Special Case

Focus on Majid Tavakoli


Special Case
by Reza Mohajerinejad

On November 6, 2010, I was a panelist and gave a speech at Amnesty International’s 2010 Western Regional Conference in San Francisco. I was asked to focus on the plight of the political prisoner, with a special focus on Majid Tavakoli. I was touched to hear so many make mention of Majid even before I began my talk.

Before I begin, I’d like to dedicate this speech to political prisoners all over the world, and I’d like to remember, especially, Majid Tavakoli, one of Amnesty International’s Special Focus Cases, as he sits in an Iranian jail at this moment.

Anyone who has ever lived in a dictatorship knows what happens if you question the leader. If you question the leader of a dictatorship, whether it is by taking some action or simply having a thought that contradicts the leader’s doctrine, and if they capture you, you will face treatment that is unimaginable. If you question the leader of a dictatorship, you will be imprisoned. If you question the leader of a dictatorship, you will become a political prisoner.

As a political prisoner, you will likely face day after day of interrogation and torture. You will spend many hours in solitary confinement—so much so that you will lose all track of time and your mind will begin to play tricks on you. As a political prisoner, you will have whatever rights you believed you had, taken from you. As a political prisoner, you may find your only forms of protest are hunger strikes and whatever word you are able to get outside the prison walls to let the world know you are there. And as a political prisoner, you may spend many years behind prison walls…simply because of your belief.

According to Amnesty International’s 2009 report on the world’s Human Rights, at least 55 countries are holding political prisoners. There are at least 111 countries that practice some form of physical or psychological torture. I was born in one such country, the Islamic Republic of Iran.

In 1999 I spent 137 days in Tohid, what was then a secret prison reserved for anyone who was suspected of questioning the Supreme Leader. Tohid was a violent place that practiced the worst kinds of torture. I was one of the organizers to the 1999 student uprisings in response to the attacks on the dorms of Tehran University. Once captured, I became a political prisoner.

Later, when I was released from Evin Prison, I escaped Iran and came to the U.S.

Now, if you will, fast forward 9 years to the Islamic Regime’s presidential elections of 2009.

When a second term was handed over to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, activists came out in numbers never before seen in the last 31 years of theocratic rule in my country. Unlike 1999, this time we saw not just students coming out in protest, but we saw young, old, men, women, laborers, students, bazarris, and business people.

The government’s response has been very harsh. In the weeks following the elections, Islamic Republic of Iran’s prisons were filled with protesters—so much so that government offices and schools became filled with political prisoners as well. Technology allowed protesters to send images and video via cell phones across the Internet. These images came into our homes in the West within hours, sometimes within minutes. We saw students being beaten in the streets, and a young woman named Neda being shot in cold blood as those around her helplessly tried to save her life.

The student movement in Iran has evolved over the past decade. There is a new generation, what I like to refer to as The Live Generation. These are the students who have shown unbelievable bravery. They are the youth of Iran who night after night shouted chants from the rooftops. They sent Tweets, posted video clips, wrote blogs, and posted on Facebook to bring awareness to the world about what was happening to them. Their courage got the attention of the Western media, and for a moment in time in 2009, the world saw a side of Iran they had never quite seen before.

Tavakoli is a student leader in Iran who has become one of Amnesty International’s Special Focus Cases. He is a student of Tehran’s Amirkabir University of Technology, and he is truly one of the voices of the Live Generation of Iran’s student movement. When he was captured last December, after a speech in remembrance of Student Day in Iran, the Islamic Republic of Iran attempted to marginalize Majid by posting photos of him in women’s compulsory Islamic dress, or hijab. The government’s attempt at humiliation, however, backfired. Male supporters of Majid all over the world began posting photos of themselves wearing the Islamic scarf in protest to the treatment of Tavakoli by the government of the Islamic regime. This sparked a movement of solidarity with not only Tavakoli, but with the women of Iran—sending a message that, “until Iranian women are free, Iran will not be free.”

Tavakoli is 24 years old, and he is serving an 8 ½ year sentence in Iran as a political prisoner. From Tavakoli’s writing and from his it is obvious that he believes in freedom for Iran, and that he believes in secular democracy.

