Majid Tavakkoli

Majid Tavakkoli was released from prison on May 10, 2015.

Iranian student activist Majid Tavakkoli was arrested in December 2009, after giving a speech at a student demonstration at Amir Kabir University in Tehran. He was beaten and otherwise mistreated during and after his arrest. In January 2010, at a trial that his lawyer was not permitted to attend, he was convicted of “participating in an illegal gathering,” “spreading propaganda against the system,” “insulting the Supreme Leader” and “insulting the president,” and sentenced to nine years in prison. Majid Tavakkoli is a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.

Tavakkoli was arrested and reportedly beaten by authorities on December 7th, 2009, after he addressed a crowd at Amir Kabir University of Technology in Tehran. He studied shipbuilding at the university, and was a member of the Islamic Students’ Association, which represented students’ interests and concerns. The rally was one of many anti-government protests that followed the disputed presidential election of June 2009.

The day after his arrest, a news agency close to the government published photographs of Tavakkoli wearing women’s clothing, and said he had been wearing them at the time of his arrest to escape detection. Others denied that he was wearing the clothes at the time, and claimed that authorities forced him to wear them afterwards to humiliate him. In response, hundreds of Iranian men protested by posting on the internet photos of themselves wearing head scarves in solidarity with him.

His trial was held in Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran in January 2010. His lawyer was not permitted to attend. He was convicted of several offenses and reportedly received a five-year sentence for “participating in an illegal gathering,” one year for “spreading propaganda against the system,” two more years for “insulting the Supreme Leader” and six months for “insulting the president.” He was also given a five-year ban on any involvement in political activities and on leaving the country.

From January until the end of May 2010, he was held mainly in solitary confinement. After he and student activist Behareh Hedayat wrote a letter to student activists from prison to mark Students Day in December 2010, they were each given an additional six-month sentence, bringing Tavakkoli’s total sentence up to nine years. Around the beginning of November 2011 Branch 54 of the Tehran Appeals Court upheld the additional six months sentence on the charge of “spreading propaganda against the system.”

Tavakkoli has written a series of moving letters from prison. In their joint letter, Tavakkoli and Hedayat wrote,

Our bodies may be wounded by the blade of tyranny, but our hearts are filled with love and burning flame of hope, and our heads are high for continuing the glorious path of freedom which has been carried away on the shoulders of the Iranian people all across the world.

Majid Tavakkoli is suffering from a respiratory condition that has worsened since his arrest. He needs urgent medical care and his health is likely to deteriorate further if he does not receive specialist medical care.