At a Glance Weekly report on Human Rights Violation in Iran August 9, 2020

International condemnation

US Embassy in Georgia: Iran’s regime targets critics’ relatives to silence dissent

4 August – Iran’s regime is jailing relatives of political activists in an effort to silence critics at home and abroad, human rights advocacy groups say.

The regime in July sentenced Alireza Alinejad, the brother of prominent regime critic Masih Alinejad, to eight years in prison on trumped up charges, according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).

“Iran goes after the family members of activists and journalists, threatening them and prosecuting them under sham charges in judicial proceedings that lack any semblance of due process in order to silence critics of the state,” CHRI Executive Director Hadi Ghaemi said in a July 16 statement.

Masih Alinejad, who lives in the U.S., often protests the regime’s law requiring that women wear hijab. Iran’s judiciary convicted her brother on charges of “assembly and collusion against national security,” “propaganda against the state” and “insulting the Supreme Leader.”

U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook says the case is about retaliation, not justice.

“Alireza Alinejad was sentenced to eight years in prison because his sister, Masih, speaks out against the tyranny of the mullahs,” Hook said July 21. “We call today for Alireza’s immediate release.”

Soon after Alinejad’s arrest, a dozen advocacy groups, including CHRI and Human Rights Watch, issued an October 2, 2019, letter faulting Iran’s regime for targeting family members to silence critics.

“These arrests fit a pattern of intimidation and harassment often undertaken by the Iranian authorities to silence dissidents and civil society activists inside and outside Iran,” the groups said.

Iran’s regime in April 2020 sentenced novelist Hamid Namjoo to a year in prison for the content of his writing and for publishing abroad, CHRI says. But the verdict noted that he is the brother of Mohsen Namjoo, a prominent Iranian musician living in the U.S., and a “fugitive dissident anti-revolutionary singer,” CHRI adds.

In 2019, Iran’s regime sentenced Reza Khandan, husband of Iranian human rights attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh, to six years in prison, according to the U.S. State Department’s 2019 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. Khandan was convicted of charges that included “propaganda against the system” after voicing support for his wife, who is serving more than 30 years in prison for defending women charged with violating the regime’s mandatory hijab law.

The son of imprisoned Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Nourizad faced trial in April for protesting the regime’s downing of a Ukrainian civilian airliner. But Nourizad’s wife told CHRI that she believes the prosecution of her son, Ali Nourizad, is aimed at pressuring her husband.

Mohammad Nourizad is in prison for calling on Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to resign.

In a March 2020 letter, U.N. human rights experts voiced alarm that the Iranian regime was targeting family members of BBC news reporters.

“Their families residing in Iran have faced harassment and intimidation by Iranian authorities,” the experts said. “In some cases, family members were deprived of their liberty and held in degrading conditions, and ordered to tell their relatives to stop working for the BBC.”

Execution and Death Sentence

Iran: tortured Iranian Kurd at risk of execution: Arsalan Khodkam

3 August – Arsalan Khodkam, from Iran’s Kurdish minority, is at risk of execution in West Azerbaijan province. He was sentenced to death for “spying” after a grossly unfair trial that lasted about 30 minutes and relied on “confessions” he says were obtained under torture. He has never been allowed access to a lawyer of his own choosing. The use of the death penalty for “espionage” violates international law.

Arsalan Khodkam, 47, from Iran’s Kurdish minority, is at risk of execution in Urumieh prison in West Azerbaijan province. He was sentenced to death on 14 July 2018 for “spying” for the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), an armed Kurdish opposition group, while working as a low-ranking officer for the Revolutionary Guards. He consistently denied the charge and said that the authorities accused him of espionage after they learnt that he was in communication, via Instagram, with one of his wife’s relatives, who was a member of the KDPI. He was sentenced to death less than three months after his arrest in a grossly unfair trial that lasted 30 minutes and relied on “confessions”, which he said were made under torture and other ill-treatment. He has never been allowed access to a lawyer of his own choosing. In February 2020, his lawyer attempted to access his court documents and prepare a clemency application. The prosecution authorities told the lawyer that he could not represent Arsalan Khodkam and a clemency application previously submitted from inside prison had been rejected. In May 2020, his relatives were warned that his execution may be carried out at any moment.

Following his arrest on 23 April 2018, Arsalan Khodkam was transferred to a Revolutionary Guards detention facility in Almahdi military barracks in Urumieh where he was held in solitary confinement for 36 days, without access to his family and a lawyer. He said that during this period, the interrogators repeatedly tortured him to “confess”. The alleged torture included repeated episodes of flogging, punching and kicking, including on his back where he had a surgical implant. As a result, he fainted multiple times. The interrogators also allegedly handcuffed him in a painful manner for prolonged periods, and while doing so, they denied him access to toilet facilities, which forced him to either urinate on himself or hold his urine leading to bladder and kidney pain. He also said that he was deprived of sleep.

Arsalan Khodkam was convicted of “enmity against God” (moharebeh) through “espionage” by Branch 1 of the Military Court in West Azerbaijan. He met his court appointed lawyer for the first time at his trial and said that the lawyer did not present any defence in court. Branch 32 of the Supreme Court dismissed his appeal summarily, without addressing the unlawful use of torture-tainted “confessions” as evidence. A subsequent request for judicial review was rejected on 3 October 2018. He has never been provided with a copy of the written verdicts issued against him. The use of the death penalty for “espionage” violates international law, which restricts its use to “most serious crimes” involving intentional killings.

I urge you to quash Arsalan Khodkam’s conviction and death sentence and grant him a fair retrial, without recourse to the death penalty and excluding “confessions” obtained under torture and other ill-treatment. I urge you to ensure his access to a lawyer of his own choosing and order an

independent and impartial investigation into his allegations of torture and other ill-treatment and bring those responsible to justice.


Since 2018, Arsalan Khodkam’s family have approached various state bodies including the office of the Supreme Leader, the office of the head of the judiciary, and several Members of Parliament, highlighting the unfair nature of his conviction, and urging them to intervene to save his life. However, officials have consistently told the family that as the case concerned “security matters”, nothing could be done.

Arsalan Khodkam worked as a low-ranking officer at a Revolutionary Guards military base in Urumieh when he was arrested on 23 April 2018. The Revolutionary Guards accused him of “espionage” for the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) and claimed that he had provided the KDPI with intelligence on the military affairs of the Revolutionary Guards and assisted the KDPI in its armed operations against the Revolutionary Guards. KDPI is an Iranian armed Kurdish opposition group based in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, which resumed its armed opposition to the Iranian authorities in 2016 after having suspended it in the early 1990s. Arsalan Khodkam denied the accusations brought against him and said that he has not had any affiliation with the KDPI since he left the group in the early 1980s.

