Iran: Musician and filmmaker attacked and threatened in prison

10 March 2017
Musician Mehdi Rajabian and filmmaker Keyvan Karimi have been beaten and threatened by other inmates in Tehran's infamous Evin Prison.
Photo: Mehdi Rajabian (left) and Keywan Karimi (right)


On 5 March 2017, the Center for Human Rights in Iran reported that musician Mehdi Rajabian and filmmaker Keywan Karimi have been beaten and threatened by other inmates in Tehran’s infamous Evin Prison while being imprisoned in the ward for political prisoners.

According to the organisation, authorities are violating the law by refusing to move the victims.

Rajabian, alongside his filmmaker brother Hossein, have been imprisoned since June 2016 serving a three-year sentence for nothing more than creating art. Both have been suffering from worsening health conditions and have twice gone on hunger strike to protest their treatment in prison, including their separation when Mehdi was forced to move to the political prisoner ward in September 2016.

Karimi, who is also suffering from worsening health conditions, has been imprisoned since November 2016 and is serving a one-year sentence for a 2012 film. He has also been sentenced to receive 223 lashes.

Read the full article from the Center for Human Rights in Iran below.

Evin Prison violating Iranian law by keeping political prisoners in wards with violent offenders

Some prisoners attacked with “brass knuckles and knives”
The authorities of Evin Prison in Tehran are violating Iranian law by refusing to move four political prisoners who have been attacked by other inmates to a ward for non-violent offenders, a source told the Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

Between January and March of 2017, filmmaker Keywan Karimi, political activist Ali Shariati, musician Mehdi Rajabian and Vahid Sayadi Nasiri—all imprisoned for their peaceful political activities—were beaten and threatened on several occasions by inmates convicted of serious crimes, said the source.

“They believe their mental health and physical safety are endangered because the authorities refuse to implement the rules on (separating prisoners),” the source told the Campaign.

According to Articles 8 of Iran’s State Prisons Organization’s regulations, “All convicts, upon being admitted to walled prisons or rehabilitation centers, will be separated based on the type and duration of their sentence, prior record, character, morals and behavior in accordance with decisions made by the Prisoners Classification Council.”

“The wards for political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, such as Ward 350, have enough space and some are almost empty, but the judicial officials refuse to put all of them together because they have an irrational fear that the political prisoners might develop networks and organize,” the source told the Campaign.

“Most of the ordinary prisoners don’t mind political inmates and they all live alongside each other with minimum problems,” continued the source. “But some of the inmates have violent behavioral issues and can’t avoid getting into fights.”

“What’s worse is that sometimes the guards instigate these fights to abuse the political prisoners they don’t like,” added the source. “Also, it’s usually pointless to complain to the authorities about these thugs because (the guards) have immunity.”

The Campaign has learned that about 80 inmates of Evin Prison convicted for their peaceful political activities, as well as prisoners of conscience, who have been imprisoned for their personal beliefs, are being held in wards alongside violent offenders.

Families of political prisoners speak out
A letter from a group of families of political prisoners calling for the separation of prisoners according to the law was published by the Kalame website on February 26, 2017.

“The judicial branch, in violation of the law and its duties, is keeping political prisoners in wards with prisoners convicted of various other crimes,” said the letter. “We respect prisoners who are themselves victims of wrong economic and social policies, but some of them are creating serious problems for political prisoners and destroying their peace.”

“In several instances, the attackers were under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs and used brass knuckles and knives against political prisoners,” added the letter. “Fortunately, their blows were not fatal and our dear political prisoners were only injured.”

“The judiciary is responsible for prisoners’ safety,” continued the letter. “We call on prison officials and guards to prevent any future tragedy by implementing explicit regulations for the separation of prisoners on the basis of the type of their conviction.”

» The article above was reprinted with the kind permission of the Center for Human Rights in Iran. The original article published on 5 March 2017 can be found on their website here: Evin Prison violating Iranian law by keeping political prisoners in wards with violent offenders

We must remind authorities in Iran that art is not a crime. Please help us in getting the charges dropped against these Iranian artists and demanding their release.

Here are a few things you can do:

  • Share the stories of Mehdi and Hossein Rajabian, and Keywan Karimi on social media using #ArtIsNotACrime#FreeRajabian#FreeMehdi#Free_Hossein_Rajabian, #Free_Karimi
  • Reach out to fellow artists, decision makers, political representatives, family and friends to call for their release
  • If you are an artist, take a moment on stage to remember that all artists are not free


More from Freemuse

More from Freemuse

» 16 December 2016: Iran: Imprisoned filmmaker granted 72-hour medical leave, back in prison

» 5 December 2016: Iran: Imprisoned musician’s health deteriorating

» 28 November 2016: Iran: Imprisoned musician granted four-day medical leave

» 24 November 2016: Iran: Filmmaker begins serving prison sentence

» 21 November 2016: United Nations member states urge Iran to improve human rights

» 16 November 2016: Iran: Artists’ medical condition on hunger strike growing worse

» 1 November 2016: Iran: Artists call for support in letter from prison

» 12 September 2016: Iran: Jailed artists go on hunger strike

» 24 June 2016: UN: “Artistic expression is not a crime” – Special Rapporteurs urge the Iranian government to free jailed artists

» 7 June 2016: Iran: Musician and filmmaker imprisoned

» 30 May 2016: Iran: Two musicians and a filmmaker summoned to prison

» 29 February 2016: Iran: Two musicians and a filmmaker sentenced

» 25 February 2016: Iran: Filmmaker loses appeal, receives reduced prison sentence and lashes

» 27 January 2016: Iran: 165 Iranian artists and activists protest charges against two musicians and a filmmaker

» 15 January 2016: Call on Iranian authorities to drop charges on two musicians and a filmmaker

» 14 December 2015: Iran: Music distributors await appeal decision for six years in prison

» 17 December 2013: Iran: Musician and music distributors arrested

» 4 November 2015: Iran: Filmmaker sentenced to six-year prison term and 223 lashes

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