Iranian Poet Sentenced to Prison and Flogging For the Charge of “Insulting the Sacred”
Poet and civil rights activist Reza Akvanian has been sentenced to three years in prison and 40 lashes for the charges of “propaganda against the state” and “insulting the sacred” by Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran, presided by Judge Mashallah Ahmadzadeh.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and the Intelligence Ministry claimed that Akvanian had been “in contact with anti-state organizations,” a source with knowledge about the case told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on November 2, 2017.
“All he did was post some of his poems and writings on his [now deactivated] Instagram page and on a few other sites,” said the source, who requested anonymity. “But the court ruled against him based on the reports from the security agencies.”
The ruling, issued in late October 2017, will be appealed.
“It was interesting that the court also determined that some of the poems published with the approval of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance during [President Hassan] Rouhani’s administration insulted Islamic beliefs and amounted to propaganda against the state,” the source told CHRI.
“Then why did the government allow them to be published in the first place?” said the source.
Akvanian had published two books in Iran with licenses from the Ministry of Guidance and Islamic Culture, “The Wounds Slowly Age With Me,” and “Under Meyna’s Wings.”
Born in the city of Dehdasht, in Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad Province, the 32-year-old Tehran resident had previously spent time in prison for civil rights activism and poems.
The source told CHRI that in addition to the three-year prison sentence, Akvanian might now have to serve a suspended prison sentence issued years ago.
In 2010, the Revolutionary Court in Yasouj, the provincial capital of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad, sentenced him to one year in prison and issued a five-year suspended sentence for Akvanian’s participation in peaceful civil actions, including the One Million Signatures Campaign, which advocates for gender equality in Iran.
In April 2013, Akvanian was arrested by the security forces in Yasouj and spent a month in detention for propaganda against the state before being released on bail.
His third arrest took place in July 2013, after he was rounded up with 14 other activists by Intelligence Ministry agents for protesting in front of Parliament against a speech by a conservative MP. He was released on bail a month later.
*This article was modified on December 1, 2017, to reflect that Reza’s last name is Akvanian, not Ekvanyan.