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Letter to Ayatollah Khamenei demanding release of Iranian students and political activists

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran

c/o H.E. Mohammad Javad Zarif

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary

Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations


August 3, 2003



Your Excellency;


We are writing to you to demand the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Saeed Razavi-Faqih, the spokesperson for the Daftar-e Tahkim Vahdat (the main nationwide students' association), as well as other student and political activists arrested recently. On July 10 Mr. Razavi-Faqih was publicly arrested at gunpoint by unidentified security agents as he was leaving the office of the Professional Journalists Association. To this date neither his lawyer, nor the Prison Authority, or the Intelligence Ministry have any knowledge of the reasons for his arrest.


Mr. Razavi-Faqih is only the latest in a long series of arrests and persecution of student activists, journalists, social researchers, and university professors in Iran. We have been informed that these illegal arrests are performed by the Counter-Intelligence Unit of the Revolutionary Guards Corp, and the Office of the Prosecutor in the Judicial Branch. The people in charge of these organizations have been appointed by you and are under your direct supervision and direct responsibility. We have also been informed that many of these security agents were formerly implicated in the persecution and murder of up to 80 intellectuals and political activists between 1990-98. As a result we can only hold you personally responsible for these events, and we appeal to you directly to put a stop to these blatant violations of the Iranian Constitution and of the International Covenant of Human Rights, to which the Islamic Republic of Iran is a signatory.


We have been informed that these prisoners of conscience are being kept in illegal prisons. These political prisoners are being denied their constitutionally guaranteed legal rights -- such as access to proper legal council, and a guarantee of their personal health and dignity. They are being subjected to physical and psychological abuse, hardship, and intimidation aimed at forcing them to confess to crimes they have not committed and to exact public confessions falsely implicating their comrades and other political personalities and activists.


We have been informed that during the months of June and July vigilantes loyal to you have violently attacked student dormitories and student gatherings. Unfortunately your own public statements to the effect that students protesting against these attacks should be 'punished decisively and without mercy' have only exacerbated this violent situation. When students have attempted to defend themselves against these attacks they have been arrested and imprisoned, while to date very few of those attacking the students and the universities have been identified or arrested, even though their identity is well known as they publicly flaunt their deeds.


Your Excellency, we would like to remind you that according to Article 22 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran the life, property, and rights of individuals are inviolable. Article 23 forbids the persecution of individuals for their beliefs.       Article 27 permits the free holding of public gatherings and marches provided arms are not carried. Article 38 bans all forms of torture for the purpose of extracting confessions or acquiring information. It prohibits the compulsion of individuals to testify, confess, or take an oath, states that any testimony or confession obtained under duress is devoid of value, and states that the violation of this article is a crime punishable by law. Article 39 prohibits any and all abuse of the dignity and repute of persons detained and imprisoned, and makes the violation of this article a crime punishable by law.


Furthermore, these articles correspond to legal protections enshrined in the United Nation's Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. As a signatory to this International Covenant, Iran is obligated to respect and protect the exercise of these rights. Article 7 of the Covenant prohibits torture and inhuman treatment of the individual. Article 9 prohibits arbitrary arrest and deprivation of liberty, except under legally established procedures. Article 10 cites that anyone arrested should be treated with respect and dignity. Article 14 cites that anyone charged must be informed of the nature of the charges against him/her. Articles 18, 19, and 21, state that everyone should enjoy the freedom of thought, expression, opinion, and assembly.


We therefore urge you in the strongest terms to speak out publicly and to take all the necessary steps immediately to ensure that these clear infringements of the legal rights of the imprisoned students, journalists, and political activists are stopped; that all the imprisoned students and political activists are freed immediately; and that all those guilty of violent attacks on student dormitories and  gatherings, or of illegal arrest, maltreatment, and intimidation of students and the university community be identified and punished according to law.


Your Excellency, we can only persist in reminding you that these steps are critical to help prevent further deterioration of Iran's international standing and reputation as a country where the legal human rights of its citizens are blatantly violated by certain rogue elements of its own security forces under the eyes of the country's head of state.


We urge you to treat this situation with the urgency and the gravity that it requires.


We thank you in advance for your attention to this matter and look forward to your reply.






* Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor, MIT

* Benjamin Barber, Kekst Professor of Civil Society at the University of Maryland

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* Ariel Dorfman, Professor and Novelist, Duke University

* Richard Falk, Professor Emeritus of International Law, Princeton University

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* Chris Toensing, Editor, Middle East Report

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* Canadian Council of Muslim Women
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* Prof. F. Gregory Cause, University of Vermont

* Dr Jonathan Cloke, Loughborough University

* Joshua Cohen, Goldberg Professor of the Humanities, MIT

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Prof. Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, Northwestern University

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* Prof. Ausma Khan, Administrative Studies, Atkinson College          

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* Prof. Scott Laderman, University of Minnesota

* Prof. Michael Andrade Lalan, College of the Holy Cross

* Joanne Landy, Co-Director, Campaign for Peace and Democracy

* Prof. Vickie Langohr, College of the Holy Cross

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Georgetown University

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* Ken Williams,  Director, New Voices, Academy for Educational Development

* Haroldo Dilla Alfonso, Coordinador general de investigaciones, Programa FLACSO-Repْblica Dominicana
* Bruce Allen, Vice-President, Canadian Autoworkers Local 199



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cc.       HE Kamal Kharrazi, Minister of Foreign Affairs, IRI

            HE Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, Head of the Judiciary, IRI

            HE Mohammad Khatami, President of the IRI

            HE Mehdi Karoubi, Speaker of the Majlis, IRI

            HE Kofi Anan, Secretary General, United Nations  





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