Amnesty International described the charges as “ludicrous,” stating that she was “effectively being punished for using her imagination.”
In an article for the Independent Journal Review, Soona Samsami, representative in the United States for the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), writes that Ebrahimi’s temporary release was effected by the attention brought about over her husband’s staggering 71 day hunger strike.
He, Arash Sadeghi, was imprisoned before her, charged with national security crimes stemming from his activism regarding human rights. On Tuesday, he was finally prompted to end his fast, after learning of Ebrahimi’s release, and food touched his lips after 71 days.
Even though the social network Twitter is banned in Iran, support for Sadeghi’s protest became a top trending topic on the popular news and messaging service. The widespread use of Twitter is one more sign that that the regime’s control is eroding despite recent security crackdowns, possibly targeting Sadeghi and Ebrahimi.
As well, the fact that extraordinary numbers of Iranian activists are willing to risk arrest and reprisal by gathering in support of causes like Ebrahimi’s and her husband’s is another sign.
It’s doubtful that humanitarian concerns motivated Ebrahimi’s release. More likely was a response to the outcry from hundreds of activists gathered outside Evin Prison on Monday, and reflected the regime’s fear of another uprising like 2009’s.
Four years after the protests to the election of 2009 were suppressed, Hassan Rouhani was elected president, which was viewed by some as a victory for moderation. Critics of the Islamic Republic reject this narrative.
Skeptics, such as Western officials and Iran’s domestic resistance movements, chiefly the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), viewed Rouhani as an unlikely agent of change, which has been corroborated more than three years later by the ongoing struggles of the Iranian people and of political prisoners like Sadeghi and Ebrahimi.
The protestors outside Evin Prison were responding to more than just Sadeghi’s hunger strike or his wife’s unjust imprisonment, but these event focused attention on the the regime’s criminal behavior, and that Iranian people are keenly aware of it. Efforts by prominent activists have brought to light past crimes for which the regime has never been held accountable.
An audio recording was released last summer. On it, a former regime official revealed new information about a 1988 massacre, in which some 30,000 political prisoners were hanged over the course of just a few months. The slaughter, targeting the MEK, has enjoyed a conspiracy of silence, but recently it has become an issue that is discussed openly across society in spite of the threat of government reprisal.
The activist community continues to keep attention focused on the topic. Political prisoner Maryam Akbari Monfared filed a formal complaint demanding an investigation of the execution of her siblings in the 1988 massacre, from her cell, while serving a sentence for “enmity against God”.
Several other political prisoners have followed her lead, according to the National Council of Resistance of Iran. Their actions, along with those the NCRI is taking, are urging the United Nations to establish a commission of inquiry into the 1988 massacre. This is but one of the ways in which the international community can break the silence and bring human rights issues to the forefront of its dealings with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
It’s evident that the Iranian regime’s hold over the people is weakening. Domestic activists were able to compel a repressive regime to release one of its political prisoners and prevent the death of another.
That victory is inspirational, and so much more could accomplished if they had the support of the international community. Perhaps the Trump administration will take note, and do the right thing..