According to information obtained by Amnesty International, on one occasion, Arsalan Khodkam had informed his relative, a member of the KDPI, that the Revolutionary Guards were preparing to send forces to crush a series of peaceful anti-establishment strikes and protests in Baneh, Kurdistan province, which started in April 2018. He said that in his other communications, he had not shared any sensitive information and only mentioned the names and positions of several Revolutionary Guards officials he knew at work According to information obtained by Amnesty International, following his arrest in Urumieh, Arsalan Khodkam withstood days of physical torture, but signed the self-incriminating statements that the interrogators had prepared after they subjected him to psychological torture by detaining his wife on 28 April 2018 for two days and threatening to harm her and their son. During the 36 days he was held in solitary confinement, he reportedly lost considerable weight. He was subsequently transferred to Urumieh prison.

Arsalan Khodam said that he has been experiencing serious vision problems in his left eye as a result of repeated blows to his face while undergoing interrogations. He is also suffering from painful back problems. The authorities have ignored his repeated requests to be transferred to a medical centre outside prison for diagnosis and treatment. He was only given pain relief injections at the prison clinic for his back pain.

Torture is a violation of international law and its use is prohibited under all circumstances. Statements elicited as a result of torture, ill-treatment or other forms of coercion must be excluded as evidence in criminal proceedings, except those brought against suspected perpetrators of such abuse. The right to a fair trial is legally binding on all states as part of customary international law. Those facing criminal proceedings must have the right to access legal counsel from the time of arrest; not to be compelled to testify against themselves or to confess guilt; not to be detained on vague charges; to receive a fair, public hearing before a competent, independent and impartial tribunal; and to be provided with a public, reasoned judgement. In view of the irreversible nature of the death penalty, the proceedings in capital cases must scrupulously observe all relevant international standards protecting the right to a fair trial.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to kill the prisoner. The organization considers the death penalty a violation of the right to life and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. Amnesty International has repeatedly called on Iran to establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.

Young woman, 32, was hanged in Mashhad after 6 years on the death row

4 August – A young woman, 32, was hanged in the Central Prison of Mashhad on Sunday, August 2, 2020. The woman identified only by her first name, Mehri, had already served 6 years in prison on the death row.

The state-run reported the woman’s execution on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. The executed woman was accused of murdering her husband. The Iranian Resistance has registered 106 women executed during the tenure of the mullahs’ President, Hassan Rouhani, since he took office in 2013.

The substantiated information is based on the news and information published in the state-run media in Iran, human rights activists, and other reliable sources inside Iran with ties to the Iranian opposition movement. The actual figure must be considered higher, as most executions in Iran are carried out secretly out of the public eye with no witnesses but the executioners who carry them out. The Women’s Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran has published a list of the women executed during Rouhani’s tenure. The first woman who was executed in 2020 was Sara M. who was also hanged in the Central Prison of Mashhad. The second woman was Maliheh Haj Hassani, 29, whose death sentence was carried out in the Central Prison of Shiraz.

In 2019, in step with ramping up suppression and executions in Iran, the clerical regime hanged 16 women, six of them only in the month of December. Iran holds the world record for the execution of women. Because of the clerical regime’s failure to categorize murders according to their degrees, anyone committing murder is sentenced to death, regardless of their motives. These executions are cruelly unjust. As the NCRI Women’s Committee has formerly noted, Many of the women convicted of murder in Iran are themselves victims of domestic violence against women and have committed murder in self-defense.

Iran: Three Prisoners hanged in Hamedan; 32 executions in July 2020

4 August -Three men arrested for the rape of a woman, have been executed in Hamedan Central Prison. The three defendants had never accepted the charges.

According to Hamshahri Online, three men were executed in Hamadan Central Prison last week. The three prisoners were sentenced to death as co-defendants in a rape case.

According to the report, the men pled their innocence every time they were taken to court for interrogation and investigations, and the conviction was based on the opinion of the forensic examiner and the identification office of Police.

Referring to the rumors surrounding the case in Hamedan, the report said, ”Some people said that the plaintiff in the case made the complaint because they were wealthy people and that the motive was financial.”

The report does not mention the exact identity and date of execution of the three prisoners.

In July 2020, 32 people were executed in Iran, meaning that on average, more than one person was executed every day.

Iran: Two prisoners executed in Shahrekord Prison

4 August – Two prisoners on death row for qisas (retribution in-kind) for ”premeditated murder” were executed in Shahrekord Prison, in Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari province.

According to the Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting services (IRIB), on the morning of Sunday, August 2, the death sentences of two men were carried out in Shahrekord Prison. The two men sentenced to qisas for “premeditated murder” have only been identified by their initials, “B.D” and “F.A”.

Abdulreza Ali Mohammadi, the attorney general of the capital of Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari province, said: ”One of the prisoners named B.D was arrested in the city of Naghan for the murder of a person named M.N. in 2017 and sentenced to qisas in 2018.”

He added: ”Another person named F.A was arrested in city of Lordegan for the premeditated murder of a person named K.G in 2017 and he was also sentenced to qisas.”

According to Iran Human Rights’ Annual Report on the Death Penalty in Iran, at least 225 of the 280 executed in 2019, were charged with ”premeditated murder.”

As there are no legal distinctions made between murder and manslaughter, whether voluntary or involuntary in Iran, those charged under the umbrella term of “premeditated murder” will receive the death penalty regardless of intent and the circumstances.

Execution of Mostafa Salehi

6 August – 1) Amnesty International condemns the execution of protester Mostafa Salehi, which was carried out in Esfahan prison on 5 August despite serious unfair trial concerns incl torture & other ill-treatment & the denial of access to a lawyer during the investigation phase of his case.

2) Mostafa Salehi was convicted of murder for the killing of a Revolutionary Guards member during nationwide protests in Dec 2017-Jan 2018. He maintained his innocence and independent media reports suggest that the prosecution authorities failed to provide evidence of his guilt.

3) The Iranian authorities have a deplorable track record when it comes to the use of the death penalty. Mostafa Salehi’s execution shows, once again, that the Iranian authorities are more interested in seeking vengeance than justice.

4) Mostafa Salehi’s execution raises fears about the fate of five other protesters sentenced to death in relation to the Jan 2017-Dec 2018 protests. They are: Mohammad Bastami, Mehdi Salehi, Hadi Kiani, Abbas Mohammadi and Majid Nazari.

5) Amnesty International calls on the Iranian authorities to immediately quash the death sentences of these five men and grant them a fair retrial without recourse to the death penalty. Anyone detained solely for peacefully taking part in the protests must be released.

6) @amnesty opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature/circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or method used to carry out the execution. We campaign for total abolition of the death penalty.

Iran: Prisoner Jaffar Tayebi executed in Qom

7 August – A prisoner sentenced to qisas (retribution in-kind) for “premeditated murder” has been executed in Qom Central Prison (Choobindar).

According to Iran Human Rights, a prisoner was executed in Qom Central Prison this morning. His identity has been established as Jaffar Tayebi, who had been sentenced to qisas (retribution in-kind) for “premeditated murder.”

An informed source told IHR: “Tayebi killed his landlord’s son about three years ago and he was unable to obtain the consent of the victim’s family.”

The source also talked about the health conditions at Qom Central Prison during the COVID-19 outbreak: ”No measures were taken to disinfect the wards during the corona outbreak, and even masks and gloves were not provided to the prisoners. The prison infirmary does not take care of sick prisoners and returns the sick prisoner to the ward immediately.”

