Iran Arrests Two Human Rights Activists in Wave of New Detentions 

By Natasha Phillips

The Iranian human rights advocate Maryam Karimbeigi was arrested on June 14 by Iran’s security forces, while the child rights campaigner Samin Ehsani was sent to prison on June 16, in an ongoing series of detentions targeting civil society activists.

Karimbeigi began a hunger strike on June 15 after trumped-up charges were brought against her, according to Dublin-based human rights organization Front Line Defenders (FLD).

An initial charge of “propaganda activity against the state” was announced on 14 May, followed by a second charge on 15 May of “gathering and colluding against national security.”

Karimbeigi was detained when officials raided her mother’s home and confiscated several items including her laptop. The detention was announced by Shahnaz Akmali — Karimbeigi’s mother — in a June 14 video posted on Twitter.

Akmali and Karimbeigi became campaigners to defend peaceful protesters around the country who were subsequently killed by Iran’s security forces.

Akmali’s son Mostafa Karimbeigi was shot and killed by security forces during protests which took place following the June 2009 presidential election. A violent crackdown by police on the demonstrations left at least 69 people dead.



Shahnaz Akmali — Karimbeigi holding a picture of his son. KL./

Ehsani — who is a member of the Baha’i community — was given a five-year jail term for “propaganda against the regime,” and “membership in the heretical Baha’i sect.” Ehsani was then sent to Iran’s notorious Evin prison following a failed appeal to overturn her sentence.

Bahai’s are routinely discriminated against and persecuted by the regime, which does not recognize the Baha’i faith.

The United Nations working group on arbitrary detention published a report in 2018 which held that Baha’is arbitrarily detained by the Iranian government had been detained solely for their religious beliefs.

In addition, a 2018 report issued by the United States commission on international religious freedom concluded that Bahai’s were “the most severely persecuted religious minority in Iran.”

Human Rights Watch has repeatedly raised concerns about the way the Iranian government treats human rights advocates in the country. In the watchdog’s latest annual report on the state of human rights around the world in 2021, it said “scores of human rights advocates” remained in prison for their peaceful activism.

The report noted that the regime often failed to provide evidence to support charges against human rights advocates or investigate allegations of state-sanctioned torture against them.

Iranians on Twitter have helped the activists’ cases trend in recent days with the use of hashtags such as #StopHatePropaganda, #Bahai and #ReligiousFreedom for Ehsani. Meanwhile, other hashtags have been used for Karimbeigi including #مریم_کریم_بیگی [Maryam Karimbeigi] and #FreeMaryamKarimbeigi.

Female human rights activists are particularly vulnerable to arbitrary arrest and detention in Iran. More than 500 women’s rights advocates are currently imprisoned in the country.

U.N.: Executions, Trial Procedures in Iran of Deep Concern

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