The non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) denounced Tuesday the «repressive reflex» of the Iranian authorities following the arrest of opposition figures, including film directors Mohamad Rasuluf, Jafar Panahi and Mostafa al Ahmad, and reformist Mostafa Tajzade.
«Unable or unwilling to address the many serious challenges facing Iran, the government has resorted to its repressive reflex of arresting known critics,» said Sepehri Far, HRW’s Iran researcher.
«There is no reason to believe that these recent arrests are anything other than cynical actions to deter popular outrage at the government’s widespread failures,» he said, according to a statement released by the NGO.
The Revolutionary Guards arrested Tajzade, who served as deputy interior minister, on July 9 on charges of «acting against national security» and «publishing lies with the intention of altering the public situation.»
The man had already been arrested in June 2009, immediately after a presidential election that led to massive protests over claims of fraud. After that, he was sentenced to six years in prison for «collusion to disrupt national security».
According to reports by the Iranian news agency IRNA, Rasuluf and Al Ahmad were accused of collecting signatures in support of a letter sent by protesters calling for accountability following the deaths of more than 40 people in the May collapse of a building in the city of Abadan.
Rasuluf has been arrested on several occasions and in 2020 was sentenced to one year in jail and a two-year film ban for «propaganda against the system» as part of his cinematic works.
For his part, Panahi was arrested after going to the Tehran Prosecutor’s Office on July 11 to question Rasuluf’s detention, as part of a crackdown since May on protests against deteriorating living conditions and the economic crisis.
HRW has highlighted that authorities have arrested, sentenced and returned to prison more than a dozen activists, including prominent figures such as Narges Mohamadi, Said Madani, Keyvan Samimi, Mohamad Habibi and Reza Shahabi.
In addition, a number of journalists and activists, including Vida Rabani, Ahmad Reza Haeri, Amir Salar Davudi and Masud Bastani, were arrested, convicted or summoned to testify during the last week of June, and the NGO has called for an end to these arrests and the release of the detainees.