”Most of the prisoners who returned from furlough were infected with the coronavirus and spread it to other prisoners, and some prisoners are coughing from morning till night, and the authorities do not provide masks to these prisoners. None of the prisoners with corona were transferred out of prison for treatment and are being kept among other prisoners.”

At the time of publication, the execution of Jaffar Tayebi has not been announced by officials or domestic media outlets.

According to Iran Human Rights’ annual report, at least 225 of the 280 of those executed in 2019 were charged with ”premeditated murder.” As there are no legal distinctions made between murder and manslaughter, whether voluntary or involuntary in Iran, those charged under the umbrella term of “premeditated murder” will receive the death penalty regardless of intent and the circumstances.

Iran: Prisoner Mehrzad Jalalvand executed at Rasht Central Prison

7 August – A prisoner sentenced to qisas (retribution in-kind) for murder has been executed at Rasht Central Prison.

According to Iran Human Rights, on the morning of Thursday, August 6, a man was executed in Rasht Central Prison. His identity has been established as Mehrzad Jalalvand, aged around 35, was sentenced to qisas (retribution in-kind) for murder.

An informed source has told IHR: ”Mehrzad was from Khorramabad, but they lived near Lahijan for many years. In 2015, after a neighbour’s son stabs Mehrzad’s father twice during a fight, he goes to the neighbour’s son and pushes him. The neighbour’s son had a cerebral haemorrhage and died.”

According to the source, Mehrzad had repeatedly stated in court and in letters to the judiciary from inside the prison, that he had no intention of killing the victim.

At the time of publication, the execution of this prisoner has not been announced by local media or officials.

According to Iran Human Rights’ Annual Report on the Death Penalty in Iran, at least 225 of the 280 of those executed in 2019 were charged with ”premeditated murder.”

As there are no legal distinctions made between murder and manslaughter, whether voluntary or involuntary in Iran, those charged under the umbrella term of “premeditated murder” will receive the death penalty regardless of intent and the circumstances.

Kurdish Political Prisoner Heydar Ghorbani at Risk of Imminent Execution in Iran

9 August – Heydar Ghorbani, a Kurdish political prisoner in Iran is facing imminent execution. On Wednesday, August 5, Branch 27 of Iran’s Supreme Court upheld a death sentence against political prisoner Heydar Ghorbani from the city of Kamyaran in Kuridstan province, western Iran.

The dossier has been transferred to the Prosecutor’s Office in the city of Sanandaj, capital of Kurdistan province, for the execution to be carried out.

Heydar Ghorbani, a member of the Kurdish minority community, along with his brother-in-law Mahmoud Sadeqi, were arrested by agents of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) back in 2016 and immediately transferred to Sanandaj Central Prison.

They were accused of cooperation in the killing of several members of the Revolutionary Guard and membership in the outlawed Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (DPIK).

According to his family, Heydar Ghorbani was forced to confess under duress and psychological torture.

His forced confessions were later broadcasted on the English channel of the Iranian state-run television, Press TV in 2017.

The Iranian regime has increased its use of the death penalty against the dissidents and political prisoners to contain the widespread surging social discontent. On Wednesday, August 5, Iranian regime hanged political prisoner Mostafa Salehi, arrested during the December 2017 protests. He was charged with killing a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps during protests. Mostafa Salehi maintained his innocence until his execution. “Bring witnesses or at least check security cameras,” he had told the court.

Despite facing persistent pressure and enduring long periods of torture while he was held at the Isfahan Police Department, during interrogations by the Isfahan Intelligence Agency, Salehi refused to confess, as the Najafabad (Isfahan) prosecutor later confirmed. No weapons, ammunition, or other evidence were found. He pleaded not guilty in court.

In a statement on July 15 following the execution of two Kurdish men, Diaku Rasoulzadeh and Saber Sheikh Abdollah, Amnesty International said “There has been an alarming escalation in use of the death penalty against protesters, dissidents and members of minority groups in Iran.”

The rights group said that at least five prisoners from Iran’s Kurdish minority, including Heydar Ghorbani, were at risk of execution.

According to Amnesty another Kurdish prisoner on death row, Hedayat Abdollahpour, has been forcibly disappeared since May 9, 2020 as the authorities refuse to reveal the truth concerning his secret execution and return his body to his family. A seventh Kurdish prisoner, Mostafa Salimi was executed on April 11, 2020 in the city of Saqqez, in Kurdistan province. Salimi had managed to escape in late March along with tens of other inmates during a protest by inmates against prison conditions amid the coronavirus outbreak. He was executed shortly after being re-arrested.

“Iran’s increasing use of the death penalty as a political weapon for repression is alarming and warrants the immediate attention of the international community. Without urgent diplomatic and public action, more lives in Iran are at risk of being cut short by the state’s execution machine,” said Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s researcher on Iran.

Torture and Ill-Treatment

Executed Iranian Protester Tortured to Make False Confession

6 August – New information from inside Iran indicates that Iranian protester Mostafa Salehi who was hanged on Au-gust 5, 2020, in Isfahan had been subjected to vicious tor-tures to confess the killing on an IRGV member.

He never accepted the charges but was still hanged despite the lack of evidence.

A source said that Mostafa Salehi had been severely tortu-

red in the past two years to confess the killing of Sajjad Shahsanaei a member of the IRGC Basij forces.

“Mostafa’s hand and both legs had been broken during interrogations. Agents also used needles to puncture under his nails,” the source said.

“The tortures were so severe that his neck and spinal cord became injured. They tortured him to confess but he never did,” the source said.

According to the source, Mostafa’s family were told to stay silent and that “it would be bad for Mostafa” if they talked to anyone about his plight.

“His family stayed silent, but in the end they still executed him,” the source added.

The human rights website said that Mostafa was the father of a 6 year old boy and a 4 year old girl.

Despite facing persistent pressure and enduring long periods of torture while he was held at the Isfahan Police Department, during interrogations by the Isfahan Intelligence Agency, Salehi refused to confess, as the Najafabad (Isfahan) prosecutor later confirmed. No weapons, ammunition, or other evidence were found. He pleaded not guilty in court.

Torture and other ill-treatment are absolutely prohibited under international law including Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a state party.

However, the Iranian regime is notoriously renowned for making up scenarios and extracting forced confessions from political prisoners to justify their execution.

The regime’s Judiciary confirmed on Friday, July 10, the death sentences for three young protesters, Amir Hossein Moradi, Saied Tamjidi, and Mohammad Rajabi, arrested during November 2019 nationwide uprising. The regime later stepped back due to the worldwide campaign.

The trial of the three men, which took place on 5-6 January 2020, was grossly unfair, according to Amnesty International.

The regime’s oppressive state security forces identified and arrested 25-year-old Moradi using CCTV footage obtained during the November 2019 protests. He was held for a week in a detention center of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) in Tehran before being transferred to Tehran’s notorious Evin prison for a month. Moradi was then placed under torture and other ill-treatment, including beatings, electric shock treatment and even an interrogator standing on his chest.

