Iran: State must end campaign of silencing voices for change

Iran: State must end campaign of silencing voices for change - Civic Space

The Islamic Republic must immediately release musician Mehdi Yarahi and journalist Nazila Maroofian, detained for being voices for change in Iran and demanding basic human rights.

With the 16 September anniversary of Mahsa Jina Amini’s death in police custody looming large on the horizon, the Iranian state has launched a violent campaign aimed at silencing dissenting voices.

As part of the campaign, the regime has harassed, threatened, detained, and exiled relatives of the victims of state violence, who have been demanding justice and accountability. In addition to this, the regime has also been targeting journalists and independent voices defying the rule of the clerical establishment in Iran.

The latest additions to the long list of people detained by the regime as part of the campaign have been musician Mehdi Yarahi and journalist Nazila Maroofian.

Yarahi was violently arrested on 28 August after releasing a song three days earlier in support of women defying mandatory hijab.

The Iranian judiciary has announced that he has been charged with releasing an ‘illegal song against the morals and customs of the Islamic society’. The judiciary has also accused him of ‘releasing another illegal song during the recent riots’, an apparent reference to his music in support of the Woman, Life, Freedom uprising.

In addition to persecuting Yarahi for exercising his right to freedom of speech, the regime in Iran also subjected him to dehumanising and degrading treatment at the time of his arrest. A Telegram channel associated with security forces has released pictures of Yarahi disheveled and in handcuffs while they use degrading language as they announce his detention.

Telegram channels presumably linked to armed forces releasing images of people arrested by security forces have become the new norm in Iran, part of the regime’s campaign of sowing fear among the public.

Since his arrest, people both inside and outside Iran have been demanding the immediate release of Yarahi on social media platforms. One of the prominent figures echoing the call was Tehran-based journalist Nazila Maroofian.

The Islamic Republic responded to her act of solidarity with Yarahi by arresting her – the fourth time she has been arrested during the last year. According to the Persian service of RFE/RL, hours after voicing support for Yarahi, security forces raided Maroofian’s home, beat her up, and transferred her to jail.

Tasnim News Agency, linked to Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), reported her arrest and named her charges as ‘promoting nonconformity to religious duties’. Tasnim also listed ‘appearing in public with inappropriate clothing and publishing images of it online’ and other charges against her.

Islamic Republic authorities must immediately release Yarahi and Maroofian, arrested for exercising their right to freedom of speech and cease persecution of them and others for their basic human rights. The regime must also cease its ruthless campaign of harassment and fear mongering against dissenting voices and people demanding justice, accountability, and change.

The international community, especially governments with diplomatic ties with Tehran, should also prioritise human rights in their interactions with the Islamic Republic and pressure the regime into compliance with its human rights commitments.