In 2009, Majid Tavakkoli, aged 24, was already a recognized student leader and advocate for academic freedom. He was a member of the Islamic Students Association while studying shipbuilding at Amir Kabir University of Technology in Tehran. The disputed Iranian elections of June 2009 changed many things in Iran, including the course of Majid’s life. When Majid was arrested for giving a speech to commemorate Student’s Day on December 9, it was the fourth time that Majid had been detained for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.
He remains imprisoned now in Reja’i Shahr Prison in Karaj. Thousands of others were, like him, detained for peacefully speaking out since the presidential election in June 2009. When the government announced that incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been re-elected, massive protest erupted all over Iran. Security forces used violence to repress dissidents and many people were killed or seriously injured in the authorities’ attempts to stop the protests. Since the protests, the Iranian government has ramped up its efforts to detain and silence opposition and have enforced long-existing methods of repressing freedoms of expression, assembly, and association.
After Majid became one of those imprisoned, he was beaten, denied access to his family or lawyer, and sentenced after a grossly unfair trial. The government even released a photo of him in women’s clothing in an attempt to humiliate him. However, in a massive show of solidarity, about 450 men posted photos of themselves wearing women’s clothing – some holding signs saying “We are Majid” on Facebook and other sites on the internet.
Majid continues to serve his 8.5 year sentence with extremely limited visits from his family. He now suffers from a respiratory infection which, at one point, caused him to lose his speech entirely. In addition to his sentence, Majid has been banned from any political activity or from leaving the country for five years after he is released.
This year we write to demand Majid’s unconditional release and that he is treated humanely according to international human rights standards and is protected from torture and other ill-treatment and has access to adequate medical care. By committing to Write for Rights on behalf of Majid, we can let the Iranian government know that we have not forgotten Majid Tavakkoli and that we demand his immediate release. Your letters can make a difference. Join AIUSA’s Global Write-a-thon today.
Lisa Hart, Campaign for Individuals at Risk, contributed to this post.