Held incommunicado. Six years solitary confinement in Evin prison
By Sara Saei, Iranian human rights defender
London & Tehran – 10 November 2016
Bärbel Kofler, German Federal Commissioner for Human Rights, this week added to international appeals for Iran to free imprisoned spiritual theorist and teacher Mohammad Ali Taheri.
“Dr. Taheri has been in jail in Iran for six years on trumped up charges, in violation of Iranian and international human rights law. Despite completing his five-year sentence, he remains behind bars. He has been held incommunicado since 16 October. After a renewed hunger-strike he lapsed into a coma. The authorities are refusing to provide his family with any information about his fate and whereabouts. There are serious fears for his health and life,” noted human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
“Dr. Taheri has spent all of his six years incarcerated in solitary confinement, with repeated interrogations, including physical and psychological tortures, as well as being forced to make a false TV confession.
“He has staged 16 hunger strikes to protest his conditions of detention in Ward 2-A of Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison and the on-going systematic violation of his basic rights. Freedom of belief is a fundamental human right for everyone,” said Mr Tatchell.
We are pleased to publish this article by one of Dr. Taheri’s students.
Sara Saei writes:
I am a student of Dr. Mohammad Ali Taheri and want to raise awareness about my teacher’s unjust six years imprisonment, and the explicit violation of freedom of expression and belief in my country, Iran, towards him and other theoreticians and thinkers.
Who is Mohammad Ali Taheri?
Dr. Mohammad Ali Taheri, born in 21 March 1956 in Kermanshah Iran, is a prisoner of conscience. Biography: https://goo.gl/BzeAJy
He is known for his spiritual teachings and for the foundation of a spiritual movement known as Halqeh (Interuniversal) Mysticism (Erfan-e Halgheh). His activities included promoting healing through establishing the two complementary and alternative medicines of “Faradarmani“ and “Psymentology“ for which he has received several honorary doctorate degrees and many awards including from the Royal Palace in Brussels and the Mayor of Brussels (2010).
In 2006, Dr. Taheri opened a cultural and educational institute in Tehran called Erfan-e Halgheh to develop and disseminate his spiritual beliefs. It offered a curriculum of comprehensive educational courses that are currently being taught by his educated masters (instructors) inside Iran and around the world. The offices of the institute were shut down by the regime in August 2010.
A great part of Dr. Taheri’s lectures are based on decoding and interpreting former Iranian spirituals such as Molana Rumi, Hafez, Sheikh Mahmoud Shabestari and others whose thoughts and beliefs had been orally and secretly transferred between their special followers and students.
History of Mohammad Ali Taher’s Arrests
Up until a few years before his first arrest in 2010, Taheri was free to pursue his practice and faced no government restrictions. He held his classes at Tehran University and Iran Medical University, published several books and was permitted to deliver public speeches. But as his audience grew, challenges against him began. Government restrictions increased to such an extent that he was forced to stop his activities in 2010.
Taheri was first arrested in 18 April 2010, on the charge of “acting against national security” when he spent 68 days in solitary confinement and suffered acts of torture. At the time, the Iranian government convinced him not to continue his teachings and to strictly limit his research to the scientific field. However, under pressure and repeated threats from the authorities, research centers in Iran stopped their collaboration with Taheri.
He was arrested for the second time on 4 May 2011 and was initially indicted with the security-related charge of “acting against national security“ and a series of religious charges including “apostasy“ and “insulting the religious sanctities.“
On 30 October 2011, in three closed-door court sessions at the 26th Division of Islamic Revolutionary Court, Dr. Taheri was sentenced to five years in prison along with 74 lashes and fined nine billion Rials ($300,000 USD). He was convicted of: insulting Islamic values, committing the “sinful act” of touching a women’s wrist in a classroom, illegal medical practice and production and distribution of illegal audio-visual works and activities.
In 2014, while serving his unjust sentence and after nearly 4 years of solitary confinement, Dr. Taheri was all of a sudden tried again and sentenced to death in July 2015 on the Islamic charge of “corruption on earth”.
The international condemnation was swift. Governments and officials, human rights organizations, and many well-known Iranian activists, dissenters, and religious figures rushed to condemn the medieval death penalty that was issued for him. Just to name a few: Lord Carlisle (British House of Lords), Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein (UN High Commissioner for Human Rights), Ahmad Shaheed (UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran), Amnesty international, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, Nasrin Sotoodeh (human rights lawyer), Shirin Ebadi (Nobel Peace Prize Laureate), Faezeh Hashemi Rafsanjani (daughter of former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani) and many others.
In August 7, United States Deputy State Department spokesperson, Mark Toner said “we are deeply concerned by reports of the death penalty on Mohammad Ali Taheri” and added “the ability of citizens to exercise their rights of freedom of religion and expression are fundamental principles of universally recognized human rights in international law”. He called on Iranian Government to reverse Taheri’s death sentence and to uphold freedom of expression and beliefs for its citizens.
Iranian Writers Association, while protesting against this particular unfair sentence, also announced that there will be no freedom and human rights if an individual can be sentenced to death for practicing of a religion or having beliefs other than the regime’s.
The Canadian Association for Rights said that the death penalty not only represented an abomination in itself, as well as a perversion of the justice system, but also, in view of this particular verdict, an institutionalized hate for science, knowledge and freedom in Iran.
