International

Iran refuses to free activist after jail term

Seven years ago this summer, everything was set for the marriage ceremony of a young Iranian couple who had met and fallen in love at university. But on the day before the wedding, plain clothes officers raided the house of Bahareh Hedayat, a leading student activist, and took her to prison.

It wasn’t a surprise, she had been arrested twice before that, but the timing could not have been a coincidence. When she was released a month later, she didn’t feel in mood for a big ceremony, as is customary in Iran. The couple simply moved in together.

That incident didn’t shake her commitment to fight for human rights. In fact, since then, Ms. Hedayat and her husband, Amin Ahmadian, have spent only a year together. She has been in jail the rest of the time.

Now, the authorities are refusing to release Hedayat even though she is eligible to be released under Iranian law. Hedayat, a founding member of the One Million Signatures campaign, a petition for women’s rights in Iran, was arrested after the disputed re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009. She fell foul of the authorities for speaking out about the post-election crackdown, especially for giving an interview to the BBC’s Persian service, which is loathed by the Iranian establishment.

She was subsequently sentenced to seven and a half years in jail. That includes five years for acting against the national security, two years for insulting the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and six months for insulting Mr. Ahmadinejad. “She has been in jail for six years for being a peaceful and unambiguous critic of Ahmadinejad,” Mr. Ahmadian told the Guardian on the phone from Tehran.

“The authorities have put pressure on us because of speaking out about Bahareh’s situation in jail,” her husband said. “They’ve threatened us, and have told her in jail that they’ll arrest me if we keep speaking out. They want to keep us silent.” Sussan Tahmasebi, a prominent Iranian women’s rights activist, said: “Former political prisoners who served prison terms with Bahareh, have written accounts of how excited and happy Bahareh was when Rouhani was elected.

“I have no doubt that Bahareh is happy about the Iran deal and the positive prospects it holds for Iran and Iranian citizens. At the same time, for those of us who have worked with Bahareh had hoped that Rouhani would take serious steps to push for release of political prisoners, including Bahareh.” — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2015

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 10:21:02 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/iran-refuses-to-free-activist-after-jail-term/article7531457.ece

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