Exclusive: The Voice of Iranian Dissent
I've received what follows from Iran, via Banafsheh Zand, who has written at PJ Media on several occasions. As you will see, it's an open letter from one of the bravest men of our time, Heshmat Tabarzadi, a fighter for the freedom of the Iranian people who has repeatedly put his life on the line in that worthy cause. Heshmat was one of the central figures in the Iranian student movement, and then joined the Green Movement that was cheated out of its electoral victory in 2009. Along with other Green leaders, Heshmat was subsequently arrested, convicted by a "Revolutionary Tribunal," and locked away.
As he writes, he was recently paroled halfway through his 8-year sentence. I rather suspect that the regime hoped he would take the opportunity to flee the country, but he won't do that. Like the Green leaders Mousavi, Rahnavard and Karroubi, Heshmat is one of the most respected figures in contemporary Iran, and, so far at least, the regime prefers to keep them locked away rather than killing them, probably hoping they will die in prison.
Today, January 15th, they arrested him again and he is incarcerated. It behooves any one who really cares about human rights to keep his name in front of the civilized world, to condemn his imprisonment, and to call for his release so that he can publicly and freely promote his cause, in which the civilized world purports to believe.
Moreover, like many prisoners of conscience before him, Heshmat reminds us that no reliable partnership can be forged with a regime that treats its citizens in such an appalling way, that treats a woman as worth half a man, and that has actually increased the tempo of executions since the elections of June, 2012, that brought the so-called "moderate" Hassan Rouhani to the presidency.
Read it all. Carefully. His is an important voice. Would that our leaders paid careful attention to him and his brave words and actions.
Here is the text of his letter:
The major world powers namely 5+1 are trying hard to engage the government of Iran to join the rest of the international community, by taking advantage of the recent “Flexibilities” that have been shown by the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, and as implemented by President Hassan Rouhani.
Indeed, we have arrived at a significant and historic juncture. However, without a cautious and comprehensive effort moving forward, the road ahead towards a mutually beneficial and peaceful outcome will remain uncertain and elusive. Ever since the election of President Rouhani, the number of executions in Iran has nevertheless increased substantially (nearly 400 executions since he took office). Keeping in mind that Iran already held the second highest record of executions after China (1st in the world as a percentage of the population), this represents an urgent human rights crisis.
In addition, the Iranian government has hundreds of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, including those such as Mr. Mir Hussein Mousavi, Mrs. Zahra Rahnavard and Mr. Mehdi Karroubi, who have been under house arrest since 2010, without any legal or court proceedings. The majority of Iranian political prisoners are sentenced solely due to the exercise of their rights to express their opinion or for peaceful assembly.
The legitimacy of any ruling power is measured by its practice of observing and respecting the rights of its own people. In what follows, I briefly give an account of my personal experience living in Iran, which is not an isolated case. Hundreds of fellow Iranian political activists are experiencing a similar situation. Indeed, the lack of basic human rights and freedom in Iran reflects poorly on the prospect for the effective and peaceful resolution of the issues of the Iranian government with the international community. One cannot be addressed in the absence of the other.
My name is Heshmat Tabarzadi. I am an Iranian secular democrat human rights activist. I have been arrested several times on charges related to my activities, most recently after the green movement and the disputed election results of 2009. In October 2010, I was sentenced to eight years in prison, convicted of five charges of “insulting the Leader,” “insulting the President,” “propaganda against the system,” “gathering and colluding with intent to harm the state security,” and “disturbing public order.” I had already spent seven years of my life in prison, nearly three years of it in solitary confinement for my activities as a student leader. Additionally I have spent another 4 years of my latest verdict and still have four more years remaining. I have spent part of every year of my life in prison since 1999 and while imprisoned I have been tortured on several different occasions. Meanwhile my different publications have been shut down, I have been denied the right to peaceful participation in two secular democratic and human rights organizations, and I have been prohibited from any social activities for 10 years.