The death sentence was quashed in December 2015 but the case was sent back to court and there were renewed investigations in a bid to support the original charges against him. Not only was Dr. Taheri not released on 8 February 2016, upon completion of his five years unjust imprisonment, today he is still in prison!
Why Has Mohammad Ali Taheri Been Treated Like This?
Iran’s security establishment has come down hard on Dr. Taheri and supporters of Halqeh Mysticism, viewing it and any other alternative belief system as a threat to the prevailing monopoly order.
Dr. Taheri’s doctrine has been able to present an easy, simple and comprehensively understandable mysticism, reconciling the worlds of religion, mysticism, and science, and resolving the existing misunderstandings among them.
His spiritual lectures and thoughts are based on respect to all religions and ideologies and he never denies or insults any religion or beliefs. His beliefs are based on creating “freedom of thoughts” by which any human can follow the path to (spiritual) perfection and self-realization regardless of their race, nationality, religion or personal beliefs. Such an approach is considered a threat to the Iranian regime which recognizes only one acceptable orthodoxy – the Shia Islam one endorsed by the ruling elite.
Another main reason for Taheri’s arrest and suppression is because his courses and thoughts were noted and welcomed by a great number of Iranians from different social levels who were mostly highly educated.
Only through word of mouth, the number of students in some of his classes was around 500 individuals. He attracted a significant following of people by spreading the word of mystical love and the fact that people could be cured via connection to the Interuniversal Consciousness. Evidently the Iranian authorities, who view any popularity as a threat to their governance, could not tolerate his fame and charisma.
Imprisonment and Arrests of His Students
Many of Taheri’s students have been arrested on different charges:
1- Some have been arrested in peaceful gatherings – http://goo.gl/BmQYEV – or while campaigning for his release, on a charge of “Disturbing Public Order”.
These people had not committed any actual crime and their actions were in line with their right to freedom of assembly; as per Article 27 of the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which has been adopted by the UN General Assembly and ratified by Iran.
2- Other students have been raided by Intelligence Services officers while they were teaching in private homes. In February 2015, Fars News (a Revolutionary Guards news agency) reported that 16 teachers of Halqeh Mysticism were each sentenced to one-to-five years of imprisonment. According to this report, “insulting sacred religious values” was the main charge brought against these individuals.
3- Others have been arrested for publishing Taheri’s CDs, books, graduation certificates for students of these classes, and educational booklets, clips and presentations of Dr. Taheri’s teachings or copies of his imprisonment history. All books and CDs have been confiscated by the regime and the publishers have been arrested.
Based on reports since Taheri’s arrest, nearly 250 members of Halqeh Mysticism have been sentenced, so far, to a total of 75 years in prison.
Several members have been summoned to serve their prison term, and the following people are currently serving one to five years imprisonment: Ardehsir Shahnavaz (5 years), Abdol-Ahad Jalilzadeh (5 years), Fahimeh Arafi (5 years), Saeed Ardeshir (5 years), Peyman Mirzaei (1 year), Yousef Eyvazzadeh, Leyla Jafari (2 years), and Leyla Jama’at (1 year).
Mohammad Reza Afshar and Ziba Pourhabib each served one and a half years in jail and are now conditionally released.
These arrests and imprisonments are aimed to cause fear among Dr. Taheri’s students, to prevent protest movements and to stop people from spreading his teachings and familiarizing others with his doctrine.
Followers have provided evidence to Ahmed Shaheed and the Iranian human rights organization, IHRDC, indicating that they have been subjected to persecution, mistreatment and torture after being arrested. Under such pressure, some students were forced to speak against Dr. Taheri’s teachings and confess to complicity in “illegal actions”.
Iran’s Obligation To Respect Freedom Of Thought, Conscience & Religion
Theoretically speaking, as a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Iran is obligated to respect the freedom of religion. Article 18 of the ICCPR declares: “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.” This article further states, “No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.”
The prosecution of Dr. Taheri for his spiritual activities, and the apostasy charge, are clear violations of the protections mentioned in Article 18 of the ICCPR. Furthermore, the charge of apostasy also violates Article 15 of the ICCPR, which states that: “No one shall be held guilty of any criminal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed.”
There is absolutely no justification for punishing an individual because of his or her beliefs, moral values and practices, not to mention the fact that the values promoted by Dr. Taheri’s movement are those of peace, fraternity, and global understanding. Sentencing an individual to prison and death because of his or her seeking the truth through science and spirituality is a way to silence individuals whose thinking poses absolutely no threat to the State but is not in the framework of the ruling regime’s official ideology.
Amnesty International URGENT ACTION
To help secure the release of Mohammad Ali Taheri please join and share this Amnesty International URGENT ACTION
Dr Taheri is a prominent author of eight books including: “Human From Another Outlook”, “Halqeh Mysticism” (Interuniversal Mysticism), “The Human Worldview”, “Non-organic Viruses”, “Human and Insight”, “Management from an Interuniversalistic Perspective”.
English translation (PDF): Halqeh-Mysticism
English translation (PDF): Human-From-Another-Outlook-Last-Edition
English translation (PDF): Human-Worldview
English translation (PDF): Non-Organic-Beings