The Problem of Southern Azerbaijan
Say (No.): 537/
Tarix (Date): 26 April 2010
The Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights,
Please circulate this letter to both Working Group on arbitrary
detention and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection
of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. Also this
Communication is relevant to the following Special Raporteurs:
• Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges;
• Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial
discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance.
• Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and
CC Mrs. Harrison, Amnesty International, London
prisoner of conscience
Re COMMUNICATION No. 1 ON MRS. SIMA DIDAR
Please find enclosed Communication No. 1 on the grounds that Mrs. Sima Didar
(her marriage name is Mrs. Fershi)
Who has been arbitrarily deprived of her right to liberty and of her right
to freedom of opinion and expression by being barred from journalism by the
Iranian authorities. She is a tireless campaigner for mother language and a
Mrs. Didar is a prisoner of conscience and has been imprisoned by the
Iranian authorities since 16 April 2011 for 6 months. Recent information
published about her after her imprisonment, brought many facts to our
attention. For instance, in the early 2009, she was the editor of four
journals, the editor-in-chief of a monthly publication and the manager of
another but since then she has been barred from exercising her right to
journalism (http://www.araznews.net/2011/04/blog-post_5572.html) and hence
this Communication. She is also sentenced arbitrarily in a closed court and
without being indicted or having done anything wrong. The following evidence
• Table 1 concerns her deprivation from her right to freedom of opinion and
expression by Iranian authorities.
• Table 2 presents the events in chronological order based on the
information published in the interview between her husband and ArazNews,
showing the arbitrary nature of her imprisonment.
Tables 1 and 2 provide further evidence for collusions between the various
organizations in Iran. In particular, there is no independence in the
department of Justice and by colluding with one another we argue that judges
are often the “stooge” of security officers as they do not exercise their
independence and do not use evidence. However, some of them are also deeply
ideological and may not be driven by security agents but they are not also
driven by evidence. We hold that in Iran “anything goes.” Also, the
authorities allured Mrs. Didar for a premeditated arrest, unworthy of an
authority as this seems as an infantile game. Our opinion is that this
reveals a great deal about the Iranian authorities and what they are capable
We would like to stress that the compilation and submission of this
Communication is our initiative and we have not consulted with Mrs. Fershi,
her family members or anyone representing her interests. We state this to
manage the risk of reprisal against her by the Iranian authorities.
Once again, we appeal to your kind attention to take action and safeguard
the human rights and safety of Mrs. Didar.
For and on behalf of
The Committee for the Defence of the Rights of World Azerbaijanis
Communication to Safeguard the Rights of Mrs. Sima Didar (Mrs.
1. Allegation regarding the person:
Description of the violation of the right to freedom of
opinion and expression, including date, location and
circumstances of the event;
This Communication presents the case of Mrs. Sima Didar, a
prisoner of conscience, a Southern Azerbaijani and a citizen
of the Islamic Republic of Iran. She is constantly
intimidated by Iranian authorities in a variety of ways. The
Iranian authorities employ a variety of techniques to harass
activists and some of these techniques will be seen in the
Name: Mrs. Sima Didar (her
website transcribes her first name as Simay and her marriage
name is Fershi Yekenli, which in Iran maiden names are often
in formal use).
Age, 26 March 1985
Place of Birth,
Azersheher (Tufarqan), Near
Ethnic background Her ethnic affiliation is Southern
Azerbaijani, and as such she is a citizen of the Islamic
Republic of Iran – her ethnic/national affiliation is one of
the central issues, as she is an arduous campaigner for the
official recognition of her mother language, Azerbaijani
Profession; She is a graduate of
literature and is a journalist. She contributed to many
magazines before being barred.
Views Mrs. Didar is a
journalist, webblogger (http://simay.blogfa.com/),
and she campaigns for her mother language.
Affiliations In Iran, non-conformist
organizations are persecuted by the Ministry of Intelligence
and therefore, as far as we know, Mrs. Didar does not belong
to any organization but she campaigns for her mother
language. She is fully committed to peaceful and democratic
Past or present participation in political, social, ethnic
or labour group/activity:
To our knowledge, Mrs. Didar is an
activist on Azerbaijani cultural rights. Her activities
before she was arbitrarily detained in 18 June 2009 include:
Editor-in-chief of the Monthly Publication,
Reporter to four magazines (2007):
Umid-e-Azerbaaijan, Azer-endish, Avay-e-Mishov,
A member of the writers board and executive manager
of the monthly publication: Arasbaran (2007)
Information on other specific activities relating to the
She was also outspoken when her
husband Mr. Elirza Fershi Yekenli (see our Ref.:
517/ 2009, Date: 3 June 2009) was arrested 22 May
2009 by campaigning for the reinstatement of the right to
education in Azerbaijani Turkic. The
Iranian authorities felt that Mrs. Didar would be a soft
spot to confess to the charges as dictated by the authority
and therefore they arrested her by a “trick,” as to be
detailed in Table 2.
