2017: Iran: Nordic letter to President Rouhani - the arrest of Sedigeh Vasmaghi

His Excellency Hassan Rouhani
President of the Islamic Republic of Iran
The Presidency
Pasteur Street, Pasteur Square
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran

November 2nd, 2017

Your Excellency,
It is with great concern we, the undersigned representatives of PEN, the world-wide organization working to defend freedom of expression, have learnt that the well-known poet and academic Sedigheh Vasmaghi has been detained in Evin prison in Tehran. On 14 October Sedigheh Vasmaghi travelled from Sweden, where she has been living since 2012, the past three years as a scholar at the University of Uppsala.

When she arrived at Tehran airport she was taken for questioning and subsequently released. A week after, on 21 October she was summoned to the Revolutionary Court. After a hearing, which reportedly lasted only 12 minutes, she was brought to Evin prison.

We fear that the sole reason for Sedigheh Vasmaghi’s arbitrary arrest is her literary work and legitimate academic studies about women’s right as well as her opposition to the death penalty and stoning as punishments. As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Iran has an obligation to allow peaceful freedom of expression.

Furthermore, we are worried about her poor health with severely deteriorated eyesight.

We, the undersigned presidents of PEN in Denmark, Norway and Sweden, call on Your Excellency to ensure the prompt and unconditional release of Sedigheh Vasmaghi.

Pending her release we ask Your Excellency to ensure that Sedigheh Vasmaghi, without delay, has regular and unrestricted access to her family and lawyers of her own choosing; that she has an effective opportunity to challenge the legality of detention and that she, while in prison, receives all necessary medical treatment.

Yours sincerely,

Elisabeth Åsbrink, President Swedish PEN
William Nygaard,  President Norwegian PEN
Per Øhrgaard, President Danish PEN
Sirpa Kähkönen, President Finnish PEN

Nordiske PEN-sentre sender felles protest til Irans president Hassan Rouhani

Foto: Steven Quigley

Stockholm, København, Oslo, Helsingfors, 2. november 2017

I dag sender fire nordiske PEN-sentre et felles brev til presidenten i Iran, Hassan Rouhani, for å protestere mot arrestasjonen av den kjente iranske poeten og advokaten Sedigeh Vasmaghi. Hun ble pågrepet på Teheran flyplass 14. oktober.

– Som fribyforfatter representerer Sedigeh Vasmaghi en sårbar gruppe som allerede har betalt en svært høy pris for sitt menneskerettighetsarbeid, sier Elisabeth Åsbrink, leder i Svensk PEN.

Det er Norsk PEN, Svensk PEN, Dansk PEN og Finsk PEN som står sammen bak initiativet. I brevet krever de fire styrelederne Elisabeth Åsbrink, Per Øhrgaard, William Nygaard og Sirpa Kähkönen at Sedigeh Vasmaghi umiddelbart løslates fra det beryktede Evin-fengselet i Teheran. PEN-sentrene krever videre at hennes rett til juridisk bistand og kontakt med familier etterkommes og at hun får den medisinske hjelpen hun trenger som følge av et sterkt nedsatt syn.

– Norsk PEN deler Svensk PENs bekymringer for Vasmaghis situasjon og helse, sier William Nygaard, leder av Norsk PEN. – Sverige, Danmark og Norge har alle fribyer for forfulgte forfattere, og det er viktig at vi står sammen for å forsvare disse modige stemmene.

Lørdag kveld 14. oktober ble dikteren og menneskerettighetsadvokaten Sedigheh Vasmaghi arrestert på Teherans flyplass i Iran. Hun ble løslatt senere om natten, men ble forhørt igjen dagen etter. 22. oktober ble hun innkalt til retten. Etter tolv minutters forhandlinger besluttet Revolusjonsdomstolen å fastsatte en meget høy kausjon, deretter ble Vasmaghi ført til Evin-fengselet.