Less than two weeks ago, a worldwide twitter campaign, in which users tweeted 12 million times the hashtag #donotexecute, called for the halt of the death sentences for three youths arrested during the November 2019.

In another developement Iran’s Supreme Court upheld the death sentences of five other men in Isfahan arrested by security forces during the 2017-2018 and January 2019 protests.

The protesters, Mehdi Salehi Ghale Shahrokhi, Mohammad Bastami, Majid Nazari Kondori, Hadi Kiani, and Abbas Mohammadi have each received two death sentences on charges of “waging war against God” and “baghi” (taking up arms against the government).

Prisoners of Conscience

Virus-hit prisons still full of human rights defenders, as attacks continue

6 August – Governments who were lauded for releasing prisoners in response to COVID-19 outbreaks have excluded human rights defenders from the measures and continue to make new arrests of activists, journalists and critics, Amnesty International said today. In a new briefing, “Daring to Stand up for Human Rights in a Pandemic”, which documents attacks on human rights defenders during the pandemic, the organization highlights the hypocrisy of governments including Egypt, India, Iran and Turkey, who

have left prisoners of conscience to languish in appalling conditions despite widely publicized prisoner release programmes.

“COVID-19 has been an added punishment for human rights defenders who are unjustly imprisoned, and has also been used as a pretext for further harassment, prosecution and even killings,” said Lisa Maracani, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Human Rights Defenders.

The new briefing documents attacks on human rights defenders during the COVID-19 period in 46 countries, and shows how “fake news” laws, movement restrictions, reduced police protection and heightened intolerance to criticism have led to new crackdowns around the world, including against whistle-blowers in the health sector and those highlighting inadequate responses to the pandemic.

Amnesty International has identified 131 people who speak up for human rights globally who have been harassed, prosecuted, killed or imprisoned on COVID-19-related pretexts – this figure is likely to be the tip of the iceberg.

“Instead of making space for human rights defenders to support their efforts to address the pandemic and prepare for a just recovery, states are taking counterproductive measures to silence perceived opponents,” said Lisa Maracani.

Excluded from release measures

On 25 March 2020, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urged all states to release “every person detained without sufficient legal basis, including political prisoners, and those detained for critical, dissenting views” in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, several countries excluded human rights defenders from decongestion measures in prisons and other places of detention.

In Iran, authorities announced that they had temporarily released 85,000 prisoners but many human rights defenders continue to be held on politically motivated charges in appalling conditions.

They include Narges Mohammadi, a human rights defender who suffers from serious pre-existing health conditions and is showing suspected COVID-19 symptoms. The authorities continue to deny Narges Mohammadi health care in prison, and refuse to inform her of the results of a COVID-19 test taken on 8 July.

Amid the crisis, Iranian authorities have also continued to arbitrarily arrest and imprison human rights defenders.

Detention of Female Civil Activists, Pressure on Political Detainees in Iran

6 August – The regime terrorizes and clamps down on society by ramping up pressure on female human rights defenders

Suppression and detention of female civil activists and pressuring political prisoners are common practices by the mullahs’ misogynist regime to intimidate society.

This report focuses on the conditions of political prisoners Zeinab Jalalian and Zahra Safaei and provides an update on eight female civil activists who were arrested between July 26 and August 4, 2020.

Latest Update on Zahra Safaei’s Condition

Political prisoner Zahra Safaei was rearrested on Sunday, July 26, 2020, when she was referred to the Prosecutor’s Office of Evin Prison to review her case and that of her daughter. On July 6, 2020, she was transferred to Qarchak Prison’s quarantine ward.

Mrs. Safaei announced that she would definitely go on a hunger strike starting the evening of August 3 if she was not transferred to a public ward.

On June 28, 2020, Zahra Safaei had been temporarily released from Qarchak Prison, until the end of her trial, on bail of 300 million Toman (approximately $13,214).

Security forces arrested Zahra Safaei in Tehran on February 24, 2020. They also arrested her daughter, Parastoo Mo’ini, Forough Taghipour, and her mother, Nasim Jabbari. The three women were subsequently transferred to the Intelligence Ministry’s detention center (Ward 209 of Evin Prison). Parastoo Mo’ini and Forough Taghipour were transferred to Qarchak Prison in early March 2020.

Zeinab Jalalian contacts her family

After 2 months of no outside contact, Kurdish political prisoner Zeinab Jalalian was finally able to get in touch with family members via phone call. She informed her family that she had been in solitary confinement in Kerman Prison. This report was published on July 30, 2020.

Deniz Jalalian, Zeinab’s sister, reported that Zeinab told her family on July 28 that she had ended her hunger strike. During the call, two security interrogators were standing next to Zeinab. They forced the Kurdish prisoner to speak Persian, denying her the right to speak with her family in her mother tongue.

Deniz Jalalian said that Zeinab’s voice was hoarse and that she had a persistent cough.

Security interrogators told Zeinab Jalalian that they had transferred her to Kerman Prison because she sent prison news to human rights organizations and wrote open letters while she was held in Qarchak Prison.

Prison sentences issued against rights activists

Civil activist Shahin (Afsaneh) Khakpour, a resident of Kerman, was sentenced to 18 years in prison by the Revolutionary Court of Kerman on Monday, August 3, 2020.

Afsaneh Khakpour was arrested in June 2020 for protesting the mandatory veil. She was later released on bail, pending trial.

Baran Behzad, a Kurdish woman from Urmia, has been sentenced to 8 years in prison. Baran Behzad had been detained in Urmia Central Prison for 3 years, but the news of her arrest and sentencing has just been published.

Shahnaz Sadeghifar, from Urmia, was sentenced to 15 years by the city’s Revolutionary Court. She and her 17-year-old daughter, Ainaz Zare, were arrested by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in September last year. Shahnaz Sadeghifar was interrogated for 2 months.

She and her daughter had been subjected to psychological pressure and torture during interrogations to obtain forced confessions. They were then transferred to Urmia Central Prison. Shahnaz Sadeghifar, 32, has been on a hunger strike since Tuesday, July 28, 2020, to protest her harsh sentence of 15 years. She is very weak, and her physical condition is reported to be serious.

Detention of female civil activists

Maryam Khosh Andam, 45, from Kurdistan, and Roghayeh Hassanzadeh, 55, were arrested at the end of July to serve their sentences. They were transferred to the women’s ward of Evin Prison.

Civil activist Fariba Fereydoni was arrested by IRGC

intelligence forces in Khomein on July 23, 2020. She was transferred to Evin Prison 2 days later. The reason for her arrest remains unknown.

Somayeh Namdamal, a young girl from Buchan, was arrested by the city’s intelligence services on July 25, 2020, and transferred to the Urmia Intelligence Detention Center. Somayeh has had no contact with her family since her arrest.

Saba Azarpeik, a journalist and social activist, was summoned to court after the IRGC and the Ministry of Health complained that she had criticized the performance of the regime’s National Headquarters for Corona Disease Management.

She had been arrested by security forces in June 2014 and released from prison in August of the same year on bail of 150 million Tomans.