Mrs. Didar is now imprisoned for a
six month term. Table 2 captures the chronology leading to
this prison sentence and the subsequent arrest.
Allegation regarding a medium of communication:
A description of the alleged infringement on the right:
Mrs. Didar has been barred from
her journalistic activities.
Also she has been barred from the
right to education as the Iranian authorities do not allow
her to do the secondary degree MA.
The nature of the medium affected (e.g. newspapers,
independent radio); including circulation and frequency of
publication or broadcasting, public performances, etc
She has been
barred from journalism and therefore her prolific activities
Political orientation of the medium (if relevant).
activities involved using her mother language, Azerbaijani
Turkic, and publicising ethnic issues. These are her basic
human rights and in conformity with the Iranian laws.
However, in Iran any slight activity on ethnic rights and
the right to use a language other than Farsi, is politicised
and the authorities do not tolerate. So, the exercise of
human rights from the point of view of Mrs. Didar is not any
political activity but the Iranian authorities politicise it
and violate their own laws and the International Declaration
of Human Rights.
Information regarding the alleged perpetrators:
Name, State affiliation (e.g. military, police) and reasons
why they are considered responsible:
Table 2 gives the names of two
individuals responsible for arbitrary detention of Mrs.
Didar. These individuals are Judge Mr. Hashemi Zadeh and
For non-State actors, description of how they relate to the
State (e.g. cooperation with or support by State security
If applicable, State encouragement or tolerance of activities of
non-State actors, whether groups or individuals, including
threats or use of violence and harassment against
individuals exercising their right to freedom of opinion and
expression, including the right to seek, receive and impart
Table 2 gives collusions between
the Ministry of Justice Officials, those of the Ministry of
Justice and prison authorities in both occasions when Mrs.
Didar was arrested.
We have consistently maintained
that there is no independent Justice department in Iran and
the various departments would be happily engaged on
colluding acts, often doing favors for one another. The
independent lawyer engaged by Mr. Fershi is explicit on this
Information related to State actions:
If the incident involves restrictions on a medium (e.g.
censorship, closure of a news organ, banning of a book,
etc.); the identity of the authority involved (individual
and/or ministry and/or department), the legal statute
invoked, and steps taken to seek domestic remedy;
these information details will not be disclosed in Iran.
If the incident involves arrest of an individual or
individuals, the identity of the authority involved
(individual and/or ministry and/or department), the legal
statute invoked, location of detention if known, information
on provision of access to legal counsel and family members,
steps taken to seek domestic remedy or clarification of
person's situation and status;
In this case, the names of the individuals perpetuating the
act of arrest by alluring are known and they are:
Judge Mr. Hashemi Zadeh and Colonel
If applicable, information on whether or not an
investigation has taken place and, if so, by what ministry
or department of the Government and the status of the
investigation at the time of submission of the allegation,
including whether or not the investigation has resulted in
The victims, Mr. and Mrs. Fershi
(Mrs. Didar) have gone to all length to ensure justice, (by
appealing to the provincial court and to the central appeal
court, as well as appointing a lawyer to check their files
through special privileges). However, all these were in vain
and decisions were taken arbitrarily through closed court
Information on the source of the communications:
Name and full address:
Ayna, Sherifzade 1,
The Republic of Azerbaijan
Telephone and fax numbers and e-mail address (if possible):
Name, address, phone/fax numbers and e-mail address (if
applicable) of person or organization submitting the
Note that DunAzHAK is an NGO
devoted to the defence of human rights.
Chronological Details of Mrs Didar’s Case –
Note 1: This case has many interfaces with the case
of Mrs. Didar’s husband and therefore in table we are explicitly
referring to Mrs. Didar in her marriage name, Mrs. Fershi to
simplify the case.
Note 2: The main body of evidence is taken from the
interview between Mr. Fershi and Mr. Babek Hebibi of ArazNews (http://www.oyrenci.com/news.php?id=4431).
Anniversary of the May 2006 Mass Protests and therefore
Iranian authorities have imposed a very tense atmosphere in all
Southern Azerbaijani cities.
Mr. Fershi was arrested in
front of camera in daylight among his supportive folk, while
security agents were decisively snatching him. The following link (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWRBSo9g75g)
provides a glimpse for the violation of his human rights by Iranian
authorities and this is a rare scene.
