2017: Iran: Mohammad Sadigh Kaboudvand

                                                                                                           Oslo, 21.05.2017

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

 

 

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

2016 Iran: Concern for Narges Mohammadi

Norwegian PEN has sent an appeal to the leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and to the Secretary General, High Council for Human Rights, regarding the case of journalist and human rights activist Narges Mohammadi.
Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei
The Office of the Supreme Leader
Shoahada Street, Qom,

Islamic Republic of Iran

Oslo, 06.10.2016

Your Excellency,
With great sorrow and concern, Norwegian PEN has received the news that the 16-year prison sentence against prominent journalist and human rights defender Narges Mohammadi, who is critically ill, has been upheld on appeal.
PEN International has been calling on the Iranian authorities to quash all the convictions of Narges Mohammadi and release her immediately and unconditionally as she is imprisoned for the peaceful exercise of her right to freedom of expression. We have also expressed grave concern for the health and welfare of Narges Mohammadi, and urged the authorities to allow Mohammadi regular access to her family, including regular telephone calls to her children who are abroad.Most of all we wish to see this brave woman set free, and to register 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. This sentence comes as Iran’s authorities are preparing for renewed bilateral dialogue with the EU, and casts serious doubts over Iran’s commitment to engage meaningfully with the EU on human rights issues.Norwegian PEN urges the Iranian authorities to repeal the grave sentence against Nargas Mohammadi. Yours sincerely,Ms Brit Bildøen

Chair of Writers in Prison Committee

Norwegian PEN

COPIES TO:

The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Oslo,
Secretary General, High Council for Human Rights, Mohammed Javad Larijan.
In June 2016, Narges Mohammadi wrote a letter to PEN International, explaining her conditions in prison, calling for help to combat the use of solitary confinement as torture.

2016 Iran: Mohammad Sadigh Kaboudvand

Kurdish Iranian journalist, writer, and activist Mohammad Sadigh Kaboudvand was released from hospital after his most recent hunger strike, though serious concerns persist regarding his health. Norwegian PEN and the WiPC call for Kaboudvand’s immediate and unconditional release.  Read our letter to the Iranian authorities below: 

 

Leader of the Islamic Republic

Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei

Your Excellency,

On behalf of the Norwegian Writers in Prison Committee and Norwegian PEN, we write to you to express our grave concerns for the health and welfare of Mohammad Sadigh Kaboudvand.  Kaboudvand is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence, and facing the recent possibility of new charges he began a hunger strike on May 8th of this year.  Alongside reports of ill-treatment, solitary confinement, and even torture, we are increasingly concerned about Kaboudvand’s deteriorating health, and we demand that the Iranian authorities ensure he receives all necessary medical attention as a matter of the utmost urgency.

Furthermore, we call on the Iranian authorities to quash all convictions and drop any fresh charges against Kaboudvand.  We demand his unconditional and immediate release, since his imprisonment is based on a violation of his right to the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression.  In November 2012, the United Nations Working Group of Arbitrary Detention found Kaboudvand’s detention to be arbitrary (opinion 48/2012), and also called for his release and right to compensation.  The Iranian authorities did not heed this call, and we deeply urge you again to reconsider the legitimacy of Kaboudvan’s imprisonment.

As an Honorary Member of Austrian PEN, PEN Català, Swedish PEN and Sydney PEN, Kaboudvand is an important pillar in the international community for freedom of expression and human rights.  We implore you to respect those rights, as Iran has committed to do for all of its citizens.

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.  We remind you of your obligations to protect these rights under domestic and international law, and the obligation to ensure the fundamental freedoms and health and welfare of your citizens while they exercise their right to freedom of expression.

Yours sincerely,

Ms Brit Bildøen
Chair of Writers in Prison Committee
Norwegian PEN

Ms Iva Gavanski
Advisor, Writers in Prison Committee
Norwegian PEN

 

Copy:    The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Oslo, 13.06.2016

Mohammad Sadigh Kaboudvand på sykehus

Mohammed sadiq kaboudvand
Den iranske journalisten og menneskerttighetsaktivisten Mohammad Sadigh Kaboudvand, som har har vært fengslet i Evinfengselet siden juli 2007, har sultestreiket siden 8. mai.
I følge de siste nyhetene om hans tilstand, har  blitt ført fra Evinfengslet til sykehus. Dersom han fortsetter sultestreiken øker risikoen for hjerteinfarkt, sier leger. Kaboudvands helsestilstand er allerede svært skral etter mange års dårlig behandling i fengselet

2016 Iran: Narges Mohammadi

Narges Mohammadi

Letter from Narges Mohammadi to the PEN Membership

Imprisoned Iranian journalist and activist Narges Mohammadi writes a moving letter from prison to the international PEN Membership:

Dear members of International PEN,

I’m writing this letter to you from the Evin Prison. I am in a section with 25 other female political prisoners, with different intellectual and political point of view. Until now 23 of us, have been sentenced to a total of 177 years in prison (2 others have not been sentenced yet). We are all charged due to our political and religious tendency and none of us are terrorists.

