Iran’s security forces arrested the son and brother of prominent diaspora Baluch rights activist Fariba Balouch on 18 June 2023. ARTICLE 19 demands the immediate release of the two men and strongly condemns the regime’s increasing pressure on journalists, human rights defenders, and activists as part of its campaign to silence dissidents.
Fariba Bolouch tells ARTICLE 19 that officers of the Ministry of Intelligence arrested her 18-year-old son Mohammad Amer Dadafarin and 25-year-old brother Mohammad Mollazehi in Iran’s south-eastern province of Sistan Baluchistan on 18 June. ‘Their only crime is that they are my son and brother,’ she says.
The arrest took place after Ms. Balouch’s son returned to Iran after visiting her in the United Kingdom, where she lives in exile. According to her, the two men have been deprived of the right to legal counsel and the charges against them are not clear.
She tells ARTICLE 19 that neither of the two were ever involved in politics.
‘Security officers have told my mother that “you know well why the two have been arrested. It’s because of the activities of your daughter Fariba. She is working against the regime”,’ Ms. Balouch said.
According to her, the security forces have said they will release the two men on the condition that she stops her human rights work. ‘They have told my family that if I don’t stop my activities, they will charge my son and brother with propaganda against the regime, desecration of Islamic sanctities, and carrying arms.’
Combined, the charges can be punishable by death.
Ms Balouch herself has also received threats from security forces. ‘They have told me that it’s “easy”’ to find and kill me in London. My response has always been short. I am a normal citizen. I ride the bus to work every day. If you want to come after me, please do. But stop harassing my family.’
She recalls her last conversation with her 18-year-old son before he departed from the UK for Iran: ‘I cried my eyes out. I begged him to not return to Iran, but he said: “Mom, life is amazing here, but I miss Baluchistan. I can’t live anywhere other than Baluchistan. I miss home. That’s the only place where I’m happy.”
‘He then continued telling me that I’m being “too anxious”, that he has done nothing, that the country is not lawless and “no law says visiting one’s mother is a crime”,’ she added.
She earlier told the BBC’s Persian service: ‘As a mother it is extremely hard for me to be here and speak. But this is my path and responsibility. I refuse to be silenced. I will never turn my back on the blood of all the people killed by security forces [during the recent uprising].’
ARTICLE 19 calls on Islamic Republic authorities to immediately release Mohammad Amer Dadafarin and Mohammad Mollazehi, and also to cease harassment of rights defenders including Fariba Balouch.
We also call on countries with diplomatic ties with Iran to demand immediate release of the two men.