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Campaign
Press Release
May 18, 2022

Author Ariel Dorfman Urges Iran Halt Execution of Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali

International Emergency Campaign Joins Calls to Rescind Execution, Demands Iran Free All Its Political Prisoners

Ariel Dorfman, the author of Death and the Maiden and many books published in Iran, has urged the Islamic Republic of Iran to halt its scheduled May 21 execution of Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali, an imprisoned Swedish-Iranian academic. In a statement released today, Dorfman writes:

“As an author who deeply loves Iranian culture and has been inspired, like so many others worldwide, by all the beauty and peace, wisdom and wonder that is inscribed in Farsi and honors the country, I beg the authorities not to stain that tradition and lineage by executing such a renowned scholar as Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali. Would you not rather be praised for your mercy than for your cruelty?”

The International Emergency Campaign to Free Iran’s Political Prisoners Now (IEC) joins with Ariel Dorfman, Dr. Djalali’s family, Scholars At Risk, and many other human rights organizations and people of conscience who are calling on Iran to rescind its threatened execution of Dr. Djalali.

“Executing the unjustly imprisoned Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali would be a dangerous escalation of Iran’s already brutal treatment of political prisoners, protesters and dissidents,” says Larry Everest, a spokesperson for the IEC. “Even the threat to execute Dr. Djalali underscores the urgent need to step up the struggle to free all of Iran’s political prisoners and to defend its courageous protesters and dissidents. In that light, I call on all justice loving people to sign an Emergency Appeal: The Lives of Iran’s Political Prisoners Hang in the Balance – We Must ACT NOW!.

Ariel Dorfman, the author of Death and the Maiden and many books published in Iran, has urged the Islamic Republic of Iran to halt its scheduled May 21 execution of Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali, an imprisoned Swedish-Iranian academic. In a statement released today, Dorfman writes:

“As an author who deeply loves Iranian culture and has been inspired, like so many others worldwide, by all the beauty and peace, wisdom and wonder that is inscribed in Farsi and honors the country, I beg the authorities not to stain that tradition and lineage by executing such a renowned scholar as Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali. Would you not rather be praised for your mercy than for your cruelty?”

The International Emergency Campaign to Free Iran’s Political Prisoners Now (IEC) joins with Ariel Dorfman, Dr. Djalali’s family, Scholars At Risk, and many other human rights organizations and people of conscience who are calling on Iran to rescind its threatened execution of Dr. Djalali.

“Executing the unjustly imprisoned Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali would be a dangerous escalation of Iran’s already brutal treatment of political prisoners, protesters and dissidents,” says Larry Everest, a spokesperson for the IEC. “Even the threat to execute Dr. Djalali underscores the urgent need to step up the struggle to free all of Iran’s political prisoners and to defend its courageous protesters and dissidents. In that light, I call on all justice loving people to sign an Emergency Appeal: The Lives of Iran’s Political Prisoners Hang in the Balance – We Must ACT NOW!.

This Appeal has been endorsed by well over 3,650 people from 40 countries, including Ariel Dorfman. Other signers include former Iranian political prisoners, relatives of current prisoners, the Burn the Cage/Free the Birds movement, and prominent voices of conscience including Nobel Laureates Shirin Ebadi and Jody Williams; as well as Cornel West, Noam Chomsky, Gloria Steinem, Daniel Ellsberg, Judith Butler, and Raymond Lotta. The Appeal appeared as an ad on the back cover of the Summer 2021 issue of The New York Review of Books and and will soon appear as an ad in the summer issue of Ms. Magazine. It has been translated into Farsi, Turkish, French, Spanish, and German.

Ahmadreza Djalali, detained in Iran on trumped-up charges since April 2016. Courtesy, IranHumanRights.org

BACKGROUND: Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali, Trial in Sweden, Upheaval in Iran

Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali is an Iranian-born Swedish physician and researcher specializing in disaster medicine. In 2016 he was arrested in Tehran after traveling there from Stockholm. He had been invited by the University of Tehran. He was held in isolation, tortured, and later wrote from prison that Iran’s Intelligence Ministry pressured him to engage in espionage, and when he refused, he was forced to make false confessions without access to a lawyer. He was then tried on espionage charges in a sham trial and sentenced to death in 2017.

