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From the International Emergency Campaign to Free Iran’s Political Prisoners NOW

“Do Not Be Afraid of Jail. Be Afraid of Living and Being Indifferent”

Editors’ Note: We received the following from the International Emergency Campaign to Free Iran’s Political Prisoners Now (IEC).

The above quote was seen on social media and is said to be from an unspecified prison inside Iran, sent out to challenge the “outside” world. It captures the spirit of many political prisoners in Iran. Millions in Iran who rose up in recent months against the Islamic Republic have shown incredible courage. Some carry homemade protest signs along the lines of “A death with dignity is better than a life lived in humiliation.” These protesters have acted heroically and in self-sacrificing ways, calling out to the world to join the fight against oppression and repression. We must continue to stand with, defend and fight to free them.

This spirit has also stood out in recent months among the women political prisoners in the notoriously brutal Evin Prison in Iran’s capital of Tehran. They have found ways to carry out solidarity actions in support or in conjunction with the recent uprising. They set examples of fearlessness under extreme conditions from behind the prison walls. They have gone on hunger strikes and sit-ins, issued group appeals, sung protest songs to send out to the world and staged prison theater to call for a stop to attacks on students, and for the fall 2022 uprising to continue. They have done this in the face of daily brutality, including extended solitary confinement and threats of beatings or rape. They come from different walks of life and from a broad spectrum of political, religious and ideological viewpoints, so their actions may embolden the struggles outside the prison walls for justice, radical change, and a much better world.

Evin Prison in Iran, 2008.


Evin Prison in Iran, 2008. Photo: IEC   

We list below a few of these initiatives which have found their way into the mass media and have been reported at the IEC website.

Standing Up Against Executions of Protesters

On January 22, 30 women in Evin issued a jointly signed protest statement. Among them were writer Sepideh Gholian, women’s rights activist German-Iranian citizen Nahid Taghavi, and environmentalists Niloufar Bayani and Sepideh Kashani.

Their statement said in part1:

We, the political and ideological prisoners in the women’s ward of Evin Prison, demand an end to the execution of protestors and an end to unjust sentences of prisoners in Iran. We have all been sentenced to a total of 124 years in prison through unfair and non-transparent procedures, which is worth a few generations of human life.

Images of some of the women signatories protesting situation at Evin Prison.


Some of the women signatories protesting situation at Evin Prison.    Photo: Iran Wire

Sending Out Anti-Fascist Anthem to the World: “Bella Ciao”

Ghazall Abdollahi recorded a phone call from Evin Prison with her mother (journalist Alieh Motalebzadeh), and human rights activist Narges Mohammadi. Other women prisoners chime in to sing “Bella Ciao” in Farsi. On Instagram, Abdollahi writes: "Listen to their voices and feel their hope... they are singing for you... this voice came from Evin Prison." Indeed, what shines through is these women’s joy, their yearning for life and freedom, and their desire to impart that spirit to the world outside the ugly walls that surround them.

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Prison Theater: Imaginative Puppet Show

In November, less than six weeks after the deadly fire at Evin, prisoners gathered in Hall 1 for a night of theater and puppetry. The play, titled “Oil Square,” was written, directed and performed by 16 prisoners of conscience whom the Islamic regime had jailed for their activism. One prisoner taught the others to make puppets using flour paste, light dough and paint, and even using their own hair.

Iran: Evin Prison Theater Puppets.


Iran: Evin Prison Theater Puppets.   

The performance, a tribute to Iranian student activists, was staged during the country-wide uprising with university students denouncing the regime's forced hijab, and university enforcement of patriarchal policies, and denouncing mullah-rule. The prisoners dedicated the evening to Saeed Zeinali, a 23-year-old university student who was arrested at Tehran University during the student protests of July 1999. His fate remains unknown to this day. IranWire's January 12, 2023 coverage highlights prisoners’ inspiring creativity, and includes the full script.

Letters from Evin

On January 12, beloved radical journalist and activist, Sepideh Gholian smuggled a letter out of Evin2.  In it, she denounces witnessing an educational facility being turned into an interrogation center for the extraction of forced confessions from young protesters and she personally warns a young prisoner being coerced. She knows these techniques first hand. After being arrested in November 2018 during labor protests in southwestern Khuzestan province, she and a co-defendant were tortured into so-called confessions, later shown on state television.

