IV. Targets of an Expanding Crackdown

The experiences of all detainees from the various civil society sectors featured in this report have in common deprivation of the rights to freedom of speech, assembly and association that led to their arbitrary arrest, violence accompanying arrest, torture and ill-treatment in detention, and prosecution. All spent time spent in Evin 209. Experiences in detention are described in the next chapter.

Most of the individuals featured in this report are no longer being detained. Court authorities release detainees on bail without providing set trial dates or issue suspended sentences in order to keep those detained under the constant threat of re-arrest and renewed detention. These practices grant the government the appearance of leniency in allowing activists to remain outside of prison. Yet freedom in these instances is conditional, and the government always has the option to threaten setting trial dates or activating suspended sentences in order to keep activists in line.

The Women’s Movement

In recent years, women’s rights activists in Iran have been among the most organized groups working toward improving the human rights situation of women, men, and children in Iran. Over the past two years their activities have largely been in the form of national campaigns, such as the One Million Signatures Campaign (a project to raise general awareness about discriminatory laws against women and working to change those laws),66 the Campaign to End Stoning Forever, as well as smaller-scale projects such as the campaign to allow women’s attendance at national soccer matches. Government authorities under the Ahmadinejad administration have not responded well to the work of women’s rights activists and have carried out their own campaigns to silence and intimidate the movement’s supporters.

Notwithstanding the constitutional protection of the right to peaceful assembly, the Iranian government has variously attempted to deny this right to women activists by refusing to issue permits, threatening organizers ahead of scheduled events, and disrupting demonstrations and arresting attendees. A woman’s rights activist told Human Rights Watch,

There is a legislative directive about getting permits for demonstrations, but it’s used arbitrarily. Conservative groups that gather in front of embassies don’t need permits and don’t have their gatherings disrupted. But groups that are seen as critical of the government, even when they have permits, are harassed. They close our NGOs, and they don’t give us permits to hold seminars in public buildings. Sometimes they will give us a permit for a public gathering and then revoke it at the last minute. Before our scheduled demonstration of June 12, 2006, agents from the Ministry of Information made threatening phone calls to organizers and regular folks who had been receiving text message announcements and warned them not to attend. We had to issue several public statements that the gathering would be peaceful, but on the day of the event, the police and security forces weren’t even letting people stand together in groups of two or three.67

The wave of major crackdowns on the women’s movement can be traced to the summer of 2006. A pivotal event, the June 12 demonstration mentioned by the activist quoted here, is detailed below.

The June 12, 2006 Demonstration and its Aftermath

A broad coalition of activists put out a call for a June 12 peaceful demonstration in Seventh Tir Square in Tehran to ask for changes to laws that discriminate against women. The demonstrators had not obtained a permit, arguing that the government denied permits on political grounds and that Article 27 of the Constitution guaranteed their right to peaceful assembly.68 That day prior to the start of the demonstration at Seventh Tir Square, police and security forces arrived to prevent participants from joining the event, and forcibly disbanded the crowds that were gathering.69 In her blog, journalist and women’s rights activist Asieh Amini, who was attending the protest, described how police and security forces attacked the demonstrators:

They said, “Get up.” We said, “We’re not doing anything, we’re just sitting here.” They said, “Get up!” We said, “Sitting in a park isn’t a crime!” They said, “We’re telling you nicely to get up or else…” And that was all the time we had for conversation. We didn’t have anything to say to each other and both sides knew this. Then they hit us, meaning, “We’re not joking!” And those of us sitting and standing said, “Why?!” They kicked us out of the park, with force and beatings. We started walking around the park calmly and peacefully. They kicked us out and beat us. Someone yelled, “Shame on you; I’m your mother.” The response was, “I don’t have a shrew like you for a mother!” and she pushed her so hard that the crowd yelled in protest. We left—they took us—to the other side of the park. We picked up the signs we had made that said “change anti-women laws” and “We want the rights of a full human being.” We started chanting, “We are women, humans, but we have no rights” and “Oh woman, oh presence of life…” This time they started hitting us from all sides. And they weren’t just men. There were women with chadorswho yelled, “Don’t argue with the police,” and then when there were arguments, insults and kicks would ensue from beneath those chadors.70

On June 14, a spokesperson for the Judiciary confirmed that the security forces had arrested 42 women and 28 men on charges of “participation in an illegal assembly.”71 All of these were detained in Evin 209. Authorities released from pretrial detention all but one of the 70 detainees by July 18 (Ali Akbar Mousavi Khoini, the parliamentarian mentioned above, was the only prisoner who was not released. He spent an additional 130 days in Evin 209, much of that time in solitary confinement, before authorities released him in October).72 However, the charges against the detainees remained outstanding, and the judiciary proceeded to prosecute some of the demonstration’s organizers.