Sedigeh Vasmaghi bor i Uppsala, Sverige, hvor hun gjennom fribynettverket ICORN har vært fribyforfatter som følge av trusler og forfølgelse i hjemlandet Iran. Etter to år som fribyforfatter ble hun ansatt som forsker ved Uppsala Universitet.  Vasmaghi har gjennom sitt arbeid ført en utrettelig kamp for kvinners rettigheter. Som foreleser ved Teologisk institutt ved Universitetet i Teheran på 1990-tallet var hun en av få kvinner som underviste i islamsk lov. Vasmaghi er i dag en kjent forfatter og har utgitt flere diktsamlinger, ved siden av fagbøker og politiske kronikker. Diktsamlingen Smälta smärtor ble gitt ut på svensk i 2014. Hennes forfatterskap er preget av et sterkt sosialt og politisk engasjement, som blant annet kommer til uttrykk i hennes skarpe kritikk av dødsstraff, steining og islamsk lov.

De nordiske PEN-sentrenes brev til Irans president Hassan Rouhani kan leses her: Vasmaghi Brev President Rouhani_.

For ytterligere informasjon kontakt:
William Nygaard, leder i Norsk PEN: 908 92 601
Hege Newth, generalsekretær Norsk PEN: 930 02 262

Poet och människorättsjurist fängslad i Iran

Fra Svenska PEN

På lördagskvällen den 14 oktober greps Sedigheh Vasmaghi, som är poet och människorättsjurist, på Teherans flygplats i Iran. Hon släpptes senare under natten, men förhördes på nytt nästa dag, och en vecka senare, den 22 oktober, kallades hon till domstol. Efter tolv minuters förhandling, där hon själv inte fick yttra sig, beslutade Revolutionsdomstolen om en mycket hög borgenssumma, och hon fördes till det ökända Evinfängelset.

Vasmaghi är bosatt i Uppsala, dit hon kom som ICORN-stipendiat 2012. ICORN är en internationell organisation för städer som ger fristad åt en förföljd och hotad skribent eller konstnär. Efter sina två år som fristadsförfattare har hon verkat som forskare vid Uppsala universitet.

I sitt arbete har hon drivit en oförtruten kamp för kvinnors rättigheter. Som docent vid teologiska institutionen vid Teherans universitet på 1990-talet, var hon en av få kvinnor som undervisade i islamsk lagstiftning. Vasmaghi är idag en välkänd författare, och har publicerat flera diktsamlingar vid sidan av akademisk litteratur och politiska krönikor. Diktsamlingen Smälta smärtor gavs 2014 ut på svenska. Hennes författarskap präglas av ett starkt socialt och politiskt engagemang, där hon bland annat för fram en skarp kritik av dödsstraff, stening och sharialagstiftningen.

Sedigheh Vasmaghi får inte tystas, hon måste kunna fortsätta sitt viktiga arbete som försvarare av kvinnors rättigheter. Svenska PEN kräver att Vasmaghi omedelbart och villkorslöst släpps fri.

A message from Narges Mohammadi

Iranian journalist and human rights activist Narges Mohammadi is currently serving a 16-year sentence. She sent a letter which was read during the event The Word is Free, at the Norwegian Festival of Literature in Lillehammer. The letter was read by Narges’ brother, Hamidreza Mohammadi, during the event. You can watch it on our YouTube channel or you can read the letter below.

Greetings,

It’s an honor to be your guest at this important conference in Norway, and I’m sorry for not being able to be among you because of my imprisonment, although these words convey my message to you.  And this  is important, because the words are exactly the reason why I’m in prison right now, and the words and the respect for the freedom of speech are the reason why you have gathered. So, I consider myself there with you, in a city  of which beauty I’ve heard. I greet you in the beautiful city of Lillehammer.

Dear friends,

I’m writing you after I’ve finished serving my 6-year sentence in prison, and the 16-year sentence just started on 14 March 2017, all of which due to my work at the Defenders of Human Rights Center, to  my feminist activities and to opposing the death penalty.

You may wonder what I’ve done or said or written to deserve such a punishment.