She reported about this brutal treatment: “It felt as if I had completely lost my volition and consciousness after three consecutive days or even more of being kept awake, being interrogated, and being locked up in a toilette. I took the text that had been prepared [by the interrogators] and read from the paper in a half-conscious state. Reading every line felt like the sound of another lash hitting my body and soul.”3

Letters were also published by environmental activist Sepideh Kashani which detail horrific physical and emotional torture, including threats against her husband and two sons4. Life-long human rights activist Narges Mohammadi presents a comprehensive list of political prisoners in Evin and how long they have been held in solitary confinement, which she describes as “white torture”.5

A statement published by political prisoner Bahareh Soleimani speaks to the foul and threatening behavior of pro-monarchist prisoners at Evin:

Before being imprisoned, I had no direct contact with "royalists" [monarchists] except in social media…. I had seen their violent, abusive and obscene interactions with their opponents…. Now that I am in prison, I am forced, and with great regret, to spend my imprisonment with Reza Pahlavi's supporters and their monarchist attitude and views. It doesn't matter if they call themselves "royalists," "constitutionalists" or any other name. What is important is the nature and content of their thoughts and viewpoints.

With great certainty I could say that some of them are among the most immoral, unprincipled and uneducated people present in the women's political ward of Evin Prison. One of the rules of the women's section/ward is that it is forbidden to insult and humiliate the political orientation and opinions of others. But this rule has been violated time and time again by these people. They easily attack the intellectual orientation and identity of others with rude and insulting nasty words…. Pahlavi supporters believe that all those who fought during [Mohammad Reza Shah] Pahlavi's era and were political activists (regardless of their political orientation) were terrorists and murderers, and they constantly use these words.

It should be noted that this poses an added and real danger, with the threat of snitching, collaboration with the authorities, and even physical attacks by these reactionary pro-monarchists against the progressive and revolutionary prisoners in Evin. It heightens the struggle to free them NOW.

Iran’s Political Prisoners Must Be Freed

The women political prisoners in Evin have waged such a consistent and tireless struggle that the women’s Ward 2A has become synonymous with prisoner resistance. There have been powerful actions and statements from other prisons in Iran. Also notable are sporadic but militant demonstrations held outside prison walls and justice department buildings by family members of those sentenced to execution. These prison-gate protests have continued even after repeated arrests and beatings.

Iran’s political prisoner population has mushroomed during the past four months of an unprecedented uprising against the theocratic regime that was sparked by the mid-September state-murder of Mahsa Amini for “improper hijab.” The vicious crackdown on protesters included several executions, with many more condemned to death. Many protesters have been tortured and their families threatened to keep them silent. Many of these political dissidents are the best and brightest of Iran’s political, social and cultural movements. It can be surmised what a difference it would make if these brave women and men behind bars were out on the streets to provide the needed leadership to advancing the struggle on all fronts.

Our campaign’s Emergency Appeal is as timely and needed today as when it was first launched in March 2021. It must be spread and acted upon by many more in the world:

A brutal campaign of arrests, torture and executions is now taking place in Iran. This is an emergency. The lives and dignity of hundreds of political prisoners are in imminent, mortal danger. 

All those who stand for justice and yearn for a better world must rally to the cause of freeing Iran’s political prisoners NOW....

All of Iran's political prisoners must be unconditionally and immediately released.

The governments of the U.S. and Iran act from their national interests. And, in this instance, we the people of the U.S. and Iran, along with the people of the world, have OUR shared interests, as part of getting to a better world: to unite to defend the political prisoners of Iran. In the U.S., we have a special responsibility to unite very broadly against this vile repression by the IRI, and to actively oppose any war moves by the U.S. government that would bring even more unbearable suffering to the people of Iran.

We demand of the Islamic Republic of Iran: FREE ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS NOW! We say to the U.S government: NO THREATS OR WAR MOVES AGAINST IRAN, LIFT U.S. SANCTIONS!



1. Translation to English by @Kmooregilbert, January 22, 2023 - (lists all signatories). [back]

2. Letter from Prison: Iranian Activist Describes Forced Confessions, Iran International, January 12, 2023. [back]

3. To learn more of the courageous example of Sepideh Gholian, go to [back]

4. Sepideh Kashani's letter from prison and disclosure of the details of inhumane torture by IRGC (Farsi), IranWire, January 2023. [back]

5. Jailed Rights Activist Recounts Ordeal of Women in Evin Prison, Iran International, January 20, 2023. [back]