Celebrate Nowruz by Remembering Iran's Detained Human Rights Defenders

Emadeddin Baghi

Emadeddin Baghi

Now that spring is in the air, most of us (at least those in the northern hemisphere) eagerly look forward to the end of dreary winter and the new life and beauty that nature will soon bring forth. For Iranians, the first day of spring is especially important; it is the occasion of Nowruz or “new day”, the most joyous holiday of the year. Nowruz is thought to be a very ancient tradition; some scholars believe that the 2,500-year-old monumental reliefs at Takht-e Jamshid (Persepolis) depict vassals bearing Nowruz gifts for the Achaemenid king Darius. Nowruz is now celebrated by all ethnic groups in Iran, by Kurds in several countries, and by many others in Afghanistan, Tajikistan and elsewhere. Iranians typically take several days off and celebrate by visiting with family and friends, and with the tradition of the Haft Sin or seven S’s—a table laid out with an elaborate display including seven items beginning with the Persian letter Sin (the equivalent of the English s) that represent spring.

Sadly, many Iranians will not be able to celebrate Nowruz with their loved ones because they are languishing in prison. Even before the disputed June 12 presidential elections, Iran’s detention facilities were packed with prisoners of conscience, but since then the prisons are overflowing; many of Iran’s leading opposition politicians, journalists, human rights defenders, student leaders and women’s rights activists—if they have not fled the country—are now behind bars.

So at this time of renewal and hope, we want to remember our friends who are imprisoned in Iran. That is why Amnesty International is urging people to take part in its special Nowruz action. Last year, we selected three recipients of our Nowruz action. Sadly, all three are still in prison. This year, we have expanded the action to seven cases, in honor of the tradition of the Haft Sin. We are urging activists to send Nowruz greetings to: imprisoned labor rights activist and head of the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Drivers Union Mansour Ossanlu; seven leaders of the Baha’i community who face serious charges that could carry the death penalty; journalist and human rights activist Shiva Nazar Ahari; noted author, death penalty opponent and Martin Ennals Human Rights Defender award recipient Emadeddin Baghi; women’s and Kurdish rights activist Ronak Safarzadeh; internationally recognized HIV/AIDS researchers Kamiar and Arash Alaei; and Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh. Please take some time to send these courageous human rights defenders a card letting them know they are not forgotten.

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8 thoughts on “Celebrate Nowruz by Remembering Iran's Detained Human Rights Defenders

  1. Thank you for posting this and make us remember our dear country men and women who are sacrificing their best years of life in prison with the hope that we will have one day a better country where human rights will be respected and when we start Noruz and the new year with them.

  2. These are difficult times for all. But as history often reminds us, adversity has the uncanny ability to exude from humans a fierce spirit of goodness and will. These individuals remind us that cherishing life is more important than trying to dominate it. They lead by example, and instinctively place the greater good even over themselves, that others may experience life as it should be: Free. There is a name for such people. They are called Heroes. A hero is someone who inspires others to seek to become better than they are today; to be strong of heart, mind, and spirit. It is memories of people like them that live on far and long after those whose best legacy was to live in fear, thus oppressing, stifling, destroying, in attempts to gain mastery and a convoluted sense of respect and order. If any of you such creatures read this now, beware. Your time never lasts long on this earth. And when you are gone, you will be not be mourned, or missed. You will simply fade. But it is not yet late to make amends. Change is as inevitable as the passing of time; the human spirit will not be denied its desire to be free. Giving it shows more strength than taking it.

  3. Thank you for posting this and make us remember our dear country men and women who are sacrificing their best years of life in prison with the hope that we will have one day a better country where human rights will be respected and when we start Noruz and the new year with them.

  4. These are difficult times for all. But as history often reminds us, adversity has the uncanny ability to exude from humans a fierce spirit of goodness and will. These individuals remind us that cherishing life is more important than trying to dominate it. They lead by example, and instinctively place the greater good even over themselves, that others may experience life as it should be: Free. There is a name for such people. They are called Heroes. A hero is someone who inspires others to seek to become better than they are today; to be strong of heart, mind, and spirit. It is memories of people like them that live on far and long after those whose best legacy was to live in fear, thus oppressing, stifling, destroying, in attempts to gain mastery and a convoluted sense of respect and order. If any of you such creatures read this now, beware. Your time never lasts long on this earth. And when you are gone, you will be not be mourned, or missed. You will simply fade. But it is not yet late to make amends. Change is as inevitable as the passing of time; the human spirit will not be denied its desire to be free. Giving it shows more strength than taking it.