The Sixth Branch of the Revolutionary Court set March 4, 2007, as the date to try five prominent women’s rights activists who had played a role in planning the demonstration: Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani, Parvin Ardalan, Shahla Entesari, Fariba Davoudi Mohajer, and Sussan Tahmasebi. On the day of the March 4 hearing, supporters of the women gathered peacefully outside the courthouse in protest of the continuing harassment of the activists. Security forces violently broke up the gathering, arrested 33 of the demonstrators, including the four women who had shown up for their court date, and transferred them to Evin 209.73

By March 8, authorities had released all but two of the women, Shadi Sadr and Mahbubeh Abbasgholizadeh, who remained in Evin 209 until their release on March 19, having spent the period March 6-15 in solitary confinement74 (authorities also placed Shahla Entesari in solitary confinement, from the first day of her arrest on March 4).75 All were released on bail ranging from the equivalent of US$50,000 to $200,000.76 The March 4 trial was abandoned, but as the following sections document, the government prosecuted and convicted many women’s rights activists on security charges.

On April 1, 2007, Mahboubeh Hosseinzadeh and Nahid Keshavarz, who had been among the 33 arrested in March, were arrested by security forces along with two other women and a man as they prepared to collect signatures in Laleh Park in support of the One Million Signatures Campaign. After a hearing at a branch of the Revolutionary Court, officials released the other three detainees on April 3, but they transferred Hosseinzadeh and Keshavarz to Evin Prison—this time to the women’s general ward, not Section 209—on unknown charges pursuant to a judicially authorized temporary detention order.77 They were released 13 days after their arrest.78 It is likely that the charges against them remain outstanding.

On April 13, Asieh Amini, Shahla Entesari, Farideh Entesari, Nahid Entesari, Rezvan Moghaddam, and Azadeh Forghani responded to a summons. Officials interrogated them about their participation in the March 4 peaceful protest in front of the courthouse, and the court charged them with “illegally assembling to act against national security,” disobeying the police,” and “disturbing the general order.” Azadeh Forghani received a two-year suspended sentence, and Shahla Entesari received a three-year sentence, two-and-a-half years of which are suspended for five years.79

On April 17, the Special Security branch of Tehran’s Public Prosecutor’s office issued additional summonses against other women who had participated in the March 4 gathering: Parvin Ardalan, Noushin Ahmadi, Maryam Mirza, Elnaz Ansari, Nasreen Afzali, and Zara Amjadian.80 That same day, the Sixth Branch of the Revolutionary Court in Iran also handed down sentences for two of the women who had been arrested during the June 12, 2006 demonstration in Seventh Tir Square: Soosan Tahmasebi received a sentence of two years in prison, one–and-a-half years of which was suspended. The court sentenced Fariba Mohajer Davoodi in absentia to four years in prison, one year of which is suspended.81 Mohajer Davoodi was in the United States visiting family at the time of her trial, and she has remained in the United States after the court handed down its sentence.82

On July 2, Delaram Ali, a 24-year-old sociology student and member of the Campaign for One Million Signatures, responded to a summons from Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court by inquiring why she had been called to appear. Apparently in punishment for her challenging inquiry, the court handed down a sentence of two-and–a-half years in prison and 10 lashes for participating in the peaceful gathering of June 12, 2006.” 83 On November 4, an appeals court in Tehran upheld her conviction on charges of on charges of “acting against national security” and “advertising against the system” and reduced her sentence by only four months.84

Union and Labor Activists

Over the last several years, Iranian workers have challenged government-controlled labor organizations by setting up independent unions in a range of industries throughout the country. The rise and popularity of independent labor unions among workers has alarmed the government, which has attempted to curtail the movement by arresting labor activists and disrupting public gatherings -- but not by addressing workers’ grievances. The poor state of the domestic economy and its impact on Iran’s nearly 20-million-strong labor force have meant that workers continue to be drawn toward independent organizing.

In response, the Iranian government has increasingly harassed and arbitrarily arrested members of the Iranian labor force who have spoken out and organized for improving the situation of workers in Iran. Authorities have detained independent labor leaders and ordinary workers in Evin 209, where they have treated them as security prisoners and denied them access to lawyers or family visits. The continuing persecution of labor union leader Mansour Ossanlu and a March 2007 crackdown on protesting teachers throughout the country stand out as indicators of labor’s increased persecution under the Ahmadinejad administration. Both are detailed below.

