Cultural Activists Rounded Up in West Gilan Province and Sardasht


Twelve cultural and student activists have been rounded up in the towns of West Gilan, West Eivan and Kermanshah in Iran’s northern province of West Azerbaijan. Based on reports published by Kurdish news sources, some of the detainees told their family members through phone calls that they were being held at security prisons. Family members of those detained said they had been denied visits to their family members behind bars. Journalist and human rights activist Kaveh Ghasemi Kermanshahi and another reporter Khosrow Kordpour spoke with a Rooz reporter on the arrests.

According to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, and the Mokrian news agency, security agents had in recent days arrested eleven cultural activists and Kurdish students in towns across West Gilan province, and in Mashad, and Sardasht.

These sources named the detainees as Farhad Vakilnia, Maziar Mohammadi, Maryam Amini, Jamal and Aziz Khani, Naim Najafi, and Sajjad Jahanfar, all from West Gilan province. Rooz has learned that in addition to these others have been arrested as well, and they include Sina Mohammadi, a cultural activist in Eivane Gharb (West Eivan) town in the province of Kermanshah.

On July 30, Kurdish poet Alireza Sepahi-Laeen was also arrested in Ghasemabad of Mashad city by security forces.

Kaveh Ghasemi Kermanshahi, himself a journalist and human rights activist, told Rooz “detainee Sajjad Jahanfard is a recognized writer and scholar, while Maryam Najafi was the secretary of a literary society. Naeem Najafi was the head of Taghvesan cultural website. The other detainees too were active in cultural and literary events.”

Kermanshahi said that these arrests were the continuation of the policy by Tehran to confront Kurdish activists but he pointed out that after the clashes in the Ghandil hills and the armed confrontation between the opposition forces, these policies have intensified and entered a new phase so that the regime now has no tolerance even for cultural and literary activities and events.

He said that this is not the first time that authorities feared cultural activities in Kermanshah and Ilam, but that these measures of physically confronting cultural activists en-masse is a rare event.

Regarding what charges these detainees could face, Kermanshahi speculated that the regime may try to link these individuals to the opposition groups, even though the record of these individuals clearly shows that there is no such affiliation.  He pointed out that such baseless charges had been made against human rights activists in the past. He named Abbas Jalilian and Mehdi Hamidi, both literary and cultural figures, as examples of individuals who had been detained and charged on unreal claims. Both of these activists were arrested in 2009, and were later convicted on charges of espionage. Jalilian was released from prison after remained detained for 15 months while Mehdi Hamidi is serving his 5 year sentence under harsh conditions with no rights to leave the prison to visit his family members. He is being kept in Hamedan’s central prison.

In 2010 too a number of cultural activists were arrested in the towns of Saghez and Marivan. Some such as poets Behzad Kordestani and Ghader Shiri were subsequently released on large bails while others such as Mokhtar Hooshmand, a painter and head of the Marivan’s artistic society have been sentenced to long prison terms.

In related news, three Kurdish students Soleyman Vahidinia, Ali Naderi and Nasser Aman have been in detention in the town of Sardasht (West Azerbaijan province) for over a month now. The head of the Mokrian news agency Khosrow Kordpour told Rooz that, “These three were arrested in Sardasht about a month ago and then transferred to Mahabad. They have not been formally charged with a crime and thus remain in limbo in Mahabad’s main prison.” According to Kordpour the charges against these individuals relate to security issues and illegal border crossings. None of these detainees have been tried yet.



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