Marathon champion subjected to 2 months of interrogation and imprisonment

In a recently published report, Yalda Emamdoost, a marathon champion in Isfahan, was arrested by intelligence agents at her home on May 31, 2020. Yalda Emamdoost was interrogated in Isfahan’s Dolatabad Prison for 2 months and is being held in solitary confinement. Yalda Emamdoost, 47, is being held on charges of propaganda against the state. Keeping prisoners in solitary confinement is one of the most common forms of torture in the Velayat-e-Faqih system.

Intimidating a political prisoner’s wife

Azam Piri, the wife of Latif Hassani, a political activist imprisoned in Gohardasht Prison in Karaj, was threatened by the factory manager where she works. The factory manager told Azam Piri that he could cause her problems and that he would not pay her because her husband is a political activist.

Jafar Azimzadeh’s additional sentence upheld

7 August – On 1 August 2020, the 36th Branch of the Court of Appeals upheld the additional sentence of 13 months’ imprisonment against Jafar Azimzadeh.

The labour rights defender was charged with ”propaganda against the state” on 8 June whilst already in prison serving a five year sentence.

That same day, the two prisoners who physically assaulted Jafar Azimzadeh on 26 July were moved to another ward of Evin prison.

The defender was subjected to two separate attacks by the prisoners in question but the prison authorities did not actively respond to the attacks against or risk to Jafar Azimzadeh at the time.

Iran protester Fatemeh Davand taken to jail to serve over 5 years

8 August – Ms. Davand is sentenced to 30 lashes and 65 months in prison for taking part in November 2019 protests

An Iran protester, Ms. Fatemeh Davand was transferred to the Central prison of Urmia on August 6, 2020, to start serving her jail sentence for taking part in the protests in Boukan in Novem-ber 2019.

Ms. Davand was arrested during the November 2019 protests and sentenced to five years and five months and 30 lashes by the Revolutionary Court of Boukan, in Iranian Kurdistan.

Ms. Davand is 42 years old and has three children.

On February 6, 2020, she was sentenced to five months in prison and 30 lashes on charges of “disrupting public order and calm by participating in riots” and “removing her veil.”

On May 12, 2020, Ms. Davand was tried by the First Branch of the Revolutionary Court of Mahabad on charges of “assembly and collusion against national security.” In late June, the court issued a 5-year jail sentence and informed her lawyer.

In total, Fatemeh Davand is sentenced to 5 years and 5 months’ imprisonment and 30 lashes.

After being arrested during the November protests, she was temporarily released on a billion-toman bail from the Central Prison of Urmia on March 25, 2020.

Amnesty International posted a tweet on August 6, saying “Kurdish Iranian woman Fatemeh Davand was imprisoned after an unfair trial which used “confessions” she reportedly made under torture and other ill-treatment to convict her.”

The AI urged Iranian authorities to release Ms. Davand “as she has been imprisoned on the basis of her peacefully exercising her rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and forced “confessions” she reportedly made under torture.”

At least 400 women were among at least 1,500 who were killed during the protests in November 2019 by the Iranian regime’s security and intelligence forces and plainclothes agents. At least another 12,000 were arrested and jailed during the nationwide protests.

Sources: Iranian Labor Union Leader’s 5-Year Jail Term Prolonged to Punish His Peaceful Prison Activism

9 August – Multiple sources say a jailed Iranian labor union leader has had his five-year prison term extended for another year by Iran’s appellate court in retaliation for his pursuit of peaceful activism while in detention.

One source, who is close to jailed activist Jafar Azimzadeh, told VOA Persian in a Monday interview that the court upheld his new 13-month sentence in an August 1 ruling and informed him about it on the same day. A lower Revolutionary Court had issued the sentence June 8, convicting Azimzadeh of spreading anti-government “propaganda” from inside Tehran’s Evin prison.

Azimzadeh has been held at Evin since January 29, 2019, when he was rearrested to serve the remainder of a five-year prison term imposed on him by Iranian courts in 2015. He had begun serving that sentence at the same prison on November 8, 2015, and later secured an early release on June 30, 2016, after enduring a two-month hunger strike to protest his detention.

Azimzadeh is a leading member of the Free Union of Iranian Workers, a group that formed in 2006 without government approval and advocates for better wages for workers.

The group has said Iranian authorities filed the anti-government propaganda charge against Azimzadeh to punish him for several peaceful acts of protest at Evin last year. Those include his signing of a November letter with other dissidents highlighting the lack of medical treatment for sick prisoners in Iran, his recording of an audio message denouncing the arrests of labor activists who joined a May Day rally outside the Iranian parliament, and his criticism of the sentencing of workers demanding unpaid wages at Iran’s Haft-Tapeh Sugar Cane Company.

The FIUW responded to the apparent upholding of Azimzadeh’s additional 13-month prison sentence with a Sunday statement on its Telegram channel, calling it a cruel move aimed at suppressing demands for workers’ rights. It said Azimzadeh has not committed any crime by defending the demands of Iranian workers.

There has been no mention of the Iranian appellate court’s decision in Iranian state media.

Azimzadeh received his initial five-year prison sentence for the offenses of spreading anti-government “propaganda” and “assembly and collusion against national security through organizing and operating an illegal group.”

Days before the Iranian appellate court approved the extension of his prison term, Azimzadeh was assaulted in Evin prison by two fellow inmates, according an Instagram post by his wife Akram Rahimpour.

Rahimpour wrote that her husband was assaulted on the morning of July 26 by an accused drug trafficker who had no prior history of confrontation with him. She said Azimzadeh was assaulted again that afternoon in the prison yard by another detainee who appeared high on drugs and also had not shown animosity toward him before.

Rahimpour said prison authorities took no action against either of the alleged assailants, leaving Azimzadeh in danger. VOA could not independently verify the details of the alleged incidents.

Iranian prosecutors summoned Rahimpour to Tehran’s Revolutionary Court on May 20 to question her about interviews she had given to news outlets regarding her husband.

In a July 29 statement, Dublin-based human rights group Front Line Defenders said it was seriously concerned about the two reported prison assaults on Azimzadeh and Iran’s practice of detaining rights activists alongside dangerous prisoners convicted of serious crimes.

It also expressed deep concern about what it called Iran’s judicial harassment of Azimzadeh’s wife and its refusal to grant him a temporary release to reduce his risk of contracting the coronavirus in prison. Front Line Defenders reported the upholding of Azimzadeh’s new 13-month prison term in a follow-up statement on August 7, without specifying its source for the information.

Political Prisoners Among 12 Testing Positive in Ward 8 of Evin Prison

10 August – A random Corona test done in Ward 8 of Evin Prison on Sunday, August 9, revealed that 12 of the 17 inmates tested positive.

The 12 inmates have been transferred the prison’s dispensary.

Activist teacher Esmail Abdi, labor activist Jafar Azimzadeh, lawyer Amir Salar Davoudi, Majid Azarpay, Fereydoun Ahmadi and Saeed Sharifi are among the 12 infected inmates in Ward 8 of Evin Prison. Esmail Abdi already suffered from Asthma, and Jafar Azimzadeh suffers from kidney, heart and blood circulation complications, rendering them more vulnerable to the coronavirus.