Let me tell you a story so that you can judge for yourself what you would do if you were here instead of me or any other Iranian human rights activist. When I was serving my sentence in Zanjan prison, I met a beautiful young woman who had spent most of her life in prison. She was sentenced to death when she was a minor and she spent all her childhood and teenage years waiting for the gallows to be hanged once she reached adulthood. Because, according to the rules, children must stay in the prison until the age of 18 before they are executed.  I watched her suffering every day. Outside the prison, because of the nature of my activities at the Defenders of Human Rights Center, I was often in contact with the families of the death row prisoners, and I’ve witnessed the horrible pain and suffering the death penalty imposes on society.

My dear friends, if you were me wouldn’t you use your pen to try to reform such laws?

If I’m not with you in the beautiful city of Lillehammer today it’s because I’m also paying the price for writing and speaking against solitary confinement and torture. Solitary confinement is a clear example of torture. It’s a place to brainwash and break the will of those opposing the system. One of my goals has been to try to abolish solitary confinement, which are unfortunately controlled and used by different Iranian institutions such as the Revolutionary Guards, the Ministry of Intelligence and even the Judiciary.

My dear colleagues and friends,

If you live in countries where you enjoy the blessing of equality and freedom of speech, it is because there have been people who had fought for and paid the price for it in the past. There have been, without any doubt, women who have fought against gender discrimination and inequality between men and women. Did you know that one of the reasons I’m in prison is my feminist activities? It’s obvious that, as long as there are discriminatory laws against women, there will also be people fighting against the discrimination.

My dear friends, my long prison sentence is because of my struggle side by side with my fellow countrymen and women to achieve democracy, and rest assured that I will continue my efforts the moment I get out of the prison.

Dear friends,

Our ideals are: peace, security, freedom and equality for all.

What remains of human beings without their ideals? Narges Mohammadi can be imprisoned, like any other activist imprisoned on the way to achieve freedom and justice. But can they imprison our ideals? No! Never! And it is our joint responsibility to protect human ideals and aspirations, and to take actual steps in order to fulfill them.

My friends and colleagues who live in the free world, you who hold conferences and try to protect freedom of expression as one of the human ideals, I am addressing you. I believe that peace, security and human rights are achievable only if we unite and support each other.

I sincerely thank you all for listening to me. I also thank the hosts and organizers of the Lillehammer Literature Festival, PEN International that has never hesitated to support me, ICORN organization, and especially Norwegian PEN that has campaigned for my freedom of speech, and all the organizations and individuals supporting freedom of speech and human rights who have shown their support for me and my imprisoned colleagues all around the world.

2017: Iran: Mohammad Sadigh Kaboudvand

The Iranian journalist and writer Mohammad Sadigh Kabudvand was finally released, but Norwegian PEN PEN continues to call on the Iranian authorities to unconditionally release all writers, journalists and publishers who are held in violation of their right to freedom of expression and opinion.                                                                                                             

Leader of the Islamic Republic
Grand Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei
The Office of the Supreme Leader
Islamic Republic Street — End of Shahid Keshvar Doust Street,
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran

 

Oslo, 21.05.2017

Dear Excellences,

Almost a year ago I wrote to you on behalf of Norwegian PEN to express our concerns for the health and welfare of the prominent journalist and writer Mohammad Sadigh Kabudvand. We just got the news that he is now released, and we hope that this is good news also for the other writers who are unfairly imprisoned in Iran.

PEN continues to call on the Iranian authorities to unconditionally release all writers, journalists and publishers who are held in violation of their right to freedom of expression and opinion. Sadly, we find many Iranian colleagues on PEN’s case list.

The WiPC and Norwegian PEN urge the Iranian authorities to ensure that the right to freedom of expression in Iran is fully respected in law and practice as provided for under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a state party.

 

 

Yours sincerely,

Ms Brit Bildøen
Chair of Writers in Prison Committee
Norwegian PEN

 

 

COPY: The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Oslo, Head of the Judiciary in Iran, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran

2017: Iran: Keywan Karimi

Keywan Karimi, Iranian filmmaker, was arrested in 2016 and sentenced to one year in prison and to receive 223 lashes. He has had several episodes of pulmonary bleeding and the doctors advised the prison authorities to transfer him to a specialized facility, but the transfer has been denied.

