Iran: Writer sentenced to six years in prison for unpublished novel

7 October 2016

Iranian authorities have sentenced writer and activist Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee to serve six years in Tehran’s infamous Evin Prison on charges of “insulting Islamic sanctities” and “spreading propaganda” in an unpublished novel found in her home in September 2014, reported The Independent on 6 October 2016.

Ebrahimi Iraee said authorities called her on 4 October 2016, ordering her to show up at Evin Prison by noon on 5 October 2016 to begin serving out her sentence, reported The Guardian on 6 October 2016. According to the British newspaper it was still unclear by 6 October whether she had appeared at the prison.

“They haven’t issued a written summons [as required by law]. They called me using the telephone of one of my friends, Navid Kamran; they had gone to his shop to arrest him and they called me from there to summon me,” she said.

“Freemuse is deeply concerned about the continuous persecution of artists in Iran and calls for the immediate reversal of this unfair judgment in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a signatory,” Ole Reitov, Freemuse Executive Director, said.

The discovery of the novel
Ebrahimi Iraee’s novel revolves around a young woman who watches the 2008 film ‘The Stoning of Soraya M’, a true story based on a woman stoned to death for committing adultery, and becomes so enraged that she burns a copy of the Qu’ran.

“The charges against Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee are ludicrous. She is facing years behind bars simply for writing a story, and one which was not even published – she is effectively being punished for using her imagination,” Philip Luther, Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, said.

Authorities found the unpublished novel in September 2014 when Ebrahimi Iraee was arrested along with her activist husband, Arash Sadeghi, at his workplace. They then went to the couple’s house and searched the premises without a warrant, seizing possessions including laptops, notebooks and CDs, according to Amnesty International.

At the time, Ebrahimi Iraee was detained for 20 days without being able to see her family or a lawyer and was held in solitary confinement for the first three days. At times during her harsh interrogations, she could hear her husband in another room being tortured.

While Ebrahimi Iraee was released, her husband was sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges of “spreading propaganda against the system”, “gathering and colluding against national security” and “insulting the founder of the Islamic Republic”.

Two artists jailed
Freemuse has been actively campaigning for two artists – musician Mehdi Rajabian and his filmmaker brother Hossein Rajabian – who have been unjustly imprisoned for their art in June 2016 on three-year sentences on charges of “insulting the sacred” and “propaganda against the state” through the production and promotion of underground music.

On 7 September 2016, Mehdi and Hossein Rajabian went on hunger strike to protest against prison authorities not granting Mehdi a promised furlough to seek medical attention for a spreading infection and for separating them by moving Mehdi, while still ill, to Section 8, the section reserved for political prisoners in Evin Prison.

Iran’s continuing and troubling silencing of artists
In 2016 alone, Iranian authorities have imprisoned at least 11 artists on many of the same vague charges as have been placed on Ebrahimi Iraee, Mehdi Rajabian and Hossein Rajabian.

Two artists, Fatemeh Ekhtesari and Mehdi Moosavi, managed to flee Iran in February 2016 to avoid lenghty prison sentences and lashings.

In 2015, Iran ranked second in Freemuse’s annual statistics report on violations of artistic freedom. That year, Freemuse documented 16 cases of serious violations against artists, which include imprisonments, detentions, prosecutions, threats and persecution. The country also logged 16 cases of censorship.

In 2014, Iran ranked fourth in the annual statistics with 15 cases documented.

Photo: Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee (right) with husband Arash Sadeghi (left)


» The Telegraph – 7 October 2016:
Iranian writer faces long jail term for fictional novel about stoning

» The Independent – 6 October 2016:
Iranian writer faces six years in prison for unpublished novel on stoning

» Amnesty International – 6 October 2016:
Iran: Writer facing imminent imprisonment for story about stoning

» The Guardian – 6 October 2016:
Iranian judges sentence writer to jail for story about stoning to death

More from Freemuse

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

» 2 September 2016: Iran: Musician arrested on charges of “spreading depravity”

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

» 8 June 2016: Iran: Eight producers arrested for “obscene” music videos

» 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: Two poets flee due to censorship and imprisonment

» 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

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