Mansour Ossanlu

Mansour Ossanlu leads the executive committee of the Syndicate of Workers of Vahed Bus Company, an independent union. Ossanlu’s first of several arrests occurred on December 22, 2005. At that time, Ossanlu and the union had called on bus drivers to refuse passengers’ fares in order to protest working conditions. On December 22 police arrested him without a warrant at his home and transferred him to Evin 209.85 In order to prevent a strike that workers were planning to stage on January 28, 2006 in protest of Ossanlu’s continued detention, security forces also preemptively detained hundreds of drivers and several union organizers.86 On January 26, security and Information forces also arrested the union’s board of directors. They held all of the detainees in Evin prison Section 209 until various dates in March but never officially charged them, pursuant to Article 32 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, entitling security forces to indefinitely detain people without charge for investigation of violations of the Security Laws , and never granted them access to their lawyers.87 Ossanlu remained in Evin 209 until his release on August 6, 2006.88

Authorities again arrested Ossanlu without charge on November 19, 2006, and detained him in Evin 209 until December 5. This time, during the three weeks of his detention, he spent 11 days in solitary confinement.89

After his first arrest in December 2005, authorities set a bail of the equivalent of US$150,000.90 After his second arrest, he was forced to pay an additional bail of US$30,000.

In an interview after his December release, Ossanlu described how security agents abused him at the time of his arrest:

After [being] arrest[ed] and while in the car of the security people, I received dozens of blows on my head, face, and body. They squeezed my neck with a handkerchief until I thought I would suffocate. A person named [name redacted], who was a captain in the security apparatus in the anti-narcotic section (I recognized him from an identity card I had seen a year previously), was in charge of these operations against me. They tore my coat and pulled it over my head. They kept pounding me over the head with fists that had large agate rings while saying, “pack your bags and leave this place.” All these were to create fear and trepidation in me so that I would resign from the syndicate.91

On July 10, 2007, plainclothes officers once again beat and arrested Ossanlu as he was getting off of a bus near his home.92 After Ossanlu’s July 2007 detention, Hassan Hadad, the security deputy at the Tehran Prosecution Office, denied that Ossanlu was arrested for workers’ movement activities and claimed that he was detained for “distributing leaflets against the order.”93

On October 30, an appellate court in Tehran upheld a February 24, 2007 ruling by Branch 14 of the Revolutionary Court that had sentenced Ossanlu to a five-year suspended prison term on charges of “acting against national security” and “propaganda against the system.”94 After the ruling of the appellate court, the authorities transferred Ossanlu from Evin 209, where they were holding him since his July arrest, to the general holding units of Evin prison. 95 To date he remains there.

March 2007 Teachers Protest

In March, teachers in numerous cities throughout Iran organized demonstrations to call for equity in pay and benefits with other governmental employees. On March 3, 2007, teachers in Tehran staged a peaceful gathering in Tehran in front of the Iranian parliament in order to protest governmental neglect of the wage and benefits situation of teachers. The demonstrations in front of the parliament continued for two weeks until March 14, when riot police and security forces arrested hundreds of the protesting teachers.96 Arrests continued through mid-April.97 Dozens of the teachers arrested in this sweep were detained in Evin 209. Many remained in pretrial detention in Evin 209 for up to 60 days, without any formal charge against them.98

In an open letter to the head of Iran’s Judiciary on April 26, the wives of four of the imprisoned teachers, Ali Akbar Baghani, Mohammad Taghi Fallahi, Seyyed Mahmoud Bagheri, and Ali Safar Montejabi, expressed their concern over the treatment of their husbands and the violation of their rights:

On March 20, a member of parliament quoted you as having said that participation in legal gatherings and asking for teachers’ rights is the right of the people and a manifestation of democracy. Yet despite your order to free them, nine of them have spent their [Iranian] New Year’s vacation in prison, and incredibly, the wave of arresting teachers has continued in the new year…. Honorable Ayatollah Shahrudi we are citizens of this country, and we are Muslims too. Some of our husbands are veterans of the Holy Defense [1980s Iran-Iraq war] and the revolution. Our husbands are teachers. We ask your Excellency to order that their legal rights be respected. We and our children have the right to know where our loved ones are being held, the conditions of their detention, and the charges against them. Our husbands have not even been granted the rights of ordinary prisoners.99

The authorities eventually released all of the teachers on bail of the equivalent of US$30,000—huge sums for teachers who had been protesting for a living wage.100

In June and July branches of Revolutionary Courts throughout Iran sentenced protesting teachers on charges such as “disrupting the general order” and “gathering and organizing to disrupt the national security of the country.”101 In August, a branch of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran sentenced Ali Reza Hashemi, the superintendent of the Iranian Teachers Organization, to a three-year suspended prison sentence on charges of “provoking teachers to gather and organizing to disrupt the national security of the country.”102 The government has also punished other teachers by transforming them to teaching positions in other cities or suspending them from service.103


