Golrokh and her husband Arash were arrested in September of 2014 by “unknown men” from the Revolutionary Guard. The front door of their residence was broken down, with no warrant, and their personal belongings were confiscated. The  story, in which an imagined character protests the stoning of a woman by burning the Koran, was found on their laptop. 

Golrokh was immediately sentenced to 6 years in prison for a fictional story that the judge believed “would have been an insult to the Supreme Leader if it were to be published.” To be clear, she was sent to prison in Iran for  6 years, for imagining a story which was never published, on her personal laptop, which was confiscated illegally.

Her husband, Arash Sadeghi, is in critical condition after staging a hunger strike in protest of his wife’s sentence, which has now passed 40 days. Arash himself has been sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges of “spreading propaganda against the regime”.  As absurd as it may sound, his Facebook private messages were presented by the prosecutor as evidence!  Not surprisingly, he was denied access to a lawyer. 

Unfortunately this is the reality the face of a “moderate Islamic regime” that Iran tries to present to the world.  However, it is a country what jails it’s citizens for crimes of the imagination, that has no tolerance for criticism or challenges, especially during these times of a crippled society and economy, even at a fictional idea level. 

Sobhani writes, “In a power struggle among the different regime factions, news of million dollar embezzlements (or at times even billions!),  massive financial and sexual corruptions, and even serious environmental destruction are the norm. Yet no one ― not a single authority ― has been held responsible in the very same judicial courts that hands out severe sentences routinely. Corruption is not the enemy of the Islamic Republic. It’s what makes it stronger. What threatens it is the existence and imagination of people like Golrokh,  who as many other Iranians, dare to be human in the supposedly Islamic Republic. The regime masquerades as a legitimate state where the will of the republic is an Islamic regime. Nothing is further from the truth. For those of us who have experienced it, it is an extremely shrewd version of ISIS that has learned how to suppress efficiently, violently, and silently over the past three decades while convincing the world otherwise. It is the reason why we witness such harsh treatment of Iranians by the regime that goes unnoticed in the rest of the world. At least with ISIS everyone knows where they stand.”

The nuclear deal emboldened the Islamic regime to act with impunity both within and outside the Iranian borders.  We have witnessed more direct military involvement in countries like Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and witnessed the utter destruction brought to the people of these nations. 

“Human rights remains the single most important issue absent from all dialogue between Western countries and the Islamic Republic, often set aside for more expedient security, economic, or policy interests. People of Iran continue to suffer as diplomats in the West chase a mirage of peace in what is tantamount to a hostage situation for the Iranian people which has spanned well over 30 years. As is evident from world affairs today, this is a problem that if not addressed in Iran can engulf the whole neighborhood ― and perhaps beyond,” Arash Sobhani concludes.