The Iranian regime’s assault on peaceful minority rights activists continues, and the pace seems to be increasing.
On September 10th, security agents arrested more than nineteen Azeri-Iranians -- journalists, university instructors, and poets -- gathered in a private home in Tehran for an Iftar celebration, the meal breaking the fast during Ramadan. Among them were the wife and children of jailed Azeri-Iranian minority rights activist Abbas Lisani. The same day, Hassan Rahimi, another prominent Azeri Iranian human rights defender, was also arrested in Tehran. Some of those arrested, including Rugeyya Lisani and the Lisani children, have been released. But many remain in Evin prison.
The arrests of the Azeri Iranians follow a campaign of repression targeting minority groups in Iran, including Kurds and Balouchis, as well as Azeris.
Amnesty International has reported that the “deep-rooted discrimination” experienced by Iranian Kurds is proceeding unchecked, and noted that Kurdish human rights defenders, including community activists and journalists, face arbitrary arrest, mistreatment and prosecution.
Amnesty cites the case of human rights activist and journalist Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand who was sentenced in June to eleven years in prison. Earlier this year, Kurdish ethnic rights defenders Farzad Kamangar, Ali Heydariyan and Farhad Vakili were sentenced to death, following what Amnesty called “a grossly flawed” judicial process.
Human rights monitors also complain of repression by the regime of Balouchi Iranians. In August, authorities executed Yaghoub Mehrnehad, journalist and director of Voice of Justice, a civil society organization that specializes in cultural events aimed at Balouchi youth. There are reports that hundreds of Balouchi Iranians are imprisoned under sentence of death in Sistan va Balouchistan province.
Earlier this year, the United States joined the European Union in expressing concern “over the deterioration of the human rights situation in Iran, especially those of human rights defenders, women, and minorities.”
The U.S. calls on Iran to respect the human rights of all Iranian people – including its ethnic and religious minorities -- and to release those imprisoned for insisting on their universal rights.