The mother of Soheil Arabi, a photojournalist, blogger and former political prisoner of conscience, has been sent to Evin prison to begin serving an 18-month custodial sentence.
Farangis Mazlum, 55, was summoned to the Evin prison sentence enforcement unit on Tuesday. Last October, an assistant prosecutor refused to jail him because of his age and asked for a medical certificate to exempt him from prison on medical grounds.
Mazlum’s son, Soheil Arabi, was released from Rajai Shahr prison last November after seven and a half years. When he was initially sentenced to death in 2014, Mazlum suffered a heart attack and more recently also had a stroke. Despite this and her doctor having determined that she was not fit for imprisonment, this time she was imprisoned.
Mazlum was first arrested at her sister’s home in July 2019 and transferred to Ward 209 of Evin Prison. She and members of her family had spoken to the media about Arabi’s case, including his poor conditions and his hunger strikes behind bars, and Mazlum had personally visited the Iranian parliament to ask the Supreme Leader to promulgate his pardon. On October 8, 2019, she was released on a 250 million toman bail until the end of the legal proceedings.
For speaking out about her son’s arbitrary detention, Mazlum was charged with ‘conspiracy to commit a crime’ and ‘propaganda against the regime’, and accused by prosecutors of having ties to the opposition group People’s Mojahedin Organization (MEK).
A free thinker, not a conspirator
“Justice has become so weak that my own mother has been thrown in prison,” Soheil Arabi wrote on his Telegram channel this week.
Arabi was arrested in November 2013 by the IRGC after sharing social media posts critical of the Islamic Republic. Sentenced for “insulting the prophet”, he initially faced the death penalty, but in 2015 the sentence was commuted to seven and a half years, two years of Islamic theological studies to prove his “repentance”, and a two-year travel ban. year.
“The verdict against my mother,” he told IranWire, “mainly concerned her activities after 2017. angry.
“She was no longer content to be the defender of her own son. After my imprisonment, she learned [other] civil and political activists, and his years-long anger exploded into rage against bigots, patriarchy and injustice. She went from mother to fighter.
The charge of “propaganda against the regime”, Arabi said, was brought because his mother had “spoken the truth” about conditions in Iranian prisons. He dismissed the accusation of cooperating with the MEK as “baseless and absurd”.
“My mother was furious enough to give an interview to any platform,” he said, “regardless of political orientation or affiliation. She just wanted the prisoners’ situation to improve. She spoke to a few media that the Ministry of Intelligence says are linked to the PMOI, including HRANA. [Human Rights Activists News Agency, an Iranian-led press association that has repeatedly rejected any such notion]. Of course, the Islamic Republic’s security establishment likes to say that any opposition group is affiliated with either the Pahlavi [i.e. the monarchist camp] or Rajavi [Maryam Rajavi, the leader of the MEK]”.
Mazlum, was born in 1967 in Abadan and grew up in Tehran. She married in 1983 and Arabi was her first child, born in 1985. “My mother loves literature, especially novels,” Arabi told IranWire. “As she says herself, she’s a bookworm and she spends most of her time reading.”
The women in their family, Arabi said, had long viewed her mother as a “free thinker” and shunned her for years. She is said to have “no political leanings” but has a soft spot for American writer and activist Emma Goldman, Italian revolutionary Errico Malatesta and Polish-German revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg. “She also likes Chekhov and Dostoyevsky,” Arabi added, “but she’s not dogmatic about anything. My mother is consumed by curiosity, and as such, she does not lock herself in any ideological cage.
Four calls in twelve months
At the time of his heart attack, Mazlum was only 48 years old. Her physical condition deteriorated severely afterwards and she also had to undergo double knee surgery. “Moving became difficult for her,” Arabi said. “It made his heart condition worse. Even the official medical examiner wrote that she should be kept under the supervision of a cardiologist.
On August 2, quoting a knowledgeable source, HRANA reported, “Despite various illnesses… Ms. Mazlum was unable to complete her treatment. Last month, because of the stress caused by the successive summonses, and by the back and forth between the medical examiner and Evin prison, she had a stroke and was admitted to the Mehr Parand hospital.
“Earlier this year, a medical examiner confirmed that Ms Mazlum could not endure prison. The trial court announced that she would be fined instead. But, after the Ministry of Justice filed a complaint in response, she was again summoned to serve her sentence.
Both of Arabi’s parents – his father was born in 1962 – have a history of strokes. Mazlum suffered his first heart attack shortly after learning that his son’s death sentence had been upheld on appeal. The family also suffered financially; all of Arabi’s savings were depleted after his first year in prison, and the family has since moved from the city to a rented house on the outskirts of Tehran.
“Since last year, she has been summoned to prison four times,” Arabi said. “Each time she went on her own feet, and each time they made her head spin. Prison officials say they cannot keep her in prison – due to heart problems, the need for surgery and vision problems – but the Intelligence Ministry insists they must do it, whatever the cost.
Mazlum’s interrogator, her son said, had informed her that the Ministry wanted her imprisoned because her son was still committing the same “misdemeanors” as before: namely, exercising his right to freedom of expression online. “I was arrested and sentenced to death because I created a Facebook page called ‘A generation that does not want to remain a lost generation’. But over the past few years, I’ve discovered that many generations have been messed up, and if we can find ourselves and put our minds and abilities together, we can make fundamental changes, make things better.
“Farangis Mazlum is not only the person who gave birth to me and raised me despite all the obstacles and in the face of poverty. She is my comrade in arms in battle. People like her are at the forefront of the fight against reactionaries, inequality, patriarchy and all kinds of injustice. When a person is thrown in prison, it is first the family that is wronged, then the whole of society.