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Garth Holman

This dissident poet says elections and the nuclear pact give him hope for Iran | Public... - 0 views

  • The 44-year-old journalist and poet might have ended up dead, like some of his writer friends back home in Iran. Several of them were murdered in a series of political assassinations that began in the late 1990s.
  • freedom of expression, the Islamic Republic of Iran is among the worst of the worst. The country is ranked 169th, out of a total of 180 countries, on the 2016 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders.
  • Rafizadeh looks every bit the intellectual — glasses, leather jacket, cigarette. As a child, he would wake up early and recite Persian poetry out loud, annoying his father and his siblings. 
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  • “The [Iranian] government intrudes into your personal life no matter who you are. That’s why, after the murders started happening, I decided to write political poems,” he says. 
  • “Other intellectuals were killed, too,” he says. “The Iranian regime was murdering innocent people just because they dared to call for political change and reform.” 
  • afizadeh managed to shine a light on the killings with his writings in the pages of pro-reformist newspapers. But only for a time. Eventually, Rafizadeh was arrested.“I spent 86 days in a cell that was 1.5 meters by 2 meters,” Rafizadeh says. “And I was tortured.” 
  • Even after he was released, pending trial, he says authorities threatened to harm his children if he didn’t make public statements saying he was treated well in prison and that his past writings were false.
  • Rafizadeh says he did what he was being pressured to do. But he adds that, “the Iranian public knew who was lying and who was telling the truth.” “Other journalists besides me wrote about the human rights situation in Iran and we did have an impact,” Rafizadeh says. Nonetheless, he felt he had to leave the country after the courts sentenced him to 20 lashes and nine months in prison. He escaped into Turkey in 2005. Two years later, he got asylum in Canada. 
  • “But, as it happened, there is in Iran what you might call a ‘deep state.’” 
  • None of these political actors are entirely answerable to Iran’s elected government. That enabled the hardliners to launch a brutal crackdown against the pro-reform camp of then-president Mohammad Khatami and his supporters. The crackdown began in in the late '90s and continued into the early 2000s.
  • “You can fight for rights and freedoms in the political space all you like, but if there is not judicial protection of them, that is a fundamental problem,” she says. 
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    Dissident and actions in the modern world. 
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