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October 2, 2019 

The undersigned human rights organizations are deeply concerned about arrests of family members of activists, journalists and political prisoners by the Iranian government. These arrests fit a pattern of intimidation and harassment often undertaken by the Iranian authorities to silence dissidents and civil society activists inside and outside Iran.

On September 24, 2019, Masih Alinejad, a U.S.-based journalist and rights activist, reported that Iranian intelligence officers had arrested her brother, Ali Alinejad, at his home in Tehran. The intelligence agents handcuffed and blindfolded him and took him to an undisclosed location. The agents reportedly stated that they were detaining Alinejad to question him about his sister’s activities and the ties between the two. The authorities also took away his computer and mobile phone.

Masih Alinejad is a prominent journalist and women’s rights activist who actively campaigns against Iran’s compulsory hijab laws. She has founded the “My Stealthy Freedom” and “White Wednesdays” campaigns which challenge Iran’s veiling laws by encouraging women to post photos of themselves without hijab.

In addition, seven intelligence agents detained Leila Lotfi and Hadi Lotfi, siblings of Max Lotfi, Masih Alinejad’s former husband, who lives outside Iran and is involved with his former wife’s campaigns. The Loftis were reportedly told that they were being detained to be questioned about Masih Alinejad’s activities. Hadi Lotfi was released after undergoing interrogation overnight.

This is not the first time that the authorities have targeted Masih Alinejad’s family. Her mother, Zarrin Badpa, was interrogated in March for two hours. The authorities filmed the interrogation. 

The arrests of Masih Alinejad’s relatives are only the latest of such incidents. BBC international has reported that Iranian authorities have repeatedly detained or threatened family members of activists, journalists, and political prisoners. Family members of BBC Persian journalists, for instance, have been subject to harassment and intimidation, including arrest.

In July, the authorities arrested Farangis Mazloum, the mother of Soheil Arabi, a political prisoner held since 2013 on various charges such as insulting sacred Islamic values, insulting the Supreme Leader, and disseminating propaganda against the Islamic Republic.  Mazloum was arrested after she released a video describing how her son had been beaten in prison, calling on the authorities to provide him with medical care.

We call on the Iranian government to immediately release all individuals who are solely detained due to their relatives’ actions and stop detaining and harassing family members of activists, journalists, and political prisoners. Iranian authorities should end retaliatory measures aimed at silencing dissenting voices.

The undersigned human rights organizations also call on the international community to hold Iran accountable and urge the Iranian government to respect its obligations under international human rights law and stop the arbitrary detention of Iranian citizens.


Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

All Human Rights for All in Iran

Arseh Sevom

Association for Human Rights in Kurdistan of Iran-Geneva

Center for Human Rights in Iran

Center for Supporters of Human Rights

Ensemble contre le peine de mort (ECPM)

Human Rights Watch

Iran Human Rights

Iran Human Rights Documentation Center

OutRight Action International 

Siamak Pourzand Foundation

Small Media

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