Khastar, who resides in Mashhad in northwestern Iran, was imprisoned three times for his political and civil activities.
In an interview with Al-Arabiya he said that human rights’ conditions have deteriorated drastically, and called on the civil society for support in stopping executions, massacres, and daily violations against activists as well as people from different social categories. He also condemned Tehran’s interference in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and the region’s other countries, and said “Arabs and Muslims must know that the Iranian people want to live with them in peace.”
He said, “The government in our country does not care about human rights at all. For example, the regime does not allow free elections at the teachers’ union or at non-governmental organizations here in Khorasan and other provinces, although these organizations were established 13 years ago when president Mohammed Khatami was in power. There aren’t even the simplest forms of freedom in Iran and the government does not grant citizens any of their basic rights. You may get arrested and imprisoned for organizing a simple cultural activity. If you see me free now, it’s because they don’t want to create an uproar like what happened previously when I was detained by the intelligence apparatus. They’ve reached the conclusion that they should release me because keeping me in prison would cause them trouble in the international arena and on the media front. But if they do decide to imprison me again, nothing can stop them from doing so.”
He talked about the recent mass executions of 25 Sunni Kurdish activists, which coincided with the anniversary of the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in 1988. “All dictatorships across the world resort to murder and assassination as a means to spread terror and fear so that people do not take to the streets demanding their rights. These governments practice terrorism to silence their citizens and our country is not an exception. The elimination of political prisoners in 1988 was an unprecedented crime in the last 200 years of Iran’s history. It was a horrific massacre that made people wonder and ask what is this hardship that has plagued our country? I condemn these mass executions which happened against our brothers from the Sunni sect and everyone condemns these executions that happened in mock courts that resemble dark rooms.”
When asked for his thoughts about whether or not the accusations against the Sunni activists was fabricated, he responded, “I have said several times that the authorities in our country do not respect basic human rights and that Iranian ethnic groups, particularly Kurds, have been greatly persecuted. If certain activities happen in Shiite areas in the country, judicial rulings against the perpetrators are lenient while in Sunni areas, such as Kurdish ones, the rulings are strict and can range from many years in prison and can go as far as execution.” He added, “I was imprisoned with 12 Sunni preachers in Vakilabad Prison in Mashhad and I witnessed how they were tried and sentenced to between two years and 10 years in prison on flimsy charges. When I got to know them and learnt about their cases, I found out that they haven’t committed any crime to be punished.”
When speaking about his own, as well as other activists’ work, exposing prisoner violations, he said, “Primarily, I think we must work as per our moral duties. We are not asking our friends or the Iranian people to risk their lives but I have several times said that if it hadn’t been for these activities which exposed these violations, the regime would have skinned us and displayed our bodies in schools to set us as an example to others. The work done by human rights activists and political activists makes the government pay a high price for its suppression and so we are trying not to be an easy target for the government.
He also said that he has “done everything I can to defend those who fight for the sake of freedom, democracy and promotion of human rights in Iran so that the government does not easily crush them. When an activist is detained, we spread this news in media outlets so that the government cannot do whatever it wants against them, like what happened with the Sunni preachers. Silence and not spreading the news about their cases allowed security forces to persecute them, away from the public eye.”
Looking toward the future, he was optimistic, saying, “Civil activity among Iranians has become very strong. They do not harbor ill will towards others and want to be friends with the people in the region. We condemn our rulers’ interferences in Syria and their support of the Assad regime and we condemn their interferences in Yemen and Iraq. The civil society in Iran has become strong and it will strengthen democracy. We want to build our country and also want to have ties of brotherhood and friendliness with neighboring countries.
In reference to condemnation by International Community, he said that it’s not enough. “There’s no doubt that condemning these executions is a very good thing but it’s not enough. The world must help the Iranian people. We don’t want to tell the outside world what to do but at the same time, we want the international community to choose the path which does not harm the people of Iran. The Iranian people have reached a high degree of political awareness and they know the path they should take. They no longer buy the ruling regime’s tricks. They reject all these executions and detentions. For example, people held a massive reception for the families of the two teachers imprisoned on political charges but we did not spread any news about this out of fear the security forces will harass them. However, this courageous move by the people was greatly welcomed inside and outside Iran.”
“The Iranian people will choose paths that lead them to democracy and freedom at the lowest costs. We call on the world to support the demands of the people and to support them via the means they deem appropriate without any harm befalling the people. This will certainly be in the interest of stability in the region and the world.’ he concluded.