Who are Iran’s domestic leaders battling the Islamic Republic?

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Hossein Ronaghi

Hossein Ronaghi is a human rights activist who has been in and out of prison. He has spent a total of 6 years in prison, including solitary confinement. He was first arrested in 2009 for renewing proxies that allowed journalists and political activists to circumvent the government’s website bans following the 2009 contested presidential elections. He was also charged with insulting the leadership with his critical blog posts. He was released on April of 2016 from Evin prison due to a medical diagnosis.

Ronaghi has been actively advocating against governmental propaganda. Most recently, he published an oninion piece in the Wall Street Journal titled “Western Media Aren’t Telling you the Truth About Iran” in which he shared his own experiences and observations as an activist and citizen in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

He was last violently arrested on September 24, 2022 along with his two lawyers. He started a dry hunger strike despite having developed kidney disease in prison. On November 26, 2022, he was temporarily released on bail from Evin prison and transferred to a hospital in Tehran for treatment.
In his last few message on Instagram, he showed his support for the people of Sistan & Baluchistan, and raised awareness for imprisoned rapper, Toomaj Salehi.

Nasrin Sotoudeh

Nasrin Sotoudeh is a human rights lawyer and has represented imprisoned Iranian opposition activists and politicians following the disputed June 2009 Iranian presidential elections, as well as prisoners sentenced to death for crimes committed when they were minors. She has also represented women arrested for appearing in public without a hijab, which is a punishable offence in Iran.

Sotoudeh’s work has included defending abused children and mothers, and has worked to protect abused children from returning to their abusive fathers. She works closely with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi and her Defenders of Human Rights Center.

Sotoudeh was arrested in September 2010 on charges of spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm state security. In January 2011, Iranian authorities sentenced Sotoudeh to 11 years in prison, in addition to barring her from practicing law and leaving the country for 20 years. An appeals court reduced her sentence to six years and her practice ban to ten years.

In June 2018 she was again arrested, and sentenced to 5 years in prison on 12 March 2019, after being charged with several national security-related offences. She is currently out of prison on medical furlough.

Mohammad Mehdi Karami and Mohammad Hosseini were both executed in blatant violation of the law.

Nasrin Sotoudeh, 7th January 2023

Atena Daemi

Atena Daemis is a human rights activist, anti-death penalty advocate, as well as a women and children’s rights defender, who was released from Lakan Prison in Rasht on 24 January 2022.

Atena was first arrested in Iran on 21 October 2014 and was accused of “gathering and colluding against national security,” “spreading propaganda against the system,” “concealing evidence” and “insulting the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Supreme Leader.” Daemi was sentenced on 21 May 2015 by Judge Moghiseh of the Revolutionary Court (Branch 28) to 14 years in prison after a fifteen-minute trial.

Daemi was released on bail 15 February 2016, but was again arrested on November 2016 and sentenced to seven years in prison.

Peaceful activities for which she was charged include distributing anti-death penalty leaflets and making posts on Facebook and Twitter criticising Iran’s execution record. While she was in prison, Amnesty International considered Atena to be a “prisoner of conscience.”

“As a defender of human rights, I am against any exclusion of groups, parties, and personalities who oppose and criticize me … The people are fed up with 43 years of discrimination, exclusion are now protesting and demanding the overthrow of the Islamic Republic.”

Atena Daemi on Twitter, 23rd January 2023

Fatemeh Sepehri

Fatemeh Sepehri, a civil rights activist, signed a letter on June 12, 2019 urging Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to resign. She is a known martyr’s wife as her husband died in the Iran-Irag war. Iranian authorities did not expect the wife of a martyr, with strong religious beliefs, to urge Khamenei to resign and advocate for a secular democratic governing system to replace the Islamic Republic regime.

She was charged with “disorderly conduct, inciting unrest and propagating lies,” and sentenced to five years in prison with 154 lashes. She ultimately received a suspended sentence and was released from prison after nine months.

Sepehri was arrested again on September 21, 2022 and taken to an unknown location after security agents raided her house. She was kept in solitary confinement at the IRC Intelligence center of Mashhad since her arrest, and after enduring more than a month in solitary confinement she could barely speak. Her political sponsor is Natalie Pawlik, a member of the German Bundestag. Her family is trying to move her to the general ward.

It’s difficult to fight for freedom and basic human rights under the Islamic Republic, as political activism is almost guaranteed to get you jail time. Despite the circumstances you have freedom fighters like Fatemeh, Hossein, Nasrin, and Atena sacrifing their livelihood for their country. These are the leaders of the country.

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