Committee of Human Rights Reporters

More than nine months after the June presidential election, five members of the Council to Defend the Right to Education remain in prison; some of them are facing long sentences.

On the official weblog of the Council to Defend the Right to Education, it states, “The association was formed in 2007 by a group of starred and banned university students.”

Part of the council’s latest statement issued in the wake of harsh sentences handed down against its members reads: “We testify before the Iranian people that our friends have done nothing but demand for their rights; all the allegations against them are baseless. The accusations are revenge [tactics] the enemies of freedom are taking against starred students.”

(Translator’s note: The Ministry of Advanced Education in Iran uses a “star” system to crack down on student activists. Through this approach, the students considered to have “disciplinary” issues are assigned stars, and are subsequently banned from university. Iranian officials, however, deny the existence of starred students, even though the students have been vocal about their situation).

In the days before the presidential election, starred students gathered several times in front of the Ministry of Advanced Education, the state television and radio building, the University of Tehran, and some of the squares in Tehran to protest Ahmadinejad’s statements. After the election, and in the course of the widespread arrests of political activists, ten members from the council were arrested.

Ziaoldin [Zia] Nabavi, the spokesperson for the Council to Defend the Right to Education was arrested on June 15, 2009 while at his friend’s home. After more than nine months, he remains in detention without the right to temporary release. Reports indicate that he has endured beatings in prison. Nabavi is currently detained in ward 350 of Evin prison.

In his letter to the head of the judiciary, student activist Zia Nabavi wrote: “I never said anything more than the truth during the interrogations. Even though I was under severe psychological, and at times, physical pressures (sit-ups, kicks, blows to the back of the head, insults, etc.), I never confessed to an offence I did not commit. In fact, due to the transparent nature of the student movement, there is nothing to hide in our activities as students banned from education.”

Zia Nabavi was sentenced to 15 years in prison and 74 lashes by judge PirAbbasi from branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court. Nabavi received three years for “conspiracy and association to act against national security,” one year for “propaganda against the regime,” one year for “disturbance of public order,” 74 lashes for “agitation and provocation of the public mind,” and ten years imprisonment in the town of Izeh in the province of Kerman (In south eastern Iran) for “cooperation with Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MKO).”

Although Zia Nabavi did not confess to any of the accusations against him, he was still charged with and convicted of collaboration with the MKO. After the sentencing, Nabavi explained in a phone conversation that judge PirAbbasi told him, “Despite the fact that you are young, and in spite of not confessing to ties with the MKO, I have no choice but to find you guilty of such ties based on the written request of the Ministry of Intelligence.”

The latest news on Zia Nabavi’s indicates that his case has not been sent to any of the appeals court branches, and his family is not capable of paying the $500,000 USD (approximate amount) bail set for him.

Majid Dorri, another member of the council, was arrested in Qazvin on July 9, 2009, and imprisoned in Evin prison. Dorri was the secretary for the Student Committee to Protect Civil Rights.

Dorri was sentenced to eleven years in prison by branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court in January 2010. Similar to Zia Nabavi, Dorri was sentenced to ten years imprisonment for “ties with the MKO.” He is a student from Allameh Tabatabai University, but he was suspended for six months for his activities.

Mahdieh Golroo, another member of the Council to Defend the Right to Education, has been in prison since December 3, 2009. Her case has been referred to branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court, but no trial has been held yet. Since her imprisonment, Golroo suffers from an intestine infection.

Shiva Nazar Ahari, another council member, has been imprisoned for almost 100 days. Previously she was released on a $200,000 USD bail in October 2009 after spending 102 days in Evin prison. Shiva Nazar Ahari is also a women’s rights activist and a prominent member of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters. She was banned from continuing her education while studying her master’s in civil engineering.

Peyman Aref, another member of the council, was arrested on June 18, 2009 in the province of Gilan (located in northern Iran). He was serving his military service in the Gilan Provincial Police training office. He was transferred to Tehran’s Evin prison two days later. Aref then began to serve an 18-month prison sentence handed down to him previously.

On March 4, 2010, Peyman Aref was able to leave prison on a bail of approximately $100,000 USD. However, he was sent back to prison on March 16, 2010, days before Norooz (Persian New Year). Aref has been sentenced to one year in prison, and 74 lashes for new charges.

Other members of the council arrested in recent months include Hesam Salamat, Saeed Jalalifar, Zahra Tohidi, and Alireza Khoshbakht.

Hesam Salamat was arrested on June 20, 2009 after a raid on his home by security forces. After his release, he was re-arrested on July 6, 2009. He was released late August 2009. The lower court has sentenced Salamat to four years in prison. Salamat was ranked first in the PhD national examination, and was admitted to the faculty of sociology at the University of Tehran, but he was subsequently starred and banned from continuing his education.

Saeed Jalalifar is another banned student who was studying at Zanjan University. He was arrested on November 30, 2009 and released on March 16, 2010. In addition to being active in the area of the right to education, he is a member of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, and the Association to Defend Child Labour and Street Children.

Translation by: Siavosh J. |


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