Monthly Archives: February 2019

2 Civil Activists Reportedly Held in Iranian Kurdistan

2 Civil Activists Reportedly Held in Iranian Kurdistan

February 15, 2019, 9:31
Mokhtar Asadi, left, a member of the Kurdistan Teachers Association, and environmentalist Sirwan Ghorbani were detained recently in Iran, rights groups report.

Mokhtar Asadi, left, a member of the Kurdistan Teachers Association, and environmentalist Sirwan Ghorbani were detained recently in Iran, rights groups report.

By: Michael Lipin

Iranian rights groups say authorities have detained two civil activists in the country’s northwestern Kurdistan province in recent days, one a teachers union member and the other an environmentalist.

Four groups quoted sources as saying Iranian security agents arrested Mokhtar Asadi, a member of the Kurdistan Teachers Association, in Sanandaj as he traveled home with his family on Thursday. They said Asadi was detained without a warrant and taken to an unknown location, hours after dozens of teachers held a peaceful protest outside the Sanandaj educational department.

The groups reporting on Asadi’s detention were Iran’s Campaign for the Defense of Political and Civil PrisonersHuman Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA), Kurdistan Human Rights Association and Kurdistan Human Rights Network(KHRN).

The Sanandaj rally was part of a series of teacher protests held Thursday in six Iranian cities, with activists denouncing perceived government suppression of their rights and calling for better working conditions in their poorly paid profession.

There was no word on Asadi’s case in Iranian state media. He has been arrested several times before in relation to his advocacy for teachers’ rights and had been released from his most recent detention last July after spending a year in Tehran’s Evin prison on a charge of spreading anti-government propaganda.

HRANA has said Iranian authorities have tightened their grip on labor unions in recent years and have shown a “particular vitriol” toward those representing educators.

U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch joined four Iranian rights organizations in reporting the arrest of environmentalist Sirwan Ghorbani in Kamyaran on Tuesday. They said Iranian security officers detained Ghorbani, also a central council member of the Kurdistan National Unity Party, at his home.

The Iranian rights groups quoted sources as saying the officers who raided Ghorbani’s home put a sack over his head, seized some of his personal belongings and confiscated the mobile phone of his sister Samira Ghorbani, who fainted and had to be taken to a hospital. They said the agents also ordered Samira Ghorbani to report to a local information bureau in the coming days.

Iranian state media were silent on Sirwan Ghorbani’s arrest, details of which were reported by Campaign for the Defense of Political and Civil PrisonersHRANAKHRN and the Kurdistan Press Agency (KurdPA).

The rights groups said Iranian authorities detained 10 other environmental and civil activists in Kamyaran and Sanandaj in late December and in recent days extended their arrest for another month. A Jan. 7 report by Iranian state news agency IRNA quoted Kurdistan provincial deputy security chief Hussein Khosheqbal as saying those detained had been engaged in “criminal activities” on behalf of environmental groups.

Iran has come under criticism from international rights activists for its recent detentions and prosecutions of other Iranian environmentalists. Eight have been on trial since last month on spying-related charges that their supporters say are bogus.

This article originated in VOA’s Persian service.


This article originated in VOA’s Persian service.

  • 16x9 Image

    Michael Lipin

    Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin


Esmail and Sepideh were badly beaten with metal bars, restrained for long hours and intimidated with sexually abusive language.

They were first arrested in November 2018 for protesting the unpaid wages and poor working conditions of a sugar cane company in Iran. After speaking out they were rearrested and they could be facing further torture as you read this.

Peacefully protesting for workers’ rights is not a crime. Please email the president of Iran demanding their immediate release.

‘I could hardly walk for several days. I developed a fever and a cold. My face was swollen and blood clots came out of my nose. I could not move my jaw to chew food.’
Esmail Bakshi

When Esmail Bakhsi and Sepideh Gholian were first arrested they were taken to an office of security police in Khuzestan province.

Sepideh – a young student – was beaten, slammed against a wall and hit on her shoulder with the metal strap of her handbag.

‘The intelligence official slapped me in the head and insulted me constantly. He used very vulgar and violent sexual language, called me a ‘whore’, said I was having sexual relationships with Haft Tappeh workers, and threatened to get my relatives to kill me to protect the family’s honour.’

Esmail Bakhshi – a sugarcane industry worker – tried to stop this humiliation. He was shoved to the ground, had his hands tied behind his back, and was beaten by several men.

amnesty-internationalThe situation went from bad to worse.

Forced confessions

The pair were transferred to an undisclosed location. During the one and a half hour trip they were tortured several times.

Esmail Bakhshi said that the officials pulled his hair, hit him with their fists and batons, and strangled him multiple times. He said that the officials also pulled his legs apart and hit him in the testicles.

‘I experienced severe burning when urinating and I was in so much pain that it even hurt to sleep. After nearly two months, I still feel pain in my broken ribs, kidneys, ears and testicles.’

When they arrived in the detention centre they were told by officials: ‘This place is the end of the world. There are no human rights here and you have no option but to confess like a dog’.

Then they were violently interrogated in long sessions which often started around 10am and lasted until the early hours of the following morning. They had no access to their lawyers during this period. All the while, they heard the screams of other victims from neighbouring cells.

On 19 January their ‘confessions’ were broadcast on state TV. They ‘confessed’ to colluding with Marxist and Communist groups outside Iran in an attempt to overthrow the Islamic Republic through organising workers’ strikes and demonstrations.

Who are they?

Esmail Bakhshi is a worker at Haft Tappeh sugar cane company who has spoken out bravely at peaceful protests over unpaid wages and poor working conditions.

Sepideh Gholian is a young university student and labour rights activist who attended the protests of Haft Tappeh workers and supported them through reporting on social media.

They are peaceful protesters who should be allowed to speak out against poor working conditions in their country.

They have been treated in the most appalling way and could be facing further torture as you read this. We must send a message to Iran that this will not stand.

Please send an instant email to the President of Iran demanding their release.

%d bloggers like this: