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Remind them
Open letter to former South African President Nelson Mandela on the eve of his trip to Iran

Ettehad-e Jomhourikhahan-e Iran (EJI)
March 26, 2004

Dear Mr. President,

It is a great honor to write to you on the eve of your trip to Iran. Your name and legacy of resistance have always been heartwarming for prisoners of conscience around the world. Some of us have spent days and nights in prison wards thinking of you, and once out of prison have supported your struggle for a free and just South Africa.

The Islamic Republic of Iran unfortunately is no exception from the rulers that decide to silence their dissidents by holding them in cold and dark prison cells. You know better than anyone that these policies of suppression did not work for you and will not work for other freedom lovers in the world, including those jailed in Iran.

Your long time partner in resistance Archbishop Tutu wrote to our founding assembly last January that "The purpose of government is to serve the best interests of the people governed in a partnership where justice and freedom of expression ensure peace and stability."

We would like to ask you to remind your Iranian hosts of your wisdom on freedom of expression and your lifetime commitment to non-violence, peace and justice.

Mr. Abbas Amir Entezam, once a minister in the transitional government after the Islamic Revolution, has been in prison for more than a quarter century. Mr. Nasser Zarafshan, a prominent thinker, writer, translator and lawyer representing the families of those who were the victims of the chain murders of 1998, was arrested and sentenced to 5 years in prison. He was persecuted only because of his works in gathering facts and revealing the role of agents of the regime in masterminding the killings of the opposition figures.

Mr. Zarafshan's life is in great danger. His health, due to torture and the terrible conditions of prison, has deteriorated to an alarming state. Mr. Ensafali Hedayat, a journalist, is in prison because he dared to attend our founding assembly in Berlin, the same event for which Archbishop Tutu has sent his message of support. As Mr. Hedayat's daughter informs us, his health is deteriorating daily.

Dr. Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Peace laureate was jailed herself for defending university students in revolutionary courts and now calls for the release of Iranian prisoners of conscience. Please note that we have just mentioned a few of prisoners of conscience here, otherwise there is a long list including prominent reformists such as Mr. Akbar Ganji, Dr. Hashem Aghajari, and Hojatoleslam Eshkevari who have been imprisoned for more liberal interpretation of Islam and advocating the separation of religion and state.

Many other female and male, old and young prisoners of conscience, lawyers, writers, journalists, political activists, labor representatives, and even university students are imprisoned for long periods of time without any charge. Some have even served their mandatory prison terms and still are not released.

As you know, according to the reports published by human rights organizations such as the UN Special Representative on Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Reporters without Borders, human rights abuse in Iran is widely practiced by the Islamic regime.

Currently the pressure inflicted on the prisoners has increased to an unimaginable level and the lives of many of them are in immediate danger. Families of prisoners have no effective legal recourse. In many occasions, those relatives who appeal to the UN or EU Human Rights representatives are also prosecuted for their action.

We are certain that you are cautious not to allow the Islamic Republic of Iran use your trip as a tool for legitimizing its political policies and human rights practices especially after the recent un-democratic elections. While we do not object to your trip, we hope that you use your influence and good will to demand immediate and unconditional release of "prisoners of conscience".

You have been a symbol of peace, justice, and freedom of expression around the world. We hope that your presence in Iran will remind the Iranian officials that you stand against widespread violation of human rights in that country.

In Solidarity,

Ettehad-e Jomhourikhahan-e Iran (EJI)
Unity for a Democratic and decular Republic in Iran
International Committee
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