Thursday, November 22, 2012

Criticism of wrongful imprisonment of Behrouz Ghobadi

On November 19, 2012, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI) has reported the wrongful imprisonment of Behrouz Ghobadi. His brother, Bahman Ghobadi, an award-winning filmmaker who has created films such as "Turtles Can Fly" and "A Time for Drunken Horses", informed the ICHRI that Behrouz had been arrested on November 4th. Bahman fears for his brother, as Behrouz suffers from various diseases. Since Behrouz's arrest, his family has not been informed about his condition. Bahman has requested that the Iranian authorities protect his rights, such as having access to a lawyer, contact with his family, as well as respect his health while he is in jail.

Bahman, now living outside of Iran, maintains that his brother is innocent, and is only involved in helping him with some of his films. During the interview with the ICHRI, Bahman has also stated that he and his family are unable to obtain information about Behrouz's condition, and that his family is worried about Behrouz. The ICHRI has also learned through a telephone interview with lawyer Ahmad Saeed Sheikhi that he will represent Behrouz Ghobadi. Sheikhi believes that Behrouz had been arrested by the Intelligence Ministry, although he did not have any more information about his situation at the time, as the Ghobadi family had only asked him that day to represent Behrouz.

This is not the first time the ICHRI has dealt with a case like that of Behrouz. During the past three years, it has researched numerous cases of relatives of Iranian journalists and political activists being persecuted or arrested, even if those involved in journalism or politics live abroad. In all of the cases that the ICHRI has dealt with, the relatives have not been found guilty of any crimes, and their intimidation, interrogations, arrests, and summonses have been used to pressure journalists and activists to give up on their work abroad.

The ICHRI fears that Behrouz's arrest may be yet another case of a similar nature. Bahman is highly critical of the Iranian government's policies on censorship, and in 2009 he directed a globally praised film, "Nobody Cares About Persian Cats." The film explores the hardships faced by young underground Iranian musicians struggling to escape state censorship. It criticized the lack of freedom of expression in Iran, and since the film's release Bahman has lived abroad, where he has continued working on films criticizing the government of Iran.

Bahman elaborates on the fears for Behrouz's health. He stated that Behrouz was involved in a car accident on a hazardous road in Kurdistan a few years ago, and that his legs now have several platinum pins in them, leading to gout and immobility. Behrouz has also developed a heart problem and asthma because of his immobility. Bahman questions how the Iranian government claims to value the rule of law, yet has not provided information on the whereabouts of Behrouz to his family. Bahman also wants to know what crime Behrouz has been charged with, and if Behrouz has actually committed a crime, to prove it in court. Bahman continues to question why his family has been left uninformed about Behrouz's condition.

Bahman emphasized that Behrouz was a businessman, and was not politically active in Iran. Bahman explained that Behrouz had immigrated to Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, to open a shop so that he could provide enough money for his wedding. Two weeks ago, his son was born. Behrouz and two of his friends were travelling from Sanandaj province in Iran on November 4th, where they went to visit relatives in Tehran. It was 3:30 a.m. at the time, and then they planned to travel to Georgia at 12:00 p.m. on the same day. Bahman and his family never heard anything from Behrouz after that.

Bahman stated that at first, he didn't want to get involved in the situation, because his family had insisted that they wait. However, more than two weeks have passed by, and they have not been informed of Behrouz's whereabouts. Bahman and his family want to know why Behrouz and his friends have been arrested and what their charges are. He reiterates their concerns about Behrouz's health, particularly the platinum pins in both of his legs. Bahman stated that another health complication would require a new operation and could exacerbate his heart problem. They are also worried about the health of Behrouz's friends.
The Ghobadi family deserves to know about the condition of Behrouz, especially given the fact that he is in extremely poor health. Arresting Behrouz and many other Iranians like him without giving a reason and informing  his family is incredibly cruel and inhumane, showing that the Iranian government's attempts to instill "morality" in its citizens are false. It's time for world leaders to step up and finally hold the Iranian government accountable for its actions. Zahra Kazemi, Neda Agha-Soltan, and countless others have already perished under the oppressive Iranian many more lives will be destroyed before the international community finally stands up to the government of Iran?

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