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Campaign
Update
July 15, 2024

Iran’s Political Prisoners Exemplify Resilience in Resisting Theocratic Regime

Sharifeh Mohammadi hiking in the mountains. Photo: Campaign to Defend Sharifeh Mohammadi

Activist Sharifeh Mohammadi was arbitrarily and suddenly sentenced to death by the Islamic Republic of Iran on July 4. In the days since, there has been widespread protest against this vile injustice by broad sections of society inside and outside Iran; especially heroic are actions by other political prisoners.

Inside the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran, 85 political prisoners refused food on July 11 to protest the death sentence of activist Sharifeh Mohammadi – 30 in the women’s ward and 55 in two men’s wards. Two days earlier, 16 women political prisoners signed a letter against Sharifeh’s death sentence that warns of the danger it represents. Participants in the “Tuesday No to Execution” weekly hunger strike in 9 prisons across Iran also messaged, “One of the allegations against Sharifeh Mohammadi is that she distributed leaflets declaring ‘No to execution’; trying to stop the execution machine is not only not a crime but should become a public demand".1 These collective actions and statements to stand with Sharifeh are being organized in the face of great risks by Iran’s vengefully repressive regime.

IEC Instagram

“Today and the future belong to us because we are united and unbreakable”

In response, the Campaign to Defend Sharifeh Mohammadi replied with an inspiring message filled with determination and hope for a better future that has much broader implications:

To the dear ones who are in chains but free in spirit in Evin Prison, the freedom-loving and equality-seeking men and women behind Evin’s bars, the men and women who are the awakened conscience of our time. We, the members of the Campaign to Defend Sharifeh Mohammadi, composed of Sharifeh’s family members, have received your courageous and encouraging messages, your voices of protest, and your decision to go on a hunger strike. Our entire beings are filled with pride and honor, and you have made us a thousand times more resolute in the path we have chosen. You, who are imprisoned by the system of oppression and exploitation, stand bravely and exemplarily beside Sharifeh and those like her, sacrificing your safety and freedom… Inspired by your actions and character, we will strive to the utmost of our ability for the freedom of dear Sharifeh and all of you prisoners [who are] free in spirit. We kiss your hands and faces and declare that hearing your support for Sharifeh and the Campaign has filled us with pride and renewed energy. Today and the future belong to us because we are united and unbreakable.

In struggle to put an end to executions,
In struggle for the freedom of all political prisoners,
#womanlifefreedom|
Standing with you for the freedom of dear Sharifeh

Women Prisoners Lead Resistance to Iran’s Hyper Male Supremacist Repressive Regime

For many years now, women political prisoners have played a frontline role in the fight against the regime, at the cost of great personal danger and sacrifices. In a letter by 16 women political prisoners in Evin, posted on IG by the accounts of Golrokh Iraee and 2023 Nobel Prize winner Narges Mohammadi, they put Sharifeh’s death sentence squarely in the context of the regime’s murderous and desperate repression of the Woman, Life, Freedom uprising, and points to its dangerous precedent. In this, as they’ve consistently done, these women prisoners are striving to lead in both analysis and action. By highlighting the images of these prisoners along with their letter, IEC emphasized the need to get these prisoners free, to be among the people taking part in the urgent debate over how to overcome this oppression and get to a better world.

Sharifeh Mohammadi, a labor activist, has been sentenced to death on unjust and baseless charges, after enduring seven months of torture and interrogation in various cities’ detention centers.
This is not only a death sentence for Sharifeh but a death sentence for all “us” labor, political, civil, human rights, and women’s rights activists.
We see this sentence as a potential danger and a precursor to issuing more severe sentences in the future.
What is most apparent in this death sentence is a policy of repression intended to silence the voices of protest and the demands that had reached a significant level with the revolutionary uprising of 2022, and to intimidate and force back women who have stepped forward with a louder voice than before to demand their “rights.”
We stand with Sharifeh and all those threatened with execution and demand an end to the death penalty.
Signed,
Sarvenaz Ahmadi, Anisha Assadollahi, Hasti Amiri, Reyhaneh Ansari-Nejad, Golrokh Iraee, Sakineh Parvaneh, Nahid Taghavi, Nahid Khodajo, Nasrin Kohdari- Jovadi, Vida Rabani, Mahboubeh Rezaei, Mahnaz Tarrah, Sepideh Gholian, Narges Mohammadi, Varisha Moradi, Maryam Yahyavi"

