Iran: Wave of arrests in run up to parliamentary elections
31 January 2012
AI Index: MDE 13/004/2012
Download full file pdf
iran human right
Amnesty International is concerned that an ongoing wave of arrests of media workers and bloggers
is intended to limit freedom of expression in the run up to parliamentary elections in Iran
scheduled for 2 March 2012.
The arrests indicate that the Iranian authorities are once again choosing to restrict freedom of
expression and association in an apparent attempt to disrupt public discourse and potential
criticism of the authorities’ record in various spheres including human rights and economic
performance in advance of the start of the election campaign.
Amnesty International is urging the authorities to release all those detained in recent weeks unless
they are promptly charged with a recognizably criminal offence and tried in accordance with
international fair trial standards.
The organization said that the Judiciary in Iran should make it clear that everyone in Iran has the
right to freely express their views, including in connection to the forthcoming elections and that
restrictions and arrests of this kind violate Iran’s international human rights obligations regarding
the peaceful exercise of the rights of expression, association or assembly
On 8 January 2012, the Minister of Intelligence, Heydar Moslehi announced that the authorities
had arrested several “election disruptors” in Tehran who he said were “trying to carry out U.S.
plots against the ninth parliamentary election process through virtual and social networks”.
Amnesty International has received information about the following individuals reported to have
been arrested in recent weeks:
· Labour and human rights blogger, Esmail Jafari, a journalist who writes the Rah-e Mardom
blog (http://motomaden.blogfa.com/Profile/) was arrested on 28 December 2011 in
Bushehr, south western Iran to start serving an eight month prison sentence imposed in
March 2009 following conviction relating to ”acting against national security”, though
further details are not known to Amnesty International..
· Fatemeh Kheradmand, a writer on social issues; Ehsan Houshmand (or
Houshmandzadeh), a sociologist and member of Iran’s Kurdish minority, who has written
about Iran’s ethnic minorities; and former prisoner of conscience Saeed Madani, a
sociologist and political activist linked with the National Religious Alliance (Melii
Mazhabi) were arrested separately on 7 January,2012, reportedly by plain clothes security
· Mehdi Khazali, the son of Ayatollah Abolghasem Khazali, a member of the Council of
Guardians, was reportedly arrested on 9 January 2012. A publisher, he also writes a blog
entitled Baran (http://www.drkhazali.com/). He has been arrested on three separate
occasions in the past on account of his criticism of the government. He was reportedly
injured in his most recent arrest.
· Social and cultural researcher and women’s rights activist Parastou Dokouhaki who blogs
at Zan-nevesht, was arrested on 15 January 2012. She was previously a journalist with the
influential but now-banned Zanan (women) magazine.
· On 17 January 2012, Peyman Pakmehr, the editor of the Tabriz News website, was
arrested by local intelligence ministry officials in the north-western city of Tabriz and
transferred to Evin Prison in Tehran. He was released on bail after about a week,
apparently having been charged with “spreading propaganda against the system”.
· Journalist Marzieh Rasouli was detained following a search of her home on 17 January
2012. Family members reportedly said that security officials arrested her for “acting
against national security” without specifying what she had done. Marzieh Rasouli has
written about music and publishing and is said to have previously worked with the Shargh
and Etemad daily newpapers. She is believed to be held in Section 2A of Evin Prison.
· On 18 January 2012, journalist Sahamoddin Bourghani was arrested. He writes for the
news website Irdiplomacy. He is also believed to be held in Section 2A of Evin Prison.
· Former student leader and journalist Said Razavi Faghih was arrested around 17 or 18
January 2012 at Tehran’s international airport on return to Iran from Paris and is reported
to be held in Evin Prison, Tehran.
· Journalist Shahram Manouchehri was reportedly arrested on 19 January 2012 by officials
who searched and confiscated some of his belongings, and transferred him to an unknown
· On 20 January 2012, reports emerged indicating that Mohammad Solimaninia (or
Solimani Nia) had been arrested ten days earlier in Karaj, following a police summons. He
is a translator and runs a professional networking website u24 described by some as
similar to LinkedIn.
Amnesty International also said that it was concerned at the discriminatory procedure for selecting
candidates for election in Iran. Candidates can be disqualified for various reasons, including
ethnic identity, religious belief and political opinion, as well as their level of education.
According to reports on 28 January 2012, Dr Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, the Spokesperson of the
Council of Guardians, the body charged with overseeing elections said that 2,700 of the 4,877
individuals who registered to stand as candidates for the 290-seat parliament had been approved
by the Council of Guardians, although those rejected still had a right of appeal against
disqualification. The final list of approved candidates is expected to be finalised by 11 February
2012. In 2008, almost 7,200 individuals registered to stand for election, of which around 1,700
were disqualified from running.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Iran is a state party
places an obligation on states to respect the rights in the Covenant for all individuals within its
territory without distinction of any kind such as “race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or
other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status”. These rights include, as set
out in Article 25, that: “Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity, [...] [t]o vote and to
be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall
be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors.”
In November 2011, the UN Human Rights Committee, which oversees implementation of the
ICCPR, expressed concern about restrictions in Iran on the rights to freedom of expression,
association and assembly, as well as to participate in the conduct of public affairs.
In its concluding observations, the Committee expressed concern at the closure of newspapers and
the Association of Iranian Journalists, the arrests of journalists, newspaper editors, film-makers
and media workers, the monitoring of Internet use and contents, blocking of websites that carry
political news and analysis, slowing down internet speeds and jamming of foreign satellite
broadcasts, in particular since the 2009 presidential elections. It called on the authorities to
ensure that journalists can exercise their profession without fear of being brought before courts
and “release, rehabilitate and provide effective judicial redress and compensation for journalists”
arbitrarily detained and to ensure that monitoring of the internet does not violate the rights to
freedom of expression and privacy.
The Committee also expressed concern about the requirements for registration in election
campaigns, including the right of the Council of Guardians to reject parliamentary candidates. It
also expressed concern about the conduct of the 2009 presidential election, including the denial
of access to international election monitors, the blocking of cell phone signals and access to social
networking and opposition websites, the harassment and arbitrary arrest of political activists,
members of the country’s religious and ethnic minority communities, students, trade unionists and
women’s rights activists, as well as the arrest of political opposition members in February 2011,
and the closure by court order of two pro-reform political parties. The committee urged the Iranian
authorities to reform the election law and to “take adequate steps to guarantee that elections are
conducted in a free and transparent manner, in full conformity with the Covenant, including
through the establishment of an independent electoral monitoring commission”.
For more information please call Amnesty International’s press office in London, UK, on +44 20
7413 5566 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
International Secretariat, Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW, UK