To
Leader of the Islamic Republic
Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei
The Office of the Supreme Leader
Islamic Republic Street — End of Shahid Keshvar Doust Street,
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran

Oslo, February 16th 2017

Your Excellency Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei,
The Norwegian Writers in Prison Committee is expressing serious concern for Keywan Karimi’s health and urging that he is given access to specialised medical care as a matter of urgency. The committee is troubled by the conviction and harsh sentence imposed on Karimi and we are calling on the Iranian authorities to quash his conviction as it is connected to his peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression

We are also concern about his flogging sentence, which violates the absolute prohibition in international law against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The committee is therefore calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all writers and journalists currently detained in Iran because of their peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression, in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a state party.

Yours sincerely,

Jørgen Lorentzen
Member of Writers in Prison Committee
PEN Norway

 

COPY:

The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Head of the Judiciary in Iran

2016 Iran: Keywan Karimi

Prominent filmmaker Keywan Karimi has received a summons to begin serving his sentence on 23 November 2016. Karimi was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment and 223 lashes on 13 October 2015 by Branch 28 of Tehran Revolutionary Court for ‘insulting the holy sanctities’, ‘spreading propaganda against the system’ and ‘illegitimate relations’. An Appeals Court upheld his sentence in February 2016, ruling to suspend five of his six-year punishment for a period of five years. He is now required to serve a one-year prison term and receive 223 lashes.

To
President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hassan Rouhani
Pasteur Street, Pasteur Square
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran

Oslo, December 12th 2016

Your Excellency President Hassan Rouhani,

The Norwegian Writers in Prison Committee is expressing serious concern about the conviction and harsh sentence imposed on filmmaker Keywan Karimi, and we are calling on the Iranian authorities to quash his conviction as it is connected to his peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression.

We are especially concerned about his flogging sentence, which violates the absolute prohibition in international law against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

We are also calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all other writers and journalists currently detained in Iran in connection with their peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression, in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a state party.

Yours sincerely,

Jørgen Lorentzen
Member of Writers in Prison Committee
PEN Norway

COPY:
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

2016 Australia: Behrouz Boochani

An open letter to the Prime Minister of Australia, Mr.  Malcom Turnbull, concerning the case of Behrouz Boochani, a journalist and an Iranian refugee currently held on Manus Island.
As a writer and activist in Iran, Boochani experienced years of threats and surveillance. Boochani fled Iran on 23 May 2013.  In July of that year, he and fellow asylum seekers were intercepted by the Australian Navy en route from Indonesia, and he asked for asylum in Australia.  He was taken to Christmas Island and transferred to the Manus Island Immigration Detention Centre in late August 2013, where he has remained ever since. Manus Island has become notorious for its ill-treatment of detainees where violence, sexual abuse and self-harm are reportedly common. Boochani’s passion for writing and human rights remains. He has continued to write about Kurdish and Iranian politics from detention, and some of these articles have been published on Kurdish websites in Iran; placing him at further risk should he ever be deported to Iran. Boochani also advocates on behalf of himself and his fellow asylum seekers, despite his predicament. He has worked tirelessly and constantly over his three years of detention and has published articles in Australia’s leading newspapers. He has also published work in Europe and has given many interviews to journalists and film-makers in Australia, New Zealand, Europe and Canada, and is writing a book about his experiences of imprisonment on Manus Island.
index

Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP,
Prime Minister of Australia,
PO Box 6022, House of Representatives,
Parliament House,  Canberra ACT 2600,
Australia

22th November 2016

Dear Prime Minister,

RE: Kurdish Iranian journalist Behrouz Boochani

The Norwegian WiPC – Writers in Prison Committee – is urging the Australian authorities to process Kurdish Iranian journalist Behrouz Boochani’s asylum claim, in light of the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court‘s April 26th ruling.

We are calling on the Australian authorities to ensure the safety and well-being of all those transferred to Australia’s offshore detention sites.

We are also calling for the Australian authorities to end the offshore processing of asylum seekers in Nauru and Manus Island, in line with the recommendations of Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and ensure that asylum seekers and those in immigration detention in offshore processing centers, including Behrouz Boochani, are provided with adequate legal protection in line with Australia’s obligations under international law.