A few weeks ago I telephoned Majid’s mother to let her know that we would be talking about her son at an Amnesty International conference in San Francisco. I wanted to ask her if there was anything she wanted to let the world know about her son. I wanted to give his mother a voice at this conference. I heard Tavakoli’s mother’s voice tremble when she tried to speak to me about her son, and I cut the call short. While it may have helped her to know that we were supporting Majid from California, I wished I could instead tell her that her son was free.

Majid is only one of many political prisoners in Iran and all over the world. In the Islamic Republic of Iran prisoners like Heshmat Tabarzadi and his attorney Nasrin Satoudeh continue the fight for justice and human rights from behind prison walls. Bahareh Hedayat, another student activist is serving a nine year sentence, and Shiva Nazar Ahari has been sentenced to six years.

Today I ask you to remember these prisoners and many others in Burma, Sri Lanka, China, Tunisia, Thailand, and at least 50 other countries in the world. We can only dream of a day when there will be no need to speak about political prisoners. We can dream of a world where countries don’t imprison based on belief and opposition to a government. Until that day, I ask you to join me in remembering and giving voice to political prisoners all over the world.

Reza Mohajerinejad
is one of the student activists and organizers of the 1999 Student Movement in Iran known as 18 Tir. His book, Live Generation, is available on Amazon.com.


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Alborz Irani

Good job again

by Alborz Irani on

Good job again Mr. Mohajerinejad. It was a powerful peech. Thanks and  Hopefully we will have a world with no political prisoner.


Special Case,,,Focus on Majid Tavakoli

by Pars-banoo on

Thank you Reza.. Great speech !

Hopefully we can be Majid's voice outside Iran and do our share to help him and his family and the other political prisoners and down with occupayer barbaric dirty islamic regime. and all my love to the freedom loving people of Iran. PAYANDEH IRAN ...

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Freedom for political prisoners

by Helenah on

Thank you, Reza, for your tireless efforts in support of freedom for political prisoners like Majid Tavakoli. May your message continue to spread across the world. We look forward to when the abhorrent Iranian Islamic Regime is finally put into the dustbin of history and the VERY attainable dream of secular democracy becomes reality. All things are possible when courageous people such as yourself do not give up!

I am with you in heart and spirit, another soul of the LIVE GENERATION


Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

Majid Tavakoli

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on

Is not going to be released any time soon. The Islamic goons are too afraid of what he represents. They are afraid of Iranian youth. They fear that the generation that put them in power is a minority now.

The Iranian youth see through the Islam bullshit. They do not try to justify the disaster of Islamic Rapist Republic. It was not their fault!

That is why Mollahs know: Iranian youth = end of Islamisim. Majid and other political prisoners are paying the price fo Mollahs' fear.

No matter, like Zahhak; the cult of Khomeini will be swept away. It is just a matter of time.


It's too bad Amnesty Intl

by Escape on

 Has pitifully discredited themselves so with their sympathy for terrorist's.They do alot of good reporting but many people don't give a sh*t what they have to say.


these crimes....

by shushtari on

only prove the mullahs' phobia and their unimaginable fear of the brave youth of iran....

they are doing their best to suppress a generation who despises them and wants  to take their country back from a bunch of ruthless psychopaths.

the time will come, soon enough, when the mullahs will h ave to face the music.....

and when that day comes, it be the greatest day in the history of modern iran....


javid iran


and here's to the bravest generation in iran's history

Ari Siletz

In support

by Ari Siletz on

Free Majid Tavakoli without delay. 

SP: Your Vahidnia counter example proposes that public criticism of Khamenei isn't why Tavakoli is in jail. So what is the crime that Tavakoli is in jail for?



by yolanda on

This excerpt is from Wikipedia:


 IRI criticizes Universal Declaration of Human Rights


Islamic criticism

Some Islamic countries have criticised the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for its perceived failure to take into the account the cultural and religious context of Islamic countries. In 1982, the Iranian representative to the United Nations, Said Rajaie-Khorassani, articulated the position of his country regarding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by saying that the UDHR was "a secular understanding of the Judeo-Christian tradition", which could not be implemented by Muslims without trespassing the Islamic law.[21] On 30 June 2000, Muslim nations that are members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference[22] officially resolved to support the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam,[23] an alternative document that says people have "freedom and right to a dignified life in accordance with the Islamic Shari’ah".[24] However, this document does not guarantee freedom of religion or gender equality, the root of many criticisms against its usage.


