A Cold Iranian Spring
Omid Reza Mir Sayafi, a 29-year old Iranian blogger and journalist died in Evin Prison in Tehran on March 18. In December, he was sentenced to two and half years in prison for allegedly insulting religious leaders, and engaging in propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Mir Sayafi was still awaiting an additional trial for insulting Islam.
According to the Human Rights activists in Iran website, Omid Reza suffered from deep depression in jail and was prescribed medications of which he apparently took too many. Dr. Hesam Firouzi, a jailed doctor and human rights activist says [fa] he urged prison authorities to send Omid Reza to a hospital outside prison but that prison doctors refused, and would not perform even basic tests.
A campaign has been launched in Facebook to "Hold Iran Responsible for Death of Blogger Mirsayafi in Prison".
Blogger Mojtaba Saminejad says [fa] Omid Reza had communicated to him two days before his death that he would possibly be allowed to exit the prison in the coming days to visit a hospital. The blogger says he was led to expect better news than this.
In an interview [fa] with Human Rights activists in Iran a few days before going to prison, Omid Reza said his blog was a cultural blog and not intended to be insulting.
Iranian blogger and journalist, Omid Reza Mirsyafi, was sentenced [fa]to two and a half years of prison this week. He stands accused of insulting religious leaders, and engaging in propaganda against the Islamic Republic. Over the past 5 years, several bloggers in Iran have faced jail and persecution because of their blogs. Some were detained for a few days while others were condemned to several years.
Simon Columbus, a researcher studying the cases of jailed bloggers around the world (article forthcoming), estimates, in an email to me, that the number of Iranian bloggers who have been arrested solely for their blogging activities comes to about 20. He has counted a total of 30 Iranian bloggers who have been jailed for political activity, which may not be directly linked to their blogs.
Individual and collective arrests
Sina Motalebi was the first Iranian blogger ever jailed. In April 2003, he was arrested by the intelligence division of law enforcement because of writings on his weblog and elsewhere and interviews with foreign media. He spent 23 days in solitary confinement in a secret detention centre before he was released on bail. In December 2003, Sina left Iran for the Netherlands, where he sought asylum.
Between August and November 2004, judiciary agents operating on behalf of Tehran's chief prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, detained more than 20 bloggers and internet journalists. After their release some of the detainees testified before a presidential commission, detailing their mistreatment while in detention. Hanif Mazroi, Massoud Ghoreishi, Fereshteh Ghazi, Arash Naderpour and Mahbobeh Abasgholizadeh appeared in front of the commission on December 25, 2004. On January 1, 2005, Omid Memarian and Ruzbeh Mir Ebrahimi also provided accounts of their ill-treatment.
About his interrogators in prison, Memarian says, "they were people who only had the appearance of human beings" [Fa]. The blogger adds: "When I came out of prison, I said to myself, 'Let's forget these people and not let them hurt my optimism,' but the experience is still stuck in my memory. I still remember the guards' whispers and the keys turning in my cell's doors."
"All this for dogs!"
Reza Valizadeh, a journalist and blogger, was the object of a complaint from the Iranian president's office and was detained on November 2007. Several Iranian blogs and websites argue the main reason he was arrested was because he revealed that Ahmadinejad's security staff bought four dogs from Germany for about $150,000 each. He was released after a few weeks of detention.