Human rights organizations had repeatedly warned about the outbreak of the virus inside Iran prisons, calling for the release of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. Amnesty International on July 31 revealed four leaked official letters sent by senior officials responsible for managing Iran’s prisons to the Ministry of Health between late February 2020 and early July 2020, in connection with the spread of COVID-19 in Iran’s prisons.

The letters raise the alarm over serious shortages of protective equipment, disinfectant products, and essential medical devices, and seek urgent funding and assistance. The letters show that as of early July 2020, the Ministry of Health had failed to respond.

Iranian authorities have deliberately denied medical treatment to prisoners of conscience and other political prisoners, putting their life and health at grave risk. In some cases, they deny medical care to inmates to punish them or to forced them into making false confessions against their will.

Another case is that of political prisoner Gholam Hossein Kalbi who is serving a life sentence in Ward 7 of Sheiban Prison of Ahvaz, and is suspected of being infected with the virus.

A number of drug-related convicts in Ward 7 have already been infected, transmitting the virus to others in the ward. Mr. Kalbi is detained in this ward in violation of the principle of separation of prisoners according to the category of their crimes. The authorities have refused to send him to the ward of political prisoners.

Iran Human Rights Monitor (Iran HRM) is seriously concerned about the health of these political prisoners and other inmates who have been infected. The sick prisoners must be released immediately and unconditionally, and urgently treated in public medical centers.

The Iranian regime and Judiciary must be held to account for the life and health of Iranian prisoners and the humanitarian catastrophe in Iran prisons.

Forced Disappearances

Germany must react to the kidnapping of Iranian-German citizen

4 August -The kidnapping of Iranian dissidents from neighbouring countries is becoming a regular occurrence. Failure by the international community to respond adequately to these unlawful acts will lead to its normalisation/legitimisation.

The kidnapping of Jamshid Sharmahd, an Iranian-German citizen from neighbouring soil is the latest case in this trend. He has been accused by state media outlets of being involved in several ”terrorist operations”.

Noting that there are no standards of a fair trial in the Islamic Republic, that the state’s interrogation apparatus is based on extracting false confessions under torture and that the death penalty is widely used, Iran Human Rights calls on the international community to intervene to save the life Sharmahd and to prevent further kidnappings of dissidents.

IHR Director, Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, said: ”The German government has a responsibility to protect Jamshid Sharmahd’s life, like its other citizens and must take every necessary step to save his life. If Jamshid Sharmahd has committed any crimes, he deserves the right to due process and a fair trial in a jurisdiction free of torture and execution. Should state kidnappings go unpunished, we will see an increase in such unlawful acts, which are contrary to international laws.”

On August 1, Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence issued a statement announcing the arrest of Jamshid Sharmahd, ”the head of Tondar group, following a complex operation.” Tondar Media is the broadcasting platform for “Kingdom Assembly of Iran”, which is considered an opposition group to the Islamic Republic. Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence has called the assembly a “terrorist” organisation.

In a television program aired on Saturday, August 1st, the Minister of Intelligence of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mahmoud Alavi, claimed that Sharmahd had been arrested in Iran. However, in an interview with Iran International TV, Jamshid Sharmahd’s children said that their father had been abducted in the United Arab Emirates.

Jamshid Sharmahd is a German citizen who has lived in the United States for some time. Arresting political dissidents outside of Iran is not unprecedented. Ruhollah Zam, the director of Amad News Telegram channel, was arrested in Iraq in October 2019 and transported to Iran. A political refugee living in France, he was recently sentenced to death in the court of the first instance.

Iran Abducted California-Based Man Staying in Dubai, According to His Family

4 August – A California-based member of an Iranian militant opposition group in exile was abducted by Iran while staying in Dubai, his family said Tuesday.

The suspected cross-border abduction of Jamshid Sharmahd appears corroborated by mobile phone location data, shared by his family with

The Associated Press, that suggests he was taken to neighboring Oman before heading to Iran.

Iran hasn’t said how it detained Sharmahd, though the announcement came against the backdrop of covert actions conducted by Iran amid heightened tensions with the U.S. over Tehran’s collapsing nuclear deal with world powers.

Iran accuses Sharmahd, 65, of Glendora, California of planning a 2008 attack on a mosque that killed 14 people and wounded over 200 others, as well as plotting other assaults through the little-known Kingdom Assembly of Iran and its Tondar militant wing. It aired an interview of him on state television — footage that resembled many other suspected coerced confessions broadcast by the Iranian government in the last decade.

His family, however, insists Sharmahd only served as a spokesman for the group and had nothing to do with any attacks in Iran. Sharmahd, who supports restoring Iran’s monarchy that was overthrown in the 1979 Islamic Revolution, already had been targeted in an apparent Iranian assassination plot on U.S. soil in 2009.

“We’re seeking support from any democratic country, any free country,” his son Shayan Sharmahd told the AP. “It is a violation of human rights. You can’t just pick someone up in a third country and drag them into your country.”

Iran’s Intelligence Ministry has not elaborated on how it detained the elder Sharmahd, other than to deny he was arrested in Tajikistan. The ministry and Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Sharmahd had been in Dubai, trying to travel to India for a business deal involving his software company, his son said. He was hoping to get a connecting flight despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic disrupting global travel.

Sharmahd’s family received the last message from him on July 28. After that, he no longer responded to their calls and messages, his son said. Telephone location data showed his mobile phone that day at the Premier Inn Dubai International Airport Hotel, where he had been staying.

It’s unclear how the abduction happened. A hotel operator said Sharmahd had checked out July 29. Tracking data showed Sharmahd’s mobile phone traveled south from Dubai to the city of Al Ain on July 29, crossing the border into Oman and staying overnight near an Islamic school in the border city of al-Buraimi.

On July 30, tracking data showed the mobile phone traveled to the Omani port city of Sohar, where the signal stopped.

Two days later, on Saturday, Iran announced it had captured Sharmahd in a “complex operation.” The Intelligence Ministry published a photograph of him blindfolded.

His son said he believed that in the state TV footage, Sharmahd hurriedly read whatever Iran wanted him to say.

“Imagine your own father being tied up one day on television and you see that,” Shayan Sharmahd said.

Western officials believe Iran runs intelligence operations in Dubai and keeps tabs on the hundreds of thousands of Iranians living in the city-state. Iran is suspected of kidnapping and later killing British-Iranian national Abbas Yazdi in Dubai in 2013, though Tehran has denied involvement.

It isn’t just Iran that maintains a presence in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, home to some 5,000 U.S. troops and the U.S. Navy’s busiest port of call outside of America. The U.S. State Department runs its Iran Regional Presence Office in Dubai, where diplomats monitor Iranian media reports and talk to Iranians.

Dubai’s hotels long have been targeted by intelligence operatives, such as in the suspected 2010 assassination by the Israeli Mossad of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. Dubai and the rest of the UAE have since invested even more in an elaborate surveillance network.

Dubai police and officials, as well as federal officials in Abu Dhabi and the Omani Embassy in Washington, did not respond to requests for comment.

