Iran: Shiva Nazar-Ahari's family accuse pro-government media of slander in run up to her May trial


The trial of human rights activist Shiva Nazar-Ahari will begin in Tehran on May 23rd 2010. This activist who has been behind bars for 11 months, continues to be held in Evin’s solitary confinement Ward 209 with another cellmate. Rooz spoke with Shiva’s mother, Shahrzad Kariman, about her daughter’s situation and living conditions in prison. She said her daughter seemed to have excellent morale and talked about how absolutely proud she was of her. 

Shiva was arrested en masse along with other political, civil and media activists just two days after the June 12, 2009 presidential elections, at the height of the civil protests against the official announcement of the results of the elections, which is now widely referred to in Iran as the ‘electoral coup.’ The announcement has kept incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president of the Islamic republic but it has also given a huge boost to Iran’s reformists and the Green Movement. Shiva was released about four months later on a bail of about $200,000. Her arrest was related to her being the founder and spokesperson of the Reporters of Human Rights (Gozareshgaran Hoghoogh Bashar), but she was also a student who had been barred from continuing her education because of her activism. Three months after her release, Shiva was arrested again, this time as she was travelling to Qom to attend ayatollah Montazeri’s memorial service. Reports that have been published about her have been disturbing raising concerns among her family members and others.

“Shiva is still in Ward 209 of Evin in a two-person cell,” her mother says, adding, “I do not know her cell-mate, except that she is a 63-year old woman who has a financial charge against her. Shiva’s situation has not changed and she has not been transferred to the general ward yet but her case has been referred to branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court and her trial is scheduled for May 23, 2010.”

Shiva’s mother talked about her daughter’s unclear trial situation and said, “Officials initially said that Shiva’s charges related to her first arrest will be examined in this court session, but in my two talks with Tehran’s prosecutor general and the two visits that he has had with Shiva in her cell, he said that charges for both arrests will be examined at the same trial so that she goes to court only once. We have not had any other news in this regard.”

This week marked the 150 day of Shiva’s second arrest but her mother believes that her daughter’s morale is high. “Shiva’s morale is very high. She has no complaints about the prison or about her two-person cell, but she has visibly lost considerable weight, while she herself insists that is not the case. The prison glass windows in the visitation cabins are so dirty that one can hardly clearly see the person’s face on the other side. But in my last visit-in-person Shiva appeared very thin.”

Charges of Cooperating with the Islamic Mujahedin (MKO)

In recent days and weeks, pro-government media in Iran have published reports that accuse Shiva of having links and cooperation with the armed People’s Mujahedin organization (Sazemane Mojahedine Khalq Iran, MKO). Photographs of meetings with Mir-Hossein Mousavi and his wife Zahra Rahnavard have been published, in an attempt to incriminate her and portray her to be an opponent of the regime. The reports talk of her having been a member of the MKO and having extensive relations with them which she had communicated to the leaders of the current opposition movement in Iran.

Mrs. Kariman rejects these charges, and said, “Shiva herself, along with Saeed Kalanaki, Saeed Jalalifar, Mehrdad Rahimi and Saeed Haeri had written a letter in which they charge pro-government media of trying to link them to an organization that these detainees say they detest.”

Shiva’s mother expressed her anger at what pro-government media had been writing about her daughter and the charges of links to the MKO, saying, “The charges that were read to her were actions against national security and propaganda against the state. I do not know where they brought these other charges [that the media is writing about]. Nobody has seen her file, not even her attorneys and the court sessions till now have been held in camera with no reporters present. No trial has been held till today either for anyone to claim that her charges have been proven. So I do not know where these newspapers have raised these accusations from.” 

She demonstrates her belief and resolve by saying, “We will not remain silent over this and reserve the right to file legal complaints and shall sue Raja News, Vatan Emrouz and other media that have been printing slanderous reports.” 

Talking about her meeting with Tehran’s public prosecutor, Mrs. Kariman said in her talks with the official, she was told that the members of the Reporters of Human Rights were not themselves aware that their work was in line with that of the MKO group. “I told the prosecutor that my daughter was willing to spend a long time in prison but not have the accusation of being in contacts with this group because she had always said that the group’s work was completely contrary to human rights and she always mentioned the terrorist acts that the group had engaged in during the early years of the 1979 revolution.” Talking about the Reporters of Human Rights, Mrs. Kariman said that the group defended human rights regardless of people’s group or ideological affiliations. “I told the prosecutor that Shiva knew that her telephone conversations were under surveillance but she had nothing to hide and did her work in full transparency and always clearly said that they [officials] should not bring back to life this dead group.”

Shiva’s Resistance

“I expect the court and the trial to be fair and just and, as the prosecutor has promised us, I expect the trial to last just one session and be over with. I am really tired of all of this uncertainty and hope that the trial will proceed within the framework of the constitution,” Mrs. Kariman said.

Speaking about her daughter and raising her mother’s pride and sorrow, Mrs. Kariman lauded her daughter’s strong will and excellent morale in the 11 months that she has been behind bars, but she said this as tears ran down her cheeks. “I miss my daughter very much and am proud of her. I am proud of her resistance. She does not raise the smallest complaint so that I do not feel the pain and get hurt. She always says that she is doing fine and that there is nothing to concerned about.”

Fereshteh Ghazi

May 19, 2010