Students, recent graduates, and individuals with ties to legally registered student and alumni activist organizations have been facing the same pattern of governmental attack as those endured by women’s rights activists and workers. Tracing the persecution of students since July 2005, one month before Ahmadinejad took office, Human Rights Watch documented in October 2006 the cases of 35 student activists whom the Judiciary sentenced to prison terms or fined for political activity that the government characterized as “acting against national security.”104 Human Rights Watch has also documented persecution of student activists on similar charges prior to the Ahmadinejad administration, most notably following the 1999 student protests. 105

On August 19, 2006, authorities arrested two recent university graduates, Abolfazl Jahandar and Kheirollah Derakhshandi.106 Nearly a month later, on September 18, authorities arrested university instructor and activist Kayvon Ansari outside his home.107 Agents of the Ministry of Information detained all of the men without charge and interrogated them in Evin 209. In February 2007 the Sixth Branch of the Revolutionary Court sentenced each of them to between two and three years of imprisonment on charges of “acting against national security,” “meeting and colluding to undermine national security,” and “insulting officials.” On April 4, 2007, the three appealed their cases to Branch 32 of Tehran’s Appellate Court.108 On September 13, the appellate court ordered the release of Kayvon Ansari, but the cases of Jahandar and Derakhshandi are still pending appeals. 109

As they did with workers and women’s rights activists, authorities intensified their harassment of students and student-affiliated activists in the spring and summer of 2007. From May through July, Ministry of Information officials arrested over 20 students and activists on charges under the Security Laws, including “acting against national security” and “colluding against the order.”110

They also arrested eight student editors and activists for allegedly “insulting state leaders,” “inciting public opinion,” and “printing inflammatory and derogatory materials” in student publications at Amir Kabir University.111 Article 514 of the Islamic Penal Code sets a punishment of six months to two years of imprisonment for anyone who insults Ayatollah Khomeini or the person currently occupying the position of Supreme Leader.112 Article 698 of the Islamic Penal Code sets a sentence of two months to two years or 74 lashes for “printing lies in order to incite public opinion.”113 According to a student activist at the university who spoke to Human Rights Watch, students had immediately stated that they had no part in the publications, which appeared on April 30, 2007:

As soon as the publications appeared, the editors of the four papers, Rivar, Sar Khat, Sahar, and Atiyeh, announced that the copies were faked and denied that they had any role in producing them. They went to the office of the Executive Administrator of the University, Alireza Rahayee, to ask for an investigation into the matter, but university security forcefully prevented them from doing so. In the following days, the students denied their connection to the publications in a number of gatherings.114

The government went forward with issuing arrest and search warrants for the eight students.115 Three of them—Majid Tavakoli, Ahmad Ghasaban, and Ehsan Mansouri—were eventually prosecuted (the other five were released),116 and on October 3, 2007, Branch 6 of the Revolutionary Court sentenced them to three, two-and-a-half, and two years of imprisonment, respectively.117

On July 9, 2007, six students from Amir Kabir University staged a peaceful sit-in in commemoration of the anniversary of student protests in 1999 that the government had violently suppressed.118 They were also expressing their objection to the continued detention of their classmates held in connection with the allegedly inflammatory publications. According to reports from activists, police and plainclothes officers forcefully disrupted the demonstration, arresting the six and transferring them to Evin 209.119

The six protesting students were members of the Central Council of the Office to Foster Unity, the main reformist student organization in Iran.120 Later on the same morning of their arrests, authorities arrived at the Office of the Alumni Association of Iran, which is associated with the Office to Foster Unity. Plainclothes officers fired bullets into the air before they forcefully entered the premises and arrested 10 students and activists there.121

Sources in Iran who have been in touch with the families of the students and activists detained on July 19 told Human Rights Watch that the Ministry of Information was holding them in solitary confinement and pressuring them to confess to acts they have not committed, such as being connected to forces outside the country and planning to implement a “soft revolution” in Iran. These reports indicate that authorities may be attempting to build charges of “espionage” and “acting against national security” against the detainees, which can carry heavy prison sentences. The cases fit the broader pattern of persecuting independent social and political activists whom the government perceives as critics.122

The government has released all of the students and activists arrested in May and July of 2007, with the exception of Majid Tavakoli, Ahmad Ghasaban, and Ehsan Mansouri, whose prosecution and conviction is mentioned above.