The UAE has long been trying to de-escalate tensions with Iran after President Donald Trump’s maximum pressure campaign saw him pull out of the nuclear deal. On Sunday, Emirati Foreign

Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan held a videoconference with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

However, over the last year, a series of escalating incidents have shaken the wider Mideast, leading to a U.S. drone strike in January that killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad and an Iranian ballistic missile attack that injured dozens of American soldiers in Iraq. Also, there have been explosions on oil tankers off the Emirati coast that the U.S. Navy has blamed on Iranian limpet mines.

Last month, an oil tanker seized by the UAE after being suspected of smuggling Iranian crude oil was hijacked, likely by Iran. In June, Iran sentenced to death another opposition journalist living in Paris it detained under unclear circumstances.

For now, Sharmahd’s family said they contacted the government in Germany, where he holds citizenship, and the U.S. government as he’s lived for years in America and was on track for citizenship after the 2009 assassination plot.

The German Embassy in Tehran has asked Iranian authorities for consular access, according to the Foreign Ministry in Berlin, hoping to understand how Sharmahd was arrested. However, Iran doesn’t allow consular access for its dual nationals, considering them exclusively Iranian citizens.

The State Department, which mistakenly referred to Sharmahd in an earlier report as an American citizen, acknowledged his arrest and said Iran “has a long history of detaining Iranians and foreign nationals on spurious charges.”

While Iran has yet to say what charges Sharmahd faces, others detained over the 2008 bombing have been convicted and executed. Sharmahd’s son said his father suffers from Parkinson’s disease, as well as diabetes and heart trouble that require medication and careful monitoring.

“He’s very much at risk,” his son said. “All of us are extremely concerned.”

Women’s rights

Compulsory Veiling Laws, Summer, and Renewed Crackdown on Women

7 August – Since seizing power in Iran, the mullahs’ regime has institutionalized fundamentalist laws, including the compulsory veiling laws for women. The regime also added 27 official agencies, including armed security forces, to the judicial system to enforce these laws.

By refusing to observe compulsory veiling laws, women are able to create cracks in the regime’s pillars of power that are hidden behind the mask of religion. Thus, the mullahs in Iran see any breach of the compulsory veiling laws as a major security issue.

The summer months offer the regime more opportunities to crack down on women under the pretext of enforcing the compulsory veiling laws.

Summer Entertainment Overshadowed by Fear of Repressive Forces

Beaches and other leisure areas, especially in northern Iran, have been subject to security crackdowns on women under the pretext of veiling laws. Commanders from the State Security Forces (SSF) from two northern provinces simultaneously announced their repressive plans for the summer.

Summer Entertainment Overshadowed by Fear of Repressive Forces

Hossein Hassanpoor, the SSF’s Deputy Coordinator in Gilan Province, announced that “194 additional car and motorbike teams would be deployed from

other provinces to patrol Gilan’s beaches and other recreation areas. To bolster the plan, the SSF teams will monitor the beaches with the support of a new central headquarters, in cooperation with other agencies” (The state-run ISNA news agency – June 4, 2020).

Morteza Mirzaii, the SSF’s Commander of Mazandaran Province, announced that the SSF’s Summer Plan is starting in advance. “The plan is being implemented in 47 points along the province’s beaches as of June 9, 2020. Security agents will also be present in 85 parks and recreation areas,” he declared.

According to Mirzaii, 2,000 police, marines, police assistants, and security service companies will monitor the shore and main roads using 210 foot-patrol teams, 249 car patrols, 77 motor patrols, 20 four-wheel motorbike patrols, 27 patrol boats, and 22 watercrafts (The state-run Fars news agency – June 8, 2020).

Gender Segregation

On June 11, 2020, Galikesh’s prosecutor announced that the host of a mixed festival had been arrested.

Abbas Arab declared, “Two days ago, two news items were published about conducting tours for tourists and holding a mixed festival during which girls were dressed inappropriately. With the efforts of the Chief Justice of Golestan Province and following the prosecutor and the order of the investigator of Galikesh city, the main perpetrator of this festival was arrested. His case is also being considered by the judiciary” (The state-run Golestan24 news agency – June 11, 2020).

Meanwhile, Mohammad Saeed Fazel Dadgar, the SSF Commander of Golestan, announced that two other people were arrested on similar charges.

“The supervisor and a tourist guide in the Cheshmeh Lal recreation area were arrested; they had held a mixed camp and published pictures of the event. Both defendants were referred to the Judiciary after the case was filed,” he said. (The state-run Mehr news agency – June 11, 2020)

Attacks on Clothing Manufacturers and Boutiques

After going after people’s leisure areas, it is time to humiliate women even more by cracking down on clothing manufacturers and sellers.

“The clothing union has warned against the production and supply of open-front manteaux (long coats) or see-through manteau dresses, stating that in the event of violations, the police obtain a court order to seal the unit,” according to Nader Moradi, the Tehran Public Security Deputy Police Supervisor of Public Places, in referring to the beginning of the summer season.

Police also “identify all these individuals through online monitoring. A number of production sites and boutiques have already been identified, and with judicial coordination, legal action will be taken against them,” he added (The official IRNA news agency – June 2, 2020).

Mohammad Baqerzadeh, the Head of Public Places’ Supervision Department of Mazandaran Public Security Police, discussed implementation of the new plan, which involves public places in dealing with manufacturers and boutiques in the province within 48 hours. As part of the implementation, 1,185 units of clothing production and boutiques were visited, 49 units were sealed, and warnings were issued for 87 units. In addition, 23 cases were filed and handed over to the judiciary (The state-run ISNA news agency – July 6, 2020).

Continuation of the Observer Plan #1 to Threaten Drivers

In 2019, regime officials announced the implementation of the Observer Plan #1, which aimed to enforce the law on compulsory hijab for women drivers and passengers.

In discussing the plan, Hojjat Fattahi, head of the traffic police in Ardabil Province, emphasized, “Women drivers must make sure their appearance while driving matches the photo on their driver’s license. If the [driver or the] passengers do not observe the Islamic hijab, their car will be systematically confiscated” (The state-run website – July 16, 2020).

Enforcing the Mandatory Hijab Through Bribery

The clerical regime spends the Iranian people’s hard-earned money on mercenaries who are paid to enforce the compulsory veiling laws against Iranian women.

At a meeting of the Council to Promote Virtue and Prohibit Vice in Isfahan, Abbas Rezaii, the governor of Isfahan, announced, “Housing units will be gifted to the 24 people who do their best to promote virtue and prohibit vice” (The state-run daily Etemad – July 31, 2020).

Another Regime Failure

Despite all their efforts, government officials have repeatedly acknowledged their failure to enforce the compulsory veiling laws on Iranian women.

A meeting on chastity and hijab in the media was held on July 14, 2020 in Golestan Province. Attending the meeting was the province’s representative of Islamic propaganda, Hassan Mohajer Neyshabouri, who revealed that “there are 32 [security] sections in charge of hijab. We have shortcomings in implementation.” Neyshabouri added, “60% of the programs have gone on social media. Mosques and the house of God are closed, so we must use social media; otherwise, we will not have an audience” (The state-run Mehr news agency – July 14, 2020).

