** Updated as of 13 January 2016 **
Poet and activist Hila Sedighi was arrested on 7 January 2016 at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport upon her and her husband’s return from a trip to the United Arab Emirates, reported the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
Two days later, on 9 January 2016, Sedighi was released on bail, but authorities have yet to disclose the nature of her arrest. However, according to a relative who spoke to Reuters, Sedighi was “convicted and sentenced in absentia on charges related to her cultural activities” by the Culture and Media Court, created specifically to try media and culture-related crimes.
Sedighi’s passport was confiscated upon her arrest and is appealing the conviction.
On 10 January 2016, Sedighi described her detention via Facebook:
“The first night after my detention, I was held in solitary confinement at the airport’s detention center. For the second night, I was in Shapour Detention Center. It’s famous for being the most horrific and dangerous place for prisoners. I was in a four-square-meter room alongside eight dangerous prisoners. (Dangerous is a common term for these individuals but they are still human beings with rights and I am worried about their fate.) Their treatment was worse and more heinous than you could imagine. The situation there is so bad that at first the Shapour Police Investigative Unit refused to admit me into the facility. They transferred me in the city in a cage, and I was watched like a criminal.”
Sedighi also posted that “the arrest warrant was issued by the Culture and Media Court, but those who arrested me did not have any information about the charges against me”.
This is not Sedighi’s first skirmish with the law. In December 2010 Intelligence Ministry agents searched the poet’s home, confiscated several of her personal belongings, and was interrogated on several occasions by the ministry. On 16 August 2011 Sedighi was sentenced to a four-month prison sentence, which was suspended for five years.
Sedighi was a campaign worker in 2009 for presidential candidate Mirhossein Mousavi and recited her poetry in public in support of the Green Movement, a movement that arose in opposition to the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In 2012 the poet was awarded the Hellman/Hammett prize for free expression by Human Rights Watch.
Sedighi’s arrest and release follows a spate of artist arrests over the past few months and comes less than a month after another poet, Mohamadreza Haj Rostambegloo, was also arrested and released on bail after four days of detention.
Since October 2015 two poets, a filmmaker, and three founders of a music website have been given lengthy prison sentences, and two writers and a poet have been detained, not including the recent arrests of Rostambegloo and Sedighi.
In February 2016 the country will hold simultaneous parliamentary elections and the elections of the Assembly of Experts, the group tasked with electing and removing the Supreme Leader of Iran.
Photo from Hila Sedighi’s Facebook page by Reza Baharinejad
» International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran – 11 January 2016:
Detained poet describes being transported in a cage and being watched “like a murderer”
» Reuters – 10 January 2016:
Iranian poet released on bail before appeal hearing
» International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran – 9 January 2016:
Hila Sedighi released on Bail
» International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran – 8 January 2016:
Young poet Hila Sedighi arrested at airport in Tehran, latest in string of arrests
» Artsfreedom.org – 11 January 2016:
Iran: Detained poet released on bail
» Artsfreedom.org – 4 January 2016:
Iran: Detained writers released on bail
» Artsfreedom.org – 15 December 2015:
Iran: Music distributors await appeal decision for six years in prison
» Artsfreedom.org – 11 December 2015:
Iran: Songwriter and poet released
» Artsfreedom.org – 4 November 2015:
Iran: Filmmaker sentenced to six-year prison term and 223 lashed
» Artsfreedom.org – 15 October 2015:
Iran: Two poets sentenced to flogging and lengthy imprisonment