World Press Freedom Day 2017
3 May 2017 –Iran’s cultural landscape remains closely monitored and closed, with its leaders paying little attention to its obligations under international human rights law. Censorship of print and digital media remains common. Writers, journalists, musicians and artists continue to face harassment, threats or arrest in connection with their peaceful exercise of free expression. Those detained are often subjected to ill-treatment, including prolonged periods of solitary confinement.
In a letter to PEN International, imprisoned Iranian journalist and human rights defender, and Honorary Member of Danish, Belgian and Swedish PEN, Narges Mohammadi explained the mental and physical suffering that such practices inflict on inmates, often amounting to torture:
‘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. […] 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.’
On World Press Freedom Day, PEN International renews its calls on the Iranian authorities to safeguard freedom of expression as a fundamental human right and free all those who are imprisoned simply for excessing this right.
Take Action: Share on Facebook, Twitter and other social media
Send appeals to calling on the state of Iran to:
- Calling on the Iranian authorities to quash all the convictions of journalist Narges Mohammadi and release her immediately and unconditionally as she is imprisoned for the peaceful exercise of her right to freedom of expression and association;
- Abolish all forms of censorship and allow the free dissemination of information in line with international human rights standards;
- End the practice of prolonged solitary confinement and other forms of torture and other ill-treatment, in accordance with Iran’s international human rights obligations; Sign and ratify the Convention Against Torture without reservation;
- 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.
|Leader of the Islamic Republic|
Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei
The Office of the Supreme Leader
Shoahada Street, Qom, Islamic Republic of Iran
Salutation: Your Excellency
|Head of the Judiciary Ayatollah|
Sadegh Larijanic/o Public Relations Office Number 4, Deadend of 1 Azizi Above Pasteur Intersection Vali Asr Street Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Salutation: Your Excellency
|And copies to:|
Secretary General, High Council for Human Rights
Mohammed Javad Larijani c/o Office of the Head of the Judiciary
Pasteur St, Vali Asr Ave
South of Serah-e Jomhouri, Tehran,
Islamic Republic of Iran
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (Subject line: FAO Mohammad Javad Larijani)
@khamenei_ir @HassanRouhani Defending human rights is not a crime - #Iran must release #NargesMohammadi now!
It is recommended that you send a copy of your appeals via the diplomatic representative for Iran in your country. Contact details for embassies can be found here
PEN members are encouraged to:
- Publish articles and opinion pieces in your national or local press highlighting the situation about freedom of expression in Iran.
- Organise public events, stage readings, press conferences or demonstrations.
- Share information about Iran and your campaigning activities for Narges Mohammadi via social media. Suggested hashtag: #FreeNarges
- Elect Narges Mohammadi as an Honorary Member of your Centre and by doing so provide long term support and advocacy for her and her family. For details of the PEN International Honorary Membership scheme, read the PEN WiPC Guide to Defending Writers Under Attack (Part V, pgs 15-20). Please let us know if you do so and we will ensure that your Centre is networked with others working on the case.
- Send messages of solidarity to Narges Mohammadi. Please contact, Emma Wadsworth-Jones at email@example.com
Narges Mohammadi is an independent journalist and the former vice-president and spokesperson of the Defenders of Human Rights Center (DHRC), which advocates for human rights reform and represents political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in legal proceedings. She is also involved in campaigning against the death penalty in Iran.
Mohammadi has long suffered from persecution at the hands of the Iranian authorities; she has been banned from travelling abroad since 2009, when the authorities confiscated her passport. The following year, Mohammadi was arrested from her home without a warrant and held in connection with her work with the Defenders of Human Rights Center. Immediately following her release on bail on 1 July 2010, Mohammadi was admitted to hospital for treatment.
PEN International first began working on her case in 2011 when a Tehran court convicted her of ‘acting against the national security’, ‘membership of the DHRC’ and ‘propaganda against the regime’ for her reporting on human rights violations, cooperation with Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi and visiting political prisoners (see RAN 20/12 and updates). She was sentenced to serve a cumulative sentence of 11 years in prison. The sentence was reduced to six years on appeal in January 2012.
On 21 April 2012, Mohammadi was summoned to Evin prison to serve her sentence. She was released on bail on 30 July 2012 following the severe deterioration of her health.
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’ (Legam - Step by Step to Stop the Death Penalty, an organisation that campaigned against the death penalty in Iran) which had been brought against her in June 2014. At the time of her arrest, intelligence officials are reported to have said that she was being arrested to continue serving her six-year sentence. Her trial was subject to several postponements without any explanation provided by the court.
Mohammadi stood trial on 20 April 2016. According to the Defenders of Human Rights Center, the verdict was communicated to her lawyer on 17 May 2016. Mohammadi was sentenced to five years in prison for ‘gathering and colluding with intent to harm national security’, one year in prison for ‘spreading propaganda against the system’ and 10 years for ‘establishing and running an illegal organisation’ for her work advocating against the death penalty. Under legislation adopted in 2015, a person sentenced to several jail terms is required to serve that with the most severe penalty – in this case, 10 years, which will be added to her previous six-year sentence.
Evidence used against Mohammadi included media interviews she had conducted, her connections to human rights defenders, as well as her activities against the death penalty, including her work with the campaigning group, Step by Step to Stop the Death Penalty. It also included her meeting with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy Catherin Ashton in March 2014.
On 19 September 2016, Mohammadi attended Branch 36 of Tehran’s Appeal’s Court in order to present evidence against the preliminary sentence; however, she was informed that the court had already reached its verdict, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
Before her arrest, Mohammadi told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran: ‘I have been ‘charged’ with every single civil activity I have engaged in since my release from Zanjan Prison in August 2012, such as participating in gatherings on women’s rights, air pollution, and [Rouhani’s] Citizenship Rights Charter. I was also accused of honoring families of political prisoners at meetings, or attending a gathering with Gonabadi Dervishes in front of the Prosecutor’s Office, or giving interviews to media outside Iran. I told them there that when you fit all my civil activities into these two charges, it means that I must remain silent and still.’
Mohammadi suffers from a neurological disorder that can result in seizures, temporary partial paralysis, and pulmonary embolism – a blood clot in her lung. 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. According to reports, Mohammadi now faces an additional charge of ‘insulting officers while being transferred to a hospital’ after she filed a complaint with regards to the treatment she experienced at the hands of prison guards when she was transferred to hospital for examinations.
Mohammadi is the mother of nine-year-old twins (born in November 2006), and isthe wife of prominent journalist and activist Taghi Rahmani, who has spent a total of 17 years in prison. Taghi Rahmani left the country in May 2011 following escalating pressure from the authorities. Their children joined him in July 2015. She is an honorary member of Danish PEN and Belgian PEN. In May 2016, she wrote a moving letter to the PEN community, calling on the PEN membership to take a stand against the use of solitary confinement as a means of torture.
In September 2008, Narges Mohammadi was elected as President of the Executive Committee of the National Council of Peace in Iran, a broad coalition against war and for the promotion of human rights. She has campaigned for the abolition of the death penalty in Iran, and is the recipient of both the Alexander Langer Award (2009) and the Per Anger Prize (2011) for her human rights work. She was one of awardees of the 2013 PEN/Oxfam Novib Free Expression Award.
For more information on PEN's work on Iran click here.