The arrests of labor activist Esmail Bakhshi and freelance reporter Sepideh Qoliyan on January 20, in Shush, Khuzestan Province, by agents of Iran’s Intelligence Ministry after they spoke out about being tortured during their recent detentions, is a continuing pattern of repression against labor, revolutionary and leftist organizers in the country.
The two labor activists were previously arrested on November 18, 2018, and held in detention for roughly a month in an Intelligence Ministry-run detention center in Ahvaz. After their release on bail, they both stated they had been tortured and issued allegations that were confirmed by eyewitnesses.
On January 19, President Rouhani’s Intelligence Ministry gave the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) a video of the two labor activists’ so-called “confessions,” which was made behind closed doors when the two were in detention, denied access to legal counsel and allegedly being tortured.
Bakhshi’s lawyer, Farzaneh Zilabi, described IRIB’s airing of these statements by his client as clearly illicit. “Airing this documentary is unjustifiable and unacceptable. Now that the confidential investigations in this fake case have been made public through a deceptive, selective and unfair documentary, Mr. Bakhshi wants an open and transparent trial,” Zilabi wrote in a commentary on Emtedad news site on January 20.
The Iranian state has recently escalated its repression against its opponents. In late November 2018, the state began a large campaign targeting teacher and labor organizers, making sizable arrests, and torturing several people. Recently the Iranian state has been accused of torturing Masoud Shamsnejad, a lawyer and university professor. Twelve environmental activists were recently detained and beaten in custody this month. Revolutionary news site, Asranarshism, has also detailed several instances of torture by Iranian dissidents.
Without considerable pressure the Iranian state’s abuses will continue unabated. This pattern of systemic violence must be challenged.