Support for Sharifeh Mohammadi and Opposition to Execution Grow

As we reported in last week’s update, Sharifeh Mohammadi was sentenced to death on charges of “armed rebellion” based only on her membership 13 years ago in the Coordinating Committee for the Formation of Labor Unions, which has always stated its independence of any political group or ideology. Coming on July 4, one day before the election of the supposed “moderate”, “reformer” new president Masoud Pezeshkian, this outrageously unjust conviction and sentence sent a message to Iranian society that regardless of any attempted minor cosmetic “rebranding” of the Islamic Republic of Iran, executions, repression of dissidents and of women are pillars of the theocracy based in ancient Sharia law that will not be questioned.

Over the past week, support for Sharifeh, spotlighting the fight to stop ramped up executions in Iran, has mushroomed in broad sectors of Iranian society. Support for Sharifeh has ranged from independent labor coalitions, formerly and currently imprisoned labor activists, mothers of murdered protesters, a retirees’ union, 15 religious denominations, and even a mountaineer collective in her native province of Gilan (Sharifeh and her husband are avid mountain climbers).

Outside Iran, smaller groups in the diaspora (Iranians living outside Iran) have been active. For example, the Global Campaign to Stop Executions in Iran has called actions on July 13 in Sweden, France, and Frankfurt, Germany, and on July 20 in Koln, Germany. Of particular note is the still initial solidarity by non-Iranians, such as five French trade unions on July 12 and the DGB University Group Berlin in Germany on July 8.

Photo: DGB University Group Berlin

In the Shadow of US-Israeli Genocide in Gaza…A Fight for the Future

The IEC is encountering some who are active in the righteous struggle against the US/Israeli imperialist/Zionist atrocity in Gaza but are sidestepping (some even support) the crimes of Iran’s Islamic fundamentalist regime in the guise of its “anti-imperialism”. This is wrong and dangerous, confounding friends and enemies. Today and the future belong to THE PEOPLE of the world, especially those who risk it all to stand up against oppressors by any other name in the fight for a better world. Iran’s political dissidents have steadfastly been part of this fight including through the historic 2022-2023 uprising that was a cry of oppressed humanity, and especially the half of humanity who are female. The future cannot be left to the reactionary governments of the world be it, West or East, or their loyal international organizations like the UN. Many of Iran’s political prisoners are setting an example of what that fight for the future should look like by relying on ourselves, the ordinary people of the world, the nobodies “WHO ARE NOT BUT CAN BE."2

Donate and join the IEC as part of this urgent fight to mobilize a needed global grassroots movement based on the shared interests of the people, not the interests of the governments of US or Iran, to free Sharifeh, Toomaj Salehi and all Iran’s political prisoners now with urgency.

Campaign
Update
July 8, 2024

Iran’s Political Prisoners Remain Defiant by Modeling Leadership Under Dire Conditions

"Our Anger is Greater than Our Fear"

Taking tremendous risks, from inside the murderous dungeons of Iran, prisoners reportedly prevented the entry of ballot boxes into several prisons.

In Ghezel (Qezel) Hesar Prison, political prisoners chanted, “Death to the Dictator!” on runoff election day, and in Evin Prison they chanted both “Death to the Dictator!” and “Woman, Life, Freedom!” after the televised debate.1 Political prisoners in Sheiban (Ahvaz Central) Prison in the Arab oppressed region of Khuzestan also publicly refused to vote.

The context for these actions was the special election to replace former president Raisi who died in a helicopter crash in May. On June 28 and July 5, the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) held two rounds of special elections so farcical the hashtag #ElectionCircus became a meme. All candidates had to be approved by the religious Guidance Council, and regardless of who won, the Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) is the final decision maker on all significant policy. Many activists, organizations and family members of those killed during the 2022-2023 Woman, Life, Freedom uprising called for boycotting the elections from different perspectives.3 Desperate to drum up even an appearance of lukewarm enthusiasm for the election and the regime’s political legitimacy, the IRI allowed a little-known “reformist” pro-regime candidate, Masoud Pezeshkian, to run and to score an “upset win” against a “hardliner,” in an election in which even the official count of 50% participation of eligible voters is much lower than average in Iran.

