This week I wanted to draw to your attention the case of Said Matinpour, who yesterday July 11, was arrested and taken to Evin Prison to serve out his prison sentence of 8 years. Last year Matinpour was convicted of “anti-regime propaganda” and “maintaining links with foreigners”. His case was included in an article in Reporters without Borders. The following is our press release which we are about to post to the website:Azerbaijani Journalist Said Matinpour Arrested and Transferred to Evin Prison to Serve 8 Year Sentence
Azerbaijani journalist and human rights activist Said Matinpour, who last year was sentenced to an 8-year prison term for “maintaining links to foreigners” and propaganda against the Islamic Republic”, was arrested and has been transferred to Evin Prison. He is at risk of severely harsh torture. According to family friends, Matinpour was summoned by Judge Salavati of Section 15 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran on July 11, 2009 and arrested upon his arrival. They also said that he had called his family at 6PM that evening and told them that he was being held in Evin. Said Matinpour was arrested prior on May 25, 2007 in Zenjan and released on bail of 500 million Toman (more than 500,000 dollars) after 278 days of detention in Evin Prison. On July 11, 2009, he was sentenced to a 7-year prison term on the charge of “maintaining links to foreigners” (espionage) and one additional year for “propaganda against the Islamic Republic” by Judge Salavati in Revolutionary Court of Tehran. His 8-year prison sentence was approved by the Appeal Court of Tehran on December 2008. After his release, Matinpour stated that he was held incommunicado in the notorious section 209 of Evin Prison and subjected to ill-treatment and severe torture. His family reported that he was suffering from digestion problems, headaches and backaches and that he was seeking treatment. Said Matinpour graduated from Tehran University with a degree in philosophy. He is a member of the writing staff for the weekly journal Yarpaq and maintains a series of weblogs about human rights in Iran as well as linguistic and cultural rights for Iran’s Azerbaijani minority. He was first arrested in May 2007 as a result of promoting Azerbaijani cultural awareness as well as attending a January 2007 conference in Turkey aimed at promoting rights for Turkic populations of the world.
Said is at imminent risk of extreme torture and ill-treatment at Evin Prison. He was treated very harshly during his first prison term, which was in temporary detention in the custody of the Ministry of Intelligence. In 2007, Said Matinpour was very active in the city of Zanjan promoting Azerbaijani culture and rights. He wrote for a journal and maintained a series of blogs about human rights. Matinpour noticed that a lot of the city was becoming quite “Persianized” and in an attempt to maintain his culture and language, he actively promoted Azerbaijani music and literature. The Islamic Republic took note of this and didn’t like it very much. He became quite active after taking an all-expenses paid January 2007 trip to a conference in Turkey, which discussed the rights and culture of Turkic peoples around the world. When he came back, his passport and papers was confiscated at the border, but he was free to go.
Six months later in May 2007, the government decided that he was a threat to the regime and the Ministry of Intelligence detained him in Evin prison for 278 days. Unlike much of the Western world, the intelligence ministry can hold you for an undetermined amount of time until they decide it’s time for your trial. In February 2008, his family posted bail of 5 million Toman, which amounts to roughly 540,000 dollars (his family didn’t have the money so they singed over their property to the courts). During those 278 days he was in temporary detention, though, he faced grueling conditions. For example, his written work was confiscated by the government, shredded and shoved in his mouth repeatedly as prison guards beat him. He told one of ADAPP’s activists that sometimes about 10 people would beat him senseless. He also said that they repeatedly put some kind of drug in his food that made him frail and weak. When he was on the drug, his vision became very blurry and he’d lose his memory. I am not sure what the purpose of the drug was but it sounds to me that it might have lowered his inhibitions to talk more freely about his activity. Here are some links to Amnesty International’s reports on Matinpour: Amnesty 1, Amnesty 2, Amnesty 3
In May 2008, he went to trial and in June 2008 he was convicted with anti-regime propaganda and maintaining links with foreigners, but he appealed. It took until about 3-4 months ago for him to receive a reply for his appeal, which was denied. (Reporters Without Borders claims this to be last month but apparently they’re wrong) The judge summoned him on July 11, which is when he was transferred to Evin to carry out his sentence.
I’m guessing that if his treatment was that harsh to begin with, what’s his real term going to be like? Sometimes I can’t comprehend the bravery of these individuals who continue to do what they do after being beaten repeatedly in prison. Anyway, I am hoping that we can quickly put out a Take Action notice so that we are able to send masses of letters to the Iranian government calling for Matinpour’s release. I am calling on all of you who are reading this to help. I will let you all know details soon. Many of the Azerbaijani activists that I’ve been talking to have been extremely angered by Matinpour’s arrest. A lot of them consider him a hero and a dear friend.
Protests for Uighurs
This week, ADAPP was invited to participate in protests today at 2 PM in front of the Art Gallery in Vancouver. The Protests will be from the Uighur Community in response to the the conflict between Han Chinese and Uighurs and the brutal crackdown on Uighur protests by the Chinese governement. For Azerbaijani activists, the situation in Xinjiang province, also known as East Turkestan among the Uighur community, is a dear one. They view Uighurs as Turkic bretheren who are struggling for the same rights against an oppressive government. Many of ADAPP members, including myself, have been posting on the situation of Uighurs during the past week. I can even understand about 20-30% of their language since it is Turkic. To get an idea of the hatred that exists in that society, HERE is a video that was sent to ADAPP of what appears to be Han Chinese brutally beating ethnic Uighrs. I will warn you though, the video is extremely graphic and not for the faint of heart.
Reflections on the week
I wanted to quickly draw your attention to two matters of the Azerbaijani community in Iran. Firstly, July 3 was supposed to be annual gathering at Babek Castle, which is a yearly celebration of Azerbaijani hero Babak. Babak became famous for holding off the northwest of Persia from the Arab conquests of the region in the 8th century CE. Thus Azerbaijan became the last Persian region to fall to the Arab conquests. Although Wikipedia claims that he was Persian, his parents were Azerbaijani. Anyway, well there was no gathering. Since 2005, every year there have been scores of police to patrol the area and arrest those who go to worship the Azerbaijani hero. Essentially, Babek Castle is closed down on July 2-3, which is during the time of the annual gathering.
Another thing that I wanted to address was that I had been reading on Twitter that there were protests in Azerbaijani areas on July 9 commemorating the 10th anniversary of the 18 Tir student movement. As many of you are aware, in 1999, there was a massive student movement throughout much of Iran where students protested the regime. The crackdown was brutal, many were arrested, and many of those who participated were attacked by police in the night, who cut the protesters’ faces. Tabriz University (in Iranian Azerbaijan) did participate in the protests in 1999. This year, however, Azerbaijan remained silent. Many of those student protesters in 1999 moved on to becoming Azerbaijani rights activists from what I can gather. Now, students in universities of Iranian Azerbaijan are more willing to participate in the Azerbaijani movement than anything else.
Thanks for reading and I apologize for the length!
Posted By Farzin Farzad
Posted Jul 12th, 2009