I am not surprised because IRI feels that they have the rights to jail and torture political prisoners! IRI wanted UN to bend the rules for them because of so-called religious reasons!

P.S. It is kind of awkward to think about Cyrus cylinder!


A Solid Salute

by Demo on

to all who fought for the "Justice & Freedom for All" causes & never ever "repented" under any circumstances "Live" or "Dead."

PS: A "Debate" on "the Third Party" with all the "Heresay" evidence is the most "UnFair" argument to spend time with!!!!


Oh I see

by Fair on

Now you would like to lecture Reza and other political prisoners how to be a tough guy and a true fighter. Not to mention you have not demonstrated one bit that Reza has "repented".

Well maybe if you knew something about fighting, you would realize that a true fighter is someone who does his or her best, never gives up, and thinks carefully about how they can have the most impact, and choose their battles accordingly.  And that is what Reza and Majid and Nasrin and Heshmat and all the others you call dead and grey have done.

But evidently you don't.


A True Fighter

by Demo on

nevee ever "repents" either spent 137 days or 137 years in prison. Is not it "Fair" to say that such "repents" transformed the "Green" color to its current dead "Grey" color??

Hoshang Targol

کنفرانس بین المللی حقوقدانان ایران تریبونال برگزار شد

Hoshang Targol

This is a very valuable project for all those intrested in pursuite of Human Rights in  Iran, please see if you could help them in any way possibel  , and many thanks, cheers


          برای نخستین بار در تاریخ ایران، کارزاری جهانی برای رسیدگی مردمی به کشتار زندانیان سیاسی در زندان های رژیم جمهوری اسلامی شکل گرفته است. هدف این کارزار، تشکیل دادگاهی مردمی است برای رسیدگی به اعدام های دسته جمعی سال های اولیه دهه ۶٠ و قتل عام زندانیان سیاسی در تابستان ۶٧. این تلاش را جمعی از خانواده های جان باخته گان و جان بدر بردگان از کشتارهای دهه ۶٠، فعالان حوزه های سیاسی، اجتماعی و فرهنگی در اکتبر ۲٠٠۷ آغاز کردند. از آن تاریخ به بعد، تلاش برای ایجاد زمینه های برگزاری چنین دادگاهی با جدیت و پشت کار بی وقفه فعالان کارزار آغاز شد. این پروژه مردمی در روزجهانی حقوق بشر در دهم دسامبر ۲٠٠٩ اعلام موجودیت علنی کرد. دو ماه بعد در تاریخ یازده فوریه ۲٠١٠ نخستین کنفرانس حقوقی برای تهیه و تنظیم پیش نویس ساختار دادگاه با حضور سه حقوقدان سرشناس جهانی از بلژیک، آلمان و کانادا برگزار شد. متعاقب آن، پیش نویس به بحث عمومی در میان حقوقدانان کارزار گذاشته شد. یک ماه بعد، در تاریخ یازده مارس ۲٠١٠ طرح ساختار دادگاه نهائی شد. براساس این طرح، می بایست کمیته راهبردی حقوقدان (Legal Steering Committee) برای سازماندهی کارهای حقوقی و دادرسی تشکیل می شد. این کمیته به یک حقوقدان سرشناس جهانی نیاز دارد که مسئولیت رهبری کمیته را به عهده بگیرد. چنین مسئولیتی بسیار سنگین و پرمشغله است و حقوقدانی که این مسئولیت را به عهده می گیرد، باید به مدت یک سال تا برگزاری دادگاه به صورت تمام وقت کار کند. پس از حدود چهار ماه تلاش جهانی، یک حقوقدان برجسته انگلیسی مسئولیت رهبری کمیته را پذیرفت. بعد از این موفقیت، لازم بود کمیته راهبردی حقوقدانان تشکیل شود. پس از دو ماه و نیم برنامه ریزی و تلاش، کنفرانس بین المللی حقوقدانان برای بررسی کارها و تشکیل کمیته راهبردی در روز جمعه اول اکتبر ۲٠١٠ برابر با نهم مهر ١٣۸۹ برگزار شد. در این کنفرانس دوازده حقوقدان سرشناس و برجسته جهانی از کشورهای آفریقای جنوبی، کانادا، بلژیک، آلمان، انگلیس، فرانسه و آمریکا شرکت کردند. سه حقوقدان به دلیل گرفتاری شغلی نتوانستند در این کنفرانس شرکت کنند. برگزاری چنین کنفرانسی در چنین سطحی در تاریخ مبارزات مردم ایران بی نظیر و یک دستاورد جهانی برای مردمی ستم کشیده، ظلم کشیده و عدالت جو است که دادخواهی برای اجرای عدالت را خود به دست گرفته اند. در این کنفرانس، مسائلی همچون شکل و نحوه برگزاری دادگاه، نحوه تشکیل و وظایف کمیته راهبردی، تشکیل کمیته اجرائی، تامین هزینه های دادگاه و حدود اختیارات هریک از کمیته ها مورد بحث و بررسی قرار گرفت. در پایان، کمیته ای سه نفره مسئول تشکیل کمیته راهبردی حقوقدانان، کمیته اجرائی و نحوه برگزاری دادگاه شد.          

