Human Rights Abuses in Iran—InquiryPublished on 12 May 2016 Hansard and Statements by Senator Wilfred Moore (retired)
Hon. Wilfred P. Moore:
Honourable senators, I rise today to inform you about the plight of two musicians: Mehdi Rajabian and Yousef Emadi; and a filmmaker, Hossein Rajabian. These three Iranian artists may be thrown into prison at any moment just for their art. Human rights groups warn that their arrest is imminent; Iranian authorities have sent their case files to the Office of the Implementation of Sentences at Evin Prison in Tehran. This can all be seen on the website iranhr.net.
They are two friends who ran a popular music streaming website called BargMusic. Unfortunately, the Iranian authorities have confiscated the website and shut it down, eliminating all the hard work these two young artists put into the website. Additionally, Mehdi had just completed his first musical album and was about to release on it online. But he never got the chance to do so, because agents of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps confiscated all his music. According to human rights reports, the album told the story of Iran’s history through instrumentals played by Mehdi on his sitar. Hossein is Mehdi’s brother. He had just finished producing a film, entitled The Upside Down Triangle, about a woman’s right to divorce in Iran.
The three men were arrested by Iranian authorities in October 2013 at a media studio they shared located in the City of Sari, in the Mazandaran province in northern Iran. They were first held in the detention centre in Sari, where they were reportedly blindfolded and tortured with electric tasers. They were eventually shipped to Evin Prison in Tehran, where they were held for more than two months in a solitary confinement cell fully controlled by the Revolutionary Guards. In solitary confinement, Mehdi, Yousef and Hossein reportedly endured hours upon hours of interrogations and were subjected to both physical and psychological torture.
They were released on a bail of $67,000 U.S. dollars each, but in May 2015 an Iranian court sentenced each of them to six years in prison and a fine totaling approximately $6,600 U.S. dollars. An appeals court upheld the judicial fines but reduced each of their sentences to three years in prison and three years suspended imprisonment. So technically this means they are still condemned to six years in prison each. The court justified the prison sentence through trumped up charges like “Insulting Islamic sanctities,” “Propaganda against the regime,” and “Illicit financial gain through audiovisual activities.”
Honourable senators, I am deeply concerned about the effects prison and further torture will have on the physical and psychological state of these brave artists. I’m appalled that in 2016 there are young artists who are being persecuted and tortured merely for having the courage and the will to exercise their fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression.
Honourable senators, Hossein Rajabian, in protest to the unlawful prison sentences issued to him, his brother Mehdi and their friend Yousef, has uploaded a medium-quality version of his film The Upside Down Triangle on YouTube and you can see it there. I urge you to take the time to watch the movie in order to fully grasp how easy it is to be arrested and tortured in Iran just for exercising artistic expression.
I call upon my colleagues today to stand with me, as Senator Patterson did, in calling on the Iranian authorities to quash the prison sentences and judicial fines against Mehdi, Hossein Rajabian and Yousef Emadi.