Tehran arrests activists demanding Khamenei's resignation and end to theocracy

At least 13 people detained, part of a group of 28 activists who have published two open letters in recent months. At the moment there is no information on their fate or charges. For the authorities they are "troublemakers" at the service of foreign "groups" operating against the state.


Tehran (AsiaNews) - Iranian authorities have arrested at least 13 people on charges of having signed two open letters, published since last June, in which supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is asked to step back and resign.

The detainees, part of a group of 28 political and civil activists from the Islamic Republic, were taken by security men and, at the moment, there is no information on their fate or the charges they will have to face in court.

The first letter, which dates back to June 11, was signed by 14 activists in Tehran and Mashhad, one of the most important religious centers in the country; it calls for the resignation of the supreme leader and constitutional reforms. The (theocratic) regime in power, the appeal continues, "remains impervious to reforms" and keeps the nation under the yoke of a "dictatorship of an individual".

Director Mohammad Nourizad is among those who signed the letter; Gohar Eshghi, mother of activist Sattar Beheshti who died from torture in police custody; Hoorieh Farajzadeh, sister of Shahram an activist killed during protests that broke out following the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the 2009 presidential elections.

Of these 14 activists and signatories, at least six have been arrested since the publication of the text. They are: Hashem Khastar, Mohammad Nourizad, Mohammad Hossein Sepehri, Hoorieh Farajzadeh, Javad La’al Mohammadi and Abbas Vahedian Shahroudi. Some of them had also posted videos on social media explaining the reasons why they ask for a different form of government.

The second open letter is August 9 and is the work of 14 feminists active in the field of civil and women’s rights. Reaffirming support for the first letter of appeal and its signatories, the promoters claim to be "determined to say no to the Islamic Republic" and promise to continue the battle "in a non-violent manner until requests are accepted."

For the promoters, the State is comparable to a "regime against women" which has been consolidated over 40 years of "totalitarian Islamic rule", resulting in "the inhuman exclusion of half the population". They also demand the end of the Islamic Republic as we know it and the writing of a new Constitution at the base of a nation "in which dignity, identity and equality of rights are recognized in all sectors".

Of the 14 activists who signed the open letter, at least seven were arrested by security forces: Shahla Entesari, Shahla Jahanbin, Fatemeh Sepehri, Narges Mansouri, Farangis Mazloom and Giti Pourfazel. The latter, the day before the arrest, had released an interview with Radio Farda reiterating the demand for democracy, along with freedom of thought and expression, when in reality "the rights of people are trampled on".

Iranian authorities have confirmed the wave of arrests, branding the activists as "troublemakers" serving "groups against the state"; however, they deny the version according to which the detentions are linked to the demands for Khamenei's resignation. "The reasons why they were arrested in Mashhad - says a local official - reside in contacts with foreign groups in an attempt to overthrow the state. And it has nothing to do with their letter to the leader ".

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