The first day of spring is the beginning of a special time for Iranians and for other Persian and Kurdish speakers throughout the world as they celebrate Nowruz, the Iranian New Year. This is the time when families gather to share in ancient Iranian traditions.
But many Iranians will not be able to celebrate this important holiday with their loved ones as they are locked up in crowded and disease-ridden Iranian prisons. They are not locked up because they have committed any crime. They are locked up because of their religious faith, because of their activism to create a better world, or because they have expressed opinions the authorities don’t want others to hear.
That is why, for the sixth year, we are asking activists to participate in the Amnesty International USA Nowruz action, to send Nowruz cards to Iranian prisoners and their families, with the simple but important message: you are not forgotten.
It is always difficult to select the cases for the annual Nowruz action as there are, sadly, so many prisoners of conscience in Iran. The bewildering number and variety of those unjustly imprisoned in Iran can be starkly appreciated by checking out the new project Unlock Iran.
Visitors to the site can see just how wide a net is cast by the Iranian authorities in their unrelenting quest to stamp out every aspect of independent civil society activism or free expression – the cases include journalists, human rights attorneys, religious leaders, women’s rights activists, students, teachers and labor leaders.
This year, the sixth year that we in Amnesty International USA have done the Nowruz action, we would ask you to prepare Nowruz cards to send to the people featured in the action and also ask you to take a picture of the cards, or of yourself holding the cards, and send the picture to Amnesty USA (firstname.lastname@example.org) so we can make a collage of all the pictures and post it.
This action will mean so much to the prisoners and their families who need consolation and support at this time. Our previous Nowruz actions have been very successful. When the Iranian authorities see that hundreds of cards are sent to prisoners of conscience and their families by caring people around the world, they take notice.
One of the subjects of last year’s action, Nasrin Sotoudeh, was released in September 2013 after spending three years in prison.
Upon her release she told Amnesty International, “I have been aware of all your efforts on my behalf and I want to thank you and all your colleagues for your work.”
This year at Nowruz we remember: the seven leaders of Iran’s Baha’i community; student activists Majid Tavakkoli and Zia Nabavi; scientist Omid Kokabee; blogger Hossein Ronaghi Maleki; human rights attorney Abdolfattah Soltani; and students’ and women’s rights activist Bahareh Hedayat. Many of them are ill and in urgent need of the medical attention being denied to them by the authorities.
Please take the time to send them a card today. Thank you.