On May 22 one young man will turn 25. But he will not be able to celebrate his birthday with friends and family as many young men would. Instead, Majid Tavakkoli will be spending his 25th birthday in a dank and fetid cell in one of Iran’s most squalid prisons.
What could he possibly have done to deserve this? Majid Tavakkoli was a student leader studying ship building at Amir Kabir University of Technology and had the audacity to exercise his internationally guaranteed right to freedom of expression by making a speech to mark Students Day in December 2009, in which he criticized the government. He was arrested shortly thereafter and has been in prison ever since then. He was beaten in detention and held in solitary confinement.
He was eventually convicted of “participating in an illegal gathering,” “propaganda against the system,” “insulting the Supreme Leader” and “insulting the president” after an unfair trial in a Revolutionary Court and sentenced to more than eight years in prison. He is currently serving his sentence in Raja’i Shahr Prison in Karaj, and is in poor health. Several prominent prisoners of conscience there, including Majid Tavakkoli, have held hunger strikes to protest the dangerously crowded and unsanitary conditions in the prison.
We are urging activists to remember Majid Tavakkoli on his birthday on May 22 by sending him a birthday greeting which will be used to make a birthday video. We want to let him know that people around the world are remembering him while he spends his birthday in prison. Just follow these guidelines. For inspiration check out United4Iran’s birthday video for another student sentenced to a long prison term, Bahareh Hedayat.
In December 2010, Majid Tavakoli, along with Bahareh Hedayat issued a message on the occasion of Students Day. As a result, Majid Tavakkoli and Bahareh Hedayat appeared in a Revolutionary Court on April 30, 2011 to face new charges of “propaganda against the regime” and “conspiring to act against national security.”
In their letter, Majid Tavakkoli and Bahareh Hedayat addressed fellow activists:
“We sincerely send you our warm and heartfelt regards from the corners of our cells of injustice and cruelty. Our bodies may be wounded by the blade of tyranny, but our hearts are filled with love and burning flame of hope, and our heads are high for continuing the glorious path of freedom which has been carried away on the shoulders of the Iranian people all across the world.”
Majid Tavakkoli has never stopped fighting for the rights of his fellows students, even as he suffers in one of the most miserable prisons in the world. Activists can help ease his suffering and that of his family by remembering him on his birthday. Thank you.