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May 9, 2021
Latest Update from the Emergency Campaign

Political Prisoners Still Facing Trial, Dire Conditions

Intensifying Wave of Vicious Political Repression Across Iran

Ariel Dorfman Joins Others in Signing Emergency Appeal - Urgent Need for Many More to Demand: Free All Iran’s Political Prisoners!

She should imagine thousands of people in the court room, standing next to her and demanding: #FreeNahid
Mariam Claren on what she told her mother, political prisoner Nahid Taghavi, before her April 28 court appearance in Iran

Rallying those “thousands of people” – and more -- across the world to demand freedom for Nahid and ALL Iran’s political prisoners is the mission of the Emergency Campaign to Free Iran’s Political Prisoners and its Emergency Appeal: The Lives of Iran’s Political Prisoners Hang in the Balance—We Must ACT Now!  

It was heartening and important that this week, Ariel Dorfman, the world renowned novelist (Death and the Maiden), playwright, essayist, academic, and human rights activist signed the Emergency Appeal.

He joins over 1,500 people who’ve endorsed it (and an earlier Statement), including 1997 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Jody Williams, author and feminist activist Gloria Steinem, social justice activists, artists, academics, faith leaders, medical professionals, many ordinary people and very importantly those directly involved in the Iranian prisoners’ cause, including 13 former political prisoners, and relatives and advocates for current political prisoners in Iran.  A partial list of signers is posted at FreeIranPoliticalPrisonersNow.org.

The Emergency Campaign’s mission grows in urgency and importance by the day, and it is very important that this Appeal gain new, significant signatories and then be published, bringing this issue more prominently into the public square.

April 28 Sham Trial

On April 28, the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) held a court proceeding for a number of political prisoners. (see April 24 update.)  The regime reportedly announced these prisoners would face the court again, but didn’t announce that trial date.  

Nahid Taghavi, a 66-year-old German-Iranian dual citizen and Mehran Raoof, a 64-year-old British-Iranian dual citizen and labor activist appeared in court and were then reportedly remanded back to prison and solitary confinement.

“These people (Taghavi and Raoof) should not be in jail to begin with,” Hadi Ghaemi, Executive Director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran, told Sunsara Taylor on her “We Only Want the World” program on WPFW radio in Washington, DC.  He went on to say, “The situation of both prisoners, in both cases their health is critical, they are both in their mid-60s, they are suffering from serious illnesses.”

The fascistic Islamic Republic treats prisoners as guilty before trial, allows them little if any access to legal help, often tortures prisoners to try to force confessions, and severely restricts lawyers’ access to clients or the court documents needed to mount a defense.

As our Emergency Appeal clearly states, “The lives and dignity of hundreds of political prisoners are in imminent, mortal danger.

Intensifying Wave of Vicious Political Repression Across Iran

Ariel Dorfman Joins Others in Signing Emergency Appeal - Urgent Need for Many More to Demand: Free All Iran’s Political Prisoners!

She should imagine thousands of people in the court room, standing next to her and demanding: #FreeNahid
Mariam Claren on what she told her mother, political prisoner Nahid Taghavi, before her April 28 court appearance in Iran

Rallying those “thousands of people” – and more -- across the world to demand freedom for Nahid and ALL Iran’s political prisoners is the mission of the Emergency Campaign to Free Iran’s Political Prisoners and its Emergency Appeal: The Lives of Iran’s Political Prisoners Hang in the Balance—We Must ACT Now!  

It was heartening and important that this week, Ariel Dorfman, the world renowned novelist (Death and the Maiden), playwright, essayist, academic, and human rights activist signed the Emergency Appeal.

He joins over 1,500 people who’ve endorsed it (and an earlier Statement), including 1997 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Jody Williams, author and feminist activist Gloria Steinem, social justice activists, artists, academics, faith leaders, medical professionals, many ordinary people and very importantly those directly involved in the Iranian prisoners’ cause, including 13 former political prisoners, and relatives and advocates for current political prisoners in Iran.  A partial list of signers is posted at FreeIranPoliticalPrisonersNow.org.

The Emergency Campaign’s mission grows in urgency and importance by the day, and it is very important that this Appeal gain new, significant signatories and then be published, bringing this issue more prominently into the public square.

April 28 Sham Trial

On April 28, the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) held a court proceeding for a number of political prisoners. (see April 24 update.)  The regime reportedly announced these prisoners would face the court again, but didn’t announce that trial date.  

Nahid Taghavi, a 66-year-old German-Iranian dual citizen and Mehran Raoof, a 64-year-old British-Iranian dual citizen and labor activist appeared in court and were then reportedly remanded back to prison and solitary confinement.