کارزار تدارک دادگاه مردمی بین المللی برای محاکمه رژیم جمهوری اسلامی به جرم جنایت علیه بشریت

دهم اکتبر ۲٠١٠ برابر با هجدهم مهر ١٣۸۹





It is the other way around

by Fair on

It is the LIVE generation that leads and inspires and calls for change, to the point that even those you call the DEAD generation are moved and convinced that they are right, and now do what they can to help after decades of supporting fascists.

Furthermore, maybe for you 137 days in Tohid prison is short.  I suggest you try it sometime, and tell us your opinion afterwards.

And I hope Reza makes LOTS of money from his book, and people around the world finally get to see the true nature of the "Islamic Republic", and the plight of the Iranian people.


"Live Generation??"

by Demo on

How in the world a “Live Generation” could heed “The Dead” of the “Past Generation” like “Mousavi”, “Karoubi”, “Ganji”, “Sazgara”, & "alike??"  

PS: The author uses the term "Later" without specifying the duration length for his detention in Evin prison after spending only 137 days in Tohid. Such unspecified detentions (usually short) brings to mind of Mr. Abtahi & others alike “Green Movement” detainees’ short sentences after declaring their repentances!!GOD forbids he is not trying make money out of selling his book!!!! 


Free Majid Tavakoli IMMEDIATELY

by Fair on

Thank you Reza for keeping awareness of Majid and his fellow imprisoned dissidents plight alive.  And please disregard anti Iran parasites like Colonel Sanders,( Bozorg Morghdaran) whose only purpose in life is to attempt (and fail miserably at each try) to defend one of the most fascist regimes on this planet. Like other regime operatives, he has no shame and no problem making a complete fool of himself daily in front of the entire world in broad daylight.

ALL political prisoners, including Majid, Nasrin Sotoodeh, and all others whose only crime was to say their opinion, should be FREED IMMEDIATELY WITHOUT CONDITION, and those who imprsioned them should be held accountable for crimes against humanity and violations of Iranian citizens' human rights by a truth commission in Iran with full transparency and UN and international observers.

Anahid Hojjati

Dear Reza, thanks for all you do for Majid Tavakoli and others

by Anahid Hojjati on

Dear REza, "Majid Tavakoli" is one of the prisoners that I think more about. His bravery impressed me in fall of 2009 and in a matter of days, he was arrested. Thanks for your speech about him and I hope that all the efforts in highlighting his case and also plight of other political prisoners, helps with them being freed soon.



by yolanda on

Thank you for your article.....Thank you for fighting for Majid.....we won't forget him and the other political prisoners in Iran!


The Supreme's Special Agents

by Tavana on

Like Sargord Pirooz himself Mahmoud Vahidnia's criticism of The "Most Supreme of Ever Khamenie" is another solid proof of the mafia run dictatorship in IRI. Such regimes always have their specially trained agents act at different levels to detract the common people. One acts as a commentator in IC, one act as a fiery student standing up & openly attacking the most criminal of all, one act as a president , & the list goes on and on. 

PS: SP learn about the crowd make up before opening up your mouth. That is the first rule that you always forget to follow!!!

Sargord Pirouz

Then by your definition, the

by Sargord Pirouz on

Then by your definition, the Islamic Republic of Iran is not a dictatorship, as Supreme Leader Khamenei was publicly criticized for nearly an hour straight, last November, by a student from Sharif Technical University named Mahmoud Vahidnia. The Supreme Leader even included the student's comments on his official website.