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Condemning the Iranian Government’s Detainment of Political Activists’ and Journalists’ Family Members, and Discrimination Based on Ethnicity and Gender

657 people signed this petition

A group of political activists started this petition

Written by:

Lily Pourzand, women and gender issues professional

Parvaneh Hosseini, lecturer and civil activist

Moein Khazaeli, lawyer

Samaneh Savadi, gender equality activist

Hamed Farmand, children's rights activist

Nasim Mogharab (Sahra), women's rights activist

On the night of June 18, 2023, agents from the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence blocked the entryway to Iranshahr in the Sistan and Baluchistan province. They subsequently arrested Amer Dadafarin, the 18-year-old son of Fariba Baluch, and Mohammad Mollazehi, the 25-year-old brother of the same, both relatives of the Baluch human rights activist. Their whereabouts remain undisclosed.

Dadafarin, having recently returned to Iran by plane from England, was en route to his hometown, Iranshahr, with his uncle, Mohammad Mollazehi. Fariba Baluch claims that the Ministry of Intelligence agents have informed her that unless she ceases her activities and openly expresses remorse and "insanity," her son and brother will remain detained.

Formerly a teacher and women's rights advocate, Fariba Baluch moved to England on a family visa before the "Women, Life, Freedom" movement. Following the murder of Jina Mahsa Amini and the subsequent national revolt against the Islamic Republic of Iran, she devoted herself to civil and human rights activism. Baluch now plays a significant role in amplifying the voices of Baluch activists, particularly women, in media and international forums. Prior to her son and brother's detainment, she claims to have received threats, her family was summoned and interrogated, and her non-politically active brother was dismissed from his work.

This isn't the first instance of the Islamic Republic of Iran using political activists' family members as leverage to suppress dissent either directly or indirectly.

In September 2009, Mohammad Saber Malek Raisi, a 17-year-old Baluch citizen, was arrested in the Sistan and Baluchistan province to force his brother—an opponent of the Islamic Republic of Iran—to surrender. Raisi remained in prison for 11 years.

In 2017, Negin Shiraghai and Saideh Hashemi were among numerous BBC Service journalists whose family members were intimidated, and personal financial assets were frozen in an attempt to exert pressure or even to arrange their abduction.

By the end of 2019, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran's (IRGC) intelligence agents arrested Ali Majdam and Habib Derris' wife and son to obtain forced confessions. After the confessions were procured, their families were released. Majdam, Derris, and four other Arab citizens arrested between 2019 and 2020 now await execution in Sepidar Prison, Ahvaz.

In September 2019, Ali Alinejad, brother of political activist Masih Alinejad, was arrested for exposing a plan to kidnap Masih Alinejad in Turkey and exert pressure on the female activist. He received an eight-year prison sentence, five of which were enforceable, and was paroled in July 2021.

Most recently, on May 3, 2023, security agents arrested Sajjad Shahrabi, brother of Shima Shahrabi, editor of the Persian section of the IranWire website. They interrogated him about Shima Shahrabi and her activities, and he has since been released on bail.

On July 2, 2023, following the detainment of Fariba Baluch's family members, news emerged of the arrest of Saman Pashai. Pashai, a Kurdish citizen and the world's third-ranked junior wrestling champion is Sardar Pashai's brother, a former World Wrestling Champion and national team coach. Sardar Pashai had notably spoken out against the Islamic Republic since the death sentence of Navid Afkari, a former wrestling champion in Iran and a protestor against the regime. On September 23, 2022, Latifeh Pashai (Layla Saghezi), a women's rights activist and Sardar Pashai's sister, was detained and interrogated about her brother's activities. Security agents had previously summoned and questioned Sardar Pashai's parents.

These incidents represent a fraction of the Islamic Republic's 44-year history of leveraging hostages.

The Islamic Republic of Iran's hostage-taking policy has primarily targeted journalists and political activists vocal about human rights violations in the country. Often, these hostages include those of dual or non-Iranian citizenship. It has been particularly prevalent among ethnic minorities, who bear the brunt of this oppressive policy. The government's treatment of these ethnic hostages is typically more severe, resulting in harsher consequences. Moreover, due to prejudices and fear of more brutal government treatment, combined with a lack of media access and legal support, news coverage of these detainments and public sympathy for their release has been limited.

Female activists encounter an added layer of oppression. Totalitarian regimes subject women, especially mothers, to intense pressure. Society and individuals surrounding these women also impose pressure, expecting them to prioritize motherhood over political action and labeling them as "bad mothers" if they don't.

The Islamic Republic's practice of detaining activists' and journalists' family members contravenes fundamental legal principles, including the principle of individual criminal responsibility, international human rights standards, and Iranian domestic laws. It constitutes a clear example of arbitrary and unlawful detention.

Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the Islamic Republic is a signatory, explicitly forbids arbitrary detention. Similarly, the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the Statute of the International Criminal Court categorize it as a crime against humanity.

Iranian domestic laws, including Article 32 of the Islamic Republic's Constitution, Article 2 of the Islamic Penal Code, and Articles 4 and 5 of the Criminal Procedure Code, also prohibit arbitrary detention. These laws permit citizen arrests only under the observance of legal procedures, particularly the presentation of credible evidence and a clear explanation of charges against the individual.