As per our Communication (Ref.:
517/ 2009, Date: 3 June 2009), Mr. Fershi was arbitrarily in
detention and under torture to confess to a set of charges dictated
by security officers but Mr. Fershi acted rock solid and did not
give in to torture.
The Iranian authorities
therefore turned their attention to arrest Mrs Fershi (Mrs Didar),
thinking that she is a soft spot and therefore using her they wanted
to exert pressure to both victims and then obtain their required
18 June 2009
Mrs. Fershi was arrested
when she was allured by the Iranian authorities to visit her husband
in prison but instead she was arrested when inside the prison
compound, as follows.
According to the interview
between Mr. Fershi and ArazNews (http://www.oyrenci.com/news.php?id=4431),
the events unfolded as follows:
Mr. Hashem Zadeh, the
prosecutor, convinces Mr. Abbas Jamali, (Mr. Fershi’s lawyer) that
Mrs. Fershi can meet her husband in Room 37 of Tebriz prison.
The lawyer Mr. Jamali
did not have Mrs. Fershi’s mobile number and therefore contacts
another Southern Azerbaijani human rights lawyer, Mr. Naghi Mahmudi,
Mrs. Fershi was
persuaded on three grounds: by these two well-wishing lawyers; her
desire to meet her husband; and the fact that there was an assurance
from the Iranian Justice department on her security.
Upon entering to the
prison, instead of meeting her husband she was faced with the
injunction for arrest and was immediately arrested.
Mr. Fershi says that
at the time he was still detained in the detention facilities and
was not transferred to prison yet. So, arranging the meeting in
prison was just a trap.
There are no imputed charges
but according to the interview, Mr. Fershi was being interrogated
under the pretext of “seeking publicity against the Islamic Republic
of Iran” and also “sending photos and films to a foreign news agency
by receiving money.”
Apparently, the Iranian
authorities were equating the above charges with Mr. Fershi’s
publicity for “Education in Mother Language,” which is one of the
Mottoes of the national movement of Southern Azerbaijan. There were
other charges being pressed and these included heading a terrorist
group specialising in bombing, connections with the Mojahedin
In the first trial, the
Judge Mr. Ali Nejad passed the punitive sentence of one year to the
couple, even though there was no document to support the charges
The appeal court confirmed
Mr. Fershi’s sentence of one year but reduced that of Mrs. Fershi to
6 month in their absence and without the presence of a judge.
Date not available
As Mr. Fershi has suffered
the loss of his father during Iran-Iraq war, so he has certain
privileges by the “Foundation for Martyrs Families.” So Mr. Fershi
used their machinery to carry out an investigation. The appointed
lawyer through this foundation concluded that there was no evidence
in the file suggesting any wrongdoing or breach of any law
warranting the passing of the sentence. According to the lawyer,
without exerting pressure from the security officers the passed
sentence could not be justified.
the High Court
The couple appealed to the
highest court in the country but was also in vain.
Date not available
She did not submit herself
to the prison until she was trapped again, as follows.
Date not available
These young couples have
been under ceaseless menace of the security agents to give
themselves up to prison
Confiscation of National identity Card of Mrs. Fershi
our Communication Ref: 535/2011, Date: 22 March 2011, a group
of Southern Azerbaijani activist travelled to the
house of Seid Metinpur in Zengan on the 3rd of March 2011
to keep Mrs. Metinpur’s company, as Mr. Metinpur is a prisoner of
was the occasion of celebrating the International Woman’s Day and
aim was to meet Mrs. Etiyye Metinpur, the Southern Azerbaijani
heroine and wife of Mr Seid Metinpur. The Iranian authority had set
up blockade checkpoints along the routes from the various cities to
Zengan under the pretext of checking for a runaway prisoner.
Fershi was one of the activists heading to keep company of Mrs.
Metinpur but she was trapped in this checkpoints and her documents
and personal belongings were confiscated.
Fershi refers to Mr. Khelil-ullahi and Mr. Alilou in the department
of Justice in Tebriz to obtain her documents and belongings. Mr.
Alilou instead had informed Colonel Islamian of security
organisation and then he says to Mrs. Fershi that “this has nothing
to do with us, you need to meet Colonel Islamian in the Detention
Centre in Saib Street.”
way, Mrs. Fershi was therefore allured to the detention centre and
there she was arrested by Colonel Islamian.
Note: Mrs. Didar is
being kept in Tebriz prison sharing her cell with prisoners with
criminal records and murderers.