We ask as a matter of urgency that, Mr. Boochani’s request for asylum in Australia be determined by Australian immigration officials as soon as possible, and that the asylum process is fair. We would welcome your comments on this matter.

Yours sincerely,
Øivind Hånes
WiPC Norway

Asieh Amini

asieh-amini
Photo by: Javad Montazeri

Asieh Amini, poet, journalist, and activist, was born in 1973 in Mazandaran Province in Northern Iran. While completing her studies in journalism at Allameh Tabataba’I University in Tehran, Amini worked for several newspapers such as Iran, Zan, and Etemaad (where she worked as social editor), and would later go on to manage the website “Women in Iran”.

From 2004, Amini fought indefatigably to garner international aid and attention for Iranian cases of stoning, juvenile execution, and various kinds of discrimination against women and girls. In October 2006, Amini co-founded the campaign “Stop Stoning Forever”, and became fully immersed in her work as an activist for women’s rights. Her seminal work in journalism has helped to expose Iran’s ongoing stonings, despite Ayatollah Shahroudi’s 2002 moratorium banning the practice.

Amini has emerged triumphantly from a world of arrests, threats, discrimination and censorship to be lauded for her achievements worldwide. In 2005, Amini’s first book of poetry was selected by UNESCO’s office in Tehran as the best poetry collection from young and emerging Iranian poets. Her other accolades include the Human Rights Watch Hellmann/Hammett award (2009), the Oxfam Novib/PEN award (2012), and the Ord i Grenseland Prize (2014).

After a brief imprisonment in 2007, Amini continued her work and activism under pressure. Following a controversial presidential election in 2009, she left her home and eventually came to reside as an ICORN guest writer in Trondheim (2010-2012). She published her first poetry collection in Norwegian in 2011, entitled Kom ikke til min drømmer med gavær (“Don’t come into my dreams with guns”, translated from Farsi into Norwegian by Nina Zandjani), which was followed by a second collection in 2013, Jeg savner å savne deg (“I miss missing you”).

Amini underlines that although her work fighting stoning and the death penalty is of grave importance, and the number of executions in Iran has even increased, these causes should not overshadow various other issues concerning human rights in Iran. Amini asserts, “I believe that the basis of transition and change should be arranged within a society, and in connection with a world community of civil societies. Unfortunately, in Iran, we have had problems with both”. Despite fierce and dedicated activism in the fields of women’s rights, workers’ movements, student movements, human rights groups, and media, Amini feels that the voices of these civil society activists are often silenced domestically, and “hardly heard in the international community because of political and economic interests”.

When asked to highlight a single issue for the international rights community, Amini replied unequivocally: “the freedom of expression of independent civil society. After the Islamic revolution in 1979, and especially after the political conflicts in the 1980’s, during which thousands of people were imprisoned or executed,[Iranians] have never really experienced freedom of speech”.

Amini compares the initial shock and impact of moving to Norway to a business man suddenly losing all of his wealth; “as a poet and journalist, [your] language and audience are your wealth. You can’t bring them to your new home when you move”. Amini recalls her tears upon hearing her daughter speak in her sleep, in a language her mother could not understand. The challenge of a new life caught Amini on the precipice of an abyss, in danger of falling into a deep depression. Rather than tumble over the edge, Amini gritted her teeth, learned Norwegian, and moved forward fearlessly. She credits her continued success in Norway primarily to her family, and to her ICORN coordinator. The latter’s efforts and familiarity with the challenges that face new guest writers helped to ease Amini’s transition into her new community, and aided in creating a growing network that would allow her to continue her work as a writer.

Amini is currently working on a new documentary book, as well as a new book of poetry, while simultaneously completing a Master’s at NTNU in Equality and Diversity. She continues her fight for freedom of speech in cooperation with Norwegian PEN, for which she currently serves on the Board of Directors, as well as maintaining her contacts in the Iranian community of human and women’s rights.

