Brothers Arash and Kamiar Alaei, noted for their dedicated work on AIDS issues in Iran, were accused of "soft subversion" through their western contacts, imprisoned in solitary confinement for seven months, tried in close court proceedings, and sentenced to six and three years' imprisonment respectively. News of their actual charges were only released this week and their sentences were only just announced.
In Iran, whenever someone is arrested on political charges, their families are told to "cooperate" with the authorities by keeping quiet and refusing to talk to reporters, in return for which they are promised a speedy investigation and fair treatment of their arrested kin. Most families agree to keeping quiet, fearing further complications and charges in the cases. When the charges were finally announced earlier this week after seven months, Alaeis' mother was devastated. Upon hearing her sons' sentences today, she finally broke down and talked to Rooz Online's Omid Memarian. It is devastating to read the poor mother's heart wrenching words of sadness and feelings of injustice and betrayal by the unusual punishment of her health activist sons. She says the sentencing came despite any confessions on her sons' part, but she has been told that a tape of their confessions will soon be made public. She fears her sons' further exposure to torture in order for those "confessions" to be extracted.
Though Iranian activists, civil society workers, writers, university professors and students, artists, and labor unionists have been systematically harassed, arrested, tortured, and imprisoned by IRI authorities for 30 years, seldom have violations of victims' families rights been discussed. Family members of those arrested and tortured in Iran pay a high price in their desperation and sadness about their family members' disappearance, detention, and mistreatment, and they themselves are harassed to prevent them from talking to anyone about what they know. Furthermore, if and when bails are announced for any detainees, it is the family who has to scramble to raise the funds or put up deeds to their homes in order to see their relatives temporarily freed. Should the suspect flee the country, which has happened in many cases, the family's entire savings and only asset is suspended by the courts, forcing the remaining family members into debt and destitute.
What is devastating in the case of a mother such as Mrs. Alaei, is the pain and doubt you can feel through her words: What if I hadn't kept quiet all these months? Could I have saved my sons from such unfair charges and sentences for their humanitarian work? Should I have defied the authorities instead of trusting them?
My activist friends in Tehran tell me that indeed there aren't and can never be any "deals" with the devil. Families of individuals charged with political charges MUST raise a big stink and talk to any and every reporter who calls them and asks them about it, and when they run of such reporters, they should write letters to amnesty and human rights organizations outside of Iran. They tell me only those whose arrests received high publicity and attention from international organizations have been spared in this tug of war.
I would like to appeal to each and every one of you who read these words and wish to somehow help. Please sign every single petition that comes your way in favor of releasing Iranian political dissidents and activists. You may truly be saving their lives and their freedom. Remember also that you are helping their anguished and frightened families this way.
Sources: Los Angeles Times article, Iran accuses 2 doctors of ties to alleged U.S. Plot
Rooz Online article, "I fear they will torture my sons for confessions."
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