Moreover, the principle of individuality in criminal responsibility, a basic premise in criminal law (both Islamic and non-Islamic), mandates that punishment be imposed solely on the perpetrator of the crime, not on their relatives or family members who played no part in the criminal act. Additionally, international laws uphold political activism and journalism as individual rights, not crimes.

● To: Javaid Rehman, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran Affairs, esteemed members of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions, Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, and Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders,

We, the undersigned of this letter, respectfully request that you:

-- Unambiguously condemn and protest the detainment of political activists' and journalists' family members in Iran.

-- Implore the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to immediately and unconditionally release the families of the arrested political activists and journalists, including Fariba Baluch's son and brother and Sardar Pashai's brother.

-- Utilize all available mechanisms to hold the Islamic Republic accountable for upholding freedom of expression and the principle of individual criminal responsibility.

-- Compel the Islamic Republic of Iran to cease punishing and persecuting activists' and journalists' families.

● To: Civil activists, political activists, and journalists,

We, the authors and signatories of this letter, urge you to:

-- Unconditionally and immediately condemn the government's detainment of civil, political, or media activists' family members, disregarding all labels and prejudices primarily based on ethnicity and gender.

-- Endeavor to spread awareness about the arrest and pressure on political and media activists' families, emphasizing the hostage-taking nature of such actions and addressing its legal, judicial, and moral aspects to counter the government's strategy of silencing activists.

● To: Iranian citizens,

We, the signatories of this letter, implore you to:

-- Stand with the activists and journalists who voice the concerns of victims of violence and discrimination and expose human rights violations by the Islamic Republic, setting aside labels and prejudices primarily based on ethnicity, gender, and political leanings.

-- Unconditionally and immediately condemn the government's detainment of these activists' and journalists' family members and voice your protests against it.

-- Acknowledge the unfairness of forcing anyone to choose between their fundamental right to freedom of expression and their familial bonds. Remember this when empathizing with and supporting those enduring such oppression.

-- Respect the privacy of activists whose family members have been detained and, considering the principle of presumption of innocence, counteract the Iranian government's efforts to pressure activists and journalists.

Update: Sunday, July 30, 2023, Amer Dadafarin, 18-year-old son of Mrs. Fariba Baluch, and Mohammad Mollazehi, 25-year-old brother of Mrs. Fariba Baluch, after 44 days of detention by the security forces of Iranshahr city, were released on bail.


1  Ahmadiniyaz Hossein, lawyer

2  Asadi Haifa Sara human rights activist

3  Akvanian Reza, human rights reporter

4  Eliasi Timur, human rights activist

5  Amani Elaheh, university professor, women's rights, and human rights activist

6  Amini Asieh, poet and women's rights activist

7  Ansari Nayereh, lawyer8. Badi Nezhat , film critic and an analyst of women's issues

9  Bazargan Ladan, political activist and a member of the Revolutionary Council of Judges

10  Pourzand Azadeh, Director of Siamak Pourzand Foundation

11  Jamshid Barzegar, writer, poet, and journalist

12  Burhanzehi Mohsen, human rights activist

13  Boroumand Roya, Executive Director of Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation

14  Broumand Ladan, a historian and one of the founders of Abdorrahman Broumand Foundation

15  Baluch Fariba, human rights activist

16  Hajihosseini Reza, journalist

17  Khezrheidari Fahimeh, journalist

18  Daraizadeh Behnam, journalist and lawyer

19  Dehghan Saeed, lawyer

20  Dehkordi Maryam, journalist and women's rights activist

21  Davachi Azadeh, women's rights activist

22  Dustdar Naimeh, journalist and women's rights activist

23  Raisi Hossein, Lawyer

24  Rad Amin M., lawyer

25  Saadat Aida, feminist and gender equality activist

26  Silavi Shima, project director, The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO)

27  Silavi Mona, political activist

28  Shams Omid, lawyer

29  Shahidi Iqan, researcher of the history of thought

30  Shirani Shima, journalist

31  Shiraghaei Negin, the founder of Azadi Network and former journalist at BBC Persian

32  Saberi Simin, psychiatrist and feminist

33  Tawaf Mohammad Javad, human rights activist

34  Aref Abdullah, director of the Baluch Activists’ Campaign

35  Abbasian Asal, journalist

36  Ghazali Hedayat, human rights activist

37  Foumeni Maryam, journalist

38  Qajar Aida, journalist

39  Qadr Khan Samaneh, journalist

40  Kar Mehangiz, lawyer

41  Kazemi Sona, disabled rights activist

42  Kermanshahi Kaveh, human rights activist

43  Kamali Mehrek, sociologist, and university professor

44  Goldust Shaya, transsexual woman and gender activist

45  Golroo Mahdieh, political activist

46  Motevali Javad, journalist

47  Moghadam Rezvan, researcher and women's rights activist

48  Moghimi Mohammad, lawyer

49  Malik Raisi Saber, former political prisoner, Baluch media activist

50  Maleki Shirin, lawyer

51  Mir Shamsi Somayeh, filmmaker

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  • Relatives Freed

    Update: Sunday, July 30, 2023, Amer Dadafarin, 18-year-old son of Mrs. Fariba Baluch, and Mohammad Mollazehi, 25-year-old brother of Mrs. Fariba Baluch, after 44 days of detention by the security forces of Iranshahr city, were released on bail.

  • A group of political activists started this petition

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