Home News Human Rights Iran’s Absurd Punishments Target Crimes Both On and Off the Books

Iran’s Absurd Punishments Target Crimes Both On and Off the Books

Case in point, the video’s choice for the number five slot in its top 10 list was attendance of mixed gender parties. Last summer alone, several raids were conducted on these sorts of parties throughout Iran, leading to hundreds of arrests and flogging punishments. The video notes that the maximum sentence for attending a mixed gender party is 75 torturous lashes, and that higher numbers are legally permitted in the cases of other crimes such as the consumption of alcohol.

The other items on the Glazov Gang’s list included wearing nail polish, having tattoos of any kind, getting non-traditional haircuts, wearing clothing with Western brand names or slogans visible, driving around without an apparent destination, and owning or walking dogs. The video gives a sense of the punishment for each of these offenses and then concludes by pointing out that the top two items – being homosexual or failing a virginity test before entering into marriage – are punishable by death.

This list of absurd laws is not complete, especially if one considers the sorts of behaviors and activities that are not specifically addressed by the law but are often treated as crimes in practice. As indicated by multitudes of human rights stories, this category of offenses includes various kinds of social activism and the simple fact of possessing citizenship in a Western country or having noteworthy social connections within such a country.

The criminalization of these things has been particularly evident in the midst of a security crackdown in the aftermath of nuclear negotiations between Iran and six world powers, at which point the clerical regime apparently saw a need to reassert its domestic power and its status as a bulwark against Western influence in the region. Dual nationals and foreign citizens with business interests in the Islamic Republic are key examples of this influence and have been eagerly targeted by the Iranian Intelligence Ministry and Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The persistence and the context of this targeting were highlighted on Wednesday by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, in an article coinciding with the one-year anniversary of the arrest of Kamran Ghaderi. The Iranian-Austrian businessman was sentenced in October to 10 years in prison on unsubstantiated charges of espionage, alongside several other dual nationals including the more prominent Siamak Namazi and Nizar Zakka.

The report details how Ghaderi’s conviction was secured solely on the basis of a coerced confession, obtained by interrogators after they told him, falsely, that his wife was in Iran and would be detained if he did not cooperate. Reports of political imprisonment in Iran are very frequently linked to reports of forced confessions extracted through either physical or psychological torture, including threats to family.

Ghaderi’s case is also representative of these sorts of cases in that he has been subject to additional punitive action, aside from the prison sentence itself. In his case, this means having been kept in solitary confinement for the entirety of his first year in prison.

Threats to family are also reported even after convictions are secured, as a means of exerting additional pressure on political detainees. In other instances, family members are implicated in the same vaguely-defined charges that led to sentences for the de facto crimes of dual citizenship and domestic activism. This was apparently the case with Arash Sadeghi and his wife Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee, who made prominent headlines this week after Sadeghi surpassed 70 days on a hunger strike and secured temporary release for his wife, with the help of protestors throughout the country.

The hunger strike ended immediately thereafter, but a subsequent report by the Associated Press indicated that more than a day afterward, regime authorities had failed to transfer Sadeghi from Evin Prison to a hospital for treatment of his still-life-threatening malnutrition. The International Campaign conveyed the same information in the context of a report on the current outlook for Iraee’s case.

Although the judiciary has reportedly conceded that Iraee was wrongfully convicted, her temporary release is only scheduled to last four days, ending on Saturday. Her advocates say that under the law she should be allowed to go free until a new ruling is made, but instead prosecutors have indicated that she will be returned to prison for an indeterminate length of time while the judiciary reviews the case.

Iraee’s initial conviction was related to an unpublished short story written in a notebook that was confiscated when police raided her home in order to build a case against Sadeghi. The story describes a woman who burns a Quran as an act of outrage after hearing of another woman being stoned for adultery.

According to the International Campaign, a previous raid on Sadeghi’s home in 2010 resulted in his mother suffering a fatal heart attack. In the aftermath of that incident, he was reportedly tortured into signing a letter affirming that there was no connection between the raid and his mother’s death.

The apparent lack of progress on Iraee’s case, even after such a dramatic protest by her husband, is indicative of the Iranian regime’s continued commitment to its crackdown on human rights activism and other perceived threats to the integrity of the Islamic Republic. The persistence of harsh enforcement – and the prevalence of dramatic and life-threatening protests against it – recently resulted in the Iranian Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi calling for the resignation of Sadeghi Larijani to resign as the head of the nation’s judiciary.

“The system is broken and the final responsibility rests with its head,” Ebadi said, according to another report by the International Campaign. “Mr. Larijani must accept his incompetence and resign…It’s not enough to wait for people to get arrested and start hunger strikes for us to defend political prisoners. We have to think of something more effective.”