“Unconditional Release Is the Right of Political Prisoners and Prisoners of Conscience”
Iran’s Islamic theocrats are criminals, not the political prisoners
June 14, 2021 | revcom.us
Six of the best years of my life passed behind bars with much agony and torture because I stood up to criminals who have been pushing people towards poverty, jails, and death for 42 years. With utmost shamelessness, they tell me to write a request for amnesty to examine and set me free if they agree with it. But I believe that unconditional release is the right of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. Not only will I not ask the oppressors for clemency for free-thinking and freedom-loving and insistence on what’s right, but I will continue my path more determined than ever. I remind them that you are the ones to plea to people to forgive you and grant you amnesty.
—Statement by 32-year-old Iranian political prisoner Atena Daemi, read at San Francisco speak-out June 11. Daemi, a children’s rights/anti-death penalty activist, finished a five-year sentence in July 2020 only to be suddenly charged with five more years and 74 barbaric lashes.
ALERT: On June 13, a sham trial of six political prisoners took place in Tehran.
This was a critical moment in the battle for the lives and dignity of Iran’s political prisoners. While we await news on the court hearing, we affirm that any sentences they receive would be totally arbitrary and illegitimate—just as their arrests and imprisonment were. And we reaffirm our determination to step up our struggle, in the U.S. and internationally, for their freedom and the freedom of all Iran’s political prisoners. Stay tuned to the Emergency Campaign website and Twitter for updates on the June 13 trial.
These Prisoners Never Should Have Been Arrested in the First Place
Among those in court on June 13 was Nahid Taghavi. “These prisoners—who never should have been arrested in the first place—will be brought before an Iranian court and could face harsh sentencing for the ‘crime’ of speaking out for basic rights and against injustice,” her daughter Mariam Claren wrote in an important piece for Ms. Magazine, published before the trial.
The other political prisoners who appeared on June 13 were Mehran Raoof, Bahareh Soleimani, Nazanin Mohammadnejad, Elham Samimi, and Somayeh Kargar, who is Kurdish.
June 13 also marks the third anniversary of the outrageous sentencing of world-renowned activist and attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes.
These and many other Iranians, from women’s and human rights activists, to protesters, dissidents, and revolutionaries, to members of religious and oppressed minorities, have been targeted by a wave of violent repression, arbitrary arrests, and torture. This has been the Islamic Republic’s response to the just mass uprisings that rocked Iran late 2017 and especially in November 2019, and the heroic, ongoing resistance of prisoners and ordinary Iranians.
One particularly lawless and outrageous tactic the Iranian regime has employed is arbitrarily arresting people with dual citizenship, sometimes when they’re visiting Iran. Nahid Taghavi is an Iranian-German citizen, and Mehran Raoof is an Iranian-British citizen. Taghavi, a women’s rights activist, has spent 194 days in solitary confinement and was interrogated 80 times for a total of 1,000 hours. On June 12, after 239 days in solitary confinement, labor activist Mehran Raoof was released into the general prison population.
Amnesty International this past week called on the G7 (the major Western powers then meeting) to demand the release of all dual-national political prisoners being held in Iran, including Taghavi and Raoof (poster here).
“Their freedom would crack open a door for Iran’s 80-plus million people to fight for freedom and a better world,” Claren wrote of the political prisoners.
Emergency Campaign Steps Up Actions in U.S. and Globally
The Emergency Campaign to Free Iran’s Political Prisoners, relatives, and supporters of the prisoners, and human rights organizations like Amnesty International stepped up their activities and outreach leading into the June 13 court date. Some highlights:
- New articles: In addition to Mariam Claren’s June 9 piece in Ms. Magazine, “On June 13, the Whole World Should Be Watching Iran, Demanding Justice and Calling to #FreeNahid and #FreeThemAll,” articles by Larry Everest on the Emergency Campaign were posted at CounterPunch.org and CounterCurrents.org.
- New signers of the Emergency Appeal: These articles, outreach by the Burn the Cage, Free the Birds movement in Europe, and other efforts helped spread the Campaign’s Emergency Appeal—The Lives of Iran’s Political Prisoners Hang in the Balance—We Must ACT Now.’ Nearly 2,000 people have so far signed it, now including political activist, journalist, and writer Taghi Rahmani, Président de la commission des droits humains de la Fédération d’Européens des Écoles Farhang Ghassemi, CounterPunch’s Joshua Frank, and Barristers Meredoc McMinn and Greg O Ceallaig of London. See Complete and Selected lists of signers.
- San Francisco: #FreeThemAll Speak-Out: On June 11, in Clarion Alley in the city’s Mission District, a beautiful display of enlarged photos of dozens of Iranian political prisoners was set up in front of a large mural of several women Iranian prisoners, including Atena Daemi. The event, called by the Emergency Campaign here in solidarity with the Burn the Cage, Free the Birds movement in Europe, made statements condemning the June 13 sham hearing and demanded freedom for all Iran’s political prisoners. It was a good beginning.
- June 9 press release: June 13: Iranian Political Prisoners Face Sham Trial—Vicious Wave of Repression Sparks Global Movement to Free All Iran’s Political Prisoners was sent to thousands of media outlets
- Germany: Amnesty Germany, the International Society of Human Rights, and Bundestag member Dr. Heribert Hirte issued statements in support of German-Iranian dual national Nahid Taghavi, whose case has been covered extensively in the German media.
Write to the Emergency Campaign to Free Iran’s Political Prisoners at: FreeIransPoliticalPrisonersNOW@gmail.com