Independent Journalists, Scholars, and Activists

Many of the people detained since the inauguration of the Ahmadinejad administration are associated with broadly defined movements, such as student groups, women’s rights campaigns, or independent labor organizations. Yet the government also has targeted independent scholars, journalists, and activists who do not directly affiliate themselves with any of these movements, arbitrarily arresting and detaining them in Evin 209 and subsequently accusing them on familiar charges of being “spies,” having “relationships with foreigners,” “receiving funds from foreigners,” and “acting against national security.”

Ayatollah Kazemi Boroujerdi

The authorities have targeted Islamic clerics who are critical of the government’s policies. On October 8, 2006, authorities arrested Ayatollah Kazemi Boroujerdi at his house in Tehran and transferred him to Evin 209.123 Boroujerdi espouses an interpretation of Islam that calls for the separation of religion and politics.124 On October 10, two days after police arrested Boroujerdi, the semi-official Kayhan newspaper ran an article entitled, “Propagating Islam with the Assistance of the BBC and CIA,” accusing the cleric of working as an agent of foreign institutions.125 In June 2007 Boroujerdi appeared before the Special Clerical Court, but the authorities have not clarified the exact nature of his charges and his sentence.126 (Ayatollah Khomeini established the Special Clerical Courts in 1987 to try clerics accused of committing crimes.127 These courts are overseen directly by the Supreme Leader rather than the Judiciary; critics have claimed that is the government uses it to punish clerics it views as challenging the ruling order.128) Boroujerdi is imprisoned in Section 209 of Evin Prison.129

Ali Farahbakhsh, Haleh Esfandiari, and Kian Tajbakhsh

The cases of journalist Ali Farahbakhsh as well as Iranian-American scholars Haleh Esfandiari and Kian Tajbakhsh exemplify a pattern of detention and interrogation that has become commonplace in Iran during the two years of Ahmadinejad’s administration.

On November 26, 2006, the security forces in Tehran detained Ali Farahbakhsh, a journalist and economist, one week after he had returned from a conference for journalists held in India. Farahbakhsh, who has no known history of political or social activism, was an independent researcher of economics and had previously worked as the editor of the economic section of the newspaper Sarmaye.130 The fact that Farahbakhsh was not engaged in any political writing or activities prior to his arrest made his case particularly puzzling.

Farahbakhsh had spent the week prior to his detention in daily interrogation sessions that lasted until late at night, when authorities would take him back home. Farahbakhsh’s family told Human Rights Watch that during the first week of interrogations when agents from the Ministry of Information allowed him to return home at the end of the day, they pressured him to sign confessions admitting to the charges of “espionage” that they would later bring against him.131

The authorities did not announce any formal charges during the interrogations or upon his subsequent arrest and transfer to Evin prison, where he spent 44 days in solitary confinement in Section 209. In interviews with the press and multiple letters to Ayatollah Shahrudi, the head of Iran’s Judiciary, Farahbakhsh’s family expressed their concern about his deteriorating health and lack of proper medical care in prison.132 On February 4, 2007, over two months after Farahbakhsh’s arrest, his lawyer, Sayyed Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabayee, said in reports to the Iranian Labor News Agency that the government had charged his client with “espionage,” but had denied him the opportunity to examine Farahbakhsh’s case file. Tabatabayee met his client for the first time on the first day of the March trial.

On March 26, Branch Six of Iran’s Revolutionary Court sentenced Farahbakhsh to a three-year prison term on charges of “espionage” and “taking money from foreigners.”133 It appears that he may have been charged under Article 508 of the Islamic Penal Code, which states that “whoever collaborates in any way with a group or hostile foreign sources against the Islamic Republic of Iran” may be sentenced to one to ten years in prison.134 The law does not specifically define what counts as collaboration or what constitutes working against the government.

After 318 days in prison, 45 of which were spent in solitary confinement, the authorities released Farahbaksh on September 26.135

Haleh Esfandiari, a 67-year old dual Iranian and American citizen who heads the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC, traveled to Iran in December 2006 to visit her ailing 93-year-old mother. Prior to her planned departure from Iran on December 30, armed and masked men stopped her taxi and seized both of her passports. Iranian authorities did not return her passports and instead subjected her to repeated and protracted interrogation sessions.136

On May 8, officials at the Ministry of Information arrested Esfandiari without warrant and later accused her of “furthering the interests of foreign powers,” “espionage,” “planning the soft overthrow of the government,” and “acting against national security.”137 They transferred her to Evin, where they placed her in solitary confinement in Section 209 and denied her access to her lawyer and family visits.138 Esfandiari’s case received wide international media attention, and human rights organizations around the world protested her detention.139 On August 21 the authorities released her on US$300,000 bail.140 On September 2, Ministry of Information agents returned Esfandiari’s passport, and she returned to the United States on September 7.141 However, the government’s case against Esfandiari remains open.

