Friends and relatives of Azerbaijani-Iranian human rights activist Abbas Lisani fear for his life. He has reportedly been transferred from Ahar prison to a prison in central Iran. Mr. Lisani’s wife, Rugeyye, says the transfer was illegal and her husband was badly beaten by prison officials for resisting deportation. His friends believe he was transferred in order to further isolate him and make him more vulnerable to abuse by Iranian authorities.
To protest mistreatment by the regime, Mr. Lisani has reportedly declared a hunger strike. In an interview with the Voice of America’s Azerbaijani Service, Rugeyye Lisani said Azerbaijani-Iranians will continue their struggle for human rights:
“They [the Iranian regime] will not break us. If they keep Abbas [Lisani] to the end of his life in prison, they will not break us, as we will always support him.”
In its latest human rights report on Iran, the U.S. State Department said, “In June 2006, security officials arrested Mr. Lisani following a protest demonstration and charged him with ‘holding rallies against the state system.’" According to Amnesty International, Mr. Lisani was sentenced that September to sixteen months in prison and fifty lashes.”
Another Azerbaijani-Iranian political prisoner at risk is Reza Daghestani, the editor of a student newsletter, Chanlibel, published in Azerbaijani-Turkic and Persian. He has taken an active role in teaching the Azerbaijani-Turkic language and in peaceful demonstrations commemorating international Mother Tongue Day, February 21st. According to Amnesty International, Mr. Daghestani was arrested on February 21st at his family’s home in Urmiya. Amnesty International believes him to be “a prisoner of conscience held solely on account of his peaceful activities on behalf of Iranian Azerbaijanis.” Amnesty International officials also believe he in danger of torture.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says, “In every region of the world, men and women are working peacefully, and often at great risk to themselves and their families, to secure human rights and fundamental freedoms, to follow their consciences and speak their minds without fear, to choose those who would govern them and to hold their leaders accountable and to achieve equal justice under the law.” Americans, she says, “continue to believe that it is our duty to support these courageous men and women.”