Human Right Watch, a nongovernmental monitoring group, is awarding grants to seven Iranian writers in recognition of what it calls “the courage with which they face political persecution.” These Iranians are among forty-five writers from twenty-two countries receiving grants from Human Rights Watch.
The recipients include investigative reporter Roozbeh Mir Ebrahimi. detained in September 2004 and held in solitary confinement for sixty days; poet and journalist Shahram Rafizadeh, imprisoned in 2004 after writing about the role of Iranian intelligence agents in the murder of Iranian writers and dissidents, and Arash Sigarchi, imprisoned in 2005 for publicizing human rights violations by the Tehran government.
Another grant recipient, Ensaf Ali Hedayat, has, according to Human Rights Watch, “reported extensively on human rights violations in the Iranian province of Azerbaijan.” He was arrested in June 2003 and spent seventy-four days in solitary confinement. He was released after eighteen months in prison. Mr. Hedayat says he knows from experience what political prisoners face in Iran:
“When I was imprisoned, I got a chance to see what is going on in prison as a journalist. I wrote not only what happened to me, not only the tortures I was subjected to. . . I wrote down accounts of what it is going on in prisons in Iranian Azerbaijan [province]. I wrote accounts of prisoners in their own words. The world should know what is going on in Iran, especially in prisons in the Azerbaijani region.”
Mr. Hedayat says Iran has numerous prisons and many political prisoners:
“There are thirty-four officially acknowledged prisons in Iranian Azerbaijan [province]. This figure does not include dozens of detention facilities of the intelligence service and other secret services. Nobody knows where most of these detention centers are.”
U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says the United States is “working with the international community through the United Nations, foreign governments and international non-governmental organizations to focus attention on the Iranian regime’s continued abuse of its own citizens and press for improvements in its dismal human rights record.”