According to statements by both Esfandiari’s family and her employers at the Woodrow Wilson Center, Esfandiari’s interrogators had pressured her to implicate herself and the Woodrow Wilson Center “in activities in which it had no part.”142 Since her release, she has not provided much commentary on her experience, other than to note that solitary confinement was hard for someone her age. 143

Agents from the Ministry of Information arrested Kian Tajbakhsh at his home on May 11, 2007, on the same charges under the Security Laws of “furthering the interests of foreign powers,” “espionage,” “planning the soft overthrow of the government,” and “acting against national security.144 The government apparently focused on Tajbakhsh because of his ties with foreign institutions, namely the Soros Foundation, for whom he worked as a consultant. An urban planner and scholar, Tajbakhsh had also worked with a number of Iranian organizations and ministries.145

On the day of his arrest, agents of the Ministry of Information transferred Tajbakhsh to the solitary confinement cells of Evin 209.146 They released him on September 20 on $100,000 bail.147 The charges against him remain outstanding, and he remains in Iran.

On July 18 and 19, Channel One on Iranian Television broadcast the “confessions” of Esfandiari and Tajbakhsh in a program called “In the Name of Democracy.” The government’s airing of the show while the two remained in largely incommunicado detention without access to their lawyers raised concerns about how the government might later use their statements against them.148

Authorities detained another Iranian-American, Ali Shakeri, a peace activist, on May 8, 2007, as he was leaving Iran.149 Initially, the government denied that they had detained him; three weeks after his detention, on May 29, the Judiciary’s spokesman, Alireza Jamshidi, said, “Shakeri is not in detention, and there are no charges against him.”150 On June 10, however, Mohammad Ali Hosseini, the spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, confirmed that the Judiciary had arrested Shakeri, but did not address the charges against him.151 On September 21, three days before authorities released Ali Shakeri, Kaveh Shakeri reported to Human Rights Watch that the government had brought no charges against his father or even provided an explanation for his arrest.152

66 Website of the One Million Signatures Campaign, (accessed September 19, 2007).

67 Human Rights Watch online messenger correspondence with women’s rights activist (name withheld), August 14, 2007

68 Human Rights Watch online messenger correspondence with women’s rights activist (name withheld), October 30, 2007

69 Human Rights Watch online messenger correspondence with women’s rights activist (name withheld), August 14, 2007.

70 Asieh Amini, “The Sound of Women’s Freedom is Very Close,” post to “Varesh” (blog), June 12, 2006, (accessed July 18, 2007).

71 “Iran: Police Assault Women’s Rights Demonstrators,” Human Rights Watch News Release, June 15, 2006,

72 “Mousavi Khoini Freed,” Iranian Student News Agency, October 22, 2006 (accessed August 10, 2007).

73 “Iran: Release Women’s Rights Advocates,” Human Rights Watch news release, March 9, 2007, One of the women, Fariba Davoudi Mohajer, was outside Iran at the time of the hearings.

74 “Shadi Sadr and Mahboubeh Abasgholizadeh Released Today,” Meydaan, March 19, 2007, (accessed August 17, 2007).

75 “Eight Women Released, 24 Women on Hunger Strike, One in Solitary Confinement,” Meydaan, March 6, 2007, (accessed July 17, 2007).

76 “Brief Interview with Parastoo Dokouhakie After Release,” Meydaan, March 7, 2007,“$200,000 bail for Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh and Shadi Sadr,” Meydaan, March 16, (both accessed July 17, 2007).

77“Iran: Release Women’s Rights Activists,” Human Rights Watch news release, April 7, 2007,

78 “Two Iranian Women Activists Released; 11 Others Summoned to Revolutionary Court,” Campaign website for the One Million Signatures Campaign, April 18, 2007, (accessed August 10, 2007).

79 “Unexpected Sentence for Delaram Ali, Women’s Rights Defender,” website of the One Million Signatures for Change Campaign, July 3, 2007,, (accessed July 10, 2007).

80 “11 Women’s Rights Activists Summoned to Court,” Gooya Newsletter, April 17, 2007, (accessed April 19, 2007).

81 “Heavy Sentences for Fariba Davoudi Mohajer and Sussan Tahmasebi,” Iranian Labor News Agency, April 18, 2007.

82 Human Rights Watch interview with Fariba Davoudi Mohajer, Washington DC, March 8, 2007.

83 “Unexpected Sentence for Delaram Ali, Women’s Rights Defender,” One Million Signatures for Change Campaign, July 3, 2007,, (accessed July 10, 2007)

84 “Delaram Ali to Receive Lashings and Serve Prison Term of Two Years and Six Month,” One Million Signatures for Change Campaign, November 4, 2007, (accessed November 5, 2007) and “Shahrudi Can Revoke the Conviction: Interview with Delaram Ali’s Lawyer, Shirin Ebadi, “ Roozonline, November 5, 2007,, (Accessed November 5, 2007).