Instagram graphic posted one day before the “reformist” Pezeshkian won the presidency over the “extremist” Jalili. The scowling women in black chadors are hijab enforcers in front of the hated green morality police van into which they drag women and girls who do not comply fully with the compulsory Islamic dress code. Caption reads: “These are so many good options! It's so hard to choose between them that we may have to boycott them all.”   Graphic: @azadi.daily, @weareiranianstudents and others

Even prisoners were to be roped into the circus; since prison authorities have wide power over granting furloughs, medical treatment, etc., they can coerce prisoners to participate in the voting. This makes the courage of many prisoners refusing to vote, even chanting and blocking the entry of ballot boxes, stand out all the more.

Nine heroic women in Evin Prison sent out the following statement, posted on IG by @golrokh.iraee & @free.nahid.

We, the left-wing women imprisoned in Evin Prison, of course did not participate in the presidential elections and will not do so. Because:

Such elections are a desperate attempt to save a failed regime that has long since lost its legitimacy. The candidates in this election, as in every other period, are symbols of the disintegration of this fascist regime. These elections, like any other election in capitalist systems, mean that people are only granted the “right to vote” when they are allowed to “choose” one of the oppressors to continue the established reactionary system for a few more years. We believe that liberation cannot be achieved through ballot boxes, but only through our own hands and through the conscious struggle against every form of oppression.

Signed: Anisha Asadollahi, Reyhaneh Ansari-Nejad, Hasti Amiri, Golrokh Iraee, Nasrin Khezri Javadi, Nahid Taghavi, Nahid Khodajoo, Farah Nasaji, Maryam Yahyavi

IEC graphic, background by @mahya.farmani

At the same time, the “Tuesdays No to Executions” weekly prisoners’ hunger strike entered its 23rd week, now encompassing nine prisons in far-flung regions: Evin Prison (Women's Prison, Section 8, Section 6 and Section 4), Ghezel Hesar Prison (Unit 3 and Unit 4), Tabriz Prison (Women Prison), Karaj Central Prison, Khorramabad Prison, Khavi Remand Prison, Naqadeh Prison, Saqqez Prison and Mashhad Central Prison. The first Tuesday strike called by both political and non-political prisoners on death row in Ghezel Hesar was immediately joined by women political prisoners in Evin and has spread since.

In the video below, prisoners seize the chance to tell the outside world about their conditions in spite of severe repression. This takes place inside Ghezel Hesar close to Tehran; built in 1964 with a capacity for 5,000 prisoners, it is now one of most populous prisons in the Middle East, holding 20,000 to 30,000, with weekly executions, often after Tuesday prayers.

Translation by IEC volunteers of post by human rights journalist Reza Akvanian: “A group of ‘general crimes’ prisoners who are incarcerated in unit one of hall seven of Ghezel Hesar Prison in Karaj, in a video recorded on Tuesday…[May 28], say that between 10 and 20 people are executed in this prison every week, and that the officials and agents of the prison treat them badly, with violence, insults and profanity.

Stepped-up Executions of Political Women: Singling Out Activist Sharifeh Mohammadi

Sharifeh Mohammadi, image posted with text by IEC    Photo: @maosyngarim

Amid the above, on July 4, the court in the city of Rasht informed the husband of activist Sharifeh Mohammadi that she has been sentenced to death on spurious charges of “armed rebellion.” Their “proof” is that more than ten years ago she was a member of the Coordinating Committee for the Formation of Labor Unions, which the “intelligence” services of the regime now declare (contradicting all evidence) to be associated with the Komala Party, a banned political party of the Kurdish people, an oppressed nation in the Middle East. Sharifeh Mohammadi is Gilak, an oppressed nationality in northern Iran concentrated in Gilan province.

Sharifeh Mohammadi was violently arrested on December 5, 2023, and was held in solitary confinement in detention centers operated by “intelligence” services. By the time these services brought her to prison months later, she had been so badly tortured that the prison initially refused to book her.

The women’s organization Osyan (Revolt) summarized the danger posed by this death sentence in this IG post (translation by IEC volunteers).

