Interfering IRGC in cultural field: arresting journalists and artists
Iran Briefing Along with arresting four reformer journalists on November 4th (Saman SafarZaei, Ehsan Mazandarani, Afarin Chitsaz, Isa Saharkhiz), more than 20 other journalists were summoned, for further information (investigation), to the IRGC’s intelligence building located at “Sabounchi” Street in Tehran. They were supposed to be arrested by the Guards on December 7th, the same day as “Student Day” in Iran, under the name of “Infiltration Project”; however, the plans failed due to on-time extensive media notice and was limited to only the first four being arrested. These journalists were accused of creating the “U.S. gang of influencing the press”, by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
Despite the continued detention of the four journalists, evidence shows that the Guards is getting prepared to start up a new session of detentions during the remaining days leading up to the Council and the Assembly of Experts’ elections. These will occur as a means of continuing this military and security institution’s plans to sabotage the eleventh government to boast the illegal abilities under the command of this institute.
Based on the laws, through the establishment of the Ministry of intelligence, all the security intelligence activities of other institutions have to be followed up and implemented through this ministry; however, by the command of the Supreme Leader, the IRGC is officially acting on intelligence issues, alongside the ministry, for many years.
IRGC’s intervention in Music and Film
In addition to the arrest of the journalists, IRGC has chosen some of its baits in the film and music fields. As an example, the arrest of “Mehdi Rajabian” (musician and founder of the alternative music website, “Barg Music”), “Hossein Rajabian” (independent filmmaker), and “Yousef Emadi” (musician and researcher) can be mentioned. These artists were arrested in their office on October 5, 2013, by intelligence forces of the Revolutionary Guards, without any official warrant, and were taken to an unknown location.
These artists were kept in one of the security houses of intelligence office of the IRGC for 18 days, depriving them of walk and fresh air, in order that they be pressured to confess. Their families were also unaware of their whereabouts and the reason for their arrest. Although it was assumed that Branch 3 of the Revolutionary Court in Sari city agreed to their release on bail order of 200 million Tomans, their bail was unexpectedly cancelled due to the IRGC’s intervention, and on October 22, the same year, they were transferred to Ward 2A at Evin Prison, which is under control of the Guards. They were also deprived of their right to retain a lawyer.
Soon after, 400 artists released an open letter to “Ali Jannati”, the Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, asking him to prevent the security institutions from putting pressure on the artists.
HRANA news agency wrote: “Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court, presided over by Judge Moghiseh sentenced “Mahdi Rajabian”, “Hossein Rajabian” and “Yousef Emadi” each to five years in prison for charges of insulting religious sanctities, one year in prison for charge of propaganda against the regime,
and several million Tomans fine.” The International Campaign for Human Rights also reported that “the appeal of these three artists lasted only 15 minutes.”
According to the “Iran Wire” website, to make his first film named “Inverted Triangle”, Hossein Rajabian had performed all legal procedures for the filming; however, despite the fact that he had run all the legal procedures and the authorities had issued approval for the project, all the raw materials were confiscated by the Ministry of Intelligence. For the same reason, he was prevented from attending the University of Dramatic Arts in Vienna, Austria, despite being successful in obtaining acceptance from the university.
Previous to his arrest, the young musician, Mahdi Rajabian, was recording and producing a project on “Iran’s History of War narrated by Sitar” and as a composer and musician he was recording the scene of “Chalderan War”; however, the result of this effort is now in the security forces’ hand and he is also prevented from continuing his works.
Yousef Emadi is also a young musician who has recorded several albums as a Sitar player and recording observer. He and Mehdi Rajabian have published several authoritative articles in Iranian and foreign publications about “the row of Iranian traditional music”; he is also as a researcher of understanding Mugam music. He had gathered a collection of voices of natives, local men and women singers from all over the country over the past several months, a collection that is now at the risk of destruction and oblivion due to his detention.
Finally, Yousef Emadi was released on a bail of 200 million Tomans, after spending 40 days in solitary confinement. Mahdi and Hossein Rajabian were also released on the same bail of 200 million Tomans each, after spending more than two months in solitary confinement. They were reportedly pressured to confess against themselves due to their interrogator’s insistence, promising that essentially “they are not political charges and cases” and they have been charged only for “illegal audio-visual activities in the field of cinema and music” so that, if they ever confessed, they would be taken back into custody.
On the other hand, the “Barg Music” website, which was headed by Mahdi Rajabian in the music field, remained filtered. This website, with the following impartial slogan “music for all, a media and site for alternative music”, had started its work by the end of 2008.
In its 5-year lifetime, from 2008 to 2013, Barg Music website released more than 100 albums and hundreds of songs from alternative singers. This website introduced the poems and songs of famous poets and songwriters such as “Mehdi Mousavi”, “Fatemeh Ekhtesari”, and “Yaghma Golrooei” etc.—the songwriters who have been the victims of the Guards’ intelligence think tank. Tehran’s Revolutionary Court Branch 28, last October, committed Fatemeh Ekhtesari to 11 years and 6 months in prison and 99 lashes; Mehdi Mousavi to 9 years in prison and 99 lashes; and Keyvan Karimi to six years in prison and 223 lashes.
Fatemeh Ekhtesari and Mehdi Mousavi, who were released on bail, fled the country in recent days through Kurdistan to “Soleymanieh” in Iraq. Interviewing with a Kurdistan TV channel and Radio Zamaneh website, they outlined the story of their arrest, interrogation, and eventual exit from Iran.
Following the Guards’ project, the secret insistence of banning Majid Derakhshani and cancelling his concerts should be mentioned—the actions that pervades the activities of artists and shows the tragic atmosphere of the music in the country.
After the controversial attack on the embassy and consulates of Saudi Arabia in Tehran and Mashhad (and burning and looting its properties, as well as the 24-hour detention of 10 members of the US military in the Persian Gulf as the most serious crisis of the government in the field of foreign policy), the Iranian Revolutionary Guards is now trying a new project that had stopped in November—in fact, arresting the journalists and civil society activists is nothing but an advertising subject for the governmental forums on the verge of 22nd of Bahman and continuing the “project of infiltration”.
On the verge of the next two upcoming elections in March, marginalizing the government of “Hassan Rohani” by IRGC will cause the government to be involved and undermined—the event which was named by Mohammad Khatami as “each nine days one crisis” during the reformist period and the last days of his government.
Iran Briefing | News Press Focus on Human Rights Violation by IRGC, Iran Human Rights