85“Iran: Release Workers Arrested for Strike,” Human Rights Watch news release, February 1, 2006,

86 Ibid

87 Ibid

88 “Ossanlu Freed on Bail,” BBC Persian News Service, August 9, 2006,, (accessed July 18, 2007).

89 Ibid.

90 “Ossanlu Freed on Bail,” BBC Persian News Service.

91 “Interview with Mansur Ossanlu, Head of Greater Tehran United Bus Company Union,” Iran Workers’ Bulletin, April 2007, (accessed July 23, 2007).

92 “Ossanlu Arrested on Vahed Company Bus,” Etemad Meli Newspaper, July 15, 2007, (accessed July 20, 2007).

93 “Ossanlu Accused of ‘distributing leaflets against the order,’” BBC Persian Service, August 12, 2007, (accessed August 13, 2007).

94 “Five Year Sentence for Ossanlu Confirmed,” BBC Persian News Service, October 30, 2007, (accessed October 31, 2007)

95 Ibid.

96 “Iran: Release Detained Teachers,” Human Rights Watch news release, April 14, 2007,

97 “Iran: Release Detained Teachers,” Human Rights Watch news release, April 14, 2007,

98 “Some of the Teachers Who Have until Now Paid a Heavy Price for their Cry for Justice,” website of the Trade Association of Tehran-Iran Teachers, July 30, 2007, (accessed July 31, 2007).

99 “Families of Detained Teachers Seek Justice from Mr. Shahrudi: ‘We Have No News about our Husbands’ Situation,’” website of the Trade Association of Tehran-Iran Teachers, April 27, 2007, (accessed August 1, 2007).

100 “Some of the Teachers Who Have until Now Paid a Heavy Price for their Cry for Justice,” website of the Trade Association of Tehran-Iran Teachers, July 30, 2007, (accessed July 31, 2007).

101 “Will these Charge Cause the Teachers to Stop Their Demands?” website of the Teachers Trade Association of Iran, August 15, 2007, (accessed August 16, 2007).

102 Ibid.

103 Ibid.

104 Human Rights Watch, Iran – Denying the Right to Education, October 19, 2006,

105 Human Rights Watch has previously described illegal detention facilities in Iran in Human Rights Watch, “Like the Dead in Their Coffins”: Torture, Detention, and the Crushing of Dissent in Iran,” vol. 16, no. 2(E), June 2004, pp. 31-43,

106“Iran: Arbitrary Arrest/Fear for Safety/Possible Prisoners of Conscience,” Amnesty International, October 3, 2006, (accessed March 1, 2007). Amnesty also noted in this report that on July 9, 2006, authorities arrested independent human rights activist Kayvon Rafi without charges and transferred him to Evin prison.

107 Ibid.

108 “The Cases of Three Student Activists Kayvon Ansari, Saeed Derakhshandi, and Abolfazl Jahandar Sent to Appellate Court,” Gooya Newsletter, (accessed April 6, 2007).

109 “Dr. Kayvon Ansari is Free,” Advaar Student News Service, September 13, 2007 , (accessed September 14, 2007)

110 “Iran: Jailed Students Abused to Obtain Forced Confessions,” Human Rights Watch news release, July 27, 2007,


112 Islamic Penal Code of Iran, Article 514.

113 Islamic Penal Code of Iran, Article 698.

114 Human Rights Watch email correspondence with student activist (name withheld), July 25, 2007.

115 Human Rights Watch online messenger correspondence with student activist (name withheld), August 17, 2007.

116 Human Rights Watch online messenger correspondence with student activist (name withheld), August 17, 2007, and “Letter From Five of the Freed Students to the Organization for the Defense of the Prisoners Rights, the Islamic Commission for Human Rights, and the Organization for the Defenders of Human Rights,” Amir Kabir University Newsletter, August 19, 2007,,05,0004510 (accessed August 20, 2007).

117 “The Handing Down of Heavy Sentences for Three Polytechnic Students,” Website of Advaar Tahkeem Vahdat, October 3, 2007, (accessed October 10, 2007).