Kazem Hafeznia, Astara’s Imam for Friday prayers, called the hijab situation in Iran “terrible.” He acknowledged that even regime officials are not required to wear the obligatory hijab.

“Short clothes failing to observe the veiling code are produced in the country,” he said. “If the Department of Industry, Mines and Trade, as well as the Chamber of Trades and Places, are not aware of the situation of clothing production in the country, it is because of their managerial weakness. If they know but do not act, their betrayal is unforgivable,” he added (The state-run Fars news agency – June 19, 2020).

Minorities’ Rights

Four Christian converts sentenced to 13 years in prison

8 August – Four Christian converts were sentenced to a total of 13 years in prison. They were Ramin Hassanpour, Hadi Rahimi, Cathrine Sajjadpour, and Sakineh Behjati. All of them were from Rasht, the capital of Gilan Province.

Ramin Hassanpour was sentenced to five years in prison, and his wife, Cathrine (Saeedeh) Sajjadpour, was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. Moslem (Hadi) Rahimi was sentenced to four years in prison. Sakineh (Mehri) Behjati was also sentenced to two years in prison.

The four Christian converts have been accused of “acting against national security”, “participating in meetings in house churches”, and “proselytizing Zionist Christianity.”

They were interrogated in February, after Intelligence Department agents raided their home. Their personal documents and belongings were confiscated and told that they would be summoned, shortly.

In April, the four Christian converts were summoned through a phone call to Branch 10 of the Revolutionary Court of Rasht. They were arraigned on their charges with bails of 500 million tomans

for each. Since they did not afford to pay the bails, they were transferred to the Lakan Prison of Rasht on May 14, 2020.

Eventually, they were temporarily released on bail bonds of 200 million tomans each. Saeedeh Sajjadpour, Hadi Rahimi and Sakineh Behjati were released on May 20 and Ramin Hassanpour on May 21.

Noteworthy is the fact that Christianity is recognized as a minority religion under the Iranian regime’s Constitution. But the Iranian intelligence services are very sensitive to Muslims converting to Christianity and deal with them violently, as they are considered renegades.


Iran: Unpaid wages and corruption at the core of new wave of mass strikes and protests

4 August – Amid crushing economic conditions, demonstrations and strikes by workers have sprung up in Iran over unpaid wages and poor working conditions, demanding the implementation of job-classification law and their overdue wages and benefits. On Saturday 2 August, a new wave hit different sectors and plants, including the Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane industrial complex and the oil and gas industry.

In an interview with the International Observatory of Human Rights (IOHR), Mehdi Kouhestaninejad, a Canada-based Iranian labour activist, said:

Why are workers protesting in Iran?

For the last couple of years, Iranian general strikes have been carried out against economic hardships and government corruption, with protesters calling for economic stability, the prosecution of corrupt government officials, and for workers’ rights. Many workers say they have not received their wages for months, while others emphasise the lack of job security and difficult conditions.

“The uprisings are not just taking place in Tehran but in the south, north, west and east of Iran,” Mr Kouhestaninejad told IOHR.

The Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Industrial Complex has seen protests continually taking place for the last couple of months. On Saturday, workers at the plant marked the 48th day of their strike. The sugarcane workers are demanding immediate payment of three-month overdue wages, renewal of their insurance, the return of fired employees, immediate arrest of the company’s CEO, Omid Assadbeigi, and sentencing him and the chairman of the company’s board of directors, Mehrdad Rostami Chegini, to life imprisonment. The owners are also involved in a $1.5 billion Forex corruption case.

The Haft Tappeh example shows that although US sanctions have hurt Iran’s economy and the government’s ability to bail out troubled companies, corruption and mismanagement are at the core of many labour protests.

Mr Kouhestaninejad told IOHR that while the sanctions have undoubtedly affected Iran’s economy, the situation for workers’ rights in Iran has remained the same since 1979.

In one of the sessions of the Forex trial, the prosecutor alleged that the CEO of Haft Tappeh and one of its owners, has deliberately not paid the workers’ wages as a tool to put pressure on the court to acquit him, presumably being aware of the complications that workers’ protests and strikes will create for the government.

The economic situation in Iran might worsen, however, as the US has threatened to tighten sanctions if Iran signs a $400 billion trade deal with China. During an interview on 2 August, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in response to a question on the agreement that it,

“shouldn’t be surprising that regimes that don’t respect freedom at home and foment national security problems abroad would want to join hands” and added that the United States will be sure to enforce all the provisions it has and apply all Iran sanctions, “to the Chinese Communist Party and their businesses and state-owned enterprises as well”.

Pompeo also pointed out that the new US sanctions on Iran, filed on Friday 31 July, which included expanding sanctions to Iran’s metals industry, will also try to stop the lifting of the JCPOA weapons embargo that will expire in October.

In response, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused the US of trying to stir anti-government protests by imposing sanctions that he said are aimed at bankrupting the country.

The dire situation for workers’ rights in Iran

In recent years, unpaid wages and benefits in Iran have become a major issue for workers. Trade unions are banned and while there are similar organisations called Islamic labour councils, they are not adequate and above all, they are not independent. The International Trade Union Confederation has ranked Iran a ‘category five’ country – the worst level for a non-failed state.

The Iranian Labour Code (ILC) is one of the main legal documents for the protection of labour, but according to a report from Small Media, more than half of the Iranian workforce is not covered by the ILC today.

Furthermore, the Islamic Republic arrests whoever participates in labour protests. Dozens of labor activists have been detained in the past two years, while some have been sentenced to prison and others have received lashes as such protests often come at a high personal price.

Last month, the Arak criminal court sentenced 42 workers from Azarab Industries to one year in prison, 74 lashes, and one month of forced labour for protesting the non-payment of wages. They had not been paid for May and June of this year, yet the court ruled that the workers who took part in demonstrations are guilty of disrupting public order and insulting public officials.

“We know that 500 trade unionists are currently behind bars and that over 10,000 people are in prison for work-related issues,” Mr Kouhestaninejad told IOHR.

If the workers do get paid, the minimum monthly wage is as meager as $80 while a family of three needs at least $300 per month to cover the basic costs of living, according to Faramarz Tofighi, the chairman of the wages committee of the Association of Islamic Labor Councils.

Workers and COVID-19

The outbreak of COVID-19 has further complicated the situation for workers and the protests come despite a deadly coronavirus pandemic that has killed at least 16,000 and infected nearly 300,000 in Iran, numbers that are believed by many to be underreported. The country has in recent weeks faced a surge in COVID-19 fatalities, resulting in increased calls on Iranians to respect hygiene and social-distancing protocols.

According to the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA), workers are also worried about the spread of coronavirus among them.

“Forty of our colleagues are now in isolation due to COVID-19,” one of the workers was quoted by ILNA as saying.

The string of unrest among workers is causing pressure to mount on Iran’s Islamic government, which in November 2019 used lethal force against protesters on city streets throughout the country angry over a sudden rise in the price of gasoline. Many repeated chants against top leaders and at least hundreds are estimated to have been killed.