Friday, 17 February 2017
Human rights campaigners have accused Iran of silencing the mother of a protester who was killed in post-election unrest in 2009.
Shahnaz Akmali’s son, Moustafa Karimbeigi, was shot dead in December 2009 during protests after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won a second term in office.
Akmali was arrested last month after intelligence officials raided her workplace and her house in Tehran. Officials have not explained the reasons for her arrest.
Akmali became politically active after her son’s killing, visiting families of other victims to show her solidarity. Recently she had campaigned for the release of Arash Sadeghi, a student activist serving a 19-year jail sentence, who was on hunger strike for several months until January.
Before her arrest, Akmali had complained about pressure on her and her family, particularly her daughter. “Kill me too, kill my daughter, but I will not keep quiet and will follow my son’s path,” she said in a videoaired on Voice of America’s Persian service shortly after her arrest.
Discussing a visit to victims’ graves alongside other families, she said: “We were just visiting the graves of our children, why would you arrest us? Why would you interrogate us at gunpoint?” She was released then but detained again on 25 January.
Akmali said in the video that the authorities had threatened to kill her daughter if she did not stop advocating for the plight of other families: “They called me again and said we will kill your daughter the same way we’ve killed your son, so shut up. Stay home and just recite Qur’an for your son, we will kill you and your daughter if you leave home.”
Amnesty International’s Iran researcher Raha Bahreini said Akmali had been detained solely on account of “her courageous human rights work”, and urged Tehran to release her immediately and unconditionally.
“The continued detention of Shahnaz Akmali is another example of the repressive tactics Iranian authorities regularly resort to in a bid to deter human rights defenders from speaking out and supporting victims of violations,” she said.
“Instead of criminalising and jailing human rights defenders still working in the country, the Iranian authorities must investigate and hold accountable perpetrators of human rights violations, including those responsible for the torture and killing of her son Moustafa Karimbeigi during the 2009 post-presidential election protests.”
Bahreini added: “For years Iranian intelligence officials have been harassing and threatening families of detainees in order to scare them into silence. The threats made against Shahnaz Akmali’s family to stay quiet about her detention is a very worrying escalation of that and should stop.”
Human Right Watch’s Sarah Leah Whitson said. “Arbitrarily detaining a woman who has repeatedly asked for justice for her son is simply shameful. The judiciary should focus on finding out who killed Shahnaz [Akmali’s] son, instead of prosecuting her for peaceful activism.”