118 The Iranian Judiciary’s closure of a reformist newspaper triggered student protests on the Tehran University campus on July 8, 1999 (18th of Tir in the Iranian calendar). After a peaceful student demonstration, police and plainclothes security forces raided a dormitory, beating students and trapping many in their rooms. Protests then erupted beyond the university, growing to a weeklong event. More than 25,000 people eventually participated in the protests, making it the largest political demonstration since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

119 “Iran: Jailed Students Abused to Obtain Forced Confessions,” Human Rights Watch news release, July 27, 2007,

120 Human Rights Watch email correspondence with student activist (name withheld), July 25, 2007

121 Ibid.

122 Human Rights Watch email correspondence with student activist (name withheld), July 25, 2007.

123 “Iran Arrests Controversial Cleric,” BBC News Online, October 8, 2006, (accessed July 17, 2007).

124 Ibid.

125 “Further Information on Arbitrary Arrest/Fear for Safety/Possible Prisoners of Conscience,” Amnesty International, October 13, 2006, (accessed July 17, 2007).

126 Golnaz Esfandiari, “Iran: Reports of Death Sentence Spark Concern over Ayatollah’s Fate,” Radio Free Europe, July 3, 2007. (accessed July 18, 2007).

127 Wilifried Buchta, Who Rules Iran: The Structure of Power in the Islamic Republic of Iran (Washington, DC: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2001), p. 19.

128 Ibid, p. 97.

129 Human Rights Watch email correspondence with Ayatollah Boroujerdi follower (name withheld), September 23, 2007.

130Human Rights Watch telephone interview with journalist Omid Memarian, February 20, 2007, and “Ali Farahbaksh Sentenced to Three Years in Jail,” BBC Persian News Service, May 15, 2007, (accessed July 18, 2007).

131 “Iran: Activists Barred from Traveling Abroad,” Human Rights Watch news release, February 8, 2007,

132 Iranian Association of Journalists, “Second Letter from the Family of Farahbakhsh to the Head of the Judiciary,” May 15, 2007, (accessed May 17, 2007).

133 “Ali Farahbaksh Sentenced to Three Years in Jail,” BBC Persian News Service.

134 Islamic Penal Code of Iran, Article 508.

135“Journalist Ali Farahbakhsh Freed from Prison,” Gooya Newsletter, September 27, 2007, (accessed September 27, 2007).

136 “Iran: End Harassment of Dual Nationals,” Human Rights Watch news release, May 31, 2007,

137 “Iran: Cancel Televised ‘Confessions,’” Human Rights Watch news release, July 18, 2007,

138 Ibid.

139Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Committee of Concerned Scientists, and the Nobel Women’s Initiative were among the groups that called for the release of Haleh Esfandiari. Further details can be found on the website of the Campaign to Free Haleh Esfandiari, (accessed August 17, 2007). A group of women senators from the United States wrote a letter asking the UN to pressure Iran into releasing Haleh Esfandiari. See “Women Senators Call on the UN to Press Iran for Immediate Release of Haleh Esfandiari and Parinaz Azima,” website of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, May 18, 2007, (accessed September 19, 2007). Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi also called on the UN Human Rights Council to work for her release. See “Iran’s Ebadi Complains to UN Over Detained US-Iranian,” Agence France-Presse, August 6, 2007, (accessed September 19, 2007).

140 “Court Official Says that Haleh Esfandiari Freed, Most Likely the Detention of Kian Tajbakhsh will be changed to Release on Bail in Next Few Days,” Iranian Student News Agency, August 21, 2007,, (accessed August 21, 2007).

141 Robin Wright, “Freed by Iran, Scholar Reunites with her Family,” Washington Post, September 7, 2007, (accessed September 19, 2007); and Nazila Fathi, “Freed Scholar Leaves Iran, Another Still Held,” New York Times, September 3, 2007, (accessed September 19, 2007).

142 “Statement on the arrest of Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Middle East Program,” May 21, 2007, website of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, (accessed May 21, 2007)

143 “Esfandiari: I was not Ill-treated in Detention,” BBC Persian News Service, (accessed October 3, 2007).

144 “Iran: Cancel Televised ‘Confessions,’” Human Rights Watch news release, July 18, 2007,

145 “Soros Responds to Charges Against Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh,” website of the Open Society Institute, May 29, 2007, (accessed May 29, 2007).

146 “Iran: Another Iranian American Scholar Detained,” Human Rights Watch news release, May 24, 2007,

147 “Iran Frees US Iranian from Prison,” BBC News Online, September 20, 2007, (accessed September 20, 2007).

148 “Iran: Cancel Televised ‘Confessions,’” Human Rights Watch news release, July 18, 2007,

149 “Iran: Another Iranian American Scholar Detained,” Human Rights Watch news release, May 24, 2007,

150 “Iran: End Harassment of Dual Nationals,” Human Rights Watch news release, May 31, 2007,

151 “Iran Confirms Arrest of Ali Shakeri,” BBC Persian News Service, June 11, 2007, (accessed July 13, 2007).

152 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Kaveh Shakeri, September 21, 2007.