So far this month there have been at least two reported incidents of threats made by the Iranian authorities against the families of Sunni political prisoners in Iran.
Several families were threatened on Saturday 12th October after demonstrating outside the Intelligence Agency in Sanandaj, northwestern Iran. They had been protesting after several prisoners facing execution were taken to an unknown location, with the families given no information about their welfare or whereabouts. The prisoners were all from Rajai Shahr prison, Karaj.
One of the protesters told the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) that an Intelligence Agency official threatened that if they did not end the demonstration they would show 'no mercy [even] to the women and children'. The official also threatened that the families would be charged with 'collaboration with 'Moharibeen' (Enemies of God/ the state).
In a separate incident, the father of a Sunni political prisoner was summoned by Intelligence officials on Wednesday 9th October and threatened with arrest. He had been trying to find out information about his son who was facing execution and who had been taken to an unknown location. He was ordered to 'stop following' his child's file, and was warned that if he did not comply he would be imprisoned.
The families of Sunni political prisoners are often faced with threats if they speak to the media or talk openly about the prisoners. A source told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI) that the families are often forced to remain silent, as whenever they speak to the media the prisoners are placed under increased 'pressure' by officials. This results in little or no awareness about the true extent of the torture and injustice faced by Sunni political prisoners.
The Iranian government is reportedly planning to transfer all Sunni political prisoners facing execution from Rajai Shahr prison ahead of a visit by a human rights organisation. This is seemingly yet another ploy to prevent the prisoners from testifying openly about torture and unfair trials. There are fears that the transfer will lead to secret executions.
So far, six Sunni political prisoners have been transferred to Ghezel Hesar. Five prisoners were reportedly transferred to various prisons in Central Iran, although their families have still been unable to contact them to verify this information. Two prisoners, Kaveh Vaisi and Mokhtar Rahimi, were taken to an unknown location on September 25th 2013, and there is still no news about their welfare.
There are at least 30 Sunni political prisoners facing execution in Iran for charges such as 'Moharebeh' (enmity against God) or 'membership of a Salafi group'. The men have all been tortured, with many of them forced to 'confess' to crimes they have not committed.
The men were all active in spreading Sunni Islam and speaking our against government oppression. In a country where Sunnis face discrimination, being outspoken in propagating Sunni Islam and criticizing the government is dangerous. Many prominent Sunni figures and teachers have already been executed by the Iranian regime.