The reason to write these lines is, to tell you that the pain and suffering in the Evin Prison is beyond tolerance. Opposite other prisons in Iran, there is no access to telephone in Evin Prison.  Except for a weekly visit, we have no contact to the outside. All visits takes place behind double glass and only connected through a phone. We are allowed to have a visit from our family members only once a month.

But it is the solitary confinement, which is beyond any kind of acceptable imprisonment. We – 25 women – have detained in total more than 12 years in solitary confinement. Political prisoners who are considered dangerous terrorists are held in solitary confinement indefinitely. Retention in solitary confinement can vary from a day up to several years.

However, according to regulations of the Islamic Republic of Iran, holding prisoners in solitary confinement is illegal. Unfortunately until now, the solitary confinement, as a psychological torture, has had many victims in Iran.

During 14 years long activity of the Center for Human Rights Defenders, the Center have published and held many protests against the use of this kind of punishment. But unfortunately the solitary confinement is still used against many of Iran’s political prisoners. The solitary confinement is used to get forced and false confessions out of the defendants. These false and faked confessions are used against the defendants during the trials. Many of the detainees in the solitary confinement are suffering from mental and physical health problems and the injuries will remain with them for the rest of their life. As a matter of a fact, the solitary confinement is nothing but a closed and dark room. A dimly confined space, deprived of all sounds and all light that can give the inmates a sense of humanity. Personally, I have been in solitary confinement three times since 2001. Once during my interrogation in 2010, I suffered a panic neurotic attacks, which I had never experienced before.

As a defender of human Right, who has experienced and have had dialogues with many people detained in solitary confinement, I emphasize that this kind of punishment is inhuman and can be considered psychological torture.

As a humble member of this prestigious organization, I urge all of you, as writers and defenders of the principles of free thought and freedom of speech and expression, to combat the use of solitary confinement as torture, with your pen, speech and all other means. Maybe one day we will be able  to close the doors behind us to solitary confinement and no one will be sentenced to prison for criticizing and demanding reforms. I hope that day will come soon.

Greetings and Regards

Narges Mohammadi

Prison Evin, May 2016


As an independent journalist, former vice-president and spokesperson of the Defenders of Human Rights Center (DHRC), and activist against the death penalty in Iran, Narges Mohammadi has long suffered from persecution at the hands of the Iranian authorities.

She has been banned from travelling abroad since 2009, and in the following year, Mohammadi was arrested from her home without a warrant and held in connection with her work with the DHRC.

In 2011, a Tehran court convicted Mohammadi of ‘acting against the national security’, ‘membership of the DHRC’ and ‘propaganda against the regime’ for her reporting on human rights violations, and she was sentenced to serve 6 years in prison (reduced from her original cumulative sentence of 11 years).  More recently, in May 2015 Mohammadi was arrested days after a fresh trial began on charges including “spreading propaganda against the system,” “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security” and “membership of an illegal organisation whose aim is to harm national security (Step by Step to Stop the Death Penalty).

Mohammadi is the mother of nine-year-old twins, and the wife of prominent journalist and activist Taghi Rahmani, who has spent a total of 17 years in prison.  They are both honorary members of Danish PEN.

After already having served 6 years, as of May, Mohammadi has now been sentenced to an additional 16 years imprisonment (of which she will serve at least 10 years, if the court’s decision is upheld).  Not only is Mohammadi a prisoner of conscience, but she also faces grave health concerns that are not being properly treated or recognized by Iranian authorities.    According to PEN International:

«Serious concerns for Mohammadi’s health persist following reports that she suffered several seizures in August and October 2015. According to reports, Mohammadi was taken to hospital on each occasion and on at least one instance she was returned to prison against medical advice. In a subsequent incident she was handcuffed to the bed for the first few days of her hospital stay.»

Through the Rapid Action Network, Norwegian PEN and the Writers in Prison Committee have appealed to the Iranian authorities for the immediate and unconditional release of Mohammadi.  Click here to read our letter.

In a May article, The Guardian commented on the international community’s reaction to Mohammadi’s imprisonment, and more specifically the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ condemnation of her 16-year sentence. To read the article, click here.