One day before the second round of elections, the Islamic Republic shamelessly sent a clear message to the society and its opponents: that executions, prisons and enmity against women will continue. The Islamic Republic has started a new process of executing political women.  Sharifeh Mohammadi is the fourth politically active woman who has been sentenced to death following the Jina uprising.
This is about normalizing the process of executing women political prisoners, which has not been so common or convenient for the government in the past. Before the Jina uprising, we rarely saw such brutal sentences against women… The acceleration of execution sentences and of accusations that could lead to execution for women fighters following the Jina uprising ... indicates a new level of the Islamic Republic’s hostility against minority nationalities, and especially against activist women accused of organizing. This also means that the red line of organizational activity for the Islamic Republic is becoming more intense, it is well aware of how fragile [their situation has become]. Also by looking at these sentences, one can see how much the regime links the issue of women’s oppression and the issue of national oppression in the Jina uprising… This cruel sentence is intended to sow fear in society… Indeed, now that its illegitimacy has been proven by the widespread boycott of elections, it is frightened, and more determined than ever to use repression to preserve its reign. We declare to the government that our anger is greater than our fear. Immediately overturn the sentence against Sharifeh Mohammadi and other political activists.

Spread the Model of Heroic Prisoners, Live Like Them! Free Them All!

Prisoners on hunger strike week after week—not mainly around their own conditions but to stop the execution of others… finding the collective means from behind bars to discuss and spread statements that help lead in the complex swirl of events… especially focusing on exposing the oppression of women, sexual abuse and torture… defending and supporting one another… Political prisoners in Iran in many ways stand as a model for how the people of the world and especially the millions behind bars, caught up in the “injustice system” and out on the hard streets with a police target on their backs, could be and should be uncompromising voices of resistance with potential to transform into conscious emancipators of humanity.

Help spread their voices, fan the debate and dialogue necessary to break this struggle out, and free them. And donate to the IEC to stand with them and help bring about that reality.

FOOTNOTES

1 @Blackfish1 July 5, 2024, and @BurnTheCage, June 28, 2024.

2 "Political Prisoners in Ahvaz Central Prison Did Not Participate in the Elections” (in Farsi), Iranwire.com, July 5, 2024.

3 For example, 2023 Nobel laureate Narges Mohammadi wrote, “How can you, while holding a sword, gallows, weapons and prisons against the people with one hand, place a ballot box in front of the same people with the other hand, and deceitfully and falsely call them to the polls?”

4 In Gilan province this year 10 women and one man were sentenced to a total of 60 years in prison just for organizing protests on the anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini. “Iran Goes After Its Women Activists as World’s Attention Turns to Its Sham Election,” Center for Human Rights in Iran, June 25, 2024.

5 Osyan/Revolt is a group of Iranian and Afghan women who are the voice of women’s rebellion to express the determination, and to serve the struggle against the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Taliban.

6 The Jina Uprising refers to the massive uprising, sparked by women and supported by many men, against compulsory hijab (headscarf) and the oppression of women it represents and imposes. Also known as the Woman, Life, Freedom Uprising, it was set off by the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman “Mahsa” Jina Amini in the custody of “morality police” for “improper hijab” on September 16, 2022.

****

Outside Iran’s Mission to the UN in NewYork City, IEC and supporters of Revolution Books NYC marched and protested onJune 20, 2024, Global Day in Support of Political Prisoners in Iran.

From the Emergency Appeal of the International Emergency Campaign to Free Iran’s Political Prisoners Now:

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.

We demand of the Islamic Republic of Iran: FREE ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS NOW!

We say to the U.S government: NO THREATS OR WAR MOVES AGAINST IRAN, LIFT U.S. SANCTIONS!

Updates from the Campaign

Past Year

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December 18, 2022
Update

Week 13 of Iran Uprising:

October 10, 2022
Update

Iran Uprising Enters 4th Week:

June 1, 2022
Update

Save the Date: June 10

December 2, 2021
Press Release

Eyes of World on Iran as JPCOA Talks Resume

October 3, 2021
Update

Now Available Online – Watch

September 22, 2021
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UN Press Conference Photos and Video

September 17, 2021
Update

Heroism for Our Times

May 20, 2021
Update

Letter to Signatories

Prisoner News