Keeping Track of Iranian Political Prisoners

On NPR on Monday 22 May, Mehdi Aminizadeh, a political scientist who works for United for Iran, spoke to David Greene and Steve Inskeep, about the importance of this site and the current political climate in Iran.

Aminizadeh, who had studied countries that had gone through democratic change (like South Africa in 1990) while at university, had hope that he could help to change the Iranian Regime, but the Regime cracked down on him and those like him.

He told the hosts that he had been arrested four times, imprisoned in the notorious Evin Prison, and tortured. The guards once kept him awake for 54 hours straight, by pouring cold water over him and making him stand.

He was let out, with the sentence still holding over his head, and subsequently decided to flee Iran with his wife and child. Aminizadeh sent his family to Turkey but, fearing he would be stopped at the airport, hired a smuggler to get him across the border where he then had to walk for 17 hours to join his family.

Aminizadeh explained that the site, which is supported by the Open Society Institute, catalogues 3,000 profiles of political prisoners and former political prisoners, 800 of whom are still in prison. He notes that although this number is relatively low, they have only been able to go by official information. There are many more political prisoners who are categorised under other crimes in the Regime’s reports.

The site, created by Iranian-American, Firuzeh Mahmoudi, also gathers information from a prisoners family members in order to properly document their political ‘crimes’.

Mahmoudi, who was also on the show, said: “We want to release the leaders and the most prominent potential leaders of the future. We also want to advocate for every single individual.”

She had previously said that she wanted to see an Iran where she could safely take her children, despite her criticisms of the government, but she can’t yet see that as an option.

She said: “The government actually says something kind of coy. They say anyone’s welcome to come back. We can’t guarantee they can leave the country [again], but you can always come home.”

While this story is important, it is worth noting that Inskeep and Greene have been suckered into the moderate versus hard-line dichotomy that Iran is trying to push. They make several references to Hasan Rouhani as a moderate, when he is anything but.

He is a puppet of the Supreme Leader, who has killed for the Regime. He is not a moderate.