His threatened execution is taking place against the backdrop of the trial in Sweden of former Iranian official Hamid Nouri for war crimes (specifically for helping carry out the 1988 mass execution of 5,000 Iranian political prisoners); ongoing mass protest and upheaval across Iran which is being met by violent state repression and arbitrary arrests (including of two French nationals); and a 25 percent rise in executions since 2020.

See:

"Iran’s Execution Threat Against Swedish Scientist Aimed at Thwarting War Crimes Trial," Center for Human Rights in Iran, May 4, 2022

"Iran on Fire: Fierce Resistance Meets Ferocious Repression Head On," IEC, May 16, 2022

"Teachers Across Iran Protest on May Day – Defying Regime Crackdown," IEC, May 8, 2022

Campaign
Update
May 16, 2022

Iran on Fire: Fierce Resistance Meets Ferocious Repression Head On

As we go to press, the mass protests in Iran are still unfolding and we will try to provide timely updates to the degree possible via the IEC website.

The Islamic Republic of Iran’s vicious crackdowns on teachers and other activists leading into their May First protests has continued with new waves of even fiercer resistance, and new rounds of state repression aimed at suppressing these growing protests and the seething rage of millions of Iranians.

On Tuesday May 12, teachers and trade unionists in Iran again held nationwide mass street demonstrations in defiance of the Islamic regime’s attempts to stop them with mass raids, arrests, disappearances and imprisonments. In one city (Yasuj/Yasoof), 50 teachers were preemptively arrested. A well-known activist, Siamak Shirazi, was brutally beaten and arrested at a May 12 protest. A central political demand of the May 12 actions was for “unconditional release of imprisoned teachers,” and “the immediate release of all teachers arrested in [different] parts of the country in the past week.”

As we go to press, the mass protests in Iran are still unfolding and we will try to provide timely updates to the degree possible via the IEC website.

The Islamic Republic of Iran’s vicious crackdowns on teachers and other activists leading into their May First protests has continued with new waves of even fiercer resistance, and new rounds of state repression aimed at suppressing these growing protests and the seething rage of millions of Iranians.

On Tuesday May 12, teachers and trade unionists in Iran again held nationwide mass street demonstrations in defiance of the Islamic regime’s attempts to stop them with mass raids, arrests, disappearances and imprisonments. In one city (Yasuj/Yasoof), 50 teachers were preemptively arrested. A well-known activist, Siamak Shirazi, was brutally beaten and arrested at a May 12 protest. A central political demand of the May 12 actions was for “unconditional release of imprisoned teachers,” and “the immediate release of all teachers arrested in [different] parts of the country in the past week.”

During this same week and since, protests against soaring prices for basic food items have spread to scores of cities and provinces all over Iran. Some have escalated into street fighting against the police and security forces.  Inflation in Iran is 40-50 percent with nearly half the population (40+ million) reported to be living below the poverty line. Iran’s economy has already been battered by U.S. sanctions and the Covid pandemic.  Now the war in Ukraine is adding fuel to that inflationary fire by disrupting Iran’s access to imports of cooking oil and wheat from Russia and Ukraine.

Omid Soltani, murdered by Islamic Republic’s police forces

These mass protests quickly took up general anti-regime slogans such as “Death to Khamenei” (Iran’s Islamic supreme leader) and “Death to Raisi” (Iran’s new president).  These protests express righteous outrage at the regime and solidarity with political prisoners, but within its overall progressive thrust are backward trends, such as support for the brutal regime of Shah Pahlavi (now deceased) put in power by a U.S.-backed coup in 1953 and driven from power by the revolution of 1978-79.1

Raisi reportedly had to cancel a May 13 trip to the city of Shahrekord.  Some of these protests involved large numbers of women.  Despite the Islamic regime’s internet shutdown in many areas, aimed at isolating and limiting the growth of these protests, social media was ablaze with photos and news, such as the Instagram post by filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof which showed two of his filmmaker colleagues (Firouzeh Khosrovani and Mina Keshavarz) being detained.