To read more about Asieh Amini’s work in Iran concerning stoning and juvenile execution, see Laura Secor’s article, “War of Words”, as featured in the New Yorker (January, 2016):

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/01/04/war-of-words-annals-of-activism-laura-secor

October 2016: Asieh Amini

Guest Writer of the Month

asieh-amini
Photo by: Javad Montazeri

Asieh Amini, poet, journalist, and activist, was born in 1973 in Mazandaran Province in Northern Iran. While completing her studies in journalism at Allameh Tabataba’I University in Tehran, Amini worked for several newspapers such as Iran, Zan, and Etemaad (where she worked as social editor), and would later go on to manage the website “Women in Iran”.

From 2004, Amini fought indefatigably to garner international aid and attention for Iranian cases of stoning, juvenile execution, and various kinds of discrimination against women and girls. In October 2006, Amini co-founded the campaign “Stop Stoning Forever”, and became fully immersed in her work as an activist for women’s rights. Her seminal work in journalism has helped to expose Iran’s ongoing stonings, despite Ayatollah Shahroudi’s 2002 moratorium banning the practice.

Amini has emerged triumphantly from a world of arrests, threats, discrimination and censorship to be lauded for her achievements worldwide. In 2005, Amini’s first book of poetry was selected by UNESCO’s office in Tehran as the best poetry collection from young and emerging Iranian poets. Her other accolades include the Human Rights Watch Hellmann/Hammett award (2009), the Oxfam Novib/PEN award (2012), and the Ord i Grenseland Prize (2014).

After a brief imprisonment in 2007, Amini continued her work and activism under pressure. Following a controversial presidential election in 2009, she left her home and eventually came to reside as an ICORN guest writer in Trondheim (2010-2012). She published her first poetry collection in Norwegian in 2011, entitled Kom ikke til min drømmer med gavær (“Don’t come into my dreams with guns”, translated from Farsi into Norwegian by Nina Zandjani), which was followed by a second collection in 2013, Jeg savner å savne deg (“I miss missing you”).

Amini underlines that although her work fighting stoning and the death penalty is of grave importance, and the number of executions in Iran has even increased, these causes should not overshadow various other issues concerning human rights in Iran. Amini asserts, “I believe that the basis of transition and change should be arranged within a society, and in connection with a world community of civil societies. Unfortunately, in Iran, we have had problems with both”. Despite fierce and dedicated activism in the fields of women’s rights, workers’ movements, student movements, human rights groups, and media, Amini feels that the voices of these civil society activists are often silenced domestically, and “hardly heard in the international community because of political and economic interests”.

When asked to highlight a single issue for the international rights community, Amini replied unequivocally: “the freedom of expression of independent civil society. After the Islamic revolution in 1979, and especially after the political conflicts in the 1980’s, during which thousands of people were imprisoned or executed, [Iranians] have never really experienced freedom of speech”.

Amini compares the initial shock and impact of moving to Norway to a business man suddenly losing all of his wealth; “as a poet and journalist, [your] language and audience are your wealth. You can’t bring them to your new home when you move”. Amini recalls her tears upon hearing her daughter speak in her sleep, in a language her mother could not understand. The challenge of a new life caught Amini on the precipice of an abyss, in danger of falling into a deep depression. Rather than tumble over the edge, Amini gritted her teeth, learned Norwegian, and moved forward fearlessly. She credits her continued success in Norway primarily to her family, and to her ICORN coordinator. The latter’s efforts and familiarity with the challenges that face new guest writers helped to ease Amini’s transition into her new community, and aided in creating a growing network that would allow her to continue her work as a writer.

Amini is currently working on a new documentary book, as well as a new book of poetry, while simultaneously completing a Master’s at NTNU in Equality and Diversity. She continues her fight for freedom of speech in cooperation with Norwegian PEN, for which she currently serves on the Board of Directors, as well as maintaining her contacts in the Iranian community of human and women’s rights.

To read more about Asieh Amini’s work in Iran concerning stoning and juvenile execution, see Laura Secor’s article, “War of Words”, as featured in the New Yorker (January, 2016):

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/01/04/war-of-words-annals-of-activism-laura-secor