Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

Promoting tolerance and justice through knowledge and understanding
Amnesty International

Arrests and Deaths Continue in Iran as Authorities Tighten Grip

Amnesty International
July 22, 2009

Reports from Tehran on Tuesday, said that security forces deployed excessive use of force to counter peaceful demonstrations in Haft Tir Square, where more arrests were said to have been made. This news is, according to Amnesty International, a jarring reminder to the international community that the waves of arrests and killings continue unabated in Iran, as the authorities tighten their grip.

Thirty-six Iranian army officers are among people reported to have been arrested recently in connection with the disputed presidential election in Iran. Amnesty International has received the names of 24 of them.

Others reported to have been arrested in recent days include political activists, journalists, academics and lawyers. Amnesty International said it fears for their safety in detention, as torture or other ill-treatment of detainees is common in Iran.

According to media reports, the military officers planned to attend the Friday prayer sermon in Tenrah on 17 July, led by former president Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. They planned to do so while wearing their military uniforms as an act of political defiance.

The gesture was said to be intended to express solidarity with the demonstrators protesting against the official but widely disputed presidential election result.

Ayatollah Rafsanjani, who supported the campaign of presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, expressed concern in his sermon at the handling of complaints regarding the election by the Guardian Council, and called for the release of all those detained following the protests and an end to media restrictions.

Hundreds - possibly thousands - of people have been detained for protesting against the official election result. Many are held in undisclosed locations across Iran.

Mostafa Tajzadeh, arrested on 16 June, unlike some other detainees, has not yet been allowed to call his family, nor have they been able to obtain any information concerning his whereabouts from the Iranian authorities.

Bijan Khajehpour Khoei, a business and economic consultant, was arrested on 27 June at Tehran airport when he arrived back from a trip to Vienna and London. During his brief trip abroad, he spoke to trade officials in Vienna and met the Iran British Business Chamber in London, as part of his work to support Iranian business and encourage foreign investment in Iran. His whereabouts are also unknown and his family fear for his health as he is diabetic.

Possibly as many as 197 protestors were arrested on 9 July at a demonstration marking the tenth anniversary of 18 Tir, the suppression of student-led protests in 1999, in which at least one student was killed and many others were tortured or otherwise ill-treated. The police say that about 40 demonstrators were arrested at the 9 July protest.

Dr Sheikh Hassan Aghaei, a journalist from Iran's Kurdish minority and a political cartoonist, was detained in Mahabad, northwest Iran at 11am on 18 July by plain-clothes security officials who may be affiliated to the Revolutionary Guards, and transferred to an unknown location. No reason has been given for his arrest but he had been involved in campaign activities for Mir Hossein Mousavi.

Lawyer and human rights activist, Shadi Sadr, was violently arrested in Tehran on the morning of 17 July on her way to prayers.

Shadi Sadr was walking with a group of women's rights activists along a busy road when unidentified plain-clothed men pulled her into a car. She lost her headscarf and coat in the ensuing struggle but managed briefly to escape. She was quickly recaptured and beaten with batons before being taken away in the car to an unknown location.

The director of Raahi, a legal advice centre for women until it was closed down by the authorities, Shadi Sadr founded Zanan-e Iran (Women of Iran), the first website dedicated to the work of Iranian women's rights activists. She has written extensively about Iranian women and their legal rights. As a lawyer, she has represented activists and journalists, as well as several women sentenced to execution, whose convictions were subsequently overturned. She is also involved in Women's Field, a group of women's rights activists who have launched several campaigns to defend women's rights, including the "Stop Stoning Forever" Campaign.

French national Clotilde Reiss was detained at Tehran airport in Iran, on her way home to France on 1 July. The 24-year-old is accused of espionage in connection with photographs she took during a demonstration in the city of Esfahan in which she participated last month, against the announcement of the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. She emailed the photographs to a friend in Tehran. Amnesty International said that it believes Clotilde Reiss to be a prisoner of conscience, held solely for peacefully exercising her right to receive and impart information and ideas.

A graduate politics student from the city of Lille, Clotilde Reiss travelled to Iran after receiving a scholarship for her studies on Iran. She was detained after five months working as an assistant teacher in Esfahan University in central Iran. Clotilde Reiss is held in Evin Prison in Tehran. She has been allowed to phone and on 9 July was able to meet the French Ambassador to Iran. She said that she was being interrogated daily, though she was not being ill-treated.

Amnesty International has called for all those held solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association to be released immediately and unconditionally, and for all other detainees to be promptly charged and tried in proceedings, which meet international standards for fair trial or released. The organization said that the authorities should immediately clarify the fate of all those detained in connection with recent events.

Amnesty International has also called for a full and impartial investigation into the death of Sohrab Arabi, a 19-year-old student, who died from a bullet wound to the heart. He disappeared during a demonstration on 15 June. His family was then unable to find out any information about him until 11 July when they were summoned to court where they recognized him from photographs of dead individuals. His body had apparently been at the Coroner’s Office since 19 June. There is, as yet, no information as to what happened to him between 15 and 19 June, including either the exact date, or the circumstances, of his death.

Official Iranian figures say that up to 21 people were killed during the demonstrations. However, Amnesty International has received the names of over 30 people said by unofficial Iranian sources to have been killed. The actual figure may be even higher.

A new group has been set up, called Mourning Mothers (Madaran-e Azardar). For the past four weeks, they have been meeting silently on Saturdays in public parks between 7 and 8pm – the day and time at which Neda Agha-Soltan, a young woman, was shot dead on 20 June. A video of her death was uploaded onto the internet and her face has come to symbolise the repression meted out in recent weeks.

Their peaceful protest has not gone unnoticed by the authorities – their gatherings have been broken up by security forces and several have been arrested. They include Zeynab Peyghambarzadeh, a women’s rights and student activist who is also a member of the One Million Signatures Campaign, which is demanding an end to discrimination against women in law. She was arrested at the second gathering on 4 July, held overnight and then released.

The call made by the Mourning Mothers states: "Until the release of all detainees who were arrested for protesting election fraud, and until the end of violence and until the murderers of our children are prosecuted, we will gather to mourn in silence every Saturday at 7 pm near where our dear Neda was killed, in Amirabad Street, Laleh Park, by the pond."