There were reports in at least two cities that the offices of the hated and feared Islamic militia Basij, a paramilitary force of the Islamic “Revolutionary” (i.e., Repressive) Guard Corps, were set on fire. The Islamic regime deployed huge numbers of police, armored vehicle convoys and used tear gas and even live fire to try and quell the uprisings.  

Twenty-one-year-old Omid Soltani was shot dead by the Islamic police on May 12 in the city of Andimshk, Khuzestan province, according to Burn the Cage’s post on Instagram.  They also issued a statement about the crossroad facing the upsurge in Iran (see below).

ALL of Iran’s Political Prisoners Must be Freed

As arrested teachers and other protesters join growing numbers of political prisoners in Iran, there is a growing danger of a bloodbath on the streets and in the prisons.  Iran’s Islamic regime has a bloody track record of mass murder when it has faced internal instability or upheaval.  During the mass rebellion of November 2019, hundreds of protesters were gunned down.  And in the summer of 1988, Raisi was one of the chief architects of the execution of at least 5,000 political prisoners.  Iran has publicly announced plans to execute Swedish-Iranian dual citizen Ahmadreza Djalali on May 21.  “There’s no time to waste,” warned Hadi Ghaemi of the Center for Human Rights in Iran, “Now is not the time for silence.”

It’s up to us, all the justice and freedom loving people around the world to unite to defeat this repression.  The IEC has announced bold plans for the next 5 weeks.

*Join us: Friday, May 20, 6:30-8:30PM (PST): Sensible Cinema of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco (UUSF) screening of the documentary film Nasrin, followed by Q&A.  This event will be on site and also accessible via Zoom.

* Donate between now and June 15 to raise the $9K needed to publish the Emergency Appeal as a 2-page color spread in Ms. Magazine's Summer edition, along with a series of digital ads.  

* Friday June 10 (2-4PM EST) tune in to the international online roundtable of the IEC in partnership with DePauw University’s "Fighting the Power: Global Movements for Social Justice" summer-session course.

IEC table at Books Without Borders, Toronto

We’re working to put freeing Iran’s courageous resisters further into the public square so that “the whole world is watching” what is taking place in Iran, and so people will be inspired to come to the aid of our sisters and brothers there with due urgency.  This can compel the Islamic theocrats to release its political prisoners. Join us now to make this message heard loudly and clearly around the world, and make clear to all the dissidents in Iran that “we stand with you”.

***

From Burn the Cage, Free the Birds movement Instagram (translated by IEC volunteer)

The uprising of bread and freedom in Charmahal, Bakhtiari and Khuzestan is still on.  In Neyshabur, Yazd, Shiraz, Isfahan, Shahrekord, Shahin, Narmak neighborhood of Tehran, Ahvaz, Eyzeh, Soureshjan, Hafshejan...people are angry at all the oppression and suppression...and all the other hardships: shortages of commodities such as bread, poverty and lack of freedom...repression against the people struggling against joblessness, lack of water, destruction of the environment, and working conditions the destruction of farms and livestock... compulsory hijab, and widespread detention and imprisonment of rebellious women, students, writers, artists and working people that have joined in rebellions and are once again demanding the ouster of the Islamic Republic (of Iran).

Slogans such as "Death to Khamenei", "Death to Raisi" and "mullahs must get lost" fill the air.  "Do not be scared we are all together" warms the air. Repressive security forces of the Islamic Republic from special security forces and intelligence units as well as plain clothes police are busy shooting and killing people, even children 7 or 8 years old.  Some have been arrested and others have even been killed. But people are not afraid to die anymore, especially those who have nothing to lose.

To achieve a real and positive solution from all these struggles and sacrifices, the most significant criteria is the understanding and the leadership that will not repackage this same system of oppression in a different form, and a system that does not continue the same repression and exploitation over women, different minority religions and nationalities. There is a need for leadership that brings the needed understanding and organization to people to fight for emancipation of humanity from all forms of oppression and exploitation, a fundamental change that eliminates the roots of world capitalism and Islamic and religious fundamentalism.

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