "Sepideh Gholian: Unbroken, Unapologetic"


Documentary Ava Today Farsi. Sept 2021. Intro: "...Life in hell and resistance in the heart of the beast. This is Sepidar Prison, Bushehr Central Prison, Qarchak Varamin Prison, this is the Islamic Republic Prison... from Sepideh's FB page"


Interview Iran International, Oct 2021. "Exclusive video of #Sepideh_Qalian's speech before she was arrested by dozens of security agents at her sister's house in Ahvaz and taken to an unknown place. Sepideh Qalian had been on leave in prison since June 28 due to the coronavirus."


BBC Persian interview, Jan 21 2019. Intro: "Sepideh Qalian, a social activist, sat in front of the camera and narrated the events related to her and Ismail Bakshi's arrest, hours before she was arrested again... Ms. Qalian has explained about the torture of herself and Esmail Bakshi and the 'forced confessions'"...

Social Media Sources

For up to date news on Sepideh, follow Mehdi Gholiyan (IG), Burn The Cage (IG), IEC (IG,Twitter), Center for Human Rights in Iran (IG, Twitter), and Amnesty Iran (IG, Twitter).