AODHR Calls for Immediate Action to Protect Poets and Artists from the Oppression of the Iranian Regime
“Art is a message, not a crime” .. At a time when all institutions, regimes and states support art and ensure freedom of opinion and expression, violations of the Iranian regime against Ahwazi poets and artists continue violating international charters and covenants, above all is Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that provides for freedom of expression which states Freedom of expression is not only important as a stand-alone right, but because it is necessary.
In recent months, the Iranian regime has detained a large number of Ahwazi poets and artists on charges of publishing poems and musical works in a precedent that has never been done by any country, no matter how dictatorship the regime is.
According to reports monitored by the Ahwazi Organization for the Defence of Human Rights “AODHR” in Ahwaz, the authorities of the Iranian regime raided the homes of detainees without any authorization and detained them without charge and took them to unknown places.
Ali Karooni is a very popular artist, not only in Ahwaz, but even in the Iranian street for his humanitarian attitudes and singing in Arabic and Farsi. The Iranian regime authorities summoned him to the Guidance Department and he disappeared after entering at the time, and his concert was canceled for unknown reasons.
Immediately after the spread of one of the videos of his detention in the department, Iranian intelligence was forced to release him. After filing a complaint on what happened with him, he was threatened with imprisonment and was told literally by intelligence: “Do not play with fire”.
When things worsened and these accounts spread, the authorities of the Iranian regime resorted to a ploy and a skit to deny the charges, where they broadcast a live concert of the artist from the studios of the Arabic-language channel Al-Alam with him in Arabic dress and red shemagh banned in Ahwaz, where he was forced to do by the authorities of the Iranian regime.
After these incidents, Ali Karooni wrote on his Instagram page that all his concerts were banned in Ahwaz, and asked in the post whether his “work spread ideas against the regime?”.
Another incident monitored by the organization proves the extent of the Iranian regime’s criminality against the artists, where the intelligence of the Iranian regime detained the director Hassan Nasr after the production of his famous artistic work Song of Unity, and kept him under investigation for more than two months, despite the Song of Unity was carrying all the meanings of cultural patriotism, in addition to its simplicity, which contributed to its spread among the Ahwazis as a result of being similar to the language of daily life and its expression of the people’s victory over the floods that the Iranian authorities deliberately drowned the people of Ahwaz with.
The song is a slap on the face of the Iranian government’s strategy against Ahwaz, strongly expressing Ahwazi resistance to this strategy over the past months.
Hassan Nasr did not commit a crime; he did a cultural act, and this in itself is a crime in the Iranian strategy. His arrest was considered then a target for the Iranian regime to intimidate all who follow his example among the Ahwazi people of all segments and suppress all cultural activities.
The facts did not stop at this event, but the Iranian violations affected a group of poets known for their cultural work and national poems where the authorities of the Iranian regime detained members of the Nasr Cultural Foundation, who are: poet Hassan Tarfi, poet Issa (Aref) Swari, poet Hassan Saedi bin Aziz and poet Shehab Hassan Seyahi (al-Balawi), after participating in the formation of a popular committee to assist the victims of the recent floods in Ahwaz that has worked to collect basic assistance such as food, clothing, tents, etc. for flood victims and displaced people.
In its meaningful civil activities, the foundation also urged to encourage the Ahwazi people to do volunteer work to help those affected by the man-made floods, and to set up earth mounds to prevent floods from entering the villages.
It became clear after a period that the main reason of detention is the spread of a video clip on social networking sites of a member of the foundation, Shehab Hassan al-Balawi, accompanied by Dr. Mohsen al-Haidari, a member of Iran’s Assembly of Experts, talking about detentions among the volunteers, demanding their immediate release.
Iranian regime intelligence then pressured Mr. Hakim Saadi, president of the Methaq al-Nasr Foundation, to issue a statement repudiating the detained group; However, through a message spread on social networking sites, he confirmed that the detainees joined the institution, which caused his detention as well.
Even after the release of these poets and artists, the authorities of the Iranian regime set impossible conditions for their release, and what happened with the Ahwazi rapper Fata al-Arabi after a two-month detention on the grounds of presenting artistic works, the Iranian regime authorities released him on high financial bail.
In this systematic way to prevent the Ahwazi people from free expression through artistic works, the Iranian regime’s authorities detained the 30-year-old poet Ali Sammour al-Haidari, after he recited a poem in which he mentioned the Battle of al-Qadisiyyah.
Iran did not only make such arrests of poets and artists, but also confiscated many artistic works that were scheduled to be broadcast during Eid al-Fitr this year 2019.
Under these challenges faced by the Ahwazi poets and artists of suppression and extraction of confessions from detainees under torture, AODHR is afraid of making false accusations against artists and extracting false confessions from them, not for an offense, but for their artistic works, and consequently they are thrown into the prisons of the notorious Iranian regime.
AODHR calls for the immediate and unconditional release of poets who have not committed any criminal offense punishable by law; Rather, they practice meaningful national and social art that is free from all abuses, whether political or moral.
It also calls on all human rights institutions in the world to intervene to reveal their whereabouts and move to release them and to investigate the shocking incidents they have been subjected to that violate all international human rights norms and conventions.
The Ahwazi Organization for the Defence of Human Rights “AODHR”