Civil society calls for the immediate release of women human rights defender Atena Daemi
As previously referenced on the Monitor, Iran held presidential elections in May 2017. Prior to which, the authorities cracked down on independent voices and censored media. And despite the re-election of a reputedly reformist president, Hassan Rouhani, on 19th May, the Iranian authorities continue targeting and persecuting human rights defenders, many of whom remain in detention
On 23rd June 2017, the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD-IC) called attention to the situation of WHRD Atena Daemi, demanding her immediate release from Tehran’s Evin prison. Daemi has been imprisoned there since her arrest on 26th November 2016 on charges of “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security, spreading propaganda against the system and insulting the Supreme Leader”. In its statement, however, WHRD-IC asserted that Daemi's conviction “stems solely from her peaceful human rights activities”.
On 8th April 2017, Daemi began a hunger strike to protest an additional sentence against her and her two sisters when she was arrested in November. Despite her quickly-deteriorating health, she was only transferred to a hospital after passing out on 8th May. She was returned to the prison the same day without receiving proper medical treatment. Daemi ended her hunger strike at the end of May, when she and her sisters were acquitted by an appeals court of their recent charges.
Iranian human rights defenders have also been prevented from travelling in the last two months. On 1st June 2017, according to the Centre for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), trade union leaders Reza Shahabi and Davoud Razavi were prevented from travelling to the 106th session of the International Labour Organisation in Geneva, Switzerland.
In a positive development, earlier in May Kurdish human rights defender and journalist Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand was released after serving ten years in prison. According to Amnesty International, he had been imprisoned on trumped up charges and during his time in prison, his health had deteriorated.
The Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) reported that on 14th May 2017, eight activists received sentences of up to four years in prison for allegedly reading and spreading feminist literature in Iran, two years after they were charged and judged in a trial that limited their defense to three written sentences. According to CHRI, a source stated that:
“The books were all published with permission from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, on topics such as personal psychology, Iranian lifestyles, domestic violence and gender discrimination. To encourage reading, anyone who had read a book and discussed it at a meeting received a free book as a gift. The store also hosted meetings about women and enterprise, which became very popular”.
In addition, censorship continues to be an issue in the country. According to Reporters without Borders (RSF), 94 internet users have been arrested since the start of 2017. Many of those arrested had been using the instant messaging service Telegram and a total of 173,000 Telegram accounts have so far been blocked. RSF also reported that another journalist, Assal Esmaeilzadeh, was arrested and detained without charge on 20th June 2017.
Seven million websites & 173,000 Telegram channels were blocked in Iran in 2017, said Telecommunications Minister Mahmoud Vahezi on June 5. pic.twitter.com/jnSzp5EePl— IranHumanRights.org (@ICHRI) June 6, 2017
On 30th June 2017, CHRI reported that Azeri ethnic protesters were allegedly arrested and beaten by police. In addition, on 25th June 2017, thirteen ethnic rights activists and poets were arrested in Ahwaz Khuzestan province prior to a protest planned for 26th June, which was then blocked by Iranian security forces.