“These people (Taghavi and Raoof) should not be in jail to begin with,” Hadi Ghaemi, Executive Director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran, told Sunsara Taylor on her “We Only Want the World” program on WPFW radio in Washington, DC.  He went on to say, “The situation of both prisoners, in both cases their health is critical, they are both in their mid-60s, they are suffering from serious illnesses.”

The fascistic Islamic Republic treats prisoners as guilty before trial, allows them little if any access to legal help, often tortures prisoners to try to force confessions, and severely restricts lawyers’ access to clients or the court documents needed to mount a defense.

As our Emergency Appeal clearly states, “The lives and dignity of hundreds of political prisoners are in imminent, mortal danger.

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An On-Going Wave of Intensified Political Repression

The Emergency Campaign was inspired and formed in solidarity with a call from supporters, friends, and families of Iran’s political prisoners and the “Burn the Cage, Free the Birds” movement (BTC) in Europe to free Iran’s political prisoners. This campaign is based on the assessment that the 2017 and November 2019 uprisings in Iran were extremely significant, and “oxygenated all of Iranian society,” as the BTC wrote.  Iran’s reactionary theocrats took them as a grave, potential threat to their whole system and responded with murderous violence.(1)

(@burn_the_cage - Instagram 4/22/20 Caption translated from Farsi:  Citizens rallied in front of the mall [in Tehran] to protest the closure of their shops and the closure of the passage, chanting "Political Prisoners Must Be Released" in support of political prisoners...)

Then, beginning in October 2020, as the anniversary of the 2019 uprising approached, the IRI launched a massive new wave of arbitrary arrests against labor, women's, and human rights activists; dissident intellectuals and artists; protesters and revolutionaries; and members of religious and oppressed minorities.

This wave of intense repression is continuing.  As this sham trial took place on April 28, widespread, near daily reports of outrageous IRI arrests, brutality, and torture continued to pour out.  “The number of persecutions and prosecutions of peaceful activists in Iran from all walks of life has been increasing tremendously,” Ghaemi says.

This savage repression includes arbitrary executions: Iran executed at least 246 people last year, according to an Amnesty International report, including juveniles, political opponents and journalists.

It includes wantonly putting the lives of prisoners of conscience in grave immediate danger:

  • Vahid and Habib Afkari, brothers of famed Iranian wrestler #NavidAfkari who was executed 8 months ago, remain in prolonged solitary confinement, have been severely tortured, and are now facing threats of execution, perhaps because they witnessed their brother’s execution.
  • Iranian-Swedish academic Ahmadreza Djalali is reportedly close to death as a result of months prolonged solitary confinement in a cramped cell where he’s kept awake by bright lights which are on around the clock.
  • Imprisoned documentary filmmaker Mohammad Nourizad is also reportedly very near death (see below).

Female political prisoners in Iran increasingly face psychological torture, including being arbitrarily moved far from their homes and families.  “There is a lack of drinking water, and lots of illnesses and contagious diseases,” a prison activist told the Guardian. “The guards intentionally plan for non-political prisoners to attack them.”

Intensification of targeting and persecution Baha’is.  Baha’is are the largest non-Muslim religious minority in Iran numbering some 300,000.  They’ve been systematically persecuted for years, but now they’re under intensifying assault, including raids on their homes, baseless arrests – even demanding they bury their dead in the graves of those massacred in the 1980s for their opposition to the Islamic Republic.

Students demand justice for imprisoned colleagues:  Hundreds of students and graduates of Tehran’s Sharif Technology University reportedly signed a letter demanding imprisoned Sharif University students Ali Younesi and Amirhossein Moradi receive a fair trial.  Younesi (who helped Iran’s national team win a gold medal in the 12th International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics) and Moradi were arrested in April 2020 for allegedly having ties with anti-regime organizations and charged with “corruption on earth,” which can carry the death penalty.  They’ve been subjected to solitary confinement and other forms of abuse and exposed to COVID while in prison.

Prisoners Lives Still Hanging the Balance

All this and much more shows that the lives of Iran’s political prisoners still hang in the balance and it remains crucial to come to their aid by signing, circulating and publishing our Campaign’s Emergency Appeal: The Lives of Iran’s Political Prisoners Hang in the Balance—We Must ACT Now!

This Campaign is important not only in stopping a grave injustice, but in defending courageous Iranian resisters and strengthening the possibility of a better world and better future for the people of Iran. As BTC wrote, “it is very vital to stop this machinery of cruel persecution of the masses and political, social and literary activists…It is imperative for revolutionaries and all social movements in Iran to defeat this and future waves of state repression…because with the continuation of this repression, none of the just struggles will thrive and develop.”

Standing with the people of Iran is especially important for people in the U.S. given this country’s history of threatening, intervening and attacking Iran, and at this particular moment.  The U.S., Iran and other global powers are now engaged in talks to revive their 2015 nuclear agreement, and there is speculation in the media that Iran’s political prisoners may be used as pawns or bargaining chips in various ways by the different parties involved.  

That makes the Emergency Appeal’s stance all the more timely and important:

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.

All those who stand for justice and yearn for a better world must rally to the cause of freeing Iran’s political prisoners NOW!

We say to the Islamic Republic of Iran FREE ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS NOW.  

We say to the US government NO THREATS OR WAR MOVES AGAINST IRAN, LIFT US SANCTIONS.


(1) Hadi Ghaemi of CHRI told Sunsara Taylor, “The security and the armed forces who were brought to meet the protesters began shooting from moment one – and they shoot to kill, that’s what has shocked the people of Iran. In November 2019, the purpose was to kill as many people as possible, so they were shooting at the head and chest directly, I personally believe, talking to people in Iran, given this happened in 90 small and big towns spontaneously, and the response was the same.”

May 9, 2021
Latest Update from the Emergency Campaign

The Islamic Republic of Iran Assaults Intellectuals and Artists

To enforce societal ignorance and superstition, the fascist Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) has, since its founding in 1979, brutally suppressed many intellectuals and artists.  It has imprisoned and/or banned progressive or even mildly oppositional filmmakers, attempting to crush even people’s dreams. 

This has been part of the new wave of repression, and it’s met with righteous defiance.

 In 2020 interviews, director Mohammed Rasoulof criticized his prior films’ self-censorship, saying, “I have made my decision to speak out” and “…I do not want to make a film rooted in the acceptance of tyranny.”  His upcoming Golden Bear award-winning film “There is No Evil” examines Iran’s death penalty, including those who carry it out and those who disobey their orders. Filmed in secret, it’s banned in Iran.  After repeated arrests and clashes with the regime, Rasoulof was arrested in March 2020 and given a one-year prison sentence for “spreading propaganda” against the IRI.  He has so far refused to turn himself in to serve his sentence because the COVID pandemic is raging through Iran’s prisons.

To enforce societal ignorance and superstition, the fascist Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) has, since its founding in 1979, brutally suppressed many intellectuals and artists.  It has imprisoned and/or banned progressive or even mildly oppositional filmmakers, attempting to crush even people’s dreams. 

This has been part of the new wave of repression, and it’s met with righteous defiance.

 In 2020 interviews, director Mohammed Rasoulof criticized his prior films’ self-censorship, saying, “I have made my decision to speak out” and “…I do not want to make a film rooted in the acceptance of tyranny.”  His upcoming Golden Bear award-winning film “There is No Evil” examines Iran’s death penalty, including those who carry it out and those who disobey their orders. Filmed in secret, it’s banned in Iran.  After repeated arrests and clashes with the regime, Rasoulof was arrested in March 2020 and given a one-year prison sentence for “spreading propaganda” against the IRI.  He has so far refused to turn himself in to serve his sentence because the COVID pandemic is raging through Iran’s prisons.

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Director and screenwriter Jafar Panahi makes films from a humanistic viewpoint, often focusing on the oppression of women, children and the poor.  In 2010, he was given a six-year sentence and 20-year ban from writing or directing any movies or giving media interviews and prevented from traveling outside Iran. While on appeal, he made a documentary video diary that was reportedly smuggled out of Iran on a flash drive, hidden inside a cake. It was shown at the 2011 Cannes Film festival, prompting directors Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, and Francis Coppola to speak out in support of imprisoned Iranian filmmakers. Panahi’s secretly shot his film “Taxi” in mid-2015 in Iran.  In the movie he doubles as a taxi driver while filming its passengers, including the now-imprisoned lawyer and human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh.

 Imprisoned documentary filmmaker Mohammed Nourizad is reportedly very near death due to torture and being denied medical care, sparking an outcry in Iran and internationally.  Nourizad became a critic of Iran’s regime over a decade ago and has repeatedly faced jail ever since.  Last year he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for signing a public letter to Supreme Leader Khameini calling on him to step down.  Given his age (68), poor health, and Iran’s COVID infected prisons, this is a potential death sentence. 

These lives and artistic voices, and many more, are some of lives of political prisoners in Iran